Austin Water recommends increased staffing and software upgrades after citywide boil notice

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A recent city memo outlines a proposed plan to either provide Austin Water customers with bill credits for February boil water notices or use funds to increase staffing at the utility in an effort to prevent The city-wide boiling water notices reappeared.

Greg Meszaros, the resigned AW director, sent the memo to the mayor and city council members on Tuesday.

In it, he said the one-time bill credits ranged from $10 per person for residents to $75 per person for multifamily customers — a total of more than $3.8 million for all customers in the system.

  • Residential $10
  • Multifamily CAP (Customer Assistance Program) $10
  • Multifamily $75
  • Business $50

In lieu of rebates, Meszaros outlined another option of adding at least 16 staff to help oversee all of the city’s water treatment plants and investing in improving the utility’s software. According to the memo, it will cost about $3.3 million.

Twelve positions will be used to increase core personnel, including supervisors and plant technicians. According to the memo, these roles will ensure 24/7 on-site staffing coverage and overlap between shifts.

Enhance core staffing

  • (2) Austin Water Operations and Maintenance Supervisor – Provides Overlap
    Plant operators are supervised from day to night shifts.
  • (5) Austin Water Operations and Maintenance Plant Technician – Builds Enhanced
    Operator site 24/7 coverage.
  • (5) Austin Water Operations and Maintenance Plant Technician – Builds Enhanced
    On-site day shift maintenance.

There will be four positions for support staff, including a process engineer and trainer.

Enhanced support staffing

  • (1) Austin Water Process Engineer – establishes additional site engineering access
    and regulatory support.
  • (3) Advanced Certified Trainer – Creates and manages plant-specific job aids, on-the-job training, and other resources for operators, located in primary processing facilities.

As for updating the utility’s software, the proposal calls for the development of electronic employee training materials with detailed flowcharts/instructions of day-to-day tasks, as well as a detailed outline of “all standard operating procedures down to the procedural level,” the memo said.

Meszaros wrote that the utility advised leaders to opt for plans to increase staffing and improve AW software over bill credits, saying it “will strengthen the operational resiliency of our water plants and reduce the risk of future operational disruptions.”

As for the next steps in the process, the memo says AW will submit these recommendations to the Austin Water Oversight Board on March 31. Afterwards, the AW said it could help develop a request for council action for council members to consider in April.

It all stems from a resolution approved by the city council earlier this month that directed city managers to study two possible responses to the February citywide boiling water notice: a potential one-time rebate for all Austin Water customers or hundreds of million dollar improvement.

Robert Goode has been appointed interim director of Austin Water following the resignation of former director Greg Meszaros.  (Austin City Photo)
Robert Goode has been appointed interim director of Austin Water following the resignation of former director Greg Meszaros. (Austin City Photo)

Whichever plan the city council and AW leaders choose, AW’s new interim director, Robert Goode, could roll it out. He was appointed by city manager Spencer Cronk and will begin his new role on April 11, the city said. He has been with the city for 10 years, providing leadership and oversight for various departments including AW and Public Works.

Meszaros’ resignation follows a review of February’s boil-off notice, the city’s third in the past four years. His last day will be April 8, according to the city, but he will still be around to help with the transition. He has been with AW for 15 years.

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