Council approves additional funds for water treatment plant budget

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist KENNETH NULL

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kvue.com

Posted on December 6, 2012 at 8:19 AM

Updated Thursday, Dec 6 at 6:16 PM

AUSTIN -- Thursday was a busy day at Austin City Hall as city council members took up several key issues.

An item on the agenda getting a lot of attention is the raising of the budget for Austin Water Utility's fourth water treatment plant.

Last month the council got an unpleasant surprise when Austin Water executives told them the $359 million budget for another water treatment plant was not enough money to finish it. Austin Water needs $15.5 million more.

Two years ago the council voted to build the fourth water treatment facility in Northwest Austin, despite claims from environmental advocates that another plant was not the solution to Austin's water problem.

An audit later showed the money wasn't going as far as officials hoped it would. Austin Water had to make $40 million in cuts to the plan, including the elimination of a planned water line running to Forest Ridge.

Those cuts are still not enough. Executives asked for $15.5 million more to finish the plant. Austin Water Executives say $5 million would be used to pave the 94 acre plant and to do landscaping around the property. The other $10.5 million would be used to build the filter back wash pump station, an integral part of the facility.

Thursday the City approved more that $15.5 million in additional funding to finish construction on the water treatment plant. Officials say they believe it will be enough to finish the project.

"It is very difficult to put an actual dollar figure, an exact dollar figure, on a project like that because there are unforseens," said Austin Water Utility Spokesman Jason Hill. "So we are very confident that we are still in a reasonable range of managing this project so far."

Many say they fear the budget increase will lead to higher water bills, and Austin's are already the highest in the state.

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