EDC Board approves interim contract for Clennan

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Directors of the City’s Economic Development Corp. voted unanimously last week to approve an interim employment contract for Kirk Clennan, who was hired as its Executive Director.

Clennan, who attended the March 26 EDC meeting, will be paid $6,000 plus mileage for the first 30 days of his employment as he awaits a final contract that will require EDC Board approval in April.

City Manager Greg Boatright, who has been serving as executive director since he was employed in 2013, said a draft of the employment contract that was included in last week’s meeting packet would change somewhat over the coming weeks. He said it will be revisited to more closely mirror the contract Boatright has with the EDC.

“I don’t want to delay this (Clennan’s start date),” Boatright said. Once approved by the EDC Board, the City Council will vote on the contract.

Previously, Boatright told The Independent that Clennan will be paid $70,000 annually.

Also last week, the Board voted unanimously to recommend the City Council appoint Eric Van Natter to the panel. If approved, he fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Rick Montelongo.

Van Natter is owner of Star of Texas Realty Group located in downtown Liberty Hill. He is also president of the Christian Business Leaders Association and is a longtime resident of Liberty Hill.

In other business, directors discussed but took no action on the application process for the downtown facade grant.

The EDC budgeted $100,000 this fiscal year for facade grants and sidewalks in the downtown area. In an effort to improve the appearance of the downtown business area, grants will be available to property owners to make changes to parts of the buildings that face the street. Applicants fund the entire project and then come to the City for reimbursement of up to $5,000 in matching funds.

EDC President Frank Spinosa said applicants should be required to provide a personal guarantee that if their businesses close down they would repay the grant.

But Boatright said to avoid a “management nightmare”, it would be best if the City waited for release of a contractor’s lien before it issued payment to the applicant. Even if a business closed after making the facade improvements, those changes would stay with the building.

“We shouldn’t release funds to the applicant until the project is complete and they present a release of lien from the contractor,” Boatright said. “They (the property owner) fund the whole thing then comes to us. After the inspection is done, then the funds are released.”

Boatright asked whether the EDC should define the parameters of “downtown” for the purpose of determining grant eligibility.

“Is it Loop 332 and RR 1869?” he asked. “Or is it necessary for us to define the parameters?”

While the issue was not resolved during the discussion, it was clarified that any work done to improve the downtown buildings would have to meet city codes.

“We do have (funding for) a code enforcement officer budgeted. We’re getting to the point where we have enough building inspections generating enough revenue for that,” he said. “We will get that job posted soon.”

Because the county-awarded Community Development Block Grant will not fund sidewalk construction in the two-block business area of downtown, the City will use monies set aside for sidewalks in the EDC budget. Phase 1 will include sidewalks on the east side of Loop 332. In 2016, sidewalks on the west side of the street will be constructed, Boatright said.

Also last week, the Board voted unanimously to support the publication of a community guide in collaboration with the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce. The magazine, which will be published by The Liberty Hill Independent in June, will be mailed to every postal customer in the Liberty Hill area and will be used as a marketing tool by the Chamber on behalf of the community.

In February, the EDC Board agreed to act as a “backstop” to help pay for printing and postage if the Chamber was unable to do that. “But I don’t think that’s going to be an issue anymore,” Boatright said last week. “I do think it’s important to show that we’re a willing partner in this project. This is a step in the right direction in helping bring the community together.”

Boatright informed the Board that the City is inching closer to an agreement with the Liberty Hill Development Foundation to take ownership of Lions Foundation Park.

“Frank, your bullheadedness on this issue has worked in our favor,” Boatright told Spinosa.

Spinosa has repeatedly stated that the City should not invest in a proposed sculpture park in Lions Foundation Park until the City takes ownership of the property. Currently, the City pays to have the park mowed regularly, but decisions regarding park use and improvements are made by the Development Foundation.

In recent months, the Foundation Board has requested the EDC allocate funds that were intended to be used as matching funds for grants to move the sculptures from Liberty Hill Intermediate School into the park and create a sculpture garden.

The EDC did agree to pay a consultant to design the sculpture park and work to secure grants, but had not yet set aside matching funds.

“The Foundation Board did a heroic effort to create it. By the City putting forth a good faith effort to maintain it, things have aligned,” Boatright said. “They are ready to move forward.”

Director Brian Butler was not present for last week’s meeting.

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