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It’s hard to believe we are halfway through April and even harder to realize that we are halfway through our fiscal year. The council agenda this week was driven by March 31 being the end of the second quarter.
Per the Charter, Council is tasked with adopting the budget. Council is diligent in making the best use of every tax dollar collected whether it is property, sales, or hotel occupancy tax. Each and every tax dollar must be leveraged to provide public-safety, essential services, and as a whole used for the greatest benefit to the community. An example of council’s diligence is the quarterly review of organizations that are tasked with stewardship of those tax dollars.
Presentations from the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation, Visit Bastrop, Bastrop Museum and Visitor Center, Bastrop Opera House, and the Lost Pines Art Center were the majority of the agenda. Each of the organizations reported on what they accomplished last quarter and what they plan for next, I would encourage everyone to review the posted agenda packet or take a few minutes to watch the presentations.
Salaries for City employees are one of the largest items included in the general fund budget. When City Manager Hofmann joined the team in August, he requested Council approve a Comprehensive Employee Compensation Study be completed since it had not been reviewed since 2015 and recommended that any salary increases be delayed until the results of the study were available. Last August, we were dealing with the global pandemic and certainly did not have clarity on the economic impact of it. The compensation study was presented at this week’s council meeting and there was a robust discussion about the best way to move forward based on the results. Our goal as Council is to make sure we are competitive with the market so we can attract and maintain the best staff. Compensation is a complex issue that covers more than just a base salary. We must also be competitive with our benefits including vacation and health care. Staff brought forward recommendations from the consultant for the remainder of this fiscal year and items that council will discuss as part of preparation for next fiscal year.
April 18th is National Lineman Appreciation Day. The City of Bastrop is extraordinarily blessed to have the dedicated team of Bastrop Power and Light employees that work to ensure power is reliable. Winter Storm Uri certainly reminded each of us just how important their work is to our personal safety and comfort. If you see any of these folks around town, please tell them thank you.
Congratulations to Cripple Creek Wine and Gifts, they are expanding their business by moving two doors south and changing their name to CC Wine & Company. Council unanimously approved their request for the sale of alcoholic beverages so they can make their move.
Next time you are at Fisherman’s Park, take time to check out the Mason Chalmers Fireplace. You may have wondered why someone built a fireplace next to the pavilion. Actually, the fireplace was there first, built in the 1950’s it is the only remaining portion of the Chalmers cabin. Another example of the rich history we have here in Bastrop.
Speaking of Fisherman’s Park, the splash pad is officially open for the season. Stop by and enjoy it from 10 am to 8 pm daily.
Many of you are aware that we had two employees injured by a driver who did not want the inconvenience resulting from an accident. Sergeant Sanford has recovered after being dragged by the vehicle but Assistant Fire Chief DeArmitt is still weeks away from being able to return to light duty. So many folks have provided meals, prayers, and support. Chief DeArmitt’s family is extremely grateful. All of us at the City of Bastrop ask that when accidents occur, please give our first responders the space necessary to serve by approaching the inconvenience with patience and empathy.
Monday, April 19, is the first day of early voting. Please make your voice heard.
The best description of the council meeting held on March 23 is efficient. Our agenda included three proclamations and five items for “Individual Consideration”, and we adjourned at 7:22 pm – now that’s efficient.
Megan Webb with the Children’s Advocacy Center accepted the Proclamation recognizing April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Feel free to wear blue during April to help bring awareness.
Bernie Jackson with the Family Crisis Center made a presentation and accepted the proclamation recognizing April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Keep an eye out for the exhibit to educate the community that one out of five women and one out of seven men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
We also recognized April 4-10 as National Library Week and extended our thanks to librarian Bonnie Pierson and Library Board Members Jennifer Leisure and Sally Keinarth who were in attendance.
I also mentioned the Texas Monthly article highlighting Sonya Cote and David Barrow and their new restaurant on Main St., Store House, and their urban farm which provides produce to the restaurant.
Council approved a Professional Service Agreement with ASAS, LLC on a 552-acre project just outside our current city limit and along the Colorado River. This agreement ensures the developer pays the costs associated with the financial and legal review of the project.
Council unanimously approved Archer Western Construction as the Construction Manager at Risk for the Water Treatment Plant. The contract was awarded ahead of final construction plans intentionally as they will help provide value engineering in the final construction design and expedite the project by moving forward with critical path items like digging the water wells.
F.N. Ploch was awarded year 3 of the Streets, Pavement and preventative Maintenance project. Here is a list of streets included in this next phase of our maintenance plan.
The week is ending with Groundbreaking for Wastewater Treatment Plant #3. This critical infrastructure investment has been needed for a very long time. Design started back in 2018 and it’s exciting to see this major milestone completed.
Enjoy your weekend and this lovely weather,
The word for this week is service. At the council meeting held on March 9th, there were several types of services discussed. From the National Guard providing vaccines to the City offering recreation services. Service to our friends and neighbors is just one of the things that makes Bastrop a special place.
On March 5th, I accompanied “Team Charlie” as part of the “Save Our Seniors” pilot program for Bastrop County. I had the privilege of accompanying two Air Force and two Army National Guard members to administer 13 vaccines to seniors that would have extra challenges in coming to a HUB clinic. It allowed me to catch up with some folks I had not seen in a long time and meet new people as well. Everyone was grateful for the “in-home service.”
