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.

Police Officers Sworn In

oath Jones and Jones-b-450Two Georgetown employees were sworn in as peace officers by Georgetown Police Chief Wayne Nero on Monday.

Robert Jones took the oath from Chief Nero to become a Georgetown police officer in a ceremony at the police department. Jones previously worked for nine years for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. Officer Jones will be working in the patrol division.

Nero and Robert Jones-b-350Police Chief Wayne Nero is pictured with Officer Robert Jones at left.

Hank Jones, who is a captain in the Georgetown Fire Department, also took the oath to become a certified police officer. Capt. Jones leads the fire prevention and fire investigation programs for the Fire Department. As a peace officer, Capt. Jones will be able to take law enforcement actions, such as writing a citation as part of an arson investigation.

To complete the nine-month basic peace officers course in Austin, Capt. Jones took classes on evenings and weekends while concurrently working his day job at the Fire Department.

Hank Jones-b-175Capt. Jones started with the Georgetown Fire Department in 1998.

Capt. Hank Jones is pictured at right.

Texas Life-sciences Center Breaks Ground on Building 3

The Texas Life-sciences Collaboration Center, a biotech accelerator in south Georgetown, held a groundbreaking on Thursday for building three.

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The new 15,000 square-foot building will include cleanroom space for the manufacture of medical devices and other biotech products. The building should be completed in January.

TLCC 3 rendering-b-1000

The new building will be owned by GREX and constructed by FT Woods Construction.

Started in 2007, the center is now home to eight member companies: Celling BioSciences, Cleanint, DiFusion Technologies, DisperSol Technologies, Microbinc, Molecular Templates, Radix BioSolutions, and Xeris Pharmaceuticals. Those companies have a total of 62 employees earning a combined annual income of $5 million. Total capital investment at the center is $40 million.

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.

Project Connect Open Houses on Transit in North Corridor

Project Connect is holding open house meetings next week to offer ideas and get input on transit plans for Central Texas. Regional transportation entities have joined forces to study transportation options for communities in the North Corridor, including Austin, Hutto, Round Rock, Pflugerville, and Georgetown. See details at the Project Connect website at ConnectCentralTexas.com.

The public is invited to attend one of these Project Connect open houses:

Monday, June 24
5 to 8 p.m.
Allen R. Baca Center
301 W. Bagdad Avenue
Round Rock, Texas, 78664

The open house will be held in the Grand Meeting Room. Underground parking is available in the garage next to the Baca Center.

Tuesday, June 25
5 to 8 p.m.
Dobie Middle School
1200 East Rundberg Lane
Austin, Texas, 78753

The open house will be held in the cafeteria. Parking is available in front of the school, in teacher’s parking lot and on side streets.

Wednesday, June 26
5 – 8 p.m.
Pflugerville Justice Center
1611 Pfennig Lane
Pflugerville, Texas, 78660

The open house will be held in the municipal courtroom. Parking is available in front of the Justice Center.

Friday, June 28
12 to 1 p.m.
Online Open House
Register to participate online at www3.gotomeeting.com/register/218186110.

Project Connect is a partnership among Central Texas transportation agencies aimed at implementing the high-capacity transit component of the CAMPO2035 Plan. The CAMPO plan was adopted by regional government representatives in 2010, after a nine-month public outreach process involving policy makers and community stakeholders. The initial Project Connect partnership includes the City of Austin, Capital Metro, the Lone Star Rail District, and CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization), the six-county transportation planning organization that includes Williamson County and Georgetown.

For more information, visit ConnectCentralTexas.com or e-mail info@connectcentraltexas.com.

Firefighter Owen Commended for Role in West, Texas

Firefighter Craig Owen was recognized at the Georgetown city council meeting last week for his role as a liaison to families of two volunteer firefighters who were killed in the April 17 explosion in West, Texas. Owen, who is a driver/engineer with the Georgetown Fire Department, also was honored for coordinating round-the-clock honor guard teams from across the U.S. for all the firefighters who were killed in the incident.

Owen letter-b-425As a member of the Texas Line of Duty Task Force, Owen served in these roles in West for 17 days from the day after the explosion until the last burial of the first responders who died in the incident. (Pictured in the photo, from left, are Fire Chief John Sullivan, Driver/Engineer Craig Owen, and Assistant Fire Chief Clay Shell.)

Charlotte Chism Waldrum, president-elect of the Texas Funeral Directors Association, writes in a letter to the Fire Department, “I witnessed Craig spend countless hours, making sure his fallen brothers received the honor, respect and dignity they deserved. …I realize how proud your department must be to call Craig Owen one of your brothers. The job he did in West came, obviously, from his heart…”

At the city council meeting, Fire Chief John Sullivan presented a letter of commendation from the Georgetown Fire Department to Owen. “Craig did an outstanding job providing for all the families of the West tragedy,” said Sullivan. “He put his personal life on hold, and spent two weeks in West. …We are lucky to have Craig Owen working for the Georgetown Fire Department.”

