Boatright continues talks on Liberty Parke PID
By SHELLY WILKISON
Although no action was taken Monday, the City Council was updated by staff on various projects that could significantly impact city coffers.
City Manager Greg Boatright told the Council that after meeting last week with developers of Liberty Parke and the adjacent Liberty Meadows, he is leaning toward a recommendation that the City consider creating a Public Improvement District (PID) in the 140-acre neighborhood.
Boatright said the agreement could mean an additional $750,000 in revenue that could be used by the City to improve infrastructure. Specifically, he said connecting to a 16-inch water line on the west side of town would help development there.
“We haven’t made a commitment, except that we will continue discussing this,” he said, adding that he had signed a document indicating the City’s willingness to pursue discussions.
Boatright said the parties tentatively agreed that if the City approved the PID, it would receive $500,000 from developers within 30 days of approval. He said the funds could be used as the City wished, but he would advise improvements to the water system. At the one-year anniversary of the PID agreement, the City would receive an additional $250,000 in impact fees.
“That $750,000 would do a lot for our system,” he said.
Boatright, who has expressed reservations in recent months about the creation of a PID, said Monday that some of those concerns were addressed last week during a “very frank discussion” between the developers and city staff.
He said the debt would be specific to Liberty Parke, a subdivision of single-family homes off State Highway 29 near Classic Bank. Property owners there would be assessed a fee that could be rolled into their mortgage or paid outright.
The proposed PID debt, which is projected to be about $4.5 million, would be paid by the home owners at a rate of $0.45 per $100 property valuation. The assessment would be the sole responsibility of property owners there, and it would not fall back on the citizens of Liberty Hill, Boatright said.
Boatright said staff is still investigating whether issuing the bonds for PID would violate a $10 million cap placed on the City as part of an agreement on the bonds recently issued for water line construction.Going above the cap might raise the interest rate by .5 percent if the PID is created in 2015. However, Boatright said the PID would not be created in the current calendar year.
“I don’t think there’s any harm in moving the process forward,” he said. “We are always strapped for the cash needed to do improvements (to infrastructure). This would be an opportunity for us to step further out in the development world.”
Also Monday, Boatright told the Council that after meeting with the architect and a contractor working on the design for the new City administrative building, it may be more cost effective to demolish the Holloway Building and start over.
Earlier this year, the City purchased the Holloway Building at 926 Loop 332 downtown with the plan to relocate city administrative offices there and provide space for downtown parking.
Boatright said after the building was purchased, “lots of problems” were found, particularly with the foundation.
“There was contamination in the walls, no beam on the outside, but the foundation is the main problem,” he said. “It was built in two or three different phases.”
Boatright said the contractor estimated the costs would be 30 percent higher if the City attempted to renovate what was there as opposed to building a new structure.
“We will have more choices if we reclaim what we can and start over,” he said, adding that some of the yellow pine might be salvageable. He said a new building could be built for $650,000, while the costs of refurbishing the existing structure and adding 2,000 square feet would be about $950,000.
He said a new building could be built with an appearance similar to the Holloway Building using stucco and rock.
“We can make it more attractive for downtown by starting over,” he said.
Boatright said he will also recommend the City use concrete to surface the parking area, which will add about $50,000 to the project. Although more costly, concrete has twice the lifetime of asphalt pavement, he added.
Boatright said that in the weeks ahead he would be bringing back to Council a proposal to do a design build on the project to help the City better control the costs.
In other matters, the Council discussed but took no action on the development of a method to measure estimated water flows for various types of development. Living Unit Equivalent (LUE) is the typical water flow that would be produced by a single family residence. That residence, with an average 3.5 people, represents one LUE.
For commercial developments, most cities consider the square footage of the finished building and its intended use. Boatright distributed a conversion chart used by the City of Austin as an example.
Specifically, he noted that in Austin a 200-square-foot restaurant represents one LUE. In that space, he estimated that seven tables of four customers could be served — an area that could change over repeatedly during the course of a day in a busy restaurant.
“This is the one that gave me the most heartburn,” Boatright said. “Some (restaurants) could be looking at $70,000 in startup costs.
“At first, that number seems unreasonable, but when you put the math to it, it makes sense,” he said. “A restaurant uses a lot of water and has a huge impact on wastewater especially.”
Boatright said the City could consider hours of operation as a factor when determining the number of LUEs for a restaurant.
“Anything we do will be controversial, but we need hard and fast rules,” he said.
Boatright said in the past, decision makers at City Hall didn’t have uniform standards in place. Some LUEs might have been converted differently than others.
“We need for them to pay their fair share. They need to be able to pay for that so our citizens are not taxed,” he said.
Mayor Connie Fuller urged Boatright to compare the LUE conversion charts of other cities in the area, rather than adopting the Austin rules.
The staff will do that research and return to Council at a future meeting with a recommendation.
Also this week, Police Chief Randy Williams presented a summary of police activities and calls for service during June.
He said there were five vehicle crashes in June, and he believed cell phone use may have contributed to some of those.
The Council adopted an ordinance in the spring prohibiting use of portable electronic devices while driving, but the appropriate signage has not been installed. Last week, the Chief installed a small sign on the front of the police department, but the size of the sign is not appropriate for highway placement.
“I hope the signs come in soon,” he said.
City staff say they are awaiting the arrival of the appropriate size poles.
Chief Williams said the number of thefts in Liberty Hill “is getting out of hand.” In recent months, the number has averaged four to five per month.
“We need more preventive patrol, but we don’t have enough manpower for that,” he said.
Liberty Hill Police Department is not a 24-hour department. During the hours when local police are not on duty, sheriff’s deputies are called on to fill in the gap. However, there is little time for preventive patrols as deputies are busy responding to calls, and many of those are outside the Liberty Hill area.
Councilmember Ron Rhea was not present Monday.