Liberty Fire Department received a financial boost thanks to a generous donation from CenterPoint Energy. The energy provider gifted the fire department, represented by Fire Chief Brian Hurst, with a $2,500 grant to support its operations at the Nov. 14 Liberty City Council meeting.
Further bolstering the Fire Department’s resources, Council approved the purchase of a new pumper truck during its meeting. The new truck will be an essential addition to the fire department, replacing Engine 23, which was purchased in 2011.
City Manager Tom Warner told Council that the fire department applies for grants each year and had applied for a grant from the Texas Forest Service in the hopes of replacing the pumper truck. However, the grant was not approved in the last round of grant funding.
“Due to the time period for a new truck to be ordered, manufactured and delivered, the truck will be nearing the end of its useful life. During the budget process, the Liberty Community Development Corporation (LCDC) Board of Directors and City Council agreed to split the cost of the truck on a 50-50 basis. The funds to purchase the truck were included in the LCDC Budget and, if approved by the City Council, from the Cambridge Fund,” Warner explained.
The outfitted fire truck, which comes at a cost of $834,524, is not expected to be delivered until April or May 2025.
Council also approved two new patrol vehicles for Liberty Police Department, which is facing a manpower shortage of police officers at this time. Police Chief Gary Martin told Council the department is down by four patrol officers and two detectives.
“The ISDs are eating us up with the state law that was passed, requiring a certain number of officers on campuses. They are draining the pool quickly,” he said.
The 2023 Street Rehabilitation project that involved 20 city streets is close to wrapping up. The last street to be finished will be Texas Ave. Work there was delayed after it was determined that repairs to the infrastructure under the road had to be addressed before repaving. The tentative date for repaving Texas Ave. is around Dec. 31, 2023.
Residents of McGuire Road came to the Council meeting to push for repairs to their road, which serves roughly three dozen homes. In public comments, four residents described the road conditions as horrible and complained that sections of the road, some only as wide as 12-13 feet, are too narrow for two vehicles to pass.
“You meet a school bus on that road and somebody has to eat the ditch. Two vehicles can’t meet on a 12 to 13-foot wide road,” one resident complained. “The way the potholes are, it’s just terrible. We are here to find out, and I have been here several times, when our street is going to be on the list for repair … We need a timeline.”
Another resident complained that portions of the road have been destroyed with the installation of new water lines and suggested that the City put in water and sewer taps where future homes may be located. Warner told the residents that underground boring is required for water and sewer taps, and that a plan to repair the road is already in the works.
“We do have a proposal from an engineer. We have a contract that [City Attorney] Brandon [Davis] looked at and approved. Once I go back and look at it, I will probably sign it this week. It’s for all the engineering for the water, sewer and street. We are going to do it all at one time,” Warner said.
City Councilman Tommy Brents asked Warner if he has a timeline for when the McGuire Road project will be finished. Warner explained that it will take several months for the engineering portion of the project and it will likely be Summer 2024 before the City goes out for bids.
In his City Manager report, Warner shared with Council that the municipal golf course, which reopened on May 5, 2023, after a $2.88 million rehabilitation project, had revenues in August of $95,751; however, that figure includes a $42,000 transfer from the LCDC. In the five months, the golf course has been reopened, it has seen $401,484 in revenues and $341,089 in expenditures.
Council also approved changes to the City of Liberty Code of Ordinances. Some of the changes are meant to make projects more builder-friendly, such as reducing the wind rating for structures from 130 to 120 miles per hour. Assistant City Manager Chris Jarmon explained the changes to Council and stressed the need for the updated ordinances in order to keep the Fire Department’s ISO rating at a 2. An ISO rating is based on the City’s fire risk. The lower the rating, the better the score. ISO ratings are often used by insurance companies in determining rates for property insurance. Councilwoman Libby Simonson made the motion to approve the changes, and all were in favor except Councilman John Hebert, who voted against it.
Warner also provided an update on the following economic development activities in his City Manager’s Report:
- Food Truck Park, 1019 N. Main – new build
- Food Truck Park pergola – new build
PROJECTS UNDER CONSTRUCTION – NEW CONSTRUCTION AND ADDITIONS
- KJ Chemical Phase II, 4003 Beaumont – Expanded parking lot and driveway
- Tidal Wave Car Wash, 3019 N. Main – new build
- PLC Construction, 4997 SH 146 N – office expansion
- Wendy’s, 1912 US 90 – new build (expected to begin in 2024)
- Popeye’s, 1710 US 90 – rebuild following a fire (expected to begin in 2024)
- Liberty County Warehouse, 318 San Jacinto St. (county-owned building) – new build
- Liberty High School, 2615 Jefferson Dr. – welding pavilion
- Liberty High School, 2615 Jefferson Dr. – softball/baseball training facility
- Fire Station No. 2, 119 Bowie – new build
PROJECTS UNDER CONSTRUCTION – RENOVATIONS AND REMODELS
- Fire Station #1, 1912 Lakeland – Interior Remodel
- Lakeland Apartments, 2704 N. Main – Convert commercial buildings into apartments
- Walmart, 2121 SH 146 N – interior remodel
- Group Home, 1801 Grand – interior remodel
- Shoe Sensation, 2331 N. Main – interior remodel
- Odum Oil & Gas, 1914 Myrtle – office remodel
- Liberty High School Drainage Improvements, 2615 Jefferson
- Lakeland Self-Storage, 1609 Lakeland – Plans are currently under review.
- RV Park, 700 Port Road – Plans are currently under review
- New 7,650 sf Shopping Center, 2214 N Main – Plans approved, permit not issued
- Casa Del Pueblo, 1110 Highway 90 – Plans are currently under review
- Car Wash, 2812 N Main – Plans are currently under review