State of the City recap: Mayor says state of Round Rock is strong
In his State of the City address on Dec. 6, Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan discussed citywide transportation efforts, public safety and the future trajectory of the city.
The event was held by the Round Rock Chamber at Kalahari Resort and Conventions. Morgan was joined on stage by KVUE Anchor Bryan Mays in a conversation-style presentation.
The State of the City kicked off with a brief video outlining the past year and what’s ahead:
Overall, Morgan reported that the state of Round Rock continues to stay strong, thanks to strategic planning for funding of core services.
“We’re financially sound — that’s our No. 1 core value that we focus on — and I think you’ve seen that through the last couple of years with COVID, the winter storm and the tornado. We were prepared,” he said. “I think that’s because of the financially sound principles that we have, and that will continue.”
Morgan and Mays discussed several of the City’s core services and provided updates on existing and upcoming projects:
In the immediate aftermath of the March 21 tornado, Morgan said he wasn’t surprised by the quick response — both by City staff and the community.
“Our public safety is par none the best. They train for this stuff daily…so they’re prepared,” he said.
He acknowledged the Round Rock Fire Department’s new Crisis Response Unit for their role in responding to behavioral health issues, freeing up law enforcement officers and firefighters to respond to emergency calls. He also mentioned the City’s Community and Neighborhood Services, which recently became a standalone department and played an essential role in organizing volunteers and cleanup efforts in the wake of the tornado.
Public safety is currently well-equipped and well-trained for any disaster that comes their way, according to Morgan, thanks to strategic investments made by the City. The Public Safety Training Center, built in 2018, has allowed fire and police to train year-round with neighboring agencies for all emergencies. The City is anticipating building a second phase of the facility that includes a driving track and expanded classrooms. Round Rock has also been planning for future fire stations, including the relocation of Fire Station No. 1, as well as others to serve growing areas in the northern part of the community. The City could potentially seek funding for these projects in future general obligation bond propositions, Morgan said.
Quality of Life
Amenities contributing to quality of life have become popular, Morgan said, especially Round Rock’s iconic Old Settlers Park. This year, the City added another phase to the new Yonders Point gathering area in the park called Flag Plaza, which hosted Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.
The 60-acre Round Rock Multipurpose Complex that opened in 2017 in Old Settlers Park recently held the Big 12 Women’s Soccer Tournament. Sports tourism continues to be an important driver of economic activity, Morgan reported, generating approximately $16 million annually in economic activity.
Reporting on the current status of the Heritage Trail West project, Morgan said construction was temporarily on pause due to issues with the City’s contractor, but will resume in the spring with a new contractor.
Morgan said an additional recreation center, trails and sports facilities have garnered interest from residents over the years, and could be potential candidates for bond-funded projects, as well.
The new Round Rock Public Library is slated to open in late January 2023 at 200 E. Liberty Ave., and Morgan reminded the audience that the current library will close starting Dec. 23 in anticipation of the move.
Future programming for the current library building located at 216 E. Main Street is expected to include an Arts and Culture space, the Round Rock Visitors Center and the Round Rock Chamber. In addition to a remodel of the building, the City anticipates relocating the Palm House, which currently houses the Round Rock Chamber on Main Street, to an area closer to its original location in Palm Valley, near Highway 79. The space provided by the move will allow the City to build a paseo, or walkway, that connects Prete Plaza and the courtyard for the new Library, which will be adjacent to a new 289-space parking garage.
Round Rock is seeing a surge of interest for businesses supporting the semiconductor industry to relocate and expand in the city, Morgan said.
“[Economic development in Round Rock] is the healthiest it’s ever been,” he said.
Working in tandem with the Round Rock Chamber, the City aims to recruit businesses and industries with salaries that support the cost of living in the area, Morgan said. Recent economic development announcements and groundbreakings include the expansion of KoMiCo Technologies, Switch and Sabey Data Center.
Round Rock is making ground on major projects to improve capacity and connectivity as part of its five-year, $240 million investment program called Driving Progress, Morgan said.
“Transportation is a core issue for the City,” Morgan said. “Our biennial City survey has always said that traffic is the No. 1 issue.”
The University Boulevard widening projects from the IH-35 frontage road to Sunrise Boulevard and from A.W. Grimes Boulevard to State Highway 130 is expected to wrap up in spring 2023, Morgan said. He noted that these projects have been difficult for drivers due to work occurring within existing space constraints. Another project that has been under construction — the Kenney Fort Boulevard extension from Forest Creek Drive to SH 45 frontage road — is expected to be completed in early summer 2023.
“We can’t pretend that people are not going to come here. They’re going to come here — we have great schools, we have a great city, and just the environment,” Morgan said. “You can put your head in the sand and work from behind like a lot of cities do, or try to stay ahead of it.”
Two major improvement projects expected to begin construction in 2023 include Gattis School Road and Red Bud North from U.S. 79 to County Road 117. The Wyoming Springs Boulevard extension from Creekbend Boulevard to Old Settlers Boulevard is expected to begin construction later in 2023.
Water and Wastewater
This year, Round Rock City Council approved construction of a massive infrastructure project through its BCRUA partnership with the cities of Leander and Cedar Park to build a system that will bring additional water from Lake Travis to the partner communities. The new project will build deep intakes in Lake Travis to provide extra water security during droughts, and it will be able to supply an additional 40.8 million gallons of drinking water per day for Round Rock once completed. Construction on this project will be completed in approximately five years.
In the summer, Round Rock’s Utilities and Environmental Services Department brought 5 million gallons per day of additional capacity online to the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, and by summer 2023, the capacity will reach 30 million gallons per day thanks to an ongoing expansion project.
At this time, the City is already preparing for future water and wastewater projects beyond the ones currently under construction, Morgan said.
Mays asked Morgan about affordability in Round Rock, and how the City of Round Rock expects to maintain a low tax rate in the future. Round Rock’s tax rate for fiscal year 2022-2023 is the lowest in Central Texas, and among the lowest of peer cities across Texas.
“We have continuously provided high value services with a low tax rate,” Morgan said. “We continue to bring economic development in, which helps that…those are the things [local government] can control.”
In addition to the tax rate, Morgan reiterated that the City aims to use economic development as a tool to provide “good jobs with good benefits” to Round Rock. Additionally, Morgan said the City partners with local non-profit organizations when possible to provide resources to those in need in the community.
30-Minute Recap Video
Check out this recap highlighting select conversations from the State of the City on the topics above:
Fore more information on Mayor Craig Morgan and the Round Rock City Council, visit roundrocktexas.gov/council.
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Source: City of Round Rock