Council resolves supervisory issue with Police Chief

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

After months of discussions behind closed doors, the City Council shifted once again, voting unanimously to make City Administrator Greg Boatright the direct supervisor of Police Chief Maverick Campbell.

Over four consecutive meetings the issue had been listed on the council agenda, with discussion moved each time to executive session by Mayor Rick Hall. Each time the council emerged with no decision or public discussion of the issue until Monday, when a motion was made by Council Member Troy Whitehead and seconded by Council Member Ron Rhea following another 45-minute closed-door discussion.

The first motion was to amend the City’s employee handbook, clarifying supervisory authority for city employees. The second motion was to amend Campbell’s employment contract, clarifying that he would “report to and receive direct supervision from the city administrator on a day-to-day basis.” Both motions passed unanimously without further discussion.

The Council is expected to approve an amended ordinance related to supervisory responsibilities for city employees at its next meeting.

The chain of command for the police chief first became an issue in May 2017, when Campbell began reporting to then-Mayor Connie Fuller, instead of Boatright.

The issue re-surfaced on the council agenda following the May election of Hall, who said he had no preference regarding who Campbell would report to.

“I am glad because now it’s behind us and now we can move on,” Hall said after the meeting Monday. “I said in the beginning, all I am wanting to do is what’s best for the city and I think we finally have it done and over with and we’re moving on so now we can actually get to the job we are supposed to be doing making our city grow and prosper.”

Campbell and Boatright had disagreed on staffing issues for the police department prior to the change made last May. From his perspective, Campbell said stories that there had been problems between he and Boatright were not true.

“When they made that last change there was some speculation it signaled a dispute or disagreement at city hall, that was not the case. Not everyone is going to agree on things, it’s not a perfect world, but we work through those things as a team,” Campbell said in May, adding he felt he could work under either circumstance. “I can work for anybody as long as it’s ethical and what they’re asking of me is within the laws that I am responsible for upholding. I respect whatever the decision the governing body makes as far as who I report to. Whatever they decide I respect that decision and it will be business as usual for me.”

Campbell was not present for this week’s Council meeting.

Seeking support
The Liberty Hill Sculpture Celebration committee made a short presentation and funding request to the council, seeking $20,000 to help fund this year’s festival in October.

The presentation focused on goals of the festival and popular activities from last year’s event, but the lack of information regarding costs and the financial situation of the Liberty Hill Development Foundation to help cover costs left council members with more questions than answers.

The Liberty Hill Development Foundation owns Lions Foundation Park and the sculptures.

In the end, the Council chose to table the funding request, asking that the event committee return to the next council meeting July 23 with alternative suggestions for additional funding options.

“There are so many more options than presenting them with a blank check,” Council Member Liz Branigan said.

Kim Sanders, a member of the Development Foundation and president of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce, who made the presentation to the council, said the goal was to raise $20,000 for preservation, maintenance and restoration of the sculptures at the Intermediate school, adjacent to Lions Foundation Park.

Festival planners project a total revenue of about $45,500 with projected expenses of $25,500, leaving a net income of $20,000. Sanders said the profit would be used to clean, renovate and restore the sculptures.

Branigan questioned the wisdom in spending $20,000 of taxpayer funds to raise $20,000.

Awareness was also a key component, according to Sanders.

“We want to raise community awareness of the sculpture park,” she said. “We want to promote arts exposure to Liberty Hill youth and then we’d like to double our attendance from last year.”

When asked what the Development Foundation would be contributing, Sanders said “time and effort.”

“You’re going to get an event in Liberty Hill and you have a committee of people working for free to give you that event and if you just gave us the money to spend on the sculptures there would be no event and no awareness,” she said.

The event is scheduled for Oct. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Lions Foundation Park and then downtown from 6-10 p.m.

“Part of the reason for that is the sculpture you are having erected in the Veterans Memorial Park, we would like to unveil that that evening and have as big an attendance as we can for that,” Sanders said.

City Secretary Barbara Zwernemann said that after speaking to sculptor Bob Ragan, that he could not guarantee the sculpture for Veterans Park would be ready for that date.

Festival Co-Chair Nancy Marasco said she was working with the Foundation Board on grant opportunities, but that more was needed.

“(The sculpture park) is amazing, and in order for it to stay in good condition, we really need some help,” she said. “Yes, we’re writing grants, I’ve been writing grants like crazy since I came on board in March. I haven’t heard anything, but that’s not unusual.”