As part of my Mayor’s Report, I shared the good work of Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry. I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for their food giveaway event on March 2nd. People were thankful for the “curb service.”
BISD has a great after school care program, ACES, and the group is still meeting on ZOOM to keep the students engaged and provide some entertainment for them. I judged my second LEGO contest on March 4th. The project was to build “a bridge across Lake Bastrop” – the creativity of the students was amazing. It is fun to imagine how these students will serve their community in the future.
Council received the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report from the independent auditor firm of Belt, Harris and Pechacek. The audit was “clean” with no findings. City Council commended the finance department on the results of the audit. Everyone at City Hall takes the stewardship of tax dollars seriously. Transparency and accuracy of where those dollars go and how they are spent is of paramount importance to City Council.
In accordance with Governor Abbott’s Executive Order 34, you will see “masks recommended” signs when you arrive at a city facility. Each business has the ability to set their own rules and guidelines. I encourage you to shop and eat in a manner that you feel is safe while being respectful of each business owner.
The city manager presented Phase 2 of the recreation program. Although services will no longer be free, they will be quite reasonable with discounts for seniors, Military, and people with disabilities. Council approved the Recreation Program membership fee schedule (see attached graphic.) The “old” Senior Center (which we all know was the “old” library) will be utilized as the Recreation Program’s Wellness Center. Phase 2 is a pilot program that will allow us to gather data and make an informed decision on the future of city programs as part of next year’s budget.
Council approved the creation of a Public Improvement District located just west of FM 969. The 410- acre tract is called Viridian. In addition to approving the boundary, council also received an executed dissolution agreement and a professional services agreement. The professional services agreement ensures that current taxpayers are not funding future development projects and the dissolution agreement serves as prescribed exit path if it is needed. The property is strategically located and the owners, DR Horton and Continental Homes, expressed their commitment to providing a neighborhood aligned to our Building Bastrop Block code.
Proud to serve our community,
One of the things I enjoy most about serving as your Mayor is the opportunity to thank people for a job well done, for going the extra mile, for making a difference in someone’s life. The council meeting held on February 23 provided several opportunities to do just that.
Bastrop Fire Chief Rosales presented Life-Saving Award Recognitions to Film Alley Manager Mark Tauscher, Assistant Fire Chief Eric DeArmitt, and Bastrop firefighters Ethan Perry and Christopher Stone; all involved in quite literally saving citizen Steve Townes’s life on January 8, 2021 at Film Alley. I am glad I live in a community where employees and first responders are focused on protecting the public.
City Manager Hofmann presented a summary of the events from last week. City Staff functions as a team and serves as a family. Everyone stepped up to support one another. As many of you know, because you called the City, City staff answered over 3,400 calls around the clock last week. That is 3,400 times that a citizen called the City and received a dedicated employee instead of a machine. The team that started out with two people grew to nine in order to cover the phones 24 hours a day. The public works employees completed their jobs in dire circumstances, many without going home for days at a time. The police and fire departments did what they do best, keep us safe.
Speaking of our City Manager, Mr. Hofmann has been with the city for six months now. As a part of his employee contract, city council provided him a six-month review. Council was unanimous in supporting Mr. Hofmann and the tremendous job he has done for the community. Communication, filling vacant positions, and reorganizing the city staff with a focus on customer service were accomplishments highlighted by council members in their remarks.
Diana Schulz, our Area Engineer with Texas Department of Transportation, provided an update on the Highway 71 Bridge project. Did you know the project includes nine new bridges? The question I hear most is “How long is it going to take to finish?” The answer is January of 2023 the entire project is scheduled to be completed.
Paul Morales with Halff and Associates reviewed the plans for Gills Branch. The city is in the process of applying for a Hazard Mitigation grant funded by the General Land Office. That might sound boring, but when I tell you if the project is approved the grant will provide 90% of the funding and 188 homes currently in the 100-year flood plain will be out of the flood plain I think you’ll agree that’s exciting news.
Spring is nearly here, and construction will start soon on the Wheeled Sports Plaza in Fisherman’s Park. It has been a long-term project for many who serve on the Parks Board and Council approved the final contract needed to complete the plaza.
Council unanimously approved the appointment of the first Cultural Arts Commission members. Special thanks to Council Member Ennis for his work in getting this commission implemented.
I know several of you are still dealing with the consequences of the freeze last week. Bastrop County has been approved by FEMA for individual assistance. I reminded everyone Tuesday night that the most important thing you can do right now is take pictures of the damage and keep receipts for your repairs. If you have any questions, FEMA has a hotline 844-844-3089.
What a week it has been. In my last update I stated the “arctic blast is upon us” – I guess I’ll claim that as the understatement of the decade! I’m sure you’ve seen the statistics – 144 hours of below-freezing temperatures, more snow in the last week than the last ten years combined, 5 official storms in 8 days. The statistics are impressive, but they are not the whole story.
