Candidates file for City Council election in May

The candidate filing period for the City Council District 3, 4 and 7 elections in Georgetown on May 4 ended today at 5 p.m. Incumbent John Hesser and Michael Triggs have filed for District 3, incumbent Steve Fought and Joe Reedholm have filed for District 4, and incumbent Tommy Gonzalez and Jaquita Wilson have filed for District 7.

To see maps of council districts, go to maps.georgetown.org/council-district-maps.

Georgetown City Council members serve three-year terms representing one of seven single-member districts.

The last day to register to vote in the May election is April 4.

Early in-person voting is April 22-30. In the early voting period, voters may cast ballots at any early voting location in Williamson County.

On election day on May 4, voters may cast ballots at any vote center location in Williamson County. Polling places, dates, and times will be listed at wilco.org/elections.

Open house meeting for Austin Avenue Bridge railings

The City of Georgetown Public Works Department will hold an open house meeting for public input on the Austin Avenue bridges rehabilitation project. The focus of the meeting is to get public input on options for railing designs on the bridges. The open house meeting is 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the Hewlett Room at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. Eighth St.

For the past three years, a project team including the Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Georgetown has been assessing options for addressing structural and functional problems with the Austin Avenue bridges. The structures which span the north and south forks of the San Gabriel River were built in 1940. At three public meetings since 2016, the project team has requested public input on options for the bridges. Twelve options were initially considered as part of the federal and state review process. The project team is now evaluating an option to rehabilitate the existing bridges and add a separate bicycle and pedestrian bridge to the east of the existing vehicle bridges.

To find out more about the Austin Avenue bridges project, go to transportation.georgetown.org/austin-avenue-bridges.

City seeking proposals for third-party review of energy management

The City of Georgetown is seeking proposals for both managing the City’s energy portfolio and for a comprehensive review of the City’s management practices related to purchasing and managing energy.

Georgetown is under contract to purchase power from four different providers. The two largest energy providers are Spinning Spur 3, a wind farm near Amarillo, and Buckthorn, a solar farm near Fort Stockton. The third source of energy is a smaller wind farm operated by American Electric Power which primarily covers Southwestern University’s energy needs.

The final energy contract is with Mercuria for natural gas-based energy. It was intended as a short-term power supply and is set to expire in early 2022.

The City’s original strategy to contain costs by contracting for fixed-priced, renewable energy was intended to mitigate the risk of spiking energy prices.

Securing long-term energy contracts that provide more energy than customers currently need is a standard practice among city-owned utilities. As a fast-growth community, these contracts allow the City to grow into increased energy demand. The contracts also reduce the number of times the City has to buy energy in a potentially volatile marketplace.

It is important to note that it is not the type of energy the City has contracted for, but the amount of energy the City is contracted to purchase, that is the current challenge. The crux of the issue hinges on the large amount of energy the City must clear to the market that is not currently consumed in Georgetown.

When the price of energy decreases, the City is still obligated to pay the price for energy it secured in the contracts. Any energy that is not used by Georgetown’s electric utility customers is cleared to a statewide marketplace.

At the same time, the utility is seeing a drop in consumer demand which is largely driven by conservation efforts, energy-saving technologies, and more energy-efficient new construction. Due to these factors, the City ended the 2018 fiscal year with a $6.84 million shortfall in the electric fund, leaving a fund balance of $1.97 million.

“Looking back, the focus on ensuring adequate supply to mitigate the high-price of energy that was forecast overshadowed the consequences of having excess energy in a depressed market,” City Manager David Morgan said. “The City did not manage this risk well. We are focused on changing the way we do business as it relates to managing our energy portfolio.”

“Our current process for managing our energy is not achieving our goals,” General Manager of Utilities Jim Briggs said. “Along with selling a portion of the excess energy to a third-party, we look forward to working with industry experts in identifying ways to better manage the energy portfolio day-to-day and putting in place policies and procedures that reduce our financial risks moving forward.”

