As we begin the new year and the new decade, I would like to share highlights from 2019 and some of the initiatives for this new year. When I began serving the City of Highland Village I learned that government does indeed move slow, or at least not as quickly as I’d like. However, I can say we have accomplished much this past year and we have a lot happening in 2020.
We began 2019 with a new fire chief. Michael Thomson started in February as our Fire Chief and has been a wonderful addition to our public safety team. Chief Thomson heads up our emergency services and was able to put his skills to work when we cancelled Celebrate Highland Village as a storm moved into the area just as the festival was about to begin.
Under Chief Thomson’s leadership we have also ordered and received a new fire engine and ambulance, which we were able to pay for in full with cash reserves from our previous year’s budget. We also have a new outdoor warning siren installed off of FM 2499 providing added safety for the western portion of our city during severe weather. Another outdoor warning siren will be installed this year at Sunset Point Park and will benefit users of Pilot Knoll Park during severe weather events.
I cannot talk about our Fire department without also sharing information from our Police department. Last year we budgeted for an additional school resource officer so we could continue the presence of an officer in our elementary and middle schools. LISD provided funding for our middle school resource officer and we budgeted for the additional officer in our elementary schools. We firmly believe in the importance and benefit of establishing a relationship with our youth while they are in elementary school. Our school resource officers began the school year with a new mission – Building Relationships, Respect, and Rapport with the community through safety and security and treating everyone with Fairness.” This is the statement our school resource officers taught students starting as early as Pre-K because it is so important that students build healthy relationships with each other and treat each other fairly.
In development news, Salerno’s opened in the Highland Village Town Center and has been very successful. Additionally, Bistecca, part of the Salerno brand, just celebrated their 25th anniversary providing fine dining in Highland Village. This is a huge accomplishment so be sure to stop in this year and congratulate Chef Salerno and his team! Hillside Fine Grill has been open a little over a year and has become a favorite of many. The Olive Branch Tea Room opened in Painted Tree Marketplace rounding out the offerings at the Market. New additions to The Shops at Highland Village include Lambeau’s American Kitchen & Taps, Tiff’s Treats, The Brass Tap, TEEZ Hair Studio, Plus Nails Bar, and Delhi 6 Indian Kitchen is set to open early this year. For family fun Realms of Arcadia and Escape Room 5280 opened last year, and Simplicity Esports in The Shops at Highland Village is set to open by this spring. The LISD property at Chinn Chapel Road and Harlington sold to David Weekley Homes and they have been approved to build 72 single-family residential homes as part of the Chapel Hill Estates planned development. The property located at 1400 Highland Village Road was rezoned to allow the construction of 11 homes which will be managed by an HOA.
Staff has continued the work on the bond propositions approved in November 2017. The $7.15M General Obligation Bond was issued in 2018 for street improvements at $2.8M and parks and recreation improvements for $4.29M. The street improvement included reconstruction of 22 streets and will be completed in four phases. Phase 1 of the street improvements are complete and Phase 2 will be under construction this year. The parks and recreation improvements included an extension of the Brazos Park parking lot, reconstruction of Kids Kastle, dredging the ponds at Unity Park, redevelopment of a section of Unity Park to add an additional softball field, resurfacing and replacing the walking trail at Victoria Park, construction of a sidewalk along Highland Village Road from the Municipal Complex to Sellmeyer Lane, and roadway improvements at Sunset Point Park. In 2019 the Brazos Park parking lot and the softball field at Unity Park were completed. Work has begun on dredging the ponds at Unity Park.
We will be building a new Kids Kastle playground this spring, specifically on March 23-26 and March 31-April 5. And when I say “we,” I mean the whole community. The first Kids Kastle was designed and built by the community in 1994 and we are planning to do the same for the new play area. We held Design Day in September where the consultant, Play by Design, met with students and parents to gather ideas for the new Kids Kastle and then provided the design based on the input received. Kids Kastle is now closed for demolition. The stone pavers, tiles and fence pickets that were donated for the exiting play area are being saved and a pickup event is scheduled so these personalized items can be returned. The pickup event is January 25, January 27-January 31, and February 1. We need our community to participate in the build of our new Kids Kastle. No experience is needed and there is something for everyone. We need about 100 volunteers a day so I encourage you to see where you can help by visiting SpeakUpHV.com and clicking on “Volunteers Needed for Kids Kastle.”
Speaking of SpeakUpHV.com, this is our new community engagement tool. It has proven to be a great asset in helping us gather input from you and inform you of progress or upcoming initiatives. We used the site first for the Copperas Branch Park Master Planning process. We received a lot of ideas via the site, at a public meeting, and at a walk the park event. Staff is finalizing the master plan with the consultant and will share the plan early this year. We’ve also used the site to conduct a couple of surveys – a survey of residents regarding how they would like to receive information about Highland Village businesses through the Highland Village Business Association and a recreation survey. I encourage you to visit SpeakUpHV.com and register so you can be informed of upcoming initiatives and provide your input.
We have launched a new campaign, Experience Highland Village, which was a result of business survey and focus groups with our local business and restaurant owners and managers. Experience Highland Village is an initiative of the Highland Village Business Association and is using social media to promote our local businesses. Check it out on Facebook and Instagram at ExperienceHighlandVillage.
Doubletree Ranch Park is in its second year and has truly become the gem of our City. In 2019 new amenities were added to the park including a play area for children 2-12 which is ADA compliant and includes a playground, swings, and play features for children with sensory challenges. An additional swing area for older teens and adults and shade structures in the green areas adjacent to the splash pad were also added. Our Christmas at the Ranch event was a huge success with nearly 4000 attendees.
We have seen that our community is extremely generous and giving with many donating to events we held to raise funds for veterans and the families of fallen police officers. We partnered again in 2019 with the Denton County Veterans Coalition during our Fall Festival to help them raise funds for the work they do in assisting Denton County veterans in need. Our TXFallenPD Tribute Event more than doubled their fundraising goal. Through the support and generosity of our sponsors and community we were able to provide a $66,795.76 check to the Texas Police Chiefs Association’s Foundation for their Fallen Officer Fund which supports the families of fallen Texas police officers.
A group of residents formed the Friends of PFC Aaron M. Hudson group and requested the City name an amenity after Highland Village resident Aaron Hudson who was killed in action on April 16, 2005 while serving his country in Iraq. We have approved naming the Doubletree Ranch Park pedestrian bridge the “PFC Aaron M. Hudson Memorial Bridge.” Along with naming the bridge in memory of Aaron Hudson, the City and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have approved a storyboard and stone monument to honor the memory of PFC Hudson. The Friends of PFC Aaron M. Hudson will have a Go Fund Me account set up to receive donations from the community to fund the storyboard and monument, with a goal of raising $10,000. Details can be found at www.facebook.com/pfcAaronHudson. The committee will work with the City to design the storyboard and monument. An unveiling of the memorial will likely take place this spring.
Every week the City Manager’s office publishes the City Manager’s Report which details, by department, the initiatives, accomplishments and tasks completed for the week. You can sign up to receive this informative report by visiting the city website and selecting “Notify Me” and then sign up to receive the City Manager’s Report under the “Blog” section. This is an excellent way to stay informed with what is taking place in the City on these projects, as well as others, and how your tax dollars are being spent.
I am looking forward to a productive and fun 2020. It remains our goal to continue the level of service which makes Highland Village the wonderful community we all love.