Austin Energy plans power pole project for part of Bee Cave Parkway, developer offers alternative

Austin Energy is planning to put up power poles along a portion of Bee Cave Parkway. The city is pitching a plan to pay for most of the cost of burying the wires.

Austin Energy is planning to put up power poles along a portion of Bee Cave Parkway. The city is pitching a plan to pay for most of the cost of burying the wires.

Bee Cave City staff plans to meet Dec. 13 with Austin Energy representatives over the utility’s plan to install overhead power distribution lines along a section of Bee Cave Parkway from Willie Way west to the Ladera subdivision, according to City Manager Travis Askey. At its Nov. 14 meeting, council also agreed to send a letter to Austin’s mayor and Austin city council for possible assistance.

Construction on the AE’s Trading Post Feeder Tie Project could begin by the end of the year, according to an Oct. 23 city correspondence with AE.

Council members at the Nov. 14 meeting wanted to know what options existed for burying the wires, a more expensive option, estimated to top $1 million, 10 times the cost of overhead wires, according to council records.

Of five property owners along Parkway who AE notified, developer Adrian Overstreet told council his company would pay $150,000 toward the cost of burying the wires “to help beautify the city.”
Overstreet’s development group, Hill Country Texas Galleria, LLC holds title to an undeveloped tract behind the Target on the north side of Bee Cave Parkway.

A spokesperson for AE told Community Impact Newspaper the utility would be open to burying the lines if the city of Bee Cave is willing to “substantially share” in the cost.

“The project is necessary to increase the safety and overall reliability of electric service to both existing and future customers in the city of Bee Cave,” Jennifer Herber, a spokesperson for Austin Energy said.
The Feeder Project is time critical and must be constructed prior to the peak use periods, which will occur during the summer months of 2018, Herber said.

During peak times, she said this distribution circuit has consistently exceeded its capacity rating, and the reliability of the electric service in the area is at risk.

“The circuit loading situation in [the city of] Bee Cave is reaching a serious level. Overloading circuits beyond their maximum rating could lead to possible failure and outages,” Herber said.

Past concerns

Bee Cave Mayor Caroline Murphy explained the origin of council’s concern dating back to Austin Energy’s apparent reluctance after 2007 to use hundreds of feet of unused conduits under the Hill Country Galleria.

“It was very disappointing when it came time for Austin Energy to decide they needed to put additional [power] service along Bee Cave Parkway behind the Galleria, it was disturbing to find they were just going to proceed with overhead poles,” she said in the meeting.

Austin Energy told city staff in a September memo the new lines on the other end of the Bee Cave Parkway are needed to allow the utility to have improved line switching flexibility and allow for future capacity upgrades in the area when vacant land in the area is developed.

Murphy said at the meeting she was also puzzled after learning Austin Energy had incorrect information on the development status of Parkway properties and it decided to maintain the Parkway project’s timing.

“One parcel is dormant,” the mayor said and [the city of Bee Cave] owns the Skaggs property, which she told the meeting will not be developed any time soon and not for a retail use.”

In March 2011, city executed a ten-year franchise agreement that permits Austin Energy to install power distribution lines in its jurisdiction. In return, the utility pays the city three percent of gross revenues generated, council records showed.


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