Northwest Austin City & County—May 2016

Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks discusses the city’s wildfire risk May 12. Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks discusses the city’s wildfire risk May 12.[/caption]

City to increase wildfire-prevention methods

Austin | City Council passed a resolution May 12 that aims to increase wildfire-prevention and defense strategies and set a goal of zero fatalities from wildfires.

District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo sponsored the resolution and said the Community Wildfire Protection Plan passed in 2014 by City Council was only a starting point in addressing wildfire prevention.

“The question is not will we have another wildfire—it is when will we have another wildfire,” Gallo said. “It is my goal … to support the implementation of a comprehensive, local-level community wildfire-protection plan and be better prepared for when the next fire hits our community.”

The Austin Fire Department reports about 246,000 homes in the community are at risk of wildfire damage, and a 2013 national wildfire hazard risk report rated Austin the third most at-risk residential area for wildfire-related structural loss, according to the resolution.

“The city of Austin is at extreme risk of major home, property and structural loss from wildfire; it’s that simple,” Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks said.

City returns to water Conservation Stage

Austin | City Manager Marc Ott said May 18 the city of Austin is now in the Conservation Stage of its water restrictions.

The city had been in Stage 2 restrictions most of the time since 2011. On May 5, City Council approved changes to the water restrictions that affect the Conservation Stage. Residents may only use automatic irrigation once per week but may also water an additional day using a hose-end sprinkler. Residents without an automatic system may water twice per week with a hose.

Council also approved a change permitting home car washing in the Conservation Stage using a bucket and/or a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.

City to launch plan to help homeless

Austin | On June 1, the Austin Police Department will launch a pilot program designed to help provide homeless individuals with essential resources such as housing, mental health treatment, employment assistance and transportation.

The pilot program will consist of two teams of two police officers each and a social service worker who will serve both teams, APD Commander Pat Cochran said.

By taking a proactive approach, the city could potentially save time and resources and collect more information about the homeless population to better serve them and the city in the future, Cochran said. The pilot program is funded through APD.

Travis County moves forward on bike safety plans

Travis county | Commissioners approved next steps for a few bicycle safety projects at their May 3 meeting.

Voters approved $3.3 million in bond funds in 2011 to address bike safety issues in the county, and the court appointed members to a Bicycle Safety Task Force to develop recommendations on how to spend those funds.

The task force looked for gaps in the network and aimed to address obvious safety issues in multiple precincts of the county, BSTF member and Northwest Austin resident Erick Benz said.

Commissioners approved the list of recommended bicycle safety projects for 2011 bond funds. The task force’s recommended projects included one in Northwest Austin to add bicycle facilities on Howard Lane to improve connectivity to Capital Metro’s Howard Lane bus station.

Group proposes new Travis County Expo Center

Austin | On April 27 an Austin City Council committee considered recommendations for a new Travis County Expo Center to increase and improve resources for events.

The existing Expo Center is located at Walter E. Long Park in east Travis County and hosts events such as the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo Austin.

Hunden Strategic Partners—a consulting company hired by Austin, Travis County and Rodeo Austin last year to evaluate the Travis County Expo Center—found existing facilities are unable to meet rising demand for space. Hunden recommends the city spend about $620 million to construct a new expo center with a modern arena, meeting rooms, and a rodeo and equestrian facility.

City Council will hear a final report at its June 7 meeting.