Both requests for proposals can be found on the City’s website at purchasing.georgetown.org. Additional information about energy costs in Georgetown can be found at gus.georgetown.org/electric.

Interested parties may submit questions regarding the solicitations to nicole.abrego@georgetown.org. The deadline to submit a proposals for the review of the City’s management practices is 2 p.m. on Feb. 21. The deadline to submit questions is 5 p.m. on Feb. 15.

The deadline to submit a proposals to review managing the City’s energy portfolio is 2 p.m. on March 7. The deadline to submit questions is 5 p.m. on Feb. 22.

In 1910, Georgetown voters approved a bond to build the Georgetown Light and Water Works plant on Ninth Street. Over the past century, Georgetown Utility Systems continues to be a highly reliable, community-owned and -operated electric utility. It is owned by the people of Georgetown and it invests directly in the community.

“Having a community-owned utility has proven incredibly valuable over the past 100 years,” Briggs said. “As the City works through this current challenge, we remain committed to ensuring the stability of this asset for years to come.”

City adjusts customer energy charge

The City of Georgetown will increase the power cost adjustment, or PCA, on customers’ electric bills starting Feb. 1. The PCA allows the City to recover costs associated with purchasing energy.

Customers will incur an increase of $0.0135 per kilowatt hour, resulting in a new PCA of $0.0175 per kilowatt hour through September. The average customer uses 949 kilowatt hours per month and will experience a $12.82 increase on their monthly bill.

Over the past few years, the energy market in Texas experienced a fundamental change. Forecasts provided by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the State’s energy grid operator, have proven to be unreliable. What were perceived as anomalies in 2016 and 2017, such as reduced consumption, unpredictable pricing, and unusually cold weather, masked the true impact of a depressed global energy market. The effect of depressed energy prices became abundantly obvious in 2018.

In 2016, 2017, and 2018, the City addressed these ongoing challenges with one-time solutions, including adjusting how the City financed electric infrastructure projects, such as cash versus debt financing, adjusting the timing of projects, increasing the PCA on electric bills, and completing a rate study. All these efforts were intended to resolve what was previously perceived as one-time problems.

This year, recognizing a fundamental shift has occurred in the energy market, the priority for the City is to change the on-going financial obligations of the electric fund. This could involve reducing the energy Georgetown is obligated to purchase, selling a portion of the energy to a third-party, adjusting the terms of some of the financial obligations, or some combination of all these efforts. The City is also exploring options to better manage the energy portfolio day-to-day.

The current challenge is not related to renewable energy sources. While the City has received national recognition for its move to renewable energy, it was originally a decision driven by economic considerations to stabilize long-term power rates through fixed-price contracts while reducing any regulatory risks associated with fossil fuels.

The City executed its current energy contracts based on a 20-year forecast of continued City growth. Like most city-owned utilities, Georgetown contracted for more energy than it currently needs. Georgetown continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in Texas, and the City must be ready to serve demand from consumers and businesses. The crux of the current challenge hinges on the large amount of energy the City must sell on the market that is not currently consumed in Georgetown.

The PCA is one tool to ensure the financial stability of the electric fund as the City works to address its current financial arrangements.

For more information, please visit https://gus.georgetown.org/electric/

Household hazardous waste vendor discontinues service Dec. 22

City to hold collection events in 2019, alternate collection centers available to Georgetown residents

Update, Dec. 20: The City’s current household hazardous waste program will be discontinued at 12:00 noon on Saturday, Dec. 22. PA-jer, the operator of the Williamson County Recycle Center, will cease collecting household hazardous waste at that time. The City was alerted to this updated change in service on Dec. 19. Customers are able to use the current household hazardous waste vouchers through Dec. 22 at 12:00 noon.

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The City’s current household hazardous waste program will be discontinued on Dec. 31. PA-jer, the company the City uses for this service, will cease collecting household hazardous waste at the end of this year. The City was alerted to this change in service on Dec. 13.

