Council Preview: In the Mix

This week's council agenda

There's much afoot at this week's City Council meeting (Thursday, Jan. 28), across several disparate categories. Let's take a look.

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

Council has done just that, in addressing controversial budget-cut suggestions from last year relating to children's activities. Last meeting, it was funding "splash pads," water features for parks that saw their pools closed per the tightening of the city budget. This week, council takes up another hot topic from last summer's budget battles: keeping the lights on for Little League teams. A proposal to charge teams for utilities was pulled over public outcry. Now it seems the city is striking a compromise with Item 30, which will cover utilities "up to a maximum amount per-year per-field," an as-yet-undetermined number to be based on the look of the budget in a given year. Similarly, Item 42 enters the city into an agreement with the West Austin Youth Association to develop sports programs, with a funding vote to be brought back to council in 60 days.

Anything but Brief

A pair of briefings are scheduled for 10:30am; the first, Item 44, discusses Austin Energy's generation mix – coal, gas, renewables – and AE's intrinsically linked Carbon Reduction Plan, which seeks to wean us off the fossil fuels. A final vote isn't expected until later this spring. (For more, see "The AE Generation Plan's Latest Monkey Wrench.") Item 45 brings council up to speed on redevelopment efforts along lower Shoal Creek and Seaholm; on a somewhat related note, Item 23 would add an extra $525,000 to the contract with URS Corporation, decommissioning the Green Water Treatment Plant next to Seaholm. Work there had ceased since the city noticed URS' "consistent problems in controlling the safety environment on the Green Project, including the activities of its subcontractors," wrote Public Works Director Howard Lazarus in a memo to council.

Don't Be Dense

As we wrote last week, council acquiesced to the Planning Commission's request for more time to study the density bonuses as part of the Downtown Austin Plan. Item 58 gives the commission the authority to convene a stakeholder review board and sets dates for interim updates. The commission has until June 8 to issue its final recommendations.

Incentives Excitement

The $50,000-a-year incentive package aimed at attracting Hanger Orthopedic Group to Austin comes up for all-but-certain final approval as Item 43 (see "City Hall Hustle"). Additionally, a few items of note are in the draft agenda posted for council's next meeting, Feb. 4, including tweaks to the city's single-stream recycling contract extension with Greenstar North America. Added flexibility in the contract, such as not having to deliver all recyclables to Greenstar for the last six months of the contract (March to September 2011), bodes well for the city using a local materials recovery facility by the spring of 2011. Also, a 6pm public hearing is scheduled to discuss "heritage tree" protections in which a variance would be required to remove trees more than 2 feet in diameter, measured at a height of 4½ feet from the ground (see "Heritage Trees: Size Does Matter").

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City Council, Austin Energy, Green Water Treatment Plant, Downtown Austin Plan, density bonuses, Hanger Orthopedics, single-stream recycling, Greenstar North America, heritage trees

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