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Complaints about Rec Center Aired at City Council Meeting
Wednesday, January 16, 2008 • Posted January 15, 2008

At the January 8 meeting of the governing body of Blanco, resident Todd Ehlers presented a list of complaints dealing with the recreation center at the old mohair warehouse adjoining his property. His concerns included noise, drainage and sediment issues, setback violations, insufficient landscaping, and fencing which varies from that indicated on the plan presented to the city when a building permit was issued. He also asked what the connection is between the non-profit created to form a rec center and the existing structure. Council member Bobby McClung responded that the non-profit is not associated with the current center, which was built by the Franklins, who purchased the property from the former owners. Ehlers continued that “scraped vegetation” is causing drainage and sediment issues on Live Oak, and that the high fence adjoining his property provides, in his words, “an aesthetic described as a prison-like view from my bedroom window,” since the basketball court is 20 feet away. He also showed a video to council with sounds of rap music and people “hanging out” with their car doors open. In response to Ehlers’ assertion that the UDC was not followed, McClung said that his first thought would be that the UDC refers to new construction, not property improvement. Council member Ron Houston suggested that Ehlers call the police if the noise bothers him. Assistant chief Gary Pittman told Ehlers that if more than two calls are made with the same complaint, a disorderly conduct citation can be filed. The mayor thanked Ehlers for his presentation and said that council would be happy to meet with him. Planning and Zoning Commission chair Jud Prince also offered to meet with him to help resolve the situation.

The debate over issues relating to the fact that land on which the porch of Sunset Café is built lies in the city’s right of way continued in the public comments portion of the meeting. Attorneys Matthew C. Allen and Alexander Roig, representing Sunset owners Kim and Kenneth Chapman, expressed their frustration that phone calls to city attorney Ricky Simmons were not returned. “The city attorney has been aware for over two months,” said Roig, of their attempts to reach him, stating further that they have left “numerous messages” on his machine. Said Allen, “I would like some information on why it is so hard to return a phone call,” and concluded with the threat that, in his words, “It is only going to cost the city money over a matter that can be resolved.” Mayor Jim Rodrigue asserted that he had returned their phone call to his office promptly. The attorneys requested a place on the agenda for February’s city council meeting.

PEC representative Tamara Chapman presented a check to council for $43,053.13, representing 2 per cent of the utility’s gross revenue for the past year. Mayor Rodrigue quipped that council is always glad to see Chapman, but especially so in January. She also announced the hiring of a new general manager, Juan Garza, who will assume his duties February 8. The mayor said council looks forward to working with him. Chapman also reminded council of the PEC $1000 scholarship, which will be awarded to 50 high school seniors. Applications are available in the guidance counselor’s office, at PEC offices, and on line at www. Finally, Chapman notified council of a reduction in residential and water well fees of $.015 per kilowatt hour, reflected on bills after January 1.

Police chief Ed Sonier reported to council that the Christmas parade went well, and that 102 speeding tickets were issued in December. He introduced officer William Barnett, whom he called “a real asset to our department.” An item dealing with financing options for the new police vehicle to be purchased was tabled pending getting more information from lending agencies.

A request from the Masons to close a portion of 11th Street from Main Street to Elm was approved by council. Their 150th anniversary celebration will be held on January 19th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the public is invited. According to Mason Dennis Moore, 200-250 people are expected. The mayor said, “I’m really proud of what the Masons do,” referring to the Thanksgiving dinner sponsored each year for all community members, and the Blanco Classic Car Show in May.

Wording for a plaque for the Byars oak tree was discussed by council, with the decision made to have two plaques, one for the tree, and one for the former telephone office, which the Byars family operated. Council member Rebecca Howerton volunteered to work with the Byars family to come up with appropriate language for the two plaques.

In other business, council amended the per diem policy for city employees, keeping the rate at $30 per day for overnight trips, but lowering it to $20 per day for day trips. At a special meeting held on January 3, council members completed a performance and salary review of 11 full-time and two part-time Blanco city employees and approved raises for all.

The order of election for May 10, 2008, was approved, in which three seats on city council for the next two years will be voted on. An ordinance setting fees for accepting septic tank and porta-potty waste at the water treatment plant was tabled, pending the writing of an application procedure. Water and sewer issues relating to the annexation of new properties to the town of Blanco were also discussed, with the conclusion that P&Z should be involved in developing a long-term plan, in consultation with public works director Nathan Cantrell.

Finally, in the council comments portion of the meeting, the mayor thanked PEC for their prompt response when the large oak tree on the square fell. Ron Houston asked about the status of the new lines and paving on Mesquite Street. Mayor Rodrigue responded that some safety tests have to be performed, including a pressure test, before paving can progress.

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