Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Austin Water Saves Millions through State Funding for Water, Wastewater and Metering Infrastructure Overhaul



Funds will enhance resilience to extreme weather and emergency events

Austin's push to modernize and strengthen its water, wastewater and metering infrastructure received a bump, thanks to newly acquired below market interest rate loans from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).  Austin Water secured a combined $71.1 million in TWDB funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT).

Austin Water has pursued low interest rate loans to keep costs for infrastructure improvements down, protect rates, and maintain affordability of water and wastewater services. This newest wave of funding locks in interest rates as low as 0.20% and saves the utility and customers millions in financing costs.

"Historically low interest rates coupled with TWDB rate discounts allowed Austin Water to save customers upwards of $13.3 million in financing costs just in this wave of funding alone," said Christina Romero, Austin Water Division Manager, Financial Services. "We are implementing long term and system-wide renovations and upgrades at a faster pace while lowering long-term financing costs."

"This funding allows us to make large strategic improvements to our infrastructure for long-term resiliency," said Shay Ralls Roalson, Assistant Director of Austin Water – Engineering Services. "These generational investments towards the modernization of our water and wastewater infrastructure and metering system will help us deliver reliable high-quality water and wastewater service for years to come."

More Reliable Reservoir Storage and Pumping Capacity
Funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund will go towards upgrading the North Austin Reservoir and Pump Station with a new 8-million gallon ground storage tank and pump station, replacing a reservoir that was originally built in 1912. A portion of the funding will also go toward construction of state-of-the-art electrical equipment at the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant - Low Service Pump Station, replacing equipment that was original to the plant construction. Both of these projects will improve water system reliability and resiliency and reduce maintenance costs. The $30 million, 30-year loan with an all-in interest rate of 0.28%, will save customers and the utility an estimated $7.2 million relative to traditional revenue bond financing in the municipal capital markets.

Enhanced Power Reliability at Wastewater Treatment Plants
Funding from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund will go towards improving pumping systems at Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant as well as rehabilitation of the plant's sludge thickener system. A portion of the funding will go towards replacement of the electrical substation at the South Austin Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. These projects will improve the reliability and resiliency of Austin's major wastewater treatment facilities. The $23.1 million, 30-year loan with an all-in interest rate of 0.20%, will save customers and the utility an estimated $5.7 million relative to traditional revenue bond financing in the municipal capital markets.

Real-time Data with Advanced Metering Infrastructure
Funding from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas will go toward a complete modernization of Austin's water meter infrastructure. A city-wide initiative, known as MyATXWater, is underway to replace analog water meters with advanced digital meters to give customers more control over their water usage and the ability to closely monitor for leaks within their private system. The advanced meter infrastructure will also provide Austin Water with more real-time analytics about system-wide performance. The $18 million, 20-year loan with an all-in interest rate of 1.49%, will save customers and the utility nearly half a million dollars relative to traditional revenue bond financing in the municipal capital markets.

 

Affordability and Infrastructure Improvements

Improving affordability and infrastructure stability are components of the utility's long-term strategic business plan that uses Effective Utility Management strategies to meet the challenges ahead. Austin Water has chosen to focus on Affordability, Customer Satisfaction, Employee and Leadership Development, and Infrastructure Stability. Taken together, improvements in these target areas are helping Austin Water continue to be an industry leader and improve operations and resiliency.

Monday, November 29, 2021

City’s Labor Relations Team Gears Up for Talks on Public Safety Agreements



Negotiations with Unions, Slated to Begin Nov. 30, will be Streamed Live Online 

The City of Austin will enter negotiations with labor unions over the next few months to negotiate new labor agreements as the current agreements expire.

The City's Labor Relations Office is set to commence talks with the Austin EMS Association at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 30. Both the Police and Fire negotiations will begin after the new year. 

This year, in an extra effort toward transparency, and to help facilitate social distancing during COVID-19, the public is invited to watch the negotiations live on YouTube at bit.ly/COALaborRelations
 
The negotiation session dates will be published on the Labor Relations Office's webpage.

