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Mayor: Survey results show progress made through planning

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and we take great pride in Round Rock whenever we receive an accolade for a job well done. We often find our way onto lists for the “best place to move to,” and our city employees are regularly recognized by their colleagues across the state and nation for their excellence. But it’s important for us to tune into our own residents’ perception of whether we are meeting their expectations for service.

Every two years, the city conducts a survey of its residents to see how well the city government is meeting their needs and to determine the issues of concern to them. ETC Institute conducts the survey by mail and online to a random sample of 550 residents.

Our most recent survey, completed at the end of 2020 and presented to the City Council last month, found that nearly 90% of respondents were satisfied with the overall quality of life in Round Rock. When asking specifically about city services, the survey showed 87% of residents were satisfied versus 1% who were dissatisfied. These results are more meaningful to me than any article or award, and I’m so proud of the work our city employees do.

From drinking water to parks maintenance and trash collection services, Round Rock rated at or above the average for cities across the United States in 48 of the 50 areas that were assessed in the survey. Round Rock rated “significantly higher” than the U.S. average (5% or more above) in 41 of these areas.

The survey also indicates areas where we know there is still work to be done: When asked what are the three biggest issues facing Round Rock over the next five years, the top responses were traffic, cited by 88% of respondents; controlling rapid growth, cited by 61%; and property taxes, cited by 53%.

Based on the survey responses, our formula for success is working: we set our city’s overall strategic plan, and our employees address the problems our residents say are most important to them. Each year, the City Council hosts a two-day retreat that allows us time to update and reprioritize this strategic plan, the foundation for all long-term city initiatives. Our strategic goals in recent years have focused on providing high-value services, ensuring we have necessary infrastructure in place, maintaining a great community environment for our residents, promoting tourism, providing an exciting community destination in downtown and sustaining our neighborhoods.

In providing high-value services, police and fire are incredibly important to deliver results as public safety makes up 50% of the city’s general fund. We have a reputation of being one of the safest cities in the nation, and 91% of our residents reported feeling safe or very safe in Round Rock during the day.

We’ve made huge strides in our strategic goal of providing necessary infrastructure to manage our growth, and street maintenance has been an ongoing priority. We saw significant improvement in resident satisfaction with the condition of our streets, with 72% satisfaction with maintenance of major streets. This number is 26% higher than both the Texas and national average. Our Driving Progress transportation project campaign to increase road network capacity and connectivity is also paying dividends; satisfaction with traffic flow in and around neighborhoods increased 18% since our last survey.

Our strategic goal focusing on sports tourism continues to be a benefit for residents. Satisfaction with the quality of outdoor sports facilities in Round Rock is 72%, and satisfaction with the Forest Creek Golf Course increased by an impressive 15% from 2018 to 2020, following the city’s recent $5.1 million renovation of the course.

Our strategic goal aims to make Round Rock a great community to live. In our survey, 88% of residents agree that Round Rock is a great place to call home. We’re proud of our residents and businesses for taking care of our community as well: 81% of residents are satisfied with the appearance of our community, which is 22% above the Texas average and 17% above the national average. Our recent investments in our hike and bike trail network also helped to boost our satisfaction score in this area by 8% over our last survey.

Downtown continues to be an important strategic initiative as we continue to grow. Our redevelopment of this core area was listed as the top response for favorite development in the city over the past five years.  Last but certainly not least, significant resources are allocated to taking care of our neighborhoods. We received 88% satisfaction with the appearance and maintenance of city parks, 72% satisfaction with maintenance of city streets and 95% of residents feel safe in their neighborhood during the day — with 83% at night. These numbers are much higher than the statewide and national average in these areas.

Perhaps one of the most important metrics we ask about in each survey is customer service. At the end of the day, it’s important to us that our residents know how much we care about serving them. Seventy-six percent of residents who had contacted the city during the past year described the service they received as “excellent” or “good,” which was 29% above the national average and 31% above the Texas average.

We will continue to challenge ourselves to increase our level of service to the community and plan our resources in a strategic way that makes a difference in residents’ lives. We appreciate everyone who took the survey and others who give us feedback that help us make our community the great place it is.

To view the complete survey results, visit roundrocktexas.gov/survey.

See something, do something: A streets crew makes a life-saving decision 

City employees who drive as part of their jobs are taught to act as eyes and ears for other departments as they are driving around the community. 

On Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, that practice saved a home and likely some lives.  

