Liberty Hill, Leander agree on wastewater service

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Mayor Connie Fuller reads a proclamation designating May as Motorcycle Safety Month. (Shelly Wilkison Photo)

Mayor Connie Fuller read a proclamation designating May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. (Shelly Wilkison Photo)

By SHELLY WILKISON

The Liberty Hill City Council approved an agreement with the City of Leander Tuesday to provide that city with wholesale wastewater service in new Leander neighborhoods in the area of Ronald Reagan Blvd. and State Highway 29.

The 40-year agreement, which becomes effective with the approval of the Leander City Council next week, is expected to generate $320,274 per month in wastewater sales, said Liberty Hill’s Chief Financial Officer Amber Lewis.

Leander City Manager Kent Cagle was present at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“This is a milestone for our city from the standpoint of regional cooperation,” said Liberty Hill City Manager Greg Boatright. “Kent has been forthcoming in working through this agreement, and it went smooth because both sides saw a benefit.”

The agreement allows Liberty Hill to provide wastewater service to 1,900 acres north of the South San Gabriel River along Ronald Reagan Blvd. to SH 29. The service area excludes Rancho Sienna, which is already served by Liberty Hill’s plant. Liberty Hill will charge a flat rate of $39.54 per month for up to 8,100 LUE’s. The agreement goes further by allowing Leander to purchase at cost reclaimed water from the treatment plant, which will be used to care for a 45-acre park.

“We’re neighboring cities with common interests,” Boatright said. “We’re seeing similar growth patterns. This is good for both sides.”

Also Tuesday, the Council approved the low bid of $2,137,468 by Royal Vista of Liberty Hill to construct a 12-inch water line along Bagdad Road that will transport treated water from Leander to Liberty Hill.

For more than a decade, the City of Liberty Hill has been paying for water in Lake Travis. According to a previously approved agreement, the City of Leander will treat the water and the new infrastructure will make it possible for Liberty Hill to receive it.

The City of Leander owns the water CCN along Bagdad Road to the South San Gabriel River. The new water line will link to Leander infrastructure at about CR 281.

The Council approved a $993,000 Task Order for engineering company Steger Bizzell to design the construction plans for an 800,000- gallons-per-day expansion to the wastewater treatment plant.

In January, the Council took the first step toward the $9 million expansion of the plant by authorizing the purchase of equipment at $1.4 million. The City, which has already received a permit by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to expand capacity from 400,000 gallons per day to 1.2 million gallons per day, will utilize Ovivo’s MBR treatment system. Engineers say the MBR (Membrane Bio-Reactor) is the safest option for the environment and most cost effective for Liberty Hill.

“This new technology treats to a level that meets the stringent discharge permit we have,” said engineer Curtis Steger.

Steger and City employees Jim Bechtol and Wayne Bonnett traveled to Seattle in recent weeks to see a plant with similar technology in operation.

Engineer Perry Steger said the essential part of the plant has a $6.2 million pricetag, but the additional items would allow the City to help recoup the costs by selling reclaimed water and processing its own sludge as opposed to paying a third party to haul it away.

“You have some flexibility, and you could take some things out that will be bid separately,” Perry Steger said. “But I hate to see you do that because it should pay for itself in two-three years.

“This plant is only the essentials. This is the bare bones plant, no bells and whistles. Basic plant and with discharge permit to insure always comply,” he added.

The City will pay for the plant expansion by issuing bonds. City Financial Advisor Chris Lane told the Council this week that the majority of the bond debt will be paid by the municipal utility districts that are customers of the city wastewater plant.

Boatright said in planning the financing for the expansion, the projected number of LUE’s provided by developers of new subdivisions was taken into consideration.

“However, we took the conservative approach,” he said. “Our numbers were 20 percent lower than theirs. We all know themarket can change. If growth doesn’t come along, we still have the debt payment.”

The Council, which met on a Tuesday because of the Memorial Day holiday Monday, also adopted a mid-year budget amendment that reflected increases in sales tax receipts and changes in expenditures.

Also Tuesday, the Council acknowledged the recent donations by Liberty Hill Towing and The Liberty Hill Independent newspaper that were used by the Liberty Hill Police Department to purchase eight body cameras for officers in addition to one year of cloud storage for videos.

Police Chief Randy Williams said the contribution “was huge” in that the cameras help protect officers and assist in evidence collection.

In other business Tuesday, the Council:

– Approved a preliminary plan for Highland Terrace subdivision — a 36-acre subdivision off US Highway 183 adjacent to the City’s wastewater treatment plant. The plan calls for 160 single family homes.

– Administered the Oath of Office to Councilmember Liz Rundzieher. She was one of three incumbents who were unopposed in the May election. Members Troy Whitehead and Liz Branigan took the Oath two weeks ago when Rundzieher was absent.

– Re-elected Branigan as Mayor Pro-Tem by a 3-1 vote with Councilmember Wendell McLeod voting no. – Adopted a proclamation in recognition of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May.

– Accepted an agreement between the City and the Economic Development Corp. for the provision of management services for the contracted employment of Kirk Clennan as the EDC’s executive director. While his $70,000 salary and benefits will be paid by the EDC, the agreement allows the City to recoup from the EDC fund any additional expenses that may be associated with his employment.

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