Year: 2020

Cervantes: Library ready to serve in times of crisis

Library Director Michelle Cervantes writes a regular column for the Round Rock Leader. This one appeared online on March 30.


Michelle Cervantes
Library Director

Thursday morning, I emptied the outside book return at the library, and there were only a few items to quarantine. Not enough to fill one shelf on the book cart.

This time last year we were recovering from one of our busiest spring break seasons on record. This year is completely different.

In the book return, there was a copy of the Leader. A front page caption read, “The Round Rock Public Library has closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

I still can’t believe it. In my long career in public service, I’ve never experienced anything like this.

After a long week of stressful situations and difficult decisions, I went home, sat in my backyard to soak up the sunshine and sent my sister an Instagram message, “Livin’ la COVIDA loca.”

We are living in a crazy time right now. But serving during a time of crisis is nothing new to public libraries. We were there to help survivors after Hurricane Katrina and after 9/11, when the New York libraries opened mobile units.

The library has always been a refuge. This time is different, because we had to close our doors to the public. Once I got over the shock of that reality, it was time to figure out how to serve in a completely virtual world.

The next challenge we are preparing for is how to handle returned items. Whenever we reopen, we will have a wave of materials coming back to the library. Our plan is to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quarantine materials for the recommended period of time.

We understand the concerns that many people have about virus spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. The quarantine plan is a precautionary measure, and unless materials were directly exposed to the virus, they are not contaminated.

On the bright side, this has been a great opportunity to share all of our digital resources with you. We don’t have to worry about having to quarantine ebooks.

The staff have been working diligently on projects such as moving the fiction collection, cleaning, inventory, virtual programs, virtual training, answering phone calls and emails, checking and posting on social media, updating the website and assisting other City departments.

Remember, the Round Rock Public Library is here to serve our community through tough times:

  • Virtual library services remain available at all times, and we are expanding the digital collection.
  • The book return is closed. Keep any items you’ve borrowed until we reopen or announce other options.
  • We are waiving all late fees accrued during the closure.
  • Staff are available to take your calls and emails, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate these unprecedented challenges. Stay home, stay safe and hope to see you soon!

Local COVID-19 response survey: what we heard, what we’re doing

Thank you to the 1,200-plus residents who completed the COVID-19 online survey we published March 23-25. Your participation really helps. Information is power, particularly in slowing down the spread of the Coronavirus because there is much individuals can do. We, as your local government, can respond better to your needs when we have a clearer picture of what those are.

Below are top-line results to each question asked, and what the City has been doing. Here’s a link to the complete survey results, with names (and a couple of profanities) redacted. Spoiler alert: There’s some serious shade thrown at TP hoarders.

How knowledgeable do you feel about COVID-19?

What we heard: Over 90 percent of respondents say they are “very knowledgeable” or “somewhat knowledgeable” about COVID-19. 

What we’re doing: We asked the question to confirm our assumption that Round Rockers have a good handle on the basics of this global pandemic. Looks like you do. Still, we’ve been sharing links to trusted information sources like the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) as well as state and local public health authorities. 

Where do you get up-to-date information on COVID-19?

What we heard: The top two sources are national news, cited by 71 percent, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at 67 percent. Local TV news was third at 56 percent. In the comments, lots of folks said they wanted to know where there are local cases.

What we’re doing: We created roundrocktexas.gov/coronavirus to share as much local information as possible. We’ve got the latest data from the local health district, links to state and local emergency orders, a list of closures and changes to City facilities and functions, as well as links to local resources for healthbusiness, and schools.

Fewer than 30 percent cited two local outlets as the source of their information on COVID-19, so bookmark these for future reference: the Williamson County and Cities Health District, our local public health authority, and the State Health Department, formally known as the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Which, if any, have you done to be more prepared for COVID-19?

