The Austin Chronicle

Council: Next Stop, ACL Fest

By Michael King, September 30, 2016, News

There's no regular City Council meeting today (Sept. 29) – not surprising, since the Dais Denizens had a couple of exhausting postponements to assign last week, and this week there's the looming music festival in Zilker Park. Nevertheless, the draft agenda has been posted for next week (Oct. 6), and though it's not yet lengthy (a mere 58 items), pending any additional items, it's already heavy with expensive contracts that might cause some morning session heartburn for the department heads on permanent call. The afternoon public hearings feature a half-dozen proposed annexations, occasions for posturing about eminent domain and the inexorable march of the ravenous bureaucracy. A few additional highlights:

The issuance of a potential $120 million in electric utility revenue bonds, a fairly standard debt-financing transaction for Austin Energy, but the large price tag might raise a few eyebrows.

Three Health and Human Services contracts that cover mental health care (Austin Travis County Integral Care), community services (Austin ISD), and HIV services (Wright House Wellness Center), over five years in all, with a total bill over $10 million. Will pass easily, but might be an occasion for carping from the conservative wing.

A long-term (10 years, $20 million) contract with Synagro of Texas (or other qualified provider) for processing biosolids originating at Austin Water's Hornsby Bend facility. Council had questions about this one when it first arrived a few weeks ago and kicked the can to Oct. 6. We'll see if the questions have been answered.

Another long-term contract (7 years, $29 million) with Texas Electric Cooperatives for Austin Energy's residential electric meters (getting increasingly smart). Questions about the meters and the money might well arise.

Parks and Rec proposes long-term contracts with Austin Screen Printing and Eagle Group Sportswear for athletic clothing used by staff – potentially 10 years and $2.4 million. PARD says the contracts would provide savings over short-term purchases; not sure Council, fresh from budget wrestling, will agree.

The single zoning hearing is for the Champions tract on City Park Road, for a multifamily project opposed by some nearby neighborhoods. Council approved on first two readings, pending further negotiations among the parties – here's the third go-round.

The afternoon public hearings include a postponed discussion of code amendments concerning carport conversions to garages and how that can affect permitted floor areas. This is one of those contentious code details that drives builders, homeowners, and staff nuts – proposal is for a code simplification.

There's also a hearing on what should be relatively minor amendments (is there such a thing?) to the Imagine Austin plan, followed by six proposed annexations: five less than 50 acres, the sixth 246 acres in Northeast Travis County (aka Entrada). At that size, it might get substantial witnessing, hemming, and hawing.

That's what we know this week – we'll update the report as necessary once the final agenda is posted. Don't forget your earplugs.

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