Saturday, August 11, 2018

Rain?, Council and the Budget, Wildlife Committee and More!

It looks like the weather is a changin - they're saying we are going to get some much needed rain this weekend, I hope so!  So far not much, 0.15 inch overnight, about 3AM.  Check out my weather station - it will give you the up to the minute totals.  There is also a link at the upper right corner - "15th Tee Live Oak Weather".

Council met in special session Monday this week.  Here is the agendaHere is the line to the video if you have a few hours to spare.  Very few in the audience.  More or less a budget meeting but other business also took place.  Following were appointed to the Arts Committee - Sarah Walters, Sue Ellen Knolle, Dan Kubala, Allisyn Martin, Bob Michelson, Janet Wright and Emily Thurman was added at the last minute by the Mayor.

Following were appointed to the Parks and Rec. committee; Erwin Boettcher, Chair, George Blume, Anthony Coley,  Jerry Cooper,  Alyssa Mangrum and Dr. Larry Yancey.

Jim Nelson was appointed as Treasurer.

They then went into the budget process.  Ms. Oakley gave reports on the increases in insurance costs - 15% (down from 19% originally projected) and some increase in liability insurance.  There were also other savings in other areas including the Activity Center and salaries in other departments.

There was also discussion on unintended consequences of accepting donations - i.e. we received a police dog and now it is in the best interest of the city to spend $85K plus to fill a handler position for an asset that currently is utilized at about 20%.  

Security issues for the dais were discussed, some moving forward and some not.  Security is a big issue, I had significant threats and damage to my auto during meetings.  

Help for the web page was discussed.  There was a discussion on how to fund committee / commissions expenses.  Council discussed building a fund to pay for their desires.  The way this has been done in the past was the committee submitted a budget and request to department head and that is included in their budget request.  Putting money in a fund that is not on a budget item is like a slush fund.  It may be easier than doing a budget amendment but I would be cautious about funding an account because committee's will be looking to spend the money - especially when council is suggesting a raise in taxes.

Council also looked at the recapture rate of the swim center and activity center.  That means raising the rates to increase the amount that users fund the expense.  Currently the recapture goal is 35%, the thought was to raise that goal to 50%.  That could be a significant increase in user fees.

Currently the city funds many projects from the budget surplus at the end of the year - it is transferred into the capital reserve fund.  Now the thought is to fund that - especially for vehicle purchase.  Vehicles should always be budgeted, not left to chance on a surplus.

Council was required to set a "not to exceed" tax rate in this session.  The rate proposed is 0.1297 for M&O and 0.0444 for I&S for a total of 0.1741.  The rollback rate (rate that would cause an automatic election) is 0.1759.  This is the same "rate" as last year.  Unfortunately for you and I, most of us had a property value increase of about 5%.  This equates to a tax increase of about 5%.  Hopefully, they will "sharpen the pencil" and lower that rate a little - that is what has been done for many years to protect the citizens.  
About 10 years ago the tax rate was about .24 per $100. 
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The Wildlife Committee met Thursday evening.  My understanding there was a small turnout.  Here is the agenda.  
(4) There was discussion on hiring a wildlife biologist - possibly the one that manages Sun City.  
(5) There was discussion about a "temporary" hold on the TTP process - since the trapping would not start until January, that should give the committee time to get a legitimate survey and determine the size of the population.  The herd grows significantly every year, if paused too long there is no way to catch up.
(6)  The committee is looking for any possible locations to transport deer to.  Not easy in Texas - deer are overpopulated across the state.
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There was a presentation on the history of the deer issue by Chairman Charles Edwards.  Here is that presentation.  

CBC met in regular session Thursday, light agenda and nothing special came from the meeting.  Here was the agenda.
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The August 10th Movies in the Park presentation of "Peter Rabbit" was rescheduled to August 17th because of weather concerns. 

Apparently the Police Report has been replaced with the statistical report that was pulled from the web site several weeks ago.  Here's a link - you decide.

The work has started on the new Medical Office Building in the hospital district.  There are more pictures on my website, http://skypict.com .  I've also started a Facebook page where I will post new info about the surrounding area.  Check it out and like the page for updates!

I reported last week on a couple of guys doing auto body repair and messing up several cars.  Please use reputable folks to do dent and body repair!  For small repairs, check out Fix-A-Dent near Hudson Bend - great service and work!  For large jobs check out Whitaker's on 620 - also great work.  I've used both and they are both reputable and do good work.  Don't try to save a buck and don't pay cash!

