Year: 2019

The next chapter

 

Planning for a growing community like Round Rock isn’t just about roads and water supplies. It’s just as much about quality of life amenities like parks and trails.

Smack dab in the middle of the many things that make Round Rock such a special place is our Public Library. Located in the heart of Downtown, the library is a hub of learning for Round Rock. With programming designed for kids to adults to small business, the library stays on the cutting edge of information sharing and is an incredibly valuable part of the community.

Don’t take our word for it. The Library recently received the 2018 Texas Achievement of Library Excellence Award from the Texas Municipal Library Director’s Association. Only 51 libraries out of 548 public libraries in Texas – less than 10 percent – achieved this recognition. And the Library’s Biz.ability workshops have been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration for helping local entrepreneurs.

It’s not just luck or the waving of Harry Potter’s wand that have created such a forward-focused institution. The Library follows a Strategic Master Plan and is well-prepared for Round Rock’s growth. After a longer-than-anticipated search for a site for a new, larger library, the City Council in April purchased property just north of the existing library for its new home.

The new, expanded library will offer much needed space to grow the Library’s many popular programs and growing collection. How popular? Here’s some data from the recently-released Library 2018 Annual Report.

Summer Reading Program

  • 166,055 books read
  • 51,794 hours read
  • 11,591 attended programs
  • 217 meals fed
  • 178 programs held

Adult Services

  • Adult Programs – 646
  • Attendance Adult Programs – 6,601

Reference

  • Research transactions – 34,086
  • Public Internet Computer Use – 61,728
  • Technology training – 13,130
  • E-Resources Use – 23,906

Collection

  • Print Volumes Added – 20,913
  • Number of Print Books in the collection – 225,903

Check-Outs

  • Interlibrary Loan – 3,673
  • Circulation Total Digital Formats – 96,831
  • Circulation Total – 1,229,141

Speaking of value, the community receives a return of $8 for each dollar invested in the library. If you think that’s impressive, check out the table below. It shows the retail value of the services provided by the library, based on a calculator developed by the Massachusetts Library Association. Check out that bottom line – it shows the incredible value for the many services provided by the Library based on its budget.

UseLibrary Materials, ServicesValue
324,056Adult Books, Movies, CDs Borrowed$5,939,188
782,946Childrens Books, Movies, CDs Borrowed$13,310,082
3,673Interlibrary Loan Requests$91,825
96,831Digital Books, Audiobooks Downloaded$1,452,465
21,708Music Downloaded$21,708
6,601Adult Program Attendance$99,015
1,167Young Adult Program Attendance$14,004
38,469Childrens Program Attendance$269,283
61,728Computer Use (per session)$740,736
23,906Database Searches$476,924
34,086Reference Assistance$238,602
 Total Value$22,653,832
 Total Expenditures, Fiscal 2018$2,747,477

Responding to the future

As Round Rock continues its rapid population growth, we have more citizens who want to “age in place.” While we love having these citizens in our community, the reality is that many of our older adults or disabled are left without support in their declining years. Our first responders respond to a high number of non-emergency calls for help that are misdirected, unheard and often ignored by “the system.” We are finding this small population of citizens account for a large percentage of call volume for these low-acuity calls, and cause delays to other emergency calls.

Round Rock is not alone in dealing with this issue. About one in 11 Americans age 50 and older lacks a spouse, partner or living child, census figures and other research show. What we have found in Round Rock are growing unmet needs such as lack of medical assistance and non-functional smoke alarms.

When analyzing the problem, Fire Chief Robert Isbell saw an opportunity to partner with the City’s Neighborhood Services team to reach this growing demographic though its annual Love the Rock event. At this event, the City partners with neighborhoods and dozens of churches for a single day of service to help neighborhoods. The churches supply more than 1,200 volunteers of different faiths to work on service projects. Fire Department staff are actively involved in identifying and addressing fire safety issues.

A key element of Chief Isbell’s Community Risk Reduction Program is connecting with members of our community who have the most urgent need in order to provide risk assessments of their home environment. For the 2018 version of Love the Rock, two neighborhoods were selected based on high call volume from the Fire and Police Departments.