I am so proud of City Staff and our entire community. I have witnessed several acts of unprecedented kindness and grace and I wanted to share a few of those stories with you. Several folks have asked how the Senior Center and the Convention Center have been used during this past week. The Senior Center has been home for Public Works. Several employees have not been home since last Sunday, February 14. Every day of the event that you were able to flush a toilet, drink a glass of water, and have power- it was a result of these dedicated Public Works employees. Every day of the event that you were unable to do those things, I can assure you that you had a team of City of Bastrop employees doing whatever it took to get the issue resolved. The Public Works team utilized the Senior Center which is located adjacent to the public works yard as a basecamp. They would go to the center to catch a few hours of sleep and grab a bite to eat before they went back to work. They have helped homeowners who did not know how to turn off the water service. They’ve made repairs in the middle of the night regardless of the freezing temperatures. The wastewater treatment plant had huge increases in flows as a result of everyone turning on every faucet they have to try to prevent pipes from bursting. The demand for water to drip every faucet exceeded our ability to produce water and that is why by Wednesday we had to shut off Zone 2 in an effort to maintain pressure for Zones 1 and 3.
The Convention Center has been serving as a temporary fire station. When Bluebonnet Co-op started their rolling power outages, that impacted Fire Station 2 in Tahitian Village and so in the middle of the night, the firefighters defrosted their fire truck’s air brake system, which was frozen, with hairdryers and moved the trucks as well as their dorms into the Convention Center so the valves wouldn’t freeze and become inoperable. Chief Rosales has been sleeping in his office when he’s not out with crews on long shifts. Serving as Fire Chief, Emergency Management Coordinator, IT guru, and taking care of his crews- we are honestly not sure how he is surviving without sleep.
The Police Department has been doing wellness checks for medical priority home-bound citizens as well as assisting stranded motorists that slid off the roadway. They provided supplies from water, fuel for generators, delivered drinking water, and even made runs to the pharmacy to pick up and deliver medications.
Our city electric crews at Bastrop Power & Light (BP&L) have continued their relentless efforts to maintain power. It was only when mandatory rolling outages were exercised that BP&L had any outages. Our reliable power service is a result of preventive maintenance that is performed year-round by the crews.
Our communications team has gone without sleep. The postings, the reverse emergency calls, and answering questions on social media were done to keep everyone informed with the latest, most accurate information. Several of our employees were answering phone calls from their homes both day and night, often without power and water themselves.
Please join me in thanking our hardworking staff.
I got to spend today along with many of our Police Officers, volunteers, and some staff members distributing bottled water to our residents east of Highway 95 who still were out of water, as well as to our nursing homes and those on our critical medical needs list. Lowe’s matched the City’s donation of two pallets of water, H-E-B donated bags, and we handed it out until there wasn’t anything left.
My heart is warmed by the many stories I’ve heard of businesses offering free coffee and providing water to fill a bucket for those without water. Citizens offering the water from their pools to their neighbors so they can flush toilets. This is what makes Bastrop the special place that it is.
Thank you, Bastrop, for being Bastrop.
The council meeting held on February 9th was full of good news. I am excited to share the highlights: from restrictions being lifted to appointing a new member to the Main Street Board.
The additional COVID restrictions required by Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, on January 10th were lifted on January 30th. Why were they lifted? The hospitalizations of COVID patients in our region were below 15% of total patients in the hospital for more than 7 days. In fact, I reported at the council meeting the current rate was 10.6%. In our great State of Texas, 3.3M doses of the vaccine have been administered, doubling the number of injections given in just two weeks. Locally, the Bastrop HUB has had four clinics and given 3,515 doses. I know many of you are still on the waiting list and I appreciate your patience. Dr. Walkes, Walgreens, and Bastrop County Cares are all working together to get our allocated doses administered and continue to request increased allocations.
Bastrop has been making the news. On January 28th, FOX7 featured Sonya Cote and her great new restaurant Storehouse Market & Eatery. Watch Here: https://www.fox7austin.com/video/895527 . It was an honor to serve as a panelist for Senator Eckhardt later that evening; it gave me a chance to brag about how BEDC distributed COVID Grants to our local businesses within weeks of the stay-at-home orders. As if that wasn’t enough, the February addition of the Texas Municipal League’s magazine, Texas Town & City, featured a story about our Main Street Rehabilitation Project called “We Are Bastrop.”
City Manager Hofmann presented the inaugural quarterly report. This 60-page report includes updates on Financials, Capital Improvement Projects, and Council’s Nine Focus Areas. The report is chock full of facts, graphs, comparison tables and detailed information about every aspect of the inner workings of City government. Council applauded the tremendous effort to provide transparency for both council and the public. Please take time to glance through the report.
One of my favorite things to do is appoint dedicated citizens to our Boards and Commissions. Council unanimously approved the appointment of Sarah Houser to the Main Street Board. Sarah has given so much to our community it’s no surprise that she’s offered to volunteer her time on this worthy board.
Chief Nagy gave his annual “Racial Profiling Report” and this year he included more data and analysis than ever before. How many stops were made, what the results were from the stops, but the page we were all the happiest to see was the report on “injury during custody” – nothing but zeros. We are blessed to have such a dedicated police force in our community. Thank you for supporting them.
February was recognized as Black History Month and I will once again be attending the BISD Board Meeting on February 16th to share the City’s proclamation. Please take time to explore the numerous opportunities to learn more about Black History.
The artic blast is upon us and on behalf of our first responders, I implore you to drive slowly if you have to drive, stay home if you can, and be sure to protect people, plants and pets. Speaking of pets, we had a new addition to our family this week and I couldn’t resist sharing a photo of Buddy since he’s the First Dog of Bastrop!