Street Superintendent Matt Fitzgerald, responsible for overseeing the sanding of roads during the storm, was taking three employees home from a grueling shift 12-hour shift temperatures dipped to 4 degrees that morning, the lowest of the storm – when they saw smoke coming from a home as they were headed down North Red Bud Lane. 

Fitzgerald and homeowner Angela Stone describe the sequence of events: 

 

Pictured, from left, are: Matt Fitzgerald, Ronnie Mueller, Johnathan Martinez and Greg Altamirano.

A Trip Worth Taking: How the City kept water flowing


“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
 
― Leonard Bernstein, composer and conductor 

 

A lot went wrong, with a lot of agencies and services across Texas, during the recent winter storm. One thing that went right was water service in the City of Round Rock. No major outages, no boil water notices for its customers. 

The ability to deliver water over the course of the worst winter storm in Central Texas history happened because the City prepares for the worst. Planning is key. But you also need a serious can-do attitude when brutal conditions make your worst-case scenarios look like a stroll through Old Settlers Park. Utilities Director Michael Thane explains:

Planning, teamwork and relentless determination prevailed, but it was close. Really close. Here’s the story of one pivotal moment that kept the City’s water running. 

When the power went out at the City’s pumps at Lake Georgetown the backup generator kicked online and the emergency plan was activated. However, the plan anticipates the generator running for less than four hours, because in a typical outage that’s adequate time for the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) to restore service. 

Obviously, last week’s outage was anything but normal. 

By Tuesday, Feb. 16, it was clear refilling the 500gallon diesel tank kept onsite by hauling 100 gallons at a time wasn’t going to keep up with the much-higher-than-anticipated needs of the generators. So we had to get a 1,000gallon tank out there, and it needed to be full. But how do you do that when the roads are iced over and temperatures are in the single digits? 

Teamwork. 

Thane, the utility director, contacted General Services Director Chad McDowell, who’s responsible for facilities and vehiclesMcDowell’s team located a 1,000 gallon diesel tank – at the Brush Recycle Center, which is operated by Parks and Recreation. Then they needed a truck with right kind of hitch and the towing capacity to handle the 8,000-pound tank – enter the Fire Department. To ensure a successful trip to the pump station – located at the bottom of hill by the lake – the Transportation Department was tasked to deploy a sanding truck to lead the way. It’s a plan, but with significant risk, according to McDowell:

The plan was finalized Wednesday morning, and in less than two hours the caravan made its way out of Round Rock, down the interstate to Georgetown and then wound its way to the lake – an 11-mile trek on iced-over roads, around a jack-knifed 18-wheeler and finally uphill and downhill to the lake. Here’s Street Superintendent Matt Fitzgerald, who was in the last vehicle in the caravan, describing the journey:  

The caravan arrived a little after noonWithin two minutes, the generator ran out of fuel. The generator was refilled, then primed – hold your breath – and fired back up. The pumps begin pushing water, again, to the City’s treatment plant. 

Crisis averted. 

For the moment.  

While all this drama is unfolding, Thane, the Utility Director, was working the phones with the PEC. The generator can only power two pumps, which, in turn, movaround 17 million gallons of water a day (MGD) into the system – as the week progressed, water demand rose to 20 MGD. So thCity had to get a third pump up and running. The PEC agreed to flow electricity to the pump station – about six hours after the delivery of the big diesel tank. 

Naturallythe PEC experienced a hitch getting its equipment up and running in the sub-freezing conditions. Three hours later, Thane got word electricity was flowing again. It was yet another crisis averted, as Thane explains:

The curveballs kept coming as the Utilities Department encountered several other challenges: 

  • Diesel in Central Texas does not include an additive to keep it from freezing. How the City found enough diesel additive is a whole other story of minor miracles and making your own luck.
  • Utility crews had to manually take readings across the distribution system that are usually provided by an electronic monitoring system that encountered technical issues due to the freezing temperatures. 
  • An employee suited up in self-contained breathing apparatus to stop a chlorine leak in a line that had frozen at the water plant. No chlorine means no drinking water. 
  • Employees slept at the water plant on cots and worked 16-plus hour days to keep water moving through the pipes. 

And on and on, often working in the bitter cold, while many had the same problems at home that you suffered through – no power, busted water pipes, etc. Fitzgerald and Thane describe the attitude of those City employees who stepped up to get the job done:

Ultimately, if those two pumps at Lake Georgetown had been out of service for too long, or that third pump wasn’t brought online, then the water distribution system would have lost pressure. 

