At their regular meeting on October 9, members of the governing body of Blanco reviewed plans for an expanded city hall as presented by council member Danny Ray. The plan, which includes 1500 additional square feet of space for a municipal court chamber as well as reconfigured office space for staff, was designed by William Epp, architect for Uptown Blanco’s renovations of the West Side buildings. Drafts of the plan had been reviewed by council previously and suggestions made by the staff who work there. The revised plan, which was approved unanimously by council, will now go out for bids from contractors.
Don Gaines and Gwen Risinger, representatives of Blanco Library, Inc., reported to council that a contract for the new 12,000 square foot library has been signed with Lake-Flato Architects of San Antonio. During the initial design phase, the building committee is soliciting input from the city as well as funding to finish paying the initial contract fee. Finance committee chair Nell Krueger said, “ A little will go a long way” toward funding. After preliminary designs are complete, the committee will begin applying for grants to fund the project . Don Gaines expressed his view that the library will benefit the city as well as the schools, and Krueger concluded, “The firm is excited to be building in Blanco.” Council member Ron Houston said, “It’s so exciting to start with an idea and have so many people come together to make it happen.” Mayor Rodrigue thanked the group for their passion in working toward bringing this project to fruition.
Pedernales Electric Co-op representative Tamara Chapman reported to council that the 2008 Youth Tour Contest applications are available from PEC offices, on line, and from school counselors. Winners will take a trip to Washington, DC.
Planning and Zoning Commission chair Jud Prince reported that a recent meeting with the Visionaries in Preservation and city representatives was productive. He commended VIP for their work on appropriate signage for Blanco businesses, which, in his words, “will help us a lot in re-writing the sign ordinance” in the UDC.
Blanco Chamber of Commerce president Julie Dill reported that the chamber now has 153 members. “It’s really exciting how much it’s growing,” she enthused. The chamber’s theme is “Partners in Collaboration with the City.” Upcoming events include a mixer with entertainment by Bobby McClung and a retreat November 1 for strategic planning in the upcoming year. Beginning in January the chamber office will be open more hours, and Dill said, “We are excited to be able to serve the town better.” Plans to partner with the Old Blanco Courthouse Preservation Society to expand the courthouse holiday lighting festivities are also underway, with the hope that more merchants on the square will have their shops lighted and serve refreshments during the lighting event. “We want to bring the spirit back,” Dill concluded. She also spoke of efforts to assist Yett Park in their events. “It’s a lot of hard work you’re doing,” said Ron Houston; “thank you.”
Blanco Historical Preservation Commission president Candy Cargill reported that Certificates of Appropriateness have been issued for the following: the Old Wool and Mohair Warehouse renovation and sport court, Uptown Blanco sidewalk and paving behind the Wagner and Chabot Building, Linda Lyons’ renovation and painting of the house on 4th Street, and the Blanco Investments renovation plan for the former Sunset Restaurant building on the square. The commission has voted that a natural progression for expanding the historic district is the historic Blanco Cemetery, since a survey shows that it is a popular tourist destination. The commission has also applied for a grant for funding the completion of the inventory of historical property in Blanco and for reimbursement for the training seminar. Additionally, the commission has voted to request that the city of Blanco join the Texas Downtown Organization in order to request assistance for the downtown revitalization program associated with VIP. Summarizing the year’s work, Cargill said, “We have learned, most of all, that we all have a lot more to learn,” but that, in her words, “The end product will be a Blanco whose historic background and culture has been preserved, while making room for the growth that is here and on the way—the old and the new existing in harmony.”
Sergeant Carl Bragg of the Blanco sheriff’s department reported that 253 citations were issued in the month of September, and that, in his words, “the seriousness of calls seems to be escalating with the growth of the city.” About the increase in traffic tickets, he mused, “Some people just don’t get it—slowing down will save lives. We’re trying to keep the community safe.” Referring to the recent rash of counterfeit checks, Bragg said, “We will not tolerate people in our community being ripped off.” Ron Houston commended Bragg’s efforts, and the mayor interjected that Bragg has been using his days off to work cases.
A discussion of problems dealing with encroachment of the porch on the former Sunset Restaurant onto city property resulted in no action by the city after it was ascertained that the UDC requires no setback for historic properties, and that the porch can be considered part of a proposed pedestrian walkway around the square. City attorney Ricky Simmons said that it may be an issue for other parties but not for the city. However, the mayor recommended that a copy of the UDC be sent to the lender to enable the buyers, Blanco Investments, to obtain financing to buy the property, which is to become a tearoom and expansion of the current Two Friends Boutique. Council member Bobby McClung speculated that most buildings on the square have porches which encroach onto city property. In its final item of business, council voted to proceed with paving Mesquite Street, after letting the contract for bids.