Council hires new Chief Operating Officer
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The long-awaited question on how the Liberty Hill City Council would fill the role formerly designated as City Administrator was answered Monday when the Council unanimously named Lacie Hale as the new Chief Operating Officer (COO).
The vote came after discussion in executive session and was not discussed before or after the vote in open session. Council member Kathy Canady made the motion that was seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Liz Rundzieher.
In an interview Tuesday morning, Mayor Rick Hall cited Hale’s experience as reason for her selection.
“She comes to us with several years of experience in municipalities,” he said. “This fall she will be graduating with her master’s degree in public administration. She is a certified international municipal clerk along with a list of other trainings she has. She’s worked for several cities here in Texas and she is here to work for us now.”
The new job description – previously requested by The Independent – was provided by the City Tuesday and specified that the COO reports directly to the Mayor and Council. Essential duties for the position include management of capital projects, community relations, department operations and providing assistance in negotiation and enforcement of contracts.
The required education and experience specifies a bachelor’s degree in public administration, political science or business administration and three to five years of progressive municipal management experience.
A request was made to Hall to provide a copy of Hale’s resume, but the Mayor did not immediately respond. Hale resides in the Liberty Hill ETJ.
Hall did spell out how the new COO position fit into the supervisory structure of the City.
“The municipal officers, that are designated by state law – the city secretary, finance director, code enforcement, chief of police, court administrator and emergency management – will continue to report to me,” Hall said. “The director of planning and public works director will report through Lacie and then Lacie will report to me.”
Following the departure of former City Administrator Greg Boatright in August 2019, Hall said the City would begin a search for his replacement. But over the past six months the plan evolved into what was determined by the Council at its Feb. 24 meeting — that the position would be different carrying the title Chief Operating Officer.
Nearly nine months after the Council shelved plans for a downtown roundabout at the intersection of Loop 332 and CR 279, members got their first look at an alternative plan to address traffic issues at the intersection.
“We are talking about it, but it is not finalized,” Hall said of the new plan. “We should have a finalized drawing that we hopefully will be able to have at the next Council meeting and put it out there to the public.”
The basic plan would alter the Loop coming from the east toward CR 279 to create a T-intersection with a three-way stop. Traffic coming into downtown from CR 279 would be able to turn right onto the loop or continue into downtown after a stop. Drivers entering downtown from the east on Loop 332 will be able to continue right on the loop with a yield or turn left onto CR 279 after a stop. Traffic leaving downtown will be able to continue south on CR 279 or turn left and continue on the Loop following a stop.
To assist with traffic control at the intersection and designate the continued right into downtown from the Loop, a triangular median will be constructed at the intersection.
“What most people were concerned about with the safety is the angle that 279 comes up at and you can’t see back on the Loop,” Hall said. “This would bring it in at a true 90 degree angle, which would help with the safety.”
Through traffic modeling, Hall said engineers determined the three-way stop sign at the intersection would manage the traffic flow well.
“We actually took the traffic counts we got from the engineers, they sent them over to Steger Bizzell, and they modeled it with the traffic counts and this was basically what came up,” Hall said.
Cross walks will also be installed allowing pedestrians parking in the new lot on the laundromat property to safely cross Loop 332 to reach Wetzel Park.
The Council stepped in to assist “Our Village” after the organization reached out to the City about its need for a new place to meet.
Canady took up the cause and brought it to the Council’s attention.
“I got an e-mail from someone that was concerned about the fact that Our Village is losing their ability to have a place to meet,” Canady said. “It is like an adult special needs organization. It gives them a way to be out. They teach them math, they do crafts, they teach them life skills and they go there Monday through Friday 8-2.”
The solution brought forward was to work out an agreement for use of the Over the Hill Gang building part of the week.
“We met with the Over the Hill Gang today and they were open to giving it a try, to utilize that one room in the building for their needs,” Canady said.
The Council discussion led to the agreement that a contract should be drafted
“Is this something, Tad (Cleaves), even if it is short, that we should draw up some kind of contract with them just to make sure from a liability standpoint we’re covered?” Hall asked.
Cleaves, the Liberty Hill City Attorney, responded that a contract was definitely needed.
The unanimous vote by the Council called on legal staff to draw up a contract to allow “Our Village” to use the Over the Hill Gang facility.