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TipSheet: Travis County, 7.21.20

Tuesday, July 21, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

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. This week’s meeting will be broadcast to ensure everyone is able to follow social distancing regulations. The public can access the meeting by watching the livestream or tuning in to public access channel 17.

5. Consider and take appropriate action on an amendment adding funds to the FY 2020 System of Care interlocal agreement with Integral Care. (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Despite the county’s strained budget, the Commissioners Court will consider allocating an additional $678,673 to its contract with Integral Care to fund programs for people experiencing mental and behavioral health issues. If approved, the total contract amount for the current fiscal year will be $924,840. Integral Care is also the subject of another contractual adjustment (Item #4) where the county will allocate the nonprofit an additional $20,378 from its unspent grant funding from 2019. These funding increases are intended to meet the need for substance abuse counseling and mental health challenges among residents of Travis County.

9. Consider and take appropriate action on allocation of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Federal relief funding is a finite and precious resource for the county. With $61.1 million in total, the Commissioners Court has already approved $7.3 million of direct assistance for small cities within the county, $10 million for small business grants and $10 million for direct mortgage and rental assistance. That leaves $33.8 million in county coffers. The rest of the funding remains unallocated and must be spent and accounted for by Dec. 30. Earlier this spring, the county engaged a third-party consultant, Guidehouse, to help chart the path to the best use of the funding. However, the spending recommendations from this consultant have yet to come before commissioners. With just over five months left to spend the funds, these recommendations should arrive quickly to allow the county to engage the proper parties and get the wheels turning.

13. Receive update from the Teleworking Task Force and provide direction to staff on next steps. (Commissioners Shea & Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: Back in May, the Commissioners Court directed staff to look into the necessary changes to allow 75 percent of eligible Travis County employees to work remotely. Staffers formed a working group and discovered that nearly all of the employees in the Auditor’s Office, Health and Human Services Department, Technology and Operations Department, Transportation and Natural Resources, and the county commissioners are eligible to telework between one and five days a week. However, the same working group also determined that successfully transitioning to an online workplace would require a “considerable culture shift,” and therefore, the strategy needs a more comprehensive plan. On Tuesday, staff will ask commissioners for authorization to engage a consultant with expertise in telework implementation at an organizational level to help guide the transition to a permanently socially distanced workplace.

15. Consider and take appropriate action on a variance for the Colorado River Project, LLC, Tesla, Inc., sole owner. (Commissioner Travillion)

Monitor’s Take: One week after approving a development incentive deal with Tesla, the contract is already back before commissioners for tweaking. Workers at the future Tesla Gigafactory will access the site from State Highway 130 and so Tesla will need to improve the road as part of its overall project. However, Tesla says its factory will have “very limited impact on county roads” and is therefore requesting a variance from the requirement to obtain a traffic impact analysis. Staffers are recommending approval of the variance pending a guarantee that the county will not be responsible for the costs associated with construction nor will it assume the cost of additional roadway maintenance.

Travis County Commissioners Court Special Voting Session – Thursday, July 23, 2020 – 1:30 p.m. meeting to be held by videoconference/telephonically

Monitor’s Take: The Commissioners Court will hold a special called voting session this Thursday to go over an order declaring the results from the election on July 14 to fill the District 14 vacancy in the Texas Senate previously held by Kirk Watson. There will also be an update from the Emergency Services management team to discuss the ongoing public health crisis.

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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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