Council says yes to city building construction contract

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By SHELLY WILKISON

The Liberty Hill City Council approved a contract Monday for construction of the new city administration building downtown at the total cost of $1.6 million.

Assistant City Administrator Amber Lewis noted that anticipated revenues could be applied toward the construction included bond proceeds from expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, $650,000; development fee from Liberty Parke PID, $500,000; MorningStar surcharge fee $400,000; Caughfield connection fee surplus, $273,000. The total projected revenue from those sources is $1.823 million, which will leave the City with a $223,000 surplus.

Architect Don Echols added that some sub-contractors had identified ways to save money on mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

“The intent has always been to get the best price and maintain the integrity and design that we have all been a part of this design process,” he said. “The items we value engineered had more to do with the economies of items…that’s the value of going through this process.

“I feel good that we can deliver the building much as you see it right now,” he said, referring to a three-dimensional model that was first shown to the Council in 2015.

In recent weeks, Gilger Construction, the contractor on the project, completed the demolition of a building where the new administration offices will be built at 926 Loop 332.

Construction on the new building and its parking lot will begin this month with a target completion date in October.

The 5,436-square-foot, two-story building will have office space for city staff. Additionally, the building will have an outdoor patio on the second floor, a clock tower that will house an elevator and stairwell. Officials say the parking lot will also be an important addition to downtown, accessible to businesses as well as city employees.

“We wanted to make this the hallmark of the downtown, something you (the Council) would be proud of, something the citizens can be proud of, something that will be here for the next 100 years,” said Lewis. “And we think this will help spur the development downtown that y’all wanted to see happen. I think we accomplish that with this.”

Lewis added that the Council could be proud that “we’re paying for this building that hardly any of it is debt-financed.”

Councilmember Wendell McLeod said he remembered the first budget estimate on the project was much lower than the $1.2 million GMP approved by the Council Monday.

Lewis said in the early stages, the plan was to remodel the Holloway building, but detailed inspections showed significant damage to the foundation, the presence of asbestos and other major problems. In the end, staff recommended the building be demolished and a new and somewhat larger structure be built along with a much-needed parking area.

“This is giving us a chance to invest in our downtown where we might not have had the opportunity to do that,” Lewis said. “This turned out to be a little bit bigger of a project.”

With all members present, the Council voted unanimously to approve the contract with Gilger Construction.

In other business this week, the Council voted held a public hearing, then approved a resolution accepting the voluntary annexation into the Liberty Hill ETJ of property located on State Highway 29 west of Ronald Reagan Blvd.

Senior Planner Sally McFeron said the City is receiving four to five signed petitions per day from property owners seeking to be annexed into the Liberty Hill ETJ. Among those properties is a 250-acre tract near Copper Ridge on SH 29. Another is The Ridge, a 200-acre residential development also on SH 29.

The Council also voted to approve a $46,000 contract with NewGen Strategies & Solutions to conduct a rate study on wholesale wastewater and retail water and wastewater service.

Lewis explained that the need for a study was prompted by the inability to collect more than $200,000 in delinquent wastewater fees owed by Lennar Buffington Stonewall Ranch, after the entity declared bankruptcy last year. The company had an agreement with LCRA, previous owner of the treatment plant, which was obtained by the City, that it would pay $40,000 per month for service. The company owes the City for six months, and the City’s legal counsel was authorized Monday to pursue collection efforts.

“We need to re-examine these rates and come up with something more fair,” said Lewis.

McLeod, who ultimately voted for the project, expressed concern about the cost of the study and the possibility that it might result in a fee increase for city residents.

“We don’t expect a lot of change for city customers,” Lewis said.

“It’s alright to do this, but before we set a rate on Liberty Hill, we need to look at what we’re spending,” McLeod said, referring to the City’s overall spending. “There are a lot on fixed incomes. I don’t want to get it where they can’t pay their bills.”

“We’re losing $40,000 a month now,” said Lewis. “It costs us to operate that plant.”

She said she believed a possible rate change that might come as a result of the study would be borne primarily by the treatment plant’s regional customers.

In other matters, the Council accepted the certification of unopposed candidates and adopted an ordinance declaring the unopposed council candidates elected.

Mayor Connie Fuller, and councilmembers Ron Rhea and McLeod filed for re-election, but were unopposed.

The action Monday cancels the city election that was scheduled for May 7.

The Council also approved a development agreement with MorningStar Ranch subdivision, a 530-acre tract located just north and east of the intersection of SH 29 and Ronald Reagan Blvd.

The new development will pay the City $343,500 in parkland fees over time, which will mean a $58,436 boost to the Parks budget in the current fiscal year.

Other highlights of the agreement include the city’s ability to generate fees for building permits. The development will have 1400 lots and 400 multi-family residences.

The MorningStar development will also include a major commercial area, which Lewis described would be “prosperous.”

Model homes will be completed at MorningStar in mid-June.

City Administrator Greg Boatright was not present Monday.

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