At the June 11 regular meeting of the governing body of Blanco, the first order of business was the swearing-in of re-elected Mayor Chuck Homan by city secretary Bobbie Mowery and the subsequent swearing-in of re-elected council members Maria Guerrero and Danny Ray by the mayor. Council member Bobby Mack was unanimously re-elected as Mayor pro Tempore by the council. After a request by Municipal Court Judge Don Barnett that he be allowed to continue in his position and words of support from city attorney Eddy Rogers, Barnett was also elected by council.
In his Mayor’s Comments, Mayor Homan reported that the Blanco Lavender Festival went “really well” and was the smoothest in the three years he has been associated with it. He thanked all the local businesses and volunteers for their support. He also announced that the city has received a grant for the Emergency Medical Service to provide small defibrillators to place in public places around town such as city hall, the police department, and the courthouse. He said they were “a really good deal” and that more information would be forthcoming.
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, Real Ale Brewery owner Brad Farbstein reported that the pre-treatment plant is almost completed, and that a team from California was scheduled to fly in to test the newly-installed equipment. “Things are going really well,” he said, adding that when the tests are complete, the effluent will start being processed and that within a couple of weeks, the plant should be in operation. In response to a comment by Danny Ray that the process seems to be on schedule, Farbstein responded that there was a delay in getting the stainless steel pumps, but that with the caliber of equipment the brewery is using, everything should go smoothly. “We’ve put 110% into it,” he said, “and hope it will perform up to expectations.”He also said the brewery hopes to have a ribbon-cutting when the plant is up and running, and the mayor responded that that would be a good idea.
Police Chief Mike Ritchey updated council on the department’s participation in a DPS program which uses local police officers at highway construction sites, with localities being reimbursed $15 per hour for their work. Officers worked 9 days in the previous 30-day period, netting the city $1171. Fuel costs, a concern of council members at the last meeting, were $154.84. Chief Ritchey said the department is using the Tahoe rather than the Crown Victoria police car because it uses less fuel. Bobby Mack asked if using off-duty officers put a strain on staffing, and Ritchey responded that it did not. He did say that he had worked a 14-hour shift at one point, however. Upon Chief Ritchey’s request, council voted to continue using off-duty Blanco police officers for highway jobs.
Chief Ritchey also showed council members pictures of the recent flooding of the police department parking lot on Blanco Avenue, warning them that if water gets in the building, the resulting water damage will be a big expense for the city. His concern was dealt with later in a discussion of re-paving Blanco Avenue and improving drainage along it.
Some safety concerns Chief Ritchey raised included the need for stop signs and a pedestrian crossing at Third and Pecan Streets during the Lavender Festival. He also expressed concern about the 70 mile-per-hour speed limit coming north into town on Highway 281 in the vicinity of the Stripes convenience store and the entrance to Yett Park and said he has spoken to TxDOT about lowering it to no more than 45 mph. He said he will start documenting citizen complaints and accidents which occur in that vicinity and recommended starting a petition which would be presented to a congressman and a senator to get their support in working with TxDOT. Streetscape committee member Jack Twilley spoke up, saying that TxDOT has become more responsive to citizen concerns. Council member Martin Sauceda expressed his concern about safety for vehicles entering and leaving Yett Park during baseball season.
Public works director Nathan Cantrell presented council with three cost options for resurfacing Blanco Avenue from US 281 to Loop 163. The first alternative would provide for curbs, gutters, storm sewers and 12” of road base with 2” of asphalt and would include a sidewalk which would not be adjacent to the back of the curb. It would cost $645,843. The second option, at a cost of $322,130, would also include a sidewalk but no storm sewers, 6” of base and would use laydown curbs. The third alternative, at a cost of $182,50, would be “the least safe” in Nathan’s words, because the sidewalk would be on the north side of the road and would be adjacent to the edge of the pavement. In answer to Bobby Mack’s question as to why this paving has become a priority, Cantrell responded that the road gets a lot of foot traffic from the youngest and the most elderly residents in Blanco walking either from the apartments on Jones Avenue or the senior living apartments to the Lowe’s store. In earlier meetings, a concern about elderly residents using their motorized wheelchairs to cross Blanco Avenue was raised.
Ultimately the issue was tabled for several reasons. Mayor Homan suggested tabling it for 30 days to let Bobbie Mowery “find some money” to pay for it since only $150K has been budgeted for it. Then the issue was raised that construction is getting ready to begin on a 48-unit residential complex at the corner of Loop 163 and Blanco Avenue and that the road will probably be damaged by large construction vehicles traveling on it, possibly resulting in the company making some repairs to the road. Danny Ray said that waiting until construction is complete “seems like a reasonable option” and that meanwhile the city’s engineer could look at the police department parking lot and figure out how to fix the drainage problem.
Finally, council approved a Personnel Policy for city employees on the recommendation of Eddy Rogers, who said he had had it reviewed by a labor lawyer, who said it looked fairly standard.