By Kathi Bliss
A decision made by the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday may have cleared one of the final hurdles toward the long-awaited construction of a Super Wal-Mart in Lockhart.
According to Lockhart City Manager Vance Rodgers, the plans for the retail superpower, which have been rumored in Lockhart for years, were put on hold by the corporation last year. As the economy slogged and the parties involved were unable to reach agreements on key points of the construction, it appeared the retailer would forego the Lockhart location altogether. However, an announcement last week from the company’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters changed all that.
“They are planning on a groundbreaking in mid-2011, with an opening scheduled late in 2012,” Rodgers said Tuesday evening.
The City of Lockhart’s contribution to the final agreement is the commitment of $200,000, to be funded from a recent certificate of obligation, to construct a road south of the retail center, in what will be called the Chisholm Trail Business Park development.
Originally, Wal-Mart officials had asked the city to help fund a turning lane on Highway 183, and Rodgers said the compromise was better for the city.
“A year after the road is built, it will be an asset to the city,” he said. “If we did the turn lane, that would continue to belong to TxDOT, and wouldn’t be a city asset.”
Construction of the road, he said, was expected to cost upwards of $350,000, only $200,000 of which will be funded by the City of Lockhart.
Turn lane construction, which Wal-Mart will fund, will cost closer to $800,000.
The plat for the development shows the road to be named “Chisholm Trail.” District Four Councilmember Richard Banks expressed concern about the chosen name, suggesting that historical research may reveal that the street’s location was not actually on the historic cattle trail, and the naming would therefore be historically inaccurate.
With Banks’ vote, the council moved forward to approve the funding, making no promises as to their support for the street name.
In other business, Rodgers delivered a summary of Lockhart’s participation in the “rolling blackouts” on Feb. 2, 2011, during the severe cold weather event. The rolling blackouts, ordered by the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), were the result of failures of more than 50 power generators statewide, and were designed to help avoid larger and more severe failures.
A citizen’s comment spurred discussion about a potential quorum problem the council faced last week.
Lockhart resident Donna Voetee stepped forward to express concern about a new volunteer organization, “Imagine Lockhart,” which she said was a harbinger of a massive, worldwide sustainability project known as “Agenda 21.”
Although the organization claims an apolitical stance and publicizes its intent as a group of concerned volunteers working within legal means, and with property owners’ assistance and permission, to beautify Lockhart.
Voetee, on the other hand, warned that the groups intentions are, in fact, both political and possibly sinister, citing as an example her doubt that an apolitical organization could draw the attention of not only four council members, but two other members of the city’s leadership.
During the meeting in question on Feb. 7, Mayor Ray Sanders was invited to offer a guest speech. Banks, Councilmember Lew White and Councilmember Juan Mendoza also attended, although White and Mendoza were asked by Sanders to leave the meeting to avoid a potential issue of a “walking quorum.”
Banks addressed that concern with City Attorney Peter Gruning, who said that while the meeting might not have been intended to discuss city business, it was better to err on the side of caution because sometimes, council members “just can’t help themselves.”
White, despite having left the meeting, said he saw nothing in his discussion with members and the founders of Imagine Lockhart that leads him to believe it to be an ill-meaning organization. Rather, he said, it appeared to him to be a grouping of well-intentioned people hoping to help the community.
In brief news:
The council presented a proclamation declaring the week of Feb. 20 – 26 as “Severe Weather Awareness Week.”
They discussed adding signing authorities to the city’s bank account, based on the recent changes in the Lockhart City Council.
Rodgers said there had been several calls regarding Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) not being legally registered. He said there was some confusion in the Caldwell County Tax Assessor-Collector’s office in the registration of those vehicles. City Attorney Peter Gruning said that several communities are experiencing similar confusion about registration of the vehicles. He also noted that golf carts cannot be registered as NEVs.
The council approved the purchase of upgraded software and hardware for the Lockhart Police Department’s patrol vehicles. The equipment, which will be purchased with the assistance of grant funds, will enable officers to write reports and maintain contact via computers in their patrol vehicles, rather than having to return to the squad room to write reports.
Although the new software is expected to cost $15,000 in maintenance, Police Chief Mike Lummus expects those costs will be offset by the fact that having report-writing equipment in the vehicles will reduce the overtime hours worked by officers.
They also approved the selection of KSA Engineers, Inc., out of Austin, to design major maintenance and repairs at the Lockhart Municipal Airport.
Caldwell County resident Grant Rostig encouraged the council to consider one of the city’s under-utilized assets, the many natural springs in the area. Rostig said he believed that the “special” water from the springs, which is untreated and has not been through “chemical processes,” could serve as a draw for visitors who might travel to Lockhart specifically to avail themselves of the pure water, and while in town, may then visit the area’s restaurants and shops.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month in the Glosserman Conference Room at Lockhart City Hall. The official meetings begin at 7:30 p.m., after work sessions which begin at 6:30 p.m. The meetings and worksessions are open to the public and are televised on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.