Year: 2019

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.