What we heard: Here are the top responses …

  1. Washed my hands more frequently, 95 percent
  2. Not shaking hands or touching people in public places, 90 percent
  3. Avoided crowds, 88 percent
  4. Stayed up to date on news for information on the virus, 88 percent
  5. Stayed home more frequently, 87 percent
  6. Kept space between myself and others while out, 85 percent
  7. Avoided close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms, 78 percent

You guys are doing what it takes to flatten the curve. Way to go!

What we’re doing: Encouraging the entire community to keep it up! We’ve taken data provided by the Williamson County and Cities Health District to show exactly what the curve looks like in our corner of the world.

What are your household’s concerns right now regarding COVID-19?

  1. Economic impact on my community, 69 percent
  2. The safety of my community as the pandemic continues, 65 percent
  3. Members of my household becoming infected, 64 percent
  4. Economic impact on my household, 63 percent

What we heard: It sure looks the ancient wisdom of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is being lived out here in Round Rock. Respondents care as much if not more about the well-being of the community as your their own family. 

What we’re doing: We sharing as much information as possible about how to support local businesses, including the Round Rock Cares fundraising effort, and what you can do to prevent becoming infected.

Which of these employment challenges are you or someone in your household facing (or likely to face) due to COVID-19?

What we heard: Note: This question was asked prior to the Stay Home Stay Safe orders from Williamson and Travis counties went into effect. The top response, at 38 percent, was “Workplace closed for an extended period.” Other top responses were “Job is ‘essential’ making COVID risk higher (e.g. first responders, health care providers, etc.)”, “Reduction in hours I can work” and “Self-employed with a decrease in business activity.”

What we’re doing: The City has partnered with the Round Rock Chamber, Dell Technologies and the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation to create Round Rock Cares, which will provide direct support to small businesses impacted the pandemic. We’re also encouraging residents to Shop the Rock to support our local businesses. The City is encouraging businesses to seek information and support from the Round Rock Chamber, and have created a Business Resources page on our website.

What kind of information would help your household the most in preparing for COVID-19?

What we heard: The No. 1 answer, from 50 percent of respondents, was “The geographic areas that have higher outbreak rates.” The No. 2 answer, at 44 percent, was “What to do if someone in my household shows signs of the virus?” No. 3, at 43 percent, was “How to access and make needed food and supplies last.”

What we’re doing: The Health District has been providing more detailed information on the location of Williamson County cases as the number of confirmed cases has grown. We have taken that data and created this dashboard so our residents can see which cities have confirmed cases, as well as other information on Williamson County cases being released. 

On what to do if someone shows signs of the virus, we’re directing residents to the CDC’s new “Self-Checker” which can be found on its What To Do If You Are Sick page. We reached out to H-E-B on the question of food and supplies, and created this video. The largest grocer in Texas says there’s no need to panic buy or hoard items.

What actions have you taken to assist your community with potential impacts and/or risk of COVID-19?

What we heard: The most common response, at 87 percent, was “Stayed remotely connected with family and friends,” followed by “Stayed educated on the virus and helped spread accurate information,” at 78 percent. Sixty percent reported supporting small businesses. 

It was the “Other” responses that are truly inspiring, but not all that surprising in big-hearted Round Rock. Here is a representative sample of the responses:

  • “Brought supplies to a family who couldn’t find anything that they needed”
  • “Babysitting a single dad’s daughter so he can go to work”
  • “Avoided hoarding to allow more people access to essential products”
  • “My whole family is at increased risk group and voluntarily sheltered in place to protect ourselves”
  • “Donated masks to St David’s”
  • “Provided financial assistance to extended family members whose jobs are affected by COVID-19.”

What we’re doing: Cheering on our amazing community of givers! It’s worth checking out the complete survey results just to read through this list, as well as the answers to our next question…

Do you have other ideas on how residents can help others in the community relating to COVID-19?

What we heard: There were 23 pages of ideas shared. Wow! 

Here’s where we saw lots of venting about hoarders. Too many to list, but here may be the most, um, direct: “Stop being a selfish, dirtbag, hoarder!”