"We look forward to working cooperatively with each of the Fire, Police and EMS associations to reach agreements that benefit both Austin residents and our public safety employees," said Deven Desai, Chief Labor Relations Officer for the City of Austin. "While this will be a challenging time to negotiate from both a fiscal and COVID-19 standpoint, we remain committed to transparency and fairness." 

The Labor Relations Office will lead negotiations for the City with representation from various City departments. Tentative agreements between the negotiating teams are subject to ratification by the unions and approval of City Council. 

The City currently has three public safety labor agreements in place, with Police, EMS and Fire departments. All three are due to end on Sept. 30, 2022, although the Police contract includes a 6-month provision where the current agreement will remain in effect should the parties fail to negotiate a successor agreement. 

Current Agreements 

Austin Police Department:

Austin/Travis County EMS:

Austin Fire Department:

Support Available to Help English Learners Access City Services



New iSpeak Austin Campaign Aimed at Individuals with Limited English Proficiency

More than 100,000 Austinites who struggle to speak or read English are being encouraged to access City of Austin services in their preferred language as part of a new campaign to help those with limited English proficiency.

The City wants to help make sure that the estimated 111,000 individuals who speak English "less than very well" (11% of the city's population) and the 300,000 Austinites who speak a language other than English at home (31% of the population) know their rights and can navigate the system to access the full range of City services.

One way the City is doing this is by offering free interpretation and translation of written information to Austinites who request language access services. A City initiative called iSpeak Austin will be highlighting a range of online resources in multiple languages. The City is also distributing informational wallet cards and posters to local libraries to help people whose primary language is not English communicate their needs to English speakers.

"Whether it's borrowing a library book, applying for financial support, or seeking a permit, every Austinite has the right to access City of Austin services in their preferred language, and the City has resources available to ensure this happens," said the City's Interim Communications Director, Jessica King. "Over the coming weeks we will be working to make sure new English learners and immigrant communities are aware of their rights and have the information they need to exercise them." 

More than 80 languages are spoken in Austin. After English, the most common languages include (in order of prevalence):  

  • Spanish 
  • Chinese 
  • Vietnamese 
  • Arabic 
  • Korean 
  • French 
  • Hindi 

The City has recently identified these as priority languages for communicating city-wide programs and services.

Other languages – Nepali, Swahili, Pashto, Burmese and Tigrinya – are also recognized by the City's Language Access Program as having significant numbers of users. Free interpretation and translation are available upon request to access City services in any language.

The key languages spoken in Austin have been identified based on data points from the 2018 American Community Survey, Austin Police Department, Austin Public Health, Austin Municipal Court, Austin Independent School District, Capital Metro, Caritas of Austin, Refugee Services of Texas, and Casa Marinella.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

City of Austin Thanksgiving Closures 2021

 


City of Austin Offices, Facilities to Close for Thanksgiving 2021
City of Austin administrative offices and other municipal facilities will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25-26 in observance of Thanksgiving.

Trash and Recycling Schedules
All trash, recycling and compost collections will "slide" forward one day on Thanksgiving. You will be affected if your regular collection day is Thursday or Friday. Check your personalized curbside services calendar and set up reminders for all your collections on the Austin Recycles mobile app or onlineThe Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center will be closed Thursday, Nov. 25, but remains open by appointment only on Friday and Saturday.

Austin Public Health COVID-19 Test & Vaccine Site Schedule and Dashboard
All Austin Public Health COVID-19 Testing Sites and Vaccine Sites will be closed from Wednesday, Nov. 25, through Sunday, Nov. 28.

The COVID-19 surveillance dashboard will not be updated on Thursday or Friday, Nov. 25-26, but will be updated Monday, Nov. 29. To schedule a COVID-19 test or vaccine through Austin Public Health, visit austintexas.gov/covid19.

