Police Department improves safety measures during encounters with canines

  • June 22, 2017

  • By Kristin Brown

  • Posted In: The Quarry

The following article was written by Angelique Meyers, Public Information Officer for the Police Department, and published in by the Department of Justice’s e-newsletter, Community Policing Dispatch.

Law enforcement agencies across the country have been under high criticism from the public for negative and sometimes fatal outcomes when police encounter dogs in the community. In a few previous incidents, officers with the Round Rock [Texas] Police Department have been involved in fatal dog shootings, even after completing the online COPS Office Dog Encounters Training. In response, Round Rock Police Department leadership decided to take action and implement new training and tools.

The Round Rock Police Department, in collaboration with the Animal Control Unit, created a new community-based initiative called B.A.R.K.: Be Aware of Residential K9s. The B.A.R.K. Alert Program is designed to improve officer safety and empower citizens by alerting first responders to the presence of animals at a residence. Community members voluntarily register their pets and service animals with the program. Officers are forewarned of the possibility of an animal encounter, and are able to bring the necessary equipment to handle that encounter in a way that is safe for both the officer and the animal.  The program is free for residents and all owners, but especially those with large-breed dogs, are   encouraged to participate.

Advertising the B.A.R.K. program was initially challenging, and citizen registration was lower than expected. However, the program was successfully promoted by local vaccination clinics, the Williamson County Animal Shelter, and pet-related businesses in partnership with the Police Department. A B.A.R.K postcard was distributed to residents that resulted in a significant increase in registrations, and the department’s public information specialist was also able to raise awareness for the program through social media. Currently, there are 945 Dog on Site registrations at residences in Round Rock, and the program is expected to keep growing as information spreads.

Residents with ‘Dog on Site’ registrations are given BARK Alert stickers, which alert officers and has the added benefit of deterring burglaries. The cost of printing the alert stickers was minimal and has the added benefit of improved trust between police and the community.  Further, the B.A.R.K program has had a dynamic impact on the community and on the police department’s public relationships. It has provided the department opportunities to speak with pet owners about animal and officer safety, as well as increased the police department’s support from the local businesses, clinics, and shelters that advertise the program.

In addition to the community-based B.A.R.K program, Round Rock sworn police personnel have completed over 700 total training hours in dealing with aggressive animals, including interactive training with canine expert Jim Osorio. This ongoing training reminds officers to seek out signs of aggression for animals.  Officers now use treats and other tactics to interact with animals in the field and are generally able to deescalate situations. Officers have also been issued and trained on animal catchpoles, a tool that allows officers to humanely restrain an aggressive animal. Previously only animal control officers had this tool. These actions were implemented prior to the Texas state mandate for Texas law enforcement officers to undergo canine encounters training.

The result of these changes was recognized when a local citizen sent a letter to the department commending an officer for not shooting his dog even though the dog bit the officer. Officer Randall Frederick’s actions in that encounter were honored by the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse in 2015.

One neighboring police department has already implemented the B.A.R.K. program in its community, under a different name and many more departments can benefit from replicating either the program or any of its component parts: registration of household animals, the now-mandated training, and the use of catchpoles by police officers. Together, these changes increase public and officer safety and improve community relations—changes law enforcement agencies across the county would find highly valuable.

A simple google search of the terms “police dog shooting” will reveal the nationwide extent of the issue of fatal dog shootings. We truly believe that any department willing to take action on this issue can experience a noticeable change in how their officers interact with animals during calls for service.

The Round Rock Police Department will continue to explore new ideas and advertise at special events to increase participation. The program is expected to continually grow as the information reaches more residents in the City of Round Rock.

Cool spots in Round Rock to beat the summer heat

  • June 20, 2017

  • By Austin Ellington

  • Posted In: The Quarry

Looking for the perfect spot to cool off with the kids on these hot summer days? We’ve got you covered with a waterpark, pools and a hometown splash pad!