What we’re doing: The most common idea was to develop programs to help connect those willing to help others with those who need help. Lots of neighborhoods are using NextDoor to accomplish this, but many are not or may not be on that app. To contact the City about donations, send an email to covid-19donations@roundrocktexas.gov or call 512-218-5419.

Thanks again for taking the time to communicate with us. As Mayor Craig Morgan said in his video message to the community when the Stay Home Stay Safe order went into effect, “Friendswe’re in this together. And we will come out stronger than before. That’s who we are as Texans, and that’s the Round Rock way.”

Fix a Leak Week!

 

 

 

 

 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Fix a Leak Week (March 16-22, 2020) is to encourage Americans to use water efficiently by finding and fixing leaks. Repairing minor leaks, such as running toilets, leaky faucets, and dripping shower heads, can save a family as much as 10 percent on their utility bill and save water for future generations.

Most of the time, wasting water can be seen instantly- like watering your lawn too much, or leaving the faucet on for too long. Sometimes, the worst water waste can go unnoticed for days, weeks, and even months.  It’s very easy to miss a leak that you can’t see or hear. It’s extremely important to keep an eye on your water usage.

We try our hardest to notify our water customers of leaks at their properties. We will send emails, postcards, and even door hangers to ensure that you know about your leak!

Keep an eye out for leaks

You can sign in to RRTXWATER.COM to see your monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly usage. This is a great way to see unusually high spikes in water consumption, and it’s the easiest way to determine if you have a leak. You can also go look at your water meter to check for leaks while no water in being used at your property. Watch it for five minutes to see if any of the numbers move or if an arrow symbol appears in the upper center square. If an arrow symbol appears in the upper center of the meter, then water is going through the meter, which means something is “using” water on your property. You can also look at your water bill usage (look at the gallons, not just the dollars). If you’re using more than 2,000 gallons per person, per month, in the home, then usage is higher than average, and you may want to check for leaks.

 

 Places to check if you determine you do have a leak

  • Toilets–flappers are a huge source of leaks inside the house. Use dye tablets or food coloring to see if the flapper isn’t sealing property. See video on how to do this!
  • Hot Water Heaters–look to see if there is water in the pan under the hot water heater.  If so, there is a leak in the heater, and it will need to be replaced or repaired by a professional.
  • Irrigation Systems– Hire a licensed irrigation company to come check the system for leaks, or manually run though each station for several minutes looking for problems in the system.
  1. Hire a licensed irrigation company to come check the system for leaks, or manually run though each station for several minutes looking for problems in the system.
  2. Sometimes a line break is easy to spot, as water will be pooling into the street or on the sidewalk. Often leaks aren’t visible thanks to the rocky, karst limestone area we live in. The water flows down through the rock and we don’t see a pool of water on the yard.  You’ll need to look for signs of low water pressure, such as sprinkler heads not popping up.
  • Water Softeners–listen for signs of recharging of the unit. Typically, they only recharge at night, if you constantly hear it, or hear it during daytime hours have a service company come check it.
  • Faucets–constant running water or drips coming from bathroom or kitchen faucets, the bathtub, or outdoor hose bibs are leaks that need repairing.  
  • Water Meter–if you see water coming out of the water meter, or in the meter box, call 512-218-5555 to have the City come check the meter for a leak.

Leaks can deceive

Leaks can seem like a small amount of water; it may be just a drip or a small trickle. BUT over time, these leaks can turn out to waste tremendous amounts of water and cost the homeowner hundreds of dollars on their monthly water bill. Even a shower head that drips every second can waste over 3000 gallons of water per year! That is a tremendous amount of potable water that has gone to waste!

Will it really make a difference?

It’s a question that everyone asks themselves. Something I hear is “I’m just one person”. This is proven wrong with facts! It’s crucial to get out of this mindset! The amount of homes with leaks add up!

Importance of water conservation

Drought is an ongoing problem for Texas, especially in the summertime. The effects of drought can be seen throughout the state. We notice lake levels drop, plants drying and dying. With climate change affecting our water systems in drastic ways, we must do everything we can to conserve the water we are lucky to have.

