Blanco County Commissioners met in a Special Meeting on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013. All four County Commissioners were in attendance, and the minutes of the Regular Meeting held on February 12, 2013 were approved by the Court.
Commissioners heard the annual report presented by Susan Hamm of the Texas Housing Foundation. According to Ms. Hamm, housing units are under construction for Phase One located in Johnson City. Plans call for additional units to be constructed in Blanco, and this construction will include Phases Two and Three. The 48 Blanco units will be located on Chandler Street and will be known as Chandler Place Apartments.
Ms. Hamm told the Commissioners that, “The Texas Housing Foundation is getting funding for us, and this is not easy. A good reputation is needed to obtain these monies, and they are capped at two million. Home Loan Bank Cattleman’s is also helping to obtain funding for the construction project, as well as the USDA.” Ms. Hamm said that, “Affordable housing is not federally subsidized, and Blanco County is not putting out money, except funding for the low cost lending and insurance processes. Also, the annual budget of over eight million dollars and the size of these projects enable us to use local contractors for construction of these units when at all possible.”
Ms. Ham told the Court she “Is really pleased to represent Blanco County and would like to continue as president of the board.” The next item of business was to consider reappointment of Susan Hamm to the Texas Housing Foundation board for a two year term. Commissioner James Sultemeier made a motion to consider the reappointment of Susan Hamm for a two year term, and this motion was seconded by Commissioner Chris Liesmann. This action was approved by the Court.
Blanco County Commissioners considered the county-wide burn ban. Commissioner John Wood opened the discussion by saying, “We need to look at the lack of rain, tall grass, and the wind when we decide whether to put the burn ban on.” County Judge Bill Guthrie asked for a motion and Commissioner Wood proposed the burn ban be reinstated until the next Regular Meeting in March. Commissioner Paul Granburg seconded the motion to reinstate the burn ban.
Commissioner Liesmann asked for clarification of the motion. His question was, “Would the burn ban prohibit or restrict outdoor burning and also in unincorporated areas.” Judge Guthrie answered, “Yes, it would.” Commissioner Sultemeier went on to say, “The wind yesterday was terrible, scary, and we are seeing numbers in the 300 range.” Judge Guthrie said, “Those numbers are in the 400s as of February 22nd.” Commissioner Sultemeier suggested that any new action taken regarding the burn ban include specific guidelines for the Sheriff.
At that point the vote to accept the motion to reinstate the burn ban was tied by a vote of two to two. Because of this tie Judge Guthrie informed the Court, “I will vote in favor of the burn ban.” Judge Guthrie recommended that the Commissioners, “Talk to the County Attorney to get a determination for specific restrictions.” There was no further discussion, and the motion to implement the burn ban until the next Regular Meeting in March was approved by the Court.
The Commissioners Court was asked to consider a Resolution strongly opposing the passage of House Bill 958 which proposes to reduce the interest crediting rate on all Texas County and District Retirement Funds from 7% to 5%. Judge Guthrie advised the Commissioners, “Consider the driving force of the Bill.” According to Judge Guthrie, “these monies come from employees, not the State. Some counties, including Blanco, are able to meet the required funding rates while others are not. The proposal is to reduce the rate to 5%, and this changes the entire system. Employees are planning on these funds for retirement.”
Commissioner Sultemeier asked if this decision was up to the Commissioners of the Counties. Judge Guthrie answered that one County, Grayson, primarily has a problem with the current Bill. According to Judge Guthrie, “Funding for the plan is not in trouble, and it still can net 7%...it is a problem for my retirees when the plan changes from 7% to 5%.” Commissioner Sultemeier proposed a Resolution opposing the passage of House Bill 958. Commissioner Wood provided a second, and the action was approved by the Court.
Judge Guthrie opened the discussion to consider Proclamation declaring March 2013 as Red Cross Month. The Proclamation read in part, “For 95 years plus the American Red Cross has been instrumental in the Hill Country by helping with fires, storms, disasters, training in CPR, emergency preparedness, and providing volunteers. We do hereby urge all to volunteer locally, and to proclaim March 2013 as American Red Cross Month in Blanco County.” Commissioner Liesmann made a motion for approval of the Proclamation, Commissioner Granburg seconded the motion, and approval of the Proclamation passed.
The final order of business for the Special Meeting was approval of the outstanding bills for $43,330.24. A motion to approve the outstanding bills was given by Commissioner Granburg, seconded by Commissioner Sultemeier, and the motion carried.
At this time the 9:00 a.m. Special Meeting adjourned, and the Court held a Special Workshop Meeting immediately following the 9:00 a.m. Special Meeting. The subjects to be discussed included: (1) improving and resurfacing certain county roads, (2) construction of bridges, and (3) the payment of professional services in connection therewith including legal, fiscal, and engineering fees.
The workshop began with Judge Guthrie asking the Commissioners, “What to do and how to do it?” Commissioner Wood suggested that the funds be divided equally among the four County Precincts. Commissioner Liesmann replied, “But some precincts have more roads than others.” Commissioner Sultemeier commented, “The largest use of roads is concentrated in the cities.” Commissioner Granburg agreed with Commissioner Wood to split the money equally.
John McClintock of Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) spoke up and asked if it would be helpful, “To consider the CAPCOG transportation study…the management study could address areas to prioritize.” Judge Guthrie answered, “These are county roads, not state, but there may be a correlation with the CAPCOG study.” Commissioner Liesmann asked when the study would be ready, and Judge Guthrie answered, “The end of the year.”
The Commissioners discussed approximately how many miles of county roads their respective precincts included. Judge Guthrie strongly recommended that the Commissioners, “Use the money in the best way possible for the long term…not fixing potholes but projects for maximum use of funds for long term projects.” Commissioner Liesmann and Judge Guthrie both asked if any traffic issues or bus routes needed to be addressed in the planning.
There was also discussion of a proposal to build a bridge at the crossing of Miller Creek Road. An elevated bridge would address safety concerns because at the present time travelers can be cut off during periods of heavy rainfall. The low water crossing is located between Highways 290 and 165 and includes a substantial amount of traffic from Austin. Commissioner Granburg suggested that Precincts 2 and 4 could make the bridge a joint project.
Judge Guthrie asked if an accurate summary of mileage was available per precinct, and if not could someone be hired to make this determination. At this point in the discussion Judge Guthrie asked the Commissioners if the vote was still divided by two to two in favor of splitting the funds equally by precincts. The vote was divided; therefore Judge Guthrie presented a motion for a Commissioner from the north and south ends of the County to ride together and report to the Court regarding the number of miles in each precinct. Commissioner Liesmann provided a second motion, and the Commissioners voted three to one in favor of passage of the motion. Commissioner Wood voted against the motion and the other three Commissioners voted in favor. The discussion ended and the Special Workshop Meeting adjourned.