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City Council Vetoes Proposed Curfew in Divided Vote
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 • Posted August 23, 2013

The debate over a teen curfew proposed by Blanco Police Chief Mike Ritchey began in the Public Comments portion of the August 13 meeting of the governing body of Blanco. New resident Michael Lacey took the debate to another level, saying he moved to Texas because it “has freedoms like no other” state, and that “more laws steal the freedoms of our people.” He began a litany which was repeated by many others in attendance, that it is the responsibility of parents to monitor their children, not that of the city. Michelle Leake, who also moved here recently, praised the “sense of community” in Blanco, which made her choose it over Spring Branch. Her fear is that the ordinance would “criminalize” teens by giving the police a tool to target them and pull them over because of their age. She warned of the consequences to a teen with a misdemeanor on his/her record in the college application process and promised to take the city to court if the need arose. Debbie Triesch agreed in her comments as did Redbud Café owner Jan Brieger, whose teen employees sometimes walk home after the proposed curfew time. She asked if the police chief has thought about how the ordinance would make teens feel about the police, if they would still be seen as “the good guys.” Resident Doug Hain asked Chief Ritchey simply, “Do you live in Blanco?” to which the chief answered “No.” Mayor Homan asked those in attendance for a show of hands of those who oppose a curfew, and14 hands went up. He then asked who would support a curfew, and only the chief responded, to a few chuckles. Council member Danny Ray spoke in Chief Ritchey’s defense, saying the chief is only trying to be proactive. Council member Maria Guerrero, a Boerne police officer, said that the Boerne ordinance is a good deterrent and that few citations are actually issued, as few as 10 per year. Ann Hall asked for statistics on when most crimes occur, to which Chief Ritchey responded with various charts showing that crimes are spread fairly evenly over the evening and early morning hours.

Following discussion, Mayor Homan asked to skip to the agenda item dealing with the curfew so that a vote could be taken. Danny Ray made a motion not to adopt a curfew at this time and Al Turner seconded it. Mayor Homan read a letter from Bobby McClung, who was unable to attend the meeting, voicing his opposition to the curfew. In the ensuing vote only Maria Guerrero opposed the motion, with Danny Ray Martin Sauceda, and Al Turner supporting it. Mayor Homan said the debate is a good example of the democratic process in action, adding that more people have called or e-mailed him than voted in the last election.

In his Mayor’s Comments, Mayor Homan thanked Blanco volunteer firefighters who put out a fire at the sewer plant started by a bird in the machinery. He also praised PEC workers for their prompt actions to get things up and running again. He updated those in attendance on his experimental cancer treatment, saying that he is doing better and that the tumors are shrinking. He added that he would never have run for a second term without the support and urging of the staff at city hall. He also noted that the newly-installed city sign in front of the Blanco Library has gotten a lot of positive comments and that it is available for announcements from any Blanco non-profit group. City secretary Bobbie Mowery said information should be submitted no more than 30 days in advance of an event. The sign was paid for by PEC after the co-op declined to mount banner signs on its utility poles any longer.

Emergency Services District board member Ann Hall asked the city if it would make more sense to transfer the FCC license for transmitting an alerting tone to firefighters and EMS personnel to the ESD. She pointed out that the license has lapsed twice in the past few years because the city has not renewed it. Public works director Nathan Cantrell said the licenses were allowed to lapse—the first because it only worked with hand-held radios and the second because it was only used by the police department, which stopped using it. City attorney Eddy Rogers first said the city has no need of it, but Mayor Homan said it would be hard to get the license back if the city gives it up. Rogers said that he and Cantrell will work together to make sure the license is kept up to date, and Ann Hall said that is no problem.

Council approved a request for a rate increase from Progressive Waste Solutions of 18 cents per residential customer without passing the increase on to customers. The last request for an increase was two years ago, and last year the city raised the garbage pick-up rate. Resident Martha Gosnell asked if there was any way to have fewer pick-ups if a customer doesn’t need a weekly pick-up, but the mayor said the system is not set up to work that way.

Police Chief Ritchey reported good progress on enforcing the Nuisance Ordinance dealing with unsightly debris in yards. He said notices have been sent out to ten properties, and that the clean-up is progressing, especially on 14th Street. The municipal court judge can either fine or give continuances to those in violation, explained Ritchey. He added that more notices were to go out on Tuesday, August 14. Chief Ritchey also reported that he is pursuing grant applications to get more radios for police vehicles since they cost about twice as much as he had hoped.

In other business, council voted to hire local engineer Jim Raby for a paving project on Pecan Street by the post office between 4th and 5th Streets. His bid of $7500 for the project was lower than that of Adams Engineering ($14,900.) The city needs to spend money allotted for paving projects before time runs out, explained Cantrell. The project would include a sidewalk and parking spaces on the west side of Pecan beside the post office. He recommended Raby as a local person in addition to having the low bid.

Council considered renting the old city yard on 2nd Street, which has been without a tenant since Troy Alexander leased it for $500 a month. The options presented were to rent it or reclaim it for storage of city-owned materials. It was decided to run an ad for 30 days to see if there is interest and then bring the matter back to council for a vote.

Following a presentation by Nathan Cantrell, council voted to approve the purchase of a 4-wheel-drive John Deere tractor for $20K. The two tractors which the city owns will pull a shredder, said Cantrell; but one is small and the other, given the city by the Blanco State Park, could be sold for an antique, joked Cantrell. The money is in the department’s budget.

After deliberation in Executive Session, council voted to raise the salary of municipal court judge Don Barnett from $700 to $1200 per month.

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