Council approves plan for treatment plant expansion



City Council members approved a preliminary plat Monday for a new subdivision of duplexes within the city limits, and took the first step toward the construction of an $8.7 million expansion of the regional wastewater treatment plant.

Following a detailed presentation by the Georgetown engineering firm Steger Bizzell, the Liberty Hill City Council voted unanimously to expand the wastewater treatment plant by utilizing Ovivo’s MBR treatment system. The system carries an $8.7 million pricetag, which includes all aspects of the project from equipment to design and construction.

The Council’s vote Monday authorized the purchase of equipment at $1.4 million.

The City is expanding the plant from the current capacity of 400,000 gallons per day to 1.2 millions gallons per day, and a permit is pending with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that would allow the plant to expand further to treat up to 4 million gallons per day.

Engineers say the MBR (Membrane Bio-Reactor) is the safest option for the environment and most cost effective for Liberty Hill.

Residential subdivisions in the city’s ETJ, many of which are under construction, are contracting with the city for wastewater treatment service, creating a higher demand on the plant that was built in 2006 and purchased by the City in 2012 from Lower Colorado River Authority.

“An MBR plant is more compact, technologically advanced,” said engineer Perry Steger. “We want to make sure the process surpasses effluent quality limits (set by TCEQ). We want a process that protects the environment, is easy to operate, has low maintenance and complies with the 150-foot buffer zone.”

Aaron Laughlin of the engineering firm said five proposals were received from three equipment suppliers. The five proposals varied by the type of treatment process that could be applied.

The firm’s recommended MBR process “provides a superior effluent quality to the conventional treatment plant alternatives,” according to a feasibility report prepared for the City by Steger Bizzell. “An MBR treatment plant system will provide the City with more security than a cloth media filter can provide in knowing that they will be able to meet the strict phosphorus limit of 0.15 mg/L.”

“With the quality of this water, it will meet the Type 1 reuse (standards) easily,” Steger said. “The water that comes out is valuable for irrigation, construction needs. I’d like to see an automated tank that could fill up a truck (with treated wastewater) using a credit card swipe. That can help offset some costs.”

Under the new system, the plant will continue to haul off sludge to a landfill, but loads will be fewer because a press will eliminate more liquids, engineers say.

“Today, they’re hauling off liquid sludge to another plant to dry out before it goes to a landfill,” Steger said.

Engineers projected that the number of haul-off loads would drop from 15-20 per month to 2-4 per month.

Steger explained that by agreeing to the purchase price now, the company is locked into those costs even though construction on the facility might not be completed for some time.

After the Council took action on the plant expansion, it voted to accept a petition for voluntary annexation of a 36-acre tract adjacent to the plant.

Known as the Mason tract, the property will be the site of Highland Terrace subdivision — about 120 single family homes. With a contingent border, the City will then annex its water treatment plant into the city limits.

City Planner Jim Bechtol said the homes will be priced between $190,000-$300,000 and will be built on conventional lots.

Also Monday, the Council approved a preliminary plat for Liberty Place Subdivision — a 4.05-acre tract located on Loop 332 at Carl Shipp. The subdivision will feature 22 duplex lots or 44 three-bedroom duplexes. Each building will sell for an estimated $270,000.

The developer, Conservation Land Development Co., told the Council that each side of the duplex will be 1,250-1,400 square feet with garages and driveways in the rear. The entrance to the subdivision will be on Carl Shipp.

Downtown building will become city office space

Following a 55-minute executive session, the Mayor announced that staff would work on various “scenarios” for purchasing the Holloway building downtown.

The Council previously authorized staff to make an offer on the property that is now a three-unit apartment building. Future plans for the building include city offices and a possible council chamber.

After the meeting, City Manager Greg Boatright said the City’s offer of $175,000 was accepted. He said an appraisal of the building showed it was structurally sound.

Boatright said he will suggest that the Council adopt a resolution at a future meeting that would allow the City to reimburse the General Fund for the $175,000 purchase if funding is secured from a local bank to finance improvements to the property.

“We will go to a bank for a loan, which is normal procedure for governments when they buy property,” Boatright said.

“The main objective was to provide parking downtown, and I think there will be room for 36 spaces, which is crucial for downtown revitalization,” he said.

Boatright said the building currently has tenants in the three apartments. He said the current property owner will make arrangements for the tenants to vacate in February allowing the City to close on the property.

Mobile Food Vendors

The Council unanimously approved an ordinance Monday regulating mobile food vendors.

City staff worked with Williamson County and Cities Health District to develop language that meets WCCHD permitting requirements for food handlers and mobile food establishments, said Bechtol.

“But until we start applying the ordinance, we won’t know if we have a problem in there,” he said. “I don’t think this is absolutely perfect, but is a start for them to come to our city with consistent rules to operate under.”

Bechtol said the ordinance allows food trucks or mobile vendors to set up in private parking lots or at City Park. The truck must be 100 feet away from a restaurant. He said it had to be on a platted lot, and not on a residential lot.

Potential vendors must complete an application at City Hall and mobile food establishments may be permitted for one day, 30 days or six months. One day fee is $20, 30-day fee is $100 and the six-month permit fee is $400. The ordinance includes fines and penalties for violations.

City Park lease agreements

In park-related matters, the Council voted 3-1 to accept lease agreements with the Liberty Hill Youth Soccer Association and Liberty Hill Youth Football & Cheer. Both organizations lease a portion of the 22-acre Liberty Hill City Park on CR 200.

The City’s Parks & Recreation Board has been working with representatives of both organizations to negotiate new leases.

After reviewing the documents, Councilmember Wendell McLeod said he believed the sports organizations should be required to pay for the water they use from city wells at the park to irrigate fields.

“I don’t agree with letting them have 50,000 gallons of water free,” said McLeod. “I don’t think we ought to give them free water.” He noted that Liberty Hill Youth League pays for water at Lions Foundation Park.

Boatright explained that if the associations were not providing upkeep of the City Park fields, the responsibility would fall to the City. He said providing 50,000 gallons of water without charge was the tradeoff. If the groups use more than 50,000 gallons each, they will pay the City at a rate of 75 percent of the current city water rate.

“Past councils saw it as being an advantage to the park (for the organizations) to keep up the fields,” Boatright said.

“Now that we’re getting Chisholm Trail (City of Georgetown) water, since we have another source, I don’t see why we shouldn’t give them some water,” said Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan, who also serves on the Parks Board.

A motion by McLeod to amend the soccer contract requiring the group to pay for water use failed to get a second.

Councilmember Liz Rundzieher then made a new motion to amend the contract to require the group to follow city water restrictions. It passed by a 3-1 vote with McLeod voting no. The same motion was made on the contract with the football association and McLeod’s no vote was consistent.

Councilmember Troy Whitehead was not present Monday.

City cleanup

Councilmember Rundzieher proposed that the Council and city staff begin identifying properties that need to be cleaned up. As the first step, she asked for volunteers to identify properties on a map. The City would then decide “how to get it done.”

Mayor Fuller volunteered to work on the project with Rundzieher, but added that a plan is needed before contact is made with residents.

In the current city budget, funding is allocated for a code enforcement officer. However, the position has not been advertised or filled. Police Chief Randy Williams offered to help identify properties that need attention.

Fuller suggested the city consider a public relations campaign aimed at encouraging residents to clean up their property.

In other business Monday, the Council approved a joint election agreement between the city and the school district to hold municipal elections May 9 for city council.

No action was taken to fill the position of Municipal Court clerk.