Council approves funds for Christmas Festival

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By SHELLY WILKISON

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve $14,415 worth of proposed expenses for the Liberty Hill Christmas Festival — an increase of $11,500 over funds allocated in 2014.

Festival Chairman Heather Willard, in her fourth year as even organizer, addressed the Council Monday and presented an itemized list of requests that was dated Nov. 18. The Christmas Festival is scheduled Dec. 5-6 and includes a parade and Jingle Bell Run, a two-day vendor market, a street dance, and trail of lights at Lions Foundation Park.

Willard said proceeds of the festival benefit Operation Liberty Hill, but when asked by Assistant City Manager Amber Lewis to provide the amount donated by the festival to the charity last year, she said she did not know.

Lewis explained that the City has to follow certain processes and maintain a level of accountability when expending funds. She asked how much money was raised for Operation Liberty Hill, who the other festival sponsors are, and how much money the event was carrying forward to the current year.

“How much money was donated to Operation Liberty Hill?” Lewis asked.

“I don’t know, but I can find out,” Willard replied. “The City money was used to build (the event).”

“Has your budget always been $15,000?” Lewis asked.

“Last year we were told (by the City) we would get a certain amount, and that’s not what we received,” Willard said, adding that the volunteers “dug in our own wallets” to make up the difference.

Boatright said the City allocated $3,500 in 2014 that was to be used to purchase light displays around the walking trail at the park.

Willard said she did not know the total amount of money spent on the festival last year. She said three people are signers on a bank account, and about $1,000 was carried over from 2014 to pay for this year’s event.

Among the proposed expenditures the Council approved Monday were: inflatables for Reindeer Games, $1,200; generator rental, $1,100; security guard overnight for two nights plus dance hours, $690; parade performers — 10 Highlanders (bagpipes), $400, Folklorico dancers, $150, Mariachi group, $200, costumed character rentals, $600; parade contest incentive for Marching bands in 50/50 contest, $250; trophies for parade and trail poles, $100; thank you plaques for sponsors, $150; banners, $375; neon T-shirts for volunteers/staff, $300; printing of fliers and cards, $100; decoration supplies for park and grandstands, $300; thrift store Christmas trees for blocking off areas, $300.

Councilmember Wendell McLeod questioned why parade performers were being paid.

Willard said paid performers are involved as well as local entries.

While McLeod said he was “against spending all that money,” he voted for the expenditure.

Willard said volunteers also are planning a camping event later in December in Lions Foundation Park where outdoor movies will be shown and asked for $1,200 for equipment rental.

The budget also included three days of golf cart rental for $800.

For light displays for the trail and street posts, $5,000 was requested. And for the band playing at the street dance on Dec. 5, $600 was requested.

Lewis requested a list of sponsors and the amounts they are contributing, but Willard did not have the information. She said individual events have obtained their own sponsors, such as the Jingle Bell Run, which is hosted by Liberty Hill United Methodist Church and sponsored by multiple businesses. She said she thought the Run donated about $1,400 to Operation Liberty Hill last year.

Boatright said the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp. budgeted an additional $15,000 to be spent on Christmas lights and decorations for the downtown area.

However, Lewis said those funds will likely be used to purchase items in time for next year’s event.

In making a motion to approve the expenditures, Councilmember Ron Rhea directed Willard to work closely with Lewis and the City, and provide receipts for all expenses.

“There needs to be some accountability,” he said.

In other business Monday, the Council approved requests for EDC Facade & Sign Matching Grants to MRVNEVN Investments and Two Brand It for improvements to two buildings downtown.

Last month, the Council awarded a $5,000 grant to MRVNEVN for Star of Texas Realty. Monday’s $5,000 award will be used for the building adjacent to the real estate office. EDC Board member Eric Van Natter owns the two buildings, but abstained from voting on the EDC’s recommendation to council. Two Brand It will receive matching funds in the amount of $1,756.

Also Monday, Boatright said he had been notified by the City of Leander last week that the Leander Council voted to terminate a boundary agreement with the City of Liberty Hill that was adopted in 2006. The action becomes effective in six months.

“They felt like they have some property in their jurisdiction that was not recognized in 2006,” Boatright said, adding that Liberty Hill’s legal counsel would be consulted about possible remedies for the city.

He said the area in question is around the Copper Ridge strip center on State Highway 29, just north of Ronald Reagan Blvd.

“We have to figure out what Leander is up to, and this may conflict with Georgetown, too,” he said.

After the meeting, Boatright explained that the six-month termination clause should never have been included in a boundary agreement.

“I thought we were in a good relationship with them (Leander),” Boatright said. “This sheds a negative light on our relationship.”

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