Heartfelt note highlights amazing Round Rock community

You know those moments… the ones that tug at your heartstrings and make you proud to be a part of something, live in a certain area, or sometimes even just call yourself human? Yeah, us, too. They’re the stories that unite us, make us stronger and give us a positive, we-can-do-this-outlook on life and the challenges we face day in and day out. And when they happen close to home, they seem even more powerful in their ability to bring people together and enhance lives.

Recently, we came across such a story here in Round Rock – a simple note left from one set of neighbors to another expressing love, acceptance and general caring:

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a story like this come out of Round Rock and know it won’t be the last. Why? Because as a community, we strive to understand, celebrate and engage diversity to enhance our ability to work together and achieve greater success.


Officers Joseph Claypool (pictured) and Tim Chancellor talked about personal and school safety.

Another recent example comes straight from our City of Round Rock team, or as we like to refer to it, our family. If you’re not aware, the Round Rock Police and Round Rock Fire Departments are extremely dedicated to community outreach among various cultural groups and have, throughout the years, made a conscious effort to engage, collaborate and build relationships with all members of our community. In fact, in January of this year, public servants from each department partnered with the Islamic Community Center for a first-ever integration event. Members of the departments were able to provide public safety information, while also learning about the culture of attending residents, answering questions, holding one-on-one conversations with individuals and even sharing a traditional meal prepared by the hosts.

Staff also regularly attend Friendship International meetings and have partnered with several other local organizations to host similar engagement events.

We understand that together we’re stronger. Each and every day, we, your City government, strive to make our community a place that everyone can be proud to call home. And while certain stories, including those above, may be but a small blip in the larger conversation, we believe they’re meaningful and deserve recognition.

Thank you, Round Rock, for being so utterly amazing. It’s all of you out there that make this place everything that it is.

#RRProud #LoveThisCity #OneRoundRock

Round Rock takes moment to salute servicemembers on Veterans Day

Every day, we, as Americans, have the awesome opportunity to live life with a freedom not afforded to all across the globe. All too often, this blessing is overlooked and in many cases, taken for granted. Last Friday, Veterans Day, the people of Round Rock took a moment to thank the men and women who have sacrificed, through military service, so that we may all live free.

And from the Star Spangled Banner to the wreath ceremony, it’s hard to imagine that each person present didn’t leave with a heart filled with pride for our great nation.

If you missed the ceremony, take a look through a few photos below.

Oh, and don’t forget that with Veterans Park just a few blocks from Main Street in Downtown Round Rock, you can always take an afternoon stroll and pay your own respects at the memorial.

Round Rock named the No. 2 best city for families in Texas

From splish-splashin’ good times to seventh-inning hot dog runs, expansive park and trail system, hometown downtown and never-ending family-friendly event schedule, our community is no stranger to making memories and having fun. But that’s not the only reason Livability selected Round Rock as the runner-up, No. 2 best city for families in Texas – it’s also got a lot to do with our strong economy, relatively low cost of living and high availability of quality jobs close to home.

As they put it: “Located just 20 miles north of Austin, Round Rock blends small-town charm with big-city convenience. Unlike most metropolitan suburbs, Round Rock is self contained. The city is home to several major employers, including IKEA, IBM and Samsung. The international headquarters of tech giant Dell is here, as well as a number of small businesses around the city’s quaint, yet bustling, downtown – which means a short commute to work for most residents.”

Ok, so they gave us just a little, teensy, you-wouldn’t-have-even-noticed-if-we-didn’t-tell-you extra credit with IBM and Samsung considering those two employers are actually our next door neighbors and not technically within the City limits. But hey, they’re still right on track with the fact that our residents have the opportunity to live near many, many world-class employers, including the likes of Emerson and Sears Teleserv, both of which are smack dab in the middle of Round Rock.

And how could we be considered a go-to destination for folks to raise a family without stellar schools? We absolutely love having the Round Rock Independent School District right at home here in our community. And no, not just because the Friday night lights shine bright on a few of the football teams, although we sure don’t mind grabbing our cap and watching the hometown boys take the field every now and again. According to the article, “the district also scores high marks for its academics, receiving a grade of 8 out of 10 by GreatSchools.org.” Passionate educators, innovative administration – that’s what we’re talking about!

So, whether you and your family already live in Round Rock or you’re thinking about making the move to this great community… Welcome home, we couldn’t be happier to have you!