The last Council meeting in January was full of presentations which I know might sound boring - but not in Bastrop! Quarterly updates from Bastrop Economic Development Corporation, Visit Bastrop, Lost Pines Art Center, Bastrop Opera House and Bastrop Museum and Visitor Center provided a great summary of what’s going on in Bastrop. From finishing the building at 921 Main to the number of people who went to the Opera House production of “Elf” (839 tickets from 11 sold out performances.) I think you’ll enjoy watching the presentations and hearing directly from the folks involved with these great community organizations, if you have a few minutes take a look.
Council voted unanimously to approve recommendations from the Cultural Arts Master Plan Ad Hoc Working Group which included the creation of a Cultural Arts Commission and adoption of the themes, values and priorities document to serve as the foundation of the commission. The implementation recommendations are worth the read. I would like to personally thank the folks involved in the working group: Council Member Bill Ennis, Ms. Debbie Moore, Ms. Maria Montoya Stayton, Mr. Dick Smith, Mr. Luis ‘Chico’ Portillo, Mr. Phil Hurley, Ms. Kaye Sapikas, Ms. Lisa Holcomb and staff liaison Mr. Colin Guerra. If you see one of these fine folks, please extend your gratitude for their hard work and dedication. I plan to make appointments to this new commission in the near future rather than wait for the annual appointments in September.
On Thursday, January 14, the Film Bastrop partnered with Film Alley for the Chamber’s Alive After Five January event. “Why Film in Bastrop Texas?” starring Zachary Levi premiered in one of the newly renovated theatres. I had a great time at the event and enjoyed meeting industry folks interested in our community. As part of the event, Bastrop County shared a new initiative called “Crew Guru” which serves as a tool to unite local talent with visiting industry projects. For more information on Film Bastrop, please visit: https://www.filmbastrop.com/
Bastrop remains under the additional restrictions resulting from hospitalizations over 15% for our service area, but the great news is we now have five days under 15%. Please keep practicing social distancing and wearing a face covering to prevent the spread. Our goal is to reduce the number of cases and increase the number of folks getting vaccinated. Speaking of vaccinations, I was excited to share Dr. Walkes’ practice has been approved by the Department of State Health Services as a HUB for vaccine distribution in Bastrop. On Friday, January 22, 1,000 doses were administered and then again on Tuesday, January 26, another 1,000 doses were administered. Over 30,000 people have completed the pre-registration survey to be added to the waiting list. Vaccines are given by appointment only and volunteers are working diligently to get folks on the waiting list scheduled. If you are not one of those that has pre-registered and you meet either 1A or 1B criteria, please visit COVAC.INFO or call 866-268-2289. As you can well imagine, these HUB clinics take an enormous amount of work and volunteer opportunities exist if you have the time.
Reach out to a friend today, it will do you both good!
Happy New Year – 2021 is here! We've already had a fun snow day and our first council meeting. Only in Texas can you have such extreme weather. I hope you all enjoyed the snow. It certainly provided some great pictures for folks interested in photography, and there were some impressive snow people, especially when you consider how few opportunities exist to hone your skills.
Our first council meeting reminded me of the old saying, "great things come in small packages." Although the entire meeting lasted less than 90 minutes, the Council acted on everything from our next City Council election to awarding the contract for construction of Wastewater Treatment Plant #3.
Our City Secretary, Ann Franklin, presented all the necessary documents to ensure we have a successful City Council election for places 2 and 4 on May 1, 2021. Candidate packets were available for pick up on January 13 per State Law. Our City Manager, Paul Hofmann, has offered to provide orientation and tours of city facilities for candidates. If you have any questions, please reach out to Ms. Franklin or Mr. Hofmann.
Wastewater treatment has been an infrastructure topic around Bastrop for decades. Many of you know that the current treatment plant is well past the anticipated life expectancy. After nearly two years of planning and engineering design, the contract for building Wastewater Treatment Plant #3 was awarded to BAR contracting, Inc of Lancaster, Texas. We received 7 bids from qualified contractors, and our engineering consultant, KSA, recommended awarding the contract to the lowest qualified bidder. As you can imagine, we have to get the wastewater to the plant, requiring a collection system. Smith Contracting Company was awarded the first phase of the collection system, having the lowest bid of the 14 qualified contractors who responded to the request.
During my Mayor's report, I announced the City of Smithville had a new Mayor. Mayor Joanna Morgan was sworn in on January 11th at their council meeting. I would like to thank Mayor Saunders for his support and wish him and his family the very best. Mayor Morgan and I have already spent some time together, and I look forward to working with her. Speaking of Smithville, they are hosting the first-ever Virtual MLK Day Celebration for Bastrop County. Please visit http://www.bastropcountymlkday.com and participate in this great event, including videos and volunteer opportunities. The event's goal is the same as it has been for 29 years, raising scholarship funds for deserving students in our county.
