Lockhart adopts police recruiting and retention bonus￼
By Kyle Mooty
Prior to Lockhart naming its interim police chief after Ernesto Pedraza’s retirement, which was effective Oct. 24, the City Council acted swiftly in naming Danny Williams as the Acting Chief at last week’s regular meeting, and a week later an interim chief of police — Kevin Lunsford —- was named (see related article on Page 1A).
The City Council approved an ordinance of a one-time incentive and retention program for existing officers to receive $2,500 immediately and another $2,500 no later than Jan. 31, 2023.
City Civil Service Director Julie Bowermon noted that at the previous meeting the matter was tabled regarding the City offering $10,000 – an increase in $5,000 – for hires on or before Nov. 1. The first payment would be made immediately with the second payment of $5,000 after they complete the department’s Field Training Program. Officers would be obligated to remain with the department for two years or have to pay back the incentive bonus to the City.
Bowermon reiterated that there were 40 police officer openings near Lockhart and that Lockhart has four officer openings, as well as one lieutenant and one captain vacancy.
Lockhart currently has four cadets attending Police Academy who are expected to graduate in early 2023.
The City Council unanimously approved the recruitment and retention bonus, but new hires must sign a three-year commitment. If they leave the department before that commitment is up, they too will be responsible for paying the Incentive bonus back to the city.
“In looking at (the area’s) compensation packages, it is apparent they have been adjusted upward to address the shortages,” Bowermon said. “The intent of this proposed ordinance is to compete with the area’s compensation packages.
Cadets at the Police Academy receive tuition, wages while there, health insurance, and traveling expenses from the City.
In other business:
Will Wachel, deputy director of TRC Engineers of Houston, said the Lockhart Downtown Revitalization Project had completed many initial tasks, including the “geotechnical report, typographic and boundary surveys, photometric study, drainage study, 30 percent design drawings submitted to the city for review, updated project cost estimate, and conducted stakeholder meetings.”
The estimate has risen from $7,523,600 in May to $8,936,831 on Nov. 1, mainly from inclusion of a storm sewer with additional manholes and pipe, sanitary sewer with additional manholes and alleyways, a water main with an additional waterline, and additional street paving.
Kylie Mycock, a landscape architect at Rialto Studio Inc. of San Antonio, said her group had tried to talk with anyone impacted by the project.
“The stakeholders we’ve met with understand there will be some growing pains, but they are generally excited about the project,” Mycock said. “People understand that it’s better to upgrade the aging infrastructure now rather than later. There was a general concern about construction impacting businesses, but we did our best to reassure everyone that downtown is not closing.”
Watchell said the design will be 100 percent complete by June 2023. Permitting will be from June to September 2023. Bidding will be from September to December 2023. Construction will be from December 2023 to December 2025.
A Public Hearing was held for Ben Jones of Aquila Commercial, which was represented by 142 Partners LLC managing partner Clifton Jones. Aquila Commercial is asking for a Zoning Change from Agricultural-Open to Commercial Medium Business District for 8.06 acres and 54.6 acres to Residential High Density District on Clark Loop.
The first phase of the three-phase plan will include up to 300 apartments.
The commercial development, Jones said, would have to await TxDot’s realignment to plan that area.
“We feel like we’ve tried to follow the city’s future plan,” Jones said.
Councilmembers approved the Zoning Change request.
Public Works Director Sean Kelly said the City had been awarded an economic development and administrative grant from the Department of Commerce worth $2.1 million, and it is to be used for about “2.5 miles of wastewater lines.”
A Public Hearing has been set for Tuesday, Dec. 6 for the annexation of 197 aces in the southwest part of Lockhart. The property is located south of State Park Road (FM 20), west of Twin Island Drive, and east of Arena Road.
City offices, as well as the Recycling Center, will be closed for Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Trash services will keep regular schedules.
During councilmembers’ commens, Brad Westmoreland told a story about finding a box upstairs at Westy’s Pharmacy on Main Steet with Lockhart photos of people in World War II and Korea.
“Here’s what makes you feel good,” Westmoreland said. “Someone came in the very next day and walked right up to the counter and grabbed a picture, and he tells me, ‘Thanks for finding my father.’ Here’s something that hasn’t seen the light of day out of the top of that old drug store in 70 years.”