Lakeway officials state decision to not pursue May bond election is multifaceted

A steady progression of official actions that largely began in summer 2019 and appeared to be leading toward a multimillion-dollar May bond election for the city of Lakeway was derailed in February. While on the surface the decision appeared sudden, officials maintain there is sound reasoning behind the postponement.

During a special meeting Feb. 3, Lakeway City Council members voted to table any bond considerations pertaining to needed transportation and infrastructure projects indefinitely.

Specifically, the bond proposal that was voted down during the Feb. 3 meeting contained $8.85 million in transportation-related improvements, $2.4 million in city facility renovations, and about $2 million toward parks and recreation projects.

During that meeting, council unanimously agreed the timing was not right to pursue a multimillion-dollar bond in May for a number of reasons, including the fact that more information is needed on costs as well as the upcoming widening of RM 620, for which the city of Lakeway has pledged $5 million to the Texas Department of Transportation to help expedite the project.

“I just do not feel comfortable borrowing money willy-nilly on taxpayers’ backs, period, unless it’s an absolutely urgent need,” Council Member Sanjeev Kumar said Feb. 3.

Regarding the transportation portion of the proposed bond, Cox said private developers are committed to finishing an extension of Main Street, meaning city-funded additions to that project do not have to be urgent, and the addition of a shared-use path and sidewalk improvements can be phased rather than financed through a bond.

On July 29, City Council approved the commission of a roughly $128,000 study from engineering firm Huitt-Zollars to determine the demand for and cost benefit of potential transportation projects throughout the city.

That report was finalized at the end of 2019, and the transportation part of the proposed bond that was voted down Feb. 3 came from that study’s suggestions. Cox said ultimately, the details surrounding several of the projects on the proposed bond were not as clear as council would like, and there is still time to figure out logistics.

“Knowing we still have to go out for bond for the $5 million, we didn’t want to have to do two transportation bonds in back-to-back years,” Cox said in mid-February. “We figured it was going to confuse the community.”

Cox said in all likelihood, the city will try for a May 2021 bond but stressed there is no way to know right now what that would look like. Too many variables are coming into play to pursue a bond right now, including the city’s capital investment plan that will be further examined this summer and serve as a kind of wish list for Lakeway’s needed projects and explore payment options.

With regard to the Huitt-Zollars transportation study, Cox said even though the May bond election fell through, the report has still proven useful for the city. Based on its findings, Cox said she and City Manager Julie Oakley are already formulating plans with representatives of Travis County regarding several projects, including Flint Rock Road and Serene Hills Drive.

Beyond that, Cox said, the study has also helped inform officials regarding an upcoming thoroughfare plan as well as the city’s massive comprehensive plan that should be finalized by the end of March.

“For those who say, ‘Why are you wasting a bunch of money?’ I would tell them it’s probably the best money we’ve spent in the last couple of years,” She said. “We’re going to help control our destiny. We’re going to get in the driver’s seat. Pun intended.”
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.


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