Why no disaster declaration for Atmos Energy evacuations?

The City of Georgetown has not declared a disaster during the current Atmos Energy situation. Disaster declarations give local officials the ability to exercise extraordinary powers, including providing liability protection to government agencies and emergency workers or to formally request general assistance from the state and federal governments.

“The City does not have oversight of pipeline safety,” said Mayor Dale Ross. “That role rests with the Texas Railroad Commission. Simply declaring a local disaster does not make new or different resources available that are not already being provided. The City is in regular contact with both Atmos and our partners at Williamson County and the State to ensure this evacuation is brought to resolution as safely as possible.”

“To further ensure a safe and expedient resolution, I have formally requested the Texas Department of Emergency Management to begin an assessment of this situation” said Mayor Ross. “Should the situation evolve, the City stands prepared to declare a disaster and call on additional resources from our fellow governmental agencies.”

During the current event Atmos Energy has made safety their top priority. Atmos Energy has provided hotel accommodations and food stipends for affected residents. The amount of these stipends is adjusted based on individual household needs. These accommodations far exceed what the City would be able to provide evacuees.

Atmos Energy has also paid claims to affected businesses, connected businesses with resources and facilities to continue their operations, and has committed to processing claims throughout the current evacuation and beyond. Atmos Energy has committed to ensuring the people affected by the evacuation are fully compensated for damages that result from this event. The City is also committed to connecting those businesses with resources and partners to ensure they are able to reopen quickly and successfully once the evacuation is lifted.

During the evacuation, Atmos has provided additional security from both private security contractors and off‐duty police officers. Atmos and the City of Georgetown conduct daily calls to share updates, discuss repairs, assess needs, and determine the plan of action for the day.

The City of Georgetown has numerous departments providing support as needed to Atmos Energy. The City’s efforts are focused on ensuring the safety of the public, protecting property, and providing information. The City has consulted with Emergency Management officials with Williamson County, the State of Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Railroad Commission.

Background

Late on Wednesday, Feb. 20, Atmos Energy arrived on scene at 507 River Bend in Georgetown to repair an underground natural gas leak. The Georgetown Fire Department and Atmos Energy issued a precautionary evacuation of several residences and businesses in the River Bend area as a result of the initial leak ‐ which was repaired.

Since then, Atmos Energy has worked to remove residual gas from the ground. This removal process includes venting, vacuuming, evacuation and suction. Atmos Energy has also installed a series of vent wells and retained geologists to assist in these efforts. Dense clay, moisture, and the make‐up of the soil has inhibited the evaporation of the gas.

As a safety precaution, Atmos has asked for evacuation in homes or commercial structures to evacuate if they detect an unsafe concentration of natural gas in or near a home or other structure. Atmos has requested electric service be disconnected if any measure of gas is detected inside a structure.

City Center grand opening March 26

The City of Georgetown will celebrate the grand opening of two City buildings that are part of a civic campus for City government offices March 26 from 2-3 p.m. The event includes tours as well as a ribbon cutting at 2:45 p.m. for the new City Hall building at 808 Martin Luther King Jr. St. and new Council and Court building at 510 W. Ninth St.

Known as City Center, the new civic campus includes City Hall and Council and Court buildings as well as the existing Georgetown Public Library that opened in 2007, the Historic Light and Water Works office building, and a public parking lot on Eighth Street.

The new civic campus centralizes several offices that were in buildings scattered throughout the city. In addition to providing needed facility space, the campus enables easier collaboration for City employees and convenience for residents using City services.

The former public library building at 808 Martin Luther King Jr. St. is now City Hall. City Hall includes offices for City management, Economic Development, Finance, Communications, Human Resources, and the City Secretary’s Office.

Adjacent to the new City Hall is the new Council and Court building. The building includes the new City Council Chamber that also serves as a municipal courtroom. The addition also houses a jury room and council meeting room. Offices for Municipal Court and Accounting will be on the first floor, and the Information Technology Department is located on the second floor.

Both buildings feature public art installations, including a glass tile mosaic titled “El Arbol (The Tree)” by artist J. Muzacz and “DayScape Wonder” by artist Kevin Greer in the Council and Court building lobby, and “Bluehole Park” by artist Mick McConnell in the City Hall lobby rotunda. The City Hall lobby also features rotating quarterly art exhibits sponsored by the Georgetown Arts and Culture Board. The first selection features art by local artist Carol Light.

A walkway and public green space connect the Council and Court with City Hall. The one-block section of Ninth Street between the two buildings and adjoining green space can be used for small events.

City Center also includes the historic Shotgun House. The structure is representative of the types of homes that were common in the neighborhoods west of downtown. The Georgetown Cultural Citizen Memorial Association holds educational events at the Shotgun House about the history of the African American community in Georgetown.

