Mayor Craig Morgan pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of his most recent feature.
At the city of Round Rock, we often focus on long-range planning, looking five to 10 years down the road as we consider policy decisions. But at the end of each year, it’s nice to take a step back and review all that we have been able to accomplish in just 12 months.
In 2019, we were named one of the Coolest Suburbs in America by Apartment Therapy and ranked No. 2 on Money’s list of Best Places to Live. Even with an increasing number of residents moving here to enjoy our beautiful parks, recreational activities, economic opportunities and safe neighborhoods, we’ve been able to maintain a family-friendly community that is distinctive by design.
The secret sauce to our success? It’s all found in our annual strategic planning process to establish a clear vision for the year ahead. Our strategic goals this year focused on providing high value services, ensuring we have necessary infrastructure in place, maintaining a great community environment for our residents, promoting tourism, providing an exciting community destination in downtown and sustaining our neighborhoods.
Transportation is the most visible piece of our infrastructure, and this year we made huge strides toward reaching our goal of ensuring an adequate transportation system for our residents. Our most recent Transportation Master Plan forecasts a need for $1.2 billion in projects to set our road network up for success by 2040.
That number is no doubt intimidating, but this year, the City Council committed to invest $240 million in funding for road projects over the next five years to improve capacity and connectivity. This is not including state-funded projects already in the works for RM 620 and Interstate 35 in Round Rock.
Part of the funding for our five-year plan will come from roadway impact fees that the Council enacted earlier this year, providing a dependable funding source from private development to meet increasing traffic demands as our community grows.
We expect our faucets and toilets to work when we use them, but it takes deliberate planning to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure in place to provide these essential services to our growing community.
This year, we entered the final design phase of a deep water intake project with our regional partners that will give us improved reliability in times of severe drought, and we invested $12.3 million from our utilities fund in water and wastewater capital improvements to maintain and expand our system. We made improvements to the Brushy Creek regional wastewater system to allow for greater pumping capacity, more efficient power usage and reduced chance for spills at the plant.
It’s easy to appreciate the value that downtown provides for our community at this time of year, when the evenings are filled with the laughter of families and youth taking pictures among glowing holiday lights.
Since adopting our Downtown Master Plan in 2010, we’ve invested $116.9 million in making Downtown an exciting destination that helps residents feel at home in the heart of their community. We paved the way for a new and improved Library this year by purchasing property for its new location, which is located directly behind the current library’s site. The new building, which was approved by voters in our 2013 bond election, is expected to be approximately 60,000 square feet and three stories, with an adjacent 300-stall parking garage.
This year also saw the completion of projects that offer improved recreational opportunities for our residents. Our parks and recreation department renovated the disc golf course at Old Settlers Park and built 1.14 miles of new trail along Brushy Creek between Veterans Park and the Rabb House. Residents will continue to see improvements to trails and playground equipment in the coming year.
Sports tourism thrived in 2019, with 45 out of 52 weekends booked at the Multipurpose Complex and 46 weekend events at the Sports Center. We set a new benchmark of $1 million in revenue at these facilities to help offset costs, and our local economy benefited from the tourism generated by these events. Forest Creek Golf Club exceeded all expectations in its first full year since its renovation, posting positive net income that can be reinvested into the course’s maintenance.
Development continued to see sustained growth this year. In 2018, the city set a record for the most building permits issued at 4,157, and 2019 is on pace to break that record. While we saw more single-family homes built in 2018 than this past year, we’ve seen bigger commercial projects like Kalahari, Embassy Suites, La Quinta and Avid Hotels come through the development pipeline in 2019.
More housing is on the way with this year’s annexation and zoning of more than 750 acres in northeast Round Rock, which combined will eventually create over 2,000 single family homes and up to 700 multifamily units. Zoning was also approved this year for an integrated senior living project that will include 400 senior and low-density multifamily units.
As our community continues to grow, the revitalization and social fabric of our existing neighborhoods remains an important area of focus.
Our neighborhood services division’s new Outdoor Movie Chest was checked out 31 times for neighborhoods to host movie nights, and we launched a new lawn care foster program and pole tree saw kit program to help community organizations mow lawns and trim trees for those in need. We empowered residents to improve their homes through the new fence staining kit, and we helped families in need with minor home repairs funded by the Community Development Block Grant program.
Our Police and Fire Departments also continued to build trust and engage with the community in positive, proactive ways. The Fire Department oversaw the installation of 377 smoke detectors during neighborhood cleanups, and the Police Department received an award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police for its Operation Front Porch program, which aims to curb package thefts.
Long-range planning, public safety and quality of life initiatives all play a major role in achieving the success we saw in 2019. These programs wouldn’t be possible without the staff who make them happen, or the input we receive from residents.
This year, we began the process of updating our comprehensive plan with a six-month public engagement process that will help us develop vision and policies for development of our city over the next decade. As with so much of what we do on City Council, residents who have taken the time to let their voices be heard are helping us shape our future in a way that we can be assured will have an overall positive effect on our city.
It’s truly a team effort to create such a dynamic community, and I look forward to everything we plan to accomplish in 2020.