Mayor Chuck Homan introduced newly-appointed Interim Police Chief Larry Feinstein to Blanco City Council members at their regular meeting October 9. A native of Houston and a proud third-generation Texan, Feinstein is a graduate of the University of Texas and the Southern Police Institute. He has 36 years of experience in law enforcement and has worked for the past 3 ½ years as a reserve officer in Blanco. In an interview with this reporter, Feinstein expressed his admiration for former Blanco Police Chief Milton Willmann, who resigned in August, calling him someone who was “wonderful to work for. It was a pleasure to be part of his organization,” he continued. A resident of Wimberley, Feinstein has not applied to be the permanent police chief because of other job responsibilities as the co-owner of a limo and shuttle service. However, he said he loves Blanco and wants only the best for the city. Currently, that means having six officers. “We need bodies—people to fill in the police department and do what’s needed.” He took his concerns to council members during executive session although no action was taken. In his Police Report to council, Feinstein said the department “is holding its own,” with increases in alarm calls and reckless driver incidents during the month of September. The department gave 17 assists to other departments, conducted several follow-up investigations, and answered 109 calls.
Blanco County Inn owner Ralph de Leon utilized the Public Comments portion of the meeting to reiterate his plea that the city allow him to drive a gasoline-powered, Gator-type vehicle on city streets. Citing information which exempts farmers and ranchers from the prohibition of such vehicles on public streets, de Leon accused the city of “making a mountain out of a molehill” in not allowing him to drive the vehicle. Previously a city ordinance was enacted to allow the use of electric golf carts on city streets. When City Attorney Eddy Rogers countered, “You are the one making a mountain out of a molehill,” de Leon angrily retorted, “Don’t I get my three minutes?” Rogers later told this reporter that de Leon would have to prove he is a farmer or a rancher to get an exemption to the state law, that the decision is not the city’s to make. Keep Blanco Beautiful representative Retta Martin also used the Public Comments session to ask for volunteers to help decorate the city for the upcoming holiday Trail of Lights.
Night Sky Preservation activist Wayne Gosnell read a proclamation commending the Stripes Convenience Store south of Blanco for their voluntary decision to renovate their outdoor lighting to be “night-sky friendly.” He stressed that the decision by Stripes was totally voluntary since they were not in the city limits at the time a lighting ordinance was passed in Blanco as part of the UDC. Mayor Homan signed the proclamation, which stated, “I, Chuck Homan, Mayor of the City of Blanco, Texas, officially commend Stripes LLC for its support of night sky preservation as evidenced by its recent renovations of the outdoor lighting at the Stripes facility on Highway 281 in Blanco.” Gosnell added that the Stripes organization has made a commitment to make all new stations night-sky friendly.
Council approved the conceptual Streetscape plan developed over the past several years to make Blanco safer and more attractive, beginning with the intersection of Fourth and Pecan Streets. Streetscape committee member Retta Martin reported that the committee just made its fourth public presentation of the plan and has received “a great response” from every organization who has heard it. A presentation to the Masonic Lodge was scheduled for October 10. She asked council to approve the conceptual plan, a necessary prerequisite to presenting the plan to TxDOT and beginning fund-raising efforts. Council member Bobby McClung lauded the decision of the group to begin its efforts with the Pecan-Fourth Street intersection, saying it has been “a troubled area,” and that the plan “has 110 percent of my support.” He also reminded those in attendance that the city has already pledged $5,000 to the effort. The request for the city to provide “in-kind” donations of resources and labor elicited a negative response from Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell, who said the Public Works Department cannot be at the beck and call of the committee. It was then clarified that the city would determine the extent of the use of its resources. Mayor Homan suggested that when the Streetscape Committee is closer to beginning the project and has a clearer idea of the cost and resources needed, a representative should come back to the city for assistance.
Donning her hat as a Blanco Historic Preservation Commission member, Martin said that many buildings in the Historic District are in the “demolition by neglect” category, and that the commission would like to apply for grants to give individuals incentives to maintain their historic properties. She also said that the Blanco State Park is the next entity the group hopes to add to the Historic District, with a grant application to be written to start the application process.
Other business being completed, council members retired to executive session to consider several issues. The decision to promote Ronnie Rodriguez to Assistant Public Works Director and give him a salary increase was approved by council when they returned.