A public hearing was held September 8 at 6:00pm prior to the regular meeting of the governing body of the city of Blanco. Comments were invited on the proposed city budget for 2009-10 and the proposed tax rate of .2583 per $100 valuation of property. No citizens gave input; and in the regular meeting council members voted unanimously to approve the budget, the proposed tax rate, which remains the same as last year’s, and the property tax increase reflected in the budget.
After calling the meeting to order, mayor Tina Gourley asked for public comments, and Retta Martin of Keep Blanco Beautiful invited all citizens to pick up a flag donated by KBB at city hall and to observe the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “Remember the day and say a prayer” for the victims and survivors, urged Martin.
Duane Wilhite, a partnership assistant with the Census Bureau, spoke to council asking for support for the 2010 Census. “The census is easy,” said Wilhite, “but the effects will last for the next 10 years.” Results of the census will determine the number of seats allotted to districts in the Texas Legislature and what federal funding comes to local communities. According to Wilhite, the response rate from Blanco County in 2000 was only 57 %, compared with a national response rate of 67%. Forms will be mailed on April 1, 2010, to physical addresses only. Those with post office boxes will have to pick up forms at a central location such as city hall or the chamber of commerce, unless census workers deliver them door-to-door. Wilhite emphasized the confidentiality of responses to the census, which will consist of only 10 questions. No other government entity will receive census results, including the INS, IRS, social security office, or law enforcement agencies. As genealogy researchers know, the results of a census are not made public for 72 years.
Mechelle Salmon of the Blanco EMS presented data to council on the need for emergency services workers— fire, police, and EMS— to have a usable radio repeater in the wake of the collapse of the EMS tower last March 23. Public works director Nathan Cantrell explained that city workers currently use cell phones to communicate rather than the city-owned, three-year-old radio repeater mounted on the Blanco water tower. Police, fire, and Emergency Medical Services of Emergency Services District #1 could share the expense of leasing the repeater from the city, according to Salmon. Council member Bobby McClung made a motion that, until a formal lease agreement is reached, emergency services go ahead and use the repeater and the city’s frequency, and council voted unanimously to approve the motion.
Mayor Tina Gourley read a proclamation recognizing members of the American Legion and proclaiming September 19 American Legion Day. The proclamation honors the three million members of the American Legion, a not-for-profit community service organization chartered by Congress September 19, 1919. Members of the American Legion who were present were recognized for their service.
City engineer Marvin Reavis reported to council that bids for seal-coating several Blanco streets have been received and recommended the choice of Blacktoppers Paving, who submitted the low bid of $91,118 for filling potholes, repairing “chewed-up” shoulders, leveling streets, and sealing them. Council member Danny Ray questioned the cost of what he called, “painting the streets black.” Reavis acknowledged that the process, while “not ideal,” would keep the water out and “get repairs made to more areas,” including Elm, 7th, and Fulcher Streets. The job would have to be completed before the soil temperature drops below 70 degrees, according to Reavis, who expects the work to be completed by mid-November to early December. The process would be to start in more severe areas, he explained; and change orders would be submitted as the work progresses. Council voted to approve the bid on a three-two vote, with Ray and Jim Rodrigue voting in opposition.
Nathan Cantrell recommended to council that the city join the Houston-Galveston Area Buy Cooperative Program, enabling the city to purchase vehicles and equipment at reduced prices without putting out bids. “I’ve never seen their prices beat,” said Marvin Reavis. After council voted unanimously to join the co-op, Cantrell agreed to delay his request for the city to purchase two trucks until the city becomes a member of the co-op.
Martha Herden, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, reported on deliberations by P&Z to grant a variance to the Red Bud Café for a sign which is larger than the 32-square-foot size mandated by the city’s UDC. Concerns about using a smaller sign than the current “Real Foods” sign on the facade of the historic building include exposing underlying brick which might be a different color, and maintaining the ratio of the size of the sign to the size of the building on the historic square. Linda Howard, chair of the Blanco Historic Commission, reported that the commission has already approved the Red Bud’s sign, based on esthetics. City attorney Eddy Rogers questioned whether the sign could be grandfathered, based on the age of the building and the size of the current sign. Mayor Gourley explained that the UDC states that buildings with signs which were out of compliance when the UDC was adopted may retain them until the building is sold or has a new use. After discussion in executive session, council voted to grant the variance, although council member Ron Houston expressed reluctance to set a precedent of allowing signs which violate the UDC. Council also voted after executive session to change the membership of the P&Z to bring it into compliance with the original P&Z rules, which involved removing Ralph de Leon from membership.
Chamber of commerce director Julie Dill reported that “exciting economic development activities” are going on in Blanco, including plans for the Lavender Lights Festival and selection of two Blanco restaurants, the soon-to-open Red Bud Café and the Joyful Noise Coffee Shop, in the Go Texan Rural Community Program’s new “Restaurant Round-up” Program. Both restaurants are mentioned in Texas Monthly Magazine, according to Dill. She also announced that the Texas Historic Commission has designated the Texas Hill Country Trail as one of 10 historic Texas trails. On February 18 a celebration will be held upstairs at Uptown Blanco, with 900 invitations sent to invite people “from all over the state” to promote what Dill calls “heritage tourism.” She also pointed out that the latest Edible Austin Magazine features an ad for Blanco’s Lavender Lights Festival.
Reporting for the Blanco Historical Commission, Linda Howard announced the appointment of Julie Dill to fill the last vacant slot on the historical commission. She lauded Dill for her experience on the Visionaries in Preservation task force and the Street Scape Project, calling her appointment “a big asset to the commission.” Howard also announced that member Amy Petri has enlisted the aid of her students at Blanco High School to lead tours of the historic Blanco Cemetery. A new museum has opened in the historic Kellam-Galbraith House on Pecan Street, built in 1918, restored through the generosity of Pat Ryan. The first exhibit will feature “Women and their Work in Pioneer Days.”
Interim police chief Carl Bragg reported to council that calls for service went up 13% in August after a jump of 56% in July, what he called “a marked increase.” In August the department issued 118 citations and received 142 calls for service with a total of 878 calls so far in 2009. The department has gathered statistics showing that 72% of calls for service come in between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m., according to Bragg, who said that the department has adjusted schedules of officers to try to “slow down” the violations. Most calls also come between Friday and Monday, with a peak on Saturday. In a memo to council members, Bragg cited 30 accomplishments of the department since his appointment in July, succeeding former chief Ed Sonier. Among the accomplishments are the following: a 100 percent rating from the Texas Department of Public Safety for the department’s Uniform Crime Reporting System, establishing a new firearms range for officers’ weapons qualifications, initiating a more aggressive and updated Field Training Officer program to better instruct newer officers in handling the various unique situations that may arise when responding to calls, instituting more aggressive enforcement of drug-related cases, developing a cooperative effort with the Blanco ISD, including a child safety program, and increasing the reserve officer force with selection focused on officers with 15 or more years of service with specialized expertise which can aid in training younger officers. In response to a request by Mayor Gourley as to how to boost morale of officers, Bragg responded, “We need more room.”
After deliberations in executive session, council voted to increase the pay of police department clerical assistant Pam Nollett to $9 per hour, gave Officer Robert Stewart a pay increase of $2K a year, and hired Ronnie Rodriguez to work for the public works department at a salary of $12 per hour.