City staff has been hard at work over the past month on a number of initiatives and updates to key services for residents. First, we are pleased to officially welcome a new team member to the city. Sharon Davis officially came on board in March as our utility billing manager. With this new hire, the city has begun the process of transitioning our utility billing from the third-party provider to performing this service in-house.
This shift will create new efficiencies while improving and ensuring the accuracy of billing for customers. Sharon comes to us from the city of Round Rock, where she led and oversaw the utility billing function for the city’s retail and wholesale accounts. While there, she was responsible for the billing of over 36,000 customers. In this short time, we have already benefited from her experience and skill set, as Sharon has already made significant progress in this transition.
The implementation of the new software is complete, and Sharon has already completed two billing cycles and is working on the third. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to set up the online payment portal on the website. We understand that checks may not be the most convenient option, so in the meantime, we do have the ability to draft the payment directly from your checking or savings account. If you would like to utilize that payment method, please contact Sharon at [email protected] or 512-327-1838 and she can assist you.
Summertime is an incredibly common time for leaks to appear on your water system. Leaks can be difficult to detect. Common culprits are automatic refills on pools, irrigation systems and toilets. If you suspect you have a leak, please reach out to our incredible Public Works crew at 512-327-1838 and they will help you. If you have a leak, there is also an opportunity for you to realize relief through the city’s utility billing adjustment program. Once the leak is repaired, present the invoice of the materials and/or the repair service performed, and we can make the adjustment. Please feel free to reach out to Sharon and she can assist you with the adjustment process.
While we have had a rainy summer, we ask that you please continue to conserve water. Rollingwood lies over the Edwards Aquifer, which is one of the most important water resources in Texas and serves as the primary source of drinking water for nearly 2 million Central Texans. The best way to protect this precious natural resource is to conserve. The city has adopted a Water Conservation and Drought Contingency Plan, which provides regulations around water usage. Rollingwood is in the Conservation Stage for water. The watering schedule and restrictions can be found on the City’s website at rollingwoodtx.gov/cityutilityservices/page/conservation-stage-watering-restriction-now-place. For other tips about water conservation, please visit our website at rollingwoodtx.gov/cityutilityservices/page/water-conservation-programs. We appreciate your efforts to protect the aquifer and the water supply.
In addition to our efforts related to improving utility billing, city staff has been hard at work to find resources to improve our aging and vulnerable infrastructure. Our city administrator is leading our application for American Rescue Plan funding. The American Rescue Plan – Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund provides funding to all municipalities and counties for a variety of purposes, but the council voted on July 21 to invest in our infrastructure. Once approved, the funding will be used for automating our lift stations for improved efficiency and operation, and for providing emergency power to avoid service interruptions. The remainder of the funding will be used to purchase and install electronic water meters.
I would like to again remind the community that we are continuing preparations in coordination with the Rollingwood Police Department ahead of of the ACL Festival, which is still scheduled to take place in Zilker Park the first two weekends of October. We will be issuing parking permits to residents to avoid any crowding on our streets during the festival. Please be on the lookout in your mail for the permits for you and your guests. We will also have additional patrol officers on duty during the event, and we will once again provide a safe drop-off and pick-up point for ACL attendees at Rollingwood Drive and Vale Street.
ACL is not the only special event in Zilker Park that has a significant impact on our residents. Blues on the Green, Trail of Lights and the Kite Festival, as well as drop-in use at Zilker Park, has brought an increasing number of visitors to the park. When patrons leave the park, a significant portion tend to exit onto Stratford Drive and cut through Rollingwood to avoid the long wait time at the light on Stratford and Barton Springs Road. The volume of patrons that the park attracts causes bumper-to-bumper traffic in Rollingwood, and our small city is not equipped to handle this amount and type of traffic.
This traffic and consistent congestion place our residents in danger as EMS, fire and police are unable to respond to emergencies in a timely manner. Furthermore, traffic is often so severe that residents are unable to leave their homes as a result of blocked driveways and, many times on the weekends, these conditions last for hours. In an effort to protect the health and safety of both lives and property of our residents, the City Council, in cooperation with the city of Austin, has taken action to prohibit the left turn on Paige/Riley Road from Stratford Drive. Drivers will be able to turn right and left onto Stratford from Paige/Riley. This project is under design, and we expect the improvements to be complete in the very near future.
As the end of summer and the return to school approaches, we are once again facing a steady and significant increase in new hospital admissions due to COVID-19, and Austin-Travis County has moved back into Stage 5 risk-based guidelines. The city of Rollingwood is unable to require anyone to wear a mask, but given current conditions, we encourage all residents to avoid non-essential activities and, when needed, to wear face coverings indoors to help stop the virus from spreading. We also want to urge the community to continue following recommended health and safety guidelines, including washing your hands often, staying home if you feel sick and getting vaccinated.
These are just a few examples of the many ways we are working to provide excellent services that enhance the quality of life for our residents. As always, if you have any questions or feedback regarding city operations, initiatives, I encourage you to reach out to me at [email protected] or to Amber Lewis, our city administrator, at [email protected].
Mike Dyson is the mayor of Rollingwood.