Parks and Recreation Facilities Schedules
Austin Parks and Recreation holiday hours vary based on facility so please call ahead or check AustinTexas.gov/Parks before you go. Most facilities including museums and cultural centers, recreation centers, and senior centers will close at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 24 and remain closed through Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Tennis Centers will be closed on Thanksgiving Day only. All Aquatic Facilities will be closed on Thanksgiving Day except Barton Springs Pool which will operate unguarded. For pool hours over the holiday weekend visit AustinTexas.gov/Pools.

Golf courses will be open on Thanksgiving Day with final reservations and carts issued at 12 p.m., driving Ranges will close at 1:30 p.m. and pro shops and concessions will close at 4:30 p.m. More information on Austin Parks and Recreation closures can be found at AustinTexas.gov/ParkClosures.

Austin Public Library Schedule
All Austin Public Library locations will be closed Thursday, Nov. 25, and Friday, Nov. 26. Library resources available remotely can be accessed at the Austin Public Library Website: library.austintexas.gov.

Austin Animal Center Schedule
The Austin Animal Center will close at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24, remain closed Thanksgiving Day, and Friday, Nov. 26. The center will be open during its regular hours Saturday, Nov. 27 and Sunday, Nov. 28.

City of Austin Utilities Schedule
The City of Austin Utilities Customer Care Call Center will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 25 through Saturday, Nov. 27. Additionally, all City of Austin Utility Customer Service Centers will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26. Customers can make utility payments at coautilities.com or by calling 1-833-375-4919 for a Quick Payment. 

In the event of an outage, please contact us at 512-494-9400 and follow the prompts. A customer service representative will be available 24 hours a day over the holiday to assist with any outage concerns.

Additional payment options include: 
  • Paying at authorized locations, including most Austin H-E-B, Fiesta Mart, Randall’s and Walmart stores 
  • Mailing money order or check to P.O. BOX 2267, Austin, TX 78783-2267 or using a drop box location  
  • Payment drop boxes are located at the North and South Utility Customer Service Centers, 625 East 10th Street and 505 Barton Springs Rd. Expect 3-5 business days for drop-off payments to process. The payment drop box at the East Branch inside Rosewood-Zaragosa is NOT available at this time. 
 
For questions about city services or information call 3-1-1. You can also submit service requests from the Austin 3-1-1 mobile app.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Prior to Holidays, Austin Public Health updates Risk-Based Guidelines and Key Indicators Dashboard


Key Indicators Dashboard emphasizes importance of tracking Community Transmission Rate to prevent post-holiday surges 

Austin Public Health continues to raise awareness about the Community Transmission Rate (CTR). CTR helps predict and can help us prevent surge. As promised during a Nov. 5 announcement, APH updated the Key Indicators for Staging Dashboard to illustrate the factors that go into changing stages. Each family must measure their own personal risk for their household. The Risk-Based Guidance Chart was updated to reflect mitigation efforts for high-risk individuals. Those who are unvaccinated are considered high-risk.  

“Please think of the highest-risk person in your family and do all that you can to protect them this Thanksgiving,” said Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes.   

Risk-Based Chart Updates 

APH expanded the scenarios where high-risk individuals should wear masks to protect themselves from the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

Those scenarios include:  

  • Wearing masks at indoor gatherings with people outside your household at Stages 1 and 2. 
  • Wearing masks while dining and not eating or drinking at Stages 1 and 2. 
  • Wearing masks while shopping indoors at Stage 2. 

The public is urged to follow these guidelines ahead of a busy Thanksgiving weekend when people will be gathering. 

“This time last year we were urging people to stay home for Thanksgiving as we dealt with a surge,” said Janet Pichette, Chief Epidemiologist for Austin Public Health. “We’re now equipped with vaccines and helpful data so we can work together to stay safe and prevent another surge.” 

APH has also updated the Risk-Based Guidelines chart to pair CTR thresholds with the existing hospitalization thresholds, and revised mask guidance for high-risk individuals partaking in activities at different stages. These updates equip the public with the information they need to keep themselves and others safe from COVID-19. 

