Brunner: Rec center purchase agreement should be public
Published 10:26 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016
By Jason Schoonover and Jordan Gerard
One of the people leading a push to save the downtown Austin Municipal Power Plant wants more information to be made public as discussions continue.
Quin Brunner asked the Austin City Council Monday to make public the proposed purchase agreement between Austin Utilities and Vision 2020, which would pave the way for the site to become the home of the planned Community Recreation Center.
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“I have heard time and time again that members of this community are concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding the deal here,” Brunner told the City Council.
Vision 2020 and Austin Utilities have the tentative outline of a purchase agreement. Once Austin Utilities and Vision 2020 finalize a deal, the utilities board and the Austin City Council both need to vote on the sale before work can move forward. Votes are not yet scheduled but could happen as soon as this spring, according to Utilities General Manager Mark Nibaur.
The purchase agreement and votes aren’t yet on any meeting agendas, and Mayor Tom Stiehm and City Administrator Craig Clark said the purchase agreement will be made public at a later date.
Still, Brunner asked for the deal to be made public as soon as possible.
“We want to see what’s being purchased,” Brunner said. “It’s something we’d like to see shared. There needs to be increased transparency so the community can make informed decisions.”
Vision 2020 has also indicated it intends to hold public forums on the rec center in the coming months.
The rec center is one of the most anticipated Vision 2020 project, and the committee behind it has identified the decommissioned Austin Municipal Plant as the preferred site.
“That is our preferred site,” Matt Cano, who co-chairs the Vision 2020 Community Recreation Center Committee with Tanya Medgaarden, previously told the Herald. “It really gives us a nice centralized location for the downtown for the town. It brings some synergy with the senior center, the two arenas, the library, that Fourth Avenue corridor, the bike trails, the waterways. It really is a nice central location.”
But Brunner and Austin City Council member Janet Anderson formed a Facebook group, penned a letter and started a Change.org petition to call for the parties involved to slow down and give the community more time to discuss potential uses for the downtown plant and potential locations for the rec center.
Brunner told council members Monday that the petition has received more than 200 signatures. Both Vision 2020 and Brunner have released fact sheets online to provide more information on the site and proposed rec center.
But Stiehm previously said a lot of “What Ifs” surround the plant site, and making those ideas a reality is another story. Along with a lack of developers interested in the plant, Stiehm said the cost of acquiring properties for the post office site made him change his mind. He said he wouldn’t support the estimated $3.5 million the city would need to spend to acquire properties to make room for the rec center.
The rec center would likely feature an indoor playground, a family aquatic center, community spaces, gyms, a gymnastics facility, workout rooms, a running track and more.
Plans call for the Austin YMCA to operate the facility, possibly with parts being accessible to Y members and parts being community rec center space, though many details are still being worked out.