After the second public hearing to discuss annexation of properties from the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Blanco, members of the governing body of Blanco voted unanimously at their regular meeting December 10 to annex these properties into the city of Blanco effective December 31, 2013. Mayor Chuck Homan thanked council member Bobby McClung for his work in the annexation process. Resident Maryella Vause also thanked council for all their hard work in preserving the country lifestyle of Blanco.
Planning and Zoning Commission member Martha Gosnell announced that the December meeting of P&Z was canceled due to the lack of a quorum but that a “big” meeting would be held in February.
Blanco Chamber of Commerce Director Libbey Aly informed council that the chamber is adopting a new name to reflect its emphasis on tourism, which is more in line with its mission statement. She said there has been confusion because both the Old Blanco County Courthouse and the chamber have a visitor’s center, but that they serve different purposes. The chamber gives out information packets, while the courthouse, in her words, “is doing an awesome job on weekends” when the chamber is not open. She said the scope of the chamber will be broader to promote businesses in the area. The new name will be the Blanco Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, and a new logo will be designed to reflect the change. Mayor Homan expressed pleasure that the courthouse and the chamber are working well together but said that the chamber does not need city council approval to change its name. However, he thanked Aly for informing them.
Emergency Services District board member Wayne (“Dirt”) Dworaczyk introduced EMS Director Mike West and new Blanco Fire Chief Ron Sallmann to discuss plans to build a combined fire/EMS facility in Blanco. West said that the two departments have worked together over the past three years “to serve Blanco as best we can.” Chief Sallmann said the goal is to cross-train fire and EMS personnel so that each can assist the other on calls. It would reduce costs, in his opinion, because people can be moved around as needed. To that end, a joint EMS-fire department committee has been looking for land on which to build a joint facility, and one of the sites being considered is at the corner of Jones and Blanco Avenue. However, West said, “If you have it earmarked, we’ll go on about our business. “ Bobby McClung asked for clarification on the point that grants are available for departments that own their own building, and Sallmann responded that that is true. He added that some grants, such as those from FEMA, state that recipients must have the property first. In response to a question about the size of the proposed building’s footprint, West responded that one of the drawings developed by an EMS employee who also does computer-assisted design, fits the size of the lot on Jones Avenue. In answer to a question by council member Danny Ray as to whether the Jones Avenue location is a good one, West responded that it is almost exactly in the center of the Emergency Services District. He said, “We’re pretty serious about this—we’re moving on this. We’re not waiting five years.” The goal of both departments is to get Blanco’s insurance rating down and to have a satellite station south of town in the Stallion Estates area.
The request from the ESD to donate the Jones Avenue property had been tabled in November due to the absence of city attorney Eddy Rogers. At this meeting he responded to the ESD request with what he called “legal concerns” about giving the ESD land. He said that the fire station is already on city land, leased for $1 a year over 99 years, and that the department gets free water from the city. “The city has done a lot for the fire department,” he continued, including giving them a truck, which he added “has not been well-maintained.” The law, he said, states that the city can only dispose of property if it serves “a municipal purpose.” He stated, “It is hard to say that there is a municipal purpose in renting large amounts of land to the ESD,”and called it “questionable” for the ESD to have land donated to it. Rogers concluded by saying that he could not recommend that the city donate the land to the ESD when a new sewer plant will need to be built at considerable expense by the city in the next few years. Selling that land could help to fund the new plant, in his opinion. Mike West asked if the ESD would need to make an offer to buy the land from the city if that was its decision, and Rogers responded that that would be the proper procedure.
Blanco Historic Preservation Commission chair Retta Martin reported that all the tasks undertaken by the BHPC, including signage guidelines, lighting guidelines, and design guidelines, have been completed. The Streetscape project is inactive at present, she continued, until more funds are raised. In her role as Keep Blanco Beautiful member, she asked council, “How do you like the lights?” She complained that not many businesses were open and lighted for the courthouse lighting ceremony on November 29, and said, “We should look really hard at what Blanco is really wanting.” In regard to the lighting display at the entrance to Bindseil Park, she said the vision is to take the lighting all the way down into the park.
Council voted to dissolve the Streetscape contract with the Barnes Group, since Mike Barnes’ work was basically done. Although Retta Martin asked that council hold off until Barnes could bring his final report to council, the mayor stated that either party could dissolve the contract and that Barnes has not been able to come to council meetings because of travel conflicts. He said that Barnes could come to council or send a report after the letter is sent to him.
Police Chief Mike Ritchey reported that he continues to be very pleased with the work of his officers. He expressed concern about a trend the department has seen in the last few weeks. Some residents have been leaving animals outside in the cold weather, tied to trees, with no shelter. He has consulted state law, has called Texas A&M, and said that he intends to prosecute those who are responsible for the abuse of their animals. Mayor Homan added that people think dogs are protected by their fur, but that that is not enough in the cold.
Chief Ritchey added that there has also been an increase in dogs running loose, an offense punishable by a fine. As he stated at an earlier meeting, the Blanco Vet Clinic bills the city for board if dog owners do not pay the boarding fee after an animal is picked up and taken there. Dogs are also immunized at the owner’s expense. He said the department wrote about 60 tickets last year, and that those who call to complain should tell the department who the dogs belong to if they know it. The caller’s identity will be kept confidential. Council member Al Turner said a dog running loose killed his cat, adding ,”I’m really upset.” The mayor stressed that individuals who see something going on that is not right should report it. “Let’s have a great big neighborhood watch,” he said.
Following Executive Session, council voted to authorize the mayor to order a survey of 110 acres adjacent to the city sewer plant and to do whatever is required to purchase the land, now owned by Dan Brown. The land would be used for sewer plant expansion and irrigation of nearby land leased from property owners by the city.