In his review of the 2009-2010 Audit to city council members at their June 14 meeting, auditor Keith Neffendorf reported net assets of the city at $9.3 million, including the General Fund and Water and Sewer Funds. He called the $454k net income of the city “a good year” in spite of the fact that interest income was down. “The council has been conservative and has built up a fund balance,” he continued. In response to a question by council member Danny Ray as to how Blanco compares to other small cities, Neffendorf responded, “You’re one of the best in fund balance.” In response to a question by resident Retta Martin, the auditor replied that the main components of the city’s debt are the Canyon Lake pipeline and the leases on police vehicles. After a failed motion by new council member Maria Guerrero to table the audit for further study, the motion to approve passed by a 5-1 margin. Neffendorf expressed his willingness to answer any further questions by phone.
A request by Barry Pierce from The Landing Property Association for a water-bill adjustment was granted based on his report that water lines were found to have leaks which resulted in monthly bills as high as $3200. Based on the city’s calculation of 50 percent over what the yearly average would be, council voted to rebate The Landing $481.88. Pierce thanked the city for their help, although he had hoped for a $2400 rebate. Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell commented that every dwelling in the common area of The Landing should have its own meter.
Blanco Emergency Services Director Mike West presented a request to council for remounting ambulance unit 214. According to West, the unit, which was purchased September 1, 2001, has 98,220 miles on it and in his words, “ is currently at its life’s end and has proven to be unreliable as a continuous responding unit.” Another vehicle has almost the same mileage, he continued, and will also need remounting within the next year. In response to questions by council, West explained that the box, which houses all life-saving equipment, would be updated for advanced protocols and remounted on the bed of a Ford 450 truck at a cost of $110k. EMS would pay $50k for the work and is asking the city for the remaining $60k. The bid which West presented to council was prepared by Professional Ambulance of Comanche, Texas. Council member Rebecca Howerton asked rhetorically how many in attendance are happy to have EMS available to answer calls. Council member Al Turner said, “I think we should give them the $60k—they might be coming for me!” Council instructed West to bring a second bid and present his request at the July budget workshop.
Chamber of Commerce Director Liz Waller-Broyal thanked council, the mayor, and the police department for all their help during the recent Lavender Festival. She reported that over 100 volunteers worked the three-day festival, which raised 33 per cent in sales over last year. Every room in Blanco was rented, with vendors lodging as far away as Marble Falls, and the festival had $17,500 in sponsorships. Waller-Broyal also announced that Carriage Hills Ranch was voted “Member of the Month” in June. The next chamber mixer will be held at WB Motorcycles Club. She also announced an evening with Kinky Friedman coming September 20 to Uptown Blanco. The event, entitled “To Protect and Serve,” will benefit the police department.
Tony Vela reported for the Planning and Zoning Commission that members of P&Z chose him to be director at their June meeting. Two other applicants, Matt Lewis and Mike Barnes, were also nominated for membership. Mayor Chuck Homan notified council and Mr. Vela that all members of P&Z had to be re-approved for membership. Current members include Connie Barron, Courtney Curbow, Kirk Felps, and Tony Vela. Two additional seats are open. Mayor Homan questioned whether Barron is indeed a full-time resident of Blanco. She answered that she spends 5-7 days a week in Blanco and votes and pays taxes to the city, although she has a home in Austin. The motion to approve members passed 4-2, with Danny Ray and Al Turner voting in opposition. Barron later told this reporter that Mayor Homan has criticized her for being “too vocal.”
Retta Martin reported from the Blanco Historic Commission that two additional members will need to be approved in July. Also, the BHC has an action plan that is a product of the Visionaries in Preservation program. It contains night sky guidelines, signage guidelines, and design guidelines. Martin said she hopes to have a workshop to inform members of P&Z before the various ordinances come before council for approval.
In the Public Comments section of the meeting, resident Wayne Gosnell asked for council feedback on the night sky ordinance he has been working on. He also requested help from council to determine which lights are owned by the city. He congratulated council members who have recently been elected or re-elected as well as the mayor.
Reporting for Keep Blanco Beautiful, Retta Martin called the attention of council to the new memorial benches that have been added in Bindseil Park.
Police Chief Milton Willmann reported that the Lavender Festival went smoothly, with extra patrols in place to handle traffic congestion. He said that numbers of calls are up as summer gets underway, as are reports of assaults and public disturbances. Suspicious persons and vehicle calls are up as well, as citizens become more aware. There were 193 calls for May, 72 tickets, and 49 warnings. He reported that all officers are well and getting cases turned around more quickly.
Council voted unanimously to reappoint Dan Barnett as municipal judge. City attorney Eddy Rogers called Barnett “very conscientious, experienced and knowledgeable.” “ The municipal court is one of the faces of Blanco,” he continued, “and Don is very humane, friendly, and treats people with respect.” He spoke of Barnett’s “judicial demeanor” and concluded, “I strongly recommend reappointing him.”
Next, council approved the financing of an additional fire truck for the city through Security State Bank with a fifteen-year loan and quarterly payments. The truck will be picked up June 25.
Nathan Cantrell presented a proposal to continue paving projects. The next streets to be paved will be Pecan Street from Fourth to 13th, Live Oak from Fourth to 8th, and Eighth and Ninth from Live Oak to Highway 281. He recommended a single-course chip seal rather than a hot mix because of ongoing sewer and water line work. He recommended Blacktopper Paving as a local firm that has done work previously for the city. The cost of the project is below the threshold requiring a bidding process.
Property manager Leola Lamb of Pecan Street Townhomes complained that the city is depriving her of the right to rent out units because the parking areas have never been paved as stipulated in the original agreement between Ramrock Builders and the city. The city is allowing no water connections, either to new units in the project or to units that have become vacant. Danny Ray said, “You promised a lot of things, and none of them have happened.” Lamb claimed that another contractor, Jenschke, had given her a lower bid than Blacktopper gave the city, but Cantrell said that contractor had not bid the paving project to the city. An emotional Lamb said the paving has not been done at the Townhomes because the same contractor should do both projects. Mayor Homan told her, “You do your part, and we’ll do ours.” Contacted by phone for clarification, Lamb continued to insist that the two projects should be done by the same contractor. The issue was tabled after the mayor suggested Cantrell get another bid for the city project. The Townhomes were opposed by a number of residents before their construction. A promised play area behind the units never materialized, and the promised landscaping around the units has only recently been completed.
After deliberation in Executive Session, council voted to remove probationary status for Police Officer Johnny Whisenant and give him a $2k salary increase. Council also approved new hire Matt Norman for the Public Works Department. Finally, council approved awarding police officers comp time for working between 160 and 171 hours in a 28-day period.