Williamson County Commissioners Court approved the hiring of Killen, Griffin & Farrimond to represent the county against the city of Austin's plan to purchase a permanent housing facility for people experiencing homelessness March 2.

Killen, Griffin & Farrimond is a San Antonio-based law firm that specializes in land use and economic development initiatives, according to its website.

Fees for each attorney and staff will be billed at an hourly rate of $400 for Rob Killen, $325 for James Griffin and $325 for Ashley Farrimond, according to the contract. Support staff including associates, legal assistants, project managers and law clerks bill out at $50-$250 per hour, and support staff members who may work on the matter include Christina Ketabchi at $175 per hour, Sean Bourg at $150 per hour and Delaney Honaker at $125 per hour, it said.

The issue at hand is between Williamson County and Austin City Council for the purchase of Candlewood Suites hotel. The hotel is located Northwest Austin at 10811 Pecan Park Blvd., near FM 620, and lies within Austin city limits and Williamson County.

The council’s push to purchase the 83-room hotel in February is part of its strategy to convert hotels and motels into transitional and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness. Williamson County officials argue they were not informed about the project nor how the city plans to address any potential impacts.

Commissioner Cynthia Long, who represents the portion of Williamson County in which the hotel will be placed, said in addition to the lack of communication, she is concerned about the financial impact the hotel purchase will have on county.

“Earliest documentation related to this goes back to 2019,” Long said. “This was not something that just happened. City of Austin staff and the former council member were working on this for months, if not years, with no communication whatsoever to the school district, to Williamson County, to the surrounding businesses [and] to the surrounding neighbors who are going to be impacted in a huge way.”

Long added that if issues arise with the hotel’s guests and law enforcement, they will be placed in the Williamson County jail and if needed, use county mental health resources.

“[Austin City Council is] putting it upon others without even consulting others,” she said.

The court voted Feb. 2 to request Austin City Council to delay the project 90 days to allow time for impact studies to be completed. Council voted Feb. 4 to move forward nonetheless.

On Feb. 9, Williamson County commissioners directed staff to search for a law firm to represent it in this matter.

Community members and local business owners have spoken out against the project stating it will negatively impact property values and businesses.

Others have said the hotel location is not near any additional wrap-around services that will be needed to address homelessness in Austin including health care services, job opportunities and easy access to transportation.

“I'm not at all trying to portray that we don't have a responsibility as individuals to help with the homeless situation,” Long said. “My comments are related to the costs associated that Austin just doesn't seem to care.”

Williamson County has not yet taken any formal legal action.