County to consider bond issue July 16

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Williamson County Commissioners have chosen July 16 as the date to consider whether to call for a November bond election and how much they may ask voters to approve.

The Court heard a presentation from Bond Committee Chair David Hays on June 18 outlining the committee’s unanimous recommendation that the county call a bond election, and suggesting a price tag of $573 million on the initial proposal for road projects and an additional $67 million for parks and trails.

County Judge Bill Gravell suggested postponing the decision until Commissioners had an opportunity to consider all the proposals.

“One is I want to get this right, and two, I would like some more time to review it,” Gravell said. “I just want to pour through the data and recommendations they had. I am not in a rush to make a decision, I am in a rush to get it right. And for me to get it right I need some time to think about it.”

Commissioner Valerie Covey said it would be important to come to that meeting with some proposed ballot wording to consider.

“We need to identify what projects that we’re contemplating and what is being proposed to the voters so they know what they’re voting for,” Covey said. “I don’t mean every specific one with a dollar amount beside each one.”

The bond package could be potentially broken into three separate ballot measures, one for roads, one for parks and one for public safety.

“There are some of these pieces that are county-wide projects that are for public safety,” Gravell said.

Regardless of whether it is two ballot options or three, Gravell said he hopes Commissioners will look hard at ways to trim down the suggested total and Covey agreed.

“What they’re recommending is about $641 million, roughly,” Gravell said. “If we choose to do that, and that’s what we have to answer at that July meeting, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. I would say to you I’m going to cringe a little bit if we go that far.”

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.

If called, this would 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.

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