At the September 11 meeting of the Blanco city council, a public hearing was held to discuss the proposed city budget and tax rate for fiscal year 2007-08. This budget will raise more total property taxes than last year’s budget by $38,726. Of that amount, $6,702 is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year. The tax rate of $0.2583 per $100 valuation on all property will break down to approximately $19.25 for a $100K house, according to city figures. Following the public hearing, in which there was no public input, council voted to adopt the budget and the proposed tax rate, as well as to ratify the property tax rate increase reflected in the budget.
In the Public Comments portion of the meeting, Keep Blanco Beautiful spokesperson Retta Martin presented an American flag to each council member in memory of those who died six years ago in the terrorist attack September 11. She asked that the flags be placed at the Liberty Bench at the entrance to Bindseil Park. In response to her request, council and those in attendance observed a moment of silence in memory of the dead.
Tina Marlowe of Community Action, Inc. came before the council asking for an increase in funding for the senior citizens’ programs at Gem of the Hills Community Center. After thanking council for its past support of the program, Marlowe reviewed the programs overseen by center director Judy Dorsey, whom she called “an advocate for seniors in the community.” The center operates an energy assistance program, hot meals prepared and delivered each week to homebound residents by church volunteers, meals served at the center, arts and crafts activities, field trips, foot clinics, and the volunteer luncheon held annually. Council member Rebecca Howerton asked that the current funding amount of $1500 be raised to $2500, based on the service to the community which the program and Charlotte Dorsey provide. Council voted to approve the funding increase.
Carrie Fellows and Jeff Ranard reported to council on the progress of the Blue Bike Project. Sixteen bikes have been donated, with the promise of 10 more to come. The bikes now have a place to be worked on in a donated building at 2nd and Cherry Streets, according to Fellowes. Fellowes praises the project, which she says makes Blanco even more beautiful and conserves fuel as well as encouraging fitness. She also reported that Jeff will be holding bike repair classes on Saturdays for anyone who wants to learn to repair their own bikes or help service the blue bikes. Eight locations have been identified to put bike racks so that visitors can pick one up, ride it at their leisure, and then drop it off at another rack. A sample wooden bike rack designed by Ranard was shown to council. Fellowes estimates a cost of $300 for each. Council member Pautz suggested that the welding class at Blanco High School could be approached about making racks as a project. The mayor also suggested obtaining used racks and painting them blue. Fellowes explained that the Leos, a student organization of the Lions’ Club at the high school, may take over the project. Ron Houston enthused, “Thank you for your energy and enthusiasm—it’s a great project.”
Several items involving variances to Blanco’s Unified Development Code came before council. A request by Patsy Thompson for a special use permit at her residence at 115 Main Street was granted by council, although the Planning and Zoning Commission had previously denied her request because of opposition from community members. “We can’t blame all the traffic on that street on Patsy,” said the mayor. Council member Bobby McClung expressed the view that the area should probably be re-zoned as mixed use at some point, based on the number of businesses already operating there.
A request for a sign variance by Jayco Collision on Highway 281 was also granted by council after examination of a drawing of the proposed sign, which will also advertise Carquest Auto Parts and Allied Paint and Body. P&Z chair Jud Prince offered the opinion, “When we work on the sign ordinance, we will encourage multiple signs on one frame.” The request was granted based on a maximum sign height of 16 feet and the stipulation that other signs for adjoining businesses would be placed on the same frame. Council member Doug Pautz speculated that the sign will be far enough from the highway that, in his words, “It will not be an aesthetic issue.” In his report, Prince said that the sign ordinance will be discussed at their next meeting. “Various requests continue to come in, and we feel the code can be amended to retain a balance of good looking as well as functional signage.” A committee including Visionaries in Preservation members will study the issue, he added.
A request by the purchasers of the Sunset Restaurant at 419 3rd Street for a waiver of encroachment was tabled after discussion by council. They have been unable to close on the property because of a discrepancy in city surveys of 1929 and 1949. City attorney Ricky Simmons said that more legal research was needed before council could reach a decision, and that the city must deal with the current property owners. Mayor Rodrigue said that if the research is complete, the request may be put on the agenda for the next council meeting, which will be held September 24.
Ann Hall of the Old Blanco Courthouse Preservation Society requested closure of Pecan and 3rd Streets for the April 26th OBCCPS Gala, which she explained will be held on the courthouse grounds and will include a street dance. Council voted to approve the request, with council member Pautz abstaining. Hall also asked council for information on the parade route for the upcoming OBCCPS Christmas parade, since last year the assistant police chief criticized it. Chief Sonier responded that OBCCPS needs to determine the number of entries in the parade to see how long it will be and how many people will be walking, then meet with him to determine the best route. Hall requested that the route include the Live Oak Nursing Center, whose residents would enjoy it.
In his report, police chief Sonier said that 170 citations were issued in August, a 25 per cent increase over July. He also said that the department has been very busy with investigations dealing with forgeries and counterfeiting of checks. He commended Sergeant Carl Bragg for his work, to which Bragg responded, “We’ve got warrants issued; now we’ve just got to find where they’re at.” In other police business, council voted to hire William Barnett as a Patrolman I. Barnett will serve for 90 days on probationary status.
City secretary Bobbie Mowrey reported that city employees have been dissatisfied with their current Texas Municipal League health benefit plan because of problems with service and finding providers that the company would accept. After getting quotes from several companies, they have requested the city to allow them to switch to Blue Cross-Blue Shield. Those employees who do not need full coverage will be covered under Afflac. Council approved the change.
In other business, council nominated the following as directors of the Blanco County Central Appraisal District board: Harold Lord, Jack Felps, and Johnny Woods. Retta Martin reported from the Blanco Historical Commission that Dorothy Dillon has asked to be relieved of her responsibilities as a voting member and be moved into an advisor/historian position. Blanco County News editor Charles Willgren has asked to become a voting member of the commission. Retta commended the hard work of both individuals. Ron Houston exclaimed, “I do compliment Dorothy—I don’t know where she gets the energy!” The mayor agreed and told this reporter, “Put that in the paper in bold print!”
Finally, public works director Nathan Cantrell reported that the trees in the pecan bottom are diseased and need help. The mayor reminded him that Blanco State Park superintendent Michael Young had offered to have a tree specialist from the Texas Forest Service come and look at them. Ron Houston reported that he had recently attended a TxDOT open house in Johnson City, which he found informative, and an open house at the Blanco Library for retiring Director of Library Services Jan Redmond.