Unfortunately we made the news again - a resident allegedly tried to trade alcohol and vape supplies for sexual favors.  Here is a link to a KVUE story.  Our city is growing and that is not all good.

Hopefully we will get some much needed rain this weekend.  I am looking forward to it.  

Check out my new site, www.skypict.com or the Facebook site
Sky Pictures
www.facebook.com/skypictureslw .


I'd appreciate any referrals, likes or shares.  If you need some photo's, send me a note and I'll take care of it.  

Thanks for all the support!  If you would like to be added to my email list send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get it taken care of.

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us






















Monday, August 6, 2018

Special, TxDOT Update on RM 2222 + Other Projects!

Looks like Austin and Burnet County are getting some good road projects!

AUSTIN – A heavily-traveled highway in west Austin is about to expand. At its monthly meeting last week, the Texas Transportation
Commission awarded a $23.6 million contract to move utilities and widen RM 2222, adding a through-travel lane eastbound from Bonaventure to Sitio Del Rio Boulevard and westbound from Ribelin Ranch Drive to Sitio Del Rio Boulevard. The project also includes turn lanes and a raised median. Capital Excavation Company won the contract. 

The second project, which will add a bypass lane from RM 620 to RM 2222, will go to out for bid next summer.

Two bridge replacement projects worth $6.6 million were approved. A new bridge will be constructed over I-35 for the realignment of County Road 305, north of Jarrell in Williamson County. This is part of the ongoing Mobility35 Program. Capital Excavation Company was the low bidder. The second bridge will be built on Boyce Lane at Harris Branch in Travis County. The contractor is Trevway, Inc.

The commute should improve for folks who use FM 734 (Parmer Lane). A second left-turn lane will be added at both McCallen Pass and Harris Ridge Boulevard. Most of the $388,000 project will be paid for by a local developer. The additional left-turn lanes will provide more queue space for vehicles waiting for the left arrow, allowing through traffic to keep moving. Aaron Concrete Contractors, L.P. will do the work.

Landscaping and irrigation will be added to the intersections of SH 130 at SH 45/Kelly Lane and at FM 685. The $2.7 million project will improve the aesthetic and help clean the air. Yellowstone Landscape – Central, Inc. was awarded the contract.

RM 690 in Burnet County is being widened. The shoulders will be expanded from one-foot to three-foot wide in the 10-mile stretch from County Road 114 to just north of SH 29 to improve safety.  The $2.7 million project should get underway in the fall. The contractor is Aaron Concrete Contractors, L.P. 

Also in the Burnet area, Park Road 4, from US 281 to County Road 116 will be resurfaced. The $2 million contract was awarded to Lone Star Paving Company. The paving project is expected to start in the spring.

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us
www.skypict.com



Sunday, August 5, 2018

Lake Travis, ZAPCO, Election and More!

Still hot, but a little better after the "Cold Front".  No rain and we are drying up.  The area MUD's are reminding folks about water restrictions so it's getting worse.
2015 - 4 gates open
Click for larger image

Lake Travis was at 656.79 Friday, last Friday it was 657.63 - going down about a foot a week.  It is 7.54 feet below normal for this time of year.  Inflows are about 5-9 acre feet a day - way low.  2,097 acre feet was released from Travis Thursday.  that does not include the evaporation loss that is MORE that the usage by area homes and businesses.  

If you want to receive this info daily from LCRA here is a link to subscribe.  Stay informed!
Click for larger image.

ZAPCO met in regular session Wednesday.  Here is the agenda.  The main item on the agenda was a Special Use Permit for a business at 15301 Pheasant Lane.  Click for larger image.  The property is zoned C-1 which allows business - the SUP is required because it is within 300 feet of a residence.  A lot of discussion - much of which was centered on issues not before the commission.  Dumpster locations and landscaping are covered by ordinances not in the purview of ZAPCO.  After almost an hour of discussion and restrictions on time of operation an SUP was "recommended" to council.

The second item on the agenda was a monument sign change requested by Civitas Senior Living to rename the monument sign to Legacy Oaks.  Since the sign also had a description and that is against ordinance the description was deleted and the rest of the sign was approved. 

Other items were postponed because all the requirements had not been met.
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 Election season is upon us again to elect two council members to fill Haley and Hennagin's seats.
Filing opened on July 21, 2018 and closes on August 20, 2018.  Election day is November 6, 2018 and the term will be 18 months.  This is all because of the pause in the three year terms from the May election.  