And losing pressure is trigger for a boil water notice. 

Which never happened, thanks to effective planning, a lot of grit, and a little good fortune along the way. 

Halley: Finding sources with high standards more important than ever

Geeta Halley is the Assistant Director of the Round Rock Public Library and writes a column for the Round Rock Leader.


Geeta Halley, Assistant Director of Round Rock Public Library

Last week, I attended an online workshop taught by business librarians at the Library of Congress. It was one of the best learning experiences I have had. Among other things, it renewed my appreciation for the foundational role primary sources play in research.

In the study of history, primary sources are the documents, photographs, recordings and artifacts created by people who are participants or witnesses to historical events. These sources are crucial for developing a better, more accurate understanding of bygone events, cultures and eras.

In our present day, “fake news” and misleading, ideologically-driven reporting is everywhere. As front-line information professionals, librarians witness firsthand how this unfortunate trend transcends political opinion and influences our customers in their research projects. Much could be said of how the internet has fundamentally transformed research over the past 15 years. For all the positive aspects of this transformation, it is troubling to note that education in information literacy – in short, the ability to critically assess a source’s accuracy, authority, reliability and relevance – has not been able to keep pace. To help in this area, librarians seek to provide resources and guidance that help researchers find sources that meet those high standards of quality.

With February being Black History Month, I decided to use an online Round Rock Public Library resource created by ProQuest, a library vendor of research databases. One of its newest offerings is a website called “Black freedom struggle in the United States: Challenges and triumphs in the pursuit of equality.” The website contains approximately 1,600 primary source documents focused on six phases of Black Freedom: the slavery and the Abolitionist movement (1790-1860), the Civil War and the Reconstruction era (1861-1877), the Jim Crow era from 1878 to the Great Depression (1878-1932), the New Deal and World War II (1933-1945), the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements (1946-1975) and the Contemporary Era (1976-2000).

In addition to the Round Rock Public Library’s print and electronic holdings of primary sources, you can also find local history resources through the Portal to Texas History, a gateway to rare, historical and primary source materials from or about Texas. Created and maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries, the portal leverages the power of hundreds of content partners across the state to provide a vibrant, growing collection of resources.

Do you need help finding appropriate, high-quality resources for a research project? Call or visit the library, our librarians are here to help. Do you want to develop better information literacy skills? Again, our librarians can point you to helpful resources.

On another note: in honor of Black History Month, the Round Rock Public Library will celebrate Round Rock families with a month-long exhibit in our gallery area. The exhibit, a collection of photos by Melissa Fontenette-Mitchell, highlights the “contributions of many African-American families to the growth and success of Round Rock.” This year’s theme, selected by the Round Rock Black History Organization, is “Black Family: Faith, Hope and Love, the Backbone of Strength and Survival.”

Mayor Morgan: Governance, not politics, guides city decision-making

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

We have almost hit the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas, and it has certainly been the defining issue of the last year. In the early days, we had to make decisions with little information to best protect the health of our community while keeping Round Rock moving forward.

One of our guiding principles was this — that the City Council would make decisions together as an elected body. Over the past year, Council passed a face covering ordinance, directed federal funding to benefit struggling families through the Round Rock Area Serving Center, and, through our awesome City staff, kept essential City services running like clockwork.

It’s important we not lose our strategic mindset even during a pandemic. Just as City staff have worked to provide essential services, Council continued to hold our regularly scheduled meetings to ensure we didn’t miss a beat. We quickly implemented remote meeting participation and installed plexiglass dividers for councilmembers who choose to attend in person.

There are so many votes we take that, while they don’t always make headlines, have substantial impact on our City’s future. We make decisions that ensure our public safety professionals are well trained and equipped to respond to emergency calls. We approve plans and contracts for parks, roads and utilities to provide the quality of life expected from us. These acts of governance have been a motivating force for me during the pandemic. I enjoy being a part of an elected team of unique perspectives that work together on decisions that will benefit our community for years to come.

Governing feels like a novel concept as we watch politics become the prevailing concern of government. Decisions are often considered “wins” or “losses,” often with little regard for the long-term impacts. This should never be the case on our City Council. According to our City Charter, candidates don’t run with a party affiliation so our focus remains on governance and not politics. Again, governance and not politics. Those may not sound like significantly different terms, but they are.

