Georgetown Public Library strikes gold with National Medal

If you’ve been to the Georgetown Public Library this summer, you may have seen signs and banners that read “National Medal Winner.” Everyone in Georgetown should appreciate this amazing honor and the many reasons our library earned it.

Awarded each year since 1994 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Medal for Museum and Library Service is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. The award to Georgetown was presented in Washington, D.C., on May 24.

With a total of 120,000 libraries across the country including 8,895 public libraries, the Georgetown Public Library is one of only five libraries in the U.S. to win the National Medal this year. The San Antonio Public Library is the only other public library in Texas to have won the IMLS National Medal in the past.

So what makes our library so special? And how did our library become only the second public library in the state to earn this distinction?

When you walk in the Georgetown Public Library, you encounter three words on the doors: Engage, Enlighten, Empower. This is the Library’s mission statement.  That mission is evident in the many ways that the Library serves our citizens and drives the Library to serve as a catalyst for community wellbeing and enrichment.

Born from the community: The Georgetown Public Library was a creation of the people who lived here; it began in 1966 as a grassroots organization run by volunteers. Anna Aiken was the president of the library when it started in a one-room storefront owned by Don and Clara Scarbrough at 802 S. Main St. The Library expanded to a new location at the corner of Main and Seventh streets in 1970. The Library became a department of the City when it moved to a new building at 808 Martin Luther King St. in 1987. In 2007, the Library moved to its current location at 402 W. Eighth St. after citizens supported bonds for a new 50,000 square foot facility. Community volunteers continue to be a vital part of the Library with more than 1,071 members in Friends of the Georgetown Public Library and 200 active volunteers.

Learning and growing: Given the rise of online content, it may be surprising to know that 1,500 items are checked out of the library every day. This includes books, e-books, DVDs and other materials. In addition, a collection of magazines, newspapers, and online content is used every day. The Summer Reading program, as well as regular programs for children, teens, and adults, aim to engage young and old with ideas and literature. This year the library initiated the Family Place Library™ program, which makes the library a center for early literacy and learning, parent education and engagement, and community connectivity to help ensure children enter school ready to learn.

Community connections: The Library helps people to connect to ideas and learning with the bookmobile. Every week this mini-library on wheels brings books and materials to seniors, youth and citizens with transportation challenges across the city. In 2016 the Library hired a licensed social worker as the community resource coordinator who helps individuals access social services and fosters communication among local nonprofits and other agencies.

Transportation hub: The Library serves as the central transfer station and hub for GoGeo, the city’s bus system. Library staff sell bus passes and provide route information at the circulation desk. In addition, the Library has a fleet of bicycles available for checkout to be used in the city.

Arts and culture: In addition to his primary role, Library Director Eric Lashley leads the Arts and Culture program for the City, which includes placing public art on the Square and managing funding for other arts projects. The Library also holds free monthly public concerts in the lobby and hosts regular art exhibits and sculpture displays throughout the building and on the Library grounds. The Library also took the lead role in the successful creation of the Georgetown Art Center and securing downtown Georgetown’s designation as a Cultural District by the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Civic engagement: More than a place to get a book, the Library has become a vibrant center for civic involvement as the location of more than 1,000 meetings each year. A wide variety of discussion groups, panels, worship services, celebrations, receptions, lectures, craft groups, and political or issue-related groups hold meetings and events at the Library.

Winning the National Medal for Museum and Library Service this year was confirmation of something many of us have already known: the Georgetown Public Library is a special place that is among the very best libraries in the U.S.

Georgetown Citizen Survey results

How are we doing?

That’s the gist of the Citizen Survey conducted by the City of Georgetown every two years. The results of the most recent survey completed this summer are encouraging, but they do point to areas where we need to continue to focus our efforts today and in the future.

As we did in 2016, the City hired the Texas State University Center for Public Policy, Research, and Training to conduct the anonymous poll. The survey is intended to measure the perceptions of residents.  It was mailed to 2,300 households in Georgetown and 469 residents responded. The margin of error was 4 percent.