Customers are still able to use the current household hazardous waste vouchers through Dec. 31. The Williamson County Recycle Center will remain open to the general public in December on Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. The Williamson County Recycle Center is at 495 CR 156, which is northeast of Georgetown on FM 971.

To secure a household hazardous waste voucher, visit recycle.georgetown.org/household-hazardous-waste.

Other options

The City is working on a new household hazardous waste program to replace the current one. During this interim period, customers can take their household hazardous waste to the City of Austin’s Reuse and Recycle Drop-Off Center. The Center is located at 2514 Business Center Dr., Austin, TX 78744. Their phone number is 512-974-4343.

The Hutto Recycling Center will accept paint and automobile oil from Williamson County residents. The facility is located at 600 Landfill Road, Hutto, Texas 78634. Their phone number is 512-759-8881.

Additionally, the City will host household hazardous waste collection events in 2019. The new household hazardous waste program details will be shared in January.

What is household hazardous waste?

Household hazardous waste products should never be poured out on the ground, down the drain, or thrown out with regular household garbage. Improper disposal can contaminate groundwater and drinking water. It can also injure those who come into contact with the waste

Many common products used in the home and garden are considered household hazardous waste. These items should not be placed in residential trash collection carts or placed at the curb for pickup.

Household hazardous waste products are often labeled with words such as caution, toxic, poison, corrosive, or danger. Examples include:

  • Aerosol spray cans
  • Antifreeze
  • Art and hobby chemicals
  • Automotive products
  • Fluorescent lights (tubes or CFLs)
  • Household cleaners and disinfectants
  • Mercury (from thermometers, thermostats)
  • Motor oil or transmission fluid
  • Paints and stains, especially oil-based
  • Pesticides and poisons
  • Pool and spa chemicals
  • Thinners and solvents
  • Vehicle batteries (wet cell)

Each year, the City of Georgetown collects about 75,000 pounds of household hazardous waste.

Wolf Lakes Village set for 2019 start

Initial plans for a mixed-use, master-planned 164-acre development called Wolf Lakes Village were approved by the Georgetown City Council at its meeting last night. The project includes office, retail, entertainment, hotels, and 2,400 housing units totaling 5.3 million square feet of development phased over several years.

The town center concept for Wolf Lakes Village features a walkable neighborhood with an amphitheater, open-air pavilion, plaza square, pocket parks, playgrounds, trails, and lakes. The project at the northwest corner of Interstate 35 and University Avenue in Georgetown is projected to begin construction next year. (Rendering credit: Wolf Lakes, LP)

Wolf Lakes Village is designed to include a regional employment center with more than 725,000 square feet of corporate office space that would be home to 4,500 employees. This type of development with office space will create a higher tax value than traditional retail development. The developer estimates the complete development to be valued at $1.7 billion by 2050, versus $460 million if developed as a traditional shopping center.

The dense, multi-use development planned for Wolf Lakes will have a variety of public infrastructure needs, including roads, drainage, utilities, structured parking, park development, and trails. A tax increment reinvestment zone for the Wolf Lakes development area—the fifth such zone in Georgetown—will be used to help fund this public infrastructure. The reinvestment zone sets a base year after which new property tax generated by increased values in the Wolf Lakes development will help to reimburse public infrastructure constructed by the developer. The new property tax value created within Wolf Lakes project itself funds the public infrastructure, not any property tax revenue from outside the Wolf Lakes reinvestment zone. The City of Georgetown will participate in the reinvestment zone at 70 percent of new valuation with a cap of $100 million in reimbursement over 30 years. Williamson County will participate at 50 percent of new valuation with a cap of $30 million over 20 years. Reimbursements can begin after 150,000 square feet of commercial development has been permitted.

Public improvements planned for Wolf Lakes Village include enhancements to nearby roads such as the I-35 and University Avenue intersection as well as other off-site improvements. The City of Georgetown is working with developers, Williamson County, and Texas Department of Transportation to proactively plan capital improvements to improve traffic flow in conjunction with development in the area.

