By SHELLY WILKISON
Engineers and attorneys for the City of Liberty Hill are preparing an official response to a report by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that city wells are not producing enough water for its customers.
An inspection by state agency officials recently showed the city fell short of producing the minimum standard of gallons per water connection.
Engineer Perry Steger of Steger Bizzel in Georgetown told the City Council during its regular meeting Monday that he believes the state did not take into consideration the severe drought of the past two years and its impact on the city water supply.
He said in the City’s response to the charges, a document that must be submitted to TCEQ in December, he plans to explain how the drought impacted Liberty Hill and show the steps taken to increase the water supply by building two additional wells that are expected to come online before the end of the year.
Utility Superintendent Brian Kirk said water levels in the City’s five existing wells are “holding their own” and there has been no significant increase or decrease in recent weeks. Additional rainfall will help, he said.
Kirk added that sewer construction in will be complete by mid-December, which he said is two to three weeks ahead of schedule.
With Council members Mike Crane and Sammy Pruett absent Monday, the Council met with the City’s attorney, Steger and Kirk for about 20 minutes in executive session to discuss a possible contract for the purchase of water from the City of Leander. When the Council reconvened in open meeting, there was no public discussion on the matter and no action was taken.
By a unanimous vote, the Council adopted an ordinance for a Drought Contingency Plan.
Mayor Jamie Williamson explained that the state requires such a plan and the plan currently in place was part of the tariff of the Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp. The City took over the LHWSC in 2011.
City Attorney Alan Bojorquez explained that the plan adopted by Council Monday is a standard document that defines stages of drought and the actions the city will take to enforce compliance. The plan also includes the ability to direct violators to pay fines of up to $2,000 as ordered by a judge.
Also Monday, the Council approved a bid of $2,850 from L&L Controls to repair the overflow pipe on Well #1.
By a split vote, Council members approved a plan to send Kirk to a class in Temple in February that will allow him to obtain a certification to conduct Customer Service Inspections.
Mayor Williamson said registration fee for the two-day class is $225. She said the City is required to have someone certified to conduct those inspections, and while administrative consultant Pete McKinney has the certification, it will cost the City more money to use him as opposed to a city employee.
McKinney has a contract with the City to act as a city administrator, building inspector and code enforcement officer. He is paid $55 per hour for the services.
The vote to authorize Kirk to attend the class was 2-1 with Council member Wendell McLeod voting no.
McLeod’s attempt to undo previous Council action on the acquisition of Loop 332 from the State of Texas was rejected Monday.
McLeod spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, repeating his claim that 20-30 of his constituents did not want the City to take over maintenance of the roadway because of the high costs that could be associated with it in years to come.
“Originally, this had to do with getting sidewalks (downtown). I can’t see any benefit to saddling the city with that debt,” said McLeod.
Council member Vicki Brewer responded that she had research agendas as far back as 2009 and the item had appeared on council agendas 12 times.
“The acquisition of the Loop is needed to help downtown area,” she said. “There will be growth along the 29 corridor. That’s a given. But there seems to be people who feel downtown isn’t of value. I say they’re wrong.
“If we put the energy, effort into revitalizing downtown, it will begin to prosper. It could be a mini-Salado. It can happen if we take an interest,” Mrs. Brewer said. “We have to own the road to do that. Personally, I feel we need to bring revitalization to downtown.”
After McLeod’s motion to not acquire the Loop failed to earn a second, Mrs. Brewer moved to continue with the City’s efforts to obtain it. The motion passed 2-1 with McLeod voting no.
Dicussion and action on recruitment of an interim city manager was delayed again Monday. McLeod and Crane had previously agreed to work together on drafting a job description that would be reviewed by the City Attorney.
Bojorquez said the two ideas proposed by the council members were conflicting. McLeod said he would meet with Crane to work out any differences and send the ideas back to the Attorney.
In other business, the Council voted unanimously to spend all of the money in the City’s events account on the community Christmas Festival Dec. 2 at the Liberty Hill United Methodist Church.
Mayor Williamson said the account has a balance of $3,000 to $3,500, and those funds will be given to the Ministerial Alliance, which is organizing the festival this year.
The Mayor said the monies will be “placed in a (Minsterial Alliance) bank account strickly for the Christmas Festival.”
She said the attorney will draft a resolution of support for the festival that will be considered at the next Council meeting in November.
Also Monday, the Council considered appointments to city boards and committees, renewing terms of several appointees who expressed a desire to continue serving.
Reappointed by a unanimous vote to Planning & Zoning was Wes Griffin.
Reappointed to the Board of Directors of the Economic Development Corp. were Brian Butler and John Johnston. Mayor Williamson said President Frank Spinosa, whose term expires in December, had not yet responded to an inquiry as to whether he is still interested in serving.
As a result, the Council approved a motion by Byron Tippie to confirm Spinosa’s interest, while appointing Mrs. Brewer and McLeod to work together to find additional members to fill two vacancies on the panel. Tippie said he wanted the council members to work with Valerie Zapien, president of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce and an appointee on the EDC Board, to find candidates.
EDC members Jimmy Oliver and John Austin resigned their positions in recent months.
Mrs. Zapien addressed the Council during the public comments portion of the meeting asking them to consider appointees who will “be willing to devote time and legwork, who will be willing to cooperate with each other. I don’t see that now. There’s too much discussion and not enough work.”
She said she was not referring to anyone in particular, but was frustrated with the Board’s lack of progress during the past year.
On the Parks & Recreation Board, the term of Gregg Evans was renewed in a 2-1 vote with McLeod voting no.
On the City’s Building Standards Commission, a group that has not met in two years, only one member — John Austin — had expressed an interest in continued service. The Council approved that appointment and will seek others to fill three vacancies. John Conquest, who also serves on the board, had not yet responded about his continued interest. His term expres in December.
Also Monday, the Council voted unanimously to designate The Independent as the City’s official newspaper for the publication of the City’s advertising.
The Council unanimously adopted a proclamation of the Mayor, which was read aloud by Tippie, recognizing Veterans Day celebration in Liberty Hill on Nov. 10.