1. Rock’N River Waterpark (3300 Palm Valley Blvd.; inside Old Settlers Park)

The Rock’N River Water Park went through a multi-million dollar renovation in 2016! The park more than doubled in size, with exciting new for the entire family like a huge sprayground play area called “Splashville” that includes 51 play features, “The Quarry” adventure area featuring a 12 foot Jumping Platform and Rock Climbing Wall with waterfall, cabanas, swim-up concession lagoon and food truck circle.

  • Daily Admission
    $8: Youth (17 years & under)
    $10: Adults (18-49 years)
    $8: Senior (50 years & over)
    $5: Kids (2 years & under)
  • Twilight Admission (5pm to Close)
    $4: Youth (17 years & under)
    $5: Adults (18-49 years)
    $4: Senior (50 years & over)
    $2: (2 years & under)
  • Season Passes
    $60: Youth/Senior Pass
    $70: Adult Pass
    $225: Family Pass (4 people). Add additional family members for just $10 each.
    Valid at Rock’N River Water Park only.
  • Regular Hours
    June 2-August 20

    Open Daily (CLOSED WEDNESDAYS) 12:00pm-7:00pm

  • End of Season Weekend Hours
    Sat. Aug. 29, Sun. Aug. 27, Sat. Sept. 2, Sun. Sept. 3, Mon. Sept. 4
    Open 12:00pm-6:00pm

More details on the Rock’N River Waterpark are available online at: https://www.roundrocktexas.gov/river

2. Micki Krebsbach Pool (301 Deepwood Drive)

Micki Kresbsbach Pool features multiple interactive features including: a pirate ship, crate walk, and large slide (for guests 48″ or taller), along with multiple lanes of swim area. Wait, what? There’s a pirate ship? Got that right! It’s a twenty-six foot long and twenty-three feet high water adventure for all ages! The ship includes wet and wild climbing angles, 2 slides and water cannons for major family fun.
  • Admission
    $2: Youth (17 years and under)
    $3: Adult (18-49 years)

    $2: Senior (50 years and over)

  • 2017 Recreation Swim Schedule
    Open Daily from 1 to 7 p.m.
    Closed Tuesdays

3. Lake Creek Pool (800 Deerfoot Drive; located in Lake Creek Park)

  • Admission
    $1: Youth (17 years and under)
    $2: Adult (18-49 years)

    $1: Senior (50 years and over)

  • 2017 Recreation Swim Schedule
    Open Tuesday through Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m.

    Open Friday through Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m. (contingent on lifeguard availability)

4. Prete Main Street Plaza Splash Pad (221 E Main Street in Downtown Round Rock)

Bring the kids and let the fun begin! While you’re on Main Street, why not try one of our restaurants and make it a day or evening of fun. Prete Plaza is a 14,000-square-foot plaza with a 610-square-foot performance stage, 1,075- square-foot interactive water feature, and features plenty of seating for picnics and playtime.

The fountain schedule can be viewed online at: https://www.roundrocktexas.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/facilities/downtown-plazas/

 

Round Rock listed among most family-friendly cities in Texas

  • June 8, 2017

  • By Austin Ellington

  • Posted In: The Quarry

Photo Credit: Rock Studios


Safe neighborhoods, great schools, Friday night fireworks, splashing good times, splurge-worthy shopping, and a one-of-a-kind hometown downtown are just a few of the reasons Round Rock has once again found itself being talked about as one of the most family-friendly cities in Texas.

Round Rock’s recent ranking by Smart Asset as the No. 9 “Best Place in Texas to Raise a Family” continues to back of what we’ve known all along… this place Rocks!

Here’s what the article had to say about our community:

“If you are looking to raise your family in the greater Austin area, it is hard to beat Round Rock. This city is known for having a strong education system and our data backs that up. Round Rock graduates 94% of its students and has top five scores in both percent of students taking AP exams and percent of students who score well on AP exams. Round Rock is also relatively affordable compared to other cities in our top 10. The median monthly housing cost is $1,250, the second-lowest in our top 10.”

