At their regular meeting January 8, members of the governing body of Blanco discussed a proposal by the Pedernales Electric Cooperative to provide funds for an LED sign to replace the banners previously installed by PEC on its utility poles. Although the $25,000 donation is worded to fund an electronic reader-board sign, council member and PEC employee Martin Sauceda clarified that the sign could be a board with changeable letters. The Unified Development Code of Blanco forbids LED signs with changing messages. Blanco Chamber of Commerce vice-president Curt Knutson used the public comments portion of the meeting to express the chamber’s support of a non-LED sign and the choice of Yett Park as the site for the sign. His feeling was that an LED sign would be a distraction for motorists traveling at 65 mph downhill into Blanco. He also stressed that the sign should meet night-sky-friendly lighting requirements. Apparently second-guessing himself, he added that the small LED sign on the First United Methodist Church in Johnson City is quite nice. Council member Maria Guerrero asked Knutson, “Would you allow an LED sign?” and he responded, “Yes.” Council member Bobby McClung added, “Are you talking about a scrolling sign?” and Knutson again said, “Yes, some signs are abused and are too bright. I’m up for anything that gives us information.” Chamber president Marcy Westcott added, “Obviously it would have to be a board decision.”
Planning and Zoning Commission members Matt Lewis and Martha Gosnell informed council that code compliance officer Pete McKinney had made a presentation to their group. Lewis said that it would be nice to take advantage of the PEC offer, that the decision is where to put it and what kind of sign to use, that citizens want what he called “a tasteful sign” and that it should comply with night-sky-friendly regulations. Gosnell added that most people at the meeting favored a changeable letterboard or a pre-printed sign that could be changed. Council member Al Turner said that he has “no problem with a tasteful LED sign,” while council member Danny Ray grumbled that he liked the small-town feel of the banners stretched across the street. Night-sky advocate Wayne Gosnell said emphatically, “We do not want our little town to have electronic signs—any color lights but black and red would denigrate the night sky.”
The decision of what type of sign to use and where to put it was put off until the next meeting; however, Blanco State Park Superintendent Ethan Belicek expressed disapproval of putting a sign directly in front of park headquarters. Mayor Chuck Homan said more research is needed and the design narrowed down to a few choices. Council members received a packet of possible signs to review. The sign must be chosen and installed by April 2013.
In his monthly report, Police Chief Mike Ritchey thanked the mayor and council members for hiring someone to come in and clean out offices in the police department after his arrival. He also reported that traffic enforcement has doubled, resulting in compliments from citizens, and that follow-up investigations have doubled. He said he will present statistics to council comparing numbers from the previous year as well as the previous month. He expressed the hope of having Blanco’s police department accredited and said that officers will be wearing more standard issue black uniforms without any logos or embroidery, and that reserve officers will wear uniforms left by retiring or resigning officers in order to save the city money.
Ritchey announced the resignation of two officers—acting chief Larry Feinstein and officer Ty Grenwelge, and the addition of reserve officer Byron Key, a former Boerne police officer, and regular officer Dale Barnett from San Antonio. Following Executive Session, council voted to approve Barnett’s hiring. Ritchey said the department has been the beneficiary of five television sets donated by Wal-Mart, which can be used for teaching purposes and to let him know of breaking news.
Chief Ritchey also explained his plan for implementing stricter enforcement of the loose livestock and loose dog ordinances (Blanco County News, January 9). The city received a $480 bill from the Blanco Veterinary Clinic recently for boarding, shots, and euthanizing two animals. “It is an expense to taxpayers—why not charge the owners?” he asked. Council members seemed surprised to hear the veterinarian gives shots to dogs that may be euthanized after three days and the bill goes to the city.
Ritchey plans to have a crate put in the truck of city workers, who will be paid $35 per hour after hours for apprehending loose dogs. He said that three police officers have been bitten attempting to apprehend stray dogs, and that walkers and runners in the city complain about the number of dogs running loose. He suggested that individuals who call the city about stray animals should keep them contained until someone comes to pick them up. Chief Ritchey also addressed an issue which came before council back in the summer, that of loose livestock, with a similar solution—the owner paying overtime salaries of officers stopping traffic to prevent accidents when animals are loose in the road or break through fences onto private property.
In other business, council voted to call an election for May 13, 2013, for the purpose of electing two council members and one mayor for two-year terms. The terms of Danny Ray, Chuck Homan, and Maria Guerrero are expiring. Following Executive Session, the meeting was adjourned.