All four Blanco County Commissioners and County Judge Bill Guthrie met in a Regular meeting on January 14, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. The Commissioners met in the Commissioners Courtroom of the Blanco County Courthouse in Johnson City, Texas.
The item requiring the most discussion was consideration of adoption of the Blanco County Transportation and Economic Development Plan as presented by Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG). The Court discussed a number of other items also.
Blanco County Clerk Karen Newman presented the minutes of the December 4, 2014 Regular meeting and the December 19, 2014 Special meeting. Blanco County Commissioner John Wood gave a motion to accept the minutes of the December 4th meeting with County Commissioner Paul Granberg seconding. A motion for approval of the December 19th minutes was made by Blanco County Commissioner James Sultemeier, and County Commissioner Chris Liesmann seconded this motion. All minutes were approved as read.
Commissioner Wood read a quote from Thomas Jefferson. The quote read as follows, “Patriotismis not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” Commissioner Wood added there had been a great display of patriotism in America after the terrorist attacks of 9-11, but not so much today. He asked the Commissioners to consider reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of each Blanco County Commissioners Court meeting. Commissioner Wood presented a motion for the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited at the beginning of County Commissioners Court Meeting, Commissioner Sultemeier seconded, and there was no further discussion. This motion carried.
Judge Guthrie asked the Court to acknowledge the resignation of Todd Swift as the Blanco County AgriLife Extension Agent. According to Judge Guthrie, “Todd has left as of January 1 to accept another position, and we will miss him.” There was no discussion, and Commissioner Liesmann made a motion to accept the resignation. Commissioner Granberg seconded and the action passed.
Judge Guthrie also asked the Commissioners Court to consider approval of the bonds for Constable Ty Grenwelge and Commissioner John Wood. He asked Secretary Kathy Strickland if the bonds were in order and he was told they were. No discussion followed, and Commissioner Wood gave the motion for approval with a second given by Commissioner Granberg. The motion carried.
The Commissioners were asked to consider reappointment of Becky Greathouse and Darwin LaBarthe to the South Blanco County Emergency Services District Board of Directors. Commissioner Granberg added, “the ESD met last night and a strong strategic plan was presented. These individuals will be a great asset to the Board.” Commissioner Granberg presented a motion to approve the appointments to the South Blanco County Emergency Services District Board of Directors, Commissioner Wood seconded the motion and the Court approved the appointments.
The Commissioners Court also considered the reappointment of Ed Hullum and Ingrid Moursund to the North Blanco County Emergency Services District Board of Directors. Commissioner Liesmann provided a motion for approval of these appointments with Commissioner Sultemeier seconding the motion. No discussion followed and the action passed.
The Court went on to approve the estimated January 2014 payroll in the amount of $259,063.96. Commissioner Sultemeier gave a motion for approval and Commissioner Granberg seconded. Judge Guthrie asked if all official reports for December and the outstanding report for Constable Pct. 1 for November were in. He was told they were and Commissioner Granberg provided a motion to accept the reports with Commissioner Wood seconding the motion. The Commissioners approved the outstanding bills for $74,495.85. Commissioner Liesmann noted that the CPS Consolidated Service for Emergency Management was not part of the Sheriff’s Office. A motion to approve the outstanding bills was given by Commissioner Liesmann and Commissioner Sultemeier seconded. The motions for approval of payroll, reports, and outstanding bills were all approved by the Court.
Mark Sweeney, AICP Director of Regional Services for CAPCOG opened the Presentation regarding the Blanco County Transportation and Economic Development Plan. Sweeney distributed copies of the Plan and made reference to the three large County maps he had positioned in the Courtroom. The maps included proposed plans for thoroughfare, safety improvements, and signage. Sweeney told Commissioners his Presentation would include high-lights of the plan and provide opportunities for comments and questions. Sweeney thanked the Commissioners for their participation in the 12 to 13 month long process. He said, “the citizenry was very engaged with this, and the Advisory Committee was a tremendous help in focusing on issues and solutions…they took an active role.” Sweeney noted the important contributions by CAPCOG, Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), and Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI).
