Travis County Commissioners Court


From the Austin Monitor: On the eve of Fiscal New Year’s Eve, Travis County commissioners voted to adopt a brand-new budget that will keep the lights on through 2016. Along the way, they managed to inject some last-minute drama into the proceedings by restoring in-person visitations at county jail facilities.

Travis County Commissioner's Court

Austin City Council members may consider asking whether a new Travis County Courthouse could be built somewhere other than its proposed location in downtown Austin. Council member Don Zimmerman wants the county to build it in East Austin.

Mose Buchele, KUT News

Travis County is under a burn ban for the first time this summer.

Fire Marshal Hershel Lee says the area has been getting drier over the past few months and yesterday’s rain just wasn’t enough to make a significant different in the soil moisture.

“There’s very little moisture in the top eight inches of soil for plants to grow so the plants have lost their fuel moisture and are more susceptible to fire starting easily," Lee said. "With all of these factors taken into consideration, long-term forecast of 10 to 12 days of 100 degree weather, we felt it was time to implement a burn ban.”

This story has been corrected. See below.

The Travis County Commissioners Court discussed a proposal Tuesday that could cut individual permit parking for some downtown employees, replacing it with open, or "zoned," parking lot parking. 

The county aims to eliminate a three year-long waitlist for parking that has 320 employees still angling for a spot.

Travis County auditor Nikki Riley told the commissioners the county pays $120,000 a year for additional spaces so certain employees can have reserved spots. "We are firmly convinced that if we go to zoned parking, we would be able to eliminate the waiting list," she said.

Update: Travis County Commissioners effectively ended their contract with Saxet Gun Show today by refusing to renew their contract to operate at the Travis County Expo Center.

The majority of commissioners declined to renew the contract after the promoter refused to allow background checks for all purchases, not just purchases from federally licensed vendors, which already require checks. The term would have closed the so-called gun show "loophole," says Judge Sam Biscoe. He estimates 10 percent of purchases at Saxet shows are done without background checks.

"So far we have been unwilling to give them a new contract without background checks as a term,” Biscoe tells KUT. “So as long as they insist on not doing background checks on this 10 percent, unless we change our minds, they’re still without a contract.”

Texas Department of Transportation

Travis County Commissioners have approved a resolution by a vote of 4-to-0 supporting the construction of State Highway 45 Southwest.  Commissioner Gerald Daugherty pushed for the resolution, after campaigning on getting the roadway built. He says population growth and traffic congestion demands action. And he believes the road could be built while protecting natural resources, despite a pending environmental review from TxDOT and push-back from environmentalists and stakeholders in the area. 

KUT News

Travis County is going to bill the State of Texas for some work done on the Public Integrity Unit. Travis County commissioners approved the plan Tuesday.

The Public Integrity Unit deals with white-collar crimes from across the state. It had been paid for with state funds, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed that money when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated.

View Proposed Roads Near F1 Racetrack in a larger map

Update: Travis County Commissioners have agreed to fund the construction of a new road in Del Valle near the Circuit of the Americas track using non-taxpayer approved bonds. Commissioner Margaret Gomez, who represents the area where the road will be built, says the project is critical for economic development.

Image by Matt Largey for KUT News

The future of the Public Integrity Unit - an arm of the Travis County's District Attorney's Office with about 600 statewide fraud cases open that was recently defunded by Gov. Rick Perry - is anything but certain. 

Today, the Travis County Commissioners Court  looked at some alternatives to fund the office, which could shutter its doors on Sept. 30 and leave 31 employees jobless.

Gov. Rick Perry’s addition of transportation to the special session yesterday may mean more funding for Texas highways.

But Travis County Commissioners sent a letter today to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House arguing the Texas Department of Transportation relies too heavily on Central Texas counties to fund improvements to the state highway system.

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Update: Former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd is returning to the Travis County Commissioners Court.

County Judge Sam Biscoe has selected Todd to be interim Precinct 2 Commissioner, an office Todd held before he was elected Mayor of Austin in 1991. 

