Austin’s chief animal services officer will decide whether Austin needs additional support dealing with the city's coyote population, City Council decided today.

Council members spent about an hour discussing a $10,000 contract with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Services to provide technical assistance in the event a coyote might present a public safety threat. The council authorized Tawny Hammond, the city’s chief animal services officer, to execute that contract should the city need the state wildlife agency’s assistance.
“We can sit here and talk about ‘We’re not going to have a public safety threat; we don’t want to take that chance."

—Assistant City Manager Bert Lumbreras

Some Austin residents have reported coyote sightings in recent years. The reclusive animals, they say, present a public safety risk to pets and young children.

Assistant City Manager Bert Lumbreras, who recommended council approve the item before it was amended to leave the execution of the contract up to staff, said the contract and interlocal agreement with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Services would provide the city with a tool for tackling the issue.

“We can sit here and talk about, ‘We’re not going to have a public safety threat; we don’t want to take that chance,'” Lumbreras said.

If agreed to, the one-year interlocal agreement would be revisited at the end of the fiscal year to determine whether it should be renewed.

Lending tools for prospective, current homeowners

District 2 Council Member Delia Garza District 2 Council Member Delia Garza[/caption]

The city manager will assemble a housing lending advisory group that will recommend programs providing new lending tools for current and new homeowners.

Council approved a resolution that establishes a task force that targets middle-class, first-time homebuyers. The resolution specifically mentions homebuyers between 80 and 120 percent of the median family income, which is $77,800 for a Travis County household of four.

District 2 Council Member Delia Garza authored the resolution, which was co-sponsored by council members Sheri Gallo, Greg Casar, Sabino “Pio” Renteria and Ora Houston.

“One of my main goals as a council member has been to create new tools to help keep working families in Austin,” Garza said. “More and more families are leaving Austin because they cannot afford to live here. Many families can afford a mortgage payment, but the down payment required can be an obstacle to securing home ownership.”

Among the duties the advisory group will be tasked with are the following:

  • Working with lending institutions to pursue new lending options for Austin families with incomes between 80-120 percent MFI

  • Studying creative lending alternatives being used in other cities and how they can be reproduced in Austin

  • Increasing the educational resources available to families seeking to become first-time homebuyers

Per the resolution, the advisory group will present preliminary recommendation to City Council by Dec. 6.

Audit plan

Council also approved the city auditor’s fiscal year 2016-17 audit plan.

Among the areas of city government City Auditor Corrie Stokes is slated to investigate are affordability outcomes, homelessness assistance, bond spending, online services, the construction management process, wildfire preparedness and demolition permits.

The full list of planned audits includes detailed rationale behind each anticipated report.

Public hearing set on gas rates

A hearing over proposed increases in gas rates for Texas Gas Service customers is set for Oct. 13 and will be held no earlier than 4 p.m. at City Hall, 301 W. Second St., Austin.

TGS is proposing a revenue increase of 18.04 percent, up $10.5 million from current adjusted revenues, excluding gas costs. About 213,000 customers receive gas from TGS, according to city documents.

Holly Power Plant redevelopment

The city manager will study the feasibility of a request for proposals, or RFP, process for redevelopment of the decommissioned Holly Power Plant just north of Town Lake and off North Pleasant Valley Road on the city’s east side.

The power plant was closed in 2007, allowing for expanded parkland.

Should the city move forward with an RFP, the project would be bid out for redevelopment based on a revitalization plan identified in a 2013 master plan for the area.