Year: 2021

Mayor: Survey results show progress made through planning

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and we take great pride in Round Rock whenever we receive an accolade for a job well done. We often find our way onto lists for the “best place to move to,” and our city employees are regularly recognized by their colleagues across the state and nation for their excellence. But it’s important for us to tune into our own residents’ perception of whether we are meeting their expectations for service.

Every two years, the city conducts a survey of its residents to see how well the city government is meeting their needs and to determine the issues of concern to them. ETC Institute conducts the survey by mail and online to a random sample of 550 residents.

Our most recent survey, completed at the end of 2020 and presented to the City Council last month, found that nearly 90% of respondents were satisfied with the overall quality of life in Round Rock. When asking specifically about city services, the survey showed 87% of residents were satisfied versus 1% who were dissatisfied. These results are more meaningful to me than any article or award, and I’m so proud of the work our city employees do.

From drinking water to parks maintenance and trash collection services, Round Rock rated at or above the average for cities across the United States in 48 of the 50 areas that were assessed in the survey. Round Rock rated “significantly higher” than the U.S. average (5% or more above) in 41 of these areas.

The survey also indicates areas where we know there is still work to be done: When asked what are the three biggest issues facing Round Rock over the next five years, the top responses were traffic, cited by 88% of respondents; controlling rapid growth, cited by 61%; and property taxes, cited by 53%.

Based on the survey responses, our formula for success is working: we set our city’s overall strategic plan, and our employees address the problems our residents say are most important to them. Each year, the City Council hosts a two-day retreat that allows us time to update and reprioritize this strategic plan, the foundation for all long-term city initiatives. Our strategic goals in recent years have 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.

In providing high-value services, police and fire are incredibly important to deliver results as public safety makes up 50% of the city’s general fund. We have a reputation of being one of the safest cities in the nation, and 91% of our residents reported feeling safe or very safe in Round Rock during the day.

We’ve made huge strides in our strategic goal of providing necessary infrastructure to manage our growth, and street maintenance has been an ongoing priority. We saw significant improvement in resident satisfaction with the condition of our streets, with 72% satisfaction with maintenance of major streets. This number is 26% higher than both the Texas and national average. Our Driving Progress transportation project campaign to increase road network capacity and connectivity is also paying dividends; satisfaction with traffic flow in and around neighborhoods increased 18% since our last survey.

Our strategic goal focusing on sports tourism continues to be a benefit for residents. Satisfaction with the quality of outdoor sports facilities in Round Rock is 72%, and satisfaction with the Forest Creek Golf Course increased by an impressive 15% from 2018 to 2020, following the city’s recent $5.1 million renovation of the course.

Our strategic goal aims to make Round Rock a great community to live. In our survey, 88% of residents agree that Round Rock is a great place to call home. We’re proud of our residents and businesses for taking care of our community as well: 81% of residents are satisfied with the appearance of our community, which is 22% above the Texas average and 17% above the national average. Our recent investments in our hike and bike trail network also helped to boost our satisfaction score in this area by 8% over our last survey.

Downtown continues to be an important strategic initiative as we continue to grow. Our redevelopment of this core area was listed as the top response for favorite development in the city over the past five years.  Last but certainly not least, significant resources are allocated to taking care of our neighborhoods. We received 88% satisfaction with the appearance and maintenance of city parks, 72% satisfaction with maintenance of city streets and 95% of residents feel safe in their neighborhood during the day — with 83% at night. These numbers are much higher than the statewide and national average in these areas.

Perhaps one of the most important metrics we ask about in each survey is customer service. At the end of the day, it’s important to us that our residents know how much we care about serving them. Seventy-six percent of residents who had contacted the city during the past year described the service they received as “excellent” or “good,” which was 29% above the national average and 31% above the Texas average.

We will continue to challenge ourselves to increase our level of service to the community and plan our resources in a strategic way that makes a difference in residents’ lives. We appreciate everyone who took the survey and others who give us feedback that help us make our community the great place it is.

To view the complete survey results, visit roundrocktexas.gov/survey.

Storytimes for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers

We’ve been doing virtual programming for a year now

 

Round Rock Public Library has been doing online storytimes for a year now.

During the pandemic, several book publishers offered special permissions to allow our librarians to read books online.

Staff members have favored books and activities that are allowed to remain posted for the longest possible time, so families in Round Rock can access a short storytime experience at a just-right time.

Storytime videos are published every week on the City of Round Rock YouTube channel, as well as on the Library’s Facebook and Instagram pages (usually as IGTV).

These storytime videos include:

  • Babytime Buzz, featuring Miss Virginia and activities for babies and toddlers alongside their caregivers. New videos are released on Thursday mornings. See the entire Babytime Buzz playlist
  • Pause & Play, featuring Ms. Jane and Ms. Andrea, with books, songs, and activities for toddlers and preschoolers. New videos are released Wednesday mornings. See the entire Pause & Play playlist
  • Videos we can no longer share publicly, but we can offer our guests less-accessible links 

Most videos are 4 – 7 minutes long.

But wait, there’s more!