Read the full article and see what other cities made the cut here: http://www.livability.com/texas/real-estate/5-best-cities-for-families-in-texas

Architect: A black box theater at Baca Center just won’t work

A black box theater at the Baca Center is a no go.

The architect hired to determine the feasibility of placing a small theater in the Grand Room of the Allen R. Baca Center for Senior and Community Affairs stated in a letter the facility “is inadequate to provide a professional level quality black box theater.”

Kirk Johnson of Corgan studied three options for a black box at Baca:

  • Placing a black box in the Grand Room at the Baca Center
  • Option 1, plus adding dressing rooms, makeup counters, a green room, technical booth areas, etc.
  • Building a black box theater at the loading dock area of the Baca Center

None of the options were feasible, when looking at 12 criteria examined by Corgan.

“The Baca Center functions well as a community center but has significant spatial, logistical and operational challenges as facility for a professional black box theater,” Johnson stated in a Sept. 29 letter to the City.

We first shared the exciting possibility of a black box in downtown in this Jan. 15, 2016, Quarry post.

The City will continue to look at options for a location for a black box theater, Arts and Culture Director Scot Wilkinson said.

“While we’re disappointed this option isn’t feasible, because it could have been completed relatively quickly and cost effectively, we are moving on,” Wilkinson said. “There are other possibilities we are now pursuing that are very promising. We need a performing arts venue in Round Rock.”

Too cool for school

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.

Michelle Cervantes Library Director

Michelle Cervantes
Library Director

The past few months have been heated. Not just due to the hot weather, but because of politics, racism, strife, culture clash and loss.

Let’s get back on track and focus on something cool, like back to school.

Yes, you heard me right. I said school is cool. I learned this fact late in life, and I believe if I had known that back in the day, then my life would have been a whole lot easier.

Are you too cool for school? Well, we have options for you that offer non-traditional learning opportunities. Learning goes beyond a classroom and continuous improvement goes hand-in-hand with success. You should not stop learning or seeking knowledge just because you receive a diploma.

The first step is getting a library card. September is officially Library Card Sign-Up Month. All you need to do is bring your valid Texas issued identification with a current address, and we can set you up in a few minutes. Your library membership provides you with access to more than 180,000 items and 92 online digital resources.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is launching two new databases (online digital resources) this month. Soon you will be able to log into Pronunciator and Flipster.

Pronunciator teaches practical language skills through listening, speaking, reading, writing, grammar and culture. Courses for 80 languages are available, with up to 22 months of guided instruction per language. Pronunciator also provides citizenship preparation courses in English and Spanish with all these features available for Apple, Android and Kindle Fire devices.

Flipster is the next-generation digital magazine providing libraries with access to magazines in a digital format. We currently subscribe to Mango Languages and Zinio magazines and look forward to comparing them to Pronunciator and Flipster. Let us know what you think.

Along with the thousands of items we have available for continuing education, we also host a variety of free classes. This week we have a small business workshop, A+ certification course, English-as-a-Second-Language classes, health and wellness class and financial literacy workshop. Visit our web calendar for complete details: www.roundrocktexas.gov/library.

How big a slice of your pie do City taxes take?

Our finance folks have put together a great infographic to answer that question.

Avg Household Monthly Expenses

We think this chart offers some nice perspective. So while the owner of an average value home will see their City taxes go up by a little over $6 a month (check out this helpful Budget Highlights document for details), we think we deliver good value for your dollar.

The City Council will make its second and final reading vote on the budget and tax rate at its Thursday, Sep. 8, meeting.

For a high-level look at the budget, we think this video might CATch your fancy. (Ahem.)

Great quality of life? Yep, Round Rock’s got you covered!

Quality of Life RRTX Web

When your community is filled with family-friendly fun, delicious dining, destination shopping, exciting sports, great neighborhoods, impeccable parks, A+ schools and so, so much more, it’s not too surprising to see it end up on all sorts of great rankings.

And although we aren’t surprised, we’re still a little giddy to see Round Rock listed as one of Business Insider’s top 25 cities with the best quality of life in the US.

Coming in at No. 10, and edging out our high-profile neighbor to the south (hint: “Live Music Capital of the World”), Round Rock is one of two Texas cities to crack the top ten and one of seven to make the list. Others Texans include Denton (25), The Woodlands (24), Irving (21), Richardson (19), Austin (18) and Plano (3).

