EDC sponsors Christmas Festival, LHPD Blue Santa

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By SARAH SILBERSTEIN

The Liberty Hill community will be full of Christmas cheer this holiday season thanks, in part, to the sponsorship application approved by the Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors Nov. 10.

Michael Wright, Pastor of Fellowship Church of Liberty Hill and head of this year’s Christmas Festival Committee as chairman of the Ministerial Alliance, addressed the Board to request EDC sponsorship in the amount of $4,700.

“The truth is, there’s been one or two people carrying this load and they’ve done such a great job that it’s outgrown their shoulders and we want to make sure that we’re able to come alongside as a community to do what needs to be done,” said Wright.

The festival, which will be held at Lions Foundation Park Dec. 3-4, has an overall budget of $20,000, Wright said.

Organizers will be promoting the festival with banners, yard signs, and newspaper advertisements in Liberty Hill and on Facebook with targeted advertisements to individuals within a 50-mile radius of the city. Organizers estimate festival attendance will be between 1,000 and 2,000 people.

The two-day festival will feature vendors, food trucks, a Jingle Bell 5K race, a community parade, appearances by Santa Claus, musical performances, an Angel Tree, and a community church service.

Light the Night at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at the park, marks the start of the festival weekend with the city’s official Christmas Tree lighting and caroling. The event, now in its third year, is sponsored by the City of Liberty Hill and the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce. Choir performances by Cross Tracks Church and Life Springs Church will be from 6-7 p.m., and refreshments will be served at no charge. The event also marks the beginning of the Trail of Lights around the park, which will be displayed nightly through the holidays.

“It is an event that has become widely known throughout Central Texas,” Wright said. “It is an opportunity for Liberty Hill to shine, it has obviously been a great event over the last couple of years, and it’s going to keep getting better and we need to keep on supporting it.”

The EDC Board unanimously approved the sponsorship application in the amount of $4,700 and will reimburse the festival committee upon receiving purchase receipts.

“I think this is just good policy as we’re public money,” EDC Director Bill Chapman said.

Liberty Hill Police Chief Maverick Campbell requested the Board approve sponsorship in the amount of $250 to be used toward community policing initiatives— a category not currently included in the police department’s budget.

The funds will be used to purchase a blue santa suit to be worn in the Christmas Parade and to deliver presents to economically disadvantaged children as part of the Blue Santa project.

For the city’s first year participating in the program, Campbell said LHPD will “piggy-back off of Leander [Police Department] but will make sure that the proceeds benefit families in Liberty Hill.”

LHPD will receive the information of families through Hill Country Bible Church and Chief Campbell hopes to make the holidays a little brighter for 10-25 families in Liberty Hill.

In addition to receiving donations, LHPD will raise money for the program by competing in challenges against the Leander Police Department from now until Christmas.

One of the challenges, the Badge Beard Challenge, has the officers growing beards to compete for awards in the categories of best beard, worst beard, and who couldn’t grow a beard.

The Blue Santa Project “is a really great program and it really targets children in need,” he said. “It just continues to build that positive relationship that we already have with the community.”

The Board unanimously approved LHPD’s sponsorship request of $250.

The EDC Board also unanimously approved staff’s recommendation to endorse Dahlia Cafe as Liberty Hill’s recipient of the 2016 Small Business Award. EDC Secretary Johnny Johnston, the owner of the restaurant, abstained from the vote.

The award is sponsored by the Governor’s Office and the Williamson County EDC, an organization that Liberty Hill’s EDC recently joined, and will be presented to Dahlia Cafe at the Williamson County Small Business Forum on Dec. 1.

The criteria for the award is that the business has increased their number of employees, increased their capital investment, overcome adversity, and/or plays a vital role in the community.

“Everybody from all over the place knows where Liberty Hill is because of Dahlia’s,” said EDC board member Rick Hall.

In selecting Dahlia Cafe to receive the award, EDC Coordinator Gili Carter Thomas said, “Staff took the liberty to nominate [Dahlia’s for this award] because I did not have time to bring it in front of the Board. It was either no award or make a nomination so that’s what the staff chose to do.”

The board entered executive session at 6:56 p.m., pursuant to Section 551.071- consultation with attorney, to discuss meeting with the Liberty Hill Development Foundation Board regarding Lions Foundation Park.

The meeting was reconvened at 7:21 p.m. with no action being taken.

Carter Thomas presented the revenue and expense report to the board. The EDC Board has used 3.2 percent of their budget and the fiscal year is 8.3 percent complete.

EDC President Lance Dean suggested adding a plus/minus column to the report that would allow board members to see how the EDC is performing to budget per month.

Year to date, the EDC generated $24,366.90 in sales tax revenue, which Carter Thomas said is a 60 percent increase over last year. The board has a fund balance of $500,000.

The board scheduled a strategic planning meeting for Jan. 19, 2017.

“Last time we did that we came up with three priorities and accomplished one,” said EDC Vice President Eric Van Natter. “If for no other reason, the session will help to give direction to Gili.”

Van Natter suggested moving the time of the LHEDC Board of Directors meetings to earlier in the afternoon in 2017.

Carter Thomas updated the board on her activity since being hired as Liberty Hill’s EDC Coordinator in August and informed the board of her plans to attend upcoming events.

Carter Thomas said she attended the EDC Annual Conference in San Antonio in October and the Wilco EDC roundtable, Invest in Texas Initiative, with Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long.

Carter Thomas plans to attend a training session with Teche Electric on Nov. 22, the Williamson County Small Business Forum on Dec. 1, the TEDC Sales Tax Certification Workshop with Hall on Dec. 9, the TEDC workshop in February, the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meetings, and recommended the city consider conducting an EDC impact study.

“I’m unsure of the cost, but it’s something we need to, as a city, start prioritizing to show that we have our act together,” she said.

Carter Thomas told the board that she recently began a mentorship program with Ben White, the Vice President of Economic Development for Round Rock, and informed the board of her plans to enroll in classes for Oklahoma University’s EDC program in December.

The next meeting of the EDC Board will be held on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

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