Last fall, staff realized that these online videos are a perfect opportunity to bring in a variety of voices from the community. You can enjoy a series of bonus videos celebrating special days and months with guest presenters.

And for the DIY crowd…

The Youth Services team has also been developing Storytime At Home kits, to help grownups develop themed storytimes for the toddlers and preschoolers in their lives. 

At the Storytime At Home website, you can download handouts for all of our themes! We have 10 themes so far, covering everything from colors, dinosaurs, and pets to a celebration of Black authors and illustrators. 

The handouts will give you ideas for games, songs, and resources. You’ll also find links to extensive lists of our best stories, poetry, joke books, informational books, and DVDs for each theme.

Or, when you visit the library, you’ll find the handouts and sets of books and DVDs for three themes on display–just look on top of the E-DVD shelves!

And you can browse all of the lists of materials in the online catalog, any where, any time. Start browsing here 

Yes, you can be a scientist!

A blue robot is holding a red birdApril is Citizen Science Month, when we highlight the everyday efforts of ordinary people to collect data and help advance scientific understanding.

Interested? Awesome!

SciStarter has vetted and organized Citizen Science projects on many topics.

You can explore them with the tool below.

Projects begin and end all the time, but examples of recently posted projects include:

  • Counting birds, bugs, or living things you might see in your area
  • Playing games to sort images of space objects and Alzheimer’s anomalies
  • Using a phone camera to photograph plants or litter in your area
  • And so many more!

There are projects suitable for any age, any time commitment, at whatever location is accessible to you. Tackle the projects solo, or make it a fun activity to safely share among your friends or relatives!

RRPL offers Finances for YOUth

Round Rock Public Library invites teens to a virtual financial series designed to help build basic financial skills to prepare for adulthood.

Our presenter, Dean Allen, retired eight years ago at the age of 51 thanks in part to wise financial decisions.

He enjoys sharing with young people how it was he was able to accomplish that during presentations, so they can do well with money and retire someday.

He speaks at local high schools, colleges, and libraries.

He is the author of the book: Make Me Rich: The Path to Financial Freedom for Your High School / College Student which is available to be checked out from the local author collection at the library.

There are four sessions in the virtual series. Register for any or all of them. Parents sitting in alongside their teens need not register.

6 p.m. April 6: Financial Advice for High School Students

This presentation is about the advantages of starting saving early in life, compounding, living below your means, avoiding debt, credit cards, buying a car, saving for retirement, investing in the stock market, etc. It is very interactive with simple questions to answer and everyone is encouraged to ask questions. By the end of the presentation, students will have a good understanding of what needs to be done, to have a better financial future.

Register here

6 p.m. April 13: How to Earn College Scholarships

This virtual presentation will cover the advantages of going to college, types of scholarships, how to prepare to apply and to apply for scholarships, where to find scholarships, other ways to pay for college, and ways to keep student loans as low as possible. The presenter guided his daughter, who is a senior in college, to enable her to pay for all her college expenses on her own. Come hear how they were able to accomplish that.

Register here

6 p.m. May 4: How to Buy a Car

For this presentation we will be discussing buying a car. Topics include things to consider before buying a car, buying vs. leasing, new vs. used, researching the car considering buying, selling old car, salesman tactics, and how to bargain on the price. By the end of this presentation you will be ready to buy a car at the best possible price.

Register here

6 p.m. May 11: How to Invest in the Stock Market

This virtual  presentation which will cover reasons to invest in the stock market, what is the stock market, mutual funds vs individual stocks, index funds vs. actively managed funds, mutual fund vs. ETF, investing expenses, IRA’s, 401(k), and how money invested in the stock market grows over time. The last part will show the students how they can start investing in the stock market today.

Register here

Please note:

Teens will register, but parents are welcome to sit in alongside their teen/teens for the presentation. If you cannot attend, please cancel your reservation via Eventbrite or call 512.218.3275.

For more information contact Jane Dance, 512.218.7012.

Fix a Leak Week Workshops

The Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Fix a Leak Week (March 15-19, 2021) 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 household as much as 10 percent on their utility bill and save water for future generations. 

Houston Public Works, Fort Worth Water, and the City of Dallas Water Utilities have partnered to host two virtual leak repair workshops as a part for Fix A Leak Week this year.  This information will be relevant for any homeowner. 

Closer to home, a lot is happening all month long too:

  • A special rebate being offered the whole month with Flume water flow sensors (that information is attached) or www.flumewater.com/roundrock;
  • Information tables are set up at the Library, Baca Center, and Utility Billing offices all month.  Lots of leak related freebies available, such as dye tables, drip gauges, plumbers tape, shower timers, and more.
  • Mailing free leak detection kits, by request.
  • Virtual leak fixing classes on March 16 and 18 were recorded and can be viewed at the links below.
  • A NEW DIY Water Saving Tool Kit can be checked out from the library!  
  • You can find all this information plus videos, and more on the City’s website here

Fix a Leak Week Workshops 

Learn from the experts how to find & fix common household leaks in a FREE two-part webinar series on March 16 & 18.   The events were recorded, live and can be found at the links below.