Looking for more? You can read the full article online here: https://smartasset.com/mortgage/best-places-in-texas-to-raise-a-family

We’re an open book: Your City government, by the numbers

  • May 17, 2017

  • By Will Hampton

  • Posted In: The Quarry

In late April, the Texas Comptroller awarded the City of Round Rock a Transparency Star in recognition that we provide easy online access to spending and revenue information.

We’ve got a one-stop shop on our website for basic financial data and reports. You can find links to detailed information on things like quarterly investment reports or simply check out a bar chart showing how the City property tax rate has changed from 2012 to 2016. (Spoiler alert: it’s less than a half cent.)

If you’re really into numbers, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is a detailed report of the  City’s finances and includes the independent auditors’ opinion. (Spoiler alert:  the City always receives an unqualified or “clean” opinion.) Auditors spent nine weeks on site – a total of 1,051 hours – and evaluated hundreds of transactions. This report provides a quantitative look at the operating success, financial health, and compliance of the City. It includes a Statement of Net Position, Statement of Activities, Balance Sheet, a Statement of Revenues, Expenditures, and Changes in Fund Balances, and a comparison of budgeted to actual expenses and revenues.  The Statistical Section near the back of the document provides a treasure trove of additional financial and statistical comparisons on the City, many showing ten years of history.

If that’s too much detail, then check out the quarterly Round Rock by the Numbers. This two-pager is a snapshot of quarterly information on key indicators like sales tax collections (actual vs projections), utility revenues, hotel occupancy rates and the like. There’s also fun facts like Top 10 Property Taxpayers and which departments have the biggest piece of the budget pie. (Spoiler alert: it’s the Police).

One of the City Council’s top strategic goals is a “Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services.” Have a look at the wealth of financial information on our website, and learn more about what makes Round Rock such a well-run City.

Cervantes: Finding a new home for main Round Rock library

  • April 4, 2017

  • By Austin Ellington

  • Posted In: The Quarry

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.


In November 2013, the majority of citizens approved the use of $23.2 million in bond proceeds to build a new main library and renovate the existing library or build a new branch library.

With additional space, the library will expand its core services to children, teens and adults, as well as technology and more types of meeting spaces and program rooms. The proposed branch could include the same services as the main branch, with the exception of genealogy and local history.

The community is very fond of our historic building and location on Main Street. Based on feedback from the community, there is strong support to locate the main library as close to downtown as possible.

With that in mind, we have good news to share. We may have found a premier location in downtown Round Rock.

The city and the Round Rock school district are working together to secure a location next to CD Fulkes Middle School, located at 300 West Anderson Avenue. We are still working on the details, but we hope to secure the site by the end of summer. Once the location is secured, it could take about three years to complete the project.

Since the bond passed, the City Council and city administration have been actively searching for a location for the new main library. Selecting a site in downtown Round Rock has been a challenge. You can’t just pick anywhere to build the new library.

There are specific criteria that we need to follow to ensure we find the best possible location for our growing community. Architect Lisa Padilla identified 14 top-site evaluation criteria in a handbook, “Site Selection for Libraries,” published by the American Institute of Architects, which you can find on the library’s website.

Although the bond was approved in 2013, the city has a long list of projects in addition to the library to complete. Parks, fires stations and the police and fire training facility are the other bond projects that were approved by voters.

In January 2014, $1.5 million was issued for land, design and engineering for the main facility. Then in February 2015, the Council announced its unanimous decision to wait on selecting the site for the new library.

At the time, Assistant City Manager Brooks Bennett said, “The Master Plan identified a few premier locations, and the Council has opted to see if one of those locations become available in the not-too-distant future. Money for the new library was slated for the second issuance, which would take place in 2017 at the soonest, so opting to not rush into a location gives the Council the ability to secure a premier location, as identified in the Master Plan, if it becomes available.”

As of right now, we don’t have any forums or focus groups scheduled to gather your feedback, but when we do, the schedule will be posted on our website, Facebook, utility bill newsletter, eNewsletters, NextDoor and other media.

