At the regular meeting of the governing body of Blanco on March 8, Planning and Zoning Chair Dana LeBlanc reported that completed signage and lighting ordinances will be presented at two public hearings in April—the first at P&Z’s April 4 meeting and the second April 12 at the next city council meeting. Members of P&Z, with help from the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, have re-worked a Dripping Springs signage ordinance, which they hope will be adopted by the city. Redbud Café and Brieger Pottery owner Jon Brieger, speaking in the Public Comments portion of the meeting, commended the efforts of P&Z to council, saying, "The group has worked hard." Council member Bobby McClung thanked LeBlanc for her group’s efforts, saying "Thank you for getting this done—for taking the bull by the horns."
Wayne Gosnell, who has worked on maintaining the rural character of Blanco through the Dark Skies program since 2006, called the lighting ordinance "a milestone." He reminded council that preserving dark skies has been a top priority of citizens in developing the Comprehensive Master Plan. He pointed out that outdoor lighting standards are an economic issue. "Our nighttime skies can be leveraged for economic development," he continued, in such programs as "Stars in the Park," which bring people to Blanco to view the night skies, eat in restaurants, and spend money. Blanco could also be designated as a "Dark Sky City" by the International Dark Sky Association, which would allow merchants to use a special logo on their advertising materials. He cautioned against moving too fast, saying that the ordinance must be reviewed by Code Compliance Officer Pete McKinney and Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell. Blanco Historic Commission chair and Keep Blanco Beautiful spokesperson Retta Martin reiterated that the lighting ordinance is a top priority in Blanco’s design guidelines. She also reminded city council members of the citywide Trash-Off April 2, at which citizens will clean the riverbanks and road easements. Hotdogs will be served to volunteers following the cleanup. The city yard will not be open for dropping off debris this year; however there will be a countywide Hazardous Waste Day April 16 at the transfer station south of Johnson City.
Resident Jo Nell Haas, who helped spearhead a grassroots movement to keep Blanco State Park open, thanked council "for supporting us at our public meeting. We are moving forward," she continued, recounting spending several days recently at the state capital in Austin lobbying members of the legislature. Mayor Chuck Homan added that he talked to representative Steve Isaacs at 5:30 p.m. and that "no news is good news." Homan quoted Isaacs as calling the Blanco group the most vocal of all parks put on a potential list of closings in the state’s budget crunch. Council later voted unanimously not to attempt to acquire the park and assume its operation.
The majority of the meeting was spent dealing with continuing water issues at Cielo Springs. Mayor Homan reported that a water pump has been ordered to increase water pressure in the development, and the engineering work has been done. In fact, the mayor divulged, "Nathan (Cantrell) has spent practically his whole engineering budget for the year on it. We do not know whether we will be paid back " for the $3400 pump and the controls and electrical components, which will cost another $8-10K. Nonetheless, Cielo Springs spokesperson Rod Knight and other residents remained irate that the pump has not been installed as promised by March 1 and the fire hydrants have not had reflective paint put on them (see Blanco County News article November 11, 2010). The mayor suggested that residents contact developer Col. Roper, while residents suggested that the city contact him. Both sides acknowledged difficulties getting in touch with him, and Mayor Homan said health issues may make it difficult to have a meeting. Frustrated, resident Guy Sutherland said, "I’m hearing the same song and dance—nobody takes responsibility. We need to have a meeting with Roper and (Dale) Yates and turn the screws." In response to Mayor Homan’s comment that "We think we have the thing solved," Sutherland responded, "With all due respect, you don’t." Knight asked if council members thought taking the issue to Blanco County Commissioners’ Court would help. The mayor responded that waiting for the next meeting and obtaining a document would delay the process. Bobby McClung said "It seems that we’re about 80-90 percent complete. It would take more time to involve the commissioners’ court." At the end of the regular meeting, as members were preparing to go into executive session, Rinco employee Dale Yates came into the meeting and discussion resumed. He promised to begin pump installation "in a couple of weeks." The mayor suggested that a status meeting be held in two weeks, and Yates agreed to meet with the mayor and residents.
Blanco Chamber of Commerce president Liz Waller-Broyal reported that Hotel-Motel (HOT) tax money has been budgeted as follows: 23.5 percent to the General Fund and 76.5 percent divided between general advertising and the Lavender Festival. To date $15K has been committed to advertising through entities in the San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Garner State Park areas. Important upcoming dates include a Blanco County Economic Development Corporation Meeting March 16, Market Days March 19, Chamber Spring Mixer at Onion Creek Kitchens March 31, and the Real Ale Ride May 21 (visit www.realaleride.com for complete details).
Police Chief Milton Willmann reported that the department has submitted its annual report on racial profiling, as mandated by the Texas Legislature. Videotapes from police vehicle cameras are kept for 90 days in case there is a complaint. New tickets that have been implemented reflect ethnicity more accurately, according to Willmann. He informed council that there have been more reports of suspicious persons, vehicles, and incidents in the past month and that two vehicle burglaries have been solved recently. He introduced new police officer Johnny Whisenant, who commented, "You have a great community." Whisenant acknowledged that he turned down a job paying more in another locale in favor of working in Blanco. Willmann also reported that officers Tammy Ross and office manager Sandra Reyes did an internet safety program recently at Blanco Elementary School for second-graders. Finally, he said that police vehicles try to be fuel-efficient by not idling except during traffic stops. He urged residents to call the police immediately if they suspect illegal activity, adding that crimes such as a recent identity theft are much more difficult to solve if they are not reported promptly. After executive session, council voted to remove officer Bill Colston from probation status.
At publication date, the following have filed applications for city council seats: incumbents Danny Ray and Bobby McClung, and Courtney Curbow, Maria Guerrero, and Matt Lewis. For the position of mayor, incumbent Chuck Homan and council member Rebecca Howerton have filed. March 15 was the application deadline.