Transportation Bond Approved, Gipson Wins District 5

Georgetown voters have approved the transportation bonds on the May 9 ballot.  These are the unofficial final results for the transportation bond election from Williamson County Elections:

Votes: Percent:
For:  2,281  75.18%
Against:  753  24.82%

These are the unofficial final results in the District 5 City Council election from Williamson County Elections:

Votes: Percent:
Ty Gipson  456  68.67%
Paul Nadeau  208  31.33%

To see a complete May 9, 2015 election results, go to www.wilco.org/elections.

New Phone Payment Scam Targets Utility Customers

Two Georgetown utility business customers contacted the City yesterday to report on an attempted fraud scheme. The businesses report that they were called by someone claiming to be with the City utility who demanded immediate payment to prevent the disconnection of their utilities.

In each case, the business recognized that the call was suspicious and reported it to the City without falling prey to the scam. The Georgetown Police Department has filed an incident report on the scam attempt.

The City utility does not call customers and demand payments over the phone says Leticia Zavala, customer care manager for Georgetown Utility Systems. “We will never call you demanding money or come to your home or business demanding payment. We will only call customers to advise them of a past-due balance.”

If a bill payment is overdue, Zavala says there is a three-step notification process:

First, late notices are mailed to customers with unpaid balances the day after the billing due date.

Second, an automated phone call is provided to the phone number on the account two weeks after the billing due date.

Third, a second automated phone call is provided to the phone number on the account three weeks after the billing due date.

It is strictly against policy for any customer service representative to accept payment in the field.

If customers have questions about a utility bill, call the Customer Care Center at (512) 930-3640 before giving out financial information regarding your utility account.

Capital Improvement Projects Proposed for 2015

Learn about proposed transportation and utility infrastructure projects in Georgetown for the upcoming fiscal year.

Citizens are encouraged to view the proposed City of Georgetown 2015 Capital Improvement Plan summary to be presented to the Georgetown Utility Systems Advisory Board and Georgetown Transportation Advisory Board on Friday, May 9, 2014 (linked to below).

Projects in the proposed Capital Improvement Plan for 2015 include street overlay and street reconstruction projects, curb and drainage improvements, water line upgrades, wastewater system improvements, and electric system improvements.

Both the Georgetown Transportation Advisory Board and the Georgetown Utility Systems Advisory Board will make a recommendation on the 2015 Capital Improvement Plan to the City Council at their respective Friday, May 9, 2014 meetings. The CIP is scheduled for review and approval by the city council in June as an element of the overall 2014/15 city budget.

All Capital Improvement Plan documents can be viewed at the following location: http://records.georgetown.org/weblink8/0/fol/421931/Row1.aspx

Questions about or comments on the proposed capital improvement projects for 2015 can be emailed to cipcomments@georgetown.org.

Landscape and Irrigation Rules for New Homes to Save Water

Update: The City Council approved the landscaping and irrigation ordinance 7-0 on second and final reading at their meeting this evening. It goes into effect for new homes on June 1.

Despite the fact that Lake Georgetown is 14 feet below the full level at a time of year when it is typically full, the overall water supply picture for Georgetown is not dire. The water in Lake Georgetown, Lake Stillhouse Hollow, and the available groundwater can meet the projected demand for Georgetown in the coming years.

water spray-1000However, with water use at an average of 218 gallons per person per day in Georgetown, the water supply is not sufficient for a projected future population of 200,000. To accommodate this growth, the water supply will need to be increased or demand must be reduced. Given the cost and challenges of acquiring new sources of water, the City is emphasizing measures to conserve the existing water supply.

With a proposed ordinance that the City Council will consider this evening, the City aims to move closer to the goal of lowering the per capita daily water use to 160 gallons. Given that 75 percent of water use in the warmest summer months is used for watering lawns, the ordinance focuses on limiting future grass watering demand for new homes. The rules do not apply to current homes or residences.

The proposed ordinance contains three key elements for new home construction.

First, the irrigated turf area of the lawn would be limited to 2.5 times the foundation footprint area of the house or 10,000 square feet, whichever is less. The limit does not apply to non-irrigated space such as natural areas or landscaped areas such as flower beds that are irrigated with drip irrigation or bubblers. The limitation does not affect the overall size of a residential yard.

Second, when a lot is developed, the irrigated turf area would be required to have 6 inches of soil. The depth of the soil allows for less frequent watering of turf grass and reduces runoff. Areas of a residential lot left in its natural state would be exempt from the soil depth requirement.

Third, turf grass should be a variety that is dormant in the hot summer months and has less need for water. Turf grasses such as Saint Augustine that require more water would only be used in shady areas of a lawn.

Other elements of the ordinance include requirements for rain sensors and soil moisture sensors on irrigations systems and the placement of irrigation spray heads at least four inches from paved surfaces to reduce overspray.

The new rules will apply to new houses served by the City of Georgetown water utility including those in the city limits, in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, and outside the ETJ.

