Williamson County sets November bond election

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Following three months of information gathering and number crunching, the Williamson County Commissioners Court finalized the amount and list of projects to be on the ballot for the Nov. 5 bond election.

The bond consists of two propositions, the first a $412 million road projects package and the second a proposal to spend $35 million on park improvements.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long felt like the final version reflected the efforts of the bond committee when it came to gathering public input.

“I was very happy with the level of effort that Matt Powell and Joe Bob Ellison went to, making their way to each council meeting in Pct. 2 trying to make sure they got input, not just from councils but they had several public meetings so I think the outreach was good in trying to hear from local public officials and the public as well,” Long said.

Throughout the selection process, Long has emphasized the need for cities to show a willingness to commit local funds to projects. She saw some of those examples in Liberty Hill.

“There were a couple of different projects the City expressed a willingness to participate in,” Long said. “One was the Long Run extension, turning that into a public road as it extends through Stonewall. One of the other projects there was a high level of interest in participation in was in trails and one of the ones that made it to the list was a trail down Bagdad connecting Liberty Hill to the entrance to the new park.”

What voters will see spelled out in the official bond election propositions may be different than the larger list of projects being planned.

“We have the projects that will go in the specific proposition language then we have the other project list of ones that when you add all those together make up the total project list,” Long said. “Just for the sake of words every single one of them doesn’t go into the bond language.”

The County has put together a list of other projects planned for the bond funds, which includes the Long Run extension, an extension of CR 214 and the SH 29 bypass.

“What we’ve done in the past is we’ve had the specific projects that have been on the ballot, but we’ve also been very transparent and said here’s the full list and we’ve kept that commitment to the voters and that’s the list that we’ve worked on,” Long said. “With previous bond elections that’s been what’s happened. When you tell the voters you’re going to go do something, you need to deliver. I have no intention of changing that path should the voters approve this one in November.”

Mayor Rick Hall made a pitch to the bond committee for a number of projects in Liberty Hill, and while none of those looked like they would make the final cut, the Long Run extension, and the Bagdad Road widening project from the Leander city limits north both made the final list. It has not been determined what would be included in the work on these projects as well as the SH 29 bypass because of the high price tag of most projects in terms of completion. That funding could involve right of way acquisition, engineering or construction, or certain complete segments of a project.

Widening Bagdad Road made the list for both Liberty Hill and Leander, but when the committee’s list was presented, it proposed the Leander portion, from San Gabriel Parkway north to the Leander city limits, but not the portion north of that to Loop 332 requested by Liberty Hill.

Other Liberty Hill requests that were not included are the widening of CR 200 north from the intersection of SH 29 to CR 201 and the Richard Wear Bypass, planned to connect SH 29 east of the railroad tracks to CR 200 north of the tracks.

The committee presented its proposal to Commissioners in June, suggesting a $640 million package, paring down $2.7 billion in initial requests made by county and area city officials.

This is the third bond election for road and park projects called by the county since 2000. The first was for $375 million, the second in 2006 was for $250 million and the 2013 bond was for $315 million. Each has passed with a slightly slimmer majority than the previous bond, but all prevailed with 55 percent of the vote or more.

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