The CTR thresholds go as follows: 

  • <5 is Stage 1 
  • <10 is Stage 2 
  • 10-49 is Stage 3 
  • 50-99 is Stage 4 
  • 100+ is Stage 5

Key Indicators Dashboard Updates 

Updates to the Key Indicators Dashboard are designed to elevate measures APH is closely monitoring to determine staging. Austin-Travis County’s current stage level is prominently featured in the upper left corner. The corresponding factors are displayed directly atop the stage tracker graph. You’ll notice the local Community Transmission Rate (CTR), which is currently substantial. The statewide CTR is also substantial. That figure is shown in the bottom left corner of the dashboard adjacent to the national rate, which is high. That same tile is where you’ll find influenza test results by selecting the corresponding tab below. 

Streamlined icons on the upper right side of the dashboard highlight other important measures APH continues to track. The dashboard is updated each afternoon. The figures reflect the previous day’s totals. 

Link: Key Indicators for Staging Dashboard 

Remind me, why the updates? 

CTR helps forecast how COVID-19 is spreading and gives the public a warning to take action to prevent a surge. 

The graph below illustrates how it relates to hospitalizations. You’ll notice the transmission rate precedes an increase in hospitalization numbers. 


 

Vaccinations and Testing Ahead of the Holidays 

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 during the holidays is to make sure everyone in the household is fully vaccinated, especially when multiple generations plan to be together. 

Protecting those at high risk of infection with boosters and third doses is critical to minimizing the spread, especially during the holidays. Studies increasingly show vaccines’ protection wanes over time; boosters are recommended six months after the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and two months after the one-shot Johnson & Johnson. 

In order to be fully vaccinated, keep in mind it takes two weeks for the vaccine (including boosters, third doses) to provide maximum efficacy. 

Children 5-11 years of age are now eligible for vaccination. Children proved to be especially vulnerable to hospitalization and even death from the Delta variant. Pediatric vaccinations are widely available through APH and its vaccine partners, including pharmacies and medical offices. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for pediatric vaccinations. 

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. Residents can locate providers in their area using Vaccines.gov (Vacunas.gov in Spanish), or they can text their zip code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic. 

It’s easy to confuse COVID-19 symptoms with those of the flu and allergies. Stay safe and get tested, especially prior to traveling and gathering with high-risk individuals. Testing is available through home testing kits and providers throughout the community. 

For additional COVID-19 information and updates, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19



Austin Public Library Pleasant Hill Branch Hosting Grand Re-Opening Party Dec. 4

 


The Pleasant Hill Branch of Austin Public Library will be opening to the public on Saturday December 4, 2021, with a Grand Re-Opening Party for the community featuring live music performances, food and drink, and activities for families.

“We are very excited that the doors will be reopening for this important center for the South Austin community,” stated Austin Public Library director Roosevelt Weeks. “We believe the improvements made to the facilities at the Pleasant Hill Branch will enable Austin Public Library to serve this growing part of our community sustainably for years to come.”

The festivities will kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:00 a.m. and will feature indoor and outdoor activities for families until 4:00 p.m. There will also be breakfast tacos, pan dulce, aguas frescas and coffee available in the morning.

Pleasant Hill Branch Library Grand Re-Opening Party
Dec. 4, 2021, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
211 E. William Cannon Dr., Austin, TX 78745

Scheduled events:
10 a.m. -  Ribbon-cutting ceremony and remarks from Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes, APL Assistant Director Dana Conners, Library Commission Chair Pat Dabbert, and a reading from Austin Youth Poet Laureate Ireland Griffin
10:30 a.m. - Performance by Akins High School Mariachi Band
12 p.m. - Art Smart program for kids
2:30 p.m. - PiƱata for kids
3 p.m. - Performance by Minor Mishap Marching Band

All-Day family activities:
Story stroll "Too Many Tamales" by Gary Soto – outdoors
Children's book giveaway
Create “Welcome Back” messages – indoors
Chalk obstacle course – outdoors
Seasonal crafts – outdoors
Photo booth – outdoors
Bean bag toss – outdoors
Bowling – outdoors

The Pleasant Hill Branch was closed for renovation in 2019 with that closure extended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the improvements made are a roof replacement, a new HVAC system, electrical work, and interior enhancements including new wood flooring and a new, brighter color scheme.