COVID 19 remains an issue for our community, state, and nation. Bastrop County is part of the State's Trauma Service Area "O" made up of 11 counties. Unfortunately, within those 11 counties, the number of people in the hospital for COVID has been more than 15% for seven consecutive days. As a result of Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-32, Judge Pape received a letter on January 10th requiring three things: 1) Eliminate elective surgeries 2) Businesses and Restaurants reduce from 75% occupancy to 50%, and 3) Close bars. These additional restrictions will be lifted as soon as the hospitalization rate is below 15% for seven consecutive days. For Bastrop county specifically, active cases increased by 163 this past week, and recoveries increased by 162. Unfortunately, the number of confirmed cases increased by 216. We all know the best solution is to slow the spread of the virus, reduce the number of cases, and increase the number of people vaccinated. The number of people in Bastrop County that have received at least one dose is 1,754. The vaccine is sent to Bastrop County directly from the manufacturer based on the State's allocation process. Bastrop County's Public Health Authority, Dr. Desmar Walkes, is working diligently with other doctors in the county and within the system to prepare for promised increased allocations. This is a dynamic situation, so please check out the Texas Department of State Health Services website, the Bastrop County Emergency Management website, and your personal doctor for the latest information.
Bastrop County Commissioner’s Court approved a resolution thanking the COVID-19 response team that has worked diligently since March of last year. The County's response, including testing centers and supply distribution, would not have been possible without several City of Bastrop employees. I was honored to recognize their efforts. If you see these folks in the community, please join the Council and I in thanking them for their work. Tanya Cantrell, Rebecca Gleason, Colin Guerra, Trey Job, Clint Nagy, Andres Rosales, Matt Wagner, Tracy Waldron, and Victoria Psencik. It is a true privilege to work with all the dedicated staff at City Hall.
I hope you enjoyed the 2020 Lost Pines Christmas. I am so thankful for the residents and businesses that participated in the very first “Making Bastrop Bright” – the votes have been counted, and the winners announced. Truthfully, we all win because we get to enjoy the lovely decorations. The Christmas Stroll was a success as well. If you haven’t already, please take time to do your own stroll down Main Street – shop at one of our local businesses, enjoy one of our delicious restaurants and take time to relax on a heritage bench and admire the decorations.
Special thanks to our library staff for once again providing the community with a great family event complete with pandemic safety measures. The graham cracker house decorating was amazing If you haven’t already, check out the houses online! This annual event is always one of the season’s highlights and this year was no exception, with the music getting everyone in the spirit. Citizens picked up over 300 house decorating kits, so I know many of you have your own personal decorated creations to enjoy.
Many of you are aware of the exciting news on the COVID vaccines. Information is being shared as soon as it is available. Bastrop County will be following the direction of the State Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel for distribution. Please understand that in following the Expert’s plan, there will be a roll-out of immunizations. The general public will not be receiving the vaccine for another few months. If you have questions, please go to a reliable source for information like Bastrop County Emergency Management and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), where I highly recommend the ‘Vaccine Dashboard.’ This dashboard will show the delivery of vaccines and immunizations given by county for the State of Texas.
You may have seen a new vehicle around town. I was honored to take the first official eCab ride on Tuesday, December 15th with Mayor Pro Tem Nelson. The Electric Cab of North America (eCab) has partnered with CARTS and Lone Star Clean Fuel Alliance to provide FREE cab service for Bastrop residents. I encourage you to download the “CARTS NOW” application. I can tell you firsthand how easy it is to utilize the service. The service runs from 7 am to 7 pm, Monday through Friday. But that’s not all; in January, the “on-demand” CARTS van will start providing service in Bastrop – think of it as the “uber” of public transportation.
2020 has certainly been a memorable year, and I look forward to 2021 being a year of growth and development. The new year is often a time of reflection, and I am so honored to serve as your Mayor and wish you and your family the very best.
Happy New Year!
Our last Council meeting of 2020 was productive, and we managed to have a little fun too. We covered many items from speed humps to cemetery monuments. We celebrated a birthday, recognized an employee, and enjoyed photos of our new Twelve Days of Christmas display in Fisherman's Park.
Council approved the City's first speed hump policy. Public Works Director Curtis Hancock presented an executive summary of the process, and the Council unanimously approved the resolution.
Several members of the cemetery board participated in the work session to discuss the restoration of historic headstones in Fairview Cemetery. We are blessed to have several dedicated historians committed to preserving the remarkable history represented by monuments dating back to the 1800s. Council will be considering a formal recommendation from the cemetery board in the near future.
Council approved over $200,000 to construct new sidewalks as part of the Council's strategic Sidewalk Connectivity Project. Construction will start soon. When complete, citizens will be able to walk from Jewel Hodges Park to Fisherman's Park and all the way to Bob Bryant Park.
Many of you are aware the Austin YMCA recently decided to close Bastrop YMCA effective December 18. City Manager Paul Hofmann presented the Council with a phased plan to minimize the impact to dedicated YMCA members and be respectful of our great health and fitness businesses in the community. The City will be reviewing how to provide appropriate recreational needs.
The Council spent most of the meeting on three agenda items regarding NEU Community Bastrop. The project is located just outside the city limits in our Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) and is a little over 400 acres. Council held a public hearing to consider creating a Public Improvement District (PID). The PID is a special taxing district that sells bonds to finance infrastructure on the project. Though not considered part of the City's debt, the City is the authority that administers the district. If this sounds complicated, it is. The developer, Jonathan Jenkins, gave a presentation along with his attorney and financial planner. Staff presented their findings after consulting with expert PID lawyers and financial advisors. From home building materials to a central park, the project is innovative. Several county residents voiced their support. Mr. Jenkins had some great drawings of planned construction, including a recreation center, swimming pool, and even a resort. After a lengthy discussion of the project, Mr. Jenkins requested the Council not take action on two of the agenda items. Mr. Jenkins and his team will continue to work with staff. When the time is appropriate, and there is more resolution on the details, the project will come back to Council for consideration. We are so thankful that folks are interested in being part of our community. As part of that growth, I would like to assure all our citizens that the Council is mindful of the importance of making decisions that serve the entire community for decades in the future.