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 812 a.m.
1 or 91 a.m.
22 a.m.
33 a.m.
44 a.m.
55 a.m.
66 a.m.
77 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.

Firefighters Awarded Green Cross

Several Georgetown firefighters were awarded the green cross this week for their efforts to extract two injured drivers from their vehicles after a wreck on Texas 195. The two-vehicle head-on collision happened on the morning of March 21. The green cross is an award for firefighters involved in a vehicle extrication or rescue. Fire Chief John Sullivan presented the awards.

In the March incident, two off-duty firefighters from Fort Hood were the first on the scene. They began to assist and let 9-1-1 operators know that two people were pinned in their vehicles, which were about 75 yards apart. Georgetown firefighters responded and worked as a team to use jaws-of-life tools to open the doors on each vehicle and gain access to each driver. Both patients were successfully removed from their vehicles within 30 minutes and transported by Williamson County EMS to local hospitals. The two persons injured in the wreck have since been released from the hospital and are recovering.

Seven Georgetown firefighters were given the green cross at the Georgetown City council meeting this week. Four Williamson County EMS medics and an off-duty Fort Hood firefighter were presented with letters of appreciation for their actions at the meeting.

GFD green cross-b-1000

Pictured in the above photo in the front row (left to right) are Driver Engineer Josh Ratliff, Firefighters Jamison Humprhes and Trey Lockwood and Lt. Jason Fryer. In the back row (left to right) are Assistant Chief Clay Shell, Firefighter Benton Coker, Capt. David England, Firefighter Wesley Sigmund, Fort Hood firefighter Capt. Scott Rose, and Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan. (Click on photos to see larger version.)

EMS green cross-b-1000

Pictured in the above photo in the front row (left to right) are Williamson County Emergency Medical Services Paramedic Chris Howell, Director Kenny Schnell, Commander Kevin Krienke, and Paramedic Jeff Fishel.

Not pictured, but also awarded the green cross for his role in the rescue, is Georgetown Battalion Chief Ray Cummings. Not pictured, but also receiving letters of appreciation, were Williamson County EMS Paramedic Adam Johnson and Fort Hood Firefighter Shawn Charbonneau.

Chase the Chief 5K photos

Hundreds participated in the inaugural Chase the Chief 5k and Fun Run in San Gabriel Park on Sunday. The family fitness event was sponsored by the Georgetown Police Department and the Georgetown ISD Council PTA. (Click on photos for larger version.) The photos were taken by Amanda Chron with the Georgetown Police Department.

Tchida fun run start-1000

Assistant Police Chief Cory Tchida takes an “early lead” in the fun run.

Nero 5k start-1000

Georgetown Police Chief Wayne Nero with kids at the starting line of the 5k run.

Nero kids1-1000

Nearly 500 participated in the event at San Gabriel Park.

Nero high5-1000

Chief Nero congratulated runners at the finish line.

The event included a kid-friendly version of the Police Academy Obstacle Course, a kids’ activities area, and community health fair. The event encouraged a fit and healthy lifestyle and was a fundraiser for the Georgetown ISD PTA.

One Amazing Thing Featured for Georgetown Reads!

Chitra Divakaruni-250The Georgetown Public Library’s one-book, one-community program—Georgetown Reads!—kicks off this year on May 14. One Amazing Thing, by Chitra Divakaruni, is this year’s book selection. Copies of the book are now available for checkout at the library.

The plot of One Amazing Thing revolves around nine individuals who have been trapped by an earthquake in an Indian visa office in an American city. Conflicts are inevitable as they work together to survive. To defuse tensions that rise to the breaking point, each person tells a story—one amazing thing—that sets each character apart and brings them closer together.

In May, the Georgetown Public Library is sponsoring a series of free public events related to and inspired by One Amazing Thing.

A Visit with the Author: Author Chitra Divakaruni will join the audience by Skype for a question and answer session on Tuesday, May 14, at 3 p.m. in the Friends Room at the library. Divakaruni also will read from One Amazing Thing.

OneAmazing PBcover-400A Williamson County Emergency Services Vehicle will be parked on the Eighth Street side of the library on Wednesday, May 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for people to tour and ask questions.

Emergency personnel who responded to the Jarrell tornado, Hurricane Katrina, and Bastrop fires will talk about their experiences in a special panel on Thursday, May 16 at 1 p.m. in the Hewlett Room on the second floor of the library.

One Amazing Meal: Shagufta Rafique will prepare a delicious dish from the Indian/Pakistan region at noon on Friday, May 17 on the library’s second floor mezzanine area known as the bridge. There will be samples after the presentation so bring your appetite!

One Amazing Evening: A night of Indian culture and fun on Saturday, May 18 at 6 p.m. on the bridge in the library. There will be snacks, live music, henna, and a traditional dance performance and lesson provided by Anuradha Naimpally from Austin Dance India. Sanjeet Millennium will perform Indian music on sitar and tabla.

Other events also are planned. See the Georgetown Reads! website at georgetownreads.georgetown.org for full details. The Georgetown Public Library is located at 402 W. Eighth Street.