Williamson County voters approve road and parks bonds

Voters in Williamson County approved two bond packages for the county Nov. 5 following a technical difficulty on election night.

Proposition 1, which will be used to address various road improvement and expansion projects, passed with 63.94 percent of voters supporting the $275 million bond issue.

Proposition 2 includes $40 million in funding for parks development, trail expansion and an events center in Taylor. The proposition passed with 54.72 percent of voters voicing their approval.

A voting machine at Leander High School caused the delay in final, unofficial totals being released; the machine powered down and could not be turned on following the closing of polls on Election Night, Elections Administrator Jason Barnett said.

The issue required calling a vote center technician located in Waxahachie to drive to Williamson County and recover the six votes cast on the machine.

"He didn't estimate his time correctly, and showed up here at 2:15 in the morning," Barnett said. "The six votes that were affected in the machine were retrieved successfully. No data was lost."

Despite the difficulty, Barnett said he believes the convenience of vote centers contributed to an increase in voter turnout.

A total of 29,265 votes were cast countywide during early voting and Election Day this year, which is about 11.46 percent of registered voters in the county, Barnett said. In 2011, during the first election in Williamson county using vote centers, only 6.8 percent of registered voters in the county turned out, he said.

"I think vote center program was extremely successful. We almost increased our turnout by twice as much," Barnett said.

For months leading up to the election, a bond committee held meetings in each of the four county precincts to gain input from city representatives on road and parks projects, repairs and improvements that needed attention.

The committee proposed a $346 million bond election at the July 23 Commissioners Court meeting. During following workshops, the Commissioners Court cut down the bond package by $31 million.

Planned road projects in Cedar Park include the extension of Little Elm Trail and the expansion of FM 1431. With an expected construction start date in early 2014, FM 1431 will be widened, and a continuous-flow intersection will be constructed at Parmer Lane/Ronald Reagan Boulevard. In Leander, the county plans to expand Nameless Road/West Old FM 2243.

Several additional roads projects are proposed but not officially on the books, such as the expansion of north Bagdad Road in Leander and the extension of New Hope Drive eastward in Cedar Park. As per ballot language, unassigned bond money could be put toward other general improvement or expansion projects not specifically named in the proposition.

With the $40 million approved for parks, the county aims to extend the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park Trail, Bagdad Heritage Trail and Brushy Creek Regional Trail. Williamson County Parks Director Randy Bell said he is looking forward to enhanced parks for all of the area's residents.

"We are extremely excited about the election results and remain inspired by the exciting times yet to come for Williamson County parks and county residents," Bell said.

Williamson County canvassed the votes Nov. 14, making the results official.

Emilie Lutostanski contributed to this report.


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