The spirit of Ron Houston, “The Voice of Blanco” and Mayor ProTem until his untimely death on October 7, was present at the regular meeting of the governing body of Blanco on October 13. Mayor Tina Gourley opened the meeting with a tribute, saying, “How very much this council will be at a loss without Ron Houston.” In her words, “I hope that we can work with the same focus” that Ron had “to do the right thing.” Council member Danny Ray stepped up to move that the city pay its bills for the previous month, a motion always made by Ron. “He always said I should speak up more,” explained Ray.
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, several residents spoke in favor of making interim police chief Carl Bragg the permanent chief. Jan Brieger, Connie Baron, and Debbie Homeier all expressed their support for Bragg, saying he is doing a good job. Council discussed the appointment in executive session; however, no action was taken.
Conrad Carbary updated council on PEC activities, inviting council members to send a representative to a block grant workshop at PEC headquarters in Johnson City on October 26, funded by federal stimulus money. He welcomed all Blanco residents to attend PEC board meetings, adding that live podcasts of PEC meetings are available online at the PEC website. He also informed members that the Blanco PEC office, closed for mold removal, would “hopefully” be open in mid-November.
Council voted to change city employees’ health insurance coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield to United Health Care Insurance, based on rate increases and what Mayor Gourley called “extensive research” by city secretary Bobbie Mowery. Council member Jim Rodrigue called United “a good company” and expressed confidence that Mowery had made a good decision.
Bonnie Riley discussed the survey lines between the city office and property owned by Riley at 306 Pecan. Surveyor Amil Baker explained that a problem arose when a survey was done prior to the sale of Riley’s building, when it was discovered that city hall property encroaches onto Riley property by two feet. Council recommended that Bobbie Mowery work with city attorney Eddie Rogers to draft a boundary line agreement to realign the property line, with costs to be split between the city and Riley. The request will be discussed at the November meeting. In other boundary issues, council voted to follow the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission to grant a setback variance to Chrystal Flores for her property at 816 10th Street.
Council members voted to nominate Jack Felps to serve on the Blanco County Appraisal District and to authorize the mayor to nominate another candidate based on Felps’ recommendation. The city has 87 votes on the appraisal district.
Council discussed formulating a noise ordinance based on those of other communities. Blanco State Park superintendent Michael Young reported that numerous campers have left the park vowing never to return because of loud music. Efforts to speak to those who are playing loud music have not been successful, according to Young, who says the noise has a negative impact on the image of Blanco. He expressed the desire to develop a noise ordinance that is objective. Interim police chief Carl Bragg reported that sound follows the river and that he has received complaints about noise from a riverfront restaurant when in fact the restaurant was closed. Danny Ray pointed out that football games cause noise and that a horn blowing when the team scores could be considered undesirable to some residents. Council member Bobby McClung confessed that he has played live music in the evening, which may have bothered residents, but which is part of the tradition of live music in Texas. Bragg explained that the procedure for responding to complaints of excessive noise is to ask the offender(s) to quiet down. If a second complaint is filed, the offender(s) will be charged with disorderly conduct and fined. The mayor recommended that council review various ordinances and draft one specific to Blanco the week before the next council meeting.
Michael Young also asked the city to consider some sort of reflective chevrons to alert drivers to the curve on Main at Fulcher to prevent motorists from driving through the park fence. Danny Ray suggested that the new pavement on Main have reflective markers to alert motorists to a curve ahead. No action was taken; however, Public Works director Nathan Cantrell will study the problem and arrive at a solution. According to Young, four motorists have failed to negotiate the curve and have plowed into the fence.
Planning and Zoning Committee chair Martha Herden introduced P&Z’s newest member, Courtney Curbow, who moved to Blanco from Houston four years ago and joined P&Z “to help Blanco move in the right direction,” according to Herden. She added that there are two additional vacancies on P&Z and asked interested parties to contact the city office. She reported that P&Z is currently revisiting the UDC and continuing to develop the signage ordinance. Her plan is that any business applying for a sign will receive a sign application packet.
Debbie Homeier, past president of the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, reported that Julie Dill has stepped down as director and that a number of applications have been received for her replacement. The new Chamber board consists of the following people: Debbie Homeier, past president; Marcy Westcott, new president; Pat Caufield, treasurer; and members Deb Yorgensen, Jan Brieger, Ann Cook, Mike Brittain, and Jennifer Oines. The chamber is searching for a chair for the upcoming Lavender Lights Festival in November and December as well as a new Texas Department of Agriculture representative to take Dill’s place. Mayor Gourley praised Dill for her service, saying, “You’ve done a wonderful job; it’s been a pleasure having you here.”
Mayor Gourley read a resolution establishing a committee to develop a local Streetscape Program and Plan, the goal of which will be beautifying the historic district and enhancing the appearance of local businesses. The committee will consist of members of city council, P&Z, Blanco Historical Commission, Keep Blanco Beautiful, OBCCPS, Uptown Blanco, Blanco Chamber of Commerce, a commercial property owner, the building inspector, and a grant researcher. Grant writer Jack Twilley spoke in the Public Comments section, saying he will write the grants necessary “to make our square the pride of the Hill Country.”
Retta Martin reported for Keep Blanco Beautiful that four memorial benches are being built for Bindseil Park by students at Blanco High School and a planter will be installed under the Bindseil Park sign at the park’s entrance. She also reiterated the need for meters to be installed before PEC comes to string Christmas lights in the park with the goal of extending the “Trail of Lights” down into the park. The mayor requested that Public Works director Nathan Cantrell and code compliance officer Pete McKinney get together to work on that project.
Interim police chief Carl Bragg reported 127 traffic citations for September and several other calls. He also informed council that the crime rate went down 12 per cent over the previous month. The department’s next project, according to Bragg, is working on fulfilling requirements for the Texas Police Chief’s Association Foundation Law Enforcement Agency Best Practices Recognition Program, what Bragg called “a very prestigious program.” He believes the department can qualify for the program, which involves meeting 459 standards. “We’re going to go for it—I think we can do it,” concluded Bragg.
Linda Howard, chair of the Blanco Historical Commission, updated council on commission activities, including the incorporation of the Volunteers in Preservation taskforce members into the commission and the addition of new member Julie Dill. The commission has joined the Blanco Library and is helping with the oral history project. With the help of high schooler Rebecca Weir, oral histories will soon be available to be checked out on CDs. “It’s magnificent what she’s done,” said Howard. Amy Petri’s Blanco High students are working to put together a brochure on the historic Blanco Cemetery, which Howard says is one of the most visited attractions in Blanco. Students have helped with data entry of cemetery records and are being groomed to serve as docents in the new museum in the Pat Ryan Building. Commission member Rebecca Greathouse is continuing the survey and inventory of historic buildings in Blanco. To date, over 200 homes are registered as being over 50 years old. The commission has also issued more Certificates of Appropriateness and is researching incentives for historic properties, including tax abatements. Finally, Howard thanked council members Jim Rodrigue and Danny Ray for coming to the commission’s last meeting. Rodrigue responded, “You are a great leader—it was great to see how you have things laid out.”
Finally, council approved the purchase of two trucks for the Public Works Department from the Houston-Galveston Area Co-op Program—a Ford F-150 for $20, 209, and a Ford F-250 for $24,346.