Whether it’s continuing to preserve the character and feel of Georgetown while adapting to growth, or simply grabbing a cup of coffee with a concerned citizen, Jake French wants to build on the momentum he has created over the first two years of his term on the City Council.
One of the best parts of the job, he says, has been getting to talk with constituents, from HOA presidents to residents interested in the future development of the airport or trail systems. “Hearing from a wide variety of citizens and constituents has been fun. Getting to know people and having the opportunity to represent their concerns–specifically regarding council decisions–has been interesting and an honor.”
Keeping his constituents informed has been and will continue to be a priority for Councilman French, who has already hosted two town halls and many one-on-ones over coffee. “That aspect of transparency and responsiveness to my constituents is really important to me.”
Also high on his priority list are challenges related to water capacity, public safety, and preservation of Georgetown’s unique look and feel. He says, “We have a unique ethos in the greater Austin area. I’m very interested in preserving that for new residents and future generations as we continue to experience and provide for the growth of people moving here.”
Georgetown has two projects in the works to ensure our growing city will continue to have sufficient water supply. The North Lake Water Treatment Plant is currently undergoing an 8.8 million-gallon-per-day expansion that is expected to come online in summer 2023. The second, the South Lake Water Treatment Plant, broke ground last year with planned construction completion in two phases in 2025-2026. Water Services Director Chelsea Solomon says, “With the addition of this new plant, we will be doubling our total daily capacity, from 44 million gallons of daily treated water availability to 93.9 million gallons.” City Council is also assessing water and wastewater impact fees, which are “vital to ensure growth continues to pay for itself and help cover the associated costs of capacity expansion projects.”
The city is also evaluating various strategies to increase water supply in the future, including aquifer storage and recovery, expanded use of reclaimed water, increased water ordinance enforcement to lower water waste, and divestment of some of its water service area to other water utilities. “I look forward to being part of the solution to [the water supply challenge],” Councilman French says.
He also wants to make sure Georgetown continues to be a safe place to live, especially after being named the fastest growing city in the country in 2022. Georgetown Police Chief Cory Tchida says, “That unprecedented growth does require the city and my department to be proactive about maintaining Georgetown as a safe place to live, work, and play.”
Chief Tchida and his team are working on several public safety initiatives, including funding for eight new officers in their FY 22/23 budget. They are also adding a K9 unit, which the department has not had for at least a decade, and will continue the Lock it Down Georgetown Campaign designed to reduce vehicle burglaries via awareness and public education.
The department will also implement principles and practices in collaboration with the One Mind Campaign, an international initiative that calls on law enforcement agencies to take steps to improve their response to people with mental health conditions. Georgetown PD has pledged to continue strong relationships with local mental health organizations and ensure all officers receive mental health awareness training.
HEART OF GEORGETOWN
When it comes to the downtown—the heart of Georgetown and most of his district—Councilman French is committed to preserving the community gem that draws residents and visitors from all over. He and other council members are working on an update to the Downtown Master Plan (last updated in 2014), the guiding document for the 40-block area around the Square known as the Downtown Overlay District. Downtown and Tourism Director Kim McAuliffe says, “Through concentrated efforts and careful planning, the heart of Georgetown continues to improve and thrive, and grows more each year into the bustling city center it was intended to be.”
Councilman French says the plan update is “absolutely critical for the future feel of downtown Georgetown in my district.” It will involve opportunities for input from key stakeholders and the public as well as coordination with other projects, including the Austin Avenue pedestrian bridges, Austin Avenue Corridor Study, and Unified Development Code Update. The Downtown Master Plan update “will take place over the next 14 months and will serve our community for many years to come,” Kim says.