Should Liberty Hill city council terms be extended?



Is three – or even four – better than two?

Liberty Hill may ask voters to decide whether city council terms should be extended from the current two years to three or perhaps even four.

No decision was made Monday, but the Council asked City Attorney Tad Cleaves to come back with more information on the issue.

“In order to go to a three-year term it has to be approved by the voters,” said Council member Kathy Canady. “I think we’re getting closer to Home Rule, a lot closer than we’ve ever been and I think we need to start planning now. None of us are going to be given a three-year term unless the voters say yes and you rerun and get elected.”

Cleaves said the terms are set at two years by the Texas Constitution and it was unlikely there would be time to get the issue on the November ballot, meaning the next option would be May 2020.

Council member Tony DeYoung said he supported longer terms to give members more opportunity to see long-term projects and plans to their end.

New consultant
The Council entered into a new consulting agreement with Powell Municipal, opening the door for Liberty Hill to seek assistance in a number of areas.

Amid the variety of services listed in the agreement are communications, public affairs, marketing and development, and urban planning and development.

Principal Matt Powell, who was a longtime member of the Cedar Park City Council and Mayor of that city, said his company could assist in the search and hiring of a new city administrator. Powell Municipal currently has a consulting agreement with the City of Leander as well.

“We were founded last year to support city management and staff and council,” Powell said. “To run a great city you have to have the cooperation of all three and we try to make all three of those work together as harmoniously and efficiently as possible.”

The philosophy of the company is about efficiency and identity, according to Powell.

“When your city is running efficiently, when all of your employees are in their best positions, doing their best work and inspired, and all of you on the city council have the certain things that really motivate you, and are able to dream a little bit, it makes it better,” Powell said to the Council. “Your job should be fun. It’s hard work, I’ve done it, but you should be having fun at the same time.”

The agreement is based on a sliding hourly scale with an overall rate dependent on how many hours of work is done. Up to and including 10 hours of consulting services monthly the City would pay $2,100. If 11 through 15 hours of service are provided, the monthly charge would be $3,050 and 16 through 20 hours will be billed at $3,890. Above 20 hours the City will be billed at $175 per additional hour.

The agreement goes into effect Sept. 1.

Hall said Powell Municipal could soon be helping the City with its Land Use Plan.

Good deed
The City and Council took time Monday to honor the efforts of one public works employee, Joshua Carey, who recently went above and beyond to assist a motorist in an emergency.

Police Chief Maverick Campbell wrote a letter to Hall in an effort to commend Carey’s assistance on the scene of a rollover crash at SH 29 and US 183 on Aug. 8.

Carey, who was injured five years ago when his own truck rolled over in a drainage culvert, stopped to render aid and helped free the driver of the overturned vehicle.

Carey was awarded a plaque and a $100 check for his actions as he was recognized at the Council meeting.

Smarter meters
Two months after hearing a presentation on the benefits of purchasing new smart water meters, the Council voted unanimously, with DeYoung abstaining, to move forward with the project.

DeYoung abstained because he is an employee of Ferguson Enterprises, which is the contracting company.

The City will purchase 1,500 new meters at a cost of $661,995, which will be financed for seven years. The cost includes installation.

The Council heard a presentation in early July from the Ferguson Company on the proposed water meters that would increase the City’s ability – as well as residents – to monitor and manage the water system.

At that time, a vote on whether to purchase new meters, which would cover existing account holders with the City, was postponed after a request by then-City Administrator Greg Boatright to give staff time to research costs and potential issue connected to the ongoing negotiations with Georgetown to purchase a portion of its service area.

The primary concern in July was the cost of purchasing the additional 4,500 meters that would be needed if the negotiations with Georgetown to acquire a portion of its service area were successful.

The AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) meters will offer a variety of new tools beyond the current drive by meters that are read monthly with a radio signal. Water can be remotely connected or disconnected with some of the new meters, which would also provide hourly consumption data, which Ferguson representatives said would also help detect leaks faster.

The City would be able to notify account holders of potential leaks quickly and even turn the water off remotely for residences and businesses with leaks.

The lifespan of the new meters is 20 years, and they would come with a full 10-year warranty.

Drawing state lines
The Council reversed course Monday, revisiting a decision from last year to eliminate out-of-state training, and deciding that approval of a staff department head and the Mayor would be the determining factor in whether out-of-state training would be allowed.

The Council voted in April 2018, at the urging of Boatright, to eliminate out of state travel in an effort to control training expenses with the City staff.

According to the proposed budget for next year, the City will increase the amount budgeted for staff training from $50,000 to $136,000.

Celebrating 20 years
Canady had previously requested that the Council discuss ways to celebrate Liberty Hill’s 20th Anniversary.

“We had a 10-year one, and we’ve come a long way since then,” Canady said of her support for a celebration.

Hall suggested that the celebration could be done in conjunction with the upcoming Christmas Festival in December, and the Council agreed. The next step will be to determine exactly how to include it as part of the Christmas event.