You are always welcome to call or email Michelle Cervantes at 512-218-7010 or mcervantes@roundrocktexas.gov.

Visit roundrocktexas.gov/library for updates and to find Padilla’s site evaluation criteria.

Round Rock water treatment staff help elementary student with science fair project

  • March 31, 2017

  • By Austin Ellington

  • Posted In: The Quarry

You know those local stories that give you the warm, fuzzy, my-hometown-is-pretty-much-the-best-place-to-live-ever type feeling? Yeah, us too. And we’re so, SO proud to have another feel good, Round Rock-has-my-heart-style story to share with you here today!

Last month, Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw received a letter from local elementary student, Tasnim Aliyu, thanking City staff for helping her with a science fair project. As it turns out, workers at one of our local water treatment plants had taken the time to sit down with the student and helped her use laboratory tools so that she could learn and present about water filtration systems. Staff even took time on the weekend to meet with the student to help make sure her project was top-notch (going above and beyond is kind of our thing here in Round Rock)!

Cherry on top? The student ended up winning first place in both her school and regional science fairs, receiving a special award from Dell Children’s Hospital along the way. Pretty awesome if we do say so ourselves!

Here’s some of what Tasnim had to say about the experience in her letter to the Mayor (it’s also attached in full below, and worth the read, because it’s so darn cute, y’all):

“If they hadn’t helped me in my science fair project, I wouldn’t have won school science fair nor science fair regionals. They even helped me on their free day – Sunday. I was amazed by their willingness to help students like me. They are my models and they motivated me to add more complicated things in my project and to motivate me to drink clean water. I can’t thank them enough so I ask you to help me. That would be most grateful.”

Smile. It’s not every day there’s a story floating around to warm your heart, but here in Round Rock (and maybe we’re just a tad bit biased), we think those days are more frequent than anywhere else on earth. We love this town and can’t imagine spending our days anywhere else.

Huge shout out to the staff in our Utilities and Environmental Services Department on being completely awesome. You rock!!

Round Rock ranked No. 3 best city in America to start a family

  • February 24, 2017

  • By Austin Ellington

  • Posted In: The Quarry


One kid might be cryin’ and one kid screamin’, but at least when you’re in Round Rock, you’ve got the peace of mind that you picked one of the best places in America to raise that crazy family of yours! Yep, that’s right. Round Rock has once again found itself atop a city ranking, and this time, it’s for something that’s near and dear to our hometown heart – family.

In its latest study, LendEDU ranked Round Rock the No. 3 best city in the nation to start a family.

The study was based on a unique ranking system that took into account several factors deemed important to those looking to make the big move of establishing a household and starting a family. These factors included:

  • quality local education system
  • comparison of median household income to average cost of initial home purchase
  • crime statistics
  • population of young families in the area

Here in Round Rock, we’re proud to be a family-friendly destination for folks looking for great schools, neighborhoods, parks, employment, shopping, dining and so, so much more.

From the stellar Round Rock Independent School District to acres and acres of parks and trails to our Rock’N River and the so-many-we-can’t-even-begin-to-name-them-all-here family-friendly events, we’ve got something for just about everyone. Oh, and if you haven’t experienced Friday Night Fireworks with the Round Rock Express at the Dell Diamond, you’re missing out on a hometown homerun of epic proportions.

So, who else made the cut? Check out the top twenty-five below or view the full ranking, including a more detailed explanation of study methodology, here: https://lendedu.com/blog/best-cities-start-family/

  1. Frisco, TX
  2. McKinney, TX
  3. Round Rock, TX
  4. Olathe, KS
  5. Plano, TX
  6. Gilbert, AZ
  7. Cary, NC
  8. Naperville, IL
  9. Centennial, CO
  10. Carrollton, TX
  11. Murrieta, CA
  12. Aurora, IL
  13. Overland Park, KS
  14. Broken Arrow, OK
  15. Richardson, TX
  16. Sterling Heights, MI
  17. Chandler, AZ
  18. Elk Grove, CA
  19. Grand Prairie, TX
  20. Peoria, AZ
  21. El Paso, TX
  22. Rochester, MN
  23. Temecula, CA
  24. Orem, UT
  25. Clarksville, TN

Round Rock ranks among top U.S. cities for Millennials

  • February 10, 2017

  • By Austin Ellington

  • Posted In: The Quarry

According to a recent study conducted by Millennial Personal Finance, Round Rock ranks as the No. 8 “Best City for Millennials.” And while we aren’t too surprised to see our name among the nation’s best, we’re still pretty darn excited!

