TRAVIS COUNTY SETS BOND LIST, BUT NOT DATE

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Tay­lor Gold­en­stein tgold­en­stein@states­man.com

Travis County com­mis­sion­ers voted Tues­day on a list of projects for a pro­posed $185 mil­lion roads-and-parks bond pack­age — but post­poned a fi­nal vote un­til next week on whether the propo­si­tion should go be­fore vot­ers in Novem­ber or May.

Com­mis­sion­ers voted 4-1, with Com­mis­sioner Gerald Daugh­erty op­posed, to move for­ward with the cit­i­zens bond ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tions as well as the county staff ’s rec­om­men­da­tions. They plan take a fi­nal vote Aug. 15 on the date of the elec­tion.

Among the pack­age’s big­gest-ticket items are $21.2 mil­lion to build a Bee Creek Sports Com­plex; $25 mil­lion for park­land ac­qui­si­tions and con­ser­va­tion ease­ments; $10.7 mil­lion to build a two-lane road with bike lanes and side­walks from Texas 130 to Austin’s Colony Boule­vard; and $9.5 mil­lion to build a trail­head park and in­fra­struc­ture at the Onion Creek Green­way.

Once all the debt is is­sued in 2023, Travis Gatlin, the county bud­get di­rec­tor, said the pro­posed

bond pack­age will cost the av­er­age tax­able home­stead about $24 a year.

If com­mis­sion­ers choose to put the pack­age on the bal­lot in Novem­ber, it would come on top of the $1.05 bil­lion Austin schools bond pack­age that many Travis County vot­ers will see at the polls. Funds from the school bond pack­age would re­build sev­eral cam­puses, con­struct new schools and target over­crowd­ing in pock­ets of the 83,000-stu­dent dis­trict.

Dur­ing pub­lic com­ment Tues­day, Austin Cham­ber of Com­merce rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tina Can­non told com­mis­sion­ers that she sup­ported the county bond pack­age but wor­ried about its tim­ing, not­ing the Austin schools bond as well any city prop­erty tax bumps.

“We want to be cog­nizant of what you’re try­ing to do, what you’re try­ing to ac­com­plish and sup­port you in your suc­cess in that,” Can­non said. “(We) just want you to take a strong con­sid­er­a­tion of how tim­ing may play a ma­jor fac­tor in the suc­cess or fail­ure of this par­tic­u­lar bond is­suance.”

Daugh­erty had ex­pressed in­ter­est in ad­ding a con­tro­ver­sial project: the con­struc­tion of a new twolane road with shoul­ders on Reimers-Pea­cock Road from Texas 71 to Hamil­ton Pool Road, which many res­i­dents fear will pave the way for overde­vel­op­ment.

The is­sue be­came moot, how­ever, when Daugh­erty failed Tues­day to garner the nec­es­sary sup­port from his fel­low com­mis­sion­ers. Daugh­erty sug­gested an al­ter­na­tive: ex­tend Vail Di­vide in Western Travis County to con­nect Texas 71 and Hamil­ton Pool Road.

Daugh­erty made a mo­tion to give the com­mis­sion­ers flex­i­bil­ity to make ad­just­ments to the project list in their precinct.

But County Judge Sarah Eck­hardt and Com­mis­sioner Brigid Shea said the Vail Di­vide project, which hasn’t yet been stud­ied by the county staff, comes with too many un­knowns.

They also cau­tioned that ad­ding such gen­eral lan­guage to a bond propo­si­tion could have un­in­tended con­se­quences, such as bar­ring the court from ac­com­plish­ing trans­porta­tion projects in fu­ture bonds, should the mea­sure fail.

“I had to make a state­ment about how dis­gusted I am about feel­ing like I have al­most no say in projects in Precinct 3,” Daugh­erty said af­ter Tues­day’s vote. “I don’t know how else to do that.”

Eck­hardt and Shea said af­ter the meeting that they dis­agreed with that as­sess­ment. Shea noted that the Bee Creek Sports Com­plex, one of the most ex­pen­sive projects on the list, is in Daugh­erty’s precinct.

Even though Shea’s precinct re­ceived the least amount of funds, which she said she un­der­stood given that most of it is ur­ban and sup­ported by the city of Austin, the com­mis­sioner said she was pleased with the fi­nal pack­age.

“I feel like we didn’t quite get to eq­uity ... but I’m rel­a­tively happy,” Shea said. “I feel like we bal­anced a lot of com­pet­ing in­ter­ests, and we found a way to add in projects to deal with the most dan­ger­ous flood­ing ar­eas, which are the low water cross­ings, and not sub­stan­tially in­crease the cost to the tax­pay­ers.”

Eck­hardt also said she ap­proved of the list that com­mis­sion­ers moved for­ward Tues­day.

“I’m very, very proud of the fi­nal project list,” Eck­hardt said. “I think it was ex­tremely well thought­through, hav­ing gone through the fil­ter of staff and then the fil­ter of a qual­ity process with the cit­i­zens bond ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.”

Daugh­erty made a mo­tion to give the com­mis­sion­ers flex­i­bil­ity to make ad­just­ments to the project list in their precinct.

Con­tact Tay­lor Gold­en­stein at 512-445-3972.

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

This aerial view shows the soc­cer fields at North­east Metropoli­tan Park. Travis County’s pro­posed $185 mil­lion roads-and-parks bond pack­age would in­clude fund­ing to buy land and de­sign a trail for the Gil­le­land Creek Green­way, which would con­nect this Pflugerville park to the Colorado River.

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