Council approves partnership with CAMPO

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The Liberty Hill Transportation Masterplan got a regional boost Monday when City Council voted 4-0 – with Council member Wendell McLeod absent – to partner with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).

The agreement means CAMPO will enhance and expand the current city transportation plan, which will then make Liberty Hill eligible for project funding through the organization.

The Liberty Hill portion of the cost is $4,000, with CAMPO pledging up to $60,000 for what is called the platinum planning process.

“What we’re going to do is enhance our current adopted long-range transportation plan and the study area will focus on the ETJ and city limits of Liberty Hill, focusing on US 183, SH 29, Loop 332, FM 1869 and Ronald Reagan Boulevard,” said Liberty Hill Director of Planning Sally McFeron. “One of the things I think is really interesting with the platinum planning element is it will be including land use, so we will have an inventory of our land use along these corridors.”

Ashby Johnson, Executive Director for CAMPO, which covers Travis and five surrounding counties, explained in August that the organization works to plan and fund regional transportation projects.

The organization receives federal funding through the gas tax, and state funding. The funds total about $142 million annually, with $32 million a year in federal money, and $110 million per year from the state.

Johnson said the platinum planning process will help position Liberty Hill when it comes to funding.

“It is intended to help our local governments get ready for our call for projects we do every other year,” Johnson said. “We have a set of criteria that every project has to pass and get through. It is rather rigorous. Before, we didn’t have very strict criteria and it was hard to explain to the federal government or the state how we came up with a list of prioritized projects, we couldn’t really explain how we came up with the list. Now we can.”

Last May, the CAMPO Board selected $437 million in projects spread out across all six counties.

“The Platinum Planning Process is not a top-down approach,” he said. “We don’t come in and tell you what to do, we work with you, we go through the data, we do the analysis, and we work with you as a community to come up with solutions that fit the context of what is happening in Liberty Hill and what is surrounding Liberty Hill.”

The big requirement would be a local study, and Johnson said a study recently completed with the City of Georgetown cost about $250,000, with $50,000 of that covered by the city and the rest by federal funds.

The approximate figure for the next call for projects is $350 million, according to Johnson.

More retail space
In addition to a number of recent projects in the works for additional retail space in Liberty Hill, the Council approved the site development and stormwater permit request for what is called the Jardin Center on SH 29.

Located at 15735 SH 29, at the intersection of the highway and Deep Lake Drive, the center is planned as 10,000 square feet of retail space adjacent to Jardin Corona Restaurant. The plan is for the building to be made of stone and stucco.

Chamber home
Chamber of Commerce President Kim Sanders requested during the public comments portion of the meeting that the City consider a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce that would allow the organization to have office space and operate out of the historic Fowler Building once the renovations are complete.

“When you consider what you’re going to do with the Fowler Building, we the Chamber would like to house an office in there, coupled with maybe a visitors center and possibly – at your direction – share an employee with a visitors center employee and our part-time employee,” she said. “We’d like to move to the Fowler Building and I’d just like to put it out there and ask you to consider it.”

No previous public discussions of possible uses for the building have included talk of the Chamber of Commerce being housed in the building. No comments were made by staff or the City Council in response to Sanders’ request due to rules regarding the public comment portion of the meeting.

Water well expansion
The Council approved spending $84,690 to add capacity to Water Well No. 6, located near Liberty Parke.

Only one company bid on the project, but the bid came in well under the original estimate of $120,800, according to Curtis Steger of Steger Bizzell Engineering.

“We’re increasing the capacity based on what the aquifer will produce,” Steger said. “The well was originally designed for 80 gallons per minute and we’re actually getting about 94. This will bring that production up to a little over 120 gallons per minute.”

The rehab work includes replacing the pump and electrical to increase the output.

More elections
A joint election between the City of Liberty Hill and Liberty Hill ISD is set after the Council voted to approve a resolution.

Three seats on the Council – Place 3, 5 and 1 – currently held by Elizabeth Branigan, Liz Rundzieher and Troy Whitehead, respectively, will be on the ballot for the Council. On the school district side, Place 6 held by Vickie Peterson and Place 7 held by Scott Lindquist will be decided.

Filing for candidates seeking a place on the Council or School Board began Jan. 16 and runs through Feb. 15. Election Day is May 4.

Short-staffed
The hiring process for a Code Enforcement Officer – approved as a new position by the Council in November – has proven to be a challenge.

Council Member Rundzieher inquired Monday about the status of the search and City Administrator Greg Boatright said the City has received six applicants for the posted position, with plans to interview one of those.

“A lot of times what we incur are ‘resume professionals’ who are going through and for whatever reason just applying,” he said. “We have one person we feel meets the qualifications so we will set that interview up for next week.”

The pool of qualified applicants and competition among cities has made some hiring issues a challenge.

During the search for a code enforcement officer, the City has also lost its Building Inspector, Elias Carrasco, who joined the staff last Spring.

“Code enforcement officers are much like building inspectors,” Boatright said. “There’s a very limited pool of them out there. We want to ensure the person we put in that position is the right person because they are the face of our Council and our staff out there.”

Carrasco accepted a position with the City of Burnet.

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