At the June 8 meeting of the governing body of the city of Blanco, Chuck Homan was sworn in as mayor by city secretary Bobbie Mowery, after which Homan swore in newly-elected members Rebecca Howerton, Martin Sauceda, and Al Turner. Auditor Keith Neffendorf, of Neffendorf, Knopp, Doss, and Co., LLC, presented the city’s annual audit, declaring that the city “is in an excellent financial position,” with combined net assets of $8,652,000.00. In spite of economic downturns, he added, “Through the years the council has been conservative, has built up a fund balance—what we need in these economic times.”
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, Planning and Zoning chair Martha Herden asked the city to repair a step outside the Byars Building to prevent injuries. Resident Thaddeus Millard complained about solicitations of motorists at the stoplight in Blanco, stating that solicitors made rude comments to motorists in order to get donations—comments such as the following: “Hey, you can afford it,” or “You’re driving a nice car—you can afford to donate.” An item agenda regulating solicitations was tabled pending further study.
A request by Pete Mancha for a variance to build a fence around his property at the corner of 10th and Elm was granted, after comments by Danny Ray that Mancha’s fence would match others in the vicinity. “Let’s keep it the way we’ve been going,” he said. With one opposing vote by Rebecca Howerton, the request was granted.
Council voted to award a bid for an extension of the Town Creek Trunk Line project to Qro-Mex Construction Company, after comments by grant writer Martha Harden and city engineer Marvin Reavis. Harden explained that money left in the 2008 Community Development Block Grant has to be spent and the project completed by June 21st to replace an 8" water line on Elm Street from 1st to 3rd Streets. Harden announced that the city has recently received a 2010 grant, which would extend the new line up through 6th Street. Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell further explained that Qro-Mex did the original work and is “above average” as a water-sewer contractor. The old clay pipes, he explained, are in bad shape and cause stoppages and leaks. Reavis concluded, “I really appreciate Martha working on this.”
Planning and Zoning chair Martha Herden presented a revised signage ordinance to council, which would increase the size of signs in commercial and mixed zoning areas from 32 square feet to 50 square feet in area and in height from the ground from 8 to 12 feet. Signs in R4 and R5 would stay the same in area, but could be raised from 8 to 10 feet from the ground. Signs on buildings in commercial and mixed use areas would increase from 30 to 50 square feet in area. Public hearings will be scheduled to allow citizen input before any official changes are made to the signage ordinance, which is part of the UDC.
Chamber of Commerce president Marcy Westcott thanked council member Bobby McClung and mayor Chuck Homan for their help in organizing the Lavender Festival, held June 11-13, as well as police chief Milton Willmann and his officers and staff.
On behalf of the Blanco Historic Commission, Retta Martin recommended herself as chair. She also reported on the Blanco Streetscaping project. Sue Ann Pemberton is helping develop design guidelines, which will establish the process of streetscaping. Charles Willgren, now living in Colorado, is helping develop a website to promote plans to beautify Blanco. The marketing subcommittee will work to get “the buzz going,” in Martin’s words. The planning process will probably cost several thousand dollars, she explained. Finally, she recommended the appointment of Dorothy Dillon to return to the BHC. City council approved the appointments unanimously.
Police Chief Willmann reported that suspicious persons and vehicle reports are up, and that there was a recent break-in at Blanco Elementary School, which resulted in lots of paperwork, as the four suspects are juveniles. He reported that a number of verbal warnings were issued over the Memorial Day weekend, and that his officers assisted Blanco State Park rangers with several intoxicated individuals. Statistically, more calls are received on Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays, he reported. He also announced an officer resignation last month, which has resulted in utilizing more reserve officers. The move to the new police station on Blanco Avenue is complete, he added, and “has worked out really well,” in his words, with enough space to keep suspects isolated from each other. Although the offices are not completely organized and need more furniture, he said the administrative assistant’s office is organized.
A presentation by Chief Willman to modify the pay scale for police officers for the remaining budgeted year met with resistance from council member Danny Ray, who said, “Several years ago officers were making $9 an hour—I don’t think we need to do it all at once. I think we need to tighten up—not give money away.” Under Willman’s plan, patrolmen could earn up to $15.65 an hour and would move up the payscale in incremental steps up to 6 percent, based on performance appraisals. He called the plan “a tool for retention and recruitment,” citing the turnover of officers trained who have not remained with the department—over 30 since 2002. “That is unacceptable,” he declared, adding, “I want to build the agency with well-qualified folks who are compensated for what they do.” The changes could be implemented with no additional money for the remainder of the fiscal year because the administrative assistant’s position is not full-time, although it was budgeted as such. After discussion in executive session, council took no action on the chief’s request.
After discussion for a second month, council voted to approve a firearms ordinance, prompted by concerns that owners of tracts of land newly annexed by the city would not be able to continue to make income from hunting leases on their property. Section 3 of the ordinance states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge a firearm within the city limits of the city of Blanco.” However, exceptions to the rule include properties of 20 acres or more on which a firearm such as a shotgun, pistol, air rifle or pistol, BB gun, or bow and arrow could be discharged 150 feet from a residence or occupied building on an adjacent property; or properties of 50+ acres more than 300 feet from a residence or occupied building on an adjacent property, on which a “center fire or rim-fire rifle or pistol” could be discharged. Property owners must obtain a permit from city hall, and there will be a $2000 fine for violations of the ordinance.
Council also voted to approve a dangerous structures ordinance, lauded by city attorney Ed Rogers for its language, which allows property owners to appeal citations as well as protecting citizens from dangerous unoccupied or abandoned structures. Complaints will be handled by the Planning and Zoning Commission with the help of code compliance officer Pete McKinney.
After deliberations in executive session, council voted to hire a new city employee, Ronda Huether-Etzel, to fill an administrative clerical position.