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.

After 10 months of planning, public input, City presents roadway impact fee proposal

Round Rock, we have a problem.

The City’s current methods of funding the transportation infrastructure needed to keep Round Rock moving do not provide enough capital to meet the increasing traffic demands we face. The Transportation Master Plan adopted by the City Council in October 2017 determined $1.2 billion in new infrastructure is needed to accommodate Round Rock’s ultimate population of 250,000. Property tax and sales tax revenues, along with state and federal funds, are our present funding sources. But those aren’t enough. So, beginning in January 2018, the City of Round Rock began the process to explore Roadway Impact Fees as an additional source of funds.

Impact fees are a mechanism for funding the public infrastructure necessitated by new development. When a new residential subdivision or business park is proposed, we can determine how much new traffic those projects will create based on their size and use and charge a fee to the developer to help pay for improvements needed to accommodate that increased demand on our roadway system.

In short, impact fees help growth pay for itself.

City staff and consultant Kimley-Horn have had several meetings with developers over the past 10 months to discuss the fee. A primary concern we heard was the new fee would render projects unaffordable, and drive development to neighboring communities. We understand that concern. We have researched other Texas cities that have implemented roadway impact fees and there has not been any conclusive impact on the pace of development.

In Round Rock, we’ve had utility impact fees since 1989, and the City certainly hasn’t seen any discernable negative impacts on development. Utility impact fees have helped Round Rock build one of the strongest utility systems in the state – it is one of only 10 cities in Texas with an AAA utility credit rating, the highest possible – and our water and wastewater rates are among the lowest in the region.

Proposal

Our current plan is to phase in the Roadway Impact Fee, to give developers ample lead time to plan financing for their projects while still providing a critical funding source for the City to help pay for much-needed road improvements.

According to our capital needs study, the maximum fee the City could impose is $2,511 per base service unit. Our proposal would assess 30 percent of that maximum for residential development and 20 percent of that maximum for non-residential development in 2019. The fee would ramp up to 60 percent for residential and 30 percent for non-residential by 2022. 

The City Council, which has held multiple public hearings on the issue, will discuss roadway impact fees at a workshop on Dec. 6. The plan going forward is to adopt an ordinance this spring, with an effective date of Oct. 1, 2019. To provide input to the City Council, send an email to impactfee@roundrocktexas.gov.

Round Rock Mayor responds to letter from six year old “future mayor”

  • October 26, 2018

  • By Austin Ellington

  • Posted In: The Quarry

Are you a fan of stories that pull at your heartstrings and make you proud to call your community home? Good news: we’ve got one that’s sure to brighten your day!

Mayor Craig Morgan recently received a letter from local six-year-old, Davey Kapur, thanking him for his service to Round Rock. The young boy also noted his potential interest in public service.

“Thank you for your service in Round Rock and I lived here my hole life,” he wrote. “I might be mayor one day.”

This, of course, prompted a response from Mayor Morgan, who invited him to meet personally for a tour of Round Rock’s City Hall and to discuss the future. The two talked about what it’s like to be mayor of a city, and discussed the importance of working hard in school and always doing your best.

Just one more reason we’re proud to call this place home!

5 things to know about Tuesday’s rain in Round Rock

Central Texas received an immense amount of rain on Tuesday, and forecasts predict that this is only the beginning. Here’s what you need to know:

RRFD performed swift water rescues in Kingsland on Tuesday.

1. Devastation hit close to home. Pictures of catastrophic flooding saturated social media and the news as nearby communities were hit hard by flooding along the Llano River. Round Rock Fire Department mobilized a boat crew early Tuesday that headed down to Kingsland, working side by side with Williamson County Emergency Services and Austin Fire Department to perform swift water rescues. Our thoughts continue to be with those affected by the storms.

2. More rain is expected for heavy-hit areas. “The region remains very sensitive to additional rainfall and a Flash Flood Watch will remain in effect for parts of South Central Texas through Thursday evening,” according to the National Weather Service (NWS). One reading posted by the NWS showed that Round Rock received 6.12 inches over a 48-hour period as of Tuesday morning.