Mark Sweeney told the Commissioners that the proposed Plan gives Commissioners a 2040 blueprint for transit in Blanco County. According to Sweeney, “approval of an adopted Plan provides more authority and leverage to deal with future developers in Blanco County.” Sweeney recounted that four meetings were held with the Advisory Committee and three with the Economic Development Focus Group. He added that this group of business leaders, leaders in the school districts, and citizens was well chosen. Sweeney said, “we held two public hearings. The first hearing was in April in Johnson City. The second meeting was held in September in Blanco. These hearings gave a fair and balanced voice to the process. Our survey was a great questionnaire, and 182 people responded to it. We received good input from the survey as well.”
Sweeney reviewed the improvements given since the last meeting. The first of these was a traffic study conducted by Johnson City pertaining to Nugent Avenue at highways 281 and 290. A recommendation was made for more and safer pedestrian crossings on highway 290. The City of Blanco proposed the addition of hiking and biking trails from Blanco State Park to Yett Park. The two cities made recommendations for adding scenic viewing areas for the Blanco and Pedernales Rivers.
Sweeney referred to the traffic study from TTI. The study indicated the southern part of Blanco County would incur significant traffic problems by or before 2040. Widening highway 281 to four lanes would help alleviate this problem. He said all proposals were opportunities to consider the feasibility and costs. “You will decide on the priorities…these will be logical and realistic.”
Betty Voights, Executive Director of CAPCOG recapped the high-lights of the Economic Development Study. She thanked the Court and especially Judge Guthrie for implementing a new concept. Voights said, “too often areas only incorporate transportation issues in long range planning studies. However, it is just as important to incorporate economic development planning.” She said the successful pilot [study] conducted by Blanco County would provide insights for other areas to follow.
Voights told the Court the study indicated further development of the ale and distilled brewery businesses in Blanco County would be a key factor for future economic opportunities. Other areas of importance were improvements to the downtown areas of Blanco and Johnson City and a more effective use of income from the hotel occupancy tax. Voights said, “the Central Texas food industry provides a big possibility to compliment the developing wine industry here in Blanco County.” A recommendation was also given to expand Broadband service in Blanco County, “as a way to invest in the people who really want to live and work from home in Blanco County.”
Another important economic concept was the need for a single identity for Blanco County. Voights noted that other counties have had great success by implementing a countywide brand. Several comments were made on the importance of Johnson City and Blanco working together in a unified manner to achieve greater economic success and growth for the entire county.
The final part of the Presentation included comments from Voights and Sweeney regarding follow-up for the proposed Plan. According to Voights, “no funds are available by TXDOT for transportation planning but there is money for economic development planning.” Economic planning would consider real assets in Blanco and Johnson City and the opportunities for combining organics and locally grown products with businesses in the area, including restaurants.
Voights and Sweeney told the Court there had been a meeting with GVTC about the need to expand broadband service and reminded the Commissioners of the importance of tourism for the county. The two directors told the Court, “they would be happy to answer additional questions and were excited about the opportunities for Blanco County.” Sweeney said the Plan was, “by the people, and for the people of Blanco County to truly develop efforts from many different sources.”
Judge Guthrie thanked Sweeney and Voights for an enlightening Presentation. He also said that great opportunities would be gained from the citizens of Blanco and Johnson City working together to foster economic development for Blanco County. Judge Guthrie and Commissioner Sultemeier thanked CAPCOG, TTI, and TXDOT for their contributions to developing the Plan. Judge Guthrie asked if there were further items for discussion and there were none. The Regular meeting ended as Commissioner Sultemeier made a motion to adopt the Blanco County Transportation and Economic Development Plan. Commissioner Granberg seconded this motion, and the Court approved adoption of the Blanco County Transportation and Economic Development Plan.