Bond aims to protect Travis County residents from fire risk

WEST LAKE HILLS, Texas (KXAN) — Travis County Water District No. 10 is moving forward with plans to upgrade its water system. The investment won’t be cheap, but is crucial to protecting the city. Among areas in the district are West Lake Hills, Rob Roy and Camelot.

“What’s at risk are 3,000 homes,” said Clif Drummond, president of the board of directors for Water District No. 10.

Come November, people who live in the district may have to ask themselves if they are willing to pay the price tag. Water authorities are currently examining whether to put this on the November ballot for the bond election. The project would cost just more than $52 million, ultimately costing the average homeowner in District 10 roughly $1,000 to $1,200 a year. The full impact on taxpayers would not occur all at once, but rather over a three to five-year ramp-up period. The alternate choice available to the District would possibly be next May’s election slot.

“There has been very significant growth over the last three to four years,” said Drummond. “The homes are getting larger, that means more fire risk, and we’ve had infill of the district, and the district is essentially built out.”

Water District 10 is highly susceptible to wildfire because of wooded forest throughout the community. Water authorities say the flow to hydrants is sufficient, but needs to be stronger to protect communities in the future.

The bond proposal is also significantly cheaper than the $80 million discussed previously. The district lowered that number by including only the highest-priority projects. Among what it would pay for: 80,000 feet of new, larger pipes and two pump stations. The pump stations alone are $9 million each.

“We have been told that this street is red lined,” said Mike Schless, who understands the fire risk all too much. “That is to say, that in the event of a wildfire, the trucks won’t come down this street because of the fear of being trapped in a wildfire. That in combination with the unacceptably low water pressure in the hydrants.”

Schless has been hoping to see change for a while now. Their home is in a wooded area, and they have also witnessed two neighbors suffer house fires.

“As experienced homeowners, we obviously asked the right questions, but nobody, regardless of their experience, would think to ask are the fire hydrants on this street capable of putting out a fire?”

Schless says he hopes the bond proposal passes.

“We would certainly be willing to pay our share, absolutely,” he said. “It’s worth it to save this beautiful environment, to save our home for our safety and peace of mind, it’s absolutely worth that.”

For him there’s no price limit to protecting his home.

The water district has until the end of summer to work out the details of the bond, which they hope residents will vote on in November. They will be holding community meetings so residents can ask questions and learn more about the needed water upgrades.

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