Leander City Council

Leander Council to consider public record fees, additional city positions and a new city park

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The Leander City Council will consider a proposal to implement fees for requesting public documents during Thursday's council meeting. 

The proposal would charge 10 cents per page for printed copies of public records and $15 per hour for labor costs related to compiling the requested information. However, those fees will not be applied if the request involves 50 pages or less and the request does not require that staff pull files out of storage.

While Leander has not previously required charges for public record requests, the proposals follow standards rules and costs adopted by many other cities with the state's regulations.

The proposal would also allow the city to designate a single mailing address and single email address for receiving open record requests, and would establish an online form for submitting the requests.

While the city can provide the form as an option to citizens, the city will still be required under state law to accept open records requests in other format, such as in-person or via email, if the requester prefers these methods.

Another item on the agenda the council will consider is a request by city staff to pull $116,005 from the city's General Fund reserves under the Fiscal Year 2020 budget and use it to fund adding two more city positions - a second deputy city secretary position and an additional building inspector position to address massive increases in demand in certain aspects of city work.

The deputy city secretary position would specifically help with handling the city's growing number of public information requests, which have 334 requests in 2017 to 569 so far in 2019. The item notes many requests seek multiple items, stating a total of 2,361 separate items have been requested in 2019. The position would also work on moving city records to Laserfiche to help the city go paperless. 

The building inspector position would help city staff deal with the rapidly growing number of inspections required as the city grows, which has increased from 39,434 inspections in 2016 to 68,804 so far in 2019.

The council will also consider a series of items related to establishing a new park in Old Town and several items related to funding its development.

The first item proposes directing staff to design and develop a new park in the Olde Town district and name it Olde Town Park. The park would be the 0.82-acres behind the Leander City Hall that is used to host the Olde Town Street Festival each year in May.

The proposal indicates the effort would be focused on developing the site and simultaneously help in the redevelopment of the district, a long-time goal of Leander Mayor Troy Hill. 

The next agenda item would seek to increase funding public art in parks to specifically design and develop Olde Town Park by increasing the required parkland acreage for new single- or multi-family developments.

The city currently requires these developments to dedicate 3.5 acres of parkland per 100 dwelling units, or pay a fee-in-lieu of the park land dedication. The proposed change would instead require a developer to dedicate 4.5 acres of parkland or pay the associated increased in fee. 

In the item's example sheet, a 300 dwelling unit development would have to contribute $90,300 more fee-in-lieu than the current requirements.

The proposal said these increased funds would be used directly for the development of the proposed Olde Town Park. The effort compliments the council's Oct. 3 vote to redirect 15 percent of all funds the city receives from these fee-in-lieu payments to the city's Public Art Funds. Due to the nature of the fees collected, the city can only legally use these shifted funds on public art in city parks.

If the city establishes a park in the Olde Town district, the council would have a backdoor method for funding public art in the district by simply locating them within this new park.

If the council approves the increased parkland requirement, the city's example development would contribute $13,545 more than it current does to this shifted funding for public art.

The final proposal would authorize the city to use it's General Fund reserves to finance park improvements for the proposed park and the planned Lakewood Park stage, and then later allow the council to reimburse those funds by issuing bonds in the future. If the council doesn't officially declare this intent ahead of time, it would not be legally allowed to reimburse itself later with bonds. The declaration is not an obligation, so the council can chose in the future against issuing those bonds and reimbursing the funds.

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