Council disbands fire committee

The Austin City Council is one step closer to closing old wounds.

The council disbanded the Fire Committee Monday night after months of inactivity and some resolution to the department’s issues. The committee was formed in 2009 after an outside investigator’s report recommended council members not get involved in the department’s day-to-day operations or supersede the department’s chain of command.

Council member Marian Clennon asked to discuss the committee at a previous session. The council agreed, since the fire committee had not met in months. The committee was only supposed to be around for one year and could be brought back if necessary, according to Mayor Tom Stiehm.

In other news, the council:

—Banned parking on Fourth Street NW from Third Avenue to 10th Avenue at all times in advance of the city’s street improvement project, which will take place this spring.

—Set a public hearing for proposed assessments on two Lansing Township annexation area properties.

—Set a public hearing for March 19 on a variance by Austin Public Schools concerning part of Sixth Avenue SW.

—Agreed to vote on a sidewalk removal policy drawn up by City Engineer Jon Erichson, which came about at the council’s public meeting two weeks ago after residents protesting sidewalk improvements on 22nd Avenue SW asked the council if they could remove sidewalk already in place. The council will discuss and approve the policy during its next public meeting.

The criteria for removing sidewalk under the proposed policy includes making sure the sidewalk only serves the property owners asking for its removal, isn’t part of any city comprehensive future planning and doesn’t serve a public function, such as a bus stop.

Property owners would make requests through the city engineering department, go through a public hearing and pay a fee. The owners would be responsible for removal and restoration costs, though city workers can remove the sidewalk if it is part of a street improvement project. Owners could request removal and the subsequent costs would be added to their assessments.

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