Lakeway Municipal Utility District (LMUD) has continued to move forward in their efforts to bring a much needed public sewer system to the first 17 sections of Lakeway, an area currently dominated by aging septic systems. Dubbed the “Out of District Wastewater (ODWW) Project,” the Project aims to offer the option to over 1,000 Lakeway property owners to connect to the public sewer system, which will be made available to the impacted area over the next six years.
Currently, the Project is still in its preliminary stages, with connections only being offered to property owners with a failed septic system or new construction at a property near an existing LMUD sewer line for an additional upfront fee. Earl Foster, General Manager of LMUD, said, “We have currently connected about 30 properties as part of our early connection option, starting in January 2018. We have another approximately 30 waiting to be connected with a list that is always growing. We are doing our best to accommodate everyone while staying on track with our Project’s timeline and budget.”
While most of the work is being performed by LMUD staff, a critical component of extending LMUD’s sewer system to the impacted area is being outsourced to a qualified contractor. An Invitation for Bid notice for the construction of a lift station, force main, and improvements to the S-5 Water Recycling Plant was published in the February 20 and 27 editions of the Lake Travis View as is required by the Texas Water Code. A mandatory pre-bid conference was held March 3 at the LMUD office for all contractors interested in bidding, followed by a tour of the affected sites. The bid was closed on March 10 and the winning bidder was approved at a special Board of Directors meeting held March 18. The winning bidder, Austin Engineering Company, Inc., was awarded based on an evaluation of the three provided bids and due-diligence vetting of each bid by Christianne Castleberry, LMUD’s engineer in accordance with the Texas Water Code, concluding their bid provided the “best value” based on “price, experience and reputation, past performance and quality of work, personnel to be assigned to the project, and methodology.” Austin Engineering was the No. 2 bidder for $4.589 million with a difference of less than 1 percent (0.6%) from the lowest bid. Representatives from the participating bidders attended the March 18 Board meeting, including Travis Keller, Vice President of Austin Engineering. Keller stated, “I’m here twofold: one, to stand behind Austin Engineering’s bid and our commitment to finishing a good project and also as a citizen of Lakeway, I have a vested interest in this project to have it be successful.”
“This is a key point getting this contract awarded…Once this is complete, then we will be able to start connecting the front nine and back nine on the Live Oak golf course [Phase 1 properties] and get them connected to the sewer system we installed. …this contract is about 10 months so this pushes the project out about 5 months before we can start connecting people.”
– Earl Foster, General Manger, LMUD
The bid was originally scheduled to be awarded during the regular March 11 Board meeting, however the agenda item was pulled for further vetting prior to a decision being made. This bid contract marked an important milestone for the continuation of the Project. At the March 11 meeting, Foster said, “This is a key point getting this contract awarded…Once this is complete, then we will be able to start connecting the front nine and back nine on the Live Oak golf course [Phase 1 properties] and get them connected to the sewer system we installed. …this contract is about 10 months so this pushes the project out about 5 months before we can start connecting people.”
With the contract now in place, final agreements need to be signed before preliminary work on the bided portion of the Project can begin. The Project Timeline has been updated to reflect the anticipated completion date of this work, pushing the start date for Phase 1 connections from May 2020 to October 2020. Phase 1, which encompasses approximately 330 properties – including many condos and duplex units – around the Live Oak golf course is expected to take approximately 1 year to complete.
“When we sent out a survey in early 2018 to the affected property owners, 80 percent said they would be interested in connecting, so we’re basing our timeline on that connection rate,” Foster said. Phase 2, which includes everyone else in the first 17 sections of Lakeway, encompasses approximately 700 additional potential connections and is expected to take three to five years to complete.
Stephanie Threinen, LMUD Public Information Liaison said, “Phase 2 will begin after we finish connecting the Phase 1 property owners who opt in. We anticipate handling Phase 2 on a more reactionary basis than with Phase 1 because of No. 1, its size: there are three times the number of potential connections, and No. 2: how it’s spread out. With Phase 1, we just follow the golf course; Phase 2 is spread out in all directions. We will have a more concrete plan for Phase 2 once we get closer to the completion of Phase 1.”
LMUD’s field team, led by Field Department Supervisor Tommy Farrell and Assistance Supervisor Chris Galvan, have been working long hours to get as much of the main line installed as possible to stay on schedule. “We always have interruptions,” said Farrell. “Weather is a constant battle as well as the terrain. We’ve been successful at avoiding utility lines, mainly cable and internet, by marking them beforehand, but it’s been mindboggling the way they are run back and forth all over the place!”
This same field team is also responsible for handling the early connection requests for failed septic systems and new construction as well as the ongoing maintenance and repairs to the LMUD water and wastewater distribution systems and customer requests. “I’m proud of our team,” said Galvan. “The majority of our guys are fairly new to this type of work, but they’re learning quickly and take their work seriously.”
The onset of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Travis County is yet another challenge to overcome, but LMUD set precautionary measures early on and will implement emergency measures as needed. “We already have redundancy in place with operators able to fulfill multiple roles and teams are split into smaller groups, so we expect our operations to continue as normal throughout this pandemic,” Foster said. More information about how LMUD is prepared for COVID-19 can be found here.
To date, the ODWW Project main sewer lines for Phase 1 are over 50 percent complete. This includes the main lines run, prior to the Project update post from October 2019 around the first eight holes of the Live Oak golf course, plus around Porpoise and behind the homes on Dragon, connecting the lines on Flamingo with Phase 1. “If you look at the project map for Phase 1, it looks like we still have a lot of work to do, but the back nine require limited lines that need to be run, since most of those properties can be serviced using existing lines outside of the Project’s coverage area,” Foster said. “Our field team will be working on main lines while Austin Engineering is building the lift station, so we’re confident all the pieces will come together to connect as soon as the lift station and force main are complete. Stephanie will continue to keep customers updated as we begin construction near their property. We also encourage customers to call us if they have any questions or concerns.”
Property owners will need to sign a Contract for Installation as well as an updated Service Contract prior to connection. “There has been a lot of confusion from some property owners who filled out the survey back in 2018 thinking that was their contract,” Threinen said. “This was only a survey to help us decide if there was enough interest for us to move forward with the Project. We had previously announced that I would start reaching out to Phase 1 property owners in February 2020 to have them complete this paperwork, however, with the shifted timeline, we’re waiting until closer to the end of the year to prevent a situation where owners sell the property prior to connection, creating double paperwork as the new owners move in. I’ll keep property owners updated as we move forward. No one will be left behind; I’ll make sure to connect with each owner by phone or e-mail before we start making connections in their area.”
LMUD plans to host another public meeting (similar to the last one held in May 2019) once the ban on social gatherings is lifted.
Connecting to this new public sewer system remains optional for all property owners; owners who are content with staying on their existing septic system (also known as “on-site sewage facilities”, OSSFs) are able to do so, however remain under the regulatory control of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).
More information about the ODWW Project can be found here:
Questions or comments can be directed to Stephanie Threinen, LMUD Public Information Liaison:
(512) 261-6222 ext. 175 or firstname.lastname@example.org