Following a public hearing at its September 11 meeting, members of the governing body of Blanco passed a budget for 2013-14 which remained unchanged from that proposed at its July budget workshop. President of the Blanco South Library District Nancy Cline thanked the city for its support of the library on behalf of the more than 5,000 patrons who use the library free of charge. Blanco Performing Arts representative Vickie Pautz also thanked the city for its previous support and announced an expanded upcoming season of concerts. The budget is available at City Hall and will be posted on the city’s website, cityofblanco.com. Council members also voted to adopt a tax rate unchanged from that of 2011-12, $0.2583 per $100 valuation.
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, Blanco County Inn owner Ralph DeLeon asked about issues with the city’s sewer plant. “Since [the term of] Mayor Rodrigue, I have been asking about water and sewer issues, and I have been told that everything was fine—what happened?” he complained. “Will I be able to continue to operate my motel?”
Resident Wayne Gosnell updated council on night-sky preservation efforts, which he reminded members has been a priority since the Comprehensive Master Plan was developed and is part of the Blanco Historic Preservation Commission Action Plan. He recounted the history of the Stripes Convenience Store, formerly an Exxon station, which opened in 2006 with excessively-bright outdoor lighting. After the business changed hands, the lighting was grandfathered because the business lay in the ETJ, outside the city limits. However, Gosnell and members of the Hill Country Alliance approached the CEO with Blanco’s lighting ordinance and got a commitment from Stripes to install directional lighting. Recently, he concluded, Stripes changed out their lighting so that it does not throw light upward. “They have kept their word and are now a model for a night-sky friendly business. We owe them a big thank you.” He urged those in attendance to go out and see the difference (see Blanco County News article, September 12).
Blanco Historic Preservation Commission president Retta Martin reminded those in attendance of the significance of the date—September 11—and urged everyone to take a moment to honor the memory of those who died in the Twin Towers attack eleven years ago.
Council approved granting a set-back variance to resident Tommy Weir for a portable carport at his residence at 815 Mesquite. Planning and Zoning Commission member Martha Gosnell informed council that P&Z recommended granting the variance at their meeting September 10th. She informed council that the proposed carport would be built inside the existing fence.
Retta Martin reported for the Blanco Historical Commission that three Streetscape presentations were well-attended and that the group has bought a new projector that will make the presentations easier to see. The next one will be held October 4 for the Lions Club. She said the organization is seeking funds through grants and donations and urged anyone with ideas to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also said Blanco has an ordinance stating that historic structures should be in good repair. In conjunction with code compliance officer Pete McKinney, members of the commission have been touring the east and south sides of the Historic District to evaluate structures and have determined that the old lumber yard is in bad repair with a roof that flaps in the wind. She also announced that commission advisor Dorothy Dillon has resigned and someone will need to be appointed to that position.
Reporting for Keep Blanco Beautiful, Retta Martin asked the city’s help with the goal of planting a tree a year in the city. She also said the organization will need a lot of help with getting out Christmas decorations in order to have them up by November 15. She also said that KBB member Judy Dorsett is “doing fine” after having a stent implanted.
Corporal Robert Stewart gave council the following police statistics for the month of August, in which the department received six residential alarms and investigated two building burglaries, nine suspicious vehicle calls, six traffic accidents, two calls for individuals carrying weapons, and six welfare concerns. Four DWI citations were issued, mostly to “out-of-towners,” 28 traffic citations, most for speeding through town, and 11 defective equipment citations. Most calls are received on weekend nights, with the highest number Friday nights, said Stewart. The department is still without a chief, although the position is posted on the city’s website. According to administrative assistant Pam Nollett, a number of candidates have submitted applications to the city, which is handling the hiring of a new chief after the resignation of Milton Willman at the end of August. After Executive Session, council members approved removing officer Carlos Wittkohl from probationary status and giving him a raise.
Council approved a change in employee health insurance from Blue Cross-Blue Shield to United Health Care, as a result of a 35 percent increase in BCBS rates. United Health Care, the company the city used previously, has a cheaper rate than BCBS.
An increase in bulk water charges by the city was discussed, with Bobbie Mowery and public works director Nathan Cantrell both informing council members that few municipalities even sell bulk water any more and that Blanco has a very easy system for dispensing water at the city yard. The current rate is $15 per thousand gallons, with entities outside the city paying $10.30 per thousand gallons. The proposed rate of $20 per thousand gallons for everyone is “way under what others charge,” according to Cantrell. Council approved the increase unanimously
Finally, council members debated whether to continue paying off general obligation bonds at a five percent rate totaling $120 in interest over the next ten years or paying the whole amount of $73,000 right now. As city attorney Eddy Rogers explained, the bonds could be called at any time, necessitating that the city pay them off. The money would come from the reserve fund. The discussion became spirited when Real Ale Brewery CFO Chad Stoner asked, “Should we pay off the bond when we have a burning issue with the sewer plant? Five percent is not a horrible rate.” Rogers responded, “I think we’re mixing apples and oranges.” Stoner replied, “Should we deplete the reserve fund?” to which Rogers responded that the auditor had characterized Blanco’s fund as higher than that in many other cities. He added that the current rate on obligation funds is three per cent. Council voted unanimously to pay off the bond before withdrawing to Executive Session.