Liberty City Council has approved a 380 development agreement with Liberty Capstone Properties for a new Firm Foundations Healthcare Clinic and a wellness center that will be built at the corner of Jefferson Drive and Chrysler Street. The agreement provides up to $50,000 in property tax abatements that are distributed over a six-year period.
Brandon Smith, PA-C for Firm Foundations, presented the building design to Council at the May 11 regular meeting and explained how the project could advance medical care locally by offering specialists and services that focus on a patient’s overall wellness, not just their medical needs.
“We have currently 14 jobs associated with our practice. We are hoping to create seven more through the wellness center, and I do believe we will be able to create as many as 18 with other businesses – physical therapy, yoga, and specialists,” Smith said. Plans also call for a racquetball court
Smith believes that the trust Firm Foundations Healthcare Clinic has earned in the community will serve it well on the new project.
“I think the legitimacy of our current business could really be a springboard – whether it’s an urgent care, multiple specialists coming in here, which I think is going to happen, or whether it’s creating a wellness center. I think we can provide some genuineness and some validity,” he said.
For months, a sign at the corner of Jefferson Drive and Chrysler Street has promised that it was the future site of the Firm Foundations Clinic. Smith said that hopefully by this time next year, the new facility will open.
FHCC’s current location at 1201 N. Travis could then be used as offices for another medical practice, he said.
Councilmembers expressed their excitement over the plans.
“For any town to grow, you have to have good medical care so that people want to move here, to have a reason to move here,” said Councilman Neil Thornton.
At the May 11 meeting, returning Councilwomen Libby Simonson and Diane Driggers were sworn in to new two-year terms. Both ladies were reelected to the positions in the May 1 election. Driggers was reappointed as mayor pro tem.
Council also a brief hearing regarding the condemnation of an unoccupied home at 818 Robbie Street before then voting for the building to be razed. The owner has 20 days to demolish the home and clear the property before the City steps in. If the City is tasked with the demolition, the property will have a lien attached for those associated costs.
City council chambers and the Liberty Center will soon be outfitted with a new audio and video system that was approved during the May 11 meeting. Located in City Hall next to the council chambers, the Liberty Center is a large room where City meetings were held during the pandemic and chamber luncheons and events are held regularly. Council approved the $131,584 project from Ford AV, which will be paid through the City’s Court Technology Fund, Building Security Fund and its Public, Education and Governmental Fund.
The new system is a major upgrade over the City’s old system, which quit working in January 2021. Once the new audio-visual system is operational, City meetings could be available for view online.
Council also authorized City Manager Tom Warner to submit an application to the Texas Department of Transportation for grant funding for the City’s Main Street Brick Sidewalk Project. Warner said that 16 downtown blocks have been identified for the project, which has an estimated cost of $2.2 million. If approved for the grant, the main requirement for the City is the preliminary engineering, which has already been covered by the Liberty Community Development Corporation.
The grant application is due by June. The grant announcements are expected by August, Warner said.
The City Council also approved $82,500 for engineering services for the Liberty Municipal Airport. The City funds will cover the costs of engineering for a pavement management plan and two 10-unit T-hangars. The pavement management plan is a requirement by the Texas Department of Transportation in order to qualify for grant funding related to the airport’s runway and taxiway. The new hangars are needed because the City has a waiting list of individuals seeking space for their aircraft. The City leases these T-hangars at a rate of $250 per month.
Council was also given an update on municipal golf course renovations that began in early April and are expected to be complete by late summer. Work completed so far includes the installation of perimeter silt fencing and the draining of the lake. Dirt work has also begun.
Councilwoman Simonson, who along with Councilman Neil Thornton voted against the $2.8 million renovation project, challenged Warner and other city staff to drive around the city and see where the golf course renovation funds could have instead been spent to upgrade roads. She listed a few streets, which was quickly added onto by Councilman Thornton and Councilwoman Driggers.
Driggers suggested that these road repairs be sectioned off into manageable projects, much like the City did when it upgraded its electrical grid a few years ago.
In his city manager’s report, Warner also provided the preliminary estimate of the 2021 taxable property values provided by the Liberty County Central Appraisal District. Based on the preliminary values, the City will experience an approximate 6.36 percent decrease over last year’s values.
“A major factor affecting the City of Liberty is the CAD’s prediction on taxable values for PTC Liberty Tubulars (formerly Boomerang),” Warner said.