Following the re-opening, the Pleasant Hill Branch will be open 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, and 10 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, and closed Saturdays and Sundays.

City of Austin Thanksgiving Closures 2021

 

City of Austin Offices, Facilities to Close for Thanksgiving 2021
City of Austin administrative offices and other municipal facilities will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25-26 in observance of Thanksgiving.

Trash and Recycling Schedules
All trash, recycling and compost collections will "slide" forward one day on Thanksgiving. You will be affected if your regular collection day is Thursday or Friday. Check your personalized curbside services calendar and set up reminders for all your collections on the Austin Recycles mobile app or onlineThe Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center will be closed Thursday, Nov. 25, but remains open by appointment only on Friday and Saturday.

Austin Public Health COVID-19 Test & Vaccine Site Schedule and Dashboard
All Austin Public Health COVID-19 Testing Sites and Vaccine Sites will be closed from Wednesday, Nov. 25, through Sunday, Nov. 28.

The COVID-19 surveillance dashboard will not be updated on Thursday or Friday, Nov. 25-26, but will be updated Monday, Nov. 29. To schedule a COVID-19 test or vaccine through Austin Public Health, visit austintexas.gov/covid19.

Parks and Recreation Facilities Schedules
Austin Parks and Recreation holiday hours vary based on facility so please call ahead or check AustinTexas.gov/Parks before you go. Most facilities including museums and cultural centers, recreation centers, and senior centers will close at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 24 and remain closed through Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Tennis Centers will be closed on Thanksgiving Day only. All Aquatic Facilities will be closed on Thanksgiving Day except Barton Springs Pool which will operate unguarded. For pool hours over the holiday weekend visit AustinTexas.gov/Pools.

Golf courses will be open on Thanksgiving Day with final reservations and carts issued at 12 p.m., driving Ranges will close at 1:30 p.m. and pro shops and concessions will close at 4:30 p.m. More information on Austin Parks and Recreation closures can be found at AustinTexas.gov/ParkClosures.

Austin Public Library Schedule
All Austin Public Library locations will be closed Thursday, Nov. 25, and Friday, Nov. 26. Library resources available remotely can be accessed at the Austin Public Library Website: library.austintexas.gov.

Austin Animal Center Schedule
The Austin Animal Center will close at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24, remain closed Thanksgiving Day, and Friday, Nov. 26. The center will be open during its regular hours Saturday, Nov. 27 and Sunday, Nov. 28.

City of Austin Utilities Schedule
The City of Austin Utilities Customer Care Call Center will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 25 through Saturday, Nov. 27. Additionally, all City of Austin Utility Customer Service Centers will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26. Customers can make utility payments at coautilities.com or by calling 1-833-375-4919 for a Quick Payment. 

In the event of an outage, please contact us at 512-494-9400 and follow the prompts. A customer service representative will be available 24 hours a day over the holiday to assist with any outage concerns.

Additional payment options include: 
  • Paying at authorized locations, including most Austin H-E-B, Fiesta Mart, Randall’s and Walmart stores 
  • Mailing money order or check to P.O. BOX 2267, Austin, TX 78783-2267 or using a drop box location  
  • Payment drop boxes are located at the North and South Utility Customer Service Centers, 625 East 10th Street and 505 Barton Springs Rd. Expect 3-5 business days for drop-off payments to process. The payment drop box at the East Branch inside Rosewood-Zaragosa is NOT available at this time. 
 
For questions about city services or information call 3-1-1. You can also submit service requests from the Austin 3-1-1 mobile app.

Austin Water Saves Millions through State Funding for Water, Wastewater and Metering Infrastructure Overhaul

Funds will enhance resilience to extreme weather and emergency events Austin's push to modernize and strengthen its water, wastewater ...