Mayor Morgan: State of the City is well-positioned for the future

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


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

Last month, I delivered the annual State of the City address at an event at the United Heritage Center at Dell Diamond. While we had a packed house for the event, thanks to the Round Rock Chamber, I want to share with you the news that the State of our City is well-positioned for the future.

The City excels at master planning and has for many years. Our plans don’t sit on a shelf, gathering dust — they get done. That’s why our quality of life is so high and why we make so many “Best of” lists. We know we’re going to have an ultimate population of 250,000, so we’re making decisions today with that future population in mind.

Today, we are poised to address our most pressing strategic priority — improving our transportation system — in a big way. The City Council approved a five-year, $240-million roadway improvement program last year as the first major step to implementing our $1.2 billion Transportation Master Plan. You can expect to see several of these projects underway in the coming year as part of our “Driving Progress” campaign. In order to pay for this program, the Council has adopted roadway impact fees, which will be paid by developers, to create a more fair and dependable funding source for new road capacity. Second, we issued the first round of property-tax backed bonds to help pay for the aggressive road-building program. We continue to see the value of partnerships with entities like Williamson County and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), which have committed funding to several major road projects planned for Round Rock.

But it’s not all about new roads. The City continues to invest millions of dollars in a comprehensive street maintenance program to make sure our neighborhood and arterial roadways stay in top condition.

Progress on two other major projects will ensure the state of our City’s infrastructure will remain viable for years to come. We’ve recently completed significant improvements at the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant at a cost $700,000 below the anticipated budget, and we started design on Phase 2 of the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority project, which will draw water from Lake Travis to meet our long-term water needs.

Enhancing our historic Downtown district is another major strategic priority. In 2019 we made further strides to improving our one-of-a-kind Downtown. We completed a structural rehabilitation and added new lighting to our iconic water tower, adding character to the district at night. We purchased land for a new, expanded Library, which will enhance Downtown for years to come. Our art gallery on Main Street re-opened with a focus on more interactive programming, and residents can expect the continuation of great events like Music on Main, Beaujolais Nights, Christmas Family Night, Dia de los Muertos, the Fourth of July Parade and more.

Our tourism program continues to grow and succeed, and we have expanded its focus to include non-sports tourism as the Kalahari Resorts project nears completion. In 2019, we had more reason than ever to cheer Go Round Rock! We hosted three national championship events and received $78,000 in reimbursements from the Texas Events Trust Fund, and announced that Round Rock will host the Big 12 women’s soccer championship this coming fall, and for two years after that. Forest Creek Golf Club exceeded all expectations in its first year after a major renovation and finished in the black financially despite one of the wetter springs in recent memory.

Round Rock has a well-earned reputation for being one of America’s Safest Cities, and a number of initiatives in 2019 ensured we’ll maintain that status. Having the right tools and trained personnel in our Round Rock Fire Department allowed us to beat the national average for cardiac arrest survival rate by 4.6 percent. Our Community Risk Reduction program is a proactive approach  to find people in need before they have to call 9-1-1. We began construction of Fire Station No. 3 in La Frontera, which will improve response times in south Round Rock. Our outstanding Police Department made arrests in all three homicides we saw in 2019, and we successfully concluded our first independently operated Police Academy at our world-class Public Safety Training Center, graduating eight cadets who were sworn in as officers for our force.

Round Rock also has a reputation for being one of America’s most livable cities as well. There were a number of projects in 2019 that improved the quality of life we enjoy here even more. We completed a new section of the Brushy Creek East Trail between A.W. Grimes Boulevard and Georgetown Street. We increased our Neighborhood Services offerings to the community, helping neighbors to come together in meaningful ways. We successfully transitioned our hugely popular Chalk Walk event to a larger venue at Dell Diamond.

