Update: Today the FAA has delayed tower closures until June 15th. So the City contracts and funding of the tower will not begin until June 16th if TxDOT allows the grant to be extended to that date.
The Georgetown city council voted this morning to accept an emergency short-term grant from the Texas Department of Transportation to help fund staffing of the control tower at the Georgetown Municipal Airport. The TXDOT grant provides 90 percent of the funding for tower staffing by air traffic controllers. The City will fund the remaining 10 percent of the staffing cost. The city council approved the funding arrangement in a special meeting to address the tower funding issue.
The 90/10 funding arrangement is on an emergency basis for 90 days. The state and local money replaces federal funding from the Federal Aviation Administration that ends on April 7. Funding was cut for FAA contract employees at airport control towers as a result of sequestration federal budget cuts that took effect in March.
Yesterday, the Texas Transportation Commission approved the emergency state funding program for control towers at 14 airports in Texas. The TXDOT funding program is a reimbursement grant in which the City of Georgetown will pay the expected $158,687 cost to staff the tower for 90 days and will later be reimbursed by TXDOT for 90 percent of the cost. The City’s portion of the 90-day cost is projected to be $15,868.70. City funding will come from the Airport Fund or General Fund programs that have experienced cost saving in the 2013 Budget. Staff will present those options to City Council at the April 23rd regular meeting.
The city council also approved a contract with Robinson Aviation to provide the air traffic controllers to staff the control tower. Controllers with Robinson Aviation have worked under an FAA contract to staff the Georgetown control tower since it opened in 2007.
If FAA funding for tower operations is restored before the 90-day period, then the TXDOT and City funding for tower operations would be discontinued.
Georgetown is the county seat of the healthiest county in the state, according to a national ranking released yesterday. Williamson County is the #1 healthiest county in Texas in the 2013 County Health Rankings, an annual report by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Williamson County was ranked the #2 healthiest county in Texas in the 2012 report.
The annual ranking is a quality of life report card that grades counties on a wide variety of factors such as community safety, employment rates, graduation rates, healthcare access, health care quality, longevity, and health behaviors.
One of the factors considered in the County Health Rankings was recreational programs and facilities. “The evidence for the effectiveness of improving access to recreational facilities is so strong that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend it as one of the 24 environmental- and policy-level strategies to reduce obesity,” according to the report.
The positive effects of strong public safety and low crime rates in Williamson County were also key factors in the ranking, with community safety contributing to outcomes such as birth weight, diet and exercise, and family and social support.
Many organizations and businesses in the county play a role in contributing to the quality of life ranking, including schools and universities, parks and recreation programs, hospitals, health clinics, nonprofit organizations, workplace wellness programs, law enforcement, and economic development efforts.
The rankings are available online at www.countyhealthrankings.org.