The $13 million project was funded by proceeds from the sale of City buildings, municipal bonds, and fee revenues. The architect for the project is the Lawrence Group and the contractor is Balfour Beatty.

Breakfast Bites: Branding, Ignite Your Tribe as Easy as 1-2-3

The next Breakfast Bites meeting on March 20 will feature Grace Lanni, an award-winning branding influencer, on the topic of Branding: Ignite your Tribe as Easy as 1-2-3. The informal meeting opens at 8 a.m. in the Friends Room at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. Eighth St. The talk will start at 8:30 a.m. Coffee and light breakfast snacks will be provided.

Lanni will provide an overview of Branding Canvas, a personal branding survey and how it unfolds into a personal branding profile business owners can use to tell their story to prospective clients/customers online and off. Lanni is the founder of the All About That Brand platform, including workbooks, online courses, VIP programs, YouTube Channel, and a podcast.

At the March 20 meeting there will be updates from City staff on:

  • Arts and Culture
  • Public Library events
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau updates
  • City Center campus project update
  • 2030 Comprehensive Plan Update
  • Downtown sales tax
  • Transportation updates
  • City construction projects, including city buildings, parking, and the red poppy shade structures

Also, learn about updates from downtown partner organizations and find out about new businesses in the downtown district that have opened or are under construction.

Breakfast Bites is a quarterly meeting of the Georgetown Main Street Program. If you plan to attend, please RSVP by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, to Kim McAuliffe, downtown development manager for the City of Georgetown, at (512) 930-2027 or at kim.mcauliffe@georgetown.org.

Natural gas outage for 630 customers

UPDATE: As of 2 a.m. Sunday, gas was restored to the interrupted area and appliance relights began based on customer availability.

Thirty-seven service technicians began knocking on doors around 7 a.m. Sunday for those that had not already contacted Atmos for a relight.

By 5 p.m. Sunday, service to 573 gas meters had been restored, six were inactive accounts and did not need restoration, and the remaining 76 are awaiting customer availability.

If you have additional questions or need assistance, please call 1-866-322-8667 to talk with an Atmos Energy Customer Service Representative.

While continuing to test portions of Atmos Energy’s natural gas system, natural gas service was inadvertently shut off to approximately 630 customers within the 3000-3900 blocks of Williams Drive, east to Canyon Rd, and Axis Loop Area. Customers who have lost gas service can remain in their home as Atmos Energy works to restore services.

Evacuations are unnecessary.

Restoration of service is a three step process:

Step 1: Atmos Energy crews turn off gas service at each meter affected by the outage.

Step 2: Atmos Energy then purges the distribution system, to ensure that air is not in our pipelines.

Step 3: Atmos Energy crews go door-to-door to safely restore gas service and relight appliances.

Atmos Energy crews began shutting off service to each meter late Saturday evening. Atmos is deploying extra resources to work around the clock to safely restore natural gas service to the area.

Atmos plans to begin restoring service and relighting appliances at approximately 7 a.m. on Sunday, March 10.

Attached is a FAQ that will hopefully answer any questions customers may have. If you have additional questions or need assistance, please call 1-866-322-8667 to talk with an Atmos Energy Customer Service Representative.

FAQ for Atmos Energy outage on March 9, 2019.
Outage map for Atmos Energy for March 9, 2019.

Atmos Energy gas leak response update

Atmos Energy continues to use vacuum units and dig holes to ventilate residual natural gas from the soil in the area along Williams Drive and River Bend. Atmos also is performing additional leak surveys and using mobile leak detection units mounted on cars, as well as foot patrols. Atmos also is repairing underground leaks and replacing sections of pipeline as needed.

Currently, Atmos Energy reports that 42 residences and 61 businesses have been evacuated.

A current evacuation map and an FAQ are included.

Household hazardous waste options for Georgetown residents

The City of Georgetown is in the process of finalizing details for a new household hazardous waste program that is expected to be announced this summer. In the interim, residents have some options for disposing of their household hazardous waste.

The City of Round Rock offers household hazardous waste collection on the first Wednesday of each month from 3-6 p.m. at the recycling center, 310 Deepwood Drive. The cost is $40 per car. More information about what is accepted and the Round Rock recycling center can be found at www.roundrocktexas.gov/departments/utilities-and-environmental-services/solid-waste-recycling/household-hazardous-waste-disposal. Payments can be made by cash or check. Proof of Williamson County residency is required.

Round Rock is also hosting a Household Hazardous Waste collection on April 13. The same guidelines apply.

Georgetown residents can also take household hazardous waste items to the Williamson County household hazardous waste collection event on April 27 in Cedar Park. There is no cost to residents for the April 27 event, and proof of Williamson County residency will also be required. Details on that event will be posted at williamsoncountylandfill.wm.com/community/household-haz-waste-collection.jsp.