So what are the key findings? This year, 81 percent of residents polled said the value of city services for taxes paid was good or excellent. And 98 percent of respondents rate the overall quality of life in Georgetown as good or excellent.

The common benchmark for city surveys is to have 80 percent or more of respondents indicated that a service is good or excellent. The city met or exceeded that benchmark on 82 percent of cases (32 of 39 indicators).

Since 2016, perceptions of the quality of street repair, city beautification, the City as a place to work, and emergency preparedness are all up.

Below are some more results from the survey.

  • For emergency services, including fire, police, and EMS, 96 percent of respondents gave a rating of good or excellent. And 93 percent rated emergency services as good or excellent.
  • Ninety-five percent of respondents rated city parks as good or excellent and 98 percent rated the public library services as good or excellent.
  • For utility services, 92 percent rated electric services as good or excellent and 90 percent said that water services are good or excellent.
  • We know that safety is an important concern, so it’s good news that 90 percent of respondents rated neighborhood safety at night as good or excellent and 88 percent rated safety in city parks as good or excellent
  • When asked about interactions with City employees, 54 percent had contact with a city employee in the last year and 91 percent rated the service provided by the employee as good or excellent overall.

Overall, these results are encouraging.

So where can we improve?

Traffic and growth-related pressures were the top concern on this survey and in past surveys. We asked residents about the top priorities for Georgetown. The top three cited were: 1. Traffic, 2. Infrastructure and roads, and 3. Managing growth.

Not surprisingly in our growing city, the rating for traffic flow on major streets decreased by 16 percent. And the percentage who rated traffic flow as poor increased from 18 percent to 28 percent from 2016.

This result of our fast-growing city is one of the main reasons that voters approved $105 million in new transportation projects in 2015. We continue to direct significant resources to mobility through these city bond projects and we are working with Williamson County and state and federal transportation agencies for other regional transportation projects.

We think it’s important to find out how we are doing, and these results are encouraging in many ways. They also point to areas like new roads and mobility where we should continue to focus our efforts.

If you want to read the complete survey results, look for the Citizen Survey 2018 Report link on the City homepage at georgetown.org.

Georgetown Airport Master Plan update

This summer, the City Council approved an update to the Georgetown Municipal Airport Master Plan, a guide for future development at our local airport. It was a comprehensive, 18-month review and rewrite of the visioning plan for the Airport, last updated in 2005. Coffman Associates, a planning firm specializing in airport master plan consulting, worked with the City and a seven-member planning advisory committee in completing the master plan update.

We are very fortunate to be the home of the Georgetown Municipal Airport. The Airport is a key driver of our local economy, directly employing 139 people and indirectly more than 500 jobs that can be tied to the Airport. According to a recent economic impact study by the Texas Department of Transportation, the direct impact to the local economy from our Airport is $20 million per year. Indirectly, the Airport’s impact is more than $50 million.

Georgetown Municipal Airport, which serves as a reliever to Austin-Bergstrom Airport, also is instrumental in providing aircraft avionic and maintenance support for aircraft owners in the region. Airport businesses offer a range of services including flight training, recreational flying, medical transport and evacuation, and power line and pipeline patrols.

The purpose of the Airport Master Plan update is to provide a vision for future development at the Airport. The update also addresses changes in the aviation industry on a local and a national level and identifies appropriate on-airport land uses that are consistent with the City’s Future Land Use Plan. The update also created an Airport Layout Plan, which is a requirement for grant funding from the Texas Department of Transportation, and developed a 20-year prioritized list of capital projects at the Airport.

In understanding the scope of the update of the Airport Master Plan, it is helpful to know what it does not include. The master plan is not an airport relocation study or a noise compatibility study. It is not a study to add aircraft capacity at the Airport nor does it change a previous City Council resolution from 1996 on airport runway length. It is not a specific development site plan nor does it recommend any zoning changes at the Airport. The update recommends only concepts. The Master Plan does not entail pre-approval for funding of projects. Additional City Council approval is required for all future funding requests. And finally, the update does not require an Environmental Impact Statement.

In addition to the citizen planning advisory committee who provided feedback, the Master Plan update process included three public meetings where members of the public could review draft elements of the plan, ask questions, and provide written feedback. Public review and feedback also were offered through the Master Plan update website.