Here are the top 10:

  1. Bellevue, Washington
  2. Alexandria, Virginia
  3. Plano, Texas
  4. Overland Park, Kansas
  5. Sunnyvale, California
  6. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  7. Naperville, Illinois
  8. Cambridge, Massachusetts
  9. Fort Collins, Colorado
  10. Round Rock, Texas

So, how’d Business Insider come up with these high-falutin rankings anyway? Well, they compiled data collected by Niche for their latest Places to Live rankings, including “Safest Cities,” “Cities with the Best Job Opportunities,” “Healthiest Cities,” and “Best Cities to Raise a Family.” You can read the full methodology here.

And if all that’s not enough, or if you’ve just been hiding under a rock (potentially the one we’re named after) for the past few months, we compiled a gallery listing a few more accolades Round Rock has recently received:

Flying cars and libraries. The future includes both

Michelle Cervantes Library Director

Michelle Cervantes
Library Director

What will the library of tomorrow look like? Will libraries exist in the future?

I’ve been in the library business for over two decades, and I am still asked the question about the existence of libraries in the future. When I started working in a public library, it was at the same time that the Internet was becoming mainstream.

There was talk that the Internet would kill libraries and that everything would be accessible via the Internet. As with the prediction of flying cars, I am still waiting for this so-called end of libraries. But unlike flying cars — which, by the way, according to Forbes Magazine are supposed to go on sale next year — the end of libraries is nowhere in sight.

On the contrary, libraries are booming! From state-of-the-art academic libraries like the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh, N.C., to the BiblioTech, first digital public library in Bexar County, Texas, this is an exciting time for libraries and library users.

I recently had the privilege to visit the Hunt Library. This is an award-winning building and is considered by many to be “The Library of the Future.” It is impressive. The university invested $115 million and allocated 220,000 square feet of space for its second main campus library.

One feature that makes this library unique is the bookBot. When you walk in the front entrance, you will notice the vast lobby that includes an interactive exhibit hall. To the right, you can look through the ceiling-to-floor window that frames the library’s collection of books accessible by the bookBot, an automated robotic book delivery system that holds up to 2 million volumes in one-ninth the space of conventional shelving.

The rest of the library space is dedicated to group-study rooms and technology-equipped spaces that support and enable learning, research and collaboration. The top level of the library has open study space surrounded by windows with views of Lake Raleigh and the city skyline.

If you are ever in the Raleigh-Durham area, I highly recommend you stop by the Hunt Library and then have lunch at the Tupelo Honey Café.

I have yet to visit the BiblioTech Library, but I have been closely following the success of this project from the beginning and had the opportunity to meet the head librarian. This library and its staff have received worldwide recognition for the unconventional design, customer service philosophy and innovative programming.

BiblioTech was the brainchild of Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff. After reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, Judge Wolff had a “Eureka!” moment. Something clicked, and he connected the needs of the community to creating the first all-digital library.

In an unprecedented move, a team took the idea and made it a reality in less than 12 months. BiblioTech opened on Sept. 14, 2013, welcoming in 1,100 patrons on its first day. Today, there are three locations to serve Bexar County residents.

What will tomorrow hold for the Round Rock Public Library? We are in the process of finding a location for the new main library and a branch library. With your help, we will design a library for Round Rock’s bright future.

Recommended Sci-Fi reads

What Michelle is reading now: “The Last Adventure of Constance Verity,” by A. Lee Martinez

Top 7 family-friendly activities before school starts

can-t-keep-calm-summer-s-almost-overThose of us with school-age kids have started the countdown. School starts Tuesday, Aug. 23, in the Round Rock ISD.

But summer’s not over yet!

Here’s a quick list of what you can do before that first bell rings.

  1. Hit one of the City’s pools. If you haven’t been to the expanded Rock’N River yet, what are you waiting for? Regular hours, noon to 7 p.m. (closed Wednesdays) end Aug. 21. Micki Krebsbach Pool closes for the season on Aug. 14.
  2. Enjoy more wet fun at the Library’s Splash Mob, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, at Prete Main Street Plaza.
  3. If movies are your thing, we’ve got you covered, again at Prete Main Street Plaza. Movies in the Park — this time with live music — is set for Aug. 3 (Tangled), Aug. 10 (Zootopia) and Aug. 17 (The Goonies).
  4. The Round Rock Express have a pair of home stands at Dell Diamond before school starts back up, Aug. 7-10, and Aug. 20-23.
  5. Sports not your thing? No problem. ArtSpace in Downtown Round Rock will feature an Artists Interpret Red exhibit in August.
  6. Just a few more opportunities to catch The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at the Sam Bass Theater, Aug. 4, 5, 11, 13.
  7. Last, but certainly not least, is the Car Show at Centennial Plaza on Sunday, Aug. 21.

