Cervantes: How do you want to be remembered?

Michelle Cervantes, our Round Rock Library Director, pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of her most recent feature.


What do you want to be remembered for?

I was sitting in an executive book briefing session a few weeks ago when this question was asked. I’m a believer in timing and things happening for a reason, and the timing of this question coincided with two other events.

It was around the time of our mid-year performance evaluations at the library. It also coincided with the one-year anniversary of my Uncle Marcos and our dear retired library staff member, Elaine, going home to be with our lord and savior.

I wanted to know how other people close to me would answer this question. But how would I answer?

At the beginning of the year, I asked staff to create a vision board. On the board posted in the break room were words and images representing goals that we wanted to achieve this year and for the future.

I selected the words “kindness” and “courage” — two qualities I will need on my journey to Uganda. I am excited about my upcoming adventure to restock 13 libraries around the east African country. Thousands of books and hundreds of children are waiting for me and my team from Libraries of Love.

On the vision board I also posted an image of a groundbreaking, along with the words “perseverance” and “patience.”

In August 2018, the library bond project was put on hold while the City Council decided on a new location for the library. If you haven’t heard the news, we have a new location one block north of the current library building. The project reboot will begin this summer.

The design team is taking all the work that we did last year and moving forward on the new site. This will be a great location for the residents of the city and the library will continue to be an anchor for the community in the downtown area.

More good news I am happy to share is that we have selected an artist for our mural project. Local artist Melissa Fontenette-Mitchell will soon be installing her original photography, which is being made possible through a generous donation from Dr. Paul Jones. He was one of our regular customers and will be remembered for his humility, generosity and love of art.

With everything happening personally and professionally, I want to be remembered for being a positive influence, setting a good example and not letting fear get in the way. I want to be remembered for shattering stereotypes, breaking down barriers and, most of all, lifting people up.

What do you want to be remembered for? It’s not too late to rewrite your autobiography and the library can help you get started. You can make a difference in your community by volunteering at the library or with one of the many nonprofits in Round Rock.

Need some inspiration? Check out one of the many books that have inspired me. Here are a few recommend reads:

• “Becoming a Person of Influence,” by John C. Maxwell and Jim Dornan.

• “Unexpected: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure,” by Christine Caine.

• “Circling the Sun,” by Paula McLain.

 

Round Rock hosts Texas high school baseball state championships

High school baseball teams across Texas are packing their bags and heading to Round Rock for the 2019 University Interscholastic League (UIL) Baseball State Championships!

The tournament begins Wednesday, June 5 at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond as twenty-four teams play for six state titles.

More information, including participating teams, brackets, schedules, broadcast information, and details about Round Rock’s place as the Sports Capital of Texas, can be found online: https://goroundrock.com/round-rock-texas/road-to-round-rock-2019/ 

See Round Rock from a new perspective — hop on a bike!

Remember your first bike ride? The freedom, the fresh air, the cards in the spokes going “thwak, thwak, thwak?” Maybe it’s time to consider riding your bike again.

CAPCOG‘s Air Quality Program is promoting May as Bike Month, encouraging Central Texas residents to celebrate the power of the bicycle and rediscover the many reasons to ride. Whether you bike to work or school; ride to save money or time; pump those pedals to preserve your health or the environment; or cruise to explore your community, it all adds up to cleaner air.

Hike and bike trails are one of the top services Round Rock’s residents expect our Parks and Recreation Department to provide, according to a recent survey, making trails an integral part of the City’s infrastructure. There are over 20 miles of hike and bike trails currently in Round Rock, expanding to 26 miles in the coming years with an eye toward linking trail segments together to provide more connectivity for residents.

Residents can easily learn more and discover Round Rock’s growing trail system by participating in the 2019 Round Rock Parks and Recreation Department’s Trails Challenge! This is a self-guided program to complete on your own schedule and you can start at any time. You can take part on your own, with your dog, with family, with friends and with co-workers. The challenge is designed for all ages and fitness levels. Download your 2019 Trails Challenge Scorecard, track your progress and complete the challenge to get great prizes!

If you’re the planning type, the City of Round Rock partnered with Google Maps to map its trails so that you can check out potential routes from the comfort of your screen. So what are you waiting for? Jump in the saddle and enjoy some fresh air!

‘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.

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.

Are you missing out on important weather alerts?

Most Central Texans know firsthand how unpredictable our weather can be. With continuous new technology and numerous notification systems available, it can be difficult to know the best place to look for the most up-to-date information.

Our mobile devices make it easier than ever to receive weather alerts and emergency messages in real-time. Cell phone providers allow automated alerts to be pushed directly to our phones, and a growing number of services provide weather alerts though text messaging (SMS), email, phone calls and apps. Here’s a breakdown of alerts that you should know about:

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

Most people have received automatic messages about flash flooding accompanied by a loud ringer or vibration on their phone — these are notifications through the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system, which automatically pushes weather alerts from the National Weather Service directly to your phone through a location-based technology. No opt-in is required for these important messages.