Hopefully we will have some folks step up that are interested in doing good for the city.  Candidates with tax liens and judgments are not folks I want managing my tax dollars.
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Lakeway unfortunately was on the news because a drunk mother locked herself and 10 year old boy in a car during the heat of the day.  Lakeway Police responded and fortunately they were both ok.  It's a shame we are attracting folks and this type of behavior.  Cudo's to the LPD for a quick resolution!

The Lakeway MUD meets August 8, 2018 at 9:30 AM in their district office, 1097 Lohmans Crossing.  Here is that agenda.

The AKA Vocal Show Group is presenting "Hooray for Hollywood:The Movies".  Here is a link to the flyer for all the scoop.

Here's the latest from Dallas Gorman and the Activity Center.  Lots of good things going on!

I was contacted by a resident about an issue with a couple of folks that claim to do dent repair.  Please use an established company and for sure don't pay in cash.  Three different instances of shoddy work and no warranty - I recommend you try FIX-A-DENT at 401 620 North for smaller repairs and my go to is Whitakers Auto Body off 620 for larger jobs.  Both do outstanding work!

Thanks to a grant the Lakeway Police have added better bullet proof vests to their force.  In October 2017 they applied for a grant with Governor Abbot's office and were awarded $17,500 and that bought 32 vests.  Great News!

That's all for now, more as I find out.  Thanks for the interest in our great city.  To be added (or removed) send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll take care of it.

Check out my new website www.skypict.com - lots of Lakeway Pictures including all the new area construction.  If you want a picture send me an email!

Thanks again for the support!

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us














Saturday, July 28, 2018

Weather, Lake Level Info, Budget Info and More


Well, it's still HOT.  Rain possible in the forecast for Tuesday - let's hope and pray it comes to fruition.  Don't forget, water restrictions are in place for lawns.  Check with your local MUD or Water District for your schedule.

Lake Travis is down and dropping every day.  Let's talk abut that.  Currently we are at about 657.58 - that's about 10 feet below normal for this time of year.  There is currently about 751,000 acre feet of water in Travis, it's about 66% of full. If you'll notice the picture at the top of the blog, it's when they had 4 gates open and the generators going because of the significant rains.  Long time ago! 

There's a problem.  The inflow to Travis is about 13 acre feet (July 27, 2018) and the release is about 2,122 acre feet.  That's a deficit of about 2109 acre feet a day.  Where's all that water going?

It goes downstream.  A certain portion is dedicated to feed the downstream flow and the estuaries near the gulf coast.  The rest is committed to contracts from years past for agriculture.  This is called "interruptible" and in years past the rice farmers paid about $6 an acre foot.  Now their price is about $39 - $55 an acre foot.  Unfortunately, the "firm" customers (us) pay $145*.  

Because of the LOW inflows to the highland lakes, LCRA has reduced the sale of interrubtible water to downstream farmers.  It looks like instead of approx. 85,000 acre feet they will get 55,000 acre feet.  The LCRA does use this release to generate power at Mansfield Dam.  I did check with LCRA and they confirmed they are contracting to send second season water downstream.

In my opinion, this is better than it was 5 year ago, but not nearly good enough.  There should be NO agriculture release when inflows to Travis and Buchanan are almost non existent.
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Council held their first budget session Monday evening - here is a link to the video.  The "effective" tax rate is $0.1644446 per $100 valuation.  That is the rate with no tax increase - our current rate is $0.174 per $100 valuation.  Because of the increase of appraised value of property, the rate to get the same amount of dollars goes to the "effective" rate.

The "rollback" rate is $0.17590357 per $100 valuation.  Any tax increase to that rate or above will trigger and election.  This is a complex calculation that takes into account sales tax used to reduce the tax rate and plus some other variables.  It appears the insurance rate the city pays for employees went up over 15%.  Other items were discussed, but they will get into the meat of the budget at the next meeting.  

For years previous councils reduced the tax rate to keep the city income fairly level.  At one time the tax rate was about $0.23 per $100 valuation.  We'll see how the negotiations go at the next few meetings.
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I've been taking pictures of most of the new commercial construction sites around the City.  This is one of the new apartments being built on 620 towards Hudson Bend.  Larger than I first expected, I'll bet there will be another light there soon....

This is the pad where Jason's Deli will be located in the Oak's.  It will be interesting construction with the drainage ditch running down the middle of the pad.  I'm told it is progressing through the permitting process and looks like it will make it.  It turns out there are a few issues with "green space" and impervious cover in the Oaks, so Building and Development are looking at that.  Looks like Stratus will have to transfer some property to them.

