By Bill Oakey – June 18, 2014
This morning we awoke to this cheerful news from the Austin American-Statesman, regarding the botched location of the Waller Creek intake facility:
“A major design flaw in the city of Austin’s $149 million Waller Creek Tunnel project could cost between $15 million and $45 million to fix and delay part of the project by one to four years.”
A few weeks ago the City Council was informed that this facility was being constructed in a corridor that blocks a view of the State Capitol building that is prohibited by State law. Their initial reaction was to issue a legal contract for up to $1.8 million, under the bizarre assumption that the City could possibly blame this problem on the engineers and contractors working on the project. And they assumed the worse case scenario on correcting the problem – that the facility would have to be redesigned.
This morning the Statesman reported that the City’s Planning Commission saw no conflict with the Capitol view restrictions at a 2011 meeting when the facility was being permitted. And it turns out there is already an existing State building and a tree that blocks the Capitol view in question. None of this information was presented to the City Council, at least not in public session, when they sprang for the $1.8 million legal contract.
Now It’s Time for the City to Work With State Officials
It shouldn’t seem like too much of a stretch that the City and State officials could get together quickly and sort out this fiasco. We were told when this first came up that waiting until January for the Legislature to convene was not a good option. Well, would waiting one to four years and spending between $15 million and $45 million to redesign the intake facility be a better plan?
Perhaps it would in the view or our current City Manager. But now the City Council has an opportunity to step in and take control of the situation. Perhaps even a few of us citizens could write to our State Representatives and our State Senator and ask them for some help. This thing should have never been allowed to get so far out of hand. If the State Library and Archives building and a big oak tree are already in the same Capitol view corridor, then isn’t there some way that State officials could help our dysfunctional City staff here?
It will be interesting to see what the City Council does next. Here’s a question. Why wasn’t the City Planning Commission advised of the Capitol view obstruction during the permitting process? And even last month when the City Council heard about it, why did they hire expensive lawyers instead of trying to work things out with a few phone calls and a couple of meetings with State officials? If Legislative approval is required for an exemption, why not discuss the possibility and assess the situation before incurring millions of dollars of taxpayer expense?