Mayor Craig Morgan pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of his most recent feature.
At a recent City Council meeting, we voted to rename the City of Round Rock’s new public works building for former City Manager Bob Bennett. During a presentation on behalf of the committee that nominated him, City Attorney Steve Sheets recalled a presentation Bob gave in the late 1970s at a Kiwanis Club meeting, at the time when the population was edging toward 5,000, with the city limits settled between Gattis School Road and Bowman Road, from Georgetown Street and Sunrise Road to Deepwood Drive to the west. The City had one traffic light at Mays and Main Streets, with no frontage roads along IH-35. Bob, who also served as the City’s first planning and zoning director, estimated that the City of Round Rock would reach a population of 100,000 by the early 2000s, which was unthinkable at the time.
During his time at the City, Bob oversaw the development of a Master Transportation Plan that identified the need for many of our roads that exist today: A.W. Grimes, Kenney Fort, Old Settlers, FM 1431, 3406, Dell Way, Chisholm Trail, Wyoming Springs, Forest Creek and Louis Henna. In 1979, when the City’s water wells went dry, Bob immediately went to work to purchase water from Lake Georgetown and proposed a bond sale to construct a new raw water line and water treatment plant. He also developed our first water conservation plan, and pushed for construction of the wastewater plant that we use today. Our partnerships with the Round Rock Express baseball team and Dell Technologies also have Bob’s fingerprints on them. Some of these decisions weren’t always obvious or popular in the moment they were made, but are now integral to our city operations and culture as a community.
Just as Bob once predicted that the City of Round Rock would grow to accommodate more than 100,000 people, we find ourselves having to plan for a future beyond our current understanding of our community as we know it today. Current projections indicate that our full build out will result in a population of about 250,000.
Last month, City Council held our annual two-day retreat, which allows us time to update and reprioritize our Strategic Plan, the foundation for all long-term City initiatives. Our long-term goals haven’t changed much over the past few years, but we do revisit and reprioritize them as needed to meet the changing demands we face. Our strategic goals for the next five years remain the same from last year: Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services; City Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow; Great Community to Live; “The Sports Capital of Texas” for Tourism and Residents; Authentic Downtown – Exciting Community Destination; and Sustainable Neighborhoods – Old and New.
This year will certainly be a year that moves us toward our strategic goals. The new year kicked off with the construction of our Downtown parklets, which will be completed in June and include new trees, tables and chairs, additional landscaping, lighting elements and expanded walkable space for pedestrians. We also plan to release more information this spring on the progress of the new library, which will be built on East Liberty Avenue, a block north of the current building. That project will also create a need for us to look at moving forward on plans to continue investment into Downtown infrastructure, particularly in the northeast area. All of these projects, along with private investment, will continue the redevelopment of Downtown into a special place that brings families, friends and our community closer together.
This year will also see several road projects under construction. Last year, City Council approved the first round of funding for $240 million in road projects that will add capacity and connectivity to our road network over the next five years. Our first round of projects expected to break ground in 2020 include the widening of University Boulevard from I-35 to Sunrise Bouelvard, and from A.W. Gimes Boulevard to State Highway 130; the widening of Gattis School Road from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane; the extension of Logan Street from Greenlawn Boulevard to A.W. Grimes Boulevard; and extensions along Kenney Fort Boulevard from Old Settlers Boulevard to Joe DiMaggio Boulevard, as well as from Forest Creek Drive to State Highway 45. Our partners at the Texas Department of Transportation will also break ground on RM 620 improvements in the coming months. Although the construction phase of these projects will cause some short-term headaches, the improvements will result in better, safer commutes in the decades to come.
As a City that’s always on the move, it’s important that Round Rock’s leaders regularly check our course to make sure we’re navigating a path that will get us not only where we want to be tomorrow, but 15 years from now and beyond. We owe so much of what we have today to seeds that were planted in the past, and it’s important for us to continue set up Round Rock’s future generations and leadership for even more success.