Following a public engagement process, the City Council approved an amended noise ordinance which has led to a better balance between businesses and residents in Downtown. Speaking of public engagement, we successfully interacted with our residents in the 2019-20 budget approval process and saw hundreds participate in a series of public meetings as we developed our long-term Comprehensive Plan, Round Rock 2030.

I could go on and on, but will wrap up this look back at 2019 by remembering two significant anniversaries we celebrated last year. The Round Rock Express played ball for a 20th season at the Dell Diamond, and Dell Technologies marked its 25th year in Round Rock. Both the Express and Dell Technologies came to Round Rock, in part, because of our strong planning. They both knew investing in Round Rock would pay off long term. It was a strength of our community two decades ago, and we’re even stronger and more well-positioned today to face whatever comes our way.

The future looks bright in Round Rock, and we know 2020 will be another successful year as we continue our tradition of putting our plans into action.

 

Reusing Water Rocks!

The story of our city’s water

It’s very important to know where our water comes from and the process it goes through to fully understand and appreciate it. I believe the most important part of water conservation is the education of our community. If each person is more aware and informed about our water source, they might be more inclined to save it!

Our water mostly comes from Lake Georgetown which gets supplemented from Lake Stillhouse Hollow, near Belton via a 28-mile pipeline, and some from the Edwards Aquifer.

Lake Georgetown only gets recharged from storm water runoff and is effected by evaporation quite often. Lake Georgetown’s water level decreases frequently and fast (especially summer) which is our highest water consumption season. According to the City of Round Rock’s Water Production Report for August 2019 (Last summer), the average daily water consumption from surface water was about 30 million gallons of water!

Drought and water use go hand in hand

Water consumption is highest in the summer due to the watering of lawns, gardens, and pools. The lack of rain causes plants to dry up and die so watering increases to prevent that. Did you know that traditional irrigation uses potable water to irrigate lawns? Yes, that’s right. We water our grass with DRINKING WATER! August 2019 had a total average of 0.01 inches of rain. High water usage and lack of rain can be a dangerous combination because our water resources are being depleted faster than they are being replenished. This is a threat of water scarcity! As our population continues to grow, so does water consumption. Our city planners realized that they had to plan for more water usage and find ways to save water. About 20 years ago, the City of Round Rock implemented one of the most important water saving technologies to a special part of town. The Water Reuse program was created as an effort to reduce the City’s peak potable water use during the high use months. 

Potable: Safe to drink; drinkable.

Reuse, Reclaimed, Recycled water: treated wastewater that is safe and suitable for a purpose. Reuse may include irrigation of gardens and agricultural fields or replenishing surface water and groundwater.

Benefits

  • This helps with the City’s conservation efforts, by increasing the amount of potable (drinking) water that we have available.
  • This water is at a lower cost than the treated drinking water that is traditionally used to water landscapes.
  • Recycling water uses less energy than treating and distributing potable water.
  • Helps meet the domestic, industrial and environmental water demands that are increasing daily.

Reuse tank located off University Boulevard and Sandy Brook Drive

The recycled water is only available in certain areas of town (on the east side of I-35), close to where the recycled water line is in the ground. These areas include the Higher Education Center, Austin Community College, other parks and schools in the northeast part of the city, and subdivisions including Forest Creek HOA, Forest Creek Golf Course, the Freeman Tract, Legends Village HOA, and the Vizcaya development. The City also has a reuse water fill station at Old Settlers Park. This water is available FREE of charge to customers for commercial irrigation, development, or construction use only.

Is it safe?

I completely understand if people are concerned that lawns are being watered with recycled wastewater. According to a publication from the Reuse Water Foundation, “Disinfected tertiary-treated recycled water is virtually free from all pathogens, including viruses. Several long-term microbiological studies involving thousands of samples have confirmed that pathogens are reduced to non-detectable or insignificant levels in tertiary-treated recycled water.” So even though its water that has been used before, it’s still safe!

 

Look out for purple!