If you want to see other sites, here's a link to my web page with  many other sites including hotels and schools.  Feel free to explore the other pages. 
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The Lakeway Players are auditioning for "The Drowsy Chaperone" in August.  Here is a link to all the particulars - sounds like a good show!


Photo courtesy Ed LeBlanc
Couple of blackbuck antelope seen at the Airpark.  Hope they stay safe!


That's all for today, hope you are all staying cool.  I'm showing over 100 degrees again today.

If you would like to be added (or removed) to my email list send a note to lakeway@bain.us.

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us
www.skypict.com


  


Saturday, July 21, 2018

July HEAT, Lake, Budget and More!

Man, has it been HOT!  It's not over yet - record breaking temperatures for the next few days and the air quality is also an issue.  African dust is still with us.  They're expecting a "cold front" that will bring the high temperatures down to the "low" 100's.  Ugh!  Stay inside if you can.

What about the lake?  Today at 658.38 (681 full) or about 9 feet below average for this time of year - 67% full.  Inflows are about 44 acre feet vs. 1575 going out - about a 1531 acre ft. deficit.  That doesn't include the evaporation from Travis which is more than area consumption!  We are dropping a little less than a foot a week.

Most MUD's in the area have water restrictions going on, please check your MUD's website for watering days and restrictions. 

Council will meet in Special Session Monday evening.  Here is the agenda.

Item 3) is an interlocal agreement with CAPCOG (Capital Area Council of Government) to support the Regional Air Quality program.  They monitor our air quality and help keep us out of non-attainment status.  San Antonio and Houston both have much hight restrictions because of their air quality - unfortunately they share their air quality with us too.

Item 4) Budget work session.  Presentation of the proposed budget by Steve Jones, City Manager and discussion.  Current tax rate in 17.4 cents per $100 evaluation.  Since property values have gone up, this rate should probably come down.  I don't have the current "roll back" rate but I'll try to get that info.
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Looks like the "bark park" will be closing from July 23-27 for improvements approved several months ago, funded by a generous donation in memoriam of Marinelle Thompson and the Lakeway Civic Corporation.  It will open again on July 28th.  Our city is blessed with generous residents that donate and work hard to make it better!

Looks like the pool will close from August 15 to September 17 for repairs.  They are replastering the lap pool and resurfacing the pool deck.  

Looks like Baylor Sscott & White bought Vibra and will integrate it in the BSW family.  Vibra is the rehabilitation facility behind HEB.

Building and Development is reviewing the plans for Jason's Deli that hopes to go in across from High Five in the Oaks.


Photo by LTFR Engineer/Inspector Doug Wheeler
We had a brush fire in Rough Hollow at the end of Peninsula Way.  LTFR was on it quick and took care of it before it had a chance to get out of hand.  

Be careful, watch any outside combustion including grills and cooking areas.  There are still many areas of Lakeway that are close to homes and a fire could impact them severely.  Thanks to the Firewise folks for working hard to make these areas safer!

That's all for now - hopefully the weather will cool off soon.  If you want to be added to my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get you added.

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us





Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Council, Police Station, Blood Drive and More!

It's been a while and lots has happened!  Been a little under the weather for a while but much better now.  Had the opportunity to check out Baylor Scott & White - great service and great people.  I hope they eventually find out what was wrong with me....

A lot has changed but it's all really the same in reality.  The Mayor and Council have been working hard filling vacancies in committees and commissions.  Budget season is upon the council and decisions made now will of course affect our taxes.  The first budget work session is this coming Monday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m.

Council met on July 16 in regular session - here is that agendaHere is a link to the video of the meeting.  Looks like they are setting up training for new volunteers with the new attorney.  They have decided to hire a consultant for the Engagement Committee (tax dollars at work) and have put off the sign ordinance until the new attorney can look it over.  That means many signs in November possibly.

The Police Station is on time and on budget and they have changed some of the spread sheets to give more info.  Looking good!

Council appointed the firm of Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP to represent the city and Cobby Caputo as the new city attorney.  I personally know Mr. Caputo and have been impressed with his work over the years.  This firm has also represented us on other legal matters - a good choice.

Council passed an ordinance calling a special election for the election of 2 council members.  One to replace Jean Hennagin (resigned) and the other to replace Dwight Haley who's shortened term ends in November.  Elections will be plurality with two year terms.  

Council formed the Wildlife Advisory Committee (WAC?)  I think they increased the size to 8 (two alternates).  It will be interesting to see what comes of this, I currently have between 18-24 deer across the street every evening (too many) and if the process is "paused" the herd will increase by about 35%.  It's my understanding they are going to hire a wildlife biologist to help the committee and do a survey.  Interesting conundrum.  The only legal options are do nothing, TTT or TTP by Texas law.   An experiment could possibly be done with a university - but that would be temporary.  Deer would still have to be trapped to mark or have surgery.  Any birth control would likely require some type of containment.

