The 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ♥?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 events — drawing 95,000 participants — that produced more than $10 million in direct economic activity.
- 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.