Electric rates cut by city
The city council decided on Tuesday night to reduce utility rates for City of Lockhart Utility customers throughout the summer months.
The resolution, passed unanimously, will offer customers a reduction just over one-half a cent per kilowatt-hour of usage for the months of July, August and September, 2004. This change will amount to a return of more than $169,000 in a
djustment credits and interest charges to Lockhart”s utility customers.
According to Public Works Director Vance Rogers, the city is able to offer this decrease by virtue of an offset granted earlier this year by the Lower Colorado River Authority in anticipation of a summertime rate fluctuation. In light of the recent increases in power costs in Lockhart, the council and the city staff determined the best use of the funds would be to pass the savings along to the customers during a time when most customers see the largest increase of utility costs. Under the council”s plan, utility customers will see the temporary reduction beginning next month.
Mayor Ray Sanders read a proclamation declaring August 3, 2004 National Night Out.
The National Night Out program was designed to unify communities by giving people the opportunity to meet and get to know their neighbors, thereby increasing the effectiveness of programs such as Neighborhood Watch, and enhancing the likelihood of neighborhood residents to watch after one another.
Sanders, along with the rest of the council, praised the 22 area neighborhoods which have already planned block parties, and encouraged Lockhart residents to join with forces with their neighbors, the City of Lockhart, the Police Department, the Fire Department and EMS and participate in National Night Out.
The Technology Center remained at the center of debate during the meeting, this time focusing on Technology Director Michele Schalin”s suggestion that the city create an online business directory, set and charge fees for the development and hosting of web pages and set and charge fees for links to the city website.
In her presentation, Schalin embraced the idea that an online business directory hosted by a site as popular as the City of Lockhart”s would inevitably increase the flow of internet traffic to participating businesses, thereby furthering the agenda of the “Shop Lockhart First” initiative and generating additional revenue for local businesses. She suggested that businesses with existing websites could link with the city”s site for a small fee, while simple web page designs with limited text and graphics could be designed by the Technology Center staff and given a presence in the directory.
A group of citizens spoke out against Schalin”s proposal, suggesting that charging a fee for development of web pages would put the city in direct competition with private local businesses that provide the same service. In response, she said the services provided by the Technology Center would be so limited as to not offer competition and so popular as to actually generate business for local web designers.
Schalin added that her proposal would serve the dual purposes of increasing the internet presence of Lockhart”s businesses while generating revenue for the Technology Center. With that suggestion, Schalin opened the both LCNet and the Technology Center to additional confusion and criticism surrounding the role that LCNet plays, or should play, in the function of the Technology Center, the relationship between the two and whether there are other ways the Technology Center can be made viable.
While all council members agreed that the Technology Center is an asset to the city, some question if the Center is achieving the purpose for which it was originally intended, and whether offering web page design and hosting to the community would be effective in furthering that purpose. Schalin said the Center is a part of LCNet, and claimed her proposal falls directly in line with LCNet”s agenda.
Though Council members Paul Gomez and Dick Weiland were supportive of the proposal, Council members James Bertram, Kenny Roland and Frank Estrada expressed concerns, more about the potential of charging fees than the idea of providing the service.
In the end, the council decided to table the motion, and will revisit the idea again at a later date.
Lockhart will soon apply to the Texas Department of Agriculture for a grant from the Texas Capital Fund – Downtown Revitalization Program. While asking the council to approve her department to move forward with applying for the grant, Economic Development Director Sandra Mauldin suggested that a portion of the funds might be used to enhance parking in the downtown business district.
According to Mauldin, as office buildings on the square have been converted to retail stores and businesses come in and take over formerly vacant buildings, the need for parking on the square has increased in such a way that there is a parking deficit of nearly 130 spaces. Mauldin hopes to work with area business owners and with other establishments that own parking lots in the downtown area to determine how the grant funds might be used to ease the downtown parking crunch.
The council entered an agreement with LISD to place police officers at the Lockhart High School Campus and the Lockhart Freshman Campus. According to the agreement, the School Resource Officers will offer additional security on campus, while maintaining the law enforcement presence within the school district.
The officers” salaries will be paid in part by the state. The remainder of the funds will be provided in a collaborative agreement between the city and the school district.
In other business:
The council approved an amendment to the 2004 budget which reflects Chief Accountant Stephanie House”s announcement that the city is operating nearly $106,000 below budget as of June 30, 2004.
The Public Works Department requested that the council impose limits on the amount of brush city residents may ask the city to haul away. Because of June”s record rainfall, Rogers said that city crews are unable to keep up with the community”s requests for brush chipping. He suggested that his crews can dispose of 12 cubic yards of brush in approximately 15 minutes, and asked the council to approve a limit of 12 cubic yards per customer per service. He said such a limit would allow city crews to serve a larger portion of the community in a more timely fashion.
The council voted to approve a zoning change for a 10-acre parcel of land on Silent Valley Road. In preparation for an Austin developer to introduce a 49-lot development of site-built homes, the council agreed to change the zoning of the property in question from Residential – Low Density to Planned Development District, provided the Lockhart Independent School District approves and utilizes a bus stop to service the development. They also agreed to reclassify a one-acre tract on Black Jack Lane (FM 20 East) from Agricultural – Open to Commercial – Heavy Business.