Council passed a resolution appointing members to the CBC.  Mostly same members with a couple of new faces.

Finally passed an amendment to the Short Term Rental (STR) ordinance.  This has been in and out for months.  It fixes a couple of issues - one on what constitutes an infraction and the other on time lines.

Contracts were approved for both swim center pool items.

Council went into executive session to talk about current lawsuits.  

Work was done on a couple of ordinances in the consent agenda, including changes to the Ethics ordinance to allow the Mayor to appoint the chair.  There has been a complaint pending since May 24th that has not been acted on - we'll see what happens.

After discussion, the rest of the consent agenda was passed and the meeting was adjourned.
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The Activity Center is a busy place!  Here is a link to the page showing all that is available - take advantage of some of the wonderful offerings!

The Blood Drive is this Saturday, July 21, from 8 a.m. until 12 noon.  Schedule an appointment at WeAreBlood.org (refer to Group Code A197) or by emailing LakewayCommunityBloodDrive@gmail.com. 

827 Ray's has a new venue next door called the Texas Street Grill - try it out!  Here's a coupon for a free appetizer.  It is a casual, family friendly open concept. Featuring homemade burgers, local beers, backyard games, in a casual environment.

BSW is having a seminar tonight (July 19) on hernias.  Go by and check it out.  Starts at 6 p.m.

Police report was officially cancelled by the mayor - too bad, I think folks like to know what was happening.  Haven't heard anything about a replacement.

That's all for now - I'll try to get back in a regular schedule.  If you want to be added (or removed) from my blog, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get it done!

See you around town!

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us










Monday, June 25, 2018

Traffic, No Police Report, Council Results

Good day!  Went to Seattle last week for a conference and have found a city that has worse traffic than Austin / Lakeway! Sometime it took 30-40 minutes for a taxi / Uber to get to the hotel when they were less than a mile away.  They have all kinds of mass transit and it did have some folks riding, rental bicycles were on the ground everywhere but few were used.  People did walk some but complained about the heat (83°) with little humidity.  Hi tech folks moving in every day - wait for it - we are next!  No desire to build any more roads even though it is gridlock between about 2pm and 7pm.  

What happened to the rain????  The lake level is continuing to drop, 661.98 today, down from 665.5 30 days ago.  Inflows are very low and the lake will continue to drop until we get some much needed rain.

No more police reports, they are working on a new format.  I guess we will have to see what that means.

Council Meeting, here's the agenda for last Monday.

3)  Short Term Rental ordinance is on the agenda for July.  They have put out an RFQ for a new City Attorney, hope to have list of qualified firms for July.  Lakeway "101" is referred to the Engagement Committee.

5)  Removed Jim Powell and I from the Police Facility Building Committee and replaced with Mayor Cox and Ron Massa - also made a place for a citizen representative?

8)  Ron Massa was appointed to a second term of Mayor Pro Tem.

9)  Citizens were appointed to the Engagement Committee - Mary Lynne Gibbs, Tammy Stanley, Kevin Daley, John Hoopingarner, Peter McCabe, Nancy Clayton and Mike LRocca.  Congratulations to those folks.

10)  Dave Taylor and Don Kotrady were appointed to the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee.

11)  The following members were appointed to the Board of Ethics;  Jessica Putonti, Tom Bernardi, Cindy Kittle, Joe Clay Strange, Greg Holloway (Chair) and Jane Benasutti - congratulations!

12)  The following members were appointed to the Board of Adjustment; Ann Neighbors, Bob Schooler, Tricia Land, Lauri Higginbotham, Frank Cooley, and Steven Dortch - congratulations!  

13)  The Zoning request recommended by ZAPCO was approved for two lots to change them from R-1 to R-6 zoning.

14)  The Overlook at Lakeway final plat was approved.

15)  After a discussion lasting an hour and 15 minutes, the Sign Ordinance was again tabled.

16 - 17)  Amendments to the solid waste contract were approved and the rate will increase from $21 to $21.40 a month.

18)  Staff is going out for an RFQ to look at needs and requirements for building updates and requirements for staff and will bring back info for Council.

19)  Two citizens spoke on the deer issues, one spoke on the sign ordinance and one spoke on the illegality of the Police Station contract.
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That's all for now - 

If you would like to be added (or removed) from my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll take care of it.

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us