Purple indicates reclaimed non potable water. You will be able to see purple colored sprinkler heads, valve boxes, and even a purple stripe at the top of our reuse water tower. Most states require pipes to be colored purple when they carry reuse water. This bright color is also great for public education! Curious people may like to know why some pipes are colored purple.

I am happy to know that this city is trying to conserve our most important natural resources. It shouldn’t only be the city’s responsibility. You can find other ways to help conserve water in those hot summer months. There are many water saving tips on the Water Spot Blog!

Mayor Morgan: City faces growth head-on through long-term planning

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


Mayor Craig Morgan

At a recent City Council meeting, we voted to rename the City of Round Rock’s new public works building for former City Manager Bob Bennett. During a presentation on behalf of the committee that nominated him, City Attorney Steve Sheets recalled a presentation Bob gave in the late 1970s at a Kiwanis Club meeting, at the time when the population was edging toward 5,000, with the city limits settled between Gattis School Road and Bowman Road, from Georgetown Street and Sunrise Road to Deepwood Drive to the west. The City had one traffic light at Mays and Main Streets, with no frontage roads along IH-35. Bob, who also served as the City’s first planning and zoning director, estimated that the City of Round Rock would reach a population of 100,000 by the early 2000s, which was unthinkable at the time.

During his time at the City, Bob oversaw the development of a Master Transportation Plan that identified the need for many of our roads that exist today: A.W. Grimes, Kenney Fort, Old Settlers, FM 1431, 3406, Dell Way, Chisholm Trail, Wyoming Springs, Forest Creek and Louis Henna. In 1979, when the City’s water wells went dry, Bob immediately went to work to purchase water from Lake Georgetown and proposed a bond sale to construct a new raw water line and water treatment plant. He also developed our first water conservation plan, and pushed for construction of the wastewater plant that we use today. Our partnerships with the Round Rock Express baseball team and Dell Technologies also have Bob’s fingerprints on them. Some of these decisions weren’t always obvious or popular in the moment they were made, but are now integral to our city operations and culture as a community.

Just as Bob once predicted that the City of Round Rock would grow to accommodate more than 100,000 people, we find ourselves having to plan for a future beyond our current understanding of our community as we know it today. Current projections indicate that our full build out will result in a population of about 250,000.

Last month, City Council held our annual two-day retreat, which allows us time to update and reprioritize our Strategic Plan, the foundation for all long-term City initiatives. Our long-term goals haven’t changed much over the past few years, but we do revisit and reprioritize them as needed to meet the changing demands we face. Our strategic goals for the next five years remain the same from last year: Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services; City Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow; Great Community to Live; “The Sports Capital of Texas” for Tourism and Residents; Authentic Downtown – Exciting Community Destination; and Sustainable Neighborhoods – Old and New. 

This year will certainly be a year that moves us toward our strategic goals. The new year kicked off with the construction of our Downtown parklets, which will be completed in June and include new trees, tables and chairs, additional landscaping, lighting elements and expanded walkable space for pedestrians. We also plan to release more information this spring on the progress of the new library, which will be built on East Liberty Avenue, a block north of the current building. That project will also create a need for us to look at moving forward on plans to continue investment into Downtown infrastructure, particularly in the northeast area. All of these projects, along with private investment, will continue the redevelopment of Downtown into a special place that brings families, friends and our community closer together.

This year will also see several road projects under construction. Last year, City Council approved the first round of funding for $240 million in road projects that will add capacity and connectivity to our road network over the next five years. Our first round of projects expected to break ground in 2020 include the widening of University Boulevard from I-35 to Sunrise Bouelvard, and from A.W. Gimes Boulevard to State Highway 130; the widening of Gattis School Road from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane; the extension of Logan Street from Greenlawn Boulevard to A.W. Grimes Boulevard; and extensions along Kenney Fort Boulevard from Old Settlers Boulevard to Joe DiMaggio Boulevard, as well as from Forest Creek Drive to State Highway 45. Our partners at the Texas Department of Transportation will also break ground on RM 620 improvements in the coming months. Although the construction phase of these projects will cause some short-term headaches, the improvements will result in better, safer commutes in the decades to come.

