P&Z Commissioners safe, future for roosters uncertain

By KATE LUDLOW

Four members of the Planning and Zoning Commission get to keep their jobs for now, but roosters inside the city boundaries could soon be off limits as a result of action by the City Council.

The Council discussed the Police Department, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and an animal ordinance during its regular meeting Monday.

The Council took no action to restructure the Liberty Hill Police Department, but discussed various options that could mean big changes in the future. City Manager Manuel De La Rosa informed the Council that they might “lose an officer to another agency” in the coming weeks and urged the Council to think about whether they wanted to keep that position unfilled, and possibly restructure the number of officers who work for the department, or whether they wanted to look into immediately filling the position.

In a switch from previous discussions, Council member Jack Harkrider backed off his previous position to remove three unnamed members of the Planning and Zoning Commission if they had not voluntarily resigned by this week.

“I’ve had an opportunity to talk with people about this and even though I voted to do this at the last meeting, I really have been sort of uncomfortable with it and I will admit that,” he said. “I think there are other ways to handle this, and one of them is that I would like to ask either Byron (Tippie) or Mike (Crane), whichever one of you want to do this, the two of us meet with the Planning and Zoning Commission and discuss this, and see if we can’t iron this out.”

Harkrider added that he thinks the members in question “have business acumen that will actually help us out.”

Mayor Michele “Mike” Murphy was the only member of the Council to add a comment.

“I’m not going to argue with you, I just would like to say one thing. It’s very hard to get any business done when you have four curmudgeons on a seven-person panel,” she said.

Before Harkrider could reply, the Mayor interrupted that “No, we’re not going to discuss this.” Harkrider then moved that no action be taken.

At their meeting Feb. 27, the Council discussed removal of three appointees as a result of a recommendation by De La Rosa. The Manager would not name them in the public meeting, but said “it’s no secret about what’s been going on. There have been lots of negative comments from this body, unacceptable behavior, conflicts of interest have been reported and they should not have voted.”

De La Rosa’s recommendation at that time was met with opposition from Council members Tippie and Crane.

In other business this week, the Council voted unanimously after a brief presentation from Greg Evans and Debra Soja of the Parks and Recreation Board, to authorize the purchase of playground equipment from PlayWorks, Inc., in the amount of $29,746.13 to be installed at City Park on CR 200.

De La Rosa said the City is able to purchase the playground at a discounted rate through Williamson County’s BuyBoard Purchasing Cooperative account.

The purchase is funded by monies obtained through a grant from Williamson County.

Harkrider also moved to take no action on future Town Hall meetings.

“In talking with some people, it’s  come to my attention that this possibly could be construed as a way to let the incumbents, the people incumbent on the council who are running for re-election have sort of a platform that would be denied to their opponents,” he said. “So, at this time I’d like to take no action regarding the Town Hall meeting. I will bring it up after the election comes to an end.”

Mayor Murphy had a progress report on a proposed ordinance regulating animals within the city limits. Though Mayor Murphy noted that she was still awaiting the input of some fellow council members, she gave a hint at a possible outcome.

“We’re pretty sure the roosters won’t make it,” she said.

At the Council’s meeting in February, residents appealed for changes to the ordinance after two anonymous complaints were lodged with the City regarding the number of chickens and goats that were being kept as pets.

Also on Monday, the Council voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Parks Board member Clay Cole. Cole, who also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Liberty Hill Independent School District, sent an email earlier in the week tendering his resignation, but did not state his reasons for leaving the Board. Though it was accepted unanimously, two Council members expressed their disappointment.

Deputy City Secretary Rachel Austin informed the Council of minor changes to the City’s investment policy. Though the City currently has no investments, state law required the review.

City Engineer Jim Cummins presented a change order for the city wastewater collection system. According to City Manager De La Rosa, an agreement was reached with James Hanley, caretaker of the Smith Cemetery, the site where an easement was needed. Modifications were needed to the original plan in the amount of $12,753.99. Despite the increase in costs, Cummins said there is still “a substantial amount of contingency money,” and noted that the project was still on course to stay within budget.

During the City Manager’s report, De La Rosa said that he had received a letter from the Liberty Hill Independent School District, and that he would be scheduling a meeting with the district’s attorneys and engineers, as well as the City’s legal and engineering consultants.

“I think I can come up with a solution that will hopefully move this forward and we can all go back about our business,” De La Rosa said.

The Mayor said in her report that she had been in discussion with Clawson Disposal to schedule a spring city clean up day.

“We’re going to do it a little bit different this year if we can manage it. We’re going to have curbside pickup. They know it’s going to take a lot of trucks to do this, because they know it’s going to be a big deal,” she said. “At the same time, we’ve never been able to throw away paints, oils, antifreeze, batteries, and there’s a program….that Clawson is going to do all the paperwork for….we’ll still have dumpsters. We’re also going to have a station there, it’s called a BOPAF station, and it’s for batteries, oils, paints, now that doesn’t mean varnishes….you’ll find out more about this in the future.”

Prior to convening the regular Council meeting, candidates for City Council met to draw for places on the May 12 city election ballot.

In the Special Election for Place 5,  Jim Wofford, who filed just before the deadline Monday, will be listed fourth behind Liz Rundzieher, Sammy Pruett and Liz Branigan.

For Mayor, candidates are Jamie Williamson and Jack Harkrider. For Place 2, Vicki Brewer, Michele “Mike” Murphy and Della Hodgson. For Place 4, Wendell McLeod, Charles Canady and Carrie Van Meeteren.