Blanco Police Chief Mike Ritchey reported to city council at their regular meeting November 12 that water from the recent heavy rains rose high enough to leave a water mark on the exterior walls of the police station on Blanco Avenue. He said that the parking lot has flooded three times and warned that if drainage is not improved, water may enter the building and cause serious damage. Chief Ritchey had come before council with a similar request after a heavy rain in October, showing photos of the flooded parking lot. At that time, the whole issue of flooding on Blanco Avenue was postponed until the completion of an affordable housing complex now under construction at the corner of Loop 163 and Blanco Avenue. The rationale at that time was that construction vehicles would damage the road and undo any new paving and drainage work; also, that the company building the units might do some upgrades to Blanco Avenue. The chief said that he has already spoken to several contractors and gotten an estimate of $35K-$38K but has not been given a written bid. Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell suggested that the contractors working on the paving project on Pecan Street could submit a bid. City secretary Bobbie Mowery pointed out that a project costing less than $50K does not have to be let for bid. Council member Danny Ray told Chief Ritchey that he would get him some names to get bids from.
Chief Ritchey also requested that the personal vehicles of police officers left in the police department parking lot need to be secured due to the increased number of residents in the immediate area. He reported that Blanco police officers are doing a good job, that there has been an increase in the number of calls, and that the way they are being handled is “absolutely phenomenal.”
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, Keep Blanco Beautiful chair Retta Martin asked for the help of the city in putting up Christmas lights for the Trail of Lights, which will be illuminated for the first time Thanksgiving weekend. “We are way behind,” she said. Resident Wayne Gosnell reported that he has applied for a golf cart permit for his father but has found numerous problems with the city’s recently-adopted golf cart ordinance. He said he has submitted seven pages of changes needed to clear up discrepancies. Chief Ritchey said that the city’s ordinance may be more restrictive than the state ordinance but not less than. City attorney Eddy Rogers was not present to address the ordinance and its problems.
In the Mayor’s Comments portion of the meeting, Mayor Homan apologized for not attending the Veteran’s Day parade. “It’s the first time in years that I haven’t made it,” he said. “I heard that it was really nice.”
Mark Sweeney, Capital Area Council of Governments Director of Regional Services gave a presentation to council of the Blanco County Transportation and Economic Development Plan, developed collaboratively with TxDOT and Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), “to develop a vision for economic growth and transportation improvements to guide Blanco County through the year 2040.” (A detailed account of a similar presentation to the Blanco County Commissioners’ Court can be found in the November 13 issue of the Blanco County News.) Council member Bobby McClung was part of the advisory committee which met several times during the past 12 months to draft the plan. Portions of the plan especially relevant to the city of Blanco deal with a proposed bypass around the city, a matter of concern because of the possible effect on local businesses. Public meetings were held in Johnson City and Blanco to get citizen input, and a questionnaire was disseminated which yielded 182 responses. Recommendations to stimulate economic development include promoting locally grown food in addition to the local brewery and wine-producing industry, the redevelopment of Blanco’s downtown, and creating a brand name for the community. Internet broadband service is something that would promote economic development in the county, drawing people who work from home. Sweeney said that Blanco’s proposed Streetscape project fits well with the plan, which proposes pedestrian and bicycle lanes. City engineer Marvin Reavis asked if there is still money in the Safe Routes to School plan, and Sweeney answered that it has been combined with another program called Transportation Alternatives. Sweeney stressed that the plan will enable the county to apply for grants to implement the recommendations. “It is meant to be a plan for the people and by the people,” he said, and that it “can’t sit on the shelf; it must be reevaluated every few years.” He concluded that the next step for the plan after citizen feedback is to take it back to the Blanco County Commissioner’s Court for approval. A copy of the plan will be available at the Blanco Library. It can also be accessed online at www.blancocountyplan.org.
Emergency Services District commissioner Wayne (“Dirt”) Dworaczyk came before council to request that the city donate land at the corner of Blanco and Jones Avenue for the Emergency Services District to build a combined EMS and volunteer fire station. He explained that the goal of the ESD is to form a First Responders Organization, which will allow the ESD to apply for more grants to buy equipment. The district hopes to have the FRO up and running by early next year. He explained that the organization can get a free building if there is donated land to place it on. Due to the increased population south of town, the district would also like to build a substation in the vicinity of Stallion Estates. Mayor Homan explained that the request must be tabled until City Attorney Eddy Rogers is present and asked Dworaczyk to have it put on next month’s agenda. Danny Ray asked what the district would do with the present buildings and was told that the district could use them for a training center and rent them out to other districts to train there. In answer to the question of whether the fire department is “on board” with the decision, Dworaczyk said, “They are now—all the fire-fighting equipment belongs to the ESD.” He invited council members to attend the next ESD meeting on November 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the EMS building to learn more.
Mayor Homan responded that there will be a public meeting December 3 to talk about annexation and that the city limits may be extended south. Also there may be land annexed by the city that is not contiguous to it. There was no action on the item.
In other business, council voted to transfer the FCC license for the emergency broadcast channel to the ESD. They also voted to approve the appointment of a new Blanco Historic Preservation Commission member, James Harris, who was introduced and stated his belief that “Blanco’s future is Blanco’s past.” At the last meeting of the BHC, commissioners Charles Willgren, JD Sherlock, Rudy Niño, and Retta Martin were reappointed. Retta Martin also recommended Becky Greathouse to be the Historic Preservation Officer because of her architecture degree.
Council heard a report from Marvin Reavis on a project to upgrade the Blanco water storage tank and filter system and approved letting the project for bids, pending TCEQ approval. Following Executive Session, council passed a resolution to enforce the Industrial Wastewater Pre-treatment Ordinance. At the recommendation of Police Chief Ritchey, Officer John Livingston was removed from Probationary Status.