Council Preview: Only Reconnect
Agenda weighed down with zoning
There's no regular City Council meeting this week, although if you show up this afternoon (Thursday, Dec. 5) you might swear otherwise. Today they're meeting as the Austin Energy board of directors (remember that argument?), with a handful of briefings on the agenda and perhaps even a new policy: revising the utility's "deferred payment" program offered to residential customers fallen behind on their payments, so that – provided the delinquent customer meets certain standards – reconnection would be mandatory and free of charge. Currently AE is not required to restore service, and some council members have argued that there should be a standard, more flexible policy for customers falling on hard times (illness, loss of employment, natural disaster, etc.), although AE management is wary of undermining revenue.
A proposed ordinance, sponsored by Council Members Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison, is posted for action, but it will follow briefings on 1) the Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan; 2) the Customer Assistance Program (directly related to the deferred payment issue); 3) the disconnection and reconnection policy itself; 4) the status of the solar energy program; 5) AE wage and salary standards; and 6) the roles of boards and commissions in their relationship to AE policies. Presumably, if they get through all that by sundown, they'll be ready to vote on the ordinance.
The draft agenda for next Thursday, Dec. 12, is weighed down with zoning hearings – some undoubtedly to be punted – but also a couple of holdovers that have raised sand and eyebrows in the past. On the consent agenda is authorization for staff to negotiate the purchase of a 607-acre tract in Hays County, via a purchase option held by The Nature Conservancy. This is the Jeremiah Venture tract in Hays County, in the water-quality protection zone, once planned to site at least 1,000 homes and an effluent-spraying water treatment facility. As Amy Smith reported recently ("City May Buy Aquifer Land Slated for Sewage," Oct. 4), if the deal gets done (at a limit of $18 million in bond money), the land would be reserved for water-quality protection over the Edwards Aquifer.
If that potential deal doesn't get your blood flowing, also on the consent agenda (but pending an evening public hearing) is the Parks and Recreation Department's hotly debated plan to install parking meters at the softball fields on Toomey Road, partly in hopes of discouraging squatters and poaching by nearby businesses. Also scheduled, in theory, is Council approval of PARD's design for improving Auditorium Shores, including the revised off-leash dog park – the Parks and Rec board meets on Tuesday, Dec. 10, so whether the design will in fact be ready for Council prime time remains unconfirmed.
Other things brewing: a morning briefing on the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan; approval of the 100 public sites tentatively selected for connection to the Google Fiber system; presentation (and possible approval) of the Holly Shores/Fiesta Gardens Master Plan, covering nearly 100 acres of land along the north shore of Lady Bird Lake from I-35 to Pleasant Valley Road.
The evening's musical honoree is the semi-legendary Sixth Street Cowboy. Here's hoping he leaves his Mula at home.