As for the fun parts, we all wished Council Member Rogers a happy birthday in advance of her special day on December 28. The City Manager shared photos of "graham cracker houses" decorated by staff at our library staff's request. Stop by the Library's Annual Open HouseSaturday, December 12, from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Listen to live music, vote on your favorite graham cracker house, and maybe pick up a graham cracker house kit to make at home.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Happy Thanksgiving, Bastrop!
City Council did not meet on November 24, so there is no update from the council meeting, but there's always information to share. I know you've all been watching the news and reading the paper about the rise in COVID cases across the nation. Thankfully in Bastrop County, our numbers remain relatively low, but we are seeing increases week over week. Together we can keep our numbers down and avoid actions that come with increased cases. Many of you know that El Paso is sending patients to San Antonio. We do not want to be in a similar situation. Please review recommendations from the CDC regarding Thanksgiving activities.
Many of you have participated in Wassail Fest in the past. Staff put together a safety plan for conducting Wassail Fest this year; however, several of our downtown businesses did not feel comfortable participating. With the recent increase of active cases, the difficult decision to cancel Wassail Fest has been made. We all know that Wassail Fest is fun, but certainly not the only reason to come to Main Street. I encourage everyone to shop at our local businesses and eat at our local restaurants to support our neighbors.
Christmas is just around the corner, and we have several events planned as part of our Lost Pines Christmas. I'm sure you are as disappointed as I am that we do not have the Lighted Christmas Parade this year. The good news is you have a chance to join us in 'Making Bastrop Bright,' our first-ever lighted holiday decorating contest. It's easy to join in the fun whether you are a resident or a business. If you haven't already signed up, please visit www.cityofbastrop.org/MakingBastropBright for all the details. We are also revising our City of Bastrop Christmas Tree Lighting event. We want everyone to participate, so we have partnered with Film Alley for the first-ever 'Virtual Tree Lighting' on November 28 in the Bastrop Convention Center parking lot, serving as a drive-in theater that night. What a great chance to share drive-in stories with folks who have never been to a drive-in! Enjoy watching the 2018 animated version of 'The Grinch' complete with a concession stand. Gates open at 4:00 pm, so come early to grab a spot. If the drive-in doesn't fit with your schedule, the tree lighting will be live-streamed on Facebook. If you haven't had a chance to check out the new sidewalks on Main Street, come on down for the 'Holiday Sidewalk Stroll' from December 10 through December 13. I hear there's a cool scavenger hunt involving Christmas ornaments. I am so thankful for our Main Street organization and the special touches they add to our community. For all the fun happening this Lost Pines Christmas season, please visit www.lostpineschristmas.com.
So friends, I hope each of you has a safe and relaxing Thanksgiving. I always enjoy reflecting on the many blessings in my life, and having the honor to serve as your Mayor is undoubtedly one of them. I am thankful for my family, friends, and neighbors in this great community.
It took a full 24 hours after being sworn in as Mayor for someone to ask me what I would do about people speeding on their street. I still receive complaints about "everybody" driving too fast, but the real concern is often the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. You might be surprised to discover the actual speed of cars on your street. While it is easy to compare 20 mph to 50 mph, the difference between 28 mph and 34 mph can be quite tricky without a radar gun. Whenever this topic comes up, "speed humps" are often requested. This week Council received a presentation from Public Works Director Curtis Hancock, outlining how the City might handle such a request. You will not be surprised that the first step is to define the problem clearly. The potential process also includes how the City will work with neighbors to address the concern and under what conditions the City might install a speed hump. If you are interested, here's a link to the presentation. There will be more discussion before Council finalizes this policy. I encourage you to provide your feedback.
Like everybody, I enjoy sharing good news. This week I had several fun things to share. The Texas Downtown Association chose our very own "Copper Shot Distillery" as the "Best Commercial Interior." Honored to be present at the announcement, I captured a great moment of Cheri Todee celebrating. A highlight last week was judging the BISD – ACE program Lego Competition. The students' creativity in preparing a "Meal for a Giant" was overwhelming – who knew giants like unicorn steaks or snake-bitten cow? Invited to answer questions from second graders at Calvary Episcopal School, I encountered a smart group of students with thoughtful questions. I spoke at the "Pinky Promise" event; an outstanding program focused on providing mammograms in Bastrop County. We know Bastrop is Cool, and thanks to Visit Bastrop, now everyone else knows it too. Visit Bastrop brought Jonas Wilson to film a video in our downtown, sharing three live performances called "Be Like Bastrop."
Many of you are aware the City Council provides HOT (Hotel Occupancy Tax) funding. The largest portion goes to our Destination Marketing Organization, Visit Bastrop. The Bastrop Opera House, the Bastrop Museum and Visitor Center, and the Lost Pines Art Center are several non-profits that also qualify for this funding. City Council requires these organizations to present updates every quarter. These updates provide accountability to the contract, and everyone in the community gets to see the benefit of providing these funds. Additionally, the City Council provides funds to the YMCA as our recreation partner. Included in the agenda packet are all presentations, and I would encourage you to take a look.
