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Newly-Elected Blanco City Council Members Congratulated by Mayor
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 • Posted May 23, 2014

Blanco Mayor Chuck Homan congratulated re-elected council members Martin Sauceda, Bobby McClung, and Al Turner at the May 13 regular meeting of the governing body of Blanco. However, he expressed disappointment at the low voter turn-out, with only 46 citizens casting votes in the May 10 election. “ I wish more people would come out and take an active role in our city government,” he said. Candidate Jim Raby lost by a slim margin of two votes to the three incumbents. Council members canvassed the votes and voted to accept the results.

The issue of dealing with loud vehicles and noisy neighbors was discussed several times during the meeting, first by Retta Martin during the Open Comments portion of the meeting. She referred to the signs on Highway 281 entering Blanco which forbid trucks from engine-braking, but said that other trucks are often noisy. Police Chief Mike Ritchey said that the city does not own any devices to measure the decibel level in order to enforce a noise ordinance. Resident Martha Gosnell said that complaining to the police about noisy neighbors was effective when she lived near noisy A&M students in Bryan. Chief Ritchey responded that complaints about loud, inconsiderate neighbors will be investigated, but that noisy vehicles cannot be dealt with in that way. Later in his police report, Chief Ritchey was asked by City Attorney Eddy Rogers about the cost of devices to measure decibel levels. Rogers volunteered to work with the chief to investigate the cost of the devices and bring back a report to council. Resident Roxie Avants complained about a loud vehicle near her home and was told by Chief Ritchey to call the department when it happens again, and someone will definitely respond.

American Legion Auxiliary members Randi Weeks and Roxie Avants used the Public Comments time to pin poppies on council members and the mayor in honor of veterans for Memorial Day. “Thank you very much for letting us honor the veterans,” said Mrs. Avants. State Representative Jason Isaac presented an “Honor and Remember” flag to the city to be flown on designated holidays such as Memorial Day and whenever a Texan service member dies in the line of duty. Details about the symbolism of the flag can be found at the website. Isaac thanked all veterans and family members present at the meeting. Mayor Homan said he would make sure the flag is flown on Memorial Day.

Also in the Public Comments time, PEC representative Tessa Schmidtzinsky reminded council and residents about the upcoming annual PEC meeting June 21 at the Leander ISD South Performing Arts Center in Cedar Park. Two directors and a ballot initiative will be voted on. PEC members can vote by mail, online, or in person at the meeting, which will include family-friendly activities.

Other comments included a plea by Retta Martin for the city to ban plastic bags, which have been responsible for the death of several animals who have ingested them. A question about new signage identifying handicapped-accessible curbs was answered by the mayor, who said they are the work of TxDOT and that the city was not consulted. Finally, resident Roxie Avants praised the police department for their efficient work in dealing with a lock-down at Blanco Elementary School last week. Al Turner added that he had heard positive comments from dozens of residents about the department’s quick action.

Planning and Zoning Commission representative Martha Gosnell recommended the appointment of Jon Brieger to P&Z, based on a unanimous vote at their last meeting. Council voted to approve the appointment.

Blanco South Library District Vice-President Greg Hinton and member Dave Lageman reported on sources for the library’s funding, which include a lump sum of $12K from the city of Blanco, $5K from Blanco County, in addition to tax revenue, tax revenue of $67,345K, income of $43,500 from the non-profit Blanco Library Inc. organization, and $7,200 from fund-raising by the Friends of the Blanco Library. These funds constitute 88 percent of the library’s annual funding, which allows it to serve its 6,000 patrons. “There is no resource more valuable to our young people,” said Lageman, adding that the continuing education opportunities it provides are vital to the adults who use it. Volunteers gave 7000 hours of their time in 2010 through 2012-- providing the library a total dollar value of $50,600.

However, Lageman sounded an ominous tone by projecting that the library may be forced to close or curtail its hours in the future because it will use up its endowment in the next eight to ten years. “It is a community problem,” he concluded. “We must come together to find a solution so that our 6,000 patrons can enjoy the benefits that the library provides.”

Blanco Fire Chief Ron Sallman reported 12 total calls in April, with 71 calls for the year to date. Average response time was 10 minutes and 42 seconds, which was longer than usual because of grass fires at the edge of the fire district, according to Sallman. He informed council that the department’s new bunker gear has arrived, which he called “the latest and greatest,” thanks to grants from Texas A&M University. The grants have also allowed the department to purchase a training library and new SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) packs, which provide 45 minutes of air. The city fire truck has been fitted with a gas and cyanide detector, as well as extrication equipment--$42k worth of equipment, according to Sallman. The department’s volunteer corps has risen to 16, up from three last November, and will cap at 20 when the gear is available. A donation of bunk beds to the firehouse has enabled the department to move toward lowering the city’s ISO rating by allowing 24-7 staffing at certain times, such as the Real Ale Ride on May 17.

The fire department has determined that 96 addresses in the city have entrances which are inaccessible to fire trucks, due to low tree limbs, low-hanging utility wires, or vehicles blocking access. Sallman explained that the clearance for a fire truck is 14 feet, six inches, and that brushing an overhead utility wire would be extremely hazardous for a truck or a firefighter. “It’s something we need to address from an ISO standpoint,” warned Sallman, since the ISO inspector will drive down every street before compiling his report. The mayor asked for a copy of the list in order to notify residents, who may not even be aware of a problem.

Finally, Sallman asked for direction in making improvements to the fire department building, which is leased from the city. The mayor said he would ask Pete McKinney, the code compliance officer, to meet with the chief.

Police Chief Ritchey provided council members with statistics for the month of April, saying that they look “real good.” “You are doing a fine job,” responded Al Turner. The issue of additional radios was raised by the mayor, who requested that some money be found in the budget to have a radio at city hall. He complained that since the new system has been put in place, he can only talk to the Blanco State Park. Chief Ritchey said he needs an additional radio for the police station as well. No action was taken on that request, and the meeting adjourned without the need for an executive session.

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