City will consider mobile food vendors

By SHELLY WILKISON

An increased number of inquiries from businesses looking to operate mobile food trailers in Liberty Hill has prompted the City to explore permitting and related rules.

On Monday, the City Council voted unanimously to allow the City Manager and staff to study the policies of other cities in regards to mobile food vendors. Staff is expected to draft rules and present an ordinance to Council for consideration.

“We are getting requests for vendors with food trailers, and nothing pertains to this in our UDC (Unified Development Code),” said City Manager Greg Boatright, who added that two inquiries have been made within the past month.

“This is kind of a neat venue,” he said. “They travel together and create their own energy.”

Boatright said the staff will explore the options of having a designated location for the food trucks as well as the possibility of allowing private businesses to operate them.

Under previous city administration, requests to operate food trailers on private property within the city limits were denied because the city did not have an ordinance authorizing them.

“We could create a little culture here that could be interesting and be a destination for our community,” Boatright said.

Also Monday, the Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance regulating the storage and disposal of tires.

There are four tire stores in Liberty Hill. Boatright said some are storing tires outdoors allowing rainwater to collect inside them creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The ordinance adopted this week will require businesses to store tires in an enclosed building or garage. It prohibits outdoor storage including storage under a tarp or open-sided shelter. Penalties are set at a minimum of $100 for the first violation, $150 for the second violation and $200 for the third violation.

Boatright said after being notified of the violation, a business will have 10 days to correct the problem.

“It’s important for the code enforcement officers to have an ordinance with teeth in it,” said Boatright.

“I had someone walk in who is a neighbor to a tire store that has a huge mosquito problem. These businesses need to be good neighbors and we (the City) need to be able to address the problem,” he said.

State law requires business that have 500 or more tires to have a mosquito abatement program in place. Boatright said one local stores does have that number, but he did not know whether an abatement program was in use.

“This is not what we want for our city — not a mound of tires as we go down (State Highway) 29,” he said.

In other business, the Council authorized Boatright and the City Attorney to develop guidelines for fees charged to developers looking to build residential subdivisions or develop commercial property.

“We are inundated with requests right now,” Boatright said. “What I’d like the City Council to consider is to quit leaving money on the table. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

Boatright said he wanted the City to develop a fee schedule and an agreement form to help offset the costs of development of infrastructure and city services.

He shared an example of fees charged by another city.

“If we were to just sign an agreement to what we agreed to on LUEs, just in impact fees it would be almost $3 million to our city,” he said. “It is not prohibitive for a developer ont he front end. If we’re willing to have an agreement that spells out the time triggers and funding the city expects to receive.”

Boatright said such fees are not outside the norm. Most cities have a fee structure so that the entire financial burden of improved infrastructure does not rest on city property taxpayers.

“They’re requesting wastewater service. We shouldn’t expect existing customers to subsidize that. Developers pay their own way,” he said.

Boatright said a meeting is scheduled later this month with developers of MUDs 27 and 28 — the Cauffield tract. He said he hoped to have fees in place to negotiate an agreement that will benefit the city. The agreement negotiated then will be brought back for council approval. Whatever is approved will set the precedent for future fees and agreements.

“It’s very important for our city to protect itself,” he said.

Councilmember Ron Rhea added that a sold fee structure will help maintain the city’s cash flow for a long period of time.

To improve communications between the police department and county emergency officials, the Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the purchase of eight laptop computers to be used in patrol vehicles.

Police Chief Randy Williams said the computers currently cannot withstand excessive heat and the vibrations of the vehicle. They become slow or unresponsive, creating a safety issue for officers.

“Three years ago, we bought these car laptops with seizure money, and we bought what we could afford,” he said.

Williams asked the Council to approve a $32,000 purchase for eight Panasonic Toughbooks — a price that was quoted for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. Williamson County will install the equipment and required software to put the Liberty Hill patrol vehicles on the same system as County emergency communications.

“This has become a big safety issue and we can’t function without them,” Williams said.

Boatright said he preferred the City to make the purchase now as opposed to waiting until the new budget cycle, which begins October 1.

“We’re looking at some outlay for equipment for next (fiscal) year, and I don’t want to present a budget and have the sticker shock,” Boatright said. “His department for years has been behind the curve on technology and access to the (county) system.”

Boatright said the equipment would not be financed as has been the case in the past.

“With the money we have (in the General Fund), my recommendation is to go ahead and pay for it now,” he said.

On Monday, the Council also voted unanimously to:

- Appopint Chief Williams as the City’s Emergency Management Coordinator.

- Adopt a resolution changing the signature autority on all existing and future bank accounts and removing former elected officials and employees.

- Approved June 28 as the citywide Clean up Day. Dumpsters will be provided for city residents to dispose of items that are normally not accepted by trash collectors. The service will be available from 8 a.m. to 12 Noon.

As a result of one council member’s claim that she was not notified of a special meeting last week, City Secretary Barbara Zwernemann asked members to complete a form expressing their preferred method of official communications.

“This was an unfortunate incident and there wasn’t any reason for it to happen except it was a misunderstanding,” said Mayor Connie Fuller.

Councilmember Liz Rundzieher, who was not present Monday due to a family illness, said she was not notified prior to a special meeting June 2 when a vote was taken to replace the city’s attorney. She said she is normally notified of meetings with a phone call from the City Secretary, but did not receive the call.

Mrs. Rundzieher, who does not communicate by email, was opposed to the change in attorney firms and expressed her opposition at a previous meeting.

Mrs. Zwernemann later told The Independent, “(I) Don’t know that I have ever called her about any meeting – if so it would have been an exception.”