At the October 14 meeting of the governing body of Blanco, PEC representative Tamara Chapman announced that the next PEC meeting will be October 20 at 10 a.m. in Kyle. The deadline for submissions to the Youth Tour Contest is October 24 at 5 p.m. This year’s contest celebrates Lyndon Johnson’s 100th birthday and PEC’s Green Works Initiative. It is open to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Kirk Scanlon of LCRA announced that LCRA is launching a countywide assessment of hazardous waste in Blanco County, determining what resources are currently available to deal with hazardous waste, with the goal of developing programs to deal with problems. LCRA is looking for volunteers to serve on the steering committee. The annual hazardous waste disposal day in Johnson City will no longer be held, according to Scanlon; instead, according to county commissioner Paul Granberg, the city hopes to have its own in-house disposal day several times a year.
Economic development was the focus of the Chamber of Commerce report given by Julie Dill, who, along with council Tina Gourley, attended an economic development summit in Victoria recently. Judge Guthrie will be forming a group composed of city council members, school board members, chamber representatives and others to study economic development. The chamber also heard a presentation recently from Judy Fort of the Texas Department of Agriculture to discuss the role of a chamber in economic development. Coordinating with other city documents such as the Comprehensive Master Plan and VIP was encouraged. Three new board members have been nominated to the chamber board—Karen Roets with Miller Creek Lavender, Liz Waller with On the Square, and Rick Sebelonar with the US Dept. of Commerce. They will be voted on in November. New members of the chamber include Allan Eastwood of Second Act Troupe, whose group was to perform in Blanco on October 18 and 19.
Dill also presented an update on Blanco Lavender Lights, which will kick off on November 28th with a Christmas Market on the square and lavender and white lights. Refreshments will be served by merchants and at the chamber, and Dennis Moore will provide horse-drawn carriage rides. Events will continue all weekend on the square.
Martha Gosnell reported for the Safe Routes to School Program that there was “great participation” for the Walk to School day in October. She said that a sidewalk plan is awaiting final touches by the city engineer and must be submitted by the end of October in order for the city to receive funding. The plan focuses on 7th Street from Highway 281 to Blanco Middle School.
Retta Martin of Keep Blanco Beautiful announced that the Blanco High School Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America, under the sponsorship of teacher Amy Petri, will be working with Keep Blanco Beautiful on cigarette litter reduction in the area of the square . FCCLA members Rachel Calzoncit, Morgan Johnson, Alicia Immel, and Maggie Avila were present as the mayor read a proclamation stating that October 14-June 4 will be a time of Cigarette Litter Prevention in Blanco, Texas. According to an article in the October 1 Blanco County News, cigarette litter(cigarettes, packaging, and lighting material) are the most littered items around the country.
Linda Howard reported for the Blanco Historical Commission that their last meeting was September 26, at which time she was appointed chair, Retta Martin was appointed vice-chair, and Rebecca Greathouse was appointed as secretary. Letters have been sent to 197 Blanco citizens notifying them that their homes can become historic landmarks. Commission members plan to attend upcoming training sessions, one of which will be held by the Texas Historical Commission. Howard expressed hope that members of city council and Planning and Zoning would be able to attend. The commission’s next meeting will be October 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Byars Building.
Gene Collins of the Blanco Concerned Citizens Association addressed council about problems with vandalism, advocating improved street lighting. He expressed frustration that street lights owned by PEC are being switched out to new amber lights, which he indicated are not bright enough to deter criminal activity. He also advocated a curfew for teens aged 17 and younger of 11:30 p.m. on school nights and 12:30 a.m. on weekends. Council member Rebecca Howerton agreed that eventually streets will need better lighting. Collins continued with a plea for more police officers; and a discussion ensued about the salaries and benefits of Blanco officers and the problems with retention. The mayor reminded Collins that the budget has been formulated, and that money for new programs would have to come from other areas to which it has already been designated. He added that drug awareness programs such as DARE, used in larger school districts, are expensive. “When you go to fund all that, it’s taxes,” he said. “We have to go through a process to see what the community wants to do.”
Police chief Ed Sonier reported 178 tickets issued during September. He said that he has met several times with Gene Collins and the Blanco Concerned Citizens Association about vandalism and drug use concerns. He said that Ricky Simmons, the city attorney, and members of the police department will be helping with training for the proposed Citizens on Patrol group. In response to a question about asking police officers from other jurisdictions to help out, chief explained that departments do not ordinarily cross jurisdictional boundaries. He added that his department has “good relations” with other Texas law enforcement agencies such as the attorney general’s office and the DPS. Assistant chief Carl Bragg added that it is better for Blanco officers to deal with local kids. “We have a lot of great kids,” the mayor reminded those in attendance; “we’re talking about a very few individuals here.” Along the same lines, resident Nan Mikes requested 24-hour police patrols at her home in Country Estates because of multiple acts of vandalism, including over $1,000 in damage to her car. Resident Peggy Pepper complained that Country Lane is “like a racetrack” because of speeding cars.
Blanco State Park superintendent Michael Young presented a report from the Texas Comptroller highlighting the economic benefits of state parks. In the words of the report, “State parks generated almost $3 million in retail sales and $1.5 million in resident income, on average, in counties with state parks. Parks created 66 jobs, on average, in rural counties and 53 jobs in metropolitan counties. We also found that visitors to state parks from outside Texas added $1.5 million to the gross state product, $7.9 million in total personal income, and 288 jobs.” The report goes on to report “a dire need” for additional funding for state parks. Blanco State Park ranks 25th in usage out of the state’s 91 parks and, in Young’s words, “teeters on the brink of self-sufficiency.” Since the beginning of his tenure, Young has stressed registering attendance at the park office for daily visitors. More accurate records of attendance facilitate increased state funding. He reported that the park is continuing its outreach programs, focusing on outdoor recreation for elementary students in an attempt to build an appreciation for the out-of-doors. $72k has been budgeted for site repairs and other improvements to the park. Young also stated that there is “a desperate need” for new members in the Friends of the Blanco State Park.
In other business, council voted to hire Doris Hughes as a full-time city employee and to grant Hollis Boatright a variance for property at 218 4th Street in order to add a new water line in a new structure on the property without an additional meter. Rather she will be billed at 2 times the rate for a single meter.