“That area stood out when analyzing calls and overlaying disabled or veteran tax exemptions, and property age,” Isbell said. “We knew we could reduce the likelihood of having a fire through a home safety survey. With that, we can provide tools like kitchen fire extinguishers to help them deal with the most common fire and, with working smoke alarms, quickly alert anyone in the home so they can exit and call for help. We believe this combination of resources allows us the best opportunity to save a life from a fire.”

During Love the Rock, volunteers are trained to test and install smoke alarms and log any apparent needs on inspection forms, which are returned to the Fire Department for follow up. Chief Isbell says the volunteers do more to help prevent problems on that day than the entire Fire Department could do in a year.

Sharon, an older, disabled resident who lives alone, had her smoke alarms serviced and volunteers also cleaned her yard – abating a code violation. Sharon’s stress reduction was visible to the volunteers, whom she tearfully embraced.

“It’s like a gift better than money, better than jewels,” Sharon said. “As a woman trying to keep up with all the things, it can get overwhelming. It just took weight off my shoulders. I feel so blessed and I feel so honored.”

Since the 2018 Love the Rock event, Chief Isbell said there has been one home where working smoke alarms installed by volunteers alerted residents to a fire. Firefighters were able to respond to the call in a timely manner, and property damage was minimal. Most importantly, no one was injured or killed.

“As well-trained and professional as our firefighters are, we’d much rather not have to make a run to put out a fire,” Chief Isbell said. “We can’t prevent every fire, but through our Community Risk Reduction efforts we can improve the odds in favor of our residents, particularly those most at risk.”


“We knew we could reduce the likelihood of having a fire through a home safety survey. With that, we can provide tools like kitchen fire extinguishers to help them deal with the most common fire and, with working smoke alarms, quickly alert anyone in the home so they can exit and call for help.”

 

—Fire Chief Robert Isbell

 

Time for a Sprinkler Spruce Up

Spring is arriving here in Central Texas, the flowers are blooming!  The onset of warmer weather can get you itching to turn the water on outdoors. 

Before you ramp up your watering, be sure to spruce up your irrigation system. System maintenance can help save you a lot of money and water! Cracks in pipes can lead to costly leaks, and broken sprinkler heads can waste water and money. You could be losing up to 25,000 gallons of water and more than $90 over a six-month irrigation season!

Now is the perfect time to spruce up your irrigation system. To get started, follow these four simple steps—inspect, connect, direct, and select:

Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads. Better yet, find an irrigation professional licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Qualify (TCEQ) to do the work for you. You can apply for a rebate from the City by having your system checked by a licensed irrigator.

Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes/hoses. If water is pooling in your landscape or you have large soggy areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (1/32 of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.  You can also sign up on the City’s water portal to receive leak alerts and to view your monthly, weekly, and daily water use at www.RRTXwater.com .

Direct. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.

Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling. WaterSense labeled controllers also qualify for the City’s Efficient Irrigation Upgrade Rebate.

Don’t forget to add “sprinkler spruce-up” to your spring cleaning list this year. Learn more about maintaining a water-smart yard by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor.

Find the City’s water conservation rebate details and application at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

‘Unhealthy Air Quality’ on your weather app? What it means

This blog was updated at 8:47 a.m. March 2 to reflect that the Air Quality Index is no longer in the “Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups” range in Round Rock.

A weather app message about “Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups” could be found on iPhones of Round Rock residents and Central Texans this morning.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) listed the Austin area’s Air Quality Index (AQI) at 115 around 7 a.m. Saturday, March 2, landing it in the 101-150 AQI range at which this alert occurs. After 8 a.m., the number had already dropped down into the “Moderate” range, which is between 51 and 100. An AQI above 150 is listed as “unhealthy” for the general public.

According to AirNow, “sensitive groups” include people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teenagers. These groups are advised to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors when an “Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups” alert is in effect.

Other nearby cities showed similar messages in the iPhone weather app Saturday morning, including Austin, Hutto, Cedar Park, Pflugerville and Georgetown. The National Weather Service had a Dense Fog Advisory in effect for South Central Texas through 11 a.m.

“Ozone season” actually started March 1 in Central Texas, according to Air Central Texas, which is a regional initiative to reduce exposure to air pollution through voluntary actions.