As a City that’s always on the move, it’s important that Round Rock’s leaders regularly check our course to make sure we’re navigating a path that will get us not only where we want to be tomorrow, but 15 years from now and beyond. We owe so much of what we have today to seeds that were planted in the past, and it’s important for us to continue set up Round Rock’s future generations and leadership for even more success. 

Round Rock teen provides 150 dog beds to animal shelter

If today’s students are tomorrow’s future, things are looking bright in Round Rock.

Cedar Ridge High School freshman Cooper Douglas, 14, embodied the Round Rock spirit of taking care of others with his recent Eagle Scout project. A member of Boy Scouts Troop 157, Douglas made 150 dog beds for the Williamson County Animal Shelter. 

Douglas had previously earned service hours by reading to dogs at the animal shelter, and decided to use his passion for animals to take his volunteering to the next level. For his Eagle Scout project, he put together a budget proposal and presented it at a troop board meeting. He mobilized volunteers, distributed materials and oversaw the creation of the beds.

“To be a good leader, you have to step outside your comfort zone into others,” he said. “A leader needs to be someone who shows an example.”

Douglas was promoted to Eagle Scout in July 2019, and the dog beds remain in use at the shelter today.

“It’s probably one of the happiest times of my life, just seeing everything come together and seeing happy animals,” he said. “Who doesn’t like a happy dog?”

Indeed, Cooper. Great job!

Learn more about volunteering at the Williamson County Animal Shelter at pets.wilco.org/volunteer

2020 Water Conservation New Year’s Resolution

A new year means new opportunities to change the way we live and to make a better version of ourselves. Every year, everyone comes up with a new list of resolutions. Whether its to go to the gym or save more money, we all want goals that will have a positive impact on our lives. This year, we should all make our New Year’s Resolution list an environmentally sustainable one! This should not be difficult or expensive. In fact, some of these tips will help you save money and make your life a little easier!

Be conscious

Find the Value in Water

Every time you turn on the faucet, think about where that water comes from. Do you know where it comes from? How does it get to your home? Try learning a little more about the city’s municipal water processes. Think about how many activities you use water for in one day, maybe even make a list. Try to find the value in water by picturing your morning routines and day to day activities without water. The first step in saving more water is to investigate your household water usage. It’s helpful to see which activities use the most water. One excellent way to see how much water your household uses, is to sign in to RRTXWATER.com

Here are some simple tips to help you get started with your water conservation journey.

The best way to achieve a new goal is to start small and at home.

Kitchen

  1. Rinse fruits and veggies in a container filled with water instead of running them under the tap. Use the collected water to water house plants.
  2. Don’t use water for defrosting. Instead, leave frozen foods in the fridge to defrost.
  3. Collect the running water while waiting for the temperature to change. Use this water to drink or cook.
  4. When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run the whole time. Be mindful of when you need to use water. The dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand! Wash dishes in the dishwasher if there are a lot. Just scrape off food into the trash bin, no need to prewash them. ALSO, when in the market for a new washer, be sure to look for an Energy Star model to reduce energy costs.

Bathroom

  1. Be a leak detective. Check all shower heads, toilets, and sinks in every bathroom for leaks. Lean how to check for leaks here: Find Leaks (of course, this isn’t only for bathrooms)
  2. Collect running water in a bucket while waiting for temperature to change before showering. Use this water to wash dishes or water plants.
  3. Use water saving shower heads, toilets, and faucet aerators. These products should have a Water Sense Label
  4. Use body and shampoo soap bars instead of shower gels. Gels need more water to rise out.
  5. Avoid using the toilet as a waste basket! Do not throw tissues, paper towels, or wipes into the toilet.

