Travis County Commissioners Court

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County Commissioners will vote today on a property tax increase. The proposed rate would increase from 48.55 cents to 50.01 cents per $100 of taxable value.

The county says the new tax rate will increase total tax revenues from properties on the tax roll in the preceding year by nearly three percent.

Commissioners will also hear public comment on offering economic incentives to HID Global, which is considering building a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin.

The State of Texas is already offering HID Global $1.9 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. And the City of Austin is considering offering the company close to a million dollars in rebates on taxes for real estate and equipment purchases. The city plans to hold a public hearing on the issue Sept. 27.

Liang Shi for KUT News

Today marks 11 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Here's information on remembrance events and other stories making news today:

Local 9/11 Memorial Events

There are several events scheduled today across Central Texas to mark the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

At 10 a.m., Austin firefighters will climb the Pleasant Valley Drill Tower. Wearing full gear, they’ll climb up and down the equivalent of the height of the World Trade Center.

At noon, there will be a 9-11 Memorial and pipe and drum performance in the Texas Capitol Rotunda.

Travis County commissioners voted unanimously this morning to extend the burn ban into October. The county is still in a moderate drought and we’ve had several days of record breaking temperatures and low relative humidity.

Travis County Fire Marshal Hershel Lee says the burn ban appears to be working. 

“I have spoken with several of the fire chiefs out west this morning where the county is the driest, and they are reporting very little activity other than a few runs for people who are burning when they should not have been, and between the fire departments and the sheriff’s office, they have taken care of those," Lee says.

Burn Ban Back in Place

Aug 7, 2012
Flickr user Dawn Huczek,

A burn ban is back in effect in Travis County. Fire Marshal Hershel Lee recommended the ban be put back in place during a county commissioners’ meeting this morning.

Central Texas had been without a burn ban since mid-July.

But Lee says the last few weeks have been pretty dry and the forecast looks like it will bring more heat and little rain.

Photo courtesy Circuit of the Americas

The roads of Southeastern Travis County will be flooded with people when Formula One holds its first Austin race this November. Travis County Commissioners heard from the public today about a mass gathering permit requested by the Circuit of the Americas for the event.

The track is being built near Elroy and there’s some concern over whether existing roads will be able to handle the race day traffic.

Race organizers want an attendance cap of 250,000 people over three days. Elroy resident Cathy Olive thinks the commissioners should lower that.

Photo by KUT News

Polls Open for 2012 Texas Primaries

After being pushed back repeatedly, the Texas primary elections are here.

Voters in the Republican and Democratic primaries will nominate candidates for offices ranging from the President and U.S. Senate to county positions like District Attorney and Tax Assessor-Collector.  You can view the parties’ sample ballots online.

Polls opened at 7 a.m., and although early voting numbers have been low, Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade is hoping for a higher election day turnout.

Image courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

Round Rock Soldier Dies in Afghanistan

The U.S. Department of Defense has released the name of a Central Texas soldier who died in Afghanistan. Specialist Alex Hernandez III of Round Rock died Saturday in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade says Hernandez was found unresponsive in his room.

Alex Hernandez was based in Hawaii . He was 21.

Photo courtesy

Whole Foods Bans Unsustainable Seafood

Announced today and beginning on Earth Day (April 22), Whole Foods Market will no longer carry red-rated wild-caught fish, making it the first national grocer to enact such a move. 

Just what is a "red" rating? Using guidelines issued by Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, the designation describes marine life afflicted by overfishing, or invasive fishing methods that harm surrounding species. 

Many of the usual suspects appear on the red-rated list for the Southeast region, which includes Texas: Albacore tuna, bluefin tuna, and imported shrimp. But Whole Foods will also say goodbye to mahi mahi, shark, red snapper, and tilapia – at least until those fish rebound in numbers.

Photo courtesy

The burn ban is back.

At their meeting this morning, the Travis County Commissioners approved a recommendation from county Fire Marshall Hershel Lee to reinstate the ban.

Photo by Eric Reyna/KUT News

Travis County wants assistance in planning their new civil and family courthouse. “We are currently analyzing how to finance and build the new courthouse and develop the site in the way that is most cost-effective and responsive to the community,” they write in a release promoting a community meeting next week. But it sounds like there’s also dissension on the Travis County Commissioner’s Court about how to proceed.

In December 2010, the county purchased land at 308 Guadalupe, a parking lot bounded by Third, Fourth, Guadalupe and San Antonio. The Austin American-Statesman reported the purchase price at $22 million.

The following spring, the county asked for pitches from developers on how to build – and more importantly, how to finance – the project.

Tensions were high at Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday as the court voted on a new precinct map that left some commissioners accusing others of gerrymandering and behind the scenes negotiations.

Parking lot
Image courtesy Google Street View

Travis County Commissioners didn't take any moves to block the planned purchase of a lot in downtown Austin, clearing the way for the deal to close tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock.

As KUT News reported two weeks ago, the county will pay $21,750,000 for the downtown block next to Republic Square Park.

County Judge Sam Biscoe says that’s half a million more than the appraised value.

“But I think that the location, more than justifies that. Plus it’s the size that we need,” Biscoe told KUT.

Crushed Cans
Thomas Hawk

Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously endorsed the so-called  "Texas Bottle Bill" today, a statewide proposal that would introduce redeemable deposits on bottles and cans in Texas.  

The proposal evoked fond memories of childhood among Commissioners. 

"As a kid, it dawned on me that if I would go out and collect empty bottles, and just take them home and collect the deposit, that would be a little business!" mused County judge Sam Biscoe.

"We all did that!" interjected Commissioner Ron Davis, as other commissioners present murmured in agreement.

Image courtesy Dido

Citing extremely dry conditions in Central Texas, Travis County Commissioners followed the lead of some neighboring counties today and issued a burn ban. The ban prohibits anyone from burning "any combustible material outside of an enclosure which serves to contain all flames and/or sparks."