Jessie Wang for KUT News

Austin City Council begrudgingly parted with $15.5 million Thursday to help complete construction of Water Treatment Plant No. 4  in northwest Austin.

The controversial plant was designed to provide the city’s growing population with more drinking water. But it’s been controversial since its proposal as environmental groups opposed its construction. Now many of those activists are saying I told you so.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

The Austin City Council dusts off the cobwebs for its first full meeting in nearly a month. And it’s let quite a backlog pile up: today’s 120 item agenda is stuffed with items sure to inspire discussion. Here’s a look:

  • The main event: a $1.5 million economic incentives deal with credit card giant Visa.

The company plans to expand its operations in Austin and promises almost 800 new jobs. The city is offering $1.5 million in tax incentives; the state is offering some $8 million more.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/visodd

It’s one of the eternal questions in politics – whether to work within the system, or outside of it.

A local political activist is attempting a run within the confines of the existing power structure, even if it may have cost him his anarchist street cred.

Filing for this May’s City Council election recently closed, and we noted the large amount of contenders vying for Place 5: six candidates, not including incumbent Bill Spelman who is running for reelection.

One of those candidates is John Duffy. His website touts his anarchist credentials and involvement with Occupy Austin. Our curiosity was further piqued by a press release stating “As a self identified anarchist, my candidacy is a contradiction of terms, and has cost me a lot of ‘street cred’ with other anarchists.”

Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Brewer Executed for Jasper Dragging Death

Documented white supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in Texas yesterday. Brewer was put to death for the high-profile dragging death of James Byrd Jr., an African American man, in Jasper, Texas.

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

The city of Austin received an estimate of the costs of halting construction of Austin’s Water Treatment plant four last month. Today, the City Auditor's office presented its impression of those numbers.

Council Member Bill  Spelman questioned Russell Needler with the Auditor's office.

"And it’s my understanding that in all cases you found that the costs developed in the report were necessary all those things that they’re talking about having to happen would in fact have to happen. Is that accurate?" Spelman asked

Needler responded, "Yes.”

Courtesy of the City of Austin.

This afternoon, Austin City Council members received a report commissioned to investigate the cost of halting construction on the Water Treatment Plant 4 project.

The report estimates the cost of delaying the project for five years to be $138 million. The cost rises to $206 million for a ten year delay.

At least one voice has already expressed doubts that the report will make an impact on council's debate over the usefulness of the project.

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

With the sound of jack hammers in the background, Austin City Council members got a close up look at construction on Water Treatment Plant 4 (WTP4) today. The meeting was called by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who has expressed concern over some city council members' calls for the project to be delayed.

“Don’t you think, looking out there, that it makes a much bigger impression on exactly the size and scope of this project?" Mayor Leffingwell said. "I just wanted to make everyone sure that they had an opportunity to do that."

Photo by KUT News.

City Taking a 2nd Look at WTP4

The Austin City Council  approved a resolution Thursday to look into how much it would cost the city to postpone construction of the rest of Water Treatment Plant No. 4  for five or ten years.

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News.

The debate over Water Treatment Plant Four returns to City Hall this week. Council members will direct city staff to figure out how much it would cost to postpone building WTP4, which is under construction now.

Image courtesy City of Austin

Not a drop of rain in the sky, but it was a wet day at City hall, with the debate over Water Treatment Plant 4 flooding out other items set for the morning’s agenda. 

With a series of close votes, City Council dedicated $300 million dollars to the completion of Water Treatment Plant 4. It effectively gives the project a final green light.  The votes came after hours of sometimes emotional public comment and council discussion. Water Utility Director Greg Mazaros said it made sense for council to approve the remaining funds all in one go.