In addition to WEA, there are other region-specific services that allow users to create an account, opt-in, and receive alerts. Sign up for these alert systems today to receive important local updates in Round Rock:

Warn Central Texas

  • Web-based regional notification system to alert the public to emergency and non-emergency situations
  • User chooses what type(s) of alerts they want to receive and how they want to receive the alerts, such as text message, phone call and/or email
  • Alerts are sent based off the location that was used to register for an account
  • System was updated in October 2018 — learn more and update your contact information
  • To registerwarncentraltexas.org

WILCO Ready App

  • Helps citizens of Williamson County to stay prepared and protect loved ones in an emergency
  • You can create your family emergency plan
  • Live information on evacuation routes and shelters
  • Library of emergency preparedness guides
  • To registerreadydl.com/wilco-ready

Don’t forget to check tried and true methods to receive weather information such as television, broadcast radio, and NOAA All-Hazards Radio.

As you can see, there are many ways people can be alerted when it comes to severe weather. Users can utilize multiple alerting tools to ensure they are covered wherever they go. With so many methods made widely available in multiple languages, we are able to be a more prepared community. Be ready, Round Rock!

Mayor Morgan: Popular routes start 2019 with improved services

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


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

The end of the year always brings a chance to reflect and consider the effectiveness of our ways. In our personal lives, this often means creating a few New Year’s Resolutions to start the next year off on the right foot.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2019 for the City of Round Rock, and we’re kicking our year off with some exciting news: Starting Jan. 7, our two most popular bus routes will add stops and service hours.

The City launched its first fixed route bus service through Capital Metro on Aug. 21, 2017. Although our contract runs for five years, we looked to the first year as a pilot program to gauge ridership and work with the community to ensure we are truly meeting our transit needs. These additional stops and service hours were a direct result of feedback and ridership data from our first year. We engaged the public through an open house as well as in-person and online surveys earlier this year.

Route 50 will extend its schedule to run between 6:30 a.m. and 8:17 p.m. Monday through Friday. This change creates two hours of additional operation in the evening on what is easily our highest performing route, with an average of 2,954 passengers per month last fiscal year.

Route 50 runs between Howard Station in Austin and the Austin Community College campus in Round Rock. The changes to this schedule will give people in our community more opportunity to stay later on campus for studying or using the library after class and have more flexibility for their work schedules.

The MetroExpress Route 980 express service will add one additional time in the morning and evening. Morning departures to Austin will be 5:44, 6:46 and 7:51 a.m., and evening returns at Round Rock Transit Center will be 5:10, 6:40 and 7:25 p.m. This route, which started in November 2018, gives Round Rock riders access to an express bus route into downtown Austin by traveling from the Round Rock Transit Center to the New Life Park & Ride, downtown and The University of Texas, traveling on the MoPac managed lanes.

We believe these changes will help us move closer to our ultimate goal of providing a network that provides simplified routes, increased frequency, connections to more places and service to more jobs.

These were our goals outlined in Round Rock’s Transit Master Plan, which was developed in 2015 to start a framework for improving connectivity locally and regionally over the next decade. Public outreach during the planning process showed us there was strong support for transit services in our community. The plan also recognized that a quality transportation network is essential for economic development.

Development of our current route alignments were based on Census data, low-income areas and households with limited mobility options, popular destinations from the Demand Response Bus Service that was previously operating in our community, and data obtained from the “Drive a Senior” program.

The other two routes currently operating in Round Rock are Routes 51 and 52.

Route 51 travels between St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center and Dell’s Round Rock Campus, serving destinations such as Round Rock High School, Success High School and downtown. Service operates weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Route 52 travels from the Tech Ridge Park and Ride to the Round Rock Transit Center, with limited stops. Destinations include the Art Institute of Austin and several employment centers. Service operates weekdays with two morning trips and two afternoon trips.

We also provide paratransit service, which is a requirement under federal law for the disabled community who cannot use our other bus routes. Due to demand for this service, we’ve added an additional paratransit vehicle to our fleet in the past year. There are reduced fare options for seniors 65 and older, and for people with disabilities, members of the military, students and people on Medicare.

We will sometimes hear feedback that residents see “empty” buses driving around town, but it’s not always cause to discontinue a route. Most of what our Transportation Department does is geared toward rush hour, and our transit system is no different. Consider this: You may drive along the freeway, and not see drivers across all four lanes of the roadway at certain times of day. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is not a need for all four lanes. However, the benefit of transit is that we can make some shifts to routes, schedules and public education campaigns to fine tune these services for our community, as we are looking to do in the coming year and those in the future.

Still, we can already see that our budding transit system is encouraging mobility through public transportation. In its first complete fiscal year, 52,383 trips were taken across our four routes in Round Rock. We expect the upcoming year will provide even more insight to show us what we can do to make our bus service more effective for our residents and continue this important regional partnership with our friends at CapMetro.

To learn more about transit in Round Rock, visit roundrocktransit.com.

Shop the Rock to give back to your community

Improve your community by shopping the Rock this holiday season! By choosing to spend your money at businesses in Round Rock, you help build our community through sales tax.

