MNA General Meeting Minutes, February 16, 2019

MNA Secretary Meeting/Meeting Minutes

Location: Seton Administrative Building Date: Saturday, February 16, 2019 Time: 10AM to 11AM, ~50 attendees


*Snacks & Socializing (15 mins)                                                                                                                            

  1. Call to Order [John]
  2. Notice of previous general meeting minutes [Alison Raffalovich] – have been posted on Mueller
  3. Pecan Street – Suzanne Russo, CEO: Unlocking the Energy-Water Nexus. Pecan Street is a 501c3 with headquarters located on Antone at Berkman.  It collects information on how volunteers in the neighborhood use energy and water, anonymizing the collective data and creating a daily profile of energy usage. It’s made available to 2500 academic researchers in 60 countries at no charge so universities can help us understand how to optimize resource management.  33% of carbon emissions in the U.S. come from personal transportation and energy used in homes, and that’s where Pecan Street is focused.

Pecan Street looks at how to reduce peak demand for coal- and natural gas-generated energy by better using renewables such as solar.  They are exploring how to unlock and harness Electric Vehicle loads to be more flexible, deferring recharging from peak times.

Carnegie Mellon University researchers applied machine learning algorithms to Pecan data from Mueller, using time-of-day electricity usage data to predict morning traffic congestion.  Then they sorted usage into four categories: always on, thermal, electric-gas substitute, and intentional, which could help create efficiency programs and behavioral education to shift energy usage to better leverage renewable sources like West Texas wind (which is abundant at night) by, for example, setting your electric car to recharge at night.

In recent years, Pecan Street began applying their data-driven analytic model developed for energy usage to understanding water usage. Water utilities tend to be smaller and more poorly funded than energy utilities.  Texas provided a $4 million grant to Pecan Street to collect data on water, starting with 200 homes in Mueller using Pecan Street’s Blue System.  A typical home uses 98 gallons in one day, peaking around 8-9 a.m. and again at 7 p.m. Programming outdoor sprinkler systems to use less water as well as stopping toilet leaks are easy ways to dramatically reduce usage.  Pecan Street is trying to make the case to energy utilities to provide rebates to consumers who change behavior to reduce water usage in ways that also reduce energy usage.

Pecan Street hosts open houses periodically for neighbors and always welcomes new households to sign up.  They look for owner-occupied homes where residents are willing to commit to two years or longer of participation. Pecan Street will install a system in your circuit panel to monitor electricity usage, and you can monitor your data through an online portal and mobile app.  The water monitor goes onto your meter along with a box on one of your electrical outlets.

Pecan Street is now assessing tapping electricity from electric vehicle (EV) batteries to feed the grid during peak hours (in addition to charging the EV at off-hours).

The e-Shuttle service in Mueller was a joint project between Capital Metro and Pecan Street to explore how to solve the “last mile” problem – when people must walk more than ¼ mile to get to a bus stop. In parts of Austin residents may have to walk as much as a mile or more to the nearest bus stop. Using a research grant, the e-Shuttle tried different operating models and pricing models.  While the shuttle was used by many people during the trial phase, area Mueller businesses have not expressed a willingness to invest to fund continuing operation. Pecan Street is now exploring providing a driverless vehicle on a fixed route but it’s still early in the process.  This would be the first automated public shuttle, and it would be more affordable than paying operators of standard electric shuttles to staff it with drivers.

  1. Transportation Update [April Geruso] – April chairs the Transportation and Urban Planning (TUP) committee and is excited as a new member of the Steering Committee to better understand the various MNA committees and their role and contributions. April works in emergency management currently but her background is urban planning.  Andrew Clements, the former TUP chair, has provided great transition support.  In the last year the TUP has been a voice for the Mueller community on transit and safety, weighing in with Cap Metro and the city on light rail, I-35 expansion options, Project Connect, advocating our view on bus line connections, and acting as a positive force for bike-friendly planning and for preserving green space.

