One more policing option



Two weeks after the Liberty Hill City Council said it was stepping away from the discussion of partnering with Liberty Hill ISD on a School Resource Officer (SRO) program, one more option was suggested Monday.

Council Member Ron Rhea, who called for the Council to walk away from the issue two weeks ago, said he wanted the Council to approve a motion allowing him, Council Member Liz Rundzieher and City Administrator Greg Boatright to go to the school district and discuss how the city could help in a different way.

“We’re all in agreement to do this, and I think the best thing to do because of liability and the expense, we could serve the school district better if we were to support them financially and help them in that way,” Rhea said. “If they are agreeable to us helping fund this, then Dottie (Palumbo) can draft a contract on what that will be.”

When the school district began talking about a law enforcement presence on its campuses, research was done on a number of options including creating its own police department or partnering with the city on an SRO program.

In early October, the school district communicated its plan to once again explore the option of creating a police department within the district rather than partner with the city on an SRO program.

The potential partnership was first discussed in May, when Mayor Rick Hall and Police Chief Maverick Campbell approached the district and worked out a preliminary agreement that was later presented to the Council.

Since that time, the Council has considered many different issues raised over a potential agreement, and frustration has become public over how it was initially handled outside of the Council’s involvement.

There have been no talks between city and school district officials on an MOU since the original discussions between Hall and Campbell, and Superintendent Rob Hart and Assistant Superintendent Chad Pirtle.

Council discussions through the summer included splitting costs evenly between the city and school district, a cost of about $90,000 each based on the estimates put together by former Finance Director Michel Sorrell. There was no discussion Monday regarding how much the City would be willing to contribute.

The Council voted unanimously in support of the new ethics ordinance, two weeks after asking for a more thorough definition of legislative process in the ordinance.

City Attorney Dottie Palumbo read the definition as it was explained to the Council.

“The process is the rules of order established by the city council that includes the provisions of the code of ethics and rules of conduct in paragraphs one through 17,” she said.

Paragraphs one through 17 include rules of conduct specifying acting in the public interest, respect for the process and communication among others.

The ordinance would apply to city officials, including members of the council and members of boards and commissions.

“One of the requirements is that it be signed after you pass the ordinance,” Palumbo said.

While not discussed specifically in open session, the proposal and passage of the ordinance follows a summer of tension over the powers of Mayor Rick Hall and how some issues were being brought to the council for consideration.

“I think this is something very needed for the city,” Rhea said previously about the ordinance. “I think it will protect our citizens and it will hold us accountable to maintain integrity with our staff and employees, and also to the citizens of Liberty Hill. This is a good ethics ordinance.”

Butler Farms
The 366-acre Butler Tract on the north side of SH 29 and south of County Road 206 is on its way to annexation into the City of Liberty Hill.

The Council voted to accept the donation of just over two acres of property for a future wastewater treatment plant on the west side of town, and also established the Butler Farms Public Improvement District, which will lead to the annexation and development of the 433 acres.

“This allows for the city to extend its utilities out to the west with some additional capacity, and with the anticipation of a site dedicated to the city for a wastewater plant down the line for expansion of those services,” Boatright said when the process began in May.

Boatright also said he hopes this process will lead to eventual annexation of 3,000 acres on the south side of SH 29 also owned by the Butler family.

The 3,000 acres on the south side of SH 29, covering much of the land between SH 29 and RR 1869 to the Burnet County line, is the future focus of much development discussion for the area.

Downtown work
Oldcastle Materials was awarded the contract to do the parking lot work at the Liberty Hill Police Department.

Oldcastle had the low bid of $97,905, slightly lower than two other bidders on the project.

Originally, the parking lot project was being bid along with the work planned for Wetzel Park, but bids were high the first time around.

The City opened bids recently for the second go around with Wetzel Park, and Boatright said Monday the low bid on Wetzel Park was $890,000.

“With the $90,000 we’re looking at right now for the parking lot at the police department, we’re only about $60,000 to the good on that (combined). We rebid Wetzel Park, and right now we’re about $60,000 under what we were with the other contract. The engineer is checking references on the low bid and then we will make a recommendation to council, hopefully at the next meeting.”

The primary issue with the bids for Wetzel was the building that would house restrooms, and an equipment room.

Currently, plans for the park include a splash pad, parking, bicycle racks and water station, and restrooms. There will also be shade structures bordering portions of the splash pad and anti-slip concrete decking around the splash pad to keep it cooler.

The splash pad includes various symmetrical sets of fountains on four lobes and sits on a site approximately 50-feet square. The fountains are controlled by push buttons for child activation.

The parking area is positioned on the north end of the site with two-way entrance on Loop 332 and entrance-only access on County Road 279.