Austin City Council passes state grant use for APD body armor, helicopter upgrades

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Here’s what the Austin City Council agenda looks like this week.

More grant money for police: Passed

On Thursday, the Austin City Council passed to use two state grants for Austin Police Department upgrades.

A $310,000 grant provides rifle-resistant body armor for 400 Austin police officers. This will replace the current armor and protect officers from rifle fire.

The funding will also allow the Austin Police Department to replace armor set to expire in December. The city noted turnaround time from order to delivery averages about two months.

The other state grant of $157,222 will allow the city to purchase two mapping systems and a searchlight for the police helicopters. The city pointed out that in addition to police work, the helicopters are used to search for missing people and lost hikers.

On Wednesday night ahead of the vote, John Wittman, a spokesperson for Governor Greg Abbott, said the state will provide funding, regardless of the council’s decision.

“As if defunding the police department wasn’t enough, the city of Austin is now considering refusing state and federal grants that will keep Austin’s police officers safe while on the job,” Wittman said. “As Governor Abbott has made clear, he will not allow our capital city to descend into lawlessness and put the public and our officers and their families in harm’s way. That is why the Office of the Governor met with Chief Manley and the Austin Police Department this week and assured them that state grant funding would be provided to the police department, regardless of the city council’s decision.”

Council will not be voting on a grant for the previously-discussed “Project Safe Neighborhoods” program, an effort to reduce violent crime. The U.S. Attorney’s Office told APD it would not be funding the grant. The item was on last week’s agenda, but council members asked to see if changes to the program could be made.

City to take over another hotel for COVID-19 housing

Council is expected to approve allocating $864,000 in Emergency Reserve Funds for the city to occupy the La Quinta Inn at 5812 North Interstate Highway 35. The hotel will be an additional option for the city to use as emergency and supportive housing, as well as the isolation of people related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff says its the city’s intent to reimburse the cost with CARES Act and FEMA money.

Austin currently uses one isolation facility and five protective lodges, or “pro-lodges,” that house people particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Here is a summary of those facilities to date, per council documents:

Isolation Facility #1
District: 4
Number of Guest Rooms: 292
Initial Occupancy Date: March 25, 2020
Future Use: Temporary Occupancy only
Funding Source: General Fund Emergency Reserve
To Date Spending: $4,062,788.99

Protective Lodge #1
District: 3
Number of Guest Rooms: 129
Initial Occupancy Date: April 1, 2020
Future Use: Temporary Occupancy only
Funding Source: General Fund Emergency Reserve
To Date Spending: $1,323,540.00

Protective Lodge #2
District: 4
Number of Guest Rooms: 71
Initial Occupancy Date: April 10, 2020
Future Use: Temporary Occupancy only
Funding Source: General Fund Emergency Reserve
To Date Spending: $637,144.76

Protective Lodge #3
District: 9
Number of Guest Rooms: 65
Initial Occupancy Date: April 25, 2020
Future Use: Temporary Occupancy Only
Funding Source: General Fund Emergency Reserve
To Date Spending: $637,144.76

Protective Lodge #4
District: 4
Number of Guest Rooms: 75
Initial Occupancy Date: May 12, 2020
Future Use: Under contract to purchase for Permanent Supportive Housing
Funding Source: General Fund Emergency Reserve for temporary occupancy and
GO Bonds for purchase
To Date Spending: $499,999.98

Protective Lodge #5
District: 3
Number of Guest Rooms: 87
Initial Occupancy Date: August 6, 2020
Future Use: City-owned; Bridge Housing or Permanent Supportive Housing
Funding Source: CDBG
To Date Spending: $6,307,280.00

Studying COVID-19 and air quality

The city is expected to pay up to $35,000 to the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) for a broader study on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting local air quality.

In April 2020, CAPCOG released a brief analysis of the potential air quality impacts associated with
COVID-19-related behavior change and changes in on-road vehicle use.

The study would analyze the effect of telecommuting on car emissions and compare air pollution measured since March 2020 to comparable periods in 2017 – 2019.

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