Travis County bond: Project list is set, but election day is not

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.

WHAT’S ON THE LIST: Parks, roads, drainage package finalized

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 two-lane road with shoulders on Reimers-Peacock Road from Texas 71 to Hamilton Pool Road, which many residents fear will pave the way for overdevelopment.

STAY ON TOP OF THE NEWS: Click here to sign up for our Breaking News emails

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 thought-through, having gone through the filter of staff and then the filter of a quality process with the citizens bond advisory committee.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

Trump cracks down on crime, but not on the police who fight it
Trump cracks down on crime, but not on the police who fight it

Six years ago, a police officer in this city in eastern Washington was convicted of beating a disabled man to death and trying to cover it up. After other alarming episodes involving Spokane officers came to light, the city asked federal officials to suggest changes to the Police Department as part of an Obama-era policing program.  Ever since...
As her last day with the Fed nears, Janet Yellen looks back on her first
As her last day with the Fed nears, Janet Yellen looks back on her first

Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, made a relaxed appearance at New York University on Tuesday night, answering questions about her life in economics and her time at the Fed one day after she announced plans to leave the central bank next year.  Yellen said nothing new about the Fed’s policy plans for the coming months, leaving...
Second judge blocks Trump’s transgender ban in the military
Second judge blocks Trump’s transgender ban in the military

A second federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s proposed ban on transgender troops Tuesday, saying President Donald Trump’s announcement of the ban in a series of tweets this summer was “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified.”  In a preliminary injunction, Judge Marvin J. Garbis of the U.S. District Court for...
What you need to know about a repeal of net neutrality
What you need to know about a repeal of net neutrality

For you and me, the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to repeal net neutrality rules can be boiled down to two questions: What might happen? And whom do you trust?  Here’s our guide for internet users looking for answers.    The net neutrality rules were passed in 2015 during the Obama administration when Democrats...
“Hi Drumstick.” Trump pardons a turkey, and likes it.
“Hi Drumstick.” Trump pardons a turkey, and likes it.

It began with a familiar pledge: President Donald Trump’s audience, he promised, was going to be very proud of him.  “Hi, Drumstick,” Trump called out Tuesday, preparing to exercise his least controversial executive authority. “Oh, Drumstick, I think, is going to be very happy.”  It ended with characteristic...
More Stories