In Public Comments at the August 12 meeting of the governing body of Blanco, Blanco Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau Director Libbey Aly expressed concerns about the quality of Blanco’s water. As in past summers, the water has exceeded Maximum Contaminant Levels for total trihalomethanes, a byproduct of chlorinating water containing organic compounds. A notice sent to customers in July showed the water exceeding the maximum level of .080 milligrams per liter as established by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for the third and fourth quarters of 2013--.081 mg./l and .082 mg./l respectively. Director of Public Works Nathan Cantrell explained that aerating the water removes the contaminants, but that plans for blowers to do so have not been submitted to TCEQ. City engineering consultant Marvin Reavis added that he has to finish the plans and submit them. City Attorney Eddy Rogers blamed the EPA, who he said continues to lower acceptable contaminant levels, and that Blanco’s water “is better than it’s ever been.” However, a Blanco County News article from August 9, 2005, reported that the city had exceeded the MCL of .080 mg./l, revealing a continuing problem with contaminants in the summer. Aly said, “I think it should be an agenda item. What is the state of water that comes into our bodies?”
A Public Hearing was held on a request by local developer and realtor Dawn DeLaurentis for a variance so that property owners who originally purchased adjoining lots in Calico Meadows could consolidate them and build one dwelling in the middle. She was informed that a variance was not necessary, but that she would need to have the property re-surveyed and re-platted—a process that should be followed if additional owners seek to combine their lots into one. The survey should be submitted to the city for approval, according to Eddy Rogers.
Council members approved the audit of the city’s finances through September 30, 2013, as prepared and presented by Keith Neffendorf of Neffendorf, Knopp, and Doss. Neffendorf found “no major weaknesses” in the city’s finances and pronounced it “in good financial shape.” The only issue of non-compliance noted was the failure of the city to have a designated investment officer. Neffendorf offered to meet with the new city secretary to discuss his recommendations to bring the city into compliance with the Public Funds Investment Act. Mayor Pro Tem Bobby McClung, presiding in the absence of Mayor Chuck Homan, thanked Neffendorf, adding, “You always do a good job.”
Keep Blanco Beautiful and Blanco Historic Preservation Commission spokesperson Retta Martin updated council on the progress of the Streetscape Beautification Project along Fourth Street in front of Blanco National Bank. She said that Redbud Café and Brieger Pottery owners have also hired an architect to develop a plan for beautification in front of their businesses. Historic lights from the Lamplighting project and large trees are also envisioned for that area, according to Martin. On behalf of the BHPC, she recommended Pamela Prescott Capps to replace Rudy Niño as commissioner, and council approved the recommendation. “She has a heart for Blanco,” said Martin of Capps.
Blanco Youth Soccer Association Secretary Thaddeus Millard requested permission from the city to drill a well in Yett Park in order to water the new soccer field built by Dirt Works. It was clarified that a well already exists at the facility, but Millard said it is easier for the soccer association to have its own well than to work out how to negotiate with the other entities that operate there. Bobby McClung responded by asking if everyone who uses the park could potentially want their own well, “if they don’t play well together,” in his words. He asked if the soccer association would be willing to share its well, since the property actually belongs to the Blanco Chamber of Commerce. Nathan Cantrell said that the groundwater district will issue a permit for a well in the city only for agricultural purposes, but Millard responded that the school district has a well used for irrigation purposes. Cantrell said that a permit from the groundwater district is the first step, so council tabled the measure with the assurance that they would not oppose the plan if the groundwater district issues a permit.
Police Chief Mike Ritchey reported that his department statistics were much better in July, and that he is pleased with the performance of his officers. He said that there is a perception that the number of burglaries has risen, but that there were only two burglaries and 12 thefts for the month. Bikes taken in one theft were recovered from a pawn shop in Austin. He submitted a schematic of where signs could be placed near the fire department to prevent vehicles blocking fire trucks exiting onto Fifth Street. Eddy Rogers asked city employee Amy Van Pelt to check to see if there is an ordinance that deals with parking in a prohibited area.
Chief Ritchey also informed council of his plan to use department funds to purchase a new vehicle, a four-wheel drive Tahoe, for $32K. He said the police department has enough money in its miscellaneous fund to cover the purchase, so his request was “a courtesy request.” No approval was needed. He introduced Officer Jerry Thornhill, who explained the department’s plan to have a Facebook page/website, on which citizens could interact with the department. He said older citizens are becoming active on Facebook, and that residents could file complaints as well as give compliments to officers and e-mail anonymous tips. There would also be information available on programs such as Ident-a-Kid and National Night Out. According to Ritchey, communities that have this online resource see a drop in petty crime. “I think it’s a great idea,” responded Bobby McClung. The chief also notified the city that the department has the funds and plans to hire another part-time person at a salary of $21-23K per year.
In Executive Session, council members interviewed eight candidates to replace current city secretary Kristi Walker, but no decision was made.