Plans for an expanded police station on Blanco Avenue were aired at the November 13 meeting of the Blanco city council. As explained by officer Gary Pittman, the plans drawn by local contractor Jack Allen will incorporate the current annex in the first phase of construction, adding a wall so that the department can move to that site from the current cramped location on the square. After a cost for the total project is arrived at, another half will be added to the building. The completed facility will include a cinderblock and concrete evidence vault and an ADA-compliant public restroom facility. Council member Rebecca Howerton asserted, “The police take care of us; it’s our turn to take care of them, and not in a few months but ASAP.”
In other police business, council voted to let bids for a new patrol car to replace the one Officer Carl Bragg now uses, which has recently required $3000 worth of repairs. As Mayor Rodrigue explained, the department is “constantly putting money into it. We cannot wait to get another police car,” he asserted.
Officer Pittman reported 237 traffic stops in October and 110 call sheets, including three burglaries, six thefts, four new civil ordinance violations, and four criminal mischief citations. Three arrests have been made in the counterfeit check fraud case, Pittman concluded. Mayor pro tem Ron Houston commended Officer Barnett for writing 91 traffic tickets in October.
In the open forum portion of the meeting, Retta Martin updated the board on plans for the Blanco County Sesquicentennial celebration in 2008, including a meeting November 15 in Johnson City. The celebration will kick off March 12, 2008, she continued, with events to follow throughout the year. The Blanco County Fair and Rodeo will have a sesquicentennial theme. Mayor Rodrigue said that Rebecca Howerton, of the Blanco Historic Commission, and Ron Houston “will tell us what to do.”
City engineer Marvin Reavis and public works director Nathan Cantrell discussed plans to re-pave Blanco streets, including Fulcher Street from the gate of the water plant to Mesquite Street and north on Mesquite to 1623 in the first phase. The second phase will continue on Mesquite to 9th Street. Council voted to award the contract to the low bidder, Wagner Paving, in the amount of $257,541.96 for the complete project, giving Reavis the discretion to negotiate for a lower price. “The quicker we sign a contract, the better,” said Reavis. “We need to nail down a cost for the asphalt.”
Resident Douglas Hain came before council to discuss discrepancies between the original survey of the northwest quadrant of Blanco and a newer GPS survey. He requested that property lines be grandfathered to make the plot of the town match the actual boundaries, eliminating problems such as the one Hain described, in which his neighbor’s property actually extends 16 feet onto his property and his property extends into Cherry Street. City attorney Ricky Simmons said that the city cannot comply with Hain’s request. Council member Bobby McClung expressed his support in finding out “what is going on.” Mayor Rodrigue asked Simmons to contact the city attorney of Fredericksburg, at Hain’s suggestion, to ascertain how Fredericksburg has used the GPS survey “in a more positive way,” indicating that property lines have been grandfathered there. Council voted to have an independent survey conducted and a report made to council.
Planning and Zoning Commission chair Jud Prince reported to council that plans for a new motel on Highway 281 North had been submitted to P&Z, but that more information was needed before approving the project. He praised the Visionaries in Preservation group for their research on signage design guidelines. Prince also relayed the concern of P&Z that there needs to be a provision in the UDC for submission and approval of plans prior to issuing building permits, especially on commercial projects. Nathan Cantrell responded that the city uses a building inspector on a contract basis to review plans prior to their approval. Marvin Reavis added that the architect or engineer of a project should sign off that they have reviewed the UDC and that the plans are in compliance.
Chamber of commerce president Julie Dill suggested that those applying for a building permit should receive a copy of the UDC. She also thanked members of council for attending a recent chamber mixer, especially Bobby McClung, who entertained. She announced that the chamber will hold a banquet in January to honor town leaders. Plans for the Christmas lighting event on Friday, November 23, will include a lighting contest sponsored by the Yucca Garden Club. The chamber’s goal, in her words, is to “re-ignite the spirit” of the lighting ceremony and to find ways to encourage shoppers to spend their money in Blanco. The chamber also has plans to work with the sesquicentennial celebration, perhaps having an old-fashioned Christmas theme next year. For this year’s lighting festivities, the chamber plans to enlist the help of high school students to assist residents who need help putting up their holiday lights. Ron Houston commented, “It’s great how visible the chamber is now.”
Blanco State Park superintendent Michael Young reported to council that he and Mayor Rodrigue recently had a good meeting. He presented a fact sheet to council showing the economic impact of the park on Blanco. Based on a 2002 study, the park contributes $2.3 million annually to the local economy. Statewide the parks are endeavoring to improve the collection of user fees, according to Young, who stated that some people in Blanco appear to be unaware that statewide there is an entrance fee. Rangers will not be issuing citations to those who enter without paying; however, the staff is seeking voluntary compliance since funding to parks is dependent on keeping accurate records of attendance. Young cited statistics that local annual pass sales have declined during the past few years. He also said that revenues from the state are typically only half of what it costs to operate the park—user fees make up the rest. “We need to improve our visitation count,” he summarized. In other park news, the staff has been busy making repairs and improvements, implementing water conservation procedures, replacing screens in the shelters, trimming trees which sustained wind damage, removing exotic species along the river, reclaiming the river trail, and revitalizing the Friends of the Blanco State Park organization. A full-time interpretive park ranger has been hired to develop educational programs and to partner with the schools and the city. As always, children aged 13 and under can use the park free of charge. “On a sad note,” Young concluded, “Kenneth Moore will be retiring soon after 33 years of service at the park. It will be hard to fill his shoes.”
Finally, Mayor Rodrigue proclaimed December 8 as Tree of Angels Day. The Tree of Angels was initiated to honor victims of violent crimes. He also proclaimed November 15 as Texas Recycles Day and encouraged residents to keep up their efforts to recycle. Council voted to cast votes for the following candidates for the Blanco County Appraisal District Board of Directors: John Wood, Harold Lord, and Jack Felps. Council member Doug Pautz moved that a task force composed of representatives from the city council, historic preservation commission, and chamber of commerce be created to study the issue of building public restrooms in the area of the square. “We must not ignore this most basic of human needs,” in encouraging visitors to the area, Pautz concluded. City attorney Ricky Simmons informed council that a public hearing will be held in December to discuss the last seven parcels to be annexed by the city this year.