At the February 11 meeting of the governing body of Blanco, Blanco Historic Commission member and Keep Blanco Beautiful representative Retta Martin urged city council to proceed with implementing the Comprehensive Master Plan, which was adopted in 2007 but never updated. She said that new properties annexed by the city need to conform to the regulations of the plan, and that LCRA and PEC are both ready to sit down and help Blanco update the plan. Council member Bobby McClung added that the Planning and Zoning Commission was created as part of the Comprehensive Master Plan, and that the city should reach out to them to take action since the newly-annexed properties need to be zoned in compliance with the plan. P&Z member Martha Gosnell said that there was a great deal of interest in updating the plan at the February P&Z meeting, which was attended by 25 people. In his Mayor’s Comments, Chuck Homan agreed that the city needs to get started on the update, and that it would be put on the agenda for the next meeting.
Resident Wayne Gosnell, a member of the Hill Country Alliance and advocate for maintaining Blanco’s rural character, announced that Dripping Springs has been designated the only Dark Sky Community in Texas and the sixth nationwide by the International Dark Sky Association. Blanco’s outdoor lighting ordinance aims to keep the skies dark over Blanco in order for residents and visitors to enjoy the night skies. Gosnell praised Dripping Springs mayor Todd Purcell, quoting his words that the award “is evidence that the city and the people who live in and near the city value the natural environment, including the beauty of the Hill Country and high quality of the night sky.” Gosnell concluded, “Blanco is not far behind” in its efforts to minimize light pollution.
Mayor Chuck Homan announced plans for a movie about John Wesley Hardin to be filmed in and around Blanco. He said he was approached by Tom Bentley, an actor in the movie True Grit, which was also filmed partially in Blanco, and local entrepreneur Dennis Moore, who told him that half the funding has already been obtained for making the film.
Homan explained that the city was closed during the recent icy weather and that it was his decision not to put city workers at risk by being out on the highways. He added that any citizen who needs him can always call his personal number.
Blanco County Precinct #3 Commissioner Chris Liesmann explained a new interlocal radio system, which is part of the Greater Austin-Travis County Radio System (GATOR), and which will serve Blanco, Burnet, and Llano Counties. Blanco County’s share of the $233,088 system would be $20K a year, or $16 a month paid by each user entity (See February 12, 2014 Blanco County News). Liesmann explained that the new “trunk” system will have a much longer range, as far away as El Paso. Council member Al Turner asked why the police department is requesting new radios and was told that they are necessary to work with the new system. Chief Ritchey asked if there is a written agreement and was told by Liesmann that there is only one for billing purposes. City Attorney Eddy Rogers asked to look over the agreement; however, council voted to approve the interlocal agreement.
Sylvia Romero came before council to request road closures for 5K and 10K races to held as part of Wild Woman Weekend, April 5. A one-mile fun run has also been added to the event, which benefits four local organizations—Gem of the Hills, the Old Blanco County Courthouse, the Blanco Library, and the Blanco State Park. Mayor Homan suggested that Romero could ask the city to put information about the event on the city’s marquee at the Blanco Library. Romero also asked for help from the Blanco police department on traffic management during the two-day event. Council approved the request for road closures from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 5, and Chief Ritchey joked that he was looking forward to the event.
Council also voted to give resident Carman Galvan a one-time reduction in her water bill after a malfunction of a filter system which caused her to use 88K gallons. She was given a credit of $280 on the bill and six months to pay the remainder. “It’s above and beyond what we usually do, but we want to help her out,” said the mayor. Galvan’s normal bill averages $66.83.
Jim Raby, owner of Rivalry Screen Printing and Graphics, came before council to suggest that the city clarify that people who put up temporary banners need to get a permit and pay a fee. He said that the average person is not familiar with the sign ordinance, which is part of the city’s Unified Development Code (UDC). Bobbie Mowery said that the ordinance is on the city’s website—cityofblanco.com—but Raby responded that people may read that but still may not understand. The confusion about the banner rule was displayed when Bobby McClung said he didn’t remember a fee being necessary, and the mayor said he paid a one-time fee for the banner advertising his small-engine repair business, although in fact a banner is to be displayed for only 30 days, according to the ordinance. The mayor suggested making the issue an agenda item for the March meeting, and council member Danny Ray suggested letting P&Z work on it.
In other business, council voted to approve a written agreement between the city and the Blanco Volunteer Fire Department stating that the department does not have to pay for water used to fight fires. Fire department board member Al Turner abstained from the vote.
In his monthly report, Police Chief Mike Ritchey said that he is “really happy with the productivity of his department,” which has more than doubled their calls in the past year. He said there were no issues with the annual Racial Profiling Report submitted to the state. He also requested several more radios for officers. After some discussion, council approved Chief Ritchey’s request to move the office of Code Compliance Officer Pete McKinney to the police department. McKinney will still coordinate requests for building permits through the city office, but complaints and citations will be issued through the police department. City attorney Eddy Rogers said, “I’m all for it.”
Chief Ritchey also submitted a bid for $45K he had received from Central Texas Road Construction for repaving the police department lot to improve drainage and prevent flooding. It was suggested at a previous meeting that the chief consult with the same company which had done a paving project on Pecan Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets. Danny Ray informed Ritchey that Blanco’s UDC requires that 30 percent of a paved area must consist of green space, that only 70 percent can be impervious cover. In response to Ritchey’s frustration, Ray responded, “We have to live by the rules we made.” It was also suggested that Ritchey get another bid on the project. Finally, council approved Ritchey’s request to use the city’s credit card to take visiting officials to lunch periodically, in the interest of good public relations between departments.
Finally, council approved a request by Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell to dispose of surplus city property. There was no action taken on any items discussed in Executive Session.