At their regular meeting on July 8, members of the governing body of Blanco discussed purchasing radios for the mayor and city hall to monitor emergencies. The mayor had complained that he has no communication with police and fire departments and can only talk to the Blanco State Park. After input from the Blanco Volunteer Fire Department about their new radios, the decision was made to buy higher-quality radios for better communication in case of a catastrophic event, but to buy two instead of three, for a total of $7500.
Economic development consultant Mike Barnes gave his final report on the research he did in conjunction with Adams Engineering to find ways to fund the Streetscape Project. Barnes was hired by the city in 2013 to develop a timeline and plan for three phases of the project but admitted that after extensive research in conjunction with Langford and Associates, the city’s grant writer, “There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” and that the city will have to pay for the project if it is a priority. His recommendations included growing the Blanco economy since more property tax revenue is needed. He also suggested that the city investigate Chapter 380 agreements for re-investment of incoming funds. City Attorney Eddy Rogers asked Barnes to give the city a copy of all research “so we don’t have to re-invent the wheel” as the project progresses, and Barnes said that he had already sent the documents as attachments. A letter from Streetscape chair Jack Twilley has been submitted formally dissolving the contract with Mike Barnes. In other Streetscape business, Twilley has asked for an estimate from the architect who is working on the façade of the Blanco National Bank and beautification of the sidewalk in front of it for the cost of extending that project the length of the sidewalk on the north side of the square.
Fire Chief Ron Sallman reported that the department answered 16 calls in June, with an average response time of seven minutes, 32 seconds. He said the fire trucks now have extrication equipment that works. Lieutenant Bridges explained the Knox Box system, which the department advocates for public buildings and businesses in Blanco. Similar to a lockbox on a house, the box would be installed on the building, with keys inside it to unlock the building. The fire department could access the box with its own key, speeding up the process of entering a burning building without beating down doors or waiting for someone to show up with a key. According to Chief Sallman, the system, which is used in Comal County, is “a well-used, tried-and-true system.” The entity which uses the system would have to buy it, but Sallman said merchants have seen their insurance rates go down because of having one. A city ordinance could be passed to require merchants and public buildings to have one. Mayor Homan asked Chief Sallman to request a sales representative to make a presentation to council. Chief Sallman also asked council for permission to replace the old, unreadable “No Parking” signs in front of the fire department on Pecan Street. He said an anonymous donor has donated money for new signs. He also requested permission to put up signs on Fifth Street across from where trucks exit the fire department garage, since they have to take extra time to maneuver around parked cars. Council approved both requests.
Police Chief Mike Ritchey reported that calls were up about ten per cent in June, but that traffic enforcement is down about 30 per cent. He said he will talk to officers about that. He requested that the city re-write its old fireworks ordinance requiring fireworks stands to be erected farther from other buildings in case of explosions. Eddy Rogers said he would work with Ritchey to have something ready for council approval by the next meeting. Chief Ritchey also requested permission to buy a new desktop computer with funds coming in from traffic citations. Mayor Homan said no action was needed on Ritchey’s request since it does not require funds from the city. Ritchey reported that he has brought four new reserve officers on board in order to allow the regular officers to use vacation time they have accrued. Ty Grenwelge, Darren Ellis, and Keith Williamson will assume their duties after completing field training.
Chief Ritchey said he will also be developing a best Practices and Recognition Program to set down in writing the protocols that officers should follow. He said that when officers adhere to them, the department’s liability is lowered. Council member Maria Guerrero, a Boerne police officer, agreed, “It takes a lot of time, but it makes it more uniform.” Chief Ritchey is also investigating the purchase of a new vehicle—a Tahoe Special Services Vehicle, for $27K, on which equipment could be installed from other police vehicles which are no longer serviceable. He said that the department is earning $15/hour for working for TxDOT on road construction, having a police vehicle in place at the construction now taking place on Highway 165. The department has earned $2100 in the last ten days and anticipates continuing to work for the duration of the project, which is expected to last another year. Members of the audience who travel that road groaned to hear that news.
Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell notified council that will be buying a new utility truck for $30K and was told that he does not need council approval if the money is in his budget. Discussion of a contract for removal of dirt for irrigation purposes was tabled pending approval of a new waste water permit for the city.
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, Keep Blanco Beautiful spokesperson Retta Martin asked for a pledge from the city to help fund underground wiring for the Christmas lights in Bindseil Park. Mayor Homan said she would need to present an amount to the city during the budget process in August. She also reiterated that KBB members are no longer physically able to lay out all the extension cords to power the Christmas displays. Council member Al Turner responded that the volunteer fire department has agreed to help KBB run the cords, but that she needs to make a list for them. She responded that KBB members will be there to supervise. Chief Sallman added that they will be happy to help.
Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau Director Libbey Aly expressed her thanks to the mayor, the police chief, and the fire chief for all their help during the recent Blanco Lavender Festival in June. She apologized for confusion about the street closures she had requested for the Lavender Festival. Mayor Homan said that the city is working with TxDOT on getting help for managing traffic coming and out of Yett Park at next year’s festival.
In his comments, Mayor Homan also thanked police and fire departments for their help during the Lavender Festival. “I believe the festival went really well,” he said.
Following Executive Session, council members voted to remove probation status for City Secretary Kristi Walker.