The ordinance is part of an effort to meet a May 1 deadline to submit a water conservation plan to the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

If the Georgetown City Council approves the second and final reading of the landscaping and irrigation ordinance on Tuesday, the council will set an effective date. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Council Chamber and Courts Building, 101 E. Seventh Street.

Georgetown 3rd on Best American Suburbs Ranking

A recent analysis of 75 cities in the top 25 U.S. metro areas ranked Georgetown third on the list. The top ten list of America’s Best Suburbs, placing Georgetown at no. 3 in the country, was done by Movoto, a real estate company in California. The ranking was based on several factors including shopping, dining, and entertainment offerings as well as cost of living, low crime, education, and employment.

The article notes that Georgetown’s crime rate is 45 percent below the national average and that the cost of living is nearly 9 percent lower than the national average. The article also cites Georgetown’s low student-to-teacher ratio.

Movoto provided an explanation of the appeal of the major metro cities on the list. “These smaller cities and towns offer proximity to everything their larger neighbors have to offer, while oftentimes being safer and less crowded.”

“This ranking is a wonderful tribute to our history, our vitality, our values and our fantastic citizens,” says Mayor George Garver. “Good schools, good public safety personnel, and a great living environment make this city very desirable. We take pride in this ranking knowing that others have discovered what we already know about Georgetown—it’s a great place to live.”

The ranking was based on an analysis of data from sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To see the list of the 10 best American suburbs, as well as the full ranking of metro 75 cities, go to http://www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/best-suburban-cities-in-america.

Watering Limit: Two Days per Week Starts Oct. 14

The City of Georgetown will limit outdoor watering to two days per week starting on Monday, October 14.

Last week the Brazos River Authority, which manages the water in Lake Georgetown and Stillhouse Hollow Lake, notified the City of Georgetown that they are enacting a stage 2 drought warning for Lake Georgetown. The river authority is requesting that the City reduce water use due to persistent drought conditions and the declining level of Lake Georgetown. Lake levels throughout the region are lower than they were in the severe drought year of 2011.

Based on the request from the river authority, water utilities that rely on Lake Georgetown will enact phase 1 of their Drought Contingency Plan on October 14. Those four water utilities—City of Georgetown, City of Round Rock, Chisholm Trail SUD, and Brushy Creek MUD—will enact a two-day-per-week watering limit.

The following water use limits will go into effect on Monday, October 14 for City of Georgetown water customers.

Two-day-per-week maximum

For irrigation systems and hose-end sprinklers, landscape irrigation will be limited to a schedule based on the last digit of your address number:

Odd addresses may irrigate on
Tuesday and/or Saturday

Even addresses may irrigate on
Wednesday and/or Sunday

No sprinkler or irrigation system use is permitted on Mondays, Thursdays, or Fridays.

No irrigation Noon to 7 p.m.

Watering with a sprinkler or irrigation system is not permitted from 12 noon to 7 p.m. each day.

Watering with a hand-held hose or bucket can be done any day and at any time. Other outdoor water uses such as vehicle washing or filling a swimming pool can be done any day at any time.

Violations of the irrigation schedule may result in fines.

For assistance in programming your irrigation controller, call (512) 930-3640, or email gus@georgetown.org.

New Mosquito Control Effort Targets West Nile Risk

The City of Georgetown and the Williamson County and Cities Health District are collaborating on a new targeted effort to reduce the risk from mosquitos that carry West Nile virus. The new joint initiative is the first of its kind in Williamson County.

Since mid-June, a City of Georgetown employee in transportation services has been collecting mosquitos in traps in several Georgetown locations. The traps are collected twice weekly and the mosquitos are transported by Health District employees to the Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Austin. Mosquitos that are potential carriers of West Nile are analyzed.

So far, no mosquito tests have detected the presence of the virus. The weekly testing will continue through the summer.

The City also is using larvicide disks in drainage ponds and other areas with standing water to kill mosquito larvae before it hatches to the adult insect.

The mosquito trapping and testing program was the result of heightened concern last summer after an increased number of fatalities from West Nile virus in Texas, including one person from Williamson County. Twelve people in Williamson County were hospitalized last year due to West Nile virus infection. Given the heightened concern last year, the Georgetown city council directed City staff to refine the City’s mosquito control program.

Over the past year, employees from the City and the Health District have worked to develop a new approach. In the past, the City’s transportation department used a pesticide sprayer to kill adult mosquitos in public parks and, years ago, in residential areas.

The new mosquito trapping and testing program is targeted to identifying areas with mosquitos that carry the West Nile virus. The approach is based on similar programs in Travis County and Harris County. Employees from the City and the Health District learned from those in Travis County in developing the trapping and testing methods.

If mosquitos from an area were to test positive for the virus, then additional steps can be taken, such as searches for standing water, increased use of larvicides, or additional public information about reducing breeding areas and the risk of exposure. If testing shows significantly increased exposure risk to West Nile virus, then ground-based pesticide fogging or aerial pesticide spraying can be considered.

