EDC Board rescinds funds for sculpture garden development

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By Lauren Jette

The economic development board approved a motion to rescind funds for the sculpture garden during a meeting April 21.

City Administrator Greg Boatright explained to board members that the plan to relocate some of the sculptures had “ground to a halt.”

The Liberty Hill Development Foundation Board was supposed to transfer ownership of the park to the City of Liberty Hill in exchange for the funds to relocate some of the statues. The EDC had approved $100,000 to help the project along, with $8,200 having already been spent on an appraisal of the sculptures.

“This hasn’t been on (the Foundation Board) agenda the last three meetings,” Boatright said.

“The funding was always tied to the park transfer and I think that was well understood by all involved.”

Boatright recommended the EDC Board rescind the funds now as the City is going to cut off electricity and ground maintenance starting May 1, but said he believed the plan would ultimately be achieved. He said until that time, the EDC should make use of the funds this fiscal year for something else.

“I agree with you because I see the events that brought this about and I think we will end up where we said we would,” EDC Director Jack Harkrider said.

Harkrider made the motion to rescind the funds and Eric Van Natter seconded. Members approved the motion unanimously.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, the EDC heard from Susan Barnes, an art teacher at Liberty Hill Intermediate School. She spoke about plans for another sculpture symposium in Liberty Hill in 2018. She said in doing some research about trying to plan a symposium, she realized it would take a couple of years to fully plan one. She presented a handout to members with photos from other sculpture-related events put on by other cities.

In addition, Barnes is currently working to put on a stone carving event in October in Liberty Hill.

While there were no numbers attached to the budget proposals in the handout, Barnes estimated that the stone carving event would need “approximately $15,000” while the sculpture symposium would need “approximately $50-60,000” to be successful.

No action was taken after the presentation.

Also at the meeting, TxDOT engineer Cathy Kratz from the Burnet office and County Commissioner Cynthia Long were present to answer questions about transportation.

The most pressing question board members had was about the intersection of Loop 332 and County Road 200 at State Highway 29.

“As you know, the County in our bond program had identified CR 200 as one of the improvement projects, starting at Hwy 29, but what we did specifically at the intersection with 29 is we didn’t want to design it in a vacuum,” Long explained. “So we got with TxDOT and they participated with part of the engineering to sort of design what the ultimate intersection needs to look like so that what we’re doing on the CR 200 side doesn’t miss when there’s improvements done on the other side.”

Between TxDOT, the County and the City, the intersection is a unique challenge to try and make sure that all improvements line up with what each entity is responsible for, Long said.

“We’ve been talking with the district engineer about trying to identify some TxDOT resources to be able to try and do the whole intersection all at once. They are going to participate with part of the intersection as it relates to 29, there is some commitment, but we haven’t worked out the exact cost yet,” Long said. “We’re trying to stretch the dollars absolutely as far as we can get them. Ultimately there will be a dedicated right, a dedicated left, a dedicated thru so that it doesn’t back up a good way.”

“Is it possible to have two lefts and a straight, because hardly any one is turning right, they’re all turning left?” EDC Director Debby Norman asked.

“The ultimate does have two dual lefts,” Long answered.

“Is there any way we can do that now?” Norman countered.

Long said engineers said no.

“For safety reasons and design reasons, it has to be done in conjunction with all the other construction,” she said.

Members said that intersection backs up heavily during the rush hours in the morning and afternoon.

“Can those lights be programmed so at critical times, can they be timed differently?” Boatright asked.

“They can be adjusted so the sides get more green time,” Kratz said. “It’s a constant balance to keep traffic flowing on 29 and trying to find that healthy balance.”

EDC Director John Clark asked about lowering the speed in front of the high school.

“I’ve been pushing our traffic office because they’ve done a speed study and the speed studies don’t warrant the speed limit being continued at 65 past the school, so I’m trying to go through it as a safety aspect,” Kratz said. “Because you have young drivers who see 65 and are going to gun it even though they know they are making a right in 200 feet, so I’m working on getting that speed limit pushed and the sign adjusted beyond the school.

“And also, we do have a speed study going through town to make sure, see if it needs to be slower, the speed limits through town are appropriate,” she added.

Mayor Connie Fuller was present at the meeting and asked Long about the proposed bypass.

Long said the County continues to buy right-of-way for the bypass as it comes up, but that the project “was still a ways off, when congestion on Highway 29 reaches its maximum.”

Also mentioned was the bridge at CR 214, which was shut down earlier this year after heavy rainfall. Long said it was a special situation because the county doesn’t actually own the roadway, just the bridge, which is built over someone’s property, but that an engineer had been selected to work on the project.

In other business last week, EDC President Lance Dean said they had received several applications for the EDC Executive Director position and that three phone interviews have been done.

An updated façade and sign grant application with the new boundaries approved during last month’s meeting was approved, as well as a letter to be sent to all businesses within the defined downtown area, to let them know this program was approved.

All members were present last Thursday.

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