Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of his most recent feature.
Last month, I delivered the annual State of the City address at an event at the United Heritage Center at Dell Diamond. While we had a packed house for the event, thanks to the Round Rock Chamber, I want to share with you the news that the State of our City is well-positioned for the future.
The City excels at master planning and has for many years. Our plans don’t sit on a shelf, gathering dust — they get done. That’s why our quality of life is so high and why we make so many “Best of” lists. We know we’re going to have an ultimate population of 250,000, so we’re making decisions today with that future population in mind.
Today, we are poised to address our most pressing strategic priority — improving our transportation system — in a big way. The City Council approved a five-year, $240-million roadway improvement program last year as the first major step to implementing our $1.2 billion Transportation Master Plan. You can expect to see several of these projects underway in the coming year as part of our “Driving Progress” campaign. In order to pay for this program, the Council has adopted roadway impact fees, which will be paid by developers, to create a more fair and dependable funding source for new road capacity. Second, we issued the first round of property-tax backed bonds to help pay for the aggressive road-building program. We continue to see the value of partnerships with entities like Williamson County and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), which have committed funding to several major road projects planned for Round Rock.
But it’s not all about new roads. The City continues to invest millions of dollars in a comprehensive street maintenance program to make sure our neighborhood and arterial roadways stay in top condition.
Progress on two other major projects will ensure the state of our City’s infrastructure will remain viable for years to come. We’ve recently completed significant improvements at the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant at a cost $700,000 below the anticipated budget, and we started design on Phase 2 of the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority project, which will draw water from Lake Travis to meet our long-term water needs.
Enhancing our historic Downtown district is another major strategic priority. In 2019 we made further strides to improving our one-of-a-kind Downtown. We completed a structural rehabilitation and added new lighting to our iconic water tower, adding character to the district at night. We purchased land for a new, expanded Library, which will enhance Downtown for years to come. Our art gallery on Main Street re-opened with a focus on more interactive programming, and residents can expect the continuation of great events like Music on Main, Beaujolais Nights, Christmas Family Night, Dia de los Muertos, the Fourth of July Parade and more.
Our tourism program continues to grow and succeed, and we have expanded its focus to include non-sports tourism as the Kalahari Resorts project nears completion. In 2019, we had more reason than ever to cheer Go Round Rock! We hosted three national championship events and received $78,000 in reimbursements from the Texas Events Trust Fund, and announced that Round Rock will host the Big 12 women’s soccer championship this coming fall, and for two years after that. Forest Creek Golf Club exceeded all expectations in its first year after a major renovation and finished in the black financially despite one of the wetter springs in recent memory.
Round Rock has a well-earned reputation for being one of America’s Safest Cities, and a number of initiatives in 2019 ensured we’ll maintain that status. Having the right tools and trained personnel in our Round Rock Fire Department allowed us to beat the national average for cardiac arrest survival rate by 4.6 percent. Our Community Risk Reduction program is a proactive approach to find people in need before they have to call 9-1-1. We began construction of Fire Station No. 3 in La Frontera, which will improve response times in south Round Rock. Our outstanding Police Department made arrests in all three homicides we saw in 2019, and we successfully concluded our first independently operated Police Academy at our world-class Public Safety Training Center, graduating eight cadets who were sworn in as officers for our force.
Round Rock also has a reputation for being one of America’s most livable cities as well. There were a number of projects in 2019 that improved the quality of life we enjoy here even more. We completed a new section of the Brushy Creek East Trail between A.W. Grimes Boulevard and Georgetown Street. We increased our Neighborhood Services offerings to the community, helping neighbors to come together in meaningful ways. We successfully transitioned our hugely popular Chalk Walk event to a larger venue at Dell Diamond.
Following a public engagement process, the City Council approved an amended noise ordinance which has led to a better balance between businesses and residents in Downtown. Speaking of public engagement, we successfully interacted with our residents in the 2019-20 budget approval process and saw hundreds participate in a series of public meetings as we developed our long-term Comprehensive Plan, Round Rock 2030.
I could go on and on, but will wrap up this look back at 2019 by remembering two significant anniversaries we celebrated last year. The Round Rock Express played ball for a 20th season at the Dell Diamond, and Dell Technologies marked its 25th year in Round Rock. Both the Express and Dell Technologies came to Round Rock, in part, because of our strong planning. They both knew investing in Round Rock would pay off long term. It was a strength of our community two decades ago, and we’re even stronger and more well-positioned today to face whatever comes our way.
The future looks bright in Round Rock, and we know 2020 will be another successful year as we continue our tradition of putting our plans into action.