Keller Citizen

Keller mayor sees change for the better in new year

The city of Keller has met with many changes over the past decade and in 2013 alone has seen improvements in city safety, economic development and entertainment.

Mayor Pat McGrail, who has been in office since 2007, said he is proud of the developments made in 2013 and looks forward to new projects in 2014.

Last year saw the addition of Baylor Medical Center in Keller, a new emergency center built that will allow Keller residents to find medical help closer to home and help them avoid a long drive to Grapevine.

Sprouts, a grocery store that specializes in organic products, made its debut in Keller in 2013 so residents won’t have to drive to Southlake to those types of groceries, McGrail said.

“Business there has been huge,” McGrail said of Sprouts. “People go there all the time, it was worth the wait to get it in Keller.”

A new assisted-living center, Legacy at Bear Creek, houses senior citizens in Keller and is in the heart of some of the city’s best facilities. Cook Children’s Pediatrics also made its new home on Keller Parkway.

But in 2014, it’s entertainment in which the city will see improvement, McGrail said.

The new additions are all a part of the city’s “Keep it in Keller” campaign, which encourages residents to shop within Keller and participate in local activities and businesses.

Coming soon will be a Moviehouse & Eatery, a theater based out of Austin where guests can eat while enjoying a movie. The facility will be on Rufe Snow and Bear Creek Parkway.

Shannon Brewery will be the city’s first beer brewery, using water from Samantha Springs and housed on those grounds. Texas Bleu Steakhouse and Chick-fil-A will also open Keller locations.

One of the city’s largest buildings, the Children’s Learning Adventure facility, will be an advanced daycare facility featuring fun, interactive elements for kids as well as a bowling alley.

“That building is probably as big as Town Hall,” McGrail said. “Can you believe it? A daycare facility with a bowling alley — I think that’s just great.”

In community development, the City Council approved the formation of a committee for the Future Land Use Plan, made up of McGrail, council member Doug Miller, two members of the Planning and Zoning Committee and three citizens. The committee will take a look at all future plans for the city and allow public input into the decisions made.

The city also restructured the zoning notifications to 300 feet from the previous 200 feet.

Roads and safety

Reconstruction of public works in 2013 included Mount Gilead and the Old Town Parking Lot, expanding more parking spaces for visitors. McGrail said, however, that he would like to see greater changes to parking there to encourage more traffic to Old Town Keller.

In 2014, Rufe Snow Drive and Johnson Road will see the change from a stop sign to a signal to improve traffic flow through the area, which is by Keller High School.

“You drive through that area and sometimes have to wait 30 minutes because of all the traffic coming from the school,” McGrail said. Work on those roadways was to begin on Monday, Jan. 6.

Improvements also will be seen on 377 and Keller Parkway, as well as extensions to the North Keller Sanitary Sewer.

In the area of public safety, Keller is one of the first cities to combine with another city for its municipal court, in this case, Colleyville. The expansion of the regional jail will soon be complete, adding cells, security and technology.

The Regional Animal Adoption Shelter is set to open in early spring.

The past year was a busy one for the Keller Fire Department. It received a new ambulance and ladder truck, fire administration moved to Town Hall, David Jones was named as fire chief, and the storm siren system was expanded. In 2014, a new fire inspection program will see that Keller firefighters also are trained in inspection. In 2013, 14 people were trained to do both.

Police chief Mark Hafner was elected president of the Texas Police Chief Association in 2013.

Further expansions will include a weather siren system with a Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of Atmosphere radar, allowing more detailed reports of upcoming weather for residents to know sooner. Blackboard Connect will also unveil as an emergency notification system.

Low taxes, high service

McGrail’s financial goal for the city in 2014 will be to maintain the standard used in 2013.

“I want to continue to maintain and improve service levels for this city while also keeping low tax rates,” he said.

Keller has the second-lowest tax rate in the area, trailing only Colleyville.

In the new year, a new scanning system will make its debut at Keller public libraries, allowing librarians to keep track of the books checked in and out in a more efficient manner. Last year saw a record number of patrons, 237,088 for the fiscal year and 561,472 materials circulated.

The Parks and Recreation department unveiled the Splash Pad in 2013, one of the city’s most popular summer attractions. The senior activities center was renovated and outdoor exercise equipment was paid for with a $25,000 grant from Baylor Medical Center in Grapevine.

In 2014, the Keller Pointe will see large expansions in equipment and space. Cherry Grove Park will see more development and a connection to Shady Grove Trail will be added through grant money.

Pathways to Play will come to the Bear Creek Park trails, featuring sculptures for kids and families to interact with along their walk. The sculptures will have an “international feel.”

The city’s public information officer, Rachel Reynolds, helped expand social media sites for the city and developed them as much as the official website. The city’s new website is already seeing bigger numbers in traffic and is consistently updated with current events, news and more.

“Before I came I think our Facebook page had 1,300 fans, and now we have a little more than 4,000,” Reynolds said.

More than 10 percent of the population has “liked” the Facebook page by numbers, but could also include residents from other cities who are interested in keeping up with Keller.

“I’m just very proud of this city. It’s been great watching all of the changes, which have been quite a few since I joined City Council in 1995,” McGrail said. “I’m proud of our citizens and of our expansions and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2014 has in store.”