Water, by the numbers

summer is here(Cue the sax for the Glenn Frey classic.)

The heat is on.

We’ve reached that point where we’re in the midst of our first consecutive triple-digit temperature days of the year. It happens every summer and when it does, we at the City think about water.

Numbers tell a lot of the water story, so let’s dip our toes into it with this:

  • Our highest water use day ever was Aug. 7, 2011, when we produced 42.05 million gallons
  • Our highest water use day this year was Wednesday, July 13, when we produced 30.6 million gallons

For those of you new to the area, 2010-2011 was the hottest, driest 12-month-period in Texas history.

The folks at our water treatment plant, who sweat these details for a living, note the impact of rainfall and temperature on water production.

Rainfall (inches)14.7546.96
Days with temperature above 100 degrees599
Annual Water Production (billions of gallons)8.7446.822
System Peak Day (millions of gallons) use42.0537.953


Other numbers you’ll want to familiarize yourself with are our block water rates. This time of year, the more water you use, the more expensive it gets.

Inclined Block Water Rates Chart_2016_1-13-16

Wondering what you can do to stay out of those upper tiers? Jessica Woods, our water conservation specialist, teamed up with Multimedia Specialist Brian Ligon (of Ron Pitchman fame) to create an award-winning series of Water Wise videos (15, to be exact) with plenty of helpful how-to’s.

Those some water conservation folks offer rebate programs to help you save even more water. Of course, we’ve got some numbers for you on this, too!

Toilet rebates are available to properties built prior to Jan. 1, 2006. We began the program in June 2010, and it has run off and on since then.

  • We’ve rebated a total of 1,003 people for 1,573 toilets
  • The average rebate is $77.85 per toilet
  • We estimate the new toilets result in about 4.7 million gallons of water saved annually!
  • $123,658.29 has been awarded in rebates since the start of this program.

Irrigation system upgrade rebates were implemented in June 2010. We haven’t had a ton of participation, simply because not everyone owns a sprinkler system and not everyone can afford to make upgrades. It’s also the program that’s the most involved (aka complicated).

  • To date have had 197 participants. Average rebate amount is $256.31. It’s hard to accurately estimate water savings.
  • This year has had the highest participation, with the majority of participants upgrading their irrigation system controller to weather-based controllers that automatically adjust their settings based on local weather conditions.
  • $47,094.70 has been awarded in rebates

Clothes washers account for 22 percent of water used in homes. We started this rebate program in December 2012.

  • So far, 291 new washers rebated
  • Average rebate is $81.70
  • Assuming the new efficient washer is replacing an old front-loading washer (and not another efficient washer), we estimate an annual water savings of 3.4 million to 3.9 million gallons of water a year! (Or 12,000-13,500 gallons per washer annually)
  • $23,775 has been awarded since the start of the program.

Rain Water Harvesting is a nice way to use what Mother Nature provides when it does rain, and folks do seem to love this program.

  • We have had 233 participants collecting a total of 61,267 gallons of water with each rain event!
  • The City has hosted six rain barrel sales the past four years, with 1,800 barrels sold. Not all of those who purchased barrels live in Round Rock, so we don’t have a big water savings number for this. Barrel capacity amounts range from 50 gallons to 200 gallons.
  • $20,881 has been awarded in rebates

Lawn Aeration promotes deeper root growth and helps reduce water runoff, both which help reducing the amount of water used on landscapes.

  • Super popular program with 412 participants in the first year!
  • $18,934 has been rebated since the start of the program.

Last, but certainly not least, we’ve got the numbers for the Irrigation System Evaluations that Jessica started on Aug. 7, 2009, shortly after she was hired.

  • She’s conducted a total of 767 evaluations on 842 controllers. (Some places have more than one controller). Seventy-five of those controllers were at non-residential properties.
  • If everyone she’s evaluated followed her recommendations on their watering schedule, we (the City) would save approximately 7.8 million gallons per month during the watering season! There’s a lot of overwatering happening.
  • Average reduction is 10,586 gallons per month per her recommendation
  • Biggest problem Jessica sees is overwatering of native plants, with people watering them just as much or even more than turf grass. Native plants can handle much less water, or even no water, compared to grass.

And if you’re a fan of blog posts (if you’re still reading this deep, you surely are!) be sure to keep up with The Water Spot, another great way Jessica helps us all with Round Rock’s No. 1 priority this time of year.