Liberty Hill City Secretary resigns

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By Rachel Madison

Following their first executive session of the evening on Nov. 22, the City Council voted to accept the abrupt resignation of City Secretary Nancy Sawyer.

Council also voted to appoint Rebecca Harness, who serves as City Administrator Lacie Hale’s assistant, as Interim City Secretary until the position is filled. Council directed Hale to bring a job description and posting to its Dec. 1 meeting. Once that position is filled, Harrness will return to her job as Hale’s assistant.

Also last week, water was a hot topic. Mayor Liz Branigan said the City has been actively pursuing sufficient water to meet its obligations for several months, but as of Nov. 22, nothing had been finalized. As a result, the Council postponed voting on anything water-related until the City has the water it needs. The example used was a request for the preliminary plat for Butler Farms’ phases 12 through 16, which Council decided to postpone consideration until Dec. 1.

Council member Chris Pezold said the City is in the process of receiving letters of intent, and in January, the Council will host a town hall for area residents to showcase the water sources that have been acquired, as well as the City’s short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals related to water.

“We are going to be water sufficient, and I believe we are going to be a supplier of water for other municipalities around us,” he said. “We’ve gotten excellent results on commitments of water. I’ve let people know this was a train wreck we were left [from the previous administration] and we’ve had to clean it up. I don’t want to do anything that puts my constituents into water rationing one day earlier. Right now we do not have the water, but we are going to be in a solid position.”

The town hall, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 12, will be headed up by Pezold and Council member Angela Jones. They hope to host the town hall in the Liberty Hill High School gymnasium.

“The biggest part of the whole thing is showing [our constituents] exactly what we have and what we have planned,” Jones said. “We want to show that we’re working towards making sure that we have water for the developments that we’re allowing into the community.”

Pezold added that the town hall will give residents peace of mind as well, because it will educate them on what the City is doing and its goals for the future, as well as ways to help conserve water.

“We can come in and educate, but we also really need to incentivize our businesses and our citizens to really look at water differently, and say, ‘Hey, we are all in this together,’” Pezold said.

Also last week, the Council:
• Voted to donate $10,000 to Operation Liberty Hill for Christmas dinners. That amount will be pulled from the general fund, and a budget amendment will be made to reflect that transaction.
• Canceled its regularly scheduled council meeting on Dec. 22 due to the Christmas holiday.
• Heard a presentation from Judy Langford, of Langford Community Management Services, on the funds the City received from the American Rescue Plan Act. The City received $726,260.62. The first half has already been received, and the second half will be received in one year. The Council will use the December workshop to determine which projects to fund over the next few years.
• Directed staff to provide notice for a public hearing for Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m. to consider an ordinance levying assessments on property located within the Butler Farms Public Improvement District.
• Approved a letter of intent for the CR 214 wastewater main extension for company 366 TX 29, its affiliates and subsidiaries.
• Approved an amendment recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding Ordinance 21-O-11.16-01, which changes the acceptance of public improvements by developers from “may” to “shall” and increases the maintenance bond from one to two years.
• Approved a zone map amendment for five acres at 8660 SH 29 from agricultural to general commercial/retail.
• Considered a petition for annexation for the project known as Fort Tumbleweed on SH 29. A public hearing regarding the annexation was set for Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m.
• Rejected a bid for mowing services from Abescape Group of Georgetown that came in at $3,600 per mowing cycle, which could be weekly during the warmer months and every other week during the colder months.
• Voted 3-2 to approve a request by the Parks and Recreation Board regarding moving a Harmony Park feature back to Central Park, after council previously approved the Harmony Park pieces to be installed at City Park. The harmony piece was approved on a trial basis, but if residents have noise complaints within 60 days, the placement will be revisited.
• Approved the purchase of the required wastewater and temporary easements from Junction Storage LLC for public need and infrastructure related to the Holmes Road Phase Two project in the amount of $20,000.
• Discussed conducting an audit of the Parks and Recreation budget regarding donations in lieu of parkland and the tree mitigation fund. The Council voted to hire an outside auditor to look at the last four years to discover how much money has been in those funds, where the money was transferred to, and the current status of that money.
• Voted 4-1, with DeYoung opposed, to dissolve an ordinance that states council members must alert the City Secretary every time they reach out to legal services, no matter the reason. Jones said this ordinance didn’t protect the city and it went too far. DeYoung disagreed and said the ordinance helped to prevent redundancies and streamline legal processes.

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