This year kept the Williamson County Commissioners Court busy. Take a look back at some of the big decisions made in 2016 and what is coming in 2017.
A question for Dan Gattis, Williamson County judge:
Q: With all of the growth Williamson County is experiencing, what are you excited about and challenged by?
A: I think the economics and the diversity we are beginning to get in [Williamson County] are good. We need to [continue to] keep a variety in home prices across the county—right now that is working well for us. We are [also] beginning to change into more of an urban county and starting to lose our rural status. That is going to be a new challenge for us. It is sort of a change in economics.
Big decisions made in 2016:
- Transportation plan completion
In October, commissioners passed a long-range county transportation plan that had been in the works for more than a year. The plan was a big step forward for anticipating the future growth of the county, Judge Dan Gattis said. The plan is intended to determine how to coordinate connectivity and mobility throughout the region and will address controlled-access facilities, arterial roads and future land use.
- Expo center renovation
An expansion and renovation of the Williamson County Expo Center was completed in September. The project was funded using $3.5 million in funds diverted from the May 2013 parks and recreation bond fund. The more than 60,000-square-foot facility features seating capacity for 3,000 people, RV sites and a climate-controlled indoor expo hall totaling 15,000 square feet. Gattis said he hopes the expo center will continue to grow and have a good economic influence on the east side of the county.
- Bond financing
In May 2015, the Commissioners Court issued $65 million in bond money, which is being used to construct, improve and renovate facilities as well as purchase land and equip county buildings. In 2016, Gattis said the court began selling and refinancing some of the bonds at lower rates.
Top issues for 2017:
- County growth
County growth will continue to dictate much of the commissioners’ decisions, Gattis said. The court plans to focus on transportation and mobility issues and budget money to purchase right of way and complete land engineering surveys.
- Water conservation
Gattis said determining a water plan for the future, especially with the growth in the county, is a top priority for 2017 and beyond. According to the National Weather Service, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the surrounding metro area received 54.71 inches of rain within the past year. The increased precipitation caused people to worry less about water resource planning, Gattis said, but the importance of the issue should not be diminished.
- Security of facilities
Both Gov. Greg Abbott and state Attorney General Ken Paxton have said licensed concealed handgun carriers cannot be prevented from entering multipurpose government buildings as part of a new law that went into effect last year. Concealed handgun carriers cannot be denied entry unless an entire building is dedicated to court proceedings or government meetings. This has caused an ongoing issue because of the layout of several county buildings. Gattis said the court plans to look into safe long-term options and keep an eye on corrective legislative action in 2017.