A month after a unanimous vote by city council to honor Ron Houston’s years of community service with a street name, residents and businesses located on Blanco Avenue voiced their displeasure to the governing body of Blanco, citing the cost and inconvenience of changing their addresses. Bonnie Holmes read a letter on behalf of the residents of Blanco Senior Apartments, written by Vivian Maggi and co-signed by James Lightfoot and Lew Johnson. Maggi called the changes necessitated by a street name change “overwhelming,” including changing her driver’s license, vehicle registration, social security information, and all medical forms. She called Ron Houston “a very kind and giving person” who “would not intend for anyone to experience a hardship on his behalf.”
Mary Ann Millard, speaking “on behalf of businesses and residences,” accused council of implementing the address change “with little or no thought to the impact on businesses,” reminding council that there are fourteen businesses on Blanco Avenue, including six at the Millard address. She presented council with a petition signed by protesting neighbors. She also expressed confidence that Ron would not want to cost the businesses the money required to change the business license, business cards, and other advertising materials. B. J. Millard voiced the challenges to his new business of the new street name in his promotional materials. Justice of the Peace Bob Riley also spoke of the inconvenience of changing the address on the many official forms with which his office deals. Mary Ann Millard also suggested some other form of memorial to Ron, perhaps naming the intersection of Blanco Avenue and Highway 281 for him or the plaza at Super S.
Mayor pro tem Bobby McClung responded to these comments with an acknowledgment that “In hindsight a little more communication would have been helpful,” and that city officials could have spoken with the residents in advance. He went on to say that he has spoken with the postal service superintendent of the Rio Grande District and that the street currently named Blanco Avenue could have an alias, or another name, so that mail could be delivered to residents at either Ron Houston Avenue or Blanco Avenue. Former mayor Tina Gourley, speaking from the audience, called that option “a bureaucratic nightmare” for the post office to handle. McClung reiterated that the post office had offered that option, and that he would make sure to get it in writing before the next council meeting. He also assured residents that they have one year to receive mail at the old address before the new one becomes official. He added that many citizens and council “thought the street name was a perfect memorial.” Council member Jim Rodrigue concluded, “We can get back together to accomplish this. We want to remember Ron when we drive up to that light and remember all he did for the city.” Meanwhile, city staff will be taking address change forms to seniors on Blanco Avenue and helping them fill them out.
In response to concerns about the effluent released from Real Ale Brewery into the Blanco water system, brewery owner Brad Farbstein introduced Terry Vogt of MRV Engineering, which has completed a six-month waste water study measuring water flow as well as the strength of the waste water, especially the BOD, TSS, and COD levels. The average flow of wastewater is 5200 gallons per day, although Real Ale plans to reduce the amount by recapturing water. The conclusion of the study, according to Vogt, is that “Compared to typical brewery waste, they are discharging at a much lower rate,” using what he called “good housekeeping procedures.” Bobby McClung responded, “The city is proud to have Real Ale here. We want to come up with a good solution for everyone.” After consultation with city engineer Marvin Reavis and public works director Nathan Cantrell, Vogt and Farbstein will return to council at a future meeting.
Blanco Chamber of Commerce president Marcy Westcott reported that the chamber has signed a contract to extend their Internet marketing. She also invited council members and citizens to attend the Chamber’s annual banquet on February 25 at 5:30 p.m. Joaquin Jackson, former Texas Ranger and author, will be the featured speaker.
Annexation issues were raised by Jimmy Latham, who received a notice that a portion of his 9.71 acres at 1137 Loop 163 has been annexed, but no one in the city office could tell him which part. City attorney Ed Rogers offered to discuss the issue with Latham outside the meeting, but made it clear that all his property would be annexed at some point.