It is hard for me to believe Halloween is this weekend. If you get a chance, stop by Halloween Bash at Mayfest Park. This year's City sponsored event, which the YMCA is putting on, comprises a drive-thru trick-or-treat from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, so put on your best costume and come by for a sweet treat. Crazy to think that soon it will be Thanksgiving and then Christmas. I must admit I am ready to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. I believe we have all changed our lifestyles because of the COVID pandemic, some changes out of necessity, and some out of creativity. One thing is for sure; we are all spending more time at home, which may be why we have seen an increase in golf cart usage around town. It is a great way to get some fresh air and see your neighbors at a safe distance. This week at Council, we approved the first reading of a revised Golf Cart Ordinance. Did you know the current ordinance only allowed a 7-day permit? Chief Nagy presented the revised ordinance, and the Council approved it with a few revisions focused on safety. The second and final reading of the ordinance will be on the next council agenda. If you own a golf cart, please take the time to review the proposal and share your feedback.
Where were you 25 years ago? I was raising two little boys that enjoyed Legos much more than schoolwork. Council Member Drusilla Rogers was opening “The Sugar Shack." On November 5, the Sugar Shack will be celebrating 25 years in business. It was an honor to celebrate and congratulate Council Member Rogers on owning a successful small business in our downtown.
This year the Veteran's Day celebration for Bastrop fell victim to COVID. With or without a car show, City Council is grateful to the men and women who have served in the armed services. This week we honored the veterans who are part of the great City of Bastrop employee family. I have the honor of serving the community with two Army veterans- Mayor Pro Tem Lyle Nelson and Council Member Bill Peterson. Please join me in thanking all veterans for their service.
Public Safety was a central theme of our Council meeting this week. Did you see the new fire trucks? If you missed the parade on National Night Out, I hope you have seen some of the great pictures. I rode with Chief Nagy, and it was terrific to see all the support for both police and fire as we drove around town. Special thanks to Chaplain Dale Burk, who provided the invocation at both National Night Out and the City Council meeting.
On a more serious note, we recognized October as Domestic Violence Awareness month. The theme this year is "Unmask the Violence." Increased incidents of domestic violence are another unfortunate consequence of the COVID-19 Emergency. Council is united in our support of the Family Crisis Center and their work.
Speaking of COVID, I was able to report some good news. As of the meeting, Bastrop County, as a whole, had 116 active cases with no new cases added the last two days. With a total of 1900 reported cases, it is great news to have so few active cases. We moved into Phase 3 of the City's re-opening plan on October 5 as planned, and things are going smoothly. The library reported 50 visitors in the first two hours of opening. The face coverings and social distancing efforts are working, so please continue to do your part to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Council approved eight items on the consent agenda, including the annual Community Support Service Contracts with the Bastrop YMCA, Lost Pines Art Center, Bastrop Opera House, and the Bastrop County Historical Society Museum and Visitor Center. Please check out the planned events with each of these entities. Another item on the consent agenda was canceling the second meeting in November so that Council will meet only once in November and December this year.
Council unanimously approved a recommendation from the Parks Board to name the new trail located just south of the Pecan Park neighborhood in memory of Dorothy Skarnulis. Many of you know that Dorothy passed on July 26. Curtis Hancock made a touching presentation to Council when he presented the Park Boards' request. His words expressed all our thoughts about Dorothy and her contributions to make our community a wonderful place to live. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ed and the entire Skarnulis family.
During my Mayor's report, I was able to brag about voting on the first day of early voting. If you have not yet voted, please make it a priority. Kristen Miles and her team have made the process efficient and easy to exercise your most precious right as a citizen. I also had a chance to share a sweet email from a citizen impressed with the customer service they received from Finance Specialist Mari Tipton while purchasing their cemetery plots. Thank you, Mari, for providing excellent customer service!
Looking ahead, Halloween is just around the corner, and Pecan Street will be closed to vehicular traffic from 6 to 8 pm as it was last year. The Bastrop YMCA is hosting a "drive-thru" Halloween at Mayfest Park from 5 to 7 pm.
NASCAR is coming to Circuit of the Americas next year, and on the weekend of May 21, 2021, you'll have a chance to see NASCAR drivers turn both left and right.
I have a favorite driver, but I know better than to share such a personal preference.
Tuesday’s Council Meeting had a special twist. There were two Council Meetings where two significant items were covered – the City Budget and Tax Rate. The law requires we have one public hearing, and our City Charter requires two readings on both. This week we completed the public hearing and the first reading, and both items passed unanimously. The proposed budget is available to review on-line and in-person here at City Hall. If you’d like to do that, please call City Secretary Ann Franklin to set up an appointment.
The tax rate voted on last night was $0.5794/$100 of valuation. If you own a house worth $209,000 (this is the average value of a home in the area), your taxes will increase $32 per year based on this tax rate. Council clarified that the rate voted on was lower than the proposed rate from August 4. If you would like to share comments or feedback and didn’t get a chance last night, please join us for the second reading at City Hall on September 22, 6:30 pm.
The second meeting started at 7 pm and followed our standard agenda. Special thanks to Chaplain Woods for giving our invocation. Presentations included a proclamation recognizing September 2020 as National Library Card Sign-Up Month. I am so proud of our library staff. They have continued to provide excellent service to all library members during these unprecedented times and in remarkably creative ways.