The TUP also influenced and changed the city plans for Zach Scott Street reconfiguration. 2019 priorities are aligned with the committee mission documents, and themes for the year include: keeping neighbors informed on relevant activities, including why Mueller has such good design and what’s unique about it; be an advocate to Catellus, the city and other entities on behalf of Mueller neighbors; and continue engaging with the community to give neighbors the opportunity to interact.  Next week April will attend the Catellus Transportation Group meeting to introduce herself as the TUP chair and hopefully build a bridge to represent Mueller neighbors there.  TUP also hopes to poll the neighborhood on relevant priorities, building off the survey the Steering Committee did in 2018. TUP will also build on existing linkages with PIAC, pursue engagement with Pecan Street, promote bike lanes and walkability in Mueller and adjacent neighborhoods, weigh in on I-35, updating bus maps with Cap Metro and possibly creating walkability maps. TUP may also work with area businesses to explore how to better support people getting to work without using personal cars. The Committee also wants to communicate Mueller’s founding principles, particularly to newer neighbors, so people understand the unique urban planning behind the neighborhood. They may also organize bike adventures and look for ways to engage kids with bikes. If you’d like to get engaged, TUP meets the first Tuesday of every second month, so the next meeting is April 2 at 7 p.m.  Mail [email protected] to get involved.

  1. Membership/ Block Captain Recruiting [Alison Raffalovich] – Along with Maria Salas, Alison co-chairs the Neighborhood Engagement Committee, which works to educate neighbors on the role of the MNA, encourage membership and invite neighbors to get more involved in networking and community opportunities in Mueller. Volunteers are welcome to block-walk with Membership Committee members to educate neighbors on the MNA, recruit new members and recruit block captains on blocks where there is no current block captain. The next block walk is this afternoon at 2, and there will be future ones as well. A block walk in late 2018 netted three new block captains and nearly 20 new MNA members. The Steering Committee is looking for co-chairs for the Spring Egg Scramble scheduled for April 20; Joan Quenan and Sherri Taylor agreed to serve as co-chairs this year.
  2. Local Business Spotlight [PreFix] – hires primarily military veterans who come to your home twice a year to proactively maintain your washer, dryer, dishwasher, HVAC, hot water heater and smoke alarms. Any maintenance during the year can be addressed as well with a $30 copay. They pass through expenses at cost, and the typical subscription cost is about $40/month. PreFix has been in Mueller for about 4 years and collaborates with Pecan Street to enhance energy and water savings by identifying and repairing toilet leaks, keeping HVAC and dryer filters clean, and flushing sediment out of hot water heaters.  New subscribers get the first two months free.  PreFix is a new MNA business sponsor.
  3. Announcements [Open] – Sherri Taylor volunteers with Capital IDEA, which provides free tuition, textbooks, bus passes and child care to low-income people to pursue a college degree. You can sign up at their office at the ACC Highland campus (or online at They are looking for mentors who have college degrees to support these students’ success.  Every Friday at noon there’s also a singalong in the basement of Building 400 at Highland as an extension of the Lions Club.  Sherri is also helping to recruit volunteers with Travis County to encourage voter registration.  As a member of the Texas State Guard, Sherri and her peers are active in civic involvement.  At Hyde Park Church on Speedway on Thursdays from 9:30-noon, Friendship International volunteers provide companionship for spouses or family members of international professors who feel isolated here to build bridges and welcome them; she would like to welcome Mueller neighbors to participate.
  4. Treasurer’s Report – Penny Brandt – Please see the attached January 2019 Treasurer’s Report.
  5. POA update, Joe Freeland – On February 20 from 5-7 at 51 Aldrich, Associa is hosting a row home residents meeting to discuss insurance. The MNA may look at providing another session later to discuss row home resident concerns if that appears to be warranted. The Master Board is appointing a formal Transition Committee with 3 Catellus members, 2 row home members, 2 yard home members, a MNA appointee, the Mixed Use Board, and a few others, hopefully including PIAC and/or the city. They plan to have an organizational meeting in May and first meeting in June.

Steering Committee Meeting 3/6 7PM @ Aldrich 51

General Meeting 3/16 10AM @ Seton Administration

Respectfully submitted 2/25/2019,

Alison Raffalovich, Secretary