May 15, 2009
After months of feuding over a proposed city takeover of district operations, City of Lakeway officials and representatives of the Lakeway Municipal Utility District seem to have found middle ground.
City officials were concerned that some Lakeway customers weren’t being heard by the district, which provides water and wastewater services to most of the City of Lakeway but also part of the Village of The Hills. Currently, the district board consists of five at-large members who own property or live within the district, and only customers who pay taxes to the district elect board members.
Both entities support a compromise bill introduced last week by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, that would allow about 1,000 Lakeway district customers who don’t pay taxes to the district to vote for board members. The bill would also add two new at-large seats to the district’s board. Under the bill, the district may not impose a tax on any property or resident of the new voting area — in the northwest corner of Lakeway — and the new voters cannot participate in any district bond or tax propositions.
A previous bill that Watson introduced in March would have allowed the city to take over the district’s operations upon City Council approval. Lakeway city officials had approached Watson in February about supporting the annexation legislation and expressed their concerns about the responsiveness and openness of the district, according to Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones, who declined to elaborate. Officials on all sides say that bill, which was opposed by district representatives, is essentially dead.
The newer bill seems to have all parties on board. “We feel (this bill) addresses the city’s concerns about the transparency of governance of the MUD,” Jones said.
“It means the end of a conflict we didn’t want to have to begin with,” district board president Tom Rogers said.
The Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations unanimously approved the bill Wednesday. It will be considered by the full Senate next week.
The Lakeway City Council unanimously voted in support of the bill during a special meeting Monday. The district board unanimously approved a resolution in support of the bill last week.
“It’s been a lot of work in a very short period of time under the heat of the legislative session,” said Watson, who described his role as a facilitator.
Before the conflict, Rogers and Jones agreed that the district and city had a good relationship. They attended each other’s meetings and helped each other on projects, Rogers said.
“The majority of issues we did see eye to eye,” Jones said.
“And I am totally sure that it will become that way again,” Rogers said.