I reported the crane for wall panel installation at the 921 building completed its task last week despite inclement weather. The building remains on schedule for completion in late October, and we are looking forward to having The Art Institute students arrive in January.
Did your power go out last Saturday night? Probably not, but 30 homes on Pecan Street were out of power for about an hour after a tree limb touching the power line began smoldering. The great crew at BP&L went to work about 11 pm Saturday and restored service. We all love the gorgeous trees we have around town, but they can cause power outages when they grow into our system. Keep an eye out for tree trimmers working to help with the issue over the next few weeks.
I reported the latest information on COVID cases. Bastrop County is down to 149 active cases as a result of people’s social distancing and wearing masks, so please keep up the great work. We discussed moving to Phase 3, which means opening buildings like City Hall as well as the Convention and Senior Centers with safety protocols in place. I shared with Council my intent to move to Phase 3 on October 1 based on the information available now. We will consider this at our next Council meeting when we have data for the two weeks after Labor Day and school openings.
Municipal government follows lots of rules. Federal, State, and local ordinances - we follow them all. Council sets policy within those laws, and last night we approved: City Council Rules and Procedures (which also apply to our Boards and Commissions), the Purchasing Policy, the Financial Management Policy, and the Purchasing Card policy. Rest assured, your City Council takes their fiduciary responsibilities seriously.
I appointed 24 people to various Boards and Commissions, and the Council unanimously approved them. I always share the “breakdown” of the annual appointments. This year’s numbers are:
• 13% new to serving on a Board
• 46% live downtown
• 46% live inside the City limits but not downtown
• 8% live in the ETJ (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction)
• 50% female
• 50% male
Special thanks to all the citizens who engage and help our community thrive.
That’s all for this week!
As Mayor, I’m always looking for ways to improve communication from City Hall. I thought I would share a summary of our Council Meeting Tuesday night for those of you who don’t “do” Facebook or prefer reading as opposed to “twitter” – this is for you.
We had a full agenda covering everything from the yellow dots on Wilson Street to sidewalks on Water Street. I’d like to share the highlights of the meeting.
We started by welcoming a special guest. Police Chaplain Bob Long offered our invocation. It was great to have one of our chaplains inside Council Chambers, and although his presence was brief, it was appreciated by all.
Our City Manager, Paul Hofmann, gave an update on the Main Street Rehabilitation Project. The total project is 75% complete, with the sidewalks at 90%. The plan is for paving to begin in late September with the work happening at night, and it is going to be great when it’s finished.
Mr. Hofmann also reported a terrific grant that Becca Sexton, our Librarian, discovered. If awarded, the grant allows the purchase of 10 laptops and 10 hot spots to create social distancing and increase computer access through our City of Bastrop Library.
We also discussed Lost Pines Christmas. Along with many other communities across the nation, we are not able to safely have our annual Lighted Christmas Parade. We will, however, still celebrate in 2020. Plans are being discussed for a virtual tree lighting, swapping out some of the decorations along the Riverwalk/Trail of Lights, and even adding a little color this year. We want all of our neighborhoods to be a part of the celebration, so stay tuned for more details.
September is “National Preparedness Month,” and I read a Proclamation to recognize the importance. In Bastrop, we have survived fires and floods, and each of us knows the importance of being prepared. This hot weather combined with dry soil conditions create fire hazards, so please make sure you’ve taken every precaution to protect your family, friends, and neighbors.
Have you seen the “yellow dots” installed on July 13 on Wilson Street as part of a pilot plan to slow traffic? Last night we reviewed data on speed reduction (there was a minor improvement) and feedback from citizens. Council directed the City Manager to remove them. Neighbors concerned about the speed of cars are not unique to Wilson Street. Council remains worried about pedestrian safety, and we asked the City Manager to bring back policy on “speed humps” and to review our long-term strategy on sidewalks. There will be more discussion, including an opportunity for feedback from residents, before making any final decisions.
Speaking of sidewalks, Council approved staff applying for a “Downtown Revitalization” Grant for $500,000 to improve the sidewalks and road on Water Street. Exact scope is not yet defined, but it is expected to start at Walnut, head north to Farm Street, and include ADA ramps, repairs to existing and installation of new sidewalks to complete gaps, milling of the street, and finally repaving.
At each Council meeting, I give a brief report. Last night I thanked Union Pacific for completing the much-needed track and crossing maintenance. I also let everyone know there will be a large crane in town next week, installing wall panels as part of the construction of 921 Main. As many of you know, The Art Institute is leasing 921 Main for classroom space. Their current plans are to have students in the building by January.
Mayor Connie Schroeder is a 17-year resident of Bastrop. During that time, she has served on the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission for 6 years, chaired the 2016 Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, and was elected the first female Mayor of the City in 2017 and was unopposed and re-elected in 2020.
She currently serves on the Texas Municipal League Board and has earned the “Certified Municipal Official” designation the last three years. The Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association awarded Mayor Schroeder the Planning Advocate Excellence Award, and she was also recognized as the Civic Leader Changer Maker for Central Texas by Generation Citizen, both in 2019.
Mayor Schroeder is an Honors Graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. She became a licensed Professional Engineer in 1989 and has a background in design, project management and construction of major transportation and development projects in both the public and private sector. She retired from Motorola/Freescale after a 15-year career in the high-tech industry.
She and her husband, Charlie, enjoy serving their community and cherish time with their children and grandchildren.
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