October Word from the Chairman

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October 29, 2015
On behalf of the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, our Board of Directors, staff and countless volunteers, thank you for your membership and involvement. Your support is critical to our mission as an advocate for policies that directly benefit the business community. One of the areas that we are always working on is long-term infrastructure planning. On October 27, 2015, our Board of Directors voted to support two important investments in our future: the San Antonio Water System’s Vista Ridge Water Supply Project and the Lone Star Rail District’s LSTAR rail service.
 
Vista Ridge
The Vista Ridge Water Supply Project is a proposed pipeline to bring water from Burleson County to our community. Over the next thirty (30) years, the project would provide the largest non-Edwards Aquifer supply in San Antonio’s history. By 2020, the project would make up to 50,000 acre-feet available to SAWS for use by SAWS customers.  All of this water will be available at a set rate, allowing our community to grow with the certainty that the water will be there and be affordable in the future.
 
Paying for this project will require a rate adjustment that will increase rates for many SAWS customers. At our October Board meeting we received a briefing from SAWS on the necessity of this investment, the protections built into the agreement with the pipeline developer and the impact on rate payers. After the presentation and many questions for SAWS, our board voted to support the rate adjustment for the water supply project.
 
SAWS has entered into an agreement with a pipeline developer to provide the infrastructure and water. The Vista Ridge agreement mandates that SAWS only pays for the water that is made available. The expectation is that 50,000 acre-feet of water will be provided by the developer for a period of 30 years, after which time all of the infrastructure would be transferred to SAWS’ ownership. The agreement with the developer effectively transfers all project risks to the developer. Since the agreement has a fixed price to cover the raw water and infrastructure, any construction cost overruns will be the responsibility of the developer, not SAWS. The agreement has limited SAWS’ exposure to any financing risk and if the developer issues bonds at higher rates than contemplated in the agreement, the cost to SAWS will not change. The developer has also assumed all regulatory risk.
 
The North Chamber board believes this is an important investment in our water future with appropriate safeguards in place for SAWS customers.    
 
LSTAR        
On October 27, 2015 the North San Antonio Chamber Board of Directors was briefed on the status of the proposed LSTAR rail service that would start in south San Antonio and run along I-35 all the way to Georgetown. The Lone Star Rail District is also proposing a new freight line as part of the freight relocation project. The North Chamber supports both the LSTAR passenger line and the new freight line proposals.
 
Quick facts about the Lone Star Rail District and LSTAR:
  • 75-minute express service from downtown Austin to downtown San Antonio, with stops in San Marcos and New Braunfels.
  • Local service from Georgetown to the South Side of San Antonio with stops at all stations in between.
  • The LSTAR service will cover close to 120 miles, traveling in the existing Union Pacific right-of-way.
  • Up to 32 trains a day, including midday and evening service, seven days a week in each direction for commuters, students and other regional travelers.
  • Up to sixteen new stations in convenient locations with ample secure parking, comfortable waiting areas and connections to local transit.
  • Modern, safe, clean and comfortable passenger cars; amenities including wireless Internet access.
  • Service nearby to college and university campuses in Georgetown, Round Rock, Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio; employment centers such as the Domain and Port San Antonio; and the region’s top tourist and lifestyle destinations.
  • Lone Star Rail District is currently conducting engineering, environmental and station area studies; developing financing plans; and pursuing alternatives for freight rail relocation.  Once these tasks are completed, we’ll be ready to begin design and construction.
  • Lone Star Rail District is an independent public agency based in San Marcos. Its Board includes members from cities, counties, transit agencies, metropolitan planning organizations and business and community leaders.
Stay Involved
We offer many opportunities for you to join us at programs that will help you develop professionally, expand your business connections and learn about the latest local and national economic trends. We are your voice, and your participation makes the North Chamber a more effective advocate for our business members. Our many successes at the North Chamber this year are due to a great staff, hardworking volunteers, collaborative relationships with fellow chambers and the support of our business and institutional members.