Austin
10:24 am
Fri April 15, 2011

Even with Council Reshuffle, WTP4 Could be a Done Deal

One thing about Austin City Council votes on Water Treatment Plant Four, they are always tight.  So what would happen if that balance shifted after the May 14th City Council elections?

Maybe nothing.

In an interview with KUT, Council Member Laura Morrison, who consistently votes against the project, said continuing that opposition would be "a situation that [she] will have to look at" if more Council Members opposed the to the project are elected.

"If we had only spent one dollar on Water Treatment Plant Number Four, yeah that would be an easy decision. I would say 'let's stop.' If we had spent $499 million dollars  on it,  and ninety hundred and ninety nine thousand etcetera dollars, probably not. So if that situation comes up. I'm going to have to look at it in that regard."

Last year City Council approved $300 million in contracts on the project in one vote, after making several votes approving smaller sums of money. The treatment plant has a $500 million dollar price tag, though opponents argue that the number gets substantially larger if interest on bond debt for the plant is figured in.

This election year some candidates have said work on the plant should be called off. Last month Place Three candidate Max Nofziger told KUT while lots of money has been spent, there's still more to save.

"Yes the council has moved it on down the road, but it would save hundreds of millions of dollars if we stopped it even at this late date. I think it is an option to do that, and the citizens would be much better served if we stopped it now."

Council Members Laura Morrison, Bill Spelman and Chris Riley have consistently vote in opposition to the  project. Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez and Council Members Randi Shade and Sheryl Cole vote in favor. 

Supporters of the project say a new plant is necessary to ensure that Austin has an adequate water supply.  Opponents say the plant is costly, will raise water rates, and that conservation efforts should be ramped up before the city builds a new treatment plant.

Some groups  have also taken their opposition to court, filing lawsuits that could impede the plant's construction.