The Master Plan includes an inventory of existing facilities and traffic activity; forecasts for future based-aircraft, take-offs, and landings; facility requirements; and contextual information such as area socioeconomic data, and local planning and land use information.

The Airport Master Plan update includes several key findings and recommendations. An updated Airport Layout Plan in the report proposes areas on the northwest and northeast quadrants of the Airport for future aviation-related development. Other recommendations include extending ground leases to 50 years, adding restaurant or concession options at the Airport, and considering a new name for the Airport. And finally, the update recommends that the Airport remains a general aviation reliever airport focusing on leisure and business aviation, not commercial passenger jet service.

To review the Airport Master Plan Update report, go to airport.georgetown.org/airport-master-plan.

New development in Downtown

If you’ve been in downtown Georgetown recently, you’ve probably seen a number of construction sites near the Square. Several new development or redevelopment projects are currently underway and more are in the planning stages. These projects represent both public and private investment in our downtown—an entertainment and cultural district as well as an economic engine for the community.

Georgetown City Center

Georgetown City Center, formerly known as Downtown West, will open in late January. City Center is a collection of City government offices located at Martin Luther King Jr. and Ninth streets. The municipal campus includes new construction for City Hall and Council and Court buildings as well as the current Light and Waterworks building and the Georgetown Public Library. City Center will centralize several offices that are currently scattered throughout the city. In addition to providing needed facility space, the new campus enables easier collaboration for City employees and convenience for residents using City services.

To help provide more parking for City Center, the public parking lot at MLK and Eighth streets will be expanded. Vacant buildings on Seventh and Eighth streets will be removed to allow for 66 additional spaces across from the Georgetown Public Library. The expanded lot will have 204 spaces. The parking lot also will include a new turn-in and bus stop area for GoGeo and CARTS buses.

Restaurants and distillery in City buildings

Georgetown City Council approved the real estate contract for the sale of two downtown buildings in October. The proposal for the historic Post Office at 113 E. Eighth St. is from City Post Partnership for a ballroom, restaurant, and bar. The proposal for the Municipal Court and Council Chambers at 101 E. Seventh St. is from Loyal Spirits Distilling Company and URBAN Eat. Drink for a restaurant and micro-distillery. The City hopes to close on the properties in early-2019 in advance of moving into the City Center facilities. The proceeds from the building sales help offset the costs of construction for City Center.

New buildings in downtown

A number of new commercial projects are currently under construction or are set to start in 2019.

The Watkins building, a two-story 9,600-square-foot building at 815 S. Main St., will house Watkins Insurance Group offices on the second floor and another tenant on the first floor. The new building next to the Grace Heritage Center is expected to open next year.

A groundbreaking on Nov. 13 marked the start of construction on the Palace Theater Smith Performance Center, a three-story building on Rock and Second streets. The new educational center will include a 200-seat theater, classrooms, a dance studio, and offices.

Plans for Riverplace Georgetown, a three-story mixed-use building, were approved by the Historic and Architectural Review Commission in September. The project at Austin Avenue and Second Street will include commercial space and covered parking on the first floor, office space on the second floor, and residential units on the third floor.

In addition, plans are underway for a new two-story mixed-used building at the corner of Eighth and Church streets. Finally, a new CVS store will open in 2019 at the corner of University and Austin avenues.

While 2018 has seen a significant number of new developments, we will continue in 2019 to maintain Georgetown’s unique character, maximize opportunities for thoughtful development, and enhance the quality of life for our residents.

These investments by the community complement the significant preservation and development efforts of the past and those that are planned for the future, ensuring we remain the Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas.

Information about your electric bill

The City of Georgetown recently took steps to address changes in the electric power market. Those changes will affect your electric bill if the City of Georgetown provides your electricity. I’d like to provide you some information about changes to your bill, provide some background on those changes, explain the steps we are taking, and address some mischaracterizations you may have seen in the news media or elsewhere.

