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County concerns stall shelter construction

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

A long-standing partnership between the City of Lockhart and Caldwell County has been called into question, and may impact the future of plans for a construction of a new Lockhart Animal Shelter.

During the regular meeting of the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday, City Manager Vance Rodgers notified the council that plans for the shelte

r facility, which will be built on Case Street near the existing City Barn, have stalled while the Caldwell County Commissioners ponder county participation in the project.

For several years, first in a “gentlemen’s agreement” and later through an interlocal agreement, Caldwell County has funded one half of the operating expenses for the Lockart Animal Shelter, not including personnel costs or animal control. In return, the shelter has taken in and cared for animals surrendered by residents of the unincorporated areas of the county, as well as those collected by Caldwell County Animal Control.

The agreement first raised eyebrows this summer during budget meetings, when Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law suggested to the Commissioners that he could construct and run a county shelter for a lower price than is currently being paid to the city (an estimated $67,000 this year). The Commissioners’ Court, at that time, gave Law clearance to research the notion, and offer a proposal regarding the costs of construction and operation prior to budget preparations during the next fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the City of Lockhart has been moving forward in the planning phase of construction of a new animal shelter, taking into consideration the portion of the animal population being served by the county. Current figures from Animal Services Director Melanie Tucker suggest that nearly 46 percent of dogs and 41 percent of cats come from sources outside the city limits.

Taking those figures into consideration, Rodgers and Mayor Ray Sanders offered a proposal to County Judge Ronnie Duesterheft asking Caldwell County for a long-term commitment to continue financial contribution to the shelter, including assistance in repaying the portion of the certificate of obligation which will fund the construction.

Duesterheft declined to enter the agreement, until more information becomes available about the possibility of building and maintaining a Caldwell County shelter.

District 4 Councilmember Richard Banks noted there is no real way to track where the animals brought to the shelter come from, because there are occurrences of city residents dumping their animals in the county. He called it a “community problem,” and said the entire community needed to address it.

On the other hand, District One Councilmember Kenny Roland suggested the city should move forward to build a shelter to serve the needs of the city, and that if the county decided at a later time to participate, they should be made responsible for the costs of expanding the facility to serve the county’s animal population, as well.

Banks said plans should move forward as they are.

“I’m sure the County is going to come to its’ senses and decide the best thing they can do is work with us,” he said.

In other business, the council engaged in more heated discussion about charging road impact fees to new construction in Lockhart.

Historically, along with water and wastewater impact fees, the city has charged a road impact fee meant to help finance infrastructure improvements that growth as a community will require. While water and wastewater impact fees are common throughout Central Texas, Lockhart and New Braunfels are the only municipalities which charge road impact fees, a fact that has given this and previous councils pause over the years.

Often, those impact fees are cited as a reason builders and developers choose not to locate in Lockhart, and some councilmembers have considered them a hindrance to growth.

During their Oct. 4 meeting, the council instructed City Planner Dan Gibson to prepare an ordinance that continues to offer deep discounts on impact fees, charging only 50 percent of the total fee for commercial projects, and 25 percent for all uses.

The Impact Fee Advisory Board recommended at the very least increasing the fees to 50 percent across the board, a deviation from their standard bi-annual recommendation to charge the fees at 100 percent.

Despite the consensus reached during the last meeting, the ordinance drew yet more discussion, with Banks suggesting road impact fees should be imposed as suggested by the citizen advisory board, and Roland stating they should be abolished altogether. Other councilmembers discussed notions on all points of the spectrum in between, with their primary focus on what would be best for encouraging growth, and how best to pay for the infrastructure that growth will required.

After a motion by Banks to increase the fees as suggested failed 4-3, with Roland, District Three Councilmember Lew White, Councilmember At Large Paul Gomez and Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada opposing, a second split vote approved continuing the discounts to road impact fees. Banks, Sanders and Councilmember At Large Dick Wieland opposed the measure.

In brief news:
The council approved a resolution restricting commercial truck traffic on Stueve Lane between FM 2001 and San Antonio Street. The route, according to Rodgers, has been adopted as a shortcut by large trucks and heavy equipment working on the construction of State Highway 130, and has been disrupting the flow of traffic in the largely-residential area.

They entered contractual agreements with Community Development Management Company, Inc., and TRC Solutions Engineering to manage and design improvements that will be funded with grant proceeds from the Texas Community Block Grant Program.

The panel approved Lockhart Fire Department’s purchase of a light brush truck, which will be funded with grant proceeds acquired under House Bill 2604. The local match on the grant purchase will not exceed $14,000, Rodgers said.

The Lockhart City Council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month, at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room at Lockhart City Hall. However, for the month of November, the meetings have been rescheduled, with the Nov. 2 meeting being moved to Nov. 4 to accommodate participation in the General Election, and the Nov. 16 meeting being scheduled on Nov. 15 to canvass the results of that election.
Lockhart City Council meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.

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