Leigh Ziegler of Travis Country has her questions about proposed fire stations answered by Assistant Fire Chief Matt Orta.
OAK HILL – City officials from a myriad of departments came to the First Evangelical Free Church in Oak Hill on Tuesday, March 20, to seek community input on bond funding and guidance on where those dollars should go.
The sparse community attendance for the inaugural bond workshop was likely due to the long and stormy evening the night before — people kept awake during the storm may have been too tired to attend. But city staff was there in force, and the community members who did attend were enthusiastic about the process and found their questions about various projects answered quickly.
Larry Schooler, Community Engagement Consultant/Mediator/Facilitator for the City of Austin, introduced the evening’s objectives:
• Provide information to the community about the bond development process
• Gather community input
Mike Trimble, Austin Capital Planning Officer, explained that a task force ultimately determines which projects to include in the bond package. The task force has already identified nearly $1.5 billion in projects that will advance the vision of Imagine Austin, the City’s new comprehensive plan. Ultimately, the number of projects will be pared down into three different package sizes for City Council approval: $400 million, $300 million and $200 million.
Some of the items that would directly benefit Southwest Austin include renovation of the Will Hampton Library at Oak Hill, a fire station for Travis Country and one for Loop 360, a Southwest Police substation, a Barton Springs road bridge over Barton Creek, and a MoPac bicycle bridge at Barton Creek — Phase 1 and 2. Many other projects benefit the city overall and can be either directly or indirectly beneficial to Oak Hill.
The final public improvement bond package must be approved by Austin voters before the city can borrow money to fund the projects. The money is paid back using a portion of property taxes.
Attendees were split into two groups and given two major tasks. First they were asked to divide a given number of Austin dollars among four city quadrants:
• Affordable Housing
• City Facilities
• Parks and Open Space
The initial amount participants would divide was $400 million. If time allowed, they would repeat the process for $300 million and for $200 million. One industrious team was able to complete all three, in all cases giving the largest share to Transportation/Mobility, followed (in descending order) by Parks and Open Space, City Facilities and Affordable Housing.
The second group completed its $400 bond package, giving most money to Transportation/Mobility, followed by City Facilities, Affordable Housing and Parks and Open Space.
For the second task, participants were each given 10 colored dots. They were asked to review a brochure listing all projects currently under consideration. Each page of projects had a corresponding poster displayed in the room. Participants could put a dot next to each of their favorite ten projects — or put all ten dots on a single project. The dots were spread far and wide throughout the displays.
Said Leigh Ziegler of Travis Country, “I think it’s an important process.” Her questions about proposed fire stations were answered by Assistant Fire Chief Matt Orta.
“Where else can you get a fire response in three seconds,” laughed Schooler. Indeed representatives of many city departments were available to answer any questions that arose.
Two future community meetings/workshops are scheduled:
• Monday, March 26, 6:30 p.m., Dove Springs Recreation Center, 5801 Ainez Drive.
• Saturday, March 31, 2:00 p.m. Anderson High School, 8403 Mesa Drive.
Those unable to attend a workshop can participate online at www.AustinTexas.gov/BondDevelopment. A hotline (512-539-0060) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) are also available for those with questions.
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