The sales tax rate in Round Rock is 8.25 percent, with the state of Texas collecting 6.25 percent and the City 2 percent. Of the City’s share:

  • 1 percent funds basic local government services like police, fire protection, parks and the library
  • .5 percent helps reduce property taxes
  • .5 percent funds economic development, primarily construction of major transportation improvements

The half-cent economic development portion of sales tax has allowed the City to leverage $293 million into $535 million worth of projects since it was approved by voters in 1997.

Whether you’re shopping, dining or running errands, be sure to keep it local. Your city will thank you!

Jumpstart your holidays with these very merry events in Round Rock

There’s no place like home for the holidays, and Round Rock is offering plenty of very merry activities to help you get in the spirit of the season.

Take a stroll through Downtown Round Rock’s winter wonderland.

Downtown will be brighter than ever this winter! Downtown Round Rock’s Hometown Holiday light extravaganza will begin twinkling to life starting Saturday, Dec. 1 and last through Dec. 31. Trees draped in the warm glow of lights will guide your path to perfect selfie spots including larger than life ornaments, gift boxes and archways.

Burn some calories with the family (to make room for more pie, of course!).

Round Rock Parks and Recreation and Rotary Club of Round Rock Sunrise invite you to take a break between holiday meals with the Reindeer Run 5K and Family Fun Run at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Williamson County Old Settlers Association. This year’s run features several new light displays and a snowy starting line. Runners are encouraged to dress in festive clothing and costumes, and will receive light-up reindeer noses after registration while supplies last. There will be plenty of fun activities for the whole family and Santa photo opportunities. Learn more and register

Leave any stress of the holiday season behind at a Christmas carnival.

Bring your family to Christmas Towne at the Old Settlers Association and the Dell Diamond parking lot Dec. 13-23 to see amazing light displays including a walking tunnel of lights, full-scale carnival rides, holiday refreshments and more. Hours vary; for more information and ride prices, visit Round Rock Parks and Recreation’s website.

Watch Santa Claus and Mayor Morgan light the iconic water tower and Christmas tree.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, join us for Christmas Family Night in Downtown Round Rock with activities for the entire family including live music, dancers, candle making, game booths, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus and more. The water tower will be lit during a special ceremony with Mayor Craig Morgan. Children should bring their “wish lists” for Santa Claus and parents are encouraged to bring their own cameras for pictures with Santa. Plus, enjoy free hot dogs, popcorn, hot chocolate, and other refreshments, activities and snacks.

Get into character at one of the Round Rock Library’s seasonal puppet shows.

Join the Round Rock Public Library, 216 E. Main St., for one of seven free performances of the puppet show, “Jingle Elf’s Gingerbread Man.” This silly and fun show will take place multiple times on Dec. 7, 12 and 13 in Meeting Room C, and is best enjoyed by families with children ages 1-7. For a full schedule, check out the show’s Facebook event page.

See model trains come to life through the eyes of a child.

All aboard! Bring your family to ArtSpace, 231 E. Main St., to see miniature landscapes and cityscapes come to life in the Holiday Model Trains exhibit. Hosted by Round Rock Arts, this event is free and open to the public through Dec. 31. Trains will operate from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays.

Give back to others by donating gifts through Blue Santa.

Round Rock Operation Blue Santa is a non-profit organization established in 1978 by the volunteers and employees of the Round Rock Police, Fire, and Parks and Recreation Departments. The program has grown to serve more than 1,600 individuals annually and is supported entirely by the community in the form of donations. Round Rock Operation Blue Santa accepts new, unwrapped toys and wrapping paper. Look for donation sites around town (including the Police Department and all fire stations) or donate online.

Love the Rock 2018, by the numbers

Love the Rock 2018More than 1,000 volunteers joined forces with the City of Round Rock to “Love the Rock” on Oct. 27.

Round Rock’s annual Love the Rock volunteer event kicked off at Stoney Point High School before volunteers from 40 different churches came together for a single day of volunteer service in our community. 

Volunteers performed voluntary fire safety inspections and smoke detector installation, neighborhood cleanup assistance and curb address painting in the Mesa Ridge and Mesa Village neighborhoods. Using tools from the City’s Tool Lending Center, volunteers mowed and weeded lawns, trimmed trees and bushes, hauled heavy items and more.

So how did we do this year? Here’s the total impact, by the numbers:

  • 28 tons of bulk trash collected
  • 5.8 tons of brush recycled
  • 17 low-hanging tree code issues resolved
  • 25 homes received cleanup assistance
  • 95 tools checked out from Tool Lending Center
  • 272 addresses painted on curbs
  • 204 smoke alarms installed in 70 homes
  • 16 fire suppression devices installed above stoves
  • 200-300 yards of mulch spread in parks

This event was about much more than just numbers, though. As Mayor Craig Morgan said, “It’s about people, and taking care of our own.” Take a look:

Thanks to all of our amazing volunteers! Your servant hearts are what make Round Rock a great place to live.