Wayne Gosnell reported at the regular meeting of the Blanco city council on April 8 that a group of concerned citizens turned crusaders is endeavoring to keep the night skies of Blanco unpolluted by contributing to a fund to buy light shields for the Lavender Capital Laundry. As Gosnell explained to this reporter before the meeting, the shields are custom-made and rather expensive; hence, contributions are helping the owners buy and install them. The concept of preventing light pollution and thereby preserving the rural character of Blanco is one which was addressed as one of the Visionaries in Preservation’s goals for the city, based on public input.
In the same spirit, council voted to approve an ordinance prohibiting new billboard construction or the conversion of existing billboards into changeable electronic variable message signs (CEVMS) in the city limits and extra-territorial jurisdiction of the city of Blanco. Council member Ron Houston explained that the Scenic Texas organization gave the city a heads-up when the Lady Bird Johnson beautification program was not renewed by the Texas legislature, allowing what he termed, “this pollution on a stick.” Council member Bobby McClung made a motion to adopt the ordinance, saying he was “happy to make a motion which helps to maintain the rural character of Blanco.”
Kudoes were given to all who helped with the recent Trash-Off on April 5. Retta Martin said that middle school youth who helped will be given a pizza party. She also reported that the Blanco River was less cluttered with debris this year because of last year’s river clean-up. She also expressed a hope that “Maybe now we can begin to deal with appliances in yards and substandard buildings,” expanding the clean-up effort. The mayor lauded the efforts of public works director Nathan Cantrell, who spearheaded the effort to collect old discarded tires. “It went great,” he concluded. Compliments were also given to Rebecca Howerton for the Frito pie served to volunteers.
The issue of the American Legion Post’s high water bill was finally resolved, as council voted to approve a one-time reduction in their bill by one half, with arrangements to be made to spread out payments. A toilet left running after a recent meeting ran up an excessive bill, which the small chapter would have difficulty paying. Council member Rebecca Howerton volunteered to pay $200 toward payment of the bill, and the legion reported that water to the toilet is now turned off after each meeting.
Tamara Chapman reported on changes in the process for electing PEC board members, including being able to vote on line and discontinuing the use of proxies. Upcoming dates to note include the annual meeting the third Saturday in June, a meeting April 18 to present an overview of board candidates and review responsibilities of the board, and a forum May 1 for board candidates. On May 7 biographies of all candidates will be mailed to PEC members. Chapman also notified council that there will be a rate increase of 1.1 cent per kilowatt hour, passing on costs from LCRA due to increased transportation costs of hauling coal. She also reported that the subscriber base for the internet service-provider Texas Skies has been sold to Texas Electric in Fredricksburg. Council member Houston asked if PEC has gotten involved in the wind energy movement, and Chapman responded yes, that energy costs can be reduced by 30 percent by using wind energy.
Planning and Zoning Commission chair Jud Prince reported that the first workshop on UDC revisions was held March 1st, and that the first issue was a signage ordinance. “It’s slow going, but we’re getting there,” said Prince. The ordinance prohibiting new billboards, voted on by council, will be part of the ordinance, said Prince. He also reported that there is a vacancy on P&Z due to the resignation of Matt Herden.
Julie Dill reported from the Chamber of Commerce that all vendor booth slots for the upcoming Lavender Festival have been filled, and that there is a waiting list. Council approved a request to close Pecan Street between 3rd and 4th Streets Friday, June 13, at 3 p.m. until Sunday, June 15th at 7 p.m. and to allow parking in the Pecan bottom. The wine tent will be placed in the street this year rather than on the courthouse grounds, Dill reported; and Uptown Blanco will co-host a croquet tournament in the courtyard and an art show in the old Lindemann Building. The chamber now has 172 members, according to Dill, with 20 new members since October. David Mulholland has resigned from the chamber, and Mark Tidwell has taken his place. As well, Dill reported that her paid hours at the chamber have increased to 30 per week.
Police chief Ed Sonier reported 160 speeding tickets in March, with 231 total citations issued and 85 calls. He recounted the department’s success in finding two missing children, a nine-year-old and a five-year-old, who had wandered off from their homes. Mayor Jim Rodrigue added, “To be able to see our team in action was wonderful, “ referring to the combined actions of EMS, the police department, and the fire department. Police officer Ben Escobedo was removed from probationary status by a vote of council following deliberations in executive session.
In other business, council approved extending a bond for Dana LeBlanc allowing a trailer on the property of a home she is building. Martha Gosnell was appointed grant signatory for the Safe Routes to School program; and Mayor Rodrigue added, “Martha has done a lot of work on this; she has good ideas on getting the schools involved.”