By LESLEE BASSMAN, Special to Four Points News
As they welcome in the new year, Village of Volente leaders are embarking on a comprehensive plan update and adding staffers. The safety of Lime Creek Road, roadwork, pipeline progress, and preparing for weather events are just a few things on the top of the priority list for 2024.
Change in Village staff
After onboarding in April of 2022, Village Administrator Lacie Hale left her position this year, a move that Mayor Tom Blauvelt said was prompted by personal reasons, with Hale “taking a position that was better for her family,” including three children, and keeping her closer to home. Assistant Village Administrator Chanel Smith has been on the job since January, he said.
“We have had a tremendous relationship with [Hale] and the community just loves her,” Blauvelt said. “I know there’s history with staff, I know there’s history with previous mayors and councils, and I don’t have all the details there, but Lacie, I feel, had a lot of support, and was treated fairly. So, she made a personal decision.”
He said another applicant for the Administrator position has been selected and will be relocating from Dallas to start January 8, with signed documents received by the Village the week of December 11.
Additionally, the Village Secretary opening has also been filled but personal issues faced by the chosen applicant are delaying her start date, with no firm date selected, Blauvelt said. “Hopefully she transitions over,” he said. “If not, we understand. People have personal lives that take control, sometimes, of their business lives and that’s what happened there.”
Comprehensive Plan update
The Village will continue working on its comprehensive plan update, a project that has involved a volunteer Steering Committee for the past year and looks to the future needs of the municipality.
“It’s a work in progress,” Ruff said of the document.
A draft of a community survey in conjunction with the plan has just wrapped up, with that document being administered by a third-party company to residents soon, Blauvelt said. Community get-togethers and town halls will follow to discuss the next steps moving forward, aligning the Village’s ordinances to match the plan, he said.
“It’s going to take a while to get it into place but a lot of work’s been done with the Steering Committee and the Planning and Zoning Committee that manages that,” Blauvelt said.
The Comprehensive Plan has not been updated since 2004; however, a town survey was conducted in 2014.
Village pushes through water pipeline project
The Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority, a regional water agency, is in the process of building an underground intake pipeline and tunnel through Volente to Lake Travis, with the estimated $180 million project not set to culminate until 2027. The pipeline will serve the regional economy via the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and Round Rock.
Following years of back and forth, an interlocal agreement is finally in place, Blauvelt said
The action includes a maintenance house of 3,000 square feet at the end of Bernard Street but, despite its May deadline, the structure still hasn’t been completed, he said, with a lot of truck traffic coming down Sherman Street.
“So that’s been a pain, but we continue to push [the BCRUA] to be more transparent and mitigate the interruption to residents on Sherman Street,” Blauvelt said.
Making Lime Creek Road safer
According to Blauvelt, “cars speed up and down Lime Creek Road like it’s a racetrack.”
A well-known popular road for speeders culminating in two fatalities between 2021 and 2023, he said Lime Creek is being given more attention after the Village approved hiring off-duty officers from Travis County Sheriff’s Office to patrol the municipal’s two miles of the thoroughfare to “hopefully mitigate the speeders and the risk.”
Periodically, TCSO enlists enforcement initiatives aimed at citing drivers who exceed the speed limit on Lime Creek Road. However, in her October newsletter, TCSO Sheriff Sally Hernandez said her office confirmed information from a Lime Creek Road resident that the route has recently seen an increase in dangerous commercial vehicles.
“Commercial trucks on Lime Creek Road were overloaded, had equipment violations and unlicensed drivers,” Hernandez reported. The department, in partnership with the Department of Public Safety, organized a successful commercial vehicle inspection initiative resulting in 108 total violations, with most vehicles incurring multiple violations, and removing seven vehicles from service due to violations. According to the newsletter, officers will continue “to monitor the roadway as construction continues at sites in the area.”
Blauvelt said the Village has added more signage of curves on the hairpin turns and is considering putting up speed bumps.
“We’re doing our part, but we could use additional support from Travis County,” he said.
Possible 2024 weather events
Following winter storm Mara’s devastating effects on local trees and grounds, the Village increased its budget in the event such weather events occur this year, Blauvelt said.
“We’ve actually budgeted better this year with the expectation that [a weather event] could continuously occur,” he said of the approximately $120,000 the Village spent this past cycle to clean up Mara’s aftermath. Previously the budget for this item was $8,000, with that amount expanded to $75,000 for the coming year, Blauvelt said. “We’ve got to be better prepared,” he said.
Additionally, the Village has taken action to mitigate the risk of debris obstruction by already trimming the trees hanging over the streets, especially over the power lines, Blauvelt said. Officials have also worked to recoup funds from federal agencies that it spent cleaning up the Village debris from rights of way through a local, private contractor, he said.
“I’m happy to report that we’re at the conclusion of that and have been approved, we’ll get 75 percent of our taxpayer money refunded to us,” Blauvelt said. “It’s just a matter of the state now submitting the funds to us. We’ve accomplished all of the paperwork that they required which is quite a bit.”