When we govern, our focus is on serving the community for the benefit of all, guided by vision, goals, and value to the community. Our City Council is charged with continuing Round Rock’s legacy of success, and every decision we make helps create our future. In contrast, politics is focused on ideologies and philosophical principles, on simply getting elected or re-elected.

That said, we do have to make decisions that require ideological discussion, such as ordinances related to smoking in establishments, noise ordinances or face-covering requirements. Council focuses on approaching these decisions with an open, collaborative mindset in an ongoing attempt to avoid making emotional, knee-jerk reactions. We must also, however, ensure these issues don’t cause us to lose our focus on the important work of governance.

City Council just held our annual retreat to update and prioritize our strategic plan. This is a meeting where we intentionally focus on the work of governing by anticipating potential issues and determining our vision and goals as a Council. This year, we discussed staying on track to provide essential services of high-value to taxpayers, provide infrastructure to support coming growth, promote a high-quality of life, maintain our designation as the Sports Capital of Texas, invest in our beloved Downtown and ensure our neighborhoods are places that residents are proud to call home.

Round Rock has seen success through long-term visioning and planning. In the coming years and decades, we must maintain and grow our hard-earned reputation for success. It is our job as City Council to provide a level of stability that ensures we don’t lose our focus on the long-term health of our community while also taking care of immediate needs.

Even as we deal with curveballs thrown at us by COVID-19, you can expect to continue to see the marks of governance on our community. This year will see several road projects come to fruition to improve connectivity and relieve congestion as we continue to grow. Infrastructure investments in our Downtown area will continue, our new public library will make strides toward its completion in 2023. As we gain ground on overcoming the pandemic, our Sports Management and Tourism team stands ready to host national tournaments in a post-COVID-19 world. Our Neighborhood Services and Community Risk Reduction teams will continue efforts to empower and support neighborhoods and residents who need help.

We continue to strive to be an example of government that is effective. The decisions we make — or don’t make — today will matter for generations to come. It is clear the growth in our area is not slowing anytime soon, and it is up to us to focus on governance, not politics, for the benefit of our community.

Mayor Morgan: Sales tax must be addressed by Legislature

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

The 87th session of the Texas Legislature opened last week, setting off months of decision-making in our state’s Capitol.

Although many of the issues discussed will have little bearing on cities across the state, the amount that do are not insignificant. During the 2019 session, more than 300 of the 1,400 bills and resolutions that were signed into law directly impacted local city government in some way. Unfortunately, many of these bills acted to limit the control we have locally to decide what’s right for our own communities — a dangerous trend that municipal leaders have been fighting over the past few years. Texas is a large state with cities that have unique traits and needs, and one-size-all approaches tend to have unintended consequences.

Cities represent the level of government closest to the people. Residents experience the benefits of our services every day, from the delivery of their drinking water, to the roads they drive on and public safety that they can rely on. It’s important we have the ability and flexibility to provide these services in a consistent, quality manner that our residents have come to expect.

One of the most important issues for our community this legislative session will be modifications to local sales and use tax rules. Currently, 2 percent of sales tax on everything sold within Round Rock stays local to better residents’ quality of life and lower their cost of living. However, a new rule could mean that some sales tax revenue generated by Round Rock businesses would benefit the city on the receiving end of the sale.

Dell Technologies is the city of Round Rock’s largest sales tax generator, contributing to our public safety, transportation network, parks, library and more. Dell’s move to Round Rock in the early 1990s was made possible through a Chapter 380 agreement, which is a section of the Local Government Code that authorizes cities to offer incentives to businesses to encourage economic development. Over the first 25 years of the agreement, Round Rock has collected $245 million in municipal sales tax revenues and $123 million through a voter-approved half-cent sales tax that is dedicated solely to property tax relief. In addition, the city’s Type B Economic Development Corporation has collected $120 million to build infrastructure, such as roads, to encourage future economic development.

It’s safe to say that our economic development agreement with Dell has played a huge role in the affordable quality of life we’re able to offer residents.

In February 2020, I spoke in opposition to proposed changes to a sales tax sourcing rule by the Texas comptroller’s office. The rule proposed sending sales tax revenue from internet purchases to the buyer’s location instead of the seller’s place of business. The change meant that almost all of Dell’s local sales taxes will be redistributed to the location in Texas where orders are delivered. The rules as initially proposed could reduce Round Rock’s revenues from sales tax by catastrophic levels.

