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City settles on Downtown Revitalization plan

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By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

After months of discussions, changes in plans, and changes to changed plans, the City of Lockhart finally unanimously agreed to adopt a plan put forth on the Downtown Revitalization Project last week.

The adopted plan is “1B.” The conceptual design can be viewed on the city’s website at lockhart-tx.org (click on Downtown Revitalization Project).

Will Wachel of TRC Engineers said members of the city and others walked the nine-block project area around the square. Among their findings were that there will be an approximate increase in three parking spaces – from 373 existing spaces to 376. A total of 53 spaces will be converted from angled parking to parallel parking, most of those are being on Church and Walnut streets. Commerce Street will gain 13 spaces, while Main Street will gain seven.

“All of these spaces will help define the streets better and help improve safety,” said Bobby Eicholz of Rialto Studios. “We hope to provide a safer downtown and a more enjoyable experience.”

Lockhart residents will not be seeing the end-result soon. The design process will take 12 months. There will be permitting involved, and the bidding will take three months from Sept. 21 – Dec. 21, 2023. Construction will follow beginning on an estimated Dec. 21, 2023, with completion around Dec. 31, 2025.

Lockhart Mayor Lew White noted that the Downtown Revitalization Project began as a means to replace aging waterlines, but now there will be many upgrades. Among them will be rerouting large trucks from SH 130 around the downtown area. That process is yet to be finalized.

Councilmember Brad Westmoreland said he was “very excited” about the project.

In other business:

The Lockhart Independent School District asked for rezoning of 2.253 acres adjacent to its administration building to a High-Density District so that it could put up staff housing for teachers on Pecos and Wichita streets.

The property is just west of Pride High School. It was noted that three people opposed the project at a public meeting.

However, the decision to make affordable housing to attract teachers to Lockhart was praised by some at the council meeting.

LISD Superintendent Mark Estrada said the district would take pride in the housing addition just as it would in any other facility within the school district, keeping it maintained and assuring everyone it would be “well-kept.”

The request was approved 7-0.

“The residents will be 100 percent staff members,” Estrada said. “Public education is quite frankly in a crisis. Teachers can no longer afford to live in central Texas. Only 30 percent of our staff live in Lockhart. Currently, we are out of inventory and the inventory that does come up is out of their price range. About a dozen potential teachers are waiting to see if this will become available.”

The three-bedroom, three-bath homes will cost $1,680 a month, and the two-bedroom, two-bath homes will be $1,085 a month.

Resident Michael Laird praised the superintendent for “looking forward in his vision to make affordable housing for teachers. I look forward to paying my taxes on such an initiative.”

Robyn Katz Gonzales of Buda addressed the council said she was speaking for some who were scared to do so in fear of retaliation regarding volunteer work at the Lockhart Animal Shelter.

Gonzales teaches Animal Law at St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio. She has volunteered at the Lockhart Animal Shelter for five years.

“Because (Lockhart Animal Shelter) is now under the police department, I hope that the shelter is remembered in the next budget cycle,” Gonzales said. “The kennels are falling apart outdoors. The gravel is covered in feces and urine. While I’m not one of these crazy no-kill advocates, I do wish (the council) would’ve reached out to other shelters before killing 16 dogs last week.”

Gonzales also said that many of the shelter’s animals are “covered in fleas and ticks. That should be provided at intake. They say heartworm medication is provided at intake. I don’t believe that to be true.”

Several city personnel commented on the tragedy involving the two Maxwell Community Volunteer Fire Department members, brothers Jonathon and Hunter Coco, that were killed in Lockhart while returning from a wildfire last week.

“I would like the Maxwell community to know we are praying for them,” said Councilmember David Bryant. “Our community and our hearts go out to our neighbors.”

White said the tragedy was “devastating to everyone involved.”

Lockhart Fire Chief Randy Jenkins also offered his condolences to the Maxwell Community Volunteer Fire Department and to the Coco families.

Resident Len Gabbay used the citizen’s comments portion to talk about the accident.

“I want to speak to the tragedy of the firefighters on State Park Road,” Gabbay said. “Negligence does not discriminate. Carelessness does not discriminate. It affects every color, every gender, and everyone in this room in this community.”

Gabbay asked for a moment of silence and for the streets to be safer and the firefighters to be remembered.

White read a proclamation in honor of City Attorney Monte Akers, who has been with the City of Lockhart since 2009. He received the Susan Rocha Award for being recognized by the Texas City Attorneys Association for Outstanding Public Service.

“As you know Mayor, public service isn’t always fun,” Akers said. “Sometimes it’s very rewarding and sometimes it’s not.”

The sex offender safety zones would be revisited at the July 11 City Council meeting, according to White. “We may very well need to have a local ordinance in place,” the mayor said.

City Manager Steve Lewis said the city would continue to monitor drought conditions, but plans were to have a fireworks show at Lockhart City Park on July 3.

Lewis also noted that improvements had been made at the Splash Pad.

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