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TipSheet: Travis County, 1.26.16

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda here. The County Clerk’s office hosts a copy at its website.

3. Consider and take appropriate action on the following documents regarding the Public Assistance Declaration for the 2015 Halloween Floods: a. Designation of Applicant’s Agent b. Request for Public Assistance c. Deposit Form (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Three months after last October’s intense floods, the county is sorting through the bureaucratic process of scoring financial assistance from the state. This item is an obligatory step towards obtaining a three-to-one matching grant from the Texas Department of Emergency Management.

6. Consider and take appropriate action to approve the 2016 Transit Empowerment Fund, Capital Metro Transit Pass Program Application. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: The county’s Department of Health and Human Services is asking for north of $33,000 to purchase transit passes for low-income residents. The total target includes 500 one-day passes, 1,000 seven-day passes, and 2,200 monthly passes. To qualify, residents must be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line.

9. Consider and take appropriate action on adoption of Travis County Adult Correctional System Master Plan Update. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: At long last, the Commissioners Court will give an up-or-down (very, very, very likely to be up) vote on the sweeping revisioning of the county jail in Del Valle. The master plan has been in the works for some time and Judge Sarah Eckhardt has indicated that its implementation — and the attendant capital investment that will require — will be a major focus of hers in the coming months.

10. Consider and take appropriate action on Public Improvement District (PID) policy. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: With a full complement of commissioners on the dais, the Court will take up the delayed vote on the policy framework that will govern how the county assembles public improvement districts. PIDs theoretically give the county leverage over developers to build more affordable housing or provide safer conditions for construction workers. How far the county will go in pushing for those options will be largely determined by the PID policy.

16. Consider and take appropriate action on a resolution supporting the City of Austin’s grant application for the Smart City Challenge of the U.S. Department of Transportation. (Judge Eckhardt & Commissioner Shea)

Monitor’s Take: A sort of intergovernmental back-slapping, this vote will demonstrate the county’s moral support of the city’s pursuit of a federal grant of $40 million for transportation infrastructure upgrades. According to the resolution, the “vision of the Smart City Challenge is to demonstrate how advanced data and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies and applications can be used to reduce congestion, keep travelers safe, protect the environment, respond to climate change, connect underserved communities, and support economic vitality.” In other words, Austin will need all the support it can get.

17. Consider and take appropriate action on the release of the draft Parks Master Plan for public review. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: While the adult correctional complex master plan is set to receive approval, another ambitious overhaul is in the works for the county’s parks. The draft master plan prepared by staff proposes capital investment projects to improve the park system over the next ten years, but before the Court will give it a formal thumbs-up, the commissioners will first send it out to be reviewed by the public.

20. Consider and take appropriate action on a policy for debris management after a disaster event that provides guidance to County staff and residents, including residents who may seek public assistance in debris cleanup. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take:  This was another vote that was postponed last week due to a shortage of commissioners on the dais. At issue is whether to approve a formal policy — one that largely reflects existing practices, according to staff — that will direct the county’s debris management work in the wake of major disasters such as last year’s heavy floods.

27. Approve Modification No. 5 to Contract No. 4400001655, AECOM Technical Services, Inc., Program Management Services for Development of a New Travis County Civil and Family Courts Complex. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: For the first time since November’s narrow defeat of the $287 million bond, the Commissioners Court will officially take up action related to the civil courthouse project. The contract modification with AECOM — the engineering firm acting as the county’s consultant on the project — will be worth another $234,400. Among other things, AECOM will be tasked with analyzing more sites for the courthouse and weighing different funding mechanisms for the project.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Travis County Commissioners Court: The legislative body for Travis County. It includes representatives from the four Travis County Precincts, as well as the County Judge. The County Judge serves as the chair of the Court.

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