Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan highlighted public safety, economic development, water and transportation during the Round Rock Chamber’s State of the City address at the Kalahari Convention Center on Dec. 5.

The breakdown

Led by interviewer and KVUE Anchor Bryan Mays, Morgan spoke on several different topics impacting the city over the last year and moving forward into 2024.

1. Public safety

Morgan noted the addition of three new fire stations for the city. Under construction, Fire Station No. 1 is expected to be operational in early 2024. Fire stations 10 and 11 are coming in 2026-27.

The new fire facilities are expected to help distribute emergency response times throughout the city, specifically in the growing eastern areas of Round Rock.

The city has also funded and implemented a crisis response team of people who help address mental health issues in the area, alleviating some capacity constraints for the local police department, Morgan said.

“We will, as long as I'm sitting in this seat, make sure we're funding our crisis response unit team as much as we can,” Morgan said.

The city also intends to expand its public safety training center with funding from the $274 million bond election in May, according to information presented at the State of the City address.

“What's going to keep us safe is we continue to fund our police and fire [departments]. It's our largest budget—almost $70 million goes into it,” Morgan said.

Morgan wrapped up the segment on public safety noting the city’s focus on technology to help improve efficiency and reduce costs.

2. Parks and quality of life

Morgan announced the city’s plan to resume work on the Heritage Trail project in 2024.

The city recently received a $6.3 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation, and plans are in place to use this money for the Lake Creek Trail system—connecting Round Rock West to downtown.

The mayor discussed furthering plans for the downtown area, specifically the Lawn at Brushy Creek. This project was one of the proposed projects outlined by parks and recreation department officials in the May 2023 bond.

Further discussion of plans for the downtown area included renovating the Griffith Building, or the previous location of the city's library. The building will be renovated and become the home of the Round Rock Chamber, a visitor center and an art gallery.

“The Round Rock Chamber has a legitimate home,” Morgan said. “We pride ourselves on economic development, ... but you know what, I think what we always strive for downtown is to have a lot of activity.”

Morgan noted the importance of maintaining the wide variety of activities hosted downtown, which he said help foster a sense of community and remove any divisions.

3. Water, wastewater and reuse

The city’s deep water intake project will soon support a supply of 40 million gallons per day. Additionally, the city is wrapping up the next phase of expansions to the wastewater treatment plan.

Morgan said the expansions are a vital component of maintaining utility functions and anticipating future growth.

“That's where you got to focus and it's hard. It's hard to sit there and say I'm about to drop $274 million for something that we can't see, but you've got to do it,” Morgan said regarding the wastewater treatment plant. “People want their water.”

4. Transportation

Morgan spoke of several road projects slated for 2024, including widening Red Bud Lane, widening Gattis School Road, extending Wyoming Springs Drive and more. Additionally, the mayor noted the importance of partnerships with both TxDOT and Williamson County when it comes to moving these projects along.

“I think for the coming years, the east side of Round Rock needs to get ready,” Morgan said. “I think what the city of Round Rock does very well is we have impact fees where development pays for growth.”

Morgan also discussed the city’s ride-on-demand program—Round Rock Rides—that launched in June. There have been over 5,000 rides with requests to expand the program, Morgan said. He also said City Council will analyze the program annually and address needs from there.

5. Economic development

When asked if the city had room for more economic development, specifically with regards to the size of Kalahari, Morgan noted the chamber did a good job representing the city for future growth. However, he said the city’s main focus is on business retention, rather than new business.

“We don't have to take every economic development deal that comes in,” Morgan said. “You know, because you don't see something that's happening since Kalahari and if you don't see this big prevalence, it’s really some small-business retention expansion projects that are crucial. It helps keep our businesses that invested in Round Rock, allowing us to reinvest in them to be able to stay.”

Additionally, Morgan discussed the higher education opportunities and workforce development available in the area, noting both Austin Community College and Texas State University-Round Rock will be getting new buildings soon.

“We have these assets right here in our backyard,” Morgan said. “ACC can set up a program for certain training, and so those types of relationships are crucial.”

One more thing

Morgan proudly remarked the high support for the bond election in May shows citizens' support for their local government.

“It just gives me hope that our citizens believe in the direction that the city’s going in—they believe in the leadership. We're transparent. We are not perfect, but we will do everything we can to be the best that we can be—to make sure our citizens get and deserve what they want,” Morgan said.