Although the rules adopted in May do not appear to be as damaging as earlier versions, they will still have a notable negative impact to the city’s revenues when they go into effect on Oct. 1, 2021. We will continue to seek changes to the rules during this legislative session before the October effective date to preserve these revenues, which fund basic services, capital projects and property tax relief for our citizens.

We understand that some changes to sales tax rules are needed to comply with legislation passed last session in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., which held that states may charge tax on purchases made from out-of-state sellers. However, without more practical solutions, this state-level decision could have serious unintended impacts for our local community and the value of the services we are able to provide.

The good news is that other Texas cities are working shoulder to shoulder with us in this battle. Also fighting with us is state Sen. Charles Schwertner, who was instrumental in organizing several of his fellow senators in support of Round Rock and many other adversely impacted cities in this state, and state Rep. James Talarico, who asked many important questions of several testifying witnesses and made a clear case for Round Rock and Dell at the Ways & Means Committee hearing.

There’s too much at stake not to fight this proposal every step of the way, and I look forward to working with our legislators and the comptroller to devise solutions that will avoid serious impacts on the basic, every day services that make us proud to call Round Rock home.

Halley: Looking back at Round Rock Library’s growth

Geeta Halley is the Assistant Director of the Round Rock Public Library and writes a column for the Round Rock Leader.


Geeta Halley, Assistant Director of Round Rock Public Library

As I write this, 2020 is on its last legs. The turning of the clock to the new year is often a time of reflection and remembrance of lessons learned, losses endured and blessings received.

New Year’s Eve 2019 was different for me in this regard: to honor the dawn of 2020, a fresh decade, I decided not to do a roundup of the past year or decade but instead look forward. Today, as the last few hours of 2020 slip away, I look back to see if absolutely everything was awful, or if any progress was made despite the events that have made it such a difficult and tumultuous year. Without question, in the world of technology, events influenced their evolution and adoption. I adapted to Zoom and Teams both at work and in my personal life. In a strange twist of “too much of a good thing” with regards to technology, I found myself returning to basics. Cooking in the absence of closed restaurants. Walking outside in the absence of closed gyms. Reading books – not e-books on a tablet or device, but physical print books – to escape from screen-time fatigue.

When the library was closed during March and April, we surveyed our customers to see what they missed most about the library. Their response delighted us: they missed physically browsing books on the library shelves! To better facilitate this browsing experience in the pandemic era (when limiting patrons’ time in the building is sadly essential), Linda Sappenfield, one of our reference librarians, created a ‘Book Deli.’ The Book Deli menu, curated by Linda and our other librarians skilled in “Reader’s Advisory,” consisted of old and new favorites, award-winners, staff recommendations, often grouped around a particular theme. In November, the menu theme was wellness titles. December was award winners. Visit the library’s website to see various thematic menus ranging from popular fiction, heartwarming reads, time travel and current issues.

Sometimes it is difficult finding a good, clean read that still has an interesting, adult plot and keeps you engaged for hundreds of pages. I agree with book blogger Mrs. Ladywordsmith when she writes, “None of us likes to be surprised with strong language, sexually explicit scenes, or things that make us cringe. That said, we’re not taking time to read boring fluff. Reading is our personal escape to challenge our minds and go places. We want books with good plots, strong characters, and realistic experiences. So, what do we read?”

For those who share this sentiment and want a classic menu of “just a good book” to curl up with by the fireplace here are a few well-written favorites:

  • “The Light between the Oceans” by M.L. Stedman
  • “The Fixer” by Jennifer Barnes
  • “My Ántonia” by Willa Cather
  • “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck
  • “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
  • “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven” by Fannie Flagg
  • “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd
  • “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
  • “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
  • “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
  • “These Is My Words” by Nancy Turner

For younger children, I recommend tuning in to our online storytime “Pause and Play with the storytime librarians”. The storytime librarians, Ms. Jane, Ms. Virginia, and Ms. Andrea, create short videos to share a fun rhyme, song or book. New videos are uploaded onto a playlist at the official city of Round Rock YouTube channel, then shared on Facebook and (as of mid-May) Instagram IGTV Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.

As 2020 wanes away, I am thankful for the beneficial takeaways and unintended consequences that have sparked growth and beauty amidst the loss and isolation. For being forced to slow down and cultivate patience. For the pleasant process of curling up and savoring a good book. Thank you 2020 for the lessons I have been forced to learn!

