Electric rate increase and 4 more things to know this week in Georgetown, Jan. 28-Feb. 3

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Here are some things to know this week in and around Georgetown.

1. Electric bills set to increase in February

Georgetown Utility Systems, the city-owned utility that provides electric service for more than 40,000 residents, will increase the power cost adjustment, or PCA, portion of customers’ bills by $0.0135 per kilowatt-hour starting Feb. 1 and continuing until September. City officials estimate the increase, which will set the PCA at $0.0175 per kWh, will cause customers using the city average of 949 kWhs per month to pay $12.82 more.

The rate hike follows news last month that the city lost more than $6.8 million in projected revenue last summer through selling excess electricity on the wholesale market after energy prices dropped.

2. Property tax deadline is days away in Williamson County

Local property owners must pay their 2018 property taxes in full by Jan. 31 to avoid penalties. County Tax Assessor/Collector Larry Gaddes sent a reminder to property owners earlier this month and encouraged payments before the deadline.

For property owners who wait to pay until Jan. 31, Gaddes said they can pay online through the county tax office’s website, in person at the nearest tax office or by mail after requesting a same-day postmark from a local post office. Gaddes added that dropping payment in a postal box on Jan. 31 would not guarantee a same-day post mark, which is needed in order to avoid late-payment penalties. More information is available online at www.wilco.org/propertytax.

3. Planning underway for $5 million downtown parking garage

City planners are exploring design options for a new four-story parking garage on the southeast corner of Main and Sixth streets in downtown Georgetown. The $5 million project would include about 200 parking spaces.

Eric Johnson, the city’s capital improvements project manager, shared preliminary renderings with City Council last week and said initial plans for the garage include exterior space that could be used for art installations, including murals. The garage could be built and ready for use by mid-2020, according to the city.

4. Tippit Middle School renovations are done

Georgetown ISD celebrated the completion of renovations to Tippit Middle School on Leander Road last week, which is the last project included in GISD’s 2015 bond package. The renovations began in 2016 and include a significant overhaul on the school’s interior as well as a new cafeteria. Read more here.

5. Court program will offer alternatives to keep young adults out of prison

County commissioners approved a partnership last week with Lone Star Justice Alliance for a program that will try to address an 85 percent rate of recidivism, or the rate in which a person convicted of a crime re-offends, among county residents between 17-24 years old. The program will offer participants a service-based system of programs meant to improve physical and mental health.

Researchers from the Harvard Law School Access to Justice Lab, Texas A&M Public Policy Research Institute and The University of Texas Health Science Center will track results through the program, which is intended to continue for four years, according to Elizabeth Henneke, executive director of the Lone Star Justice Alliance.

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  1. Actually, the cost of 949 kWh of power from Georgetown Utility Systems (GUS) will increase by $17.61 per month. The utility conveniently forgot to note that in addition to the increase of .0135 cents in the Power Cost Adjustment per kWh, the monthly customer charge increased from $20 to $24.80 per month.

    But what is a little smoke & mirrors to an organization that blew more than $26 million on its flawed wind and solar contracts?

    This is a crystal-clear example of why the electric energy market in Georgetown should be open to competition. As is the case for 85 percent of Texans!

    Without competition the city council and managers of GUS can kick their mistakes onto the backs of their captive rate payers. But in a competitive market, where people have choice, the Energy Retail Provider ultimately wears any mistakes.

    If a government owned utility messes up, the taxpayers wear the consequences. If a competitive enterprise messes up, the shareholders wear the consequences. GUS has demonstrated its incompetence. It is time for Georgetown to get out of the electric utility business.

    • That would be a great idea, Paul, except that your glorious mayor, Dale Ross, has locked the city into 20- and 25-year wind and solar power contracts. You and your neighbors have had the privilege of paying $1,219 per household more than folks in other parts of the US for electricity over the last 4 years. Here’s to the next 16 or 21 years.

      • Hopefully there is a way out of the mess.

        The State Legislature could compel the municipal utilities, e.g. Georgetown, Austin, etc., to open their markets to competition. Or the citizens might be able to force the council to open the market with via a referendum.

        The referendum approach is a steep hill to climb. So, some of us are petitioning our state representatives to introduce legislation to force a change. It too is a steep hill, but perhaps a bit less so than the referendum route.

        There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Lubbock Power & Light, which is the third largest municipal electric utility in Texas, plans to open its market to competition in 2021.

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Evan Marczynski
Evan Marczynski is editor of the Georgetown edition of Community Impact Newspaper, which he joined in 2016 as a reporter in Northwest Austin and previously covered Austin-area health care and Round Rock ISD. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Evan earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University in 2012 and worked for local newspapers in Washington state before he moved to Texas.
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