EDITORIAL: New year brings old, new challenges to greater Liberty Hill area

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Compared to where we were a short few years ago when each city council meeting was a re-do of the last in an attempt to change the outcome, things are much better now.

Compared to when the City did not have the experienced professional staff in place to make things happen, we are now in a much better position. With help from the Economic Development Corporation, the City has made big strides in bringing in the personnel to build the infrastructure to make the area competitive in the ever-changing regional marketplace.

In the absence of the raucous screaming matches and personal vendettas that used to be standard fare at City Hall, Liberty Hill is now poised to move to a new level as a player in the far northern end of the Austin-Central Texas boom.

A few years back, the volunteer fire department was mired in controversy with a very publicly mishandled takeover by the Emergency Services District #4. Criminal accusations were leveled, careers destroyed and lawsuits were flying all over the place. Outsiders made decisions that all of us had to mop up and live with. In the end, some version of justice was done and the local fire and emergency services have continued in a professional manner.

The voters just approved in November a sales tax increase sought by the ESD and its Chief. The majority of voters showed trust and supported an increase in taxes without seeing a plan for improved services. Compared to years past, the ESD now has all the tools they sought in the promise to keep this community safer and improve emergency response times.

A short time ago, the school district was in the unenviable position of defending the education and doctoral degree of a former school superintendent. Although enrollment growth had crowded the fairly new high school into a position of installing portable buildings, the voters defeated a bond proposal for new facilities. Soccer wasn’t offered as a high school sport, important elective courses like Journalism weren’t even being offered to our students.

Now the school district has new and remodeled facilities at every campus. The reuse of the old Intermediate school for the central administration offices shows innovation and an acknowledgement that not everything has to be torn down and rebuilt. It also demonstrates some frugality with the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. The ISD under visionary leadership has put forth a real plan for growth with an eye for a Liberty Hill that could not have been imagined a short time ago.

From City Hall to LHISD, to ESD #4, much good has been accomplished in the public sector due to the hard work and perseverance of people who are invested in a vision for a better community.

However, 2016 is the year when the bill comes due.

The City and its Economic Development Corp. must make good on attracting new businesses that bring sustainable jobs and benefits. The current flurry of activity must produce tangible results, not just rumors of good things ahead.

At the fire department, ESD leaders should focus on bringing forward a real, viable plan for new facilities and improved services that involves the public. There must be some accountability to the public, and the ESD Board of Commissioners should start by setting a regular monthly meeting date and time, then post agendas and minutes on a functional website. Engage and involve the community.

With state-of-the-art facilities, the school district now has the opportunity to look inward and focus on quality — hiring the best educators, weeding out those who aren’t performing and not settling for less while continuing on the path of making students college ready and job ready.

Our community must work together at a level of excellence that we’ve never experienced.

2016 must be the year of no excuses.

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