Mayor Morgan: Plans for Downtown Round Rock move forward

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Many years ago, I was block walking in the Stone Oak subdivision in Northwest Round Rock. At the time, I was living in Southeast Round Rock. One resident told me, “It seems like you live so far from where I live – why can’t we have a downtown where we can meet and gather?”

Even as our city grows, Downtown serves as a reminder of what makes Round Rock unique. Whether it’s meeting friends over a relaxed meal, shopping or doing business with local entrepreneurs or making memories with our families, Downtown represents so many ways that we can stay connected as a community.

It’s been difficult this year to feel connected with our neighbors and friends in the traditional sense. When the COVID-19 pandemic first reached our community and business closures were implemented to slow the spread of the virus, I was sad to see so many open parking spaces in front of our Downtown businesses on my drive to City Hall. Some of our favorite Downtown events, such as Music on Main, were canceled earlier this year to slow the spread of the virus.

As we’ve navigated through this pandemic, we’ve found ways to incorporate safe ways to help residents enjoy the holidays. Christmas Family Night was canceled this year, but we put together our Light up the Lake event earlier this month, which allowed us to host an event at Old Settlers Park with better safety guidelines in place. We have been able to bring back our Hometown Holiday lights Downtown this holiday season and hope you take the chance to enjoy them. It’s hard to not feel the Christmas spirit as you take an outdoor stroll along the lit paths or take a drive to gaze at the decorations.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit Downtown Round Rock recently, you will be amazed at how much more work has been accomplished in just a short year. The City has completed six “parklets” on East Main Street between Mays Street and Sheppard Street, which include new trees, tables and chairs, additional landscaping, lighting elements and expanded walkable space for pedestrians. New lighting and sidewalks also provide pedestrians safer access to Main Street from some of our adjacent underutilized parking lots. A new electronic sign at the entry of the City Hall parking garage on Lampasas Avenue gives a real time view to visitors of how many spaces are available.

Getting our Downtown to where it is today has been a long-term undertaking. Fostering a vibrant, walkable Downtown for residents and visitors to gather has been a City Council strategic priority since 2007, and in 2010, that vision began to take shape with the approval of a Master Plan. This plan included extensive public input through surveys, interactive planning meetings and other feedback received from residents.

Just over the past decade, this planning process has resulted in Prete Main Street Plaza upgrades, Centennial Plaza, Round Rock Avenue and Mays Street streetscaping and the start of the Heritage Trail project. City buildings also received renovations, including the McConico Building, the Baca Senior and Community Center and the Intermodal Transit and Parking Facility. Private investments have brought us new eateries, offices, retail and more.

There are still many more projects in the pipeline to continue improving our Downtown district. One of our most exciting projects will be the new library at 200 East Liberty Ave., which will be approximately 66,000 square feet with an adjacent parking garage. In November 2013, a majority of voters approved bonds to build a new main library, which is set to open in 2023. With additional space and modernized features, the library will expand its core services and feature advanced technology.

We are working on even more improvements to support the future of Downtown. The Northeast Downtown Improvements Project will update segments of Lampasas, Sheppard, Liberty and Austin Avenues with new pavement, parking, sidewalks and lighting, with completion expected in early 2022. Although they are less visible, we expect to also address important infrastructure upgrades including wastewater and stormwater runoff throughout the project.

Progress is not slowing down anytime soon on Downtown, so it’s important we continue to support our local businesses while we wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. Our entire community is concerned about what the pandemic’s disruptions to business operations have meant for our local small businesses, and for the families of their employees. We are encouraging residents to step up and support our local businesses by shopping at home for the holidays, and I challenge you to find a way to support a Downtown business in the coming weeks. We have installed temporary curbside pickup signs in front of these restaurants and retail establishments so you can have your order delivered right to your car.

Christmas looks very different this year for a lot of us, but it’s important to still slow down and take stock of everything we miss in the hustle and bustle of daily life. By visiting Downtown Round Rock, you are sure to get that “right at home” feeling its known for, no matter which part of Round Rock you are from.

Round Rock reminds residents to turn off sprinklers as fall weather settles in

Cooler fall temperatures should translate to good news for you — lower water bills! As winter gets closer, the plants in your yard are going dormant and have very low water requirements. You should have already moved to a once per week watering schedule and turned off your sprinklers altogether when rain is expected. If you’re not ready to go cold turkey on watering, you can start by decreasing run times in some of the less visible zones of your yard.

