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Council Wrap: 24-hour trail patrol canceled; new vehicles approved for APD

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TWC News: Council Wrap: 24-hour trail patrol canceled; new vehicles approved for APD
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24-hour trail patrol ends

The pilot program for 24-hour access to Austin's trails is ending. Police say they only found 10 cyclists using the trails overnight.

Starting Nov. 4, 10 p.m. curfews will return to three Austin trails, including the Roy and Ann Butler Trail along Lady Bird Lake.

A big concern came after police officials suggested moving several of its district representatives to trail patrol duties full-time. Families say those officers are crucial to fighting crime in their neighborhoods.

Even cycling advocates admit the heavy focus on patrolling trails didn't make sense.

"We don't patrol every street every night; why do we have to patrol our trails every night? We know that we use our transit system at a certain risk to ourselves,” Austin resident Roy Waley said. “The same is true of our trails."

The trails have been open to cyclists only after 10 p.m. since early March. Austin police estimated it would cost more than $1 million a year to have officers dedicated to patrolling the trails around the clock.

New vehicles for the Austin Police Department, local EMS

Austin's police force is getting another round of new rides.

Officials with APD are buying 140 new Ford Explorers and 50 Ford sedans.

The vehicles will replace many Crown Victoria police cruisers that are nearing the end of their life span. It will also add enough patrol cars to make up for the additional officers the department plans to hire this year.

City leaders say the new SUVs and sedans can run on E-85 fuel, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent.

The price tag for the new cars is $5.5 million.

Austin-Travis County EMS are also getting a few new rides. The Austin City Council approved spending $2.5 million on 15 new ambulances.

Nine of them will be additions to the fleet, while another six will replace older vehicles. This also allows EMS to have 21 ambulances on reserve in case there's a major disaster or if neighboring agencies need to rent an ambulance.

New solar goals for Austin Energy

City leaders are raising the stakes on Austin Energy's solar goals.

Advocates want the utility to get half of its solar power from local panels, which means Austin Energy will have to find 100 megawatts of solar energy from local rooftops and solar farms by 2020.

"We need to be able to show the commitment that we have to local solar, so we will be able to really help the ecosystem and take advantage of the tax credits that are out there," Council Member Laura Morrison said.

Right now, the utility is about halfway to that goal.

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