Berry Creek Interceptor FAQ

The Berry Creek Interceptor is an underground non-pressurized wastewater line serving current and future developments along the State Highway 195 and Ronald Reagan corridors in Georgetown. A future segment of the line will be discussed at the Williamson County Commissioners Court meeting on Dec. 11, 2018. A public hearing about the proposed line will be held at the Williamson County Commissioners Court meeting on Dec. 18, 2018.

Learn more about the project at the Berry Creek Interceptor FAQ page.

Bicycle Master Plan community workshop on Dec. 4

The City of Georgetown is seeking additional community feedback to help develop a Bicycle Master Plan. The public is invited to a community workshop from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. Eighth St.

The City is working with graduate students from the University of Texas at Austin to conduct community outreach to inform bicycle planning efforts in Georgetown. Based on input from an initial workshop in October, the project team has designed a proposed bicycle network including varying levels of bicycle facilities, and has developed an implementation plan.

At the Dec. 4 workshop, the project team needs your feedback. What looks right? What changes would you suggest?  Your input is important and will help ensure that the city has the best bicycle facilities possible. Opinions of both cyclists and non-cyclists are needed.

For questions or concerns about the Bicycle Master Plan, please contact Octavio Garza, director of public works, at (512) 930-6511 or octavio.garza@georgetown.org.

GoGeo routes affected by Christmas Stroll

Take GoGeo to the Christmas Stroll and don’t worry about parking! Service hours on Friday are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

GoGeo bus routes are altered Friday and Saturday (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1) due to downtown street closures for the Christmas Stroll. Anticipate delays in service due to heavier downtown traffic on all routes. Transfer connections could be affected by traffic delays. All routes will stop at the Public Library hub.

Bus stop closures on Friday and Saturday

Orange Route 471: On Friday, the bus stop at Eighth and Myrtle streets and the stop at Eighth and Ash streets will be closed and the outbound stops on Maple Street will be closed. On Saturday, the bus stop at Eighth and Myrtle streets, the stop at Eighth and Ash streets, and the stop at Seventh and Pine streets will be closed and the outbound stops on Maple Street will be closed.

Blue Route 473: On Saturday, the stop at Austin Avenue and Fifth Street will be closed.

All stops will be open on the Purple Route 472 and the Red Route 474.

Go to gogeo.georgetown.org for details on routes and schedules.

Veterans Day events

Update, Friday, Nov. 9–The Veterans Day ceremony in Sun City on Nov. 12 will be held in the ballroom at the Sun City Social Center due to the forecast for rain. The maximum seating capacity for the ballroom is 600.

The annual Veterans Day Ceremony in Georgetown is at 11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 12, at the Georgetown-Williamson County Veterans Memorial Plaza, 2 Texas Drive.  All veterans and their families attending will be recognized and several veterans will participate in the program. The Georgetown High School band, orchestra, and choir will provide music beginning at 10:45 a.m.

During the ceremony, wreaths will be placed at the Memorial Walls in honor of all those who have served in the armed forces and in memory of the persons from Williamson County who lost their lives in combat.

Parking is available at the Sun City Social Center at 2 Texas Drive and across the street at the Activities Center at 1 Texas Drive. Seven-hundred folding chairs will be placed at the Memorial for event seating. Guests also may bring a folding chair and sit at the plaza under the trees. The Sun City Community Association will serve refreshments on the Social Center patio after the ceremony. The event is free and open to the public. In case of rain, the event will be held in the ballroom at the Sun City Social Center, 2 Texas Drive, Georgetown, TX, 78633.

Field of Honor

The Rotary Club of Georgetown is hosting its annual Field of Honor in San Gabriel Park, 445 E. Morrow St. in cooperation with the City.

The event features a field of approximately 2,000 American flags each purchased to honor a veteran, active or reserve duty military individual or first responder.

Flags will be on display through Nov. 12. More information, including a schedule of events, can be found at www.georgetowntxfieldofhonor.org.