Georgetown Utility Systems is teaming with other utilities in Central Texas to alert customers of a phone scam targeting Hispanic businesses. While Georgetown utility employees have not received recent reports of scam attempts, the cooperative campaign to reach out to Spanish-speaking customers is an effort to prevent future fraud attempts.
In the phone scam reported last summer, callers would identify themselves as utility employees and ask customers to pay past due balances over the phone via “untraceable” credit cards purchased at local stores.
In an effort to raise awareness of these phone scams and how to avoid them, Georgetown Utility Systems is joining with other municipal utilities to inform the Hispanic community. Austin Energy, New Braunfels Utilities, City of San Marcos, and Georgetown Utility Systems are coordinating on a series of Spanish-language public service announcements that will air on KAKW Univision Austin and KTFO UniMas television stations and the 104.3 FM La Jefa Austin radio station. The public service announcements will air for 10 weeks starting this week.
“Georgetown Utility Systems is concerned any time our customers are negatively impacted by the dishonest practices of scammers in the community and want to increase awareness of the issue,” 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.”
Zavala says that if a bill payment is overdue, 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.
Georgetown Utility Systems will never call customers and demand payments over the phone.
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.
For the fifth year in a row, Williamson County, home of Georgetown, has been in the No. 1 or No. 2 spot on an annual ranking of the healthiest counties in the state. The county health rankings were announced earlier this week.
Williamson is ranked the No. 2 healthiest county in Texas in the 2014 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 No. 1 healthiest county in Texas in the 2013 report.
Among the 232 counties in Texas, Williamson County, with a population of 471,000, had the highest rank among urban and suburban counties. Presidio County in West Texas, ranked No. 1 this year, has a population of 7,200.
The annual ranking is a report card that scores counties on a range of factors including air quality, clean water, community safety, commuting times, educational attainment, employment rates, graduation rates, health behaviors, health provider ratios, healthcare quality, and longevity.
The annual rankings are based on a variety of data sources such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rankings are available online at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
The City Council voted last week to move forward in developing a funding mechanism that could spur commercial development along Westinghouse Road. The South Georgetown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone would fund public infrastructure improvements at the southern edge of Georgetown.
The 603-acre zone along Westinghouse Road is an area with planned commercial, retail, and residential development valued at as much as $700 million by 2020. A residential project is currently under construction on the south side of Westinghouse Road. Several office, retail, residential, and mixed-use projects are in the planning stages along the corridor. (Click on map to see larger version.)
A road connection from Oakmont Drive to Rabbit Hill Road and the addition of wastewater service lines are key elements for commercial development in the area. The Oakmont Drive extension would provide access to areas of planned development north of the Round Rock Premium Outlets. Paired with the extension of N. Mays Street in Round Rock, the extension of Oakmont Drive could ultimately create a north-south connector parallel to Interstate 35 from Gattis School Road in Round Rock to SE Inner Loop in Georgetown.
Other road projects in the zone could include extending Rabbit Hill Road to the north and extending Blue Springs Road to the south.
The tax reinvestment zone would direct the future increased property tax valuation in the 603-acre area to a fund used to build wastewater lines, road extensions, or other public infrastructure.
At their regular meeting last week, the City Council directed City staff to continue developing the plan for the zone. The City and Williamson County recently completed plans for a similar tax reinvestment zone that will fund public improvements for the Summit at Rivery Park hotel and conference center project.
The City is currently conducting a feasibility review for the South Georgetown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. A final plan should be presented to the City Council at their regular meetings in April and May.
Tasus Texas, a plastic parts manufacturer in south Georgetown, is expanding their operations at their plant on 211 Tasus Way. Tasus plans to invest $5.3 million in new production equipment over the next three years.
With the expansion, Tasus expects to increase employment from 155 to 200 employees over the next three years.
Walter Barkalow, director of manufacturing for Tasus in Georgetown, says they expect to add 10 plastic injection-molding machines.
“We have picked up a couple of new strategic customers for Tasus Texas and have received a couple of very large programs from some existing customers,” says Barkalow.
The City Council approved a performance agreement with Tasus at their regular meeting last week. The performance agreement provides a $67,500 grant from the Georgetown Economic Development Corporation, the City’s 4A corporation, to Tasus based on job creation.
The grant is based on $1,500 per job for 45 new jobs over the next three years.
Tasus also plans to spend approximately $760,000 for infrastructure costs and $45,000 for increasing electric capacity as part of the expansion.
Tasus manufactures a variety of plastic molded parts for the automotive industry.
Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan recently honored a local woman after her daughter and Georgetown firefighters saved her life in the minutes after she experienced a heart attack. Chief Sullivan told the story of Sharon Turner at a City Council meeting earlier this month.
“Back in December, she was at her home and she succumbed to a serious cardiac event and went into cardiac arrest,” said Sullivan. Ms. Turner’s daughter quickly called 9-1-1 and initiated cardio pulmonary resuscitation. “Her daughter’s quick actions really played a pivotal role in her being able to be with us tonight,” said Sullivan.
