At its regular meeting on August 10, the Governing Body of the City of Blanco heard a report by Becky Greathouse regarding the Blanco Historic Commission’s “Streetscape” Project.
Ms. Greathouse provided Council members with some background on the project going back to October 2009 when the City Council approved a resolution establishing a committee to develop a Streetscape master plan. The purpose was the preservation and beautification of the Blanco Historic District. It was believed that this would protect that area while enhancing economic development within the city, especially in the area of the Courthouse.
In November of 2009 a committee was formed with wide community representation including City Council; Planning & Zoning; Uptown Blanco Arts & Entertainment, Ltd.; the Chamber of Commerce; Keep Blanco Beautiful and etc.
In February of this year, objectives were developed that would make the area pedestrian friendly, environmentally pleasing, economically attractive with adequate parking and accessible by automobile, bike and pedestrian traffic. It would be well-lit but night-sky friendly.
The Streetscape Committee requested City Council approval to select a master planning organization prior to seeking approximately $50,000 from public and private sources. The Committee evaluated three urban planning organizations to develop a Streetscape Master Plan and recommended Winter & Company of Boulder, Colorado. There would be no formal contract with Winter & Company until funding is secured.
Council Member Bob McClung voiced his support of the proposal saying that Streetscape “is good for Blanco and is a watershed project. We’ve had a lot of false starts,” he said. “We must do it and keep it moving now or it won’t happen for another five years.”
Ms. Greathouse emphasized that where similar projects had been undertaken, towns have thrived. She said that Blanco ISD has come up with an “elegant plan” for the Elementary School and that that is the kind of thing the town needs. Mr. McClung said that if the town has a formal plan it will be easier to obtain public and private funding. “The City must help and embrace the project.” He thinks some matching funds might be available. The Council approved the Committee’s recommendation.
In other business, City Council heard arguments for the possibility of converting the Blanco Historic Commission into a publicly funded non-profit organization separate from the City. City Attorney Eddy Rogers suggested that a “Friends of the Historic Commission” might be a viable alternative to a City run agency especially as the City comes into an era of tight budgets. Ms. Greathouse, however, voiced a concern that by leaving the City’s umbrella, obtaining certain types of grants might be jeopardized. Council Member Rebecca Howerton suggested that the measure be tabled pending the gathering of more information about the pros and cons of such a move.
Penny Thomas, Executive Director of the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, gave a report to Council and went over the calendar of upcoming events including a ribbon-cutting program at the Chamber office scheduled for Wednesday, August 18. The event will be catered by Uptown Blanco and will give the Chamber staff an opportunity to “mix with the local crowd.”
Retta Martin presented the names of Rudy Nino and Charles Willgren for appointment to the Blanco Historic Commission. Council approved.
Dana LeBlanc was approved to chair the Planning & Zoning Commission.
The Lutheran Church, with the blessing of Planning & Zoning, was granted a setback variance for a storage building at 7th and Elm Streets.
Glen and Mary West requested and received permission for a water connection outside the City limits at 1411 Country Road.
David Gibbons received a 90-day temporary conditional use permit for his retail plumbing store located at 316 6th Street.
Local resident, Shyrle Allen, whose property was recently annexed by the City, sought redress from having to pay for City services she was in no need of using. She said that she supplies her own water and recycles all the waste generated on her property thereby negating any need for trash pickup. “Since being annexed,” she said, “I’m concerned about the increased cost of trash pickup. The garbage truck never stops at my place because I don’t even have a garbage can!” Council informed her that as long as she has an account with the City, she will be billed for water and garbage collection. She was told that the City is billed by IESI for garbage pickup whether or not Ms. Allen uses the service.
Under the direction of Margaret Hardin Langford, Langford Management Services got the nod for the administration of the 2010 Community Development Block Grant. The present grant is being used to replace sewer lines on Elm Street. The work will be extended on Elm from 3rd to 8th Streets. As per the Texas Department of Rural Services, the Administrator of the grant must be certified by CDGB. Langford Management Services has worked with Blanco since 1981 and has assisted with the writing of many successfully funded grants. The company does not charge to do applications but does charge for the administration of the proposals. “We make the numbers match. We assure compliance.”
Martin Reavis of Reavis Consulting Engineers was given approval to provide engineering services for the 2010 Community Development Block Grant. Mr. Reavis said that prior City Councils as well as the present Council have been easy to work with. “We would like to continue working with you.”
Connie Barron proposed that it is time that she be allowed to develop a Blanco City website. “You can post meeting agenda, minutes, contracts, applications, information from Planning & Zoning, documents, ordinances and etc. People can go online for information without having to go downtown in person.” Mayor Chuck Homan said that a website is being considered but, with current budget constraints, it probably will not happen at this time. Ms. Barron said that it would cost about $500 to develop a City website. “If the Methodist Church and Gem of the Hills can do it, the City can do it also.” It was taken under advisement.
Police Chief Milton Willmann gave a statistical report of recent Police Department activities. He indicated that there has been an increase in calls about “suspicious circumstances.” “That is good,” he said. “It means that the public is helping. We like that.” He said that there has been an increase in parking lot accidents due to driver inattention. He said that the department has issued a lot of verbal warnings for minor traffic violations; “We try not to make all our money off local citizens.” He said that police officers are currently involved in computer training for a system that will give the department, among other things, a statistical report by the type of crime. He said that it is an excellent law enforcement program.
Chief Willmann said that there have been a large number of animal control calls—loose dogs scattering trash, livestock on the public roads and etc. He also said that there has been an increase in domestic fights. “Folks tend to get hot and sweaty in the summer, drink a few beers and fight among themselves.” He said that occasionally there are problems with forgery which, when they occur, are very time consuming for his personnel. He reported that the Blanco Masonic Lodge is considering the purchase of body armor for the Police Department.
When asked why the radar trailer was not being used, Chief Willmann replied that when he took over, the trailer was in storage and that it had not been dug out and placed in service. Council Member Al Turner suggested that since school is about to start again, “Why not use it to make people more aware of speed limits?” Mayor Homan concurred. The Chief indicated that using the radar trailer would reduce income from traffic tickets but said that they would use it as much as possible.
The Mayor suggested standardized temperature settings for all City facilities. There was some discussion about appropriate winter and summer thermostat settings. When asked about the temperature in the room, City Secretary Bobbie Mowery said that although the thermostat was set at 78 degrees, the actual temperature was 82. “There’s a lot of hot air in here,” she said. Ms. Howerton proposed that Council table the issue pending a review of PEC guidelines.
Council reviewed a proposed solicitation ordinance that would control to some degree who can solicit inside the City limits. City Attorney Eddy Rogers said that the least restrictive ordinance would control solicitations only on public streets and in public places. Questions were raised about school fund raisers and the sale of Girl Scout cookies. “We mainly want to keep outsiders from coming in and obstructing traffic without our knowing who they are. We don’t necessarily want to stop them but we want to know who they are.” There was some discussion about a $25 permit fee for anyone wanting to solicit inside the City limits. “Does this mean the Schwann’s man would have to get a permit every time he comes to town?” The item was tabled pending further review.
Before adjourning to executive session to discuss personnel matters, Council appointed Mayor Homan to fill a vacancy in the CAPCOG General Assembly.