City hires new finance director

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The City of Liberty Hill Finance Department has a new Director, after the announcement Tuesday that Becky Wilkins had been hired to fill the position.

City Administrator Greg Boatright made the announcement after the City Council voted to allow him to move forward with the hire.

Wilkins replaces Michel Sorrell, who left the City in September. Boatright is happy to have the position filled again, and excited about what Wilkins brings to the City.

“Out of the six candidates, she had the most experience as a finance director,” he said. “Her background with county and city governments and her tenure with those respective places was impressive and shows stability.”

She is currently the City Treasurer/Finance Director for the City of Katy, just west of Houston.

“I feel like after the interview we had with her, her personality and background fit well with our city,” Boatright said. “She is in a very fast-growing area where she is and they’ve issued a lot of debt over her tenure and so she has experience in interfacing with financial advisors and bond councils.”

She has also worked in the County Treasurer’s office in Hill County, District Clerk’s office in Dallas County and for Dallas County Rapid Transit.
Wilkins is scheduled to start work in Liberty Hill Dec. 3.

Wetzel Park
After backing away from the original bids received for the construction of Wetzel Park two months ago, the Council approved a contract with J2 Construction Tuesday in the amount of $895,000 to do the park improvements. The vote was 3-1, with Council member Wendell McLeod in opposition.

“We bid this project about two months ago, and the bids came in at $1,034,000 – that was the low bid on the project – and we were shocked by that,” Boatright said. “We went out and redesigned the bathroom and went back out into the market.”

The original plan was to bid Wetzel Park and the police department parking lot together, but they were later separated. The savings was still not as much as Boatright had hoped.

“Overall, we saved about $40,000 by going back out to bid,” he said. “It’s interesting when you go with vertical construction, with the market that we’re in right now, it’s just crazy. The commercial aspect of buildings is about $300 a foot, and it is unprecedented. The materials are a challenge, but the big challenge is the labor aspect of it.”

The bid from J2 was the lowest of three received the second time around, with one for $1,074,696 and a third for $1,446,723.

Plans for the park include a splash pad, parking, bicycle racks and water station, and restrooms. There will also be shade structures bordering portions of the splash pad and anti-slip concrete decking around the splash pad to keep it cooler.

The splash pad includes various symmetrical sets of fountains on four lobes and sits on a site approximately 50-feet square. The fountains are controlled by push buttons for child activation.

The parking area is positioned on the north end of the site with two-way entrance on Loop 332 and entrance-only access on County Road 279.

Code enforcement help
The Council voted 3-2 to direct the City to begin the process of hiring a code enforcement officer who would take the responsibility off the Liberty Hill Police Department.

Council Members Ron Rhea and McLeod opposed the motion, and with Whitehead absent, Mayor Rick Hall cast the tie-breaking vote.

Council member Liz Branigan said after conversations with Police Chief Maverick Campbell she felt the new position was needed.

“I spoke with Chief Campbell about our police department and about the efforts they’ve made to earn the trust of our community and the things they have done, and I was very impressed,” She said. “He asked that we step up our efforts to recruit a code enforcement officer so that his officers are not saddled with that burden because it seems an impediment to doing their job to have to go and remind people to cut their grass, and I agree with him, and I think we should actively recruit a code enforcement officer.”

Council Member Liz Rundzieher echoed Branigan’s comments.

“I never have felt like the police department should be doing code enforcement, so I am all for hiring a code enforcement officer,” she said.

The position is expected to cost the City $40,000 to $50,000 in salary, with possibly additional costs for a computer, software and vehicle costs.

Boatright said work was being done to have all the necessary ordinances in place for a code enforcement officer to do their job, and that the City was currently contracting with someone who does code enforcement for Hutto to put all those things together. The contract also includes doing some code enforcement work in the interim.

“By contracting this and having these ordinances and guidelines in place prior to having someone full time will enable this person to be successful when we do get them on board,” Boatright said.

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