Drainage
The Council again heard a presentation on the status of the Drainage Master Plan from K. Friese and Associates, with an emphasis on total cost for identified improvements and a breakdown of how those might be paid for long term.

Additional criteria for evaluating the projects identified to provide drainage relief has shuffled the priority list some, but rough estimates put the top seven projects – the original focus – at $5.7 million to address. The estimate for the entire list is $9.7 million.

The most common way cities are addressing these needs financially today is through a drainage fee based on a Fee Equivalent Residential Unit.

“You would do a study throughout the city to determine what your normal residential landowner has in impervious cover – things like roofs, concrete driveways, other roadways, sheds, basically things that prevent water from seeping into the ground and create more runoff the city has to capture and take to the streams,” said Chad Cormack with K. Friese and Associates. “The study would establish the average impervious cover per residential lot.”

Other area cities including Round Rock, Kyle, Georgetown and Taylor have these fees in place.
What residents and businesses would be charged would be based on the Fee Equivalent Residential Unit. The base fee would be calculated on a single family home size and its average impervious cover.

As an example, if the average was determined to be 3,000 square feet per property, then all single family residential units would be charged the determined base fee – such as $3 per month. That square footage would then be applied to multifamily, commercial and industrial uses to determine the fee for each. If an industrial building, along with its parking area, was 12,000 square feet, then the monthly fee would be $12. Cormack said a $3 fee per residential unit in Liberty Hill would generate about $100,000.

Revenue from a stormwater utility fund can be used for operations and maintenance as well as capital improvement projects. In the future, it would also allow the city to issue revenue bonds. Establishing such a fund would require an ordinance notification and public hearing.

Having the fee in place before more growth arrives is something Cormack said will make it easier to accept for many.

“This is common in adjacent cities and the development community is used to seeing it,” Cormack said. “At some point, the City of Liberty Hill, as we grow, is going to want to implement some fund like this. If we can get it on the ground now, people will know it when they move here, it is then a lot easier to swallow.

“Public outreach is paramount, because nobody likes paying extra money when they don’t know what it’s going to,” Cormack said in previous discussions on the issue.

The Council did not discuss the issue further or indicate support for or against a drainage fee.

Park questions
Plans for the swim center at City Park and the development of Wetzel Park downtown are deep in the process, but new questions were raised Monday about whether the best plans were in place.

Council Member Wendell McLeod said he’d like to see consideration given to restructuring the swim center plan to include a competition-style pool, and also to add a skate park to the plans for Wetzel Park.

Currently, plans for Wetzel Park include a splash pad, parking, bicycle racks and water station, and restrooms. There will also be shade structures bordering portions of the splash pad and anti-slip concrete decking around the splash pad to keep it cooler.

The splash pad includes various symmetrical sets of fountains on four lobes and sits on a site approximately 50-feet square. The fountains are controlled by push buttons for child activation.

The parking area is positioned on the north end of the site with two-way entrance on Loop 332 and entrance-only access on County Road 279.

Bids are set to be open this week for construction at Wetzel Park, so the council will consider awarding a bid at its next meeting unless the council decides to go back to the drawing board.

It is anticipated that plans will be ready to send the swim center out for bid by late August.

The final plan – to be constructed at City Park on County Road 200 – includes the pool, splash pad, pool house with pavilion area, fencing, landscaping and parking lot. A walking trail around the southern half of the park will also be included in the bid proposals.

The splash pad is roughly 2,000 square feet at an estimated budget of about $150,000, breaking down to $63 per square foot for full recirculation system. The hope is that it will be incorporated with the pool circulation system to create cost savings once final design and bids are approved. The splash pad would not initially include shade, but it could be added at a later date.

The pool house is roughly 1,300 square feet and is an open-air facility with restrooms, pavilion area and changing rooms. There would be no heating or air conditioning. The plan is to have restrooms and a potential vending area accessible year round for park users, even when the pool is closed.

The pool itself would be about 4,800 square feet, with a zero entry grade on one end and reaching a depth of five feet on the other. This allows children to play in the shallower end more easily, and creates greater ease of entrance for those with disabilities.

Plans also include fencing, shade structures, landscaping and grass areas surrounding the pool deck.

A parking lot with approximately 60 spaces, along with an improved entrance on County Road 200 are also in the plan. The original budget for the project was about $1.2 million.

Through the planning phases of the swim center it was determined a competition-style pool would be too costly and also create problems with the location at City Park due to the increased size.

Mike@LHIndependent.com

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