Houston Public Works, Dallas Water Utilities, Fort Worth Water are bringing together a virtual class line-up featuring some of the leaders in the leak repair industry, providing comprehensive information about repairing simple water leaks inside and outside the home. This is a DIY event you will not want to miss!   

Part 1:  Indoor Leak Repair 

Part 2:  Outdoor Irrigation Leak Repair and Cold Weather Pipe Protection 

 Don’t forget to tell your friends and share their hashtag: #FixALeakTX on social media! For more information on the workshops: WaterConservation@HoustonTX.gov 

See something, do something: A streets crew makes a life-saving decision 

City employees who drive as part of their jobs are taught to act as eyes and ears for other departments as they are driving around the community. 

On Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, that practice saved a home and likely some lives.  

Street Superintendent Matt Fitzgerald, responsible for overseeing the sanding of roads during the storm, was taking three employees home from a grueling shift 12-hour shift temperatures dipped to 4 degrees that morning, the lowest of the storm – when they saw smoke coming from a home as they were headed down North Red Bud Lane. 

Fitzgerald and homeowner Angela Stone describe the sequence of events: 

 

Pictured, from left, are: Matt Fitzgerald, Ronnie Mueller, Johnathan Martinez and Greg Altamirano.

City, community come together to serve at Warming Center

City officials made the decision at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, to open a Warming Center at the Baca Center. When employees arrived shortly thereafter to get it ready, they discovered burst pipes and major water leak – you can read that Storm Story here – before it opened later that afternoon.

The Warming Center story is as much about the community coming together with city workers to respond to the needs of residents hardest hit by the winter weather and power outages. The Warming Center was just that – not a temporary shelter with bedding and food, but a place to warm up and recharge electronic devices. Still, one of our custodians heard that one of the first families to arrive didn’t have any food, so she brought some with her when she reported to work. 

The Parks and Recreation staff, along with Police and Fire personnel, did their best to make folks feel welcome. They printed out pages from coloring books to give kids an activity and played cartoons on the TV in the Baca music room. Police officers carried in an elderly woman who had broken her foot.  

All the while, Thornton said they did their best to adhere to the facility’s COVID-19 protocols to keep guests safe as well as warm. 

Doing whatever it takes is part of the culture Director Rick Atkins has built at Parks and Recreation, Thornton said. There was no shortage of employees willing to come in – even though many were dealing with lost power and broken pipes at their homes (including Thornton) – and help out in any way possible. Thornton recalled seeing Atkins using a squeegee to get water out of the dining room, which reflected the do-whatever-it-takes message that he preaches at monthly team meetings. Thornton shares about walking the talk: 

 

Thornton was quick to acknowledge the great attitude of other City employees as well, in particular Michael “Red” Andrews of the General Services team 

Rick Atkins

Jessica Thornton

Michael “Red” Andrews

Before it could open, warming center needed rescue 

As power outages dragged on, City officials made the decision late Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, to open a Warming Center at the Baca Center that afternoon. 

That’s a Parks and Recreation facility, so Director Rick Atkins’ crew mobilized to begin preparations, assisted by the General Services staff, which handles facility maintenance. The teams arrived to a wet surprise. General Services Director Chad McDowell explains: 

At 4 p.m., on schedule, the Warming Center opened. It ultimately served 41 residents over the next two days.

A worried father leads to a rescue just in time 

Round Rock Police received a call at 7 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, from a father worried about his daughter, whom he could not reach. She has a disability, he told dispatchers, and uses a scooter to get to work in the La Frontera shopping center from her apartment nearby. It’s normally a 10-minute trip. 

Officers knew the store where she worked was closed, but Sgt. Shelby Ingles went looking for her. Ingles found her in front of the store, stuck on the ice on her scooter. Her phone had slipped out of her hand and dropped out of reach on the pavement. Ingles recalls the scene:

She wasn’t wearing gloves or a heavy coat, and Ingles estimates if they got there 30 minutes later she would have needed care at a hospital. She said her hands “were hurting really bad,” Ingles recalled. 

Welfare check calls aren’t unusual for RRPD – the woman’s parents were in Florida, so couldn’t check on her themselves – but the multiple days of sub-freezing temperatures and widespread power outages certainly changed the dynamic.  

For Ingles and the other officers involved – Sgt. Kris Mayo and Officer Adam Rankin – weather conditions don’t change the department’s basic mission: Take care of the community. Ingles likens it to the Golden Rule:

Sgt. Shelby Ingles

Officer Adam Rankin

Sgt. Kris Mayo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black History Month resources recap

Black History Month has officially ended, although the icy weather limited access to the library building for during February.

Happily, many of the Round Rock Public Library‘s Black History Month resources continue to be available to explore any month.

Here’s a recap of the library resources we highlighted in our catalog, in our art gallery, and on our newsroll, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

 

 

  • Learn more about our featured gallery exhibit, African-American Family: Faith, Hope, Love, and the Backbone of Strength

Image of St. Paul AME, photographed by Melissa Fontenette-Mitchell

Image by Melissa Fontenette-Mitchell