Updates and details about the City’s new household hazardous waste program will be posted to recycle.georgetown.org.

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.

Proposed voluntary annexation for Highland Village development

The City of Georgetown is considering a voluntary annexation of property into the city limits.  The Public Hearings will be held at the March 26, 2019 meeting at 3 pm and March 26, 2019 at 6 pm. City Council meetings are located at the City Council Chambers, 510 W. 9th Street.

The area being considered for voluntary annexation is approximately a 0.63-acre tract of land situated in the L.P. Dyches Survey, located at 8400 RR 2338, to be a part of the Highland Village Development.

After holding the required public hearings, the City Council will consider an ordinance for the annexation.

For additional information, please contact Chelsea Irby in the Planning Department, 512-931-7746 or email to chelsea.irby@georgetown.org

Location Map

Atmos Energy update on work in Georgetown

Atmos Energy responded to an underground gas leak on Feb. 20 at 507 River Bend in Georgetown. The Georgetown Fire Department and Atmos Energy issued a precautionary evacuation of several residences and businesses in the River Bend area as a result of the initial leak, which was repaired. Natural gas service was shut off to those customers while Atmos Energy technicians worked as quickly as possible to repair the leak and ensure the area’s safety.

This area contains unique soil conditions that slow the ventilation of gas. The accumulation of “residual gas” at unsafe levels requires evacuation of the area for safety reasons. Currently, 61 businesses and 26 residences in the vicinity of Williams Drive and River Bend have been evacuated (see map). Atmos Energy is using equipment to ventilate the soil and remove natural gas trapped under the ground.

To help alleviate the inconvenience to residents and businesses, hotel accommodations and meals are being offered to affected residents. Affected Georgetown residents and businesses can contact Atmos Energy using the dedicated customer service line at 888-992-8667. Representatives are also available from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express, 431 N. Interstate 35, to speak directly with affected residents and business owners.

Atmos Energy is providing 24-hour security in the area to further ensure the safety of evacuated homes and businesses.

System Monitoring

Atmos Energy has surveyed the affected area with mobile leak detection mounted on cars and performed foot patrols with leak detection equipment and will continue system monitoring until the evacuations are lifted.

Pipe replacement

If hazardous leaks are detected, Atmos Energy is taking the necessary steps to eliminate the hazard and ensure the area is safe. Additionally, the company proactively identified additional pipe segments for replacement and those projects are currently underway.

Residual gas

This area contains unique soil conditions that slow the ventilation of gas. The accumulation of “residual gas” at unsafe levels requires evacuation of the area for safety reasons.

Ventilating the soil

To assist with the ventilation of residual gas, vacuum units are being used to pull residual gas out of the ground. In addition, Atmos Energy excavation equipment is being utilized to dig ventilation holes to help dissipate the residual gas.

Atmos Energy will continue its pipe replacement projects and their work to make the area safe. For the safety of the community, evacuations will remain in place if gas is detected at unsafe levels. Homes and other buildings are being monitored daily by Atmos Energy. Residents and business owners will be permitted to return when it is safe to do so. Updates will be provided and a timeframe for lifting evacuations when possible.

Twenty-seven bats captured inside buildings in February

Spring is the time when Mexican free-tailed bats arrive in Central Texas. City of Georgetown Animal Services officers captured 27 bats inside buildings during the month of February. All bats tested negative for carrying rabies.

“If you remember nothing else – do not touch the bat, and call animal control,” says John Torrez, Animal Control Supervisor for the City of Georgetown.

On the occasion that a bat does enter a building, many will exit on their own, if given the opportunity. Turn off any interior lights and allow a clear pathway such as an open door for them to escape.

Bats hanging on the outside of buildings are common in the area and, if left alone, will usually fly away at dusk.

If a bat lands on the ground, it has difficulty becoming airborne again and usually will attract attention from children and pets in the area. Make sure to keep your pets up-to-date on rabies vaccinations and close off pet doors at night. Remind children if they see a bat on the ground, to leave it alone and alert an adult.

If there is a possibility of either pet or human exposure to a bat, please contact Animal Services immediately. Animal Services will collect the bat to submit it for testing at the Texas Department of Health to verify the absence of the rabies virus.

To report a bat within the city limits of Georgetown, call the 24-hour number for the Georgetown Police Department at (512) 930-3510. An animal control officer will respond to the report.

Georgetown Animal Services and Animal Shelter is located at 110 Walden Dr., Georgetown, Texas, 78626. Contact the shelter at (512) 930-3592, by email at animalsvc@georgetown.org or online at pets.georgetown.org.