Council changes Planning & Zoning structure

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Keeping with the recent plan to have city council members more involved on boards and commissions, the Council voted unanimously Monday to move forward with restructuring the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The five-member commission will soon have two council members filling seats. It was not announced Monday who might be removed from the commission, but the new plan also includes having three of the five members living inside the city limits.

“It’s like what we’ve done with the other boards, too,” Mayor Rick Hall said of the change. “There was a discussion a couple of council meetings ago where we were trying to get a council member on all of our boards just to give that continuity between our boards and our council so that we can all be working together for the same end goal.”

The City sought legal advice on whether the changes were allowed to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“There was some thought that we could or could not do that, so we had to hold off on the P&Z until we got the legal opinion from our lawyers on it,” Hall said. “We were able to do it with the EDC and with our Parks Board and then we got back from our lawyers that it was okay to do that (with P&Z) and we did it to be contiguous across all of our boards.”

The Commission will also now meet the first and third Tuesday each month at 6:30 p.m.

The Council will vote on the proposed ordinance when it is brought back at the next meeting in January.

Community center

The Council may have the opportunity to look in January at the first plans for a new community center on property recently purchased from Williamson County near the intersection of RR 1869 and Loop 332.

The original hope was to use a grant that would make the new center double as an emergency shelter, but that is not possible.

“Looking into that it would require a totally different process,” Hall said. “When we first talked about that I was just getting engaged with that process and thought we could make it work, but with this situation with that building we wouldn’t be able to do that with a grant for a shelter.”

Instead, Hall said the former county barn on the property recently purchased by the City will be refurbished for the project.

“We’re going to rehab that building,” he said. “The structure of that building is in great shape, according to our structural engineer who has already looked at it for us. So we’re going to move forward with a community center for that spot down there.”

Hall said there were also drainage problems with the property the City would be addressing to alleviate issues on surrounding properties.

Once completed, the center will offer a new home to the Over the Hill Gang, and allow its current home behind Parker’s Market to be turned into downtown parking. Hall believes a new meeting space downtown is badly needed.

“One of my main goals is to develop the community center to give us some place for the community and our citizens to have reunions, birthday parties and provide that access to the community,” he said.

The 30-foot by 45-foot structure on the site now will be redone in the first phase of the project, with an expansion planned later. Hall said he expects the price tag of both phases together to be about $500,000.

“We’re going to put a full kitchen in it and a couple of bathrooms,” Hall said. “Phase 2 will be adding an additional 60 feet in length onto it to increase the size of that building.”

The Council is expected to move forward to get the project started in early January.

“What we’ll do in January is authorize the engineer to start drawing the plans up and hopefully sometime in February we will be able to go out to bid on those plans.”

Intersection
The Council brought Steger Bizzell Engineering into the conversation over how to improve safety and traffic flow at the intersection of CR 279 and Loop 332 downtown.

The intersection was planned to be redone as a roundabout, but the Council voted in May to abandon that plan.

In seeking a potential new solution to the concerns over the intersection, the Council voted in August to hire WSB Engineering – at a cost of $8,000 – to do new traffic counts downtown and look at potential solutions to the intersections of CR 279 and Loop 332 as well as RR 1869 and Loop 332.

WSB Engineering did current counts and established projections for 15 years from now.

The traffic counts at Loop 332 and CR 279 showed satisfactory levels of service currently in both the morning and afternoon peak times.

WSB said in 2034 the Loop and CR 279 intersection would need a traffic signal to operate in satisfactory levels during both peak times, but that the current geometric layout of the intersection should also be evaluated to improve flow.

Council member Tony DeYoung emphasized his concern over safety at the intersection again at the Oct. 31 meeting, and the Council then agreed to study the issue further.

The work planned by Steger Bizzell is to take the traffic counts from WSB and prepare a feasibility study to determine how the geometry of the intersection could be modified for better safety and traffic flow.

The $8,000 project is expected to take about a month.

The bid awarded last April for construction of the previously planned roundabout was $1.37 million. The City spent $389,000 on engineering and land acquisition on the project before it was scrapped.

Compensation
The Council unanimously approved the ordinance establishing compensation for the Mayor and Council, which had been announced and budgeted in September through the annual budget process.

The ordinance spells out that the compensation will only go into effect after the next election for each position on the Council, and that the compensation amount can’t be changed during a particular term in office.

Compensation for the Mayor will be $40,000 annually, and $12,000 annually for Council members.

There was no discussion Monday of the ordinance.

Annexations
While the annexation request of property downtown was pulled by the property owner prior to Monday’s Council meeting, the other two properties seeking voluntary annexation were approved and brought into the city limits.

A 15.13-acre property at 9000 W. SH 29 – east of Orchard Ridge on the south side of SH 29 — was annexed and rezoned from agricultural to commercial.

The second property annexed was 10 acres at 2801 CR 282.

Water lines
The Council unanimously approved moving forward with engineering work by Steger Bizzell for water line upgrades and replacements on sections of Hickman, Church, Barton and Grange streets downtown. The project will include upgrades to eight and 12-inch water lines as well as new asphalt and ribbon curbing on sections of those streets.

The work will cost the City $49,614, including surveying, engineering, construction management and inspections. The work itself will be bid once the engineering plans are approved by the Council.

It is anticipated the work leading up to a construction bid being awarded will be six months with four months after for construction.

City administrator
Once again, at the end of Monday’s meeting, Council member Tony DeYoung asked about the status of the hiring process for a new City Administrator.

The City has been without a City Administrator since the departure of Greg Boatright in August.

Very little information has been shared on the process of finding a replacement, but Hall said after the decision in August a new City Administrator would be hired.

“It was going to be discussed at our retreat in December with Matt Powell, he’s been the one working on that for us,” Hall said. “I’ve gotten a little bit of an update from him but not a lot. Because we had to push our retreat off to January we’re going to look at it in January.”

Hall said no interviews have been conducted to date.

“Nobody has been interviewed yet, we’re still going through all the resumes,” he said. “We left it open until the end of November and closed it so we are just now taking a deep dive into reviewing everything and trying to narrow it down so we can get some folks lined up for some interviews.”

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