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TipSheet: Travis County, 12.17.19

Tuesday, December 17, 2019 by Jack Craver

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. To help our readers stay informed, each week we offer a selection of interesting items from the voting session agenda. The entire agenda is available at the Travis County website.

11. Consider and take appropriate action on: A. Application of existing certificates of obligation balances and related funding adjustments to approved FY 2020 debt issuance projects and associated budget adjustments; B. Resolution expressing the County’s intent to finance expenditures to be incurred for approved capital projects and to reimburse itself from debt proceeds, and associated budget adjustments. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: County staffers have identified $3.2 million in savings from funds that were allocated for capital projects this year but not spent. Therefore, the Commissioners Court now has the opportunity to shift that money over to other road safety projects, which reduces the county’s need to borrow. While staff has a recommended list of projects to prioritize, the decision ultimately lies with the commissioners.

12. Consider and take appropriate action to: A. Create the Travis County Exposition Center Redevelopment Engagement and Education Committee; B. Approve the charge for the Committee; C. Name members to and Chairman of the Committee. (Commissioners Travillion & Shea)

Monitor’s Take: This new committee, which includes commissioners Jeff Travillion and Brigid Shea and eight other yet-to-be-named members, is supposed to “engage and educate Travis County residents and community leaders about the value of redeveloping the Travis County Expo Center.” The court hopes to gain community support to move forward with the project, but it cannot kick off unless the city of Austin relinquishes control of a 2 percent hotel tax. County leaders likely hope that building support among residents may get the city to play ball.

13. Consider and take appropriate action on: A. Adoption of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS); B. Update on suspension of new applications under Travis County Code Chapter 28, Economic Development Incentives, and on the status of research into the creation of a new economic development incentives policy. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Travis County has taken steps over the past year to overhaul its economic development policy. Like their counterparts at the city of Austin, county leaders have sought to move the policy away from luring large corporations with economic incentives in favor of economic development that focuses on supporting employment and training for “middle skill” jobs that can bring low-wage workers out of poverty. In July, the court voted to put a moratorium on economic incentives. Staffers are now asking the court to approve the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy that will focus on four priorities:

  1. Business development: Helping businesses to start, stay and grow in Travis County;
  2. Economic and financial opportunity: Strengthening pathways to employment and financial empowerment;
  3. Placemaking: Developing healthy communities of opportunity; and
  4. Transportation and mobility: Connecting people and places.

This could very likely prompt a lengthy conversation about what the return on investment is for various economic development programs, from training to corporate subsidies.

15. Consider and take appropriate action to: A. Approve order amending Travis County Code Chapter 33, Ethics Policy, to incorporate requirement for online disclosure of completed ethics sworn declaration, lobbying activity, and political contributions; B. Provide direction to Purchasing Office and other business units regarding implementation of Recommendation Five from the Ethics Policy Workgroup’s interim report. (Commissioner Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: This item proposes to force contractors to disclose any large campaign contributions they have made to members of the Commissioners Court when they are bidding for a project. It will also, for the first time, require vendors to disclose whether they employ lobbyists.

19. Consider and take appropriate action regarding electronic monitoring services, including either of the following items: A. Approve an order exempting electronic monitoring services from the competitive procurement requirements in Local Government Code § 262.023, pursuant to the public health or safety exemption in § 262.024 (a)(2), and award contracts as follows: 1) Recovery Healthcare Corporation, for House Arrest Program/Radio Frequency (RF) monitoring, Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring, Portable Alcohol Monitoring (PAM), and Secure Continuous Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM); 2) Safe Monitoring Solutions, for House Arrest Program/RF monitoring, GPS monitoring, PAM, and SCRAM; 3) Victim Safety First LLC, for House Arrest Program/RF monitoring, GPS monitoring, and PAM. Or B. Approve six-month extensions (Modification No. 1) to the following contracts for electronic monitoring services: 1) No. 4400004526, Recovery Monitoring Solutions Corporation DBA Recovery Healthcare Corporation 2) No. 4400004527, Victim Safety First LLC. (Commissioner Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: This will likely be a rehash of the debate that took place in June, when the court, in response to complaints from defense attorneys and two disgruntled electronic monitoring companies, voted to allow three companies to provide ankle monitors to Travis County parolees.

33. Consider and take appropriate action on an exception from platting requirements for the Bentree RV Resort in Precinct Three. (Commissioner Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: After two delays, the third time might be the charm for the proposed RV resort near Hamilton Pool that has drawn outrage from neighbors, though it’s more likely to be taken up in the new year.

37. Consider and take appropriate action on the following regarding bulk water supply: A. Delaying the rate increase to March 1, 2020; B. Revising the rate from $12.28 per 100 gallons to $6 per 50 gallons; C. Setting a discounted rate for eligible customers and the effective date(s); D. Determining criteria for customer eligibility for the discounted rate; E. Developing strategies for eliminating residential drinking water colonias in unincorporated areas in Travis County. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: This was supposed to be taken up last week but got bumped. The Commissioners Court voted in August to hike the bulk water rate from 25 cents per 100 gallons to $12.28. After numerous neighbors from Southeast Travis County who depend on the county’s bulk water came to voice their horror at the new price, commissioners decided to reconsider. This proposal would establish ways that customers can get an exemption from the new rate based on their income, residency, disability status and other factors. In all likelihood, the discussion will center on who should qualify for the exemption and ways to keep businesses from posing as residential users.

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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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