AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s what we’re keeping an eye on during the Austin City Council meeting Thursday.
COVID-19 vaccine incentives: Approved
Council moved forward with procuring $100 gift cards to use as a COVID-19 vaccine incentive for residents in Austin-Travis County.
The total contract amount is $1.5 million. City documents say Austin Public Health has already made a purchase of $554,100 of that total number (about 5,000 gift cards), and council will vote to ratify that Thursday. In another vote, council will decide whether to authorize the remaining $945,850 for an 18-month term.
Council says this is an effort to boost vaccination rates among Austin-Travis County residents and especially encourage it among people living in the eastern and northeastern parts of the county.
Airport improvements: Approved
Council approved to authorize up to $46 million in improvements to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport’s Barbara Jordan Terminal. According to city documents, the money would go toward “pre-construction and construction services,” including planning costs and materials sourcing.
An airport spokesperson told KXAN the $46 million would serve as “an initial investment” on the west gate expansion. The finished work could cost up to $70 million, the spokesperson said, though that figure could change as the project is designed.
Austin Opera House revival project: Approved
Council members approved with amendments two items on the agenda to remove the property at 200 Academy Dr. from a zoning overlay that prevents certain developments in the neighborhood conservation combining district. Architect Richard Weiss and owner of the property, Chris Wallin, want to bring back the iconic Austin Opera House there along with housing, some of it being affordable.
COVID-19 isolation housing: Approved
Council voted to continue leasing a Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel off Research Boulevard in northwest Austin for emergency housing, isolation and support services for those sickened with COVID-19. The agreement is for an additional one-month term starting Jan. 29 and allows for four successive one-month extensions, according to city documents.
The documents state the facility is filling up with people who caught the virus or may have been exposed and who need a place to isolate alone. The agreement allows for the use of 84 guest rooms and a meeting room.
Land for new joint fire/EMS station: Approved with direction
Council authorized a ground lease on a property in west Austin to create a new joint Austin Fire/Austin-Travis County EMS station for the area.
The lease will be with Protestant Episcopal Church Council of the Diocese of Texas for about 1.6 acres of land at 4601 Westlake Dr. It will be for a term of 40 years, with one additional 40-year option, according to city documents.
Austin City Council decided in May 2018 to build five new joint Austin Fire/EMS stations in areas with the greatest need. A past report designated a Loop 360 station as the third-highest priority station. The station will be a four-bay, two-story building able to host both fire and EMS units.
Improving emergency response for marginalized communities: Approved
Council members passed a resolution directing the city manager to implement recommendations made by a pandemic committee focused on equity.
The city’s Central Health Equity Policy Council launched the Pandemic Equity Committee in December 2020 to analyze how the pandemic would affect marginalized communities, according to the resolution. After months of data gathering, the committee came back with recommendations for the city’s disaster plans, including:
- centering equity in the City of Austin Emergency Operations Plan;
- developing a standard practice for translating communications into other languages, including Spanish;
- and ensuring funds are allocated toward stipends and training that helps the community better understand how the Emergency Operations Center works, among other things.
The city manager will now formalize the role of the Austin Equity Office in emergency operations and plans and explore the creation of an advisory panel to look into the city’s emergency response and provide feedback to the council.
Targeting wage theft: Approved
Council passed a resolution that would help employees in Austin file complaints for unpaid wages and hold those employers accountable. The resolution directs the city manager to initiate the measures, determine ways to partner with law enforcement to address wage theft allegations and develop a plan to maintain a database of state and federal labor violations committed in the city.
May 7 special election: Withdrawn
Earlier this month, the city council approved a ballot measure, allowing voters to decide whether to eliminate low-level marijuana enforcement and ban no-knock warrants. The special election will take place May 7, but on Thursday, the council decided to withdraw an item to set the hours of voting on election day and add information about early voting dates, times and locations to the ordinance.
A city spokesperson said the item will be brought back to council at an upcoming meeting.