Community Services Director Tina Morrow reported to members of the governing body of Blanco at their regular meeting December 13, asking for their help in finding new quarters in the city. Since 1974 the organization has served low-income and elderly residents of Blanco, providing meals through Meals on Wheels, energy assistance, and exercise classes. Ironically, Gem of the Hills Senior Center, partners with Community Action for over 10 years, asked the organization to leave after the demand for fitness classes required more space. According to Morrow, Johnson City has asked Community Action to relocate their base there; however, the more than 35 Blanco seniors who use their services do not want them to leave, and, said Morrow, “We don’t want to jump ship.” Resident Liz Waller-Broyal commented, “I hope to grow old in Blanco, and I do not want to have to drive to Johnson City for services.” The last temporary headquarters for the organization was at Trinity Lutheran Church, but in answer to a question about the possibility of using space in another Blanco church, Morrow said she had gone to the Ministerial Alliance to ask for help, but no offers of space for an office, kitchen, and exercise space were forthcoming. Mayor Chuck Homan said he would do some checking and get back to council member Danny Ray, who expressed an interest in the group’s plight. It was hoped that media coverage might prompt an organization to step forward to help out. Morrow’s contact information is tmorrow@community action.com.
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, Wayne Gosnell reported that he and two other members of the Hill Country Alliance’s Dark Sky Initiative group met November 29 with PEC to brainstorm ways to implement a decision reached by the PEC board on August 15 to work with individuals and businesses to reduce the use of outdoor lighting which, in his words, “hinders Hill Country residents’ ability to enjoy the night skies.” PEC is currently working with Kimble County as a test case. The Hill County Alliance’s website has a page dedicated to preservation of the Hill Country’s night skies— (www.hillcountryalliance.org/HCA/NightSkies).
Mayor Homan made some comments of his own, reporting that the sales tax revenue is up 10 percent for the year. “We decided not to participate” in the economic downturn, he joked. He also thanked all who helped with the decorating of Blanco’s historic district—the Old Blanco County Courthouse, businesses, and Bindseil Park. Blanco is included in the Hill Country Trail of Lights for the first time this year, due largely to the influence of Retta Martin and Keep Blanco Beautiful. Others praised by the mayor included PEC, community and school organizations, and the Blanco police department, who provided traffic control. “It looks fantastic,” he concluded. He introduced new Blanco State Park superintendent Ethan Belicek, who responded, “We feel very welcome and are looking forward to helping contribute to the community.”
Blanco Chamber of Commerce president Liz Waller-Broyal reminded council of the upcoming Harlem Ambassadors game January 26. Members of the community, including two council members, have volunteered to go one-on-one with the professional team. Tickets are $8 and $10 and can be purchased at the chamber office. Executive director Amos Ramirez announced that an episode of Texas Country Reporter will feature the newly-opened Buggy Barn Museum, probably in January or February.
Martha Gosnell announced that the annual Trash-Off will be held April 14, 2012. She said group participation last year was “great,” but that few individuals collected debris. She said she has spoken with County Commissioner Paul Granberg about the possibility of opening the city yard that day in order for individuals to bring truckloads of debris for disposal. As a follow-up to Brenda Freed’s comments at the November meeting concerning TxDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway program, Gosnell suggested the alternative “Adopt a Spot” program for groups or individuals in the city wishing to clean up smaller areas, such as unsightly road right-of-ways. Public works director Nathan Cantrell suggested staying away from major highways, which would require a permit to put up the “Adopt-a-Spot” sign. Gosnell said she would talk to TxDOT with the city’s permission to find out details. The city would have to sign any forms giving permission for the project. The mayor also said he would need to check with the city attorney to clarify any liability issues in case of an injury to someone collecting trash.
Keep Blanco Beautiful president Retta Martin added that the Keep Texas Beautiful organizations oversee the Adopt-a-Highway and Adopt-a-Spot programs. She announced that March 31-May 31 are the dates for the Great American Clean-up. She thanked the mayor and council for compliments on Bindseil Park, adding that a larger committee, including the Old Blanco County Courthouse Preservation Society, Blanco Chamber, and Keep Blanco Beautiful, coordinated decorating efforts. The next issue, she said, is finding storage for the lights once they are taken down. She suggested that the city clean out some storage areas to make room for Christmas lights. She also reported that more lights will be purchased December 26 to enhance next year’s display. In conclusion, she said the Christmas parade was “fantastic, even in the rain.”
Police Chief Milton Willmann also praised the spectators at the December 11 parade. “People in Blanco are pretty hardy; they stand out in driving, freezing rain,” he commented. He also expressed appreciation that the new park superintendent is a peace officer—”It’s great to have another body out there.” In his report Willmann said there was a reduction in calls for service in November, but that the informational calls, which he called “vital to investigations,” are holding steady, as are the suspicious persons/vehicles/circumstances calls.
After a brief discussion, council members approved a Permit Fee Ordinance and Fee Schedule. The mayor explained that the city engineer charges the city to review plans, but that sometimes multiple plans are submitted and nothing is ever built, causing the city to lose revenue. The ordinance will also provide a fee for the fire marshal, who previously has worked for free, according to the mayor.
Finally, council approved a sick pool program for employees, as approved by the city attorney. A donor and donee application must be filled out, although the donation of hours remains anonymous. In order to donate hours to the pool, the employee must have accrued an excess of 50 hours leave, which can be donated in 8-hour increments to help an employee who is sick for an extended period of time.