High ground-level ozone concentrations in Central Texas, not to be confused with the stratosphere ozone layer, are the result of a complex interaction of emissions and meteorology. Ground-level ozone can sometimes be referred to as smog, and breathing in high concentrations of it over several hours can cause acute respiratory health effects including decreased lung function and pain with deep breaths and aggravated asthma symptoms.

Summer days in Texas are especially susceptible to ozone formation due to clear, sunny skies and stagnant winds, which allow pollutants to form and accumulate. During these times, residents are encouraged to limit driving and idling in vehicles, and ensure their vehicle and yard equipment are properly maintained, including changing the oil and replacing air filters regularly.

Learn more about air quality at roundrocktexas.gov/airquality.

Artfully planned


‘Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand extended into the world, and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy.’ 
—  Albert Einstein

When the City of Round Rock was developing its Arts Master Plan a little over seven years ago, there was limited appreciation – outside of existing arts groups and their dedicated patrons – of the impact arts and culture activities could have on the community. The plan’s vision called out the importance of arts to Round Rock’s quality of life, as well as “strengthening our community, inspiring more investment, and creating a sense of place.”

The plan also called for increasing programming for “hands-on” activities, additional public arts events and building an organizational infrastructure.

With those guidelines in hand, Scot Wilkinson, hired in 2012 as the City’s Arts and Culture Director, has weaved Round Rock’s fledging arts efforts into the incredible fabric of our community. Scot has helped local arts groups with training for board members, financial support through grants, and he’s also helped develop the many well-attended special events like Music on Main, Beaujolais Nights and Chalk Walk.

Scot also recruited Sculptfest, which brings artists from all over the United States to Round Rock for a weekend. This year’s event is set for April 26-28. Just as significant is the Allan Houser exhibit, on display at Centennial Plaza through this May.

We now have 50-plus arts organizations and businesses who call Round Rock home (not including our amazing Round Rock ISD visual and performing arts teachers). We have 300-plus individual arts exhibits and performances happening yearly in Round Rock with attendance exceeding 250,000 patrons.

Wondering where you can learn about the many upcoming arts events, such as a performance by Penfold Theatre Company, or a concert by the Round Rock Symphony or Community Choir? Scot has assembled an Arts and Culture Guide for just that purpose.

What folks outside the “business” of art may not be aware of is the fact there is a significant financial impact the arts has on a community. Here are few examples from Texans for the Arts:

  • Arts strengthen the economy. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports the arts and culture sector is a $699 billion industry, which represents 4.3 percent of the nation’s GDP — a larger share of the economy than transportation and agriculture. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences) that supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue.
  • Arts mean business. The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies and theaters to for-profit film, architecture and design companies. A 2015 analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 702,771 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 2.9 million people — representing 3.9 percent of all businesses and 1.9 percent of all employees.
  • Arts are good for local merchants. Attendees at nonprofit arts events spend $24.60 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Attendees who live outside the county in which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.

How does that translate to Round Rock? Those 250,000 people who attended performances last year spend on average $31.47 per exhibit or performance, which puts $7.8 million directly back into our local economy through restaurants, baby sitters, gas and other items. (That does not include the cost of the ticket.)

Beyond the financial benefits, arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates — benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points higher on the verbal and math portions of their SATs than students with just one-half year of arts or music.

“I believe the arts can be the fundamental element to make a community whole,” Scot says. “Plus, the arts are something we all can proudly identify with as we all work together to make Round Rock fun, creative and exciting.”

Playing the long game

Known as the Sports Capital of Texas, the City of Round Rock has invested in promoting economic diversity by developing a sports-focused tourism program. With a variety of indoor and outdoor sports facilities, the City plays host to national tournaments, as well as hometown playoffs. 

Round Rock has a key advantage over other cities across the state when attracting youth and adult athletes in amateur and recreational sports: a central location within a three-hour drive from 90 percent of the state’s population. From the Dell Diamond to the Round Rock Sports Center and Round Rock Multipurpose Complex, the City’s investment in top-notch facilities pays off in a number of ways.

Total direct travel spending in Round Rock for international and domestic travelers totaled $319 million in 2017 (the most recent year for which figures are available). State and local tax revenues directly generated by travel spending were approximately $29 million in 2017.

