Cervantes: Finding a new home for main Round Rock library

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

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

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

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:



Top 16 accomplishments of 2016

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?”

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.

Round Rock ranked among top cities for recent graduates

Diploma? Check. Great job? Check. Perfect place to call home? Double check!

While we were pretty excited to hear that GoodCall named Round Rock one of the best cities in America (No. 14 to be exact) for recent graduates to locate, we couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that the ranking wasn’t in the form of an honorary degree or something. After all, we consider ourselves to be pretty darn intelligent. And, with our forward thinking leadership, dedication to smart growth and a top-notch knack for attracting great opportunities to help our community continue to grow and prosper, there’s clearly no limiting our potential.

According to the ranking, Round Rock’s relatively low cost-of-living combined with a solid median salary for those folks who hold a bachelor’s degree, helped us find our way to the top of the heap.

So, who else made the list? Here’s the top 20:

1.Roanoke, VA
2.Canton, OH
3.Fort Myers, FL
4.Irving, TX
5.Gastonia, NC
6.Mountain View, CA
7.Lansing, MI
8.Beaverton, OR
9.Dallas, TX
10.Cedar Rapids, IA
11.Santa Barbara, CA
12.New Braunfels, TX
13.Cincinnati, OH
14.Round Rock, TX
15.Wilmington, DE
16.Schaumburg, IL
17.Lakeland, FL
18.Layton, UT
19.Fort Smith, AR
20.Milpitas, CA


The full article, including methodology, can be found here: https://www.goodcall.com/data-center/2017-best-cities-new-grads/

Round Rock Fire Department spreads holiday cheer with good deed

We wanted to pass this along because, at this time of year especially, it’s amazing to see a local story about folks making the lives of others a little brighter.

Yesterday, the Round Rock Fire Department posted a message on Facebook about a good deed their staff did when answering a call about an elderly woman who had fallen. She was upset that she wouldn’t be able to set up her Christmas tree, so the responding crew took it upon themselves to clean up her living room and set up the tree before they left.

We are so proud of each and every man and woman who serves our community day-in and day-out. They are not only a vital component to keeping Round Rock safe, but also to making it a better place to live, work and play.

We feel truly blessed to call this place home. Merry Christmas and happy holidays, y’all!

Get your shine on this holiday season with these great local light displays

If you’ve already taken in our jaw-dropingly-tinsel-tastic-out-of-this-world-can-you-believe-they-have-this-many-lights Rock’N Lights Holiday Tour this year, but your family is still looking for just a little more twinkle, check out this map of some of the coolest local displays from your very own Round Rock neighbors!

Best part, other than the fact that there are plenty of places to grab a hot chocolate before heading out for your local light cruise, of course? You can add others that you think are worthy of being on the list!!! Just click on over to this URL and email the moderator: http://bit.ly/LightMap2016

This holiday season, Shop the Rock — the gift that gives back to your community

shop the rock holiday logoWant better roads? How about better parks? Then be sure to Shop the Rock this holiday season.

Seriously, make sure you’re doing your gift purchasing in Round Rock. Those dollars spent locally help pay it forward and build our community. What makes this possible? Sales tax. Though it may be the least sexy tax, it is the hardest working one. So when you’re shopping this holiday season and see that tacky tie that dad just has to have, buy it. Your city will thank you.

This two-minute video explains power of shopping local, and how Round Rock’s got the hardest working sales tax in Texas.