Utilities set to start new facility project

Published 10:20 am Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Construction will start this month

Construction on a new central facility for Austin Utilities is set to start this month after the Austin City Council approved $18.9 million in bonds Monday during a public meeting.

“We’re excited to move forward with this project,” Utilities General Manager Mark Nibaur said.

A groundbreaking for the project is set for April 14 and work should begin within two to three weeks.

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Though the city won’t make payments on the bond — all the financial burden will go to the Utilities — the city won’t be able to take on more debt in 2015 and 2016 because of the project, according to Finance Director Tom Dankert.

He said the city didn’t have plans to take on more debt aside from the Utilities bond.

Mark Nibaur

Mark Nibaur

Utilities officials are looking to consolidate office operations, including customer service, staff operations and administrative duties, from the seven buildings utilities workers use.

Austin Utilities has for years looked at options to improve its efficiencies — utilities officials bought 23 acres south of Todd Park in 2009 to potentially host a new building. But at that time, Nibaur said the time wasn’t right to move forward until utilities officials decommissioned the downtown power plant and looked at its options.

The city has already decommissioned the downtown plant, and the northeast plant is set to go offline starting in 2016.

Utilities officials recently increased rates to help pay for the project and estimated bond payments over the next few years. Electric rates increased 1.77 percent, gas rates increased 3.5 percent and water rates increased 6.9 percent starting Jan. 1.

Utilities officials estimate an average increase of $8.18 per month in utilities payments for residential customers and a 1 to 3 percent increase per month for commercial properties.