The local tax revenue generated from visitors helps to improve infrastructure, add services and keep property taxes low. The money spent by visitors helps employ residents, pay their salaries and keep the local economy strong. Total direct employment in Round Rock for the travel industry in 2017 was 3,250 jobs and $114 million total direct earnings.

While the economic data is a little old, you may wonder what sports tourism has done for us lately. Glad you asked! We hosted five national championships in 2018, installed LED stadium lighting at Dell Diamond and celebrated the grand re-opening of Forest Creek Golf Club. More national championships are already on the calendar for 2019, including US Quidditch, USA Ultimate D-1 (college) and NIRSA Flag Football (actually January 2020 for the 2019 regular season), and new seats are being installed at Dell Diamond.

What makes all this winning even sweeter is the fact the services provided by the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau come at no expense to local taxpayers since it is funded entirely by hotel occupancy taxes.

Tourism creates a diversified economy, which lays a solid foundation for Round Rock’s future growth. It also attracts business and encourages entrepreneurial opportunities. From softball to soccer and scoreboards to stadiums, Round Rock is playing the long game to ensure a winning economy for years to come.

Mayor Morgan: Comprehensive Plan to guide future growth

Mayor Craig Morgan pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of his most recent feature.


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

In case you haven’t heard, Round Rock has been rapidly growing.

The population within our city limits is almost 115,000, and by 2030, our population is expected to grow to 160,000 people. That’s an increase of 45,000 over a little more than a decade.

It’s an exciting time as we continue to diversify our economic opportunities and improve our quality of life, but the growth of our city obviously doesn’t come without challenges.

One of our biggest challenges — besides traffic — will be how we maintain our uniqueness as a community.

The answer to that will most likely include a little bit of everything. Our parks, our city services, our businesses and our neighborhoods are all part of what makes Round Rock home.

With Round Rock’s rapid growth over the past four decades, long-range planning has been an integral part of where we are today. One of the city’s most essential tools for this long-range planning is our Comprehensive Plan, a living document that helps us as leaders make policy decisions about transportation, parks, utilities, economic development, land use and more.

This year, we are embarking on a year-and-a-half journey to develop an updated Comprehensive Plan. Its name, Round Rock 2030, nods to the fact that the plan will guide our land use decisions through the 10 years following its adoption.

The plan is not meant to focus on the location of specific development; however, a large portion of this plan will be dedicated to assigning the location and intensity of future development within our city limits through general land use categories. Developers are also able to use the plan to see how their projects might fit in with our vision for the future.

The result of these planning efforts is the Round Rock we know today. The desire for a more vibrant downtown, broader housing choices and growth in health care and education have all been recognized in past comprehensive plans.

For the next plan to be successful, it must reflect the overall needs and wants of our residents and businesses. By participating in Round Rock 2030, you’ll have the chance to influence policy that guides Round Rock’s decisions regarding public facilities, commercial development, housing and more.

Some of the questions we will be looking to answer are:

What kind of development would we like to see more or less of in Round Rock?

How can we encourage different modes of transportation in our community other than by private vehicle?

Should we increase mixed-use development, similar to the Mueller development in Austin, in Round Rock?

The city will host four public meetings across the city in the coming months in order for residents to come together with ideas for our community’s future. Each meeting will take place in a different area of the city, and discussion at each of these meetings will be generally geared toward the quadrant of town where it is located:

Southeast: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Allen R. Baca Center Grand Room, 301 W. Bagdad Ave.

Southwest: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 12 at the City Admin Training Room, 901 Round Rock Ave. Suite A100.

Northeast: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Multipurpose Complex, 2001 Kenney Fort Blvd.

Northwest: 6-8 p.m. March 5 at the Round Rock Sports Center, 2400 Chisholm Trail.

Following the meetings, we will have an online forum available to continue the conversation about transportation, parks, utilities, economic development, land use and more. You can learn more about the process, sign up for email news and read updates by visiting roundrocktexas.gov/roundrock2030.

I encourage you to come out and give us your opinion of what you think Round Rock should look like in the year 2030. As great of a community as our city is today, I’m excited to see the vision that we can create together for our future success.