Thursday, February 10, 2022

Special Called Austin City Council Meeting Set for Feb. 15 at 9:00 a.m.


Council seeks to outline future steps to rebuild trust with the city’s water utility
Council Member Paige Ellis announced on the City Council’s Message Board today that a time and date are set for a Special Called Meeting of the Austin City Council to discuss the citywide boil water notice. The meeting, set for Tuesday Feb. 15 at 9:00 a.m., will provide the opportunity for council members and city staff to address publicly how the citywide boil water notice occurred and plans to prevent a similar event in the future.
“Austinites deserve a safe, reliable, and resilient water system in which they can have full confidence,” said Council Member Paige Ellis. “After last year’s winter storm, the latest freeze, and two years of an ongoing pandemic, this latest boil water notice really hit a nerve for folks in Austin. My goal for this meeting is to begin to rebuild trust between our city’s core services and the community.”
Austin was under a boil water notice for the better part of four days, beginning the evening of Saturday Feb. 5. The next day, Sunday Feb. 6, Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros announced the cause of the system failure to be due to employee error. By that time, Council Members had heard anger and frustration from thousands of constituents and the stated explanation did little to alleviate Austinites’ frustration.
“We have a world-famous quality of life here in Austin, but that takes a huge hit if we can’t guarantee our residents they’ll have uninterrupted access to clean drinking water,” said Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison. "Oversight and accountability are two of the great benefits of having publicly-owned utilities and I’m eager to work with my colleagues and with staff to resolve these issues and restore faith in Austin Water.”
The special called meeting is the first in several announced steps by members of Council. Council Members Ellis and Natasha Harper-Madison called for this meeting on Sunday Feb. 6. Subsequently, Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter called for an external audit of Austin Water, and Council Member Vanessa Fuentes announced her intention to hold hearings at the Austin Water Oversight Committee (AWOC), which she chairs.
“I am committed to investigating what led to both the recent boil notice and the pattern of systemic issues with Austin Water,” said Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter, who is sponsoring an upcoming City Council resolution calling for an external audit of the water utility. “Determining the cause of these issues and implementing recommended changes and actions from an independent third party auditor is key to preventing something like this from happening again and holding Austin Water accountable.”

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, Chair of AWOC, said: “Our community is frustrated and in disbelief about the recent boil water notice, and so am I. They deserve answers and accountability. And, most importantly, they deserve action. This means follow through on what we learn in the upcoming audit, so our city never has to experience this again. Thanks to my colleagues for their swift action to set the stage for how we move forward.”
Upcoming Dates/Times:
  • Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, 9:00 a.m.: Special Called Meeting of the Austin City Council
  • Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, 10:00 a.m.: Regular Meeting of the Austin City Council and consideration of MPT’s Audit Resolution
  • Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, 1:30 p.m.: Austin Water Oversight Committee meeting

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