City weighs CIP priorities

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

With the roundabout project already on the shelf, and a majority on the City Council favoring a shift in where capital improvement dollars are allocated, a day-long workshop Friday gave elected officials an opportunity to gather information as they reached for the reset button.

Mayor Rick Hall has focused on the phrase “wants, needs, and must haves” lately as he begins talking over the upcoming budget and wants to apply the same philosophy to capital improvement projects.

“We had a real good discussion on reprioritizing transportation plans for the City,” Hall said. “We also talked about street maintenance, sidewalks, water lines and basically went through the whole entire layout of the City and we’ve reprioritized a lot of that stuff.”

He was pleased with the results and felt like the meeting provided a clearer vision for moving forward with new priorities.

“The whole entire meeting Friday I thought was 100 times better as a planning meeting than what we had down in Fredericksburg even though it was on a shorter time frame,” Hall said. “I think we got a lot more accomplished.”

A detailed list is expected to be brought to Council for consideration next month.

“Greg (Boatright) and I will be working on getting that document together and get that back to Council so we can talk about that and get that prioritization redone,” said Mayor Rick Hall. “We will get that back on the agenda for our July meeting.”

One of the key projects on the table — not only because of the money already invested but the number of questions the plan raises as well — is the Stubblefield extension.

The decision to go forward with some projects or not will have an impact on others as the plan comes together, and Stubblefield is a prime example.

The group discussed the project for nearly an hour, considering alignment questions as well as the planned road’s impact on area property owners and what it might mean for utility work critical for developments north of the area.

“One of the things that we need to get some direction from, and we’ve talked with the Mayor about this, is the Butler Farms water line,” said City Administrator Greg Boatright. “We’re getting real close to having all the easements and so we had always planned for the water line to follow Stubblefield out to 1869, so we need to figure out whether or not we want to obtain the right of way for Stubblefield or are we just going to get a water line easement along there and out to 1869?

“What we need to know from the Council is, is Stubblefield still part of the plan? If it’s not, then do we need to try and get a waterline easement or what do we need to do?”

The consensus at the meeting was that a version of Stubblefield needed to be part of the future transportation plans, but changes needed to be made. With the recent announcement that Williamson County will likely include the middle portion of the proposed SH 29 Bypass – which would run from RR 1869 south and around to connect to CR 279 – on a proposed bond election in November, Hall was focused on how to use the two roadways together.

“Part of the discussion we need to have with Stubblefield is this SH 29 Bypass,” Hall said. “They are recommending this section from 1869 to 279. My concern is if we bring Stubblefield all the way out to 279 we’re going to have to incur the cost of going over the 29 Bypass. My thought is we would bring Stubblefield out and (Williamson County) would let us connect into the frontage road and stop.”

With the section of the 29 Bypass as part of the plan, Hall said Stubblefield could connect to the new two-lane frontage road, which will initially be two-way, until the controlled access portion is constructed.

Hall said Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long said if the bond is approved, that construction of the initial two lanes of the Bypass could potentially be completed within three years.

The north end of the Stubblefield plan was also an issue of discussion. Fellowship Church, which is in the proposed path of Stubblefield north of RR 1869 where it curves around to meet Loop 332 near Liberty Hill Elementary, opposes the extension through its property.

“The last thing I want to do is get in a legal battle with the church,” Hall said. “That’s my concern. Not only the legal standpoint, but I also agree with Liz (Rundzieher) on it dropping out by the school. I can tell you the school is not really thrilled about dumping that traffic out across the street from the school.”

Rundzieher echoed the comments regarding concerns with the church, and added her concerns about having the connection to Loop 332 directly across from Liberty Hill Elementary.

“Where it’s coming out at the school, you’re bringing congestion to an already congested area,” said Rundzieher. “I know you’ve said we’re going to put a stoplight there, but why bother putting a stop light there when you can just cancel the road? Nobody is going to be using it because of the congestion at the other end.”

By the end of the discussion, the decision had been made to have the northern portion of Stubblefield end at RR 1869.

“The northern piece of Stubblefield, that was going through the church property from 1869 and up to the Loop, that is off the table at this point, “Hall said.

With budget discussions ramping up this summer, Hall said it is imperative to have the CIP plan in order.

“I don’t want to take all of our money and put it into CIP, and I don’t want to take all of our money and put it into people,” Hall said. “We have to have a good balance and being able to understand what our projected revenues are for the next budget season is really going to help us try to make sure we get a good balance. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s something I think we can work through to come up with a great plan.”

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