PCA charge: Effective Feb. 1, the City is increasing the power cost adjustment, or PCA, to recover costs associated with purchasing energy. Customers will incur an increase of $0.0135 per kilowatt-hour, resulting in a new PCA of $0.0175 per kilowatt hour through September. The average customer uses 949-kilowatt hours per month and will experience a $12.82 increase on their monthly bill. The City has increased and decreased the PCA over the years in response to changing energy prices. Please know we take any increases in costs for our customers very seriously. Our hope is that the PCA will be lowered at the end of September.

Background: Over the past few years, the energy market in Texas experienced a fundamental change. Forecasts provided by ERCOT, the State’s energy grid operator, have proven to be unreliable. What was perceived as anomalies in 2016 and 2017 due to reduced consumption, unpredictable pricing, and unusually cold weather, masked the true impact of a depressed global energy market. Looking back, it is apparent that a longer-term trend of lower energy prices is the driving factor of the electric fund’s current finances. The effect of depressed energy prices became abundantly obvious in 2018.

Changing our strategy: The City’s original strategy to contain costs by contracting for fixed-priced, renewable energy was intended to mitigate the risk of spiking energy prices. Securing long-term energy contracts that provide more energy than customers currently need is a standard practice among city-owned utilities. As a fast-growth community, these contracts allow us to grow into our energy demand. The contracts also reduce the number of times the City has to buy energy in a potentially volatile marketplace.

However, when the price of energy decreases, the City is still obligated to pay the price for energy we secured in our contracts. Any energy that is not used by our customers is cleared to a statewide marketplace.

Looking back, this is an obvious shortfall in our strategy and one that we are dedicated to fixing. Additional relief will come as our customers’ demand for energy grows. The less energy the City needs to clear to the market, the better the financial outlook.

What we’re doing: This year, the priority for the City is to change the on-going financial obligations tied to our energy contracts. This could involve reducing the energy Georgetown is obligated to purchase, selling a portion of the energy to another electric company, adjusting the terms of some of our financial obligations, or a combination of all these efforts. The City is also taking steps to better manage the energy contracts day-to-day.  Learn more about the electric cost issue and the steps we are taking at gus.georgetown.org/electric.

Mischaracterizations: There have been several inaccurate or misleading statements made by news media or posted on social media that I would like to correct.

  • It’s been reported that the City lost $26 million, which is not accurate. The $26 million figure represents the difference between projected and actual power costs in budgets from 2016 through 2018. However, the City compensated for these missed projections with one-time solutions, including adjusting how the City financed electric infrastructure projects (i.e. cash vs. debt financing), adjusting the timing of projects, increasing the PCA on electric bills, and completing a rate study. While the current situation is serious, a more accurate assessment is to report that the 2018 fiscal year electric fund balance was $1.97 million, which is $6.84 million below the projected target for that fund.
  • Another mischaracterization is that the City is not being open about electric contracts. It is important for customers to know that wholesale power contacts include nondisclosure agreements which preclude the release of wholesale power costs. Such agreements are included in contracts across the power industry. Releasing wholesale costs would expose the City to legal action from energy suppliers.
  • Some have reported that the electric fund shortfall is due to renewable energy. However, the current changes in the electric fund are due to the amount of energy that the City has under contract, not the type of energy. The outcome would have been the same if we had used the strategy with other sources of energy.

You can read more background on this issue or rumors you may have read and learn what we are doing to fix the issue at gus.georgetown.org/electric.

Please know the City is working hard to continue to provide energy to our customers at competitive prices. Georgetown is fortunate to have a highly-reliable, community-owned and operated electric utility. Going forward, we remain committed to ensuring this valuable community asset benefits Georgetown for years to come.

Cupid’s Chase 5K and Fun Run on Feb. 2

Register now for the 24th annual Cupid’s Chase 5K and Fun Run on Saturday, Feb. 2. The chip-timed 5K run/walk begins at 8 a.m. in downtown Georgetown at Seventh and Main streets and ends at the Bark Park on Holly Street. (A shuttle will take you back to the starting line). To register online or for details, go to cupid.georgetown.org.

Through Feb. 1, the registration cost is $22 per person for all age groups and $25 on race day.