In addition to cost savings to you on next month’s water bill, here are some other great reasons to consider lowering your water use:

The City of Round Rock uses the average of your water consumption during cooler winter months to determine wastewater charges for the rest of the year. The City assumes these months will be the lowest water use months of the year, as there is no or minimal outdoor use due to typical rainfall and climate conditions. Therefore, all the water you are using is going down the drain or is for indoor use. During the summer months, any consumption above that winter average is not charged additional wastewater fees because it is assumed to be going on your yard, or into your pool.

Believe it or not, the Brazos River Authority (BRA) is reporting drier than normal conditions at Lake Georgetown, which provides a large portion of the City of Round Rock’s drinking water. The BRA has already implemented drought contingency measures for Lake Georgetown, which includes a voluntary ask for a 5 percent reduction in water use. Though the City has not yet implement conservation stages from its drought contingency plan, Stage I could take effect once Lake Georgetown elevation’s falls below 770 feet above mean sea level (msl) for three consecutive days. It is currently just under 777 feet.

By turning off your sprinklers, you’re benefitting both your wallet and your community! For more ideas on how to save water, visit roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

Mayor Morgan: Council continues to evolve while moving community forward

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

As the country was glued to TVs and computers last week, waiting for national election results, I found myself reflecting on a framed picture of my first City Council as mayor that hangs on my wall.

Four of the seven members I served with on that council have all moved on, making way for newcomers who brought new ideas and perspectives. Each new face along the way has changed our discussions based on the various backgrounds they brought to the table.

We will soon welcome two new Council Members, Michelle Ly and Frank Ortega, who were elected by Round Rock voters in the Nov. 3 election. I was proud to see the races for both available seats on our council this year were run with honesty and integrity, and we are ready to work with our newest members to lead our community through its continued growth.

Becoming a City Council member is a little bit like drinking water from a firehose. Before their swearing in next month, our newest council members will go through an orientation process, meeting staff members and learning more about the city’s departments and operations, which include public safety, parks, utilities and environmental services, transportation, sports tourism, finance and much more. Before each meeting, council members will be given a packet of information to go over so they have questions and comments ready for staff at our packet briefings.

The seven members of Round Rock City Council serve three-year terms, with races on the ballot every year. With the potential of new council members on an annual basis, it’s important that we have a strong yet flexible framework that guides our community forward through our continued growth.

One of the keys to smooth transitions over the years has been our strategic plan, which is comprised of six goals that create a foundation for long-term city initiatives. We have an annual retreat that occurs at the beginning of each calendar year that allows us time to update and reprioritize the plan.

We’ve seen success through this long-term planning and vision casting, and must continue to do so in the coming years and decades to maintain and grow our hard-earned reputation for success. This is not to say change doesn’t happen or isn’t encouraged; growth and change are built into Round Rock’s DNA. However, it provides a level of stability that ensures we don’t lose our focus on the long-term health of our community while also taking care of more immediate needs.

I would be remiss not to mention the incredible service and dedication of our outgoing council members, Will Peckham and Tammy Young. They always came prepared to every council meeting with thoughtful questions, and they truly love this community. Their servant leadership started well before their time on the council, and they will no doubt continue to be actively involved in making our community a better place to live.

During her time on the council, Tammy served on the board of the Round Rock Chamber, the Executive Committee of the Capital Area Council of Governments, the Capital Area Economic Development District, the Clean Air Coalition and as executive liaison to the Aging Advisory Council. She has been a Round Rock school district teacher and previously led a nonprofit for children with ADHD in New Mexico to provide resources to under-served children.

During his time on the council, Will served on the Round Rock Transportation and Economic Development Corporation board of directors, the Round Rock Chamber Board of Directors, the Williamson County A&M Foundation and Whitlow Task Force for Capitol IDEA. He also previously served the city through our Ethics Review Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the 2013 Williamson County Bond Advisory Committee.

At the city of Round Rock, we aim to be an example of how to do things right in government. We are fortunate to have such amazing people in our community willing to step up and guide us through more years of growth and positive change. It’s not an easy job, but it’s one of the most rewarding ways to give back to our city. I am grateful to those who have chosen the same calling in years and decades past, and look forward to seeing what we will accomplish in the future.