City will make offer on 2 downtown properties

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By SHELLY WILKISON

The Liberty Hill City Council authorized city staff Monday to begin negotiations for the possible purchase of two downtown properties that would potentially house additional city offices and public parking.

Following a 40-minute closed session, the Council voted unanimously to allow the staff to pursue the purchase of a three-unit apartment building on .3344 acres on Loop 332, known as the Holloway property.

The current list price on the 2,000-square-foot building is $190,000. City Manager Greg Boatright told The Independent that if the City purchases the property, it could be used for some administrative offices as well as space for additional downtown parking.

Additionally, the City will negotiate with the owners of a one-acre lot on the corner of Loop 332 and CR 279, known as the Burnett property. The lot currently has a house and a building that previously was home to a laundromat. Boatright said the list price for the property is $159,000. He said if purchased, the City would use it for additional parking and it would provide additional space for the expansion of that intersection, which will be necessary as the City builds the infrastrucutre to accept water from the City of Leander.

In recent months, the City of Liberty Hill has been exploring possible sites to relocate some or all of city offices. The City submitted an offer to the Liberty Hill ISD for the purchase of the LHISD Administration Building on State Highway 29, but the offer was far below the appraised value of $1.025 million and by law the school district could not accept it. State law prohibits school districts from selling property below the appraised value. Boatright said Monday that the City is no longer considering the LHISD property.

Also Monday, the Council adopted an ordinance that set fees for the use of credit cards as payment for utilities, fees for the review of construction plans and construction inspections, and additional fees for Open Records and copy charges requiring payment in advance.

The ordinance will allow utility customers to pay a flat fee of $2 if they choose to pay bills online using a credit card. The ordinance also established a Surcharge Fee of 2.25 percent of a transaction when the card is swiped in person, which on an average $80 bill would be about $1.80.

The $2 Convenience Fee is less than the current fee of $3 for the first $99.99 plus an additional $3 for bills totaling $100-$199.99. Those who choose to pay with credit cards – either online or in person – will save money under the new fee structure.

The ordinance amends the Open Records & Copy Charges to allow the City to charge fees for gathering and collecting requested data and requires requestors of public information to pay for charges in advance. The fees are permissable under state law.

In other business, the Council unanimously approved a site plan for the 68-unit senior living apartments, Liberty Manor. Construction on the 72,000-square-foot facility, which will be built on Bailey Lane north of Chicken Express, will begin in February 2015. The apartments will be leased to residents age 55 and older, and the complex will include various amenities.

The Council also approved a site plan for an expansion of Liberty Hill Dental at 14933 SH 29. The property is currently occupied by Dr. Thad Gillespie’s dental office, and the proposed expansion will include the construction of additional office space for his business.

In his report to the Council Monday, Boatright noted the success of the weekend’s Christmas events in Liberty Hill, including the Trail of Lights at Lions Foundation Park.

“We can build on this, but we need to start now to plan for 2015,” he said, adding that the park needs more electricity to expand the trail of lights in future years. “If you look at Burnet and Marble Falls — that’s what our city should look toward. It means a lot to our businesses and makes us a destination for visitors.”

In years past, businesses and organizations have adopted poles along the walking trail to decorate at Christmas time. This year, the City’s Economic Development Corp. voted to allocate $5,000 to purchase additional lights for the trail as well as a 50-foot light tree that was placed at the Municipal Court Building on RR 1869.

“We want to be better prepared for next year,” he said. “Without the Council and EDC support, we wouldn’t have been able to do it (add lights to the trail of lights). Thanks for looking at it as a way to create a sense of community.”

Councilmember Ron Rhea added that The Liberty Hill Independent should also be recognized for its contribution to the weekend’s success.

The Independent hosted the Trail of Lights Cowboy Christmas Dance on Saturday featuring Janice Maynard & The Country Stardust Band, at which time the Trail of Lights was officially opened. The first time event, which was free and open to the public, attracted an estimated 300 people. The light trail is open daily through Jan. 7 from dusk to midnight at Lions Foundation Park.

The Council voted Monday to postpone agenda items relating to lease agreements with Liberty Hill Youth Soccer Association and Liberty Hill Youth Football & Cheer. Items relating to a Strategic Partnership Agreement between the City and MUD 17 were also postponed.

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