The Kids Fun Run for children age 8 and younger starts at 7:30 a.m. The course is a loop around the Courthouse. Registration is $10 before Feb. 1 and $15 on race day.

Participants receive a Cupid’s Chase T-shirt, while supplies last. T-shirts are not guaranteed if you register on race day. Cupid costumes are encouraged. Strollers and dogs on a non-retractable leash are always welcome on the Cupid’s Chase course.

Awards will be presented to the top overall male and female winners and the overall male and female masters winners as well as the top three male and female finishers in each age division. Awards also will be presented to the top overall male and female City of Georgetown employee.

Race results will be posted after the race at cupid.georgetown.org.

In case of bad weather on race day, check facebook.com/GTXParksandRec, and parks.georgetown.org for updates. There are no refunds or transfers for participants.

Cupid’s Chase is sponsored by Georgetown Parks and Recreation. Event proceeds help fund projects at Georgetown parks. To register online or for details, go to cupid.georgetown.org.

 

Top 10 stories from 2018

It has been an amazing year in Georgetown. Looking back on 2018, there are so many good stories to celebrate. Here are my picks for the Top-10 stories of 2018.

10. South’s Best lists: Georgetown was honored this year to be named No. 1 on The South’s Best Cities to Live in 2018 by Southern Living magazine, and we were No. 12 on The South’s Prettiest Cities 2018 list by Southern Living. It’s good to see others recognize what we already know to be true about Georgetown! 

9. Citizen Survey: The survey conducted by Texas State University found that 81 percent of residents rate the value of city services as good or excellent, which is a slight increase over the 2016 survey results. We also found that 98 percent of respondents rate overall quality of life in Georgetown as good or excellent.

8. Teen Court: The City of Georgetown Teen Court program, which has won recognition as the top teen court program in the Texas, marked its 25th anniversary this year. Georgetown’s Teen Court also hosted the statewide Teen Court Association of Texas annual conference this fall.

7. 2030 Plan: This year we began an update to the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which guides our future growth. As part of the update, the City hosted On the Table in October. The event involved more than 1,500 people from all across the community in imagining our future. It was especially great to see many students from our schools and Southwestern University involved in On the Table.

6. Renewable energy: The Buckthorn solar farm in Fort Stockton began supplying energy to Georgetown in July. This fall, Georgetown won a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help fund a project to generate power locally with rooftop solar panels and batteries.

Georgetown Public Library Wins National Medal

5. Public Library: In May, the Georgetown Public Library was named a recipient of the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries. The San Antonio Public Library is the only other public library in Texas to have won the award.

4. Business development: In January, a Holt Cat dealership for Caterpillar construction equipment broke ground on Airport Road. The Wolf Crossing retail center at the southeast corner of Interstate 35 at University Avenue started construction in October. This 250,000-square-foot project includes restaurants, medical facilities, a hotel, and a grocery store. The City approved plans for Wolf Lakes Village at the northwest corner of I-35 and University. At full build out, the Wolf Lakes will include 4 million square feet of corporate offices, retail, entertainment, hotels, and housing valued at $1.7 billion. Other new businesses include the Randall’s grocery store on Williams Drive and the Natural Grocers on Wolf Ranch Parkway.

3. Downtown vibrancy: With Georgetown City Center nearing completion on the west side of downtown, the City will soon move to a new City Hall, Council, and Court building on Martin Luther King, Jr. Street. The City also sold two buildings around the Square this year. The former Post Office at 113 E. Eighth St. will be a ballroom, restaurant, and bar, and the Municipal Court and Council Chambers at 101 E. Seventh St. will become a restaurant and micro-distillery. New buildings going up in downtown include the Watkins Building on Main Street, a CVS on University Avenue, Heritage Courts on Eighth Street, and the new the Palace Theater Smith Performance Center on Rock Street. Downtown was also named one of five Great Place in America by the American Planning Association.

