Two months after Austin Community College trustees authorized administration to negotiate a contract with Colorado River Constructors to use its Pinnacle campus as a staging area for the Oak Hill Parkway project, trustees amended their decision to explicitly state the lease would not allow for a concrete batch plant to be located at the property.

Representatives from Colorado River Constructors—the contractors for the Texas Department of Transportation’s upcoming Oak Hill Parkway project—had previously stated their desire to use part of the Pinnacle campus parking lot to operate a temporary concrete batch plant. According to the company, the site was a preferred location for the plant due to its proximity to The Y at Oak Hill, distance from some neighboring homes and paved surfaces.

If an agreement between both parties is reached, ACC would allow the company to use the vacant Pinnacle building as an operations base during the project. It would also allow a section of the Pinnacle parking lot to be used for parking and storage during the project, which could last through 2025.

“Prior board action back in March authorized the administration to negotiate and execute a lease agreement for the vacant parking lots at ACC Pinnacle,” ACC Executive Vice President of Finance Neil Vickers said at a meeting May 3. “We are now bringing to the board a tweak to that.”

The trustees’s new May 3 motion:

  • grants ACC Chancellor Richard Rhodes permission to negotiate any necessary agreements and documents related to a future lease agreement;

  • states that permitted uses of the site will not include a concrete batch plant;

  • requires Colorado River Constructors to hold public engagement with the community about its plans for the site; and...

  • requires a final contract to come to the board of trustees for official approval at a future board meeting.

Vickers said if a contract is agreed upon, Colorado River Constructors would assume all costs to maintain the office building for the four years it would be using the facility. Similarly, Colorado River Constructors would restore the parking lot and access roads to the campus to their current state once construction was completed.

Pinnacle has been closed since the spring of 2018 due to required maintenance of the outdated facility. According to ACC, the district hopes to operate on the campus again in the future but would require detailed plans and a future bond to fund the construction of a new facility.

Vickers said a lease would not interfere with future planning or development of the Pinnacle campus itself. Colorado River Constructors operations would be limited to a part of the campus that would not be built out in what he called "Pinnacle 2.0."

Concrete concerns

After trustees initially authorized the administration to negotiate the contract in March, members of the Oak Hill community spoke up against the contract, in part, due to concerns about disruptions and potential pollution caused by a proposed batch plant on the site.

Trustee Julie Ann Nitsch, who lives in South Austin and voted against the motion May 3, said approving the contract would alienate members of the community who opposed it.

“We are not here to help that road get built, we are here as an educational institution,” she said. “Speaking from my elected position, I don't see how this benefits ACC. It welcomes a lot of community outrage that we don’t need, and we will need a bond to rebuild that campus.”

With ACC no longer an option, Colorado River Constructors will likely utilize two locations within the Oak Hill Parkway project’s right of way to house the concrete batch plant, Oak Hill Parkway Project Manager Pike Riegert said. According to an April 17 presentation to the community, the two sites are located near the Scenic Brook community and the intersection of W. Hwy 290 and Hwy. 71.

“We're definitely going to have a batch plant,” he said. “We're legally allowed to have a batch plant [in the right of way]. We're going to work with the community [to find] the best location, that was always the intent. We have a contractual obligation to build this job. We cannot build this job without a batch plant.“