Members of the governing body of the City of Blanco accepted the resignation of Police Chief Milton Willmann at their regular meeting on August 14, while expressing regret at his decision. Council member Al Turner joked, “If we don’t accept it, will you stay?”Chief Willmann responded, “I’ve truly enjoyed working here, I love the people, but I have another opportunity,”adding that his wife has encouraged him to seek a job with less stress. Mayor Chuck Homan thanked Chief Willmann for his service to the citizens of Blanco and wished him well in his new job. His resignation will take effect August 24th. In Executive Session, council members discussed hiring an interim chief, but no action was taken. However, council did vote to hire a new police administrative assistant, Pam Nollett.
In other police matters, Chief Willmann reported that calls for July were up, with reckless driver calls the highest. Officers are also assisting with EMS calls because some calls come from residences which “have a history” of violence, according to Willmann. Officers also wrote almost 100 traffic citations in July. Finally, Chief said the department is working two cases of computer-generated bad checks being passed at local stores, although he added that the perpetrators are from Comal County.
PEC representative Tessa Doehrman reported to council that the recent annual PEC membership meeting was moved from Johnson City to a more centralized location at the Hays County CISD Performing Arts Center in Kyle with 750 people in attendance. Members re-elected directors Dr. Patrick Cox, Cristi Clement, and Lary Landaker to another three-year term. She referred those in attendance to the August Texas Coop Power Magazine and the pec.coop website to get power-saving and water conservation tips. Co-op members can also go online to register for the Beat the Peak Program, which suggests ways to cut energy usage in the peak hours from noon to 6 p.m. in the summer months.
PEC will implement new billing software in September, which will necessitate new account numbers and a range of billing dates for customers. PEC suggests saving the current bill with the account number on it. The bills will also look different, she explained. Members who have already registered for an online account will need to re-register in September. Council member and PEC employee Martin Sauceda added that customers who need to pay their bills after the first of the month should call PEC to make arrangements to do that.
Council approved a resolution authorizing the submission of a Texas Community Block Grant Program application. Margaret Arden of Langford Community Management Services explained that October 26 is the due date for submitting an application for the $275K grant, which requires ten percent matching funds from the city. The grant will be used for ongoing sewer work in the city.
Mayor Homan reported that GVTC is continuing work in the city installing new cable TV and phone systems around town.
Council voted to deny a request by Melissa Perkins-Cassidy for a street light at 1504 Cherry Street. Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell commented the city should not put up a light that will benefit only one person. Mayor Homan added that she could pay for a light, as he has done.
Council also voted to deny the request of Ralph De Leon that the golf-cart ordinance be expanded to include gasoline-powered carts, such as the Gator Mayor Homan drives during the Lavender Festival. City attorney Eddy Rogers said that motorized vehicles of this type are forbidden on city streets under state law. De Leon’s plan was to drive a gasoline-powered golf cart to a wildlife area he has created in order to carry birdseed there.
County commissioner Paul Granberg, along with Blanco County Sheriff Bob Morgan, came before council to request an increase in dispatch payments from the city to the county from $100 to $500 a month. He explained that the city has paid $100 per month for years, but that the number of calls is rising, with 961 calls this year from January to August and 830 traffic stops by Blanco city police. “The dispatchers are busy,” he said, “and we are asking for a little help.” Mayor Homan responded that the proposed increase is already in the 2012-2013 city budget, which will be voted on in September. “It is still a good, reasonable amount,” he added. Council voted unanimously to approve the request.
After an explanation by Eddy Rogers, council voted to authorize the mayor to sign Encroachment Agreements as approved by the city attorney. As Rogers has said on previous occasions, surveys show that roads go into yards or even into the buildings of residents, but “the roads are where they are.” An encroachment agreement will aid buyers and sellers of properties in getting clear titles to their properties, and delegating the job to the mayor will save council time in meetings.
Jack Twilley reported from the Streetscape Committee that, after three years of work, the Blanco Historical Commission and Streetscape Committee are ready to make public their work. Three meetings will be held to show the results—one August 23 at 5:30 p.m. for the chamber of commerce and business owners; one August 27th for city council and Planning and Zoning Commission members, and a public meeting August 28th at 6 p.m. at the Old Blanco County Courthouse. “I think everyone will be enthused at what they see,” said Twilley. Council member Bobby McClung responded that the committee has cut costs from the original estimate for developing a plan by using volunteer labor. “We appreciate your hard work,” he said.
Council members also approved an amendment to Utilities Ordinance #269 Section 6, raising city water and sewer rates. The increases were put into the budget at the July budget workshop. Council also heard an explanation by Nathan Cantrell about the plan to sell surplus city property, including two pick-ups, three cars, and “a lot” of old radio equipment. Chief Willmann has suggested selling the items online, a method which will involve no charge to the city. Purchasers will purchase the items online and then present their receipts when they pick up the items. “I think it would be a good way to go,” said Cantrell.
In addition to the Executive Session items already discussed, council voted after Executive Session to give city employee Ronda Huether-Etzel a promotion to Assistant City Secretary and a pay raise.
A number of Real Ale Brewery supporters attended the meeting wearing Real Ale shirts, although there was no agenda item dealing with the brewery and its quest to get a permit under the new waste water ordinance recently adopted. Brewery owner Brad Farbstein, in conversation with this reporter, expressed surprise that he was not on the agenda, but he did say the brewery has not yet been granted a permit, although they began hauling off solid waste byproducts of the brewing process before the July 31 mandated deadline in an effort to lower the effluent produced by the brewery. City attorney Eddy Rogers responded to an e-mail request with the information that confidential negotiations are ongoing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which apparently impact the permit process. A special city council meeting August 9 authorized the city to bypass the bidding process to begin dredging the city’s waste lagoons in a clean-up effort to help the aging sewer plant abide by TCEQ regulations.