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AUSTIN EDITION - Business park likely to survive

Decision isn't final, but council agrees on funding plan

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

Development will likely continue at the Austin Business Park.

During a work session on Tuesday, Austin City Council members agreed to allocate $200,000 for each of the next five years to fund construction of the business park. The money would come from the city's building fund, which is designated for capital improvement projects.

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The council will likely vote on the issue during its next official meeting.

Earlier this year, the city approved preliminary development of 22 acres adjacent to U.S. Highway 218 North for the business park. Each acre will cost about $45,500 to develop, City Engineer Jon Erichson said.

Phase one of the development involves creating a storm water district and redirecting sewer lines for access to a lift station. That work, which has begun, will cost about $600,000, Erichson said.

In phase two, sanitary sewer, streets and lighting will be completed. Gas, water and electricity would be a separate cost. Erichson said Austin Utilities would implement the services once the site has potential tenants.

Most contractors are in the middle of the construction season, Erichson said, so it's unlikely that new work will begin until late fall. Nothing can be done until the official approval from the council.

"The longer we wait, the longer the construction will take. We expect the development to still be going on August of 2004," Erichson said.

Acknowledging that it's hard to spend money when the city is cutting its budget, council members agreed on the financial potential of the business park.

"We need to be competitive," council member Gloria Nordin said.

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Council member Wayne Goodnature said he was in favor of the project and that the city needs to move ahead.

In other business:

The council will likely make the city's budget cuts official. A previous motion on budget cuts was contingent on what the state Legislature did with Local Government Aid.

"Now that we now how much the city will be cut, we will be approving the cuts implemented," Mayor Bonnie Rietz said.

The council faces $934,000 in reductions for 2003. There will be some tweaking throughout the year, such as arranging to maintain an outdoor ice rink during the winter, but each department budget will be given the go-ahead.

"They'll be able to buy the things they need or has been budgeted," Rietz said. Anything major would require the council's approval.

A completed 2002 audit report showed no significant change and a "decent year" for the city. According to finance director Tom Dankert, the city came out about $4,000 ahead.

Darwin Viker, a representative of auditing firm Larson, Allen, Weishair &; Co., indicated the city's fund balance is in good shape but there would be some decrease as the city tries to adjust to the current budget situation.

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