Following a public hearing, members of the governing body of Blanco passed a revised signage ordinance at their regular meeting November 8. The ordinance, developed by the Planning and Zoning Commission based on a model from Dripping Springs, received input from the Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations. Blanco Historic Commission chair Retta Martin spoke in support of the ordinance, as did P&Z member Matt Lewis and chamber president Liz Waller-Broyal. The ordinance was approved, with one dissenting vote by council member Danny Ray. Community members who had been vocal in their opposition to the ordinance were not present at the final public hearing.
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, resident Mary Ann Millard stated that it was wrong to delay a proposed pay raise for the police department. City secretary Bobbie Mowery responded that budgeted police officer pay raises will take effect with other raises in the new budget year. Resident Karen Mangam asked it would be possible next year for PEC to wait until after Halloween to put up Christmas lights in Blanco.
PEC representative Tessa Doehrman reported on the Community Giving Program, which has five areas in which organizations can receive grants. The Youth Livestock Program distributes $17,500 statewide each year. Locally, the FFA organization received a $500 grant last year. Project Graduation, the second recipient of grants, received $500, with $19K distributed state-wide. The Light the Way program distributed $150K statewide to organizations such as the Blanco Library, EMS, fire department, and the Blanco Chamber of Commerce. The fourth program, Partners in Learning, distributed $17K last year to local education foundations. Blanco does not have such an agency. The fifth program, the Community Grants Program, distributes funds to organizations that do not fall into any other category. The application for grants can be printed out from the PEC website, under Local Involvement. Recipients from the October 1 round will be announced in a few weeks, according to Doehrman; and the application deadline for the next round of grants is April 1, 2011.
Resident Brenda Freed spoke at length on the problem of littering in the community of Blanco and on her daily route from Albert to Blanco. She brought a trash bag full of the litter she collected that day and urged the involvement of citizens and the council, asking for “ideas and support in caring how our town looks.” As Freed was speaking, council member and long-time advocate for a cleaner Blanco, Rebecca Howerton, quietly rose from her place and went to stand beside Freed. As she recounted, for four years Howerton hired a gentleman to help her clean up litter on the roadsides of Blanco every week. “Call me,” said Howerton. “We’ll get our heads together and start cleaning up this town!” Police chief Willmann urged anyone seeing someone throw trash from a vehicle to call the police department with the license number. “We work a fair amount of illegal dumping,” he said. In response to Freed’s concern about the number of beer cans littering the highways, indicating impaired drivers, Willmann expressed frustration that the DUI cases he and his department have spent hours on have netted no convictions in the past two years. Mayor Homan suggested that Freed investigate the Adopt-A-Highway program sponsored by TxDOT, and Matt Lewis urged personal responsibility on the part of all citizens in keeping the roadsides free of litter.
In other business, council approved a street closure on Pecan between 4th and 5th Streets for the Veteran’s Day celebration Friday, November 11, at the Pioneer Museum. Council also approved a street closure on Saturday following the parade from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Blanco Chamber of Commerce president Liz Waller-Broyal announced the newly-elected chamber board for 2012 as follows: president—Marcy Westcott; vice-president— Charlotte Widick, and treasurer — Carolyn Zbytovsky. She also reported that the chamber held an LCRA-sponsored retreat at Red Corral Ranch, at which the chamber developed its priorities for the upcoming year and named chairs to all committees. Waller-Broyal announced that all chamber members will vote on the Member of the Month, increasing involvement.
Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Tony Vela reported that the signage ordinance was approved at their last meeting and that a new member application from Martha Gosnell was reviewed. Council voted to approve her selection.
An agreement for use of a firing range for police officers south of town on the property of Ronnie Steubing was approved by council. Chief Willmann explained that officers previously had to qualify in Johnson City, and that the closer range will save citizens money in gas as well as keep officers closer to their jobs. He said that the agreement, which will not involve a fee for the city, was developed with the help of City Attorney Eddy Rogers, and is “as good as you can get.” Rogers added that the agreement is “a good thing for the city.”
Historic commission chair Retta Martin reported that the commission has been busy, with two members getting ready to take their architecture certification tests. Tim Raby has been added as a new member. She spoke of the need to get an incentive program going, to encourage residents to use preservations guidelines in their restoration of historic properties. She also recommended J.D. Sherlock, Jr., as a new member to the commission, a recommendation approved by council.
In other business, council voted to split the 85 votes allotted Blanco in the election to the Appraisal District board between Dr. David Behrends and Lynn Boyd, the city’s nominees. Council discussed the idea of a sick leave pool for city employees, in which one employee with extra leave could donate a portion of it to another employee in an emergency situation. The mayor directed Eddy Rogers to write up a proposal reflecting the suggestions of council members to present at the December meeting.