The new mosquito trapping and testing program by the City and the Health District is only one component in an effective reduction of West Nile virus risk. The most important steps are those that can be taken by each resident.

Everyone can “Fight the Bite” by following the Four-D’s:

  • Dawn and Dusk are the times to try to stay indoors since those are times mosquitoes are most active.
  • Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
  • Drain standing water in flower pots, pet dishes, or clogged gutters so mosquitos don’t have a place to breed.
  • DEET is an effective bug spray ingredient to apply to clothing.

Eliminating places where mosquitos can breed and reducing the chances of mosquito bites are the best lines of defense against exposure to West Nile virus.

For more information on the mosquito control program in Georgetown, visit the Williamson County and Cities Health District website at www.wcchd.org. For more information on West Nile virus and the response in Texas, go to the Texas Department of State Health Services website at www.dshs.state.tx.us.

Scams Reported Involving Past-Due Utility Bill Payments

The City of Georgetown advises residents to be aware of scams reported to the City involving payments on past-due accounts.

In one case, someone who identified himself as a City of Georgetown employee called a local business about a past-due utility account. The person told the customer to purchase a Visa card at a local store and to call back in order to avoid having utility service disconnected.

In another case, an individual called a homeowner and claimed to be a representative of the Georgetown Utility Systems electric department. The individual told the homeowner that their electricity would be cut off immediately unless they made payment arrangements.

In each case, the person falsely claimed to be an employee of the City of Georgetown in order to get money or credit card information. Georgetown Utility Systems is committed to its customers and together with the Georgetown Police Department will investigate these cases and pursue criminal charges against the perpetrators.

“Georgetown Utility Systems or the Customer Care office will not call customers and demand payments over the phone,” says Leticia Zavala, customer care manager. “Our customer service representatives will not accept payments at your home or business.”

Zavala says that in the case of an overdue utility payment, the City has a three-step notification process:

First, late notices are mailed to customers with unpaid balances the day after the billing due date.

Second, an automated phone call will be made to the phone number on the account in the week the account is scheduled to be disconnected for an unpaid balance.

Third, a yellow card is delivered to the residence at least one day prior to a scheduled service disconnection. This is the final notification before service is disconnected. It is strictly against policy for the customer service representative delivering the card to accept payment in the field.

“The City will advise of a past-due balance,” says Zavala. “But the City will not call you demanding money or come to your home or business demanding money.”

If customers have questions about a utility bill, call the Customer Care Center at (512) 930-3640 before giving out financial information regarding your utility account.

Landscape Irrigation Schedule in Effect

The schedule for outdoor landscape irrigation remains in effect for City of Georgetown water customers. The following mandatory limits apply to landscape irrigation water use.

For irrigation systems and hose-end sprinklers, landscape irrigation is limited to a schedule based on the last digit of your address number:

Odd addresses may irrigate on
Tuesday and/or Thursday and/or Saturday

Even addresses may irrigate on
Wednesday and/or Friday and/or Sunday

Sprinkler or irrigation system use is not permitted on Mondays. Watering with a hand-held hose or bucket can be done any day and at any time. Violations of the irrigation schedule may result in fines.

Recommended, but not required

  • Water only two days per week according to the odd/even schedule
  • Avoid watering from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. or in windy conditions

Changes to the watering schedule this year allow more flexibility in watering times. While it is recommended to avoid watering in the hottest parts of the day, customers with sprinklers that must be moved manually now have more flexibility in watering times. All outdoor watering with sprinklers or irrigation systems should follow the above odd/even schedule for days of the week.

For assistance in programming your irrigation controller, call Georgetown Utility Systems at (512) 930-3640, or email gus@georgetown.org.

Recommended Start Times

The City encourages customers to set the start time for automatic irrigation controllers based on the last digit of the customer address as follows:

Last digit of street address: Start time:
0 or 8 12 a.m.
1 or 9 1 a.m.
2 2 a.m.
3 3 a.m.
4 4 a.m.
5 5 a.m.
6 6 a.m.
7 7 a.m.

These start times are only for customers with automatic irrigation controllers. Residents and business owners with movable sprinklers do not have to follow the irrigation start times, but should follow the mandatory rules for watering days, and avoid watering any time on Monday.

Water Rates

At 19,000 gallons of water use in a month, the rate increases from $2.25 to $3.00 per thousand gallons for residents and from $2.60 to $3.35 for customers outside city limits. Higher rates apply at 30,000 gallons, 40,000 gallons, and 75,000 gallons. For details on water rates, go to customercare.georgetown.org/rates.

Aqua Alerts

Water meter replacements should be completed this summer. Those with new meters are eligible for automatic emailed AquaAlerts when your monthly use exceeds a pre-set level. Sign up online at https://records.georgetown.org/Forms/Aqua-Alerts or call Customer Care at (512) 930-3640.

For water conservation tips, to see aquifer and lake levels, read the Water Quality Report, or find out about City water utility projects, go to water.georgetown.org.