Jillian Schantz Patrick, KUT News

Travis County Commissioners met today and spent a lengthy amount of time discussing a bill that may not see legislative light of day.

HB 3348 from Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would amend the Texas Constitution to give cities and counties flexibility in setting property tax rates – allowing them to set a tax rate of a specific dollar amount instead of the 20 percent traditionally used for property tax exemptions.

Update: Travis County Parks reversed its decision to change boating rules at Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis at a public meeting last night.

In fact, after about a week of tension between Travis County Parks and people who frequent Hippie Hollow, the meeting ended with laughter and applause.

“This is a great example of a grass roots movement. Where people are trying to reach out the administrators who work in their government and the guys come to the table and listen to what the folks have to say,” Friends of the Hollow member Randall Huntsinger said.

KUT News

A Travis County Commissioner says local prosperity is shadowed by rising poverty. In this week’s PolitiFact check-in, KUT’s Emily Donahue spoke to Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas.

PolitiFact tackled a claim by Travis County commissioner Sarah Eckhardt who, in an email, said conditions are tough despite "present prosperity."

Flickr user edolnx,

The Commissioners Court didn’t renew an Austin/Travis County EMS contract last night. They’ll wait until next week to do that. But county commissioners did show some love for a new proposal that would create a unit of paramedics roaming the city in trucks tending to those sick and injured Austinites in need of assistance.

Sounds familiar right? Strangely enough, they’re not ambulances. 

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County commissioners have opted against halting gun shows at the Travis County Expo Center.

The commissioners court was set to discuss the possibility of banning gun shows at the County Expo Center today. But after consulting with legal counsel behind closed doors, commissioners unanimously approved a different motion.

County Judge Sam Biscoe proposed that the county honor all existing gun shows at the expo center, but ask the director of the center to liaison with the court about  future shows, especially events including “any licenses involving any usually high safety risks.”

The National Rifle Association is asking its members to contact Travis County Commissioners-- publishing Commissioners’ names, phone numbers and email addresses on the NRA website.

Travis County is considering banning gun shows at the County Expo Center and the NRA is asking its members to get involved.  Commissioners’ staffers say they’re getting up to 200 emails each day, along with calls and faxes, many from out-of-state.

County Judge Sam Biscoe says Commissioners will probably vote on the issue next Tuesday, but the outcome may depend on legal issues. 

Circuit of the Americas

Travis County Commissioners are holding a public hearing this morning over granting a mass gathering permit to the Circuit of Americas and RunTex for a race at the track. But it wouldn’t be a Formula 1 race, or even a race involving vehicles.

RunTex wants to put on a 5k that would allow participants to run on the Circuit of the Americas track. The track course is 3.4-miles long, slightly longer than a 5k.

The event, planned for Saturday, Nov. 3, would also serve as a sort of open house and would allow attendees explore part of the COTA facility.

Travis County ESD #11

The fire chief who leads the emergency service district around the Circuit of the Americas track is going before the Travis County Commissioners today to ask them to consider a tax deal if the track area is annexed by the City of Austin.

Fire Chief Ken Bailey leads Emergency Service District #11. Emergency service districts are entities created by the state to provide services to unincorporated areas, like the land around the Circuit of the Americas track. Bailey wants the city to keep the district in place, and let the district keep some of the sales tax revenue generated by the track to hire staff to respond to potentially increased calls.

Bailey says, right now, if the City of Austin annexes the track, the city would benefit from a 0.5 percent sale tax along with property tax revenue. Instead, Bailey is proposing that ESD #11 pay the city one-third of the district's 1.5 percent sales tax: equal, he says, for the city either way.

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County Commissioners voted four to one this morning in favor of providing economic incentives to HID Global. The company makes ID cards and key-card readers.

HID Global is looking at building a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin. It would create more than 270 jobs over 10 years. In return, the county would give the company at least a 40 percent discount on county taxes over that time.

County Commissioner Ron Davis represents the area including Northeast Austin.

“I just think it’s overall a big deal all across the community and I think it’s a win, win, win, win, win, win-type situation for all of us," said Davis.