Laundry Room

  1. Only fill up water to cover clothing. Match the water level to the size of the load!
  2. Use washer for full loads only or change load setting if possible.
  3. Try re-using towels and clothes more than once.
  4. Skip the extra rinse cycle.
  5. When in the market for a new washer, there is a rebate for the purchase of high efficiency clothes washers. By replacing older washers with new, efficient models, water use can be reduced up to 40%! Clothes Washer Rebate

Outside

  1. Collect rainwater. Use rainwater to water plants, wash cars, and clean! Rainwater Collection Rebate
  2. Do not water more than twice per week. This is crucial to keep your lawn and landscape drought tolerant.
  3. Plant native shrubs, flowers, and trees. Native plants are well adapted to the climate here in central Texas, they need less water. Aggie Horticulture provides a host of expertise on landscape plants, ornamentals, turf-grass, and gardens.
  4. 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.
  5. Be aware of the weather! Don’t water plants or grass if weather forecasts predict rain. Change your irrigation system settings to match the seasons weather.

These easy steps to conserving water is an excellent way to start your environmentally friendly goals! If you just start implementing one tip from this list a day, you will help conserve water and you will start to save money as well! The easiest step to starting a new goal is to just be mindful about how much water you and your family use. Learn about the importance of water this year and you will learn more about your habits. Inform family and friends about your new goals and try to get them on board!

Happy New Year!

Wheels in motion to begin Driving Progress on transportation improvements

In 2019, the City of Round Rock put in place funding strategies to accelerate transportation improvements over the next five years – and beyond. The intent is to step up the pace of implementation of the $1.2 billion Transportation Master Plan approved in October 2017.

The City Council approved Roadway Impact Fees in March 2019, which will be paid by developers to cover some of the costs of expanding our transportation network necessitated by their projects. In April 2019, the City issued $30 million in certificates of obligation to begin work sooner rather than later on major roadway improvements such as widening Gattis School Road and University Boulevard.

The City has a target of investing a minimum of $240 million over the next five years to improve roadway capacity and connectivity in a program we’re calling Driving Progress. To reach that total, the City plans to issue additional COs over the next four years.

Other funding sources include our half-cent, Type B sales tax revenues, state and federal funds like those received through the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO); and partnerships with private developers. Funding for Round Rock projects is also expected via the general obligation bonds approved by Williamson County voters in November.

Here are some of the projects expected to break ground in 2020:

  • University Boulevard widening from the IH-35 frontage road to Sunrise Boulevard.
  • University Boulevard widening from A.W. Grimes Boulevard to SH 130.
  • Gattis School Road widening from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane.
  • Logan Street extension from Greenlawn Boulevard to A.W. Grimes Boulevard.
  • Kenney Fort Boulevard extension from Old Settlers Boulevard to Joe DiMaggio Boulevard (known as Segment 4).
  • Kenney Fort Boulevard extension from Forest Creek Drive to SH 45 frontage road (known as Segments 2, 3).

Other projects in the Driving Progress program include:

  • Gattis School Road widening from .25 miles west of A.W. Grimes to .2 miles east of Double Creek Drive (known as Segment 3).
  • Wyoming Springs extension from Brightwater Boulevard/Creekbend Boulevard to FM 3406/Old Settler’s Boulevard.
  • Red Bud Lane North widening from Wal-Mart at U.S. 79 to County Road 117.
  • Red Bud Lane South widening from Evergreen Drive to Gattis School Road.

Partner in Progress

These lists don’t include the significant work being done by the Texas Department of Transportation in Round Rock, most notably the widening of RM 620 and improvements to IH 35.

Williamson County Animal Shelter offers free pet adoptions

It’s time to “Bark in the Mew Year” with free pet adoptions at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter!

The event, made possible thanks to a donation from the Petco Foundation, will take place through Saturday, Jan. 4.

All adult dogs over 20 pounds and all adult cats will be free to adopt as part of the promotional event and will be spayed/neutered, have age appropriate vaccinations and a registered microchip. Adopters will also receive a certificate for a free veterinary wellness exam as part of the adoption process.

The shelter is open Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

For more information about the animal shelter, and to view a listing of adoptable animals, visit pets.wilco.org.