But… Millennial schimmenial, right? Wrong! And not just because the guy writing this blog post happens to fall into that generational pigeon hole.

Per the Pew Research Center, millennial describes those “born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.” Comprised of more than 74 million people, it’s a generation poised to become the next set of leaders for our community, state and nation. Add to that that fact that this group of folks has officially surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, and you’ve got some serious staying power.

Why Round Rock though? According to the article, the study looked at several factors when determining where to rank each of the 500 cities reviewed, including employment benefits, expenses, future job growth potential, transportation costs and safety.

With our outstanding parks, growing downtown entertainment district, out-of-this world public safety team, top-notch schools and forward-thinking City leadership team, this ranking just makes sense for our community. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to live in Round Rock?

Here’s the top 20:

 

Interested in learning more? You can find the full set of ranking and explanation here: http://www.millennialpersonalfinance.com/best-cities-millennials/

Top 16 accomplishments of 2016

  • January 18, 2017

  • By Will Hampton

  • Posted In: The Quarry

2016 review bannerThe City of Round Rock had a pretty amazing run last year. And while you may think it’s a little late in the game for one of those look-back-at-the-best-of lists, we believe it’s perfect timing. Mostly because we’re gearing up for the City Council’s annual strategic planning retreat, and the look forward always starts with a look back.

Here are what we consider to be the best of the best 2016 had to offer in Round Rock:

  1. Kalahari Resorts announced in June its intention to build one of its family resorts, water park and convention centers in Round Rock. In December, the City Council approved a series of agreements that brought that vision closer to reality. This is big because the company will invest at least $350 million in the project, hire a minimum of 700 and add a significant new sector — the convention business — to the Round Rock economy.
  2. There was much rejoicing in Downtown Round Rock when we reached substantial completion on the realignment of Round Rock Avenue, Main Street and Mays Street. Why? Because it bigly (or big league?) improves traffic flow for motorists and safety for pedestrians in our one-of-a-kind, vibrant downtown.
  3. We refinanced four separate bond issues that will result in $927,000 in annual interest savings to the City. It was mostly utility bonds, so that’s nearly a million bucks a year that doesn’t have be repaid through your monthly water bills. For more details on budgetary matters, read this. For a high-level view (from about, say, the height your cat would see it if she was on top of the fridge), watch this.
  4. We opened two new fire stations, funding for which was approved by Round Rock voters in a 2013 bond election. The new stations are on the east side of town, and improve our emergency response times significantly. Shorter response times = better chance of surviving heart attack. What’s not to ♥?
  5. Speaking of fire, we hired a new chief, Robert Isbell, in December following a nationwide search. The entire command staff from the Midland Fire Department, his previous employer, made the five-hour drive from West Texas to pay their respects at his pinning ceremony. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about what kind of a leader he is, we’re not sure what will!
  6. The City broke ground on a Public Safety Training Facility in November. The $29 million facility will give our first responders a state-of-the-art training facility right here in Round Rock. Currently, our police and firefighters have to travel for advanced training, a big expense of time and money.
  7. We opened a major expansion of the Rock’N River water park this summer, and it made a big splash with residents — revenue was double what had been projected.
  8. Our Planning and Development Services Department lined up annexation agreements for more than 2,000 acres in northeast Round Rock. This is property currently outside the City limits. The agreements ensure orderly, compatible development as Round Rock continues to grow. You’ll thank us profusely in 15 years.
  9. While we’re talking growth, our inspection staff approved permits for more than $200 million worth of new commercial and residential development. They conducted 18,000 inspections — 90 percent within one day of being requested! These guys and gals deliver on the promise to Make It Happen.
  10. Speaking of growth, the Round Rock Economic Development Partnership delivered another winning deal in May, when United Parcel Service announced it was building a regional distribution center on SH 45. UPS will build a 100,000-square-foot facility worth $70 million and employ at least 314 at the site. The jobs will have an annual average salary of at least $50,000 a year.
  11. Technically, this didn’t happen until 2017. But 99 percent of the work on the Creek Bend Boulevard extension was completed in 2016, so it makes the list. Our Transportation staff will tell you this is one of those projects that is a real game changer, and, at just $9 million, a real bargain. We know, $9 million is a lot of money, but in transportation dollars, that’s relatively small potatoes. Or not, depending on your point of view.
  12. Last January, our Police held an outreach event with a local mosque. The event received nice coverage in the local media. What didn’t get coverage was news about a little note and flowers received by the mosque in November. We’d like to think the outreach event planted the seed that sprouted such lovely sentiments.
  13. While our Public Library continues to look for a new home in 2017, that didn’t stop it from booking some big wins in 2016. It made the switch to a new catalog system, all the while experiencing a record year for circulation — 1,080,312 items checked out — with a 39 percent increase in eBook checkouts.
  14. We’re gushing over how well our water conservation efforts performed last year. The 117 irrigation system audits, rebates for 235 efficient toilets and 28 efficient clothes dryers, and rainwater harvesting program will result in nearly 2 million gallons of water saved per year.
  15. No department sees more wins than our Sports Management and Tourism team. The Round Rock Sports Center produced $1.2 million in net income, and the Sports Capital of Texas hosted 55 tournaments and eventsdrawing 95,000 participants — that produced more than $10 million in direct economic activity.
  16. Last on the list but first in our hearts was the Lost Teddy Alert. When we discovered a lost teddy bear after one of Downtown Round Rock‘s family-friendly Music on Main concerts, we reached out via social media in an attempt to find its owner. You guys delivered. Little girl and lost teddy were reunited, and it felt so good. In fact, nothing felt better than that in 2016.

“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

  • January 6, 2017

  • By Will Hampton

  • Posted In: The Quarry

That’s what the familiar face said to me and Brian Ligon, our ace multimedia specialist, as we were filming the latest Street Cred. We were at the corner of Wyoming Springs and the new Creek Bend Boulevard extension. I recognized the driver because she was a crossing guard at Cactus Ranch Elementary and Walsh Middle School for the six years my sons attended those schools.

And I knew exactly what she was talking about. Oh, the exquisite relief this little half-mile stretch of four lanes provides to folks on the west side.

Those who live west of IH 35 and north of Sam Bass Road have had limited options to access RM 620 — home to an H-E-B, Round Rock High, a hospital, doctor’s offices, etc. As we note in the Street Cred piece, if you live in Behren’s Ranch, Wood Glen, the Plantation, The Woods, Hidden Glen, Bent Tree, The Hermitage or Mira Vista, you’ve had to drive a ways, a mile or two or more, to get to Chisholm Trail or IH 35 to get south. And oh the joy that awaits you on IH 35 sound bound there. Or, you can take that funky zig zag route through the Great Oaks and Fern Bluff neighborhoods to get to RM 620.

It gets old. Real old. But no more.

I had my own special Creek Bend moment a couple of hours later. I was at Sunrise and Old Settlers Boulevard, and needed to get home, in the Oak Creek neighborhood (near St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center). Instead of taking the interstate to RM 620 and then getting to experience the joy of Round Rock High School letting out around 4:30, I simply drove over IH 35 and continued west on FM 3406 (which TxDOT recently finished improving — thanks, guys!), hung a left at Creek Bend (I even made the green light!) crossed over lovely (but expensive to build bridges over) Brushy Creek and was home in a snap. It felt like I saved at least 10 minutes in driving time.

It was, indeed, a beautiful day.