Council discusses project management, new business, repainting water towers

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By Madison McVan

City Council faced a 16-item regular agenda on Monday, but many items were procedural or dropped from discussion in the meeting, which lasted two hours and 20 minutes.

Some procedural votes included the beginning stages of setting an ad valorem tax rate for FY 2017-18 (see related story, Page 1); approving a written investment policy for the city; correcting errors in the employee handbook; approving a holiday calendar and Community Clean-Up days; adopting the City of Liberty Hill Investment report for the third quarter; beginning voluntary annexation proceedings for the Giddings tract; and pushing back the deadline for City Secretary Barbara Zwernemann to have City Council meeting materials prepared, from noon on Friday to 4:30 p.m.

No action was taken to adopt the Unified Development Code Advisory Committee’s recommendations, because a short discussion revealed that more meetings between the UDC Advisory Committee, Planning and Zoning Commission, city staff and council members need to occur before the Council is ready to take action.

“There was a miscommunication between Jon (Branigan) and I, and I thought this was going to be on the (August) 21st agenda,” said Attorney Linda Sjogren.

Last year, the UDC Advisory Committee chaired by Branigan recommended changes to the development code, but Council did not adopt all the recommendations. The committee is bringing back the original list of recommendations for Council approval.

A motion was passed to table the discussion on UDC recommendations until the next meeting.

The Council also did not discuss funding the construction of a turn lane at the intersection of Ranch Road 1869 and Highway 29 because the Texas Department of Transportation has not yet released the necessary budget information.

The Council met 30 minutes in executive session where they were scheduled to discuss with the City Attorney the legal requirements for annexation, development and strategic partnership for property in the Stonewall Municipal Utility District, as well as the acquisition of real estate within the City of Liberty Hill.

City extends contract with Diverse Planning & Development
The only expenditure considered at the meeting was passed after tough questioning from Mayor Pro Tem Liz Rundzieher, who ultimately made the motion to approve a $75,000 contract with Diverse Planning and Development to continue their work managing city projects.

The contract funds “Task Two” of DPD’s work with the city. Task One was approved in mid-February for no more than $75,000, and included “program management and the creation of a Capitol Improvements tool,” according to the Professional Services Agreement.

Task Two is described as beginning “the actual project management and detail into bidding and construction,” as well as the integration and maintenance of the Capital Improvements tool.

“I’m just concerned because we haven’t seen anything change,” Rundzieher said. “It’s been what, six months? It seems like there could be one little thing done.”

City Administrator Greg Boatright defended DPD representative Pix Howell, citing his networking abilities and experience.

“I know for a fact that on at least two of these consultants, Pix saved us $50,000 by negotiating the fee down, because they want to do work for Liberty Hill,” he said. “They want to get their foot in the door, so to speak, with the city. So it’s hard to quantify what that value is.”

When the Council approved Task One in February, Boatright called DPD a “surrogate staff.” He and Howell both echoed this sentiment on Monday.

“We kind of act as an extension of staff,” Howell said. ”In other words, these are all projects that the city would need to start, wants to start, has the money to build and move forward on. Their biggest problem is that they don’t have the time to be able to do exactly what we’re doing.”

Branigan pushed for the Capital Improvements tool to be put on the city website in the near future. The tool, demonstrated at the last City Council meeting, allows users to view city projects on a map, and includes information such as timelines and budgets. It also functions as a planning and analytic tool for city staff.

Site plans approved for another Domino’s
A second Domino’s Pizza on Highway 29 will soon begin construction, following the Council’s approval of the site plans.

The new building will be located at 14200 W. Highway 29, on the east side of the Sonic. City Planner Sally McFeron said that it will be similar to the location on Highway 29, east of Highway 183, with a small dining room and a focus on carry-out. Both locations are owned by Terra and Mike Schweizer.

“This is an exciting development,” McFeron said. “They’re actually having a groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow if all goes well tonight.”

Fortunately for the Schweizers, Council approved the site plan unanimously and the new Domino’s broke ground at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Mike Schweizer said that they are aiming to finish construction on the restaurant by Oct. 20, but that it will likely run a couple weeks behind.

Mike Schweizer said that the second location is the result of growth in the area and traffic congestion.

“It’ll make it a little easier on drivers getting to this store,” he said. “It’ll be a little safer.”

Delivery will be available to those within a nine-minute drive of the restaurant.

The site plan also includes a 5,900 square foot retail facility, which does not have a dedicated use yet. Brazos Contractor Development is developing the property, and will not begin construction on the retail facility until a lease is signed.

At the meeting, Braningan questioned McFeron over some specifics of the plan, especially regarding a “future driveway” shown on the site, which McFeron said would be shared with the future developers of the lot next to the Domino’s.

“You’re asking somebody else to pay for what Domino’s should be paying for since it’s on their property,” he said. “That’s what I understand.”

Council Member Wendell McLeod drew laughs from the audience when Mayor Connie Fuller introduced the agenda item by saying that council had received a complaint, calling on McLeod to speak.

“I want to get Mr. Gattis in here,” McLeod joked. He ultimately voted in favor of the site plan.

Council backs water tower repainting efforts
The final regular agenda item of the night was a personal concern of McLeod, who was the general manager of the Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp. for over 20 years.

“I was going to take pictures, but I’m not very good at taking pictures,” McLeod said. “Drive around and look at the water towers. The old 50,000-gallon tank up here, you can’t hardly even see the letters ‘Liberty Hill.’ When people come to our town, they see that.”

Public Works Director Wayne Bonnett commented from the audience that he has been exploring options for either repainting the water towers or getting vinyl “wraps” for them.

Bonnett said that he and Lance Dean, the Economic Development Corp. Executive Director, met on-site at a water tower with a crew that produces wraps, but are still getting price estimates for various options.

The price could vary widely depending on if the paint on the water tower contains lead.

Mayor Fuller brought up the idea of using tax notes to fund the project, and Boatright called it “a good idea.”

Dean explained that a wrap would cover the flat face of the tower, and could be designed with input from the community.

The Council unanimously passed a motion to support the possibility of getting bids to paint the water towers.

LHPD provides Monthly Activity Report
Chief of Police Maverick Campbell was not present Monday, but the Council took time to review the activity report, which includes the following statistics for the month of July: one assault, three burglaries, seven larceny thefts, 194 traffic stops, 116 citation violations, one injury accident and six vehicle impounds.

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