AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are more than 80 items on the first Austin City Council meeting of the year. It will be a first for three new city council members. Mayor Kirk Watson will return to the dais for the first time in two decades.

Here’s some of what we’re watching:

Austin Water cost-of-service rate study: Approved

Council approved on consent a contract with two companies to do a cost-of-service rate study of Austin Water. Since it was approved on consent, no discussion was held publicly by the council prior to the vote.

Austin Water said in a statement:

Austin Water conducts cost-of-service studies every five to seven years to evaluate revenue requirements, costs of providing water, wastewater and reclaimed service, and rate design in accordance with recognized accepted industry standards. Austin Water last conducted a cost-of-service study in 2016, and water and wastewater rates have remained flat since 2018. The services included in the contract that Council will review for approval next week will help us continue to invest in critical infrastructure and personnel needed for system reliability and public health and safety, while prioritizing rates that meet affordability criteria equitably across customer classes.

Utilities are top of mind for the council right now after Austin Energy bills were hiked twice during the final months of 2022.

Affordable child care measures: Approved

Austin City Council approved the amended version of a resolution that would ease city zoning restrictions for child care facilities. The resolution will also provide financial incentives for operations that build or expand in child care deserts.

The resolution, brought forward by Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, would change the city’s land development code to lessen parking requirements, allow more kids in a facility in both commercial and residential daycares and create a zoning classification specifically for child care services, among other changes to city code.

Council approved three amendments that are tacked onto the now-approved measure. Council Member Mackenzie Kelly proposed the resolution include a focus on providing child care services for the city’s public safety employees: Austin Police, Austin Fire, Austin-Travis County EMS, Austin 9-1-1 and Austin 3-1-1 personnel.

Council Member José “Chito” Vela proposed an amendment that would eliminate parking requirements at child care facilities, save for necessary accessible parking spots.

Council Member José Velásquez added an amendment that would prioritize equitable financial distribution of funding, with a specific focus on child care deserts. His amendment also outlined the prioritization of child care facilities that pay a minimum or living wage.

The approved resolution will also direct the city manager to create an economic development grant program that would help someone looking to create or expand a facility pay city fees associated with doing so.

The goal is to help create more affordable child care options for Austinites. Child care is one of the most expensive line items for families in Austin, according to Fuentes.

“Which is why if we’re serious about addressing affordability, we have to make sure it’s easier to build child care centers so that we have more child care options available to all Austinites, all throughout our city,” she said.

Disease surveillance system: Approved

Council approved on consent a $1.75 million contract to “provide turnkey public health disease surveillance software” to support Austin Public Health’s existing efforts. Because it was approved on consent, no public discussion was held prior to the vote.

According to documents, the software can track, monitor and process lab reports that come from the state and clinical labs around the country.

“The solution allows for the capture of disease-specific information related to the case investigation and disposition of these cases,” documents said.

Eminent domain on I-35 Capital Express South Project: Approved

Austin City Council approved Thursday a resolution that allows for the filing of eminent domain proceedings related to water and wastewater line relocations for the I-35 Capital Express South Project. The project — overseen by the Texas Department of Transportation — runs along I-35 from State Hwy. 71 and Ben White Boulevard down to State Hwy. 45 Southeast.

The property under question, located at 110 W. Slaughter Lane, is owned by a Delaware-based limited liability company. As part of the eminent domain proceedings, officials are looking to acquire nearly 900 square feet of water and wastewater easement, as well as the temporary easement of roughly 868 square feet for working space.

No speakers were signed up on the item, which was approved without further discussion from the council.

Other items

  • City vehicle maintenance contracts
  • Additional money for fire systems at city buildings
  • Another reading of the Brodie Oaks redevelopment PUD
  • Appointment of members to boards and commissions

You can read the full agenda here.