Ms. Turner, who was present, also thanked the Fire Department for their quick response after the 9-1-1 call. “It was a blessing to have the Fire Department there so quickly,” she said.
Though people may associate heart attacks with men rather than women, Sullivan says it is important for women to learn the signs of a heart attack. “In particular with women, sometimes cardiac events go unnoticed. But it does not have a bias. It’s gender neutral as far as its impact,” said Sullivan.
Telling Ms. Turner’s story is one way that the Fire Department wants to encourage people in Georgetown to learn CPR. “Georgetown Fire is going to take the initiative to reach out so that more people can learn the life-saving benefit of CPR and make this truly one of the safest places to live,” said Sullivan.
Pictured in the photo are (left to right) Assistant Fire Chief Clay Shell, Fire Driver Cory Jolly, Sharon Turner, Fire Lieutenant Bill Sherek, and Fire Chief John Sullivan. Jolly and Sherek were part of the fire company that responded to Ms. Turner’s home in December.
Development agreements for a 220-room Sheraton hotel and conference center at the Rivery were approved by the Georgetown City Council on January 14 and finalized this week. The Summit at Rivery Park project near Interstate 35 will include a 16,000 square-foot conference center. Construction on the hotel and conference center is slated to begin this fall and be complete by the end of 2015.
Plans for the Summit at Rivery Park project include future phases with retail stores, restaurant sites, single-family homes, and multifamily residences for a total project investment of $150 million, including $65 million for the hotel, conference center, and public parking garage. Private investors will fund most of the project cost. Novak Brothers, the developer for the Summit at Rivery project, has already constructed several brownstone residences at the site. Hines, an international real estate development firm headquartered in Houston, is a partner in the hotel and conference center.
Rivery Park will see major improvements in access and parking. The existing parking lot will be expanded and resurfaced and new park amenities will be added such as a new pond with fountains, new trails, and boardwalks with a shade structure and seating. Improvements also will be made to the disc golf course. In addition, a new 336-space public parking garage will be constructed and will be available for Rivery Park visitors at no charge. The public parking garage will be owned by the City, but its use will be shared with the hotel and conference center.
The City, the 4A Georgetown Economic Development Corporation, and the 4B Georgetown Transportation Enhancement Corporation will contribute approximately $13.25 million for construction of the new public parking garage, improvements in Rivery Park, and public roadway and utility infrastructure. The City and GEDCO will issue debt and the GTEC contribution will be made from cash on hand.
The City, GEDCO, and GTEC each will be reimbursed for their contributions over time from the tax increment fund that was established for the property in 2007. Monies in the tax increment fund consist of 100 percent of the City’s property tax increment generated from the land in the Rivery Park Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, and 80 percent of Williamson County’s property tax increment generated from land in the zone. It is anticipated that the tax increment fund will be sufficient to provide reimbursement of $12.5 million to the City and GEDCO as well as $750,000 to GTEC and $3.5 million to the developer.
The City will remit half of the 1 percent City sales tax generated in the Rivery Park TIRZ to Williamson County in consideration of Williamson County’s participation in the tax increment fund.
The Summit at Rivery Park project on I-35 will serve as a northern gateway to the Austin metro area and an anchor for future retail, office, and residential development in the center of Georgetown.
Officials with the City of Georgetown joined the Texas Department of Transportation yesterday at a ribbon-cutting to mark the opening of the new Lakeway Drive Bridge in Georgetown. The new bridge opened to traffic last week.
The construction project replaced the Lakeway Drive Bridge and re-aligned the roadway at Interstate 35 near the Georgetown Municipal Airport. The newly-constructed bridge has two through-lanes and a dedicated left-turn lane in each direction for a total of six lanes, up from the previous narrow two-lane bridge. In addition to the added capacity, the bridge has sidewalks on each side and space to accommodate bicycles. (Click on photos for a larger version.)
”Safety concerns were the primary reason to replace the bridge, which had no sidewalks or bike lanes, and had steep inclines and sat at a skewed angle, creating limited sight distance for drivers,” said Georgetown Mayor George Garver. “Lakeway Drive is the only I-35 crossing in the 4.6-mile segment between Williams Drive and SH 195. With the growth of our city, this new bridge is a very important element, for both mobility and safety.”
The total project cost for the Lakeway Drive Bridge replacement and re-alignment work is $10.25 million, which includes $2.5 million from Georgetown Transportation Enhancement Corporation, which is funded through a 0.5 percent sales tax in Georgetown.
”This project is a great example of collaboration by a number of agencies and we are excited to see this new bridge become a reality,” Garver said.
Work on the project began in Dec. 2011 and is expected to be complete in March. The contractor is Chasco Construction of Round Rock.