3. Turn around; don’t drown. While the amount of rain wasn’t catastrophic, it definitely resulted in the closure of some low water crossings in Round Rock, and City crews had to close the Chisholm Trail crossing to clear debris this morning. Even our namesake rock was struggling to stay above water. Be sure to stay up-to-date on the latest low water crossings by visiting atxfloods.com. Round Rock Police Department also released a very timely video earlier this month about the importance of paying attention to low water crossings:

4. There are plenty of resources to make sure you’re prepared for future emergencies. With such devastating flooding happening so close to us, it makes one wonder — am I prepared for something like this? Now’s as good a time as any to brush up on the ways you can prepare for a flooding incident. A great source of information for emergency preparedness, including for floods, is available at ready.gov

Ironically, a Flash Flood Training planned for Round Rock on Wednesday evening has been postponed due to the weather — stay tuned for future updates on a new date. The training sessions focus solely on flooding issues of the region and discuss the meteorology behind the record flooding that Central Texas can receive. 

5. Well, at least the rain’s been good for one thing. After a lengthy summer of dry conditions, our primary source of drinking water, Lake Georgetown, received some much needed help from Tuesday’s downpour.

Mayor Morgan: Diversified funding sources key to transportation success

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


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

There’s an old saying among municipal planners that the best time to build a road is 10 years before a study says you need it.

Transportation and traffic are big issues in Round Rock, and the solutions are never cheap and never seem to come fast enough. Our 2017 Transportation Master Plan determined we need $1.2 billion in new roadway capacity to accommodate growth over the next 20 years in the City of Round Rock.

The good news? We’ve been able to employ a variety of funding sources to make a real difference over the past several years and are looking at ways we can speed up our efforts to tackle this mammoth of a challenge.

In 1997, residents voted to assign a half-cent of our sales tax revenues, meaning 50 cents per $100 spent at City of Round Rock retailers, toward transportation. To date, that small portion of money spent by visitors and residents alike within our city has raised $293 million. That number wouldn’t be near as high without economic development efforts to bring businesses like Dell, Round Rock Premium Outlets, Emerson and IKEA – which bring huge sales activity to our community. By combining that $293 million with county, state and federal funds, we have completed $533 million worth of road projects.

This year, the City was able to secure $27.6 million in federal funding through our partnership with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) for three significant road projects: Kenny Fort Boulevard from Forest Creek to SH 45; University Boulevard from A.W. Grimes Boulevard to County Road 110; and Gattis School Road from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane. These projects are estimated to cost $61.5 million altogether, meaning these dollars will help cover a third of the cost of these roads.

We enjoy a great working relationship with our state partners at TxDOT, which is critical considering an interstate runs right through our community. TxDOT has recently completed or is still constructing a total of five projects on I-35 in Round Rock that have a total cost of $73.5 million. The braided ramps south of U.S 79 and associated improvements alone are valued at $28.1 million. Now that’s some serious investment in our community!

We’ve certainly chipped in our share of City funding to tackle road concerns, and one of our biggest concerns is maintaining the roadway network we already have in place. We’ve invested roughly $25 million in neighborhood street maintenance over the past five years. For the new fiscal year, 71 percent of our 1.4 cent increase over the effective tax rate this year will go toward maintaining our residential roads.

As we look toward the future, we are investigating two additional sources of funding for road projects: traffic impact fees and certificates of obligation.

State law allows cities to issue either general obligation bonds, or certificates of obligation, to finance long-term public works projects. Certificates of obligation (COs) allow us to take advantage of favorable interest rates and get projects started on a shorter timeline than general obligation bonds, which could help us gain some ground on our transportation needs. 

The Council approved $28 million in COs in 2014 to help fund multiple projects that have since come to fruition: the Creek Bend Boulevard extension, improvements Downtown to Mays and Main streets, Phase 2 of Seton Parkway and Phase 2 of La Frontera street maintenance work.

The City is also currently evaluating Roadway Impact Fees, which are one-time costs assessed to new developments. This type of funding could be used to help accommodate growth across our entire transportation system in accordance with state law. Roadway Impact Fees are used by many cities across the state as a way to have new growth contribute to needed transportation system expansion.

The truth is there is no simple answer to our traffic problems. Addressing it takes a  combination of approaches and is something we will continue to seek creative solutions for moving forward. But one thing we have learned is that taking advantage of Round Rock’s unique, growing economy and maintaining regional partnerships will continue to be keys to our future success.