Community Center gets green light
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The old county barn, on property purchased by the City from Williamson County in 2019, may soon get a facelift as the City Council approved initial plans to turn the building into a new community center for Liberty Hill.
The Council voted unanimously Monday to move forward with the project, and send it out for bid.
“It looks a lot different from what that county barn looks like now,” said Mayor Rick Hall as he shared plans with the Council. “We asked them to do a phase one and phase two, phase one being redoing the current building and phase two will be extending it.”
The building will have a predominately rock facade, and will have an open meeting area that can be divided, along with two kitchens, storage and restrooms. According to the plans shared Monday, the maximum occupancy will be 217.
In January, the Council approved an architectural proposal for the community center planned for downtown and agreed to pay EA Architecture and Planning of Georgetown $19,975 to do the design work, manage bidding, and contract administration for the project.
The agreement includes both phases of design and engineering work for the project.
Originally, Hall said the hope was to secure a grant for the project by creating an emergency shelter, but instead, Hall said the former county barn on the property will be refurbished for the project.
Once completed, the center will offer a new home to the Over the Hill Gang, and allow its current home behind Parker’s Market to be turned into downtown parking.
The 30-foot by 45-foot structure on the site now will be redone in the first phase of the project, with an expansion planned later. Hall said in January he expected the price tag of both phases together to be about $500,000, but the estimate Monday was near $750,000.
As part of the Council’s capital improvement project review Monday, Finance Director Becky Wilkins told the Council there was $710,319 in available bond funds.
“What we can do, because we have a reserve back, just like we’ve done before, we can pass a resolution asking Council to pull money out of reserves to finish up the project then add that back to the next bond to pay ourselves back and put it back into our reserve account,” Hall said.
In a potential reversal of a decision earlier this year, the City Council may once again raise the speed limit on portions of Loop 332 based on the recommendations of a new traffic study.
The agenda item Monday was an update following a traffic study, but Hall recommended the item be brought back at the next meeting for consideration.
“The traffic study was completed about two weeks ago and we got the report last week,” said Curtis Steger of Steger Bizzell Engineering. “The recommendation is to increase the speed in different sections of 332 from the existing 30 mile per hour speed to 40 miles per hour (on some portions).”
The recommendation is to raise the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 40 from SH 29 and Loop 332 on the eastern end between SH 29 and the railroad tracks, and also on the western end from SH 29 to near Liberty Hill Elementary School.
Council member Kathy Canady, who lobbied for the lowering of the speed limit on the Loop earlier this year, said raising it would only encourage drivers to speed more.
“It’s not safe to drive that fast if they don’t follow the rules,” Canady said.
Others argued that problem was more an enforcement issue than a speed limit issue.
“I think we should go with the recommendation and make it an enforcement issue,” said Council member Steve McIntosh.
The speed limit on the entirety of Loop 332 was officially lowered to 30 miles per hour by the City Council in January and went into effect March 1. The issue was first discussed at the Jan. 13 meeting. Prior to the change, the speed limit on the Loop fluctuated from 30 to 40 miles per hour as the new recommendations from the traffic study suggest.
There was no traffic study done prior to the initial change in January.
The Council approved the financing of a number of vehicles for the City at a total cost over time of just under $384,000.
“As we’ve done in the past, we needed some new vehicles, and we don’t necessarily have all of the money up front to pay for these so we’re doing what everybody in America does and we’re financing our vehicles to make the most of our money and most of our budget,” said Becky Wilkins, finance director.
A Ford Ranger, planned for the building official, and Ford Transit van, planned for the facilities maintenance team, were purchased at $50,964 combined, financed for five years at 3.194 percent. The total cost over the five years, if the vehicles are not paid off early, will be $55,775.
A large portion of the funds financed were on a dump truck trade in, approved at the July 13 Council meeting. The City is receiving $50,000 in trade-in value and financing the balance of $85,000. The Council voted on a seven-year note, at 3.244 percent, with annual payments of $13,799. The dump truck will be paid for through the water and wastewater funds.
The police department is getting three new Tahoes and two Explorers at a cost of $210,650. The five-year financing is at 3.194 percent, with annual payments of $46,304.
Hall clarified what the maintenance issue was with the Wetzel Park splash pad that closed it temporarily two days after it was officially opened.
“The maintenance that happened two days after we opened it, we realized that during the inspection part of it the grinder pump outside was not hooked up,” Hall said. “We had to dig up the hole that night, but everything has been running great. Every night I go past it and there are a lot of kids down there playing.”