By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Development plans for 95 acres south of County Road 263 and west of Eagle Owl Loop got a big boost Monday when the Liberty Hill City Council created the Summerlyn West Public Improvement District (PID).
The new PID, Liberty Hill’s second after Liberty Parke was established in January 2017, authorizes $7.5 million in bond funds for design and construction of improvements to the property.
The plan for the property is residential development.
The list of authorized improvements to the property include the establishment of parks and open space with planned amenities; construction and improvement of water, wastewater and drainage services; acquisition, construction and improvements of streets; and signage.
Initial discussions focused on the $7.5 million in bond monies, but a figure of $6 million was brought to the Council Monday. After a brief discussion, addressing concerns of City Administrator Greg Boatright, the decision was made to go with the original amount of $7.5 million.
Boatright said because the City is in the preliminary stages of discussing the creation of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) for Summerlyn West, he wanted to be sure the monies available through the PID were sufficient to cover needed improvements and not potentially cut into funding from a future TIRZ there.
By establishing a PID, the City is able to sell bonds for improvements, but keep the tax burden for the bonds tied specifically to that property. The city will assess levies on parcels within the PID in equal shares based on benefits gained from the improvements. No taxpayers outside the PID will be responsible for repayment of those particular bonds.
The Council voted unanimously to establish the PID, with the next step coming at its next meeting when it will consider the term sheet for the tax rate and bonds.
A new coffee shop is coming to Liberty Hill, EDC Executive Director Lance Dean announced at Monday’s meeting. Mojo Coffee, which has locations in Burnet and Marble Falls, hopes to open in May, according to Forrest Jackson with Mojo Coffee. The coffee shop will have the same menu and set up as the other two locations with a drive thru, and will be located in the auction house behind JJ’s Liquor on Brown Bridge Road.
With work progressing on Veterans Park downtown, the Council was presented with options Monday to select a life-sized military statue for the park.
“This is an exciting thing to look at,” said Mayor Connie Fuller. “We met with the people doing the park last Wednesday and they said we should be able to have it finished by the end of January.”
Once selected, the statue will go just inside the main entrance beyond the archway.
Because council members had not had an opportunity to consider the options and cost prior to the meeting, they voted to send their recommendations to City Secretary Barbara Zwernemann by noon Friday.
Commissioning a statue for the park was expected to cost the City between $40,000 and $60,000 so the City chose to look for other options. The options under consideration are bronze and would cost between $2,000 and $20,000, and included a soldier standing, kneeling or in action.
New Building Inspector
Elias Carrasco was introduced Monday as the City’s new Building Inspector/Commercial Code Enforcement Officer. Carrasco most recently worked in Hutto and brings 10 years experience in the field.
“We are really thrilled to have him and his experience,” said City Administrator Greg Boatright.
The City has been contracting out the work, and Boatright said the increase in workload over the last several years justified establishing a full-time staff position. Carrasco’s salary is $68,000.
“We have been contracting for this ever since the city was established,” he said. “The fees we were paying were much higher than what we could hire someone for. It made perfect sense to go ahead and get someone on staff. We’re at a point where we can sustain the need and the position is well justified.”
The number of permits issued by the city increased from 65 in fiscal year 2015-2016, to over 600 in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Residential code inspection will continue to be handled by the Liberty Hill Police Department.
The Council approved an agreement with Liberty Hill ISD to hold a joint election in May for the city council and LHISD Board of Trustees. The school district is expected to approve the annual agreement at its next meeting. The election is May 5.
Following an executive session lasting one hour and 45 minutes, the Council took no action on three items that were on the closed session agenda.
Among those was to “Discuss and consider personnel matters, including but not limited to the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of the Chief of Police”.
Police Chief Maverick Campbell attended the open meeting Monday, but was not invited back into the closed session discussion. He was hired by the City in June 2016.
When asked about the discussion item, Mayor Fuller told The Independent she could not talk about what was discussed during the closed door discussion, but said the matter had not been resolved and she expected to see it on a future council agenda.
The Council also discussed the employment of a Finance Director. The position has been vacant since Amber Lewis resigned in May 2017, and those services have been provided by an interim contractor. The Council is expected to take action to hire the individual on Jan. 22.