2017-04-21 / Front Page

Chris Harrison seeks re-election

BY DAVID LOWE
DISPATCH RECORD


Chris Harrison Chris Harrison As he runs for re-election to the Lampasas City Council, Chris Harrison is emphasizing infrastructure -- which he said is important for serving residents and spurring economic growth.

Streets and utilities have been priorities for many years for Harrison, who has spent most of his life in Lampasas.

He lived in Lampasas through the eighth grade and then moved to West Texas. Harrison returned to his hometown in 1998 and the next year became a certified firefighter. He works for Marble Falls Fire Rescue and in April 2014 was promoted to captain.

In addition, he owns Harrison Construction, which specializes in dirt work.

Harrison has three children. His daughter, Hannah, is a junior at Lampasas High School, and his son Coy is in fourth grade at Kline Whitis Elementary School. Harrison also has a 1-year-old son, Chet.

Harrison said his background working for the city of Marble Falls and serving on the Lampasas City Council for two and a half terms has given him good perspectives.

"I work for a municipality, so I get to see the ends of being an employee," he said, "and then sitting on the council I'm able to hopefully change and better things for the personnel that work for the city of Lampasas."

The incumbent has been involved in multiple city budget-planning processes since 2011, his first year in office. The council approved a half-cent reduction in the tax rate for the 2011-2012 fiscal year and has kept the tax rate steady each year since then.

Harrison said the council has balanced the city budget while also addressing key needs.

"We've been able to do a lot more with the money we have as far as improving the infrastructure," Harrison said. "I don't know if people know and [are] fully aware of how much infrastructure we've replaced and redone since 2011."

The incumbent said the city has replaced very shallow water lines with deeper and wider lines, providing better service capacity and preventing problems with hot water during the summer.

He also said good infrastructure is important for growth -- both in residential and business properties. For example, Harrison said the so-called "north interceptor" project extended a sewer line and a full-size water line north along Key Avenue to what now is the Stripes gas station and convenience store. Harrison said the city installed utilities to that property line and, through a collaborative effort with the city, Stripes paid to extend utilities through its property.

Harrison said before the city did the infrastructure work, the lot that now is Stripes had sat empty for a long time because it lacked the water and sewer lines it needed to develop.

"To me, a key of growing economic growth and business is you have to have the infrastructure in place before the businesses can come in," he said.

Harrison said if he is re-elected he will continue the focus on utilities, streets and related projects.

He noted he was part of the decision-making process when the City Council voted to borrow $6 million through certificates of obligation. The debt issuance was accomplished without a tax increase, and Harrison said the certificates of obligation will give Lampasas money to fund major infrastructure items "that are long overdue." He said he hopes to use his knowledge of those proposed projects to see them through to completion.

Among utility- and building-related items the City Council intends to fund with the borrowed money are a new water tower on FM 580 West, a major water line to serve the north and northwest parts of the city, an athletic field maintenance shop to be built at the FM 580 West park, and a shop/ laboratory/office for the water and wastewater department.

Harrison said the new tower and water line will help ensure constant pressure to the northwest part of town and also allow water lines to loop instead of dead-ending. Harrison said by eliminating dead-end lines, the city can keep water moving instead of letting it become stagnant and having to flush it out onto the ground -- something he said has been a regular problem.

On another infrastructure matter, the incumbent said the council has addressed a lot of needs in streets and the utilities underneath them. The city rebuilt East Fifth Street in 2015, and work is planned on West Avenue E. There, outdated water and sewer lines will be replaced, and then curbs and gutters will be installed, Harrison said.

He said good infrastructure is something the city can provide to encourage development -- and something it owes to existing residents. For example, Harrison said the extension of sewer lines into the Hoffpauir Addition on the southwest side of town was long overdue for residents of that neighborhood.

Harrison said another priority of his is reviewing city ordinances. He said the council has improved some ordinances that had been outdated. Noting ongoing discussions about the sign ordinance, Harrison said the city either should enforce regulations or the council should agree upon ways to rewrite them.

Commenting on his view of municipal government, Harrison said he thinks the city is responsible for providing some things but not others.

"But I think we're supposed to provide quality of life through our parks, through our city amenities," he said.

Harrison serves on an arena committee and said he has been working to see an event venue established at the FM 580 West park. He said an arena would benefit not just Lampasans but also residents in surrounding areas -- as he said is the case with other amenities, such as athletic fields, the golf course and the library.

Harrison said a high quality of life and good facilities prompt people to move to Lampasas or participate in local events -- while also spending money with businesses in town and boosting the city's sales tax revenue.

The candidate said his vision for Lampasas in the next five to 10 years is to have good infrastructure in place so the city can maintain what it has now and provide service as Lampasas grows.

Harrison noted he has volunteered his time and equipment to create building pads for city projects, including new restrooms at the Turner Field Complex. He said he wants things to be built correctly, and for projects to be planned with enough forethought, so they will last.

"And I essentially try to take that approach on everything we're doing," he said.

Harrison said when he first joined the City Council he received good advice through an analogy someone gave to driving.

"When I was first getting on [the council] he says, 'You know, it's like driving a car. And if you're driving down the road at highway speeds, you don't ever want to jerk that wheel hard to the right.' And I think that's what it is. You want to make a gradual [change], and I've seen a gradual change."

Harrison said the city is growing, but Lampasas does not need to lose its character as a rural, agriculture-based community.

"That's what we are, and I think that's what we'll continue to be," the councilman said. "And we need to take those values ... and progress."

Harrison concluded by stating what he thinks distinguishes him as a candidate.

"I think the biggest thing that sets me apart would be that I truly feel I have the best interest for the community as a whole," he said. "And I don't represent just an individual or a group. I feel I represent the entire community."

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