Council discusses prioritizing Capital Improvement Projects

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By Rachel Madison

The City Council spent its monthly workshop on Oct. 13 discussing various capital improvement projects (CIPs), as well as the best way to prioritize them for the immediate future.

City Administrator Lacie Hale said the Council needs to start diving deep into the City’s capital projects because of the growth happening across the area.

“We need to be more proactive and get as far ahead as we possibly can,” she said. “There are two short-term projects I’d like to look into further as far as movement for design, construction and easements—everything to get that online.”

The first project, the South San Gabriel lift station located in downtown Liberty Hill, needs to be upgraded to expand the capacity for wastewater downtown, she said. The second project, the Highway 29 Force Main, located off County Road 214, also needs to be upgraded given the development happening on the west side of Liberty Hill, Hale said.

“That is a choke point for the effluent coming from the west side of town, so we need to consider expanding that to manage the growth,” she said, citing the Butler Farms subdivision project, which currently has 500 lots under construction.

Butler Farms developer Wyatt Henderson of MA Partners said his subdivision will most likely hit its “choke point” in the first quarter of 2023 if CIPs on the west side of town aren’t completed by then.

Ed Horne, owner and developer of Santa Rita Ranch on Liberty Hill’s east side, said his subdivision is also going to hit a “choke point” soon, particularly if one CIP, the construction of a gravity line on County Road 260, isn’t completed within the next 12 months.

Council member Chris Pezold said downtown Liberty Hill should be a priority for CIPs.

“Downtown is the heart of our city,” he said. “We have priorities far to the east and west, but we have the greatest priority to our constituents downtown. The San Gabriel lift station needs to be priority.”

Pezold added that it’s frustrating that he and the other new members of council are just now finding out about the urgency of these CIPs and the need for them to be completed.

“How far along are we on these projects?” Council member Angela Jones asked.

“We are here talking about it tonight,” replied Hale. “We haven’t made much movement on these projects yet. This is the intent of the meeting—to take the CIPs off the shelf and get a plan moving forward.”

Pezold said moving forward, developers building in Liberty Hill need to be realistic and forthcoming on their water and wastewater needs, and engineers also need to communicate with city staff if they can’t get projects done in a timely manner.

“It’s a balancing act on resources and timing to get things done,” he said. “Right now in the best case scenario, [completing these CIPs] will be tight.”

Pezold suggested city staff look into hiring another acquisition attorney to acquire necessary easements for future CIPs. The CR 260 project alone needs at least 25 easements to be acquired, Hale added.

The last time the CIPs were updated for the city was in 2018 or 2019, said Curtis Steger, engineer with Steger Bizzell. Since then, some priorities have changed, he added. Council directed staff to create an updated list and map of CIPs, prioritize them based on what local developers need, and then follow that list.

“We want to be sensitive to everybody’s needs with an understanding of where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow, and understanding where the developers are at as well,” Steger said.

Once the list and map are updated, the Council plans on holding a special meeting to discuss the prioritized CIPs and move forward on the timeliest needs.

Also at the meeting, the Council:
• Unanimously approved amending an ordinance that extends the term of the Butler Farms Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) from 2048 to 2051, which is consistent with the final maturity of the bonds for the Butler Farms public improvement district (PID).
• Directed staff to work with the City’s legal counsel regarding an interlocal agreement with Williamson County.
• Unanimously approved using $10,000 of prepayments from residents of the Liberty Parke PID Master Improvement Area Project to put toward two bonds. A total of $5,000 will be put toward the Series 17 bond, and another $5,000 will be put toward the Series 19 bond.
• Accepted the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendation for the future Liberty Hill Veterinary Wellness site to include sidewalks on Loop 332 and omit sidewalks on Highway 29. The property is located at 13575 State Hwy. 29 West. The Council also unanimously approved the applicant’s request for the site development permit for the project.
• Approved a task order to design the expansion of the South Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant from 2 million gallons per day of capacity to 4 million gallons per day of capacity. Steger said the task order’s proposed fee is $1,832,500, which includes the work for the planning, designing, bidding and construction phases. The expansion project’s timeline is set to begin this month and be finished by July 2023.

Council member Kathy Canady was absent. The meeting consisted of two executive sessions and adjourned at 9:36 p.m. The next meeting will take place Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Liberty Hill Learning and Event Center.

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