Council creates job, replaces municipal judge

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By SHELLY WILKISON

City Council members approved a request Monday to create a new position to operate the wastewater treatment plant, but said no to a seasonal job for mowing and street maintenance.

City Administrator Greg Boatright told the Council that the seasonal part-time position was needed for mowing and general maintenance of city property. The position, which was to be filled from May through September, was to pay $12.50 per hour.

“When we hire seasonal workers, we can discover someone who would be a good full-time employee,” said Boatright, adding that the position could reduce the City’s need for outsourcing such work.

Councilmember Wendell McLeod made a motion not to approve the position.

“I think we have plenty of people to do this,” McLeod said.

The vote against the seasonal position was 3-1 with Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan voting no. In favor of McLeod’s motion were Liz Rundzieher, Troy Whitehead and McLeod. Councilman Ron Rhea was not present Monday.

Officials did recognize the need for a full-time wastewater treatment plant operator. The position will be funded with regional wastewater system funds at an hourly rate up to $24 per hour.

Public Works Director Wayne Bonnet said the position will allow the City to provide plant coverage seven days per week. And now that the City is responsible for maintaining 14 lift stations, the daily coverage is important.

“We have the resources to insure the proper operation of the plant and not taking advantage of that, we’re exposing ourselves if there is a malfunction at the plant,” said Boatright.

He said AJ Collins had resigned last week, and that position will also be filled.

In other personnel matters, the Council authorized Boatright to finalize an employment agreement with attorney Kevin Madison to serve as Municipal Court Judge.

Madison will be paid $18,000 annually as a part-time employee of the city. He will serve a two-year term, which will run concurrently with the term of the Mayor as provided by state law.

“I feel like what Kevin brings to the city is more of a law enforcement background,” said Boatright, adding that Madison served as a police officer for the University of Texas and was also Chief in Smithville. He said Madison has 28 years experience as a municipal court judge.

Boatright said the City gave current Municipal Judge Wilson 30 days notice of the personnel change. He said city staff could not find an employment contract on file for Wilson, who has worked for the city seven years.

“We felt like the timing was good and it was time to make a change in our court,” Boatright said.

Madison also serves as municipal judge in Lakeway, as well as Bruceville/Eddy, Johnson City, Briarcliffe and Horseshoe Bay. He was formerly a municipal judge in Cedar Park. Mayor Connie Fuller added that Madison will be providing input into the search for a new police chief.

Also Monday, the Council voted unanimously to rescind monies allocated from the Economic Development Fund to pay for development of a sculpture park at Lions Foundation Park. Funds had been allocated in the EDC budget in the amount of $100,000 to pay for sculpture park development, but Boatright explained that negotiations over ownership of Lions Foundation Park had ceased and recommended the funds be returned to the budget for use on other projects. At its regular meeting last Thursday, the EDC Board took similar action.

“This does not mean this isn’t possible for the future,” said Boatright.

Boatright and the Liberty Hill Development Foundation, which owns the private park, had been negotiating for more than a year for the transfer of ownership of the park to the City. Boatright said the City had drafted a legal agreement that included every request made by the Foundation Board, but talks came to a halt.

“Need change on that (Foundation) board before we (the City) will ever get it,” said McLeod.

The City notified the Foundation Board that it would discontinue mowing and maintenance at the privately owned park effective May 1 — an $1,800 monthly expense.

“Our citizens have been paying for something that’s not part of our city,” Boatright said. “We all use it and it’s a great asset. But to continue to spend money on property we don’t own isn’t right.”

The Council approved a change order to the Ovivo MBR Equipment contract for the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant. Aaron Laughlin of Steger Bizzell engineering said the change order is actually lower than the original contract as the firm was able to value engineer some of the elements of the project.

Also this week, the Council voted to approve a proposal with former Senior Planner Jim Bechtol, now of SunRhea Designs, to design downtown sidewalks. The City will pay $4,500 for Bechtol’s service.

Additionally, the Council voted to approve an amended development agreement with Foster San Gabriel Investment, LTD. The amended agreement allows the City Administrator to sign off on commercial LUEs as they develop in the eight parcels along US Highway 183 near Summerlyn in MUD 13.

The original agreement from 2005 required the Council to approve use of each LUE for commercial purposes.

A financial report to Council mid-way through the fiscal year showed sales tax revenue has increased 8 percent from this time last year. Assistant City Administrator Amber Lewis also reported permit revenue is up 90 percent and property tax collections are up 14 percent. Municipal Court revenue continues to decline, she said, noting a 2 percent slide. She said wastewater income is up 6 percent due to collection of additional impact fees. Sewer income is up 50 percent over this time last year due to an increase in customers. Water income is up 6 percent, also due to new customers and impact fees.

The City will host two Clean Up days May 13-14. For the first time, the City will provide curbside pickup for residents without the means to transport the discarded items from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 13. City residents are asked to contact City Hall to arrange pickup. Discarded items may be dropped off at 3414 RR 1869 on May 13 and 14.

The Council also adopted a variance to the City’s fireworks ordinance allowing the City to issue a special event permit for a fireworks show.

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