“This new bridge will increase capacity at one of the city’s most congested intersections and we’re happy to celebrate its opening with all our partners,” said John Peters, TxDOT Georgetown assistant area engineer. “We strive to achieve excellence in safety every day and this project will definitely enhance safety and mobility for all citizens who travel through the area.”
The Georgetown Parks and Recreation Aquatics program won the Agency of the Year Award from the Texas Public Pool Council earlier this month. The award at the council’s annual meeting in San Antonio recognized Georgetown’s aquatics program as the best in the state among cities in the medium-sized category.
Georgetown Aquatics programs involved more than 2,000 participants in 344 different classes in 2013. Classes include water aerobics, basic swimming lessons, lifeguarding, a junior guard camp, a city swim team, and other American Red Cross classes. Other Aquatics offerings not included in those numbers are daily attendance for open swim and pool use from other groups such as the Aquadillos swim team and the swim teams from Gateway, Georgetown, and East View high schools.
Lifeguards in the Georgetown Aquatics program achieved a high level of distinction last year when they won second place in the statewide lifeguard competition. The Georgetown lifeguard team took fourth place in the 2012 statewide competition.
“I have the pleasure of working with a high-achieving, self-driven staff,” says Stephanie Darimont, aquatics coordinator. “The Aquatics staff is dedicated to serving their community and the continuous improvement of their lifeguard skills to keep the Georgetown swimming pools one of the safest places to swim.”
The Junior Guard Safety Camp is an innovative program that teaches pre-teens many aspects of lifeguarding such as swimming, water rescues, first aid, CPR, and patron surveillance. The camp also provides first aid and safety lessons that are valuable skills for pre-teens who are babysitting or taking care of siblings.
The Georgetown Aquatics program also makes swimming recreation available to all residents, regardless of their means. With support from the Friends of Georgetown Parks and Recreation, swimsuits and towels are available to those who need them.
The designation of zones that would protect water quality around springs and streams that are Georgetown salamander habitat will be considered by the Georgetown City Council December 10. The ordinance would apply to areas in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone in the Georgetown city limits and extraterritorial jurisdiction, which extends up to 3.5 miles beyond city limits. (Click on graphics to see a larger version.)
The proposed rules were developed by Williamson County and the City of Georgetown as a result of the potential listing of the Georgetown salamander as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the ordinance is adopted, Fish and Wildlife may decide not to list the salamander as endangered. The ordinance would protect certain springs and stream areas that are identified as salamander habitat from certain kinds of activities.
- Red zones that are within 80 meters upstream or downstream of a spring habitat would be no-disturbance areas. Maintenance of existing development would be permitted in red zones, but no new construction.
- Orange zones that are from 80 to 300 meters upstream of a spring habitat would be minimal disturbance areas. Parks, wastewater lines, and some residential development would be permitted in orange zones.
- Spring buffers, which are 50 meter circular buffers around a spring that may be a habitat for the Georgetown salamander, would allow for very limited construction such as parkland development or wastewater lines.
- Stream buffers in the 100-year floodplain would be areas in which development would be limited to wastewater lines, parks, utility line crossings, flood control measures, and road crossings.
A total of 14 red zone sites in the Georgetown city limits and ETJ have been identified. Eight of these sites are on City parkland or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property around Lake Georgetown. Six sites are on private property.
The ordinance also includes a water quality management plan for areas in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. The plan would include public education and outreach, hazardous waste education, a voluntary inlet marker program, creek clean-up efforts, integrated pest management, illicit discharge detection and elimination, and runoff control measures.
Another element of the proposed ordinance would establish a management committee to review environmental data on a regular basis, make policy recommendations, and make recommendations to the City Council regarding requests for variances from development guidelines. The proposed management committee would include City of Georgetown appointees and representatives from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgetown development community, and the Williamson County Conservation Foundation.
The City Council will consider the first reading of the proposed ordinance at their regular meeting on Tuesday, December 10. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers and Courts Building at 101 E. Seventh Street.
A group of volunteers called Trail Tamers has been working for the past three years to remove invasive species alongside the city’s hike and bike trails. Cutting down nonnatives like ligustrum, nandina, Chinaberry, and Chinese tallow allows for the restoration of parkland with native plants and trees.
Using limb saws, loppers, and other hand tools, the group meets each Tuesday at 1 p.m., says Heather Brewer McFarling, urban forester with the Parks and Recreation Department. Trail Tamers have been working along the San Gabriel River Trail near Rivery Park and also along the Pickett Trail at Blue Hole and Chautauqua parks.
McFarling says she is looking for more volunteers for the group. Volunteers should bring bottled water and wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, and gloves. Tools will be available, but people also can bring their own loppers and hand saws. No power tools are used. Volunteers can work with the group as they are available and no prior knowledge or skills are required.
Those who would like to volunteer should contact Heather Brewer McFarling at (512) 930 – 6113 or firstname.lastname@example.org. McFarling will communicate with those who contact her to let them know of meeting locations and other details.