Council bans outdoor watering

By Joseph Garcia

With the first week of recorded triple-digit temperatures on the books and the unlikelihood of rain in the forecast, the Liberty Hill City Council voted 4-1 Monday to implement a no watering restriction until further notice.

Councilman Wendell McLeod voted no.

City Utility Supervisor Brian Kirk said the City’s wells were tested and two of them are already showing signs of stress. He recommended to the Council to immediately implement a no watering restriction in Liberty Hill.

“We’ve been testing our wells every week,” Kirk said. “This week when we did our testing, which was today, we had two wells (No. 2 and No. 3) that were cavitating, which means that they were still producing water but they were also sucking a lot of air. I would like you all to consider going to mandatory no watering. With those two wells already doing that, 100 degree heat just hit and we know there’s not going to be any relief until September and there is no rain in the forecast.”

Kirk said that since the last meeting two weeks ago all five wells have dropped by seven feet.

In hopes of extending the life of four of Liberty Hill’s water pumps (2-5) due to low aquifer levels, the Council voted unanimously to upgrade them with manually adjustable variable frequency drives (VFDs) so that the wells may run at reduced flow rates based on well levels.

Right now the well pumps are either on or off. This system will allow the City to manually reduce flow at anytime.

Out of the five contractors that bid on the project in August 2011, the Council voted to go with T. Morales Company out of Florence who quoted the City with the lowest price at $29,000.

The decision to upgrade the wells with VFDs was included on the same agenda item the Council voted (4-1) to implement the no watering stage.

Other bids were from AWC Inc. from Austin with $30,212; Five Star Electric Motors, Inc from San Antonio with $29,316; Lloyd Linaham (Eaton Corporation) from Austin with $38,774.67 and TraC~n~trol from Georgetown with a bid of $35,000.

City Engineer Perry Steger explained to the Council about the bidding process and exactly what functions the VFDs will serve.

“We actually got very competitive quotes on this project,” Steger said. “(The VFDs) will slow down the well pumps. If we can turn the wells down with these variable frequency drives so they are slower to match the run just slightly slower than the amount of water flowing in, we can run these wells 24 hours a day without pulling them down when they are sucking air. And so we reduce the risk of damaging the pumps and motors and we increase the wells’ capacity.”

Lead time for the project to be complete is still yet to be determined. But officials believe the project could be completed with expediency since T. Morales was eager to begin months ago and the contract states that no money shall change hands until completion.

In other business, the Council voted 5-0 to repeal resolution 11-R-11 which outlined the rules for placing items on a City Council agenda.

The Council found that due to updated staffing resources the resolution no longer provides a workable solution.

Now a City Council member, the Mayor, City Secretary or department heads may place no more than three items for consideration on any City Council agenda for consideration. And the City Engineer and City Attorney do not have any restrictions on the dumber of items that they may place on a City agenda.

Previously, only a City Council member, Mayor and the City Secretary were allowed to place up to two items on a meeting agenda.

Also on Monday, Deputy City Secretary Rachel Austin’s letter of resignation was accepted by the Council. Mrs. Austin will now join former City Manager Manual De La Rosa in Jonestown as she was hired for the City Secretary position.

The City Council also voted unanimously on Monday to send City Utility Supervisor Kirk to training classes to obtain a Class-D water operator license.

“Part of our employee manual states that occasionally we have the need to send employees to training,” said Mayor Williamson. “Mr. Kirk has found a class for water that is held in Cedar Park in September. I would like for you all to authorize that training for him as part of his job.”

At the regularly scheduled meeting on July 23, in which representatives from LCRA and the PEC will be in attendance, the City Council agreed to hold a brainstorming session to plan on the future direction the City needs to take.

“LCRA and PEC are coming to the July 23 meeting to discuss the comprehensive master plan and we have the opportunity to incorporate (this brainstorming agenda item) in that (meeting),” Mayor Williamson said.

Before business was conducted on Monday, former Councilmember Jack Harkrider was presented with the Community Builders Award by the Liberty Hill Masonic Lodge No. 432.

Mason Worshipful Master Floyd E. Ward Jr. presented the award to Harkrider. He said the award is for non-Masons who have distinguished themselves through service to their community, to local, state and national government, to their church or synagogue or to humanity.

“This award is made available to Masons to be presented to individuals who although they have never been initiated into Masonry have followed the same precepts, ideals and standards that have been established for Masonic behavior,” said Ward. “Masonic lodges are encouraged to seek out men and women who year in and year out, quietly and without fanfare show their devotion to the community and its people without the expectation of awards or honors. Liberty Hill Lodge is pleased to have found such an individual here in Liberty Hill.”

Once all regular agenda items were discussed, the Council moved into an executive session that lasted 81 minutes to discuss retroactive pay to former City Manager De La Rosa; current Councilmember McLeod’s claim for benefits after being fired from city employment in December 2011, as well as personnel matters that included Water Systems Assistant Mary Ann McLeod (who is married to Councilman McLeod), Police Officer J.B. Montie, Municipal Deputy Court Clerk Jodee Wells and overall evaluation of all City Hall staff.

However, when the Council reconvened, the only action that was taken was to extend Clerk Wells’ hours to 40 per week. The Council voted 5-0.

Finally, Mayor Williamson publically thanked Councilman McLeod for his assistance on fixing two water leaks last week.

After roll call to begin the meeting, the invocation was scheduled to be delivered by Liberty Hill United Methodist Church Pastor Randall Hilburn, but he was not in attendance. Instead Mayor Pro Tem Mike Crane said a short prayer for the Council to make the correct decisions for the City.

The Liberty Hill City Council’s next regular meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 9.