The familiar orange water coolers are poised to return to Austin’s hike and bike trail, after the city council agreed today to waive permitting fees for the businesses that operate the watering stations.
RunTex has been bringing water to Lady Bird Lake since 1990, but the coolers were removed last November after concerns about their security and sanitation.
Paul Carrozza of RunTex estimates that his store spends $100,000 a year transporting water and ice to the trails. The store spends $3,000 a month in paper cups alone.
As the city sorted out the permitting process, the coolers went absent. But ultimately, it seems council reasoned that the water stations were a service to Austin’s citizens, and the inspection permits and fees — which would have cost several hundred dollars a year for RunTex, Rogue Running and Luke's Locker — were waived.
"We've seen this happen through the years," said Carrozza. When RunTex began sponsoring road races, "we'd put cones out ourselves," he said. As time went on, "requirements were raised, to where we needed traffic control plans and licensed people putting out the cones."
"It seems like everything's on the fast track right now," Carrozza said. He expects health permits to be granted soon, and the coolers to be up and running in early February.