2. Transportation: The first segment of Southwest Bypass, the largest city road project yet, opened in July. Funded by the 2015 city transportation bond, the new road provides a north-south connection on the west side of Georgetown from D.B. Wood Road to Leander Road. In August, the City began work on the Rivery Boulevard extension, which extends the road north to Northwest Boulevard. In December, we marked the completion of the FM 1460 project, which expanded the roadway into a four-lane arterial from Georgetown to Round Rock. Georgetown partnered with Texas Department of Transportation, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City of Round Rock, and Williamson County to fund this project.

1. Parks: The 525-acre Garey Park, gifted to the city by Jack and Cammy Garey, opened in June. Thousands have visited this rolling-hills oasis to enjoy the one-of-a-kind playground, splash pad, dog park, equestrian arena, hiking and equestrian trails, and the Garey House event center. The first phase of renovations of San Gabriel Park also were completed this summer, including a new playground, pavilions, and the restoration of the natural spring habitat along the San Gabriel River. Phase 2 renovations kicked off this summer.

Annual Report

The City of Georgetown Annual Report, A Blooming City, covers projects, initiatives, and financial information for the fiscal year that spanned October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2017.

Georgetown Annual Report 2017 A Blooming City

The City of Georgetown Annual Report, America’s Fastest Growing City, covers projects, initiatives, and financial information for the fiscal year that spanned October 1, 2015, through September 30, 2016.

Georgetown Annual Report 2016 America’s Fastest Growing City

The City of Georgetown Annual Report, The Power of Innovation, covers projects, initiatives, and financial information for the fiscal year that spanned October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2015.

Georgetown Annual Report 2015 The Power of Innovation

The City of Georgetown Annual Report, Shaping the Future, covers projects, initiatives, and financial information for the fiscal year that spanned October 1, 2013, through September 30, 2014.

Georgetown Annual Report 13-14 Shaping Our Future

The City of Georgetown Annual Report includes projects, initiatives, and financial information for the 2012 – 2013 fiscal year that spanned October 1, 2012, through September 30, 2013. The report covers the five focus areas that define the strategic goal of a City of Excellence. A final section includes financial information about the City of Georgetown.

City of Georgetown Annual Report 2012-2013

Modified irrigation schedule released for customers affected by water pump repair

Thanks to our great customers! Their efforts to reduce outdoor irrigation allowed water service to return to normal much earlier than originally projected. The repaired pump is working properly and the system is fully operational.

As promised, Georgetown Utility Systems is releasing a modified two-day per week outdoor irrigation schedule for the affected area.

Modified Irrigation Schedule for Affected Customers – 

  • Tuesday / Friday:  Addresses ending in 1, 5, 9
  • Wednesday / Saturday: Addresses ending in 2, 4, 6, 8
  • Thursday / Sunday: Addresses ending in 0, 3, 7

For a map of the area where irrigation is limited to twice per week, please click here.

If you need assistance adjusting your irrigation controller, please call Customer Care at 512-930-3640. A reminder to ALL Georgetown Utility Systems customers – #NoWateringMonday

This chart summarizes the modified irrigation schedule. The first row is the day of the week, and the boxes underneath indicate the last number of the address. For example, on Tuesday any addresses ending in 1, 5, or 9 can irrigate.
Area where automatic outdoor sprinkler use is limited to two days per week.

Area where automatic outdoor sprinkler use is limited to two days per week.

Proposed Voluntary Annexation of Keyes Tract

The City of Georgetown is considering a voluntary annexation of property into the city limits.  The Public Hearings will be held at the May 8, 2018 meeting at 3 pm and March 8, 2018 at 6 pm. City Council meetings are located at the City Council Chambers, 101 E. 7th Street, at the northeast corner of Seventh and Main Street.  The area being considered for voluntary annexation is approximately 44.69 acre tract of land, which includes adjacent right-of-way, situated in the Francis A. Hudson Survey, Abstract No. 295, Williamson County, Texas, generally located south of La Conterra Blvd., west of FM 1460, and north of Westinghouse Road to be known as the Keyes Tract.

After holding the required public hearings, the City Council will consider an ordinance for the annexation.

For additional information, please contact Sofia Nelson in the Planning Department, 512-930-3584 or email to sofia.nelson@georgetown.org.

ANX-2018-003_Location map of Keyes Tract