Council approved a variance for Dairy Queen owner Wade Pooser to modernize the exterior of his business with a new sign, although the Planning and Zoning Commission had denied his request earlier because, in P&Z chair Martha Herden’s words, “The sign is much larger than the proposed sign ordinance allows.” Jim Rodrigue asked Pooser if he had consulted the sign ordinance in the UDC before submitting a design to a sign company. Pooser said that the new sign should be the same size as the existing one. Herden then spoke on behalf of P&Z, “If the sign is the same size, then no problem.” Council compromised on Pooser’s request by granting the variance for the sign but withholding approval for a letter board, which would feature DQ specials, until its exact dimensions are presented to council.
In her P&Z report, Herden introduced three candidates who have expressed interest in serving on the commission—Chuck Homan, Dana LeBlanc, and Diane Hostetler. Homan is a retired postal worker, LeBlanc, a certified project manager, and Hostetler, a former school board president. Council was not able to act on their appointments since it was not on the agenda; however, they were to be voted on at a special workshop to be held at the Blanco Library Tuesday, February 16. Speaking to the issue of modular housing as addressed in the UDC, Herden reminded council that it is different from manufactured housing in that buildings are constructed on site, not moved in on wheels and then set on a pad. She also pointed out that it is against the law to discriminate against modular housing. “We must make sure that we are in compliance with the law,” she concluded.
Blanco Historical Commission chair Linda Howard reported that the historic building survey has been completed and sent to the Texas Historical Commission and that 250 homes are included in the survey, with a range of architectural styles. She also shared information from a site visit made by Greg Smith of THC, who visited the old Mission Style school, built in 1921-22, and the WPA-built Learning Center. According to Smith, the Blanco State Park should be a historic district all on its own. Howard also announced that the Texas Hill Country Trail Brochure would be released April 14 and the grand opening of the Blanco Pioneer Museum at 418 Pecan Street will be held February 27th from 3-8 p.m. with live music, storytelling, “cowboy coffee,” and other refreshments. The public is invited.
Howard invited council to attend a workshop at the library February 16, where the historical commission will share information on street scaping and design guidelines for the historic district. Bobby McClung expressed his opinion that the historical commission “should get deeply involved” with the streetscaping project on the historic square. She also announced two openings on the commission due to the resignations of Julie Dill and Rebecca Doll.
Council approved a proposal by police chief Milton Willmann to authorize participation of the Blanco Police Department in a grant-funded Law Enforcement Initiative and the Rural Law Enforcement Information Technology program. A central records management database located in Richardson, Texas, would provide valuable information for officers to access in the apprehension of criminals. Over 105 counties use the secure, FBI-approved site. Officers must complete 8-16 hours of training from DPS, and anyone with clearance to access the site must undergo a background check, according to Willmann. The site was developed by Tarleton State University and “will be a valuable tool in finding and identifying folks,” concluded Willmann.
In other police news, Willmann reported that traffic stops are up and property crimes are down. He pointed out the need for animal control measures to be implemented to handle the glut of stray dogs. After executive session, council voted to remove the new chief’s probationary status.
In other business council voted to seek “Film-Friendly Texas” certification for Blanco and to appoint Bob and Carolyn Boydston as liaisons with the Texas Film Commission in order to promote Blanco as a potential site for making movies, commercials, and other media products. According to Bob Boydston, the information is kept secure by the commission to avoid unwanted intrusion into the lives of those who offer up potentially film-worthy sites.
Council also approved a new contract for inspection services with code compliance officer Pete McKinney, with a stipulation by city attorney Ed Rogers that McKinney “have greater accountability of his hours,” perhaps keeping a log. “Pete’s done us a lot of good; we need to hold on to him,” asserted council member Danny Ray. In addition, council voted to approve annexation of Lots 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 in San Saba Estates and to appoint Debbie Stenulson as election judge and Kenneth Moore as alternate judge for the May 8, 2010, city council election. Three council seats and the mayor’s seat are up for election. The filing period runs from February 8 through March 8; and as of February 12 no one had filed, according to city secretary Bobbie Mowery.