County expected to finalize bond plan

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

More than three months of information gathering and discussion of a November bond election for Williamson County road and park projects is expected to come to a close Tuesday as Commissioners aim to attach a dollar figure to a list of projects for presentation to voters.

County Commissioners agreed unanimously in early July to move forward with calling a November bond election, and then voted July 23 to approve $412 million for the road portion and $35 million for the parks portion.

The committee selected by Commissioners to study the issue presented its proposal to Commissioners in June, suggesting a $640 million package, paring down $2.7 billion in initial requests made by county and area city officials.

Commissioners based the decision on a pair of key issues in relation to calling a bond election and those were to maintain the current tax rate even with a new bond issue, and to dedicate funds to also retire some of the County’s old debt.

Commissioners have spent time since the July vote paring down the list of proposed projects in their precinct.

A more specific list of projects is expected to be named by Commissioners at the Aug. 6 meeting.

A number of projects that made the committee’s cut will impact Liberty Hill, but none of the four road projects proposed by Mayor Rick Hall in May were suggested for funding.

Widening Bagdad Road made the list for both Liberty Hill and Leander, but when the committee’s list was presented, it proposed the Leander portion, from San Gabriel Parkway north to the Leander City Limits, but not the portion north of that to Loop 332 requested by Liberty Hill.

Other Liberty Hill requests left off the list included the extension of Long Run Road, that would extend from US 183 to CR 214 just north of the Stonewall Subdivision, the widening of CR 200 north from the intersection of SH 29 to CR 201 and the Richard Wear Bypass, planned to connect SH 29 east of the railroad tracks to CR 200 north of the tracks.

Liberty Hill also proposed a shared use path along SH 29 to US 183 to connect with proposed trails from the county and Leander and that plan was included in the parks portion of the final proposal at $1.3 million.

There was $3.3 million allocated for further improvements at River Ranch Park, currently under phase one construction, that would add shelters and cabins, a covered arena and restrooms with a pavilion.

While none of the road projects were supported, some money was allocated for right of way (ROW) acquisition for the Bagdad Road expansion. The committee proposed $35 million be included in the bond proposal for ROW acquisition across the county for future projects.

The SH 29 Bypass, planned to run south around Liberty Hill from just west of Liberty Hill High School to SH 29 east of downtown, was partially supported by the committee. The project, proposed in three phases, would first construct the middle portion that would connect RR 1869 west of downtown to CR 279 south of town. The projected cost is $11 million. The plan also included $2.2 million for ROW acquisition for phases one and three.

The County also plans to extend CR 214 to US 183 – estimated at $2.3 million – should the bond proposal be approved. The northwest portion of Kauffman Loop, at the intersection of SH 29 and Ronald Reagan, is also on the list, as well as widening Ronald Reagan north from SH 29 to FM 3405. Those two projects are estimated at a combined $26.7 million.

This will be the third bond election for road and park projects called by the County since 2000. The first was for $375 million, the second in 2006 was for $250 million and the 2013 bond was for $315 million. Each has passed with a slightly slimmer majority than the previous bond, but all prevailed with 55 percent of the vote or more.

The Commissioners Court has until Aug. 19 to call the bond election.

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