At its regular meeting on November 10, the governing body of Blanco approved several measures to promote commerce and economic development through ties with the Chamber of Commerce. Council members heard an explanation from chamber director Julie Dill on the advantages of joining the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Go Texan program. In order to receive grants promoting tourism, the city needs to be a certified member. Other city organizations such as the chamber would then be designated as associate members and could apply for state grants. Council voted unanimously to join the program. After hammering out details in executive session, council also approved two other agreements with the chamber—a publicity and tourism agreement and an economic development program agreement. The amendments made by council appeared to encourage greater accountability by the chamber, including more frequent documentation of expenditures.
Dill also reported “a lot of excitement” about the Blanco Lavender Lights program to promote shopping and dining locally, beginning with the Courthouse Lighting on November 28, when merchants will stay open late and serve refreshments. Other events will include a performance by The Starlight Symphony Orchestra at the courthouse December 6 at 7:30, Christmas Market Days, and the annual Christmas Parade, both on December 13.
TxDOT representatives Howard Lyons and Terry Brussel requested an advance funding agreement to provide a pedestrian crossing at 4th and Main Streets on the side owned by Uptown Blanco. Uptown Blanco will pay for the crossing; however, the state can only deal with the city, not a private entity, as Lyons explained. Council voted to set up a $5K escrow account to handle the money for payment.
Council members also questioned Lyons about the progress toward a traffic signal at the corner of Blanco Avenue and Highway 281, the scene of a recent traffic fatality. According to Lyons, a traffic count done recently did not meet the “threshhold” necessary for a signal. In answer to a question by Ron Houston as to whether a fatality affects TxDOT’s “threshhold,” Lyons responded that it discounts it. Council member Doug Pautz made a suggestion to close off the entry from Super S onto 281, thereby decreasing the potential for accidents there and re-routing traffic out at the Blanco Avenue intersection. Lyons agreed to the closure, stating that it would be “a good compromise.” A visual traffic count will also be taken. Martha Gosnell pointed out that the cable used to count vehicles was placed before the turn lane onto Blanco Avenue, rendering the count invalid. Assistant police chief Carl Bragg questioned why counts are done during the week rather than at peak traffic times. Lyons responded that it is a state rule that the 24-hour count must be taken on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Lyons acknowledged that the count seemed too low, adding that a visual count would be conducted to verify the numbers.
Lyons also suggested that he would like to sit down with council members to find compromises between what the city wants and what TxDOT is able to do concerning speed zones on highways coming into town. “We have had good cooperation in the past,” said Ron Houston. “That’s the way to get things done.” Mayor Rodrigue appointed a committee composed of Ron Houston, Tina Gourley, and himself to meet with TxDOT representatives.
Retta Martin reported for Keep Blanco Beautiful that Christmas lights are being strung from trees in the pecan bottom, with the permission of the Lavender Capital Laundry, which will provide an electrical hook-up. The first scene of the proposed “Trail of Lights” in Bindseil Park is being designed by shop teachers at Blanco High School, according to Martin. She also announced Texas Recycling Day on November 15 and called attention to a display of recycling information as well as a box for used toner cartridges at the Blanco Library. The Blanco High School National Honor Society will recycle the cartridges as a fund-raiser.
Fifty crepe myrtle trees donated by LCRA will be coming to Blanco November 12, to be planted along the roads leading into the city. Martin requested that the Wheels and Feet task force, which received a grant for the extensive improvements and installation of native plants in Bindseil Park, be dissolved. Mayor Rodrigue responded that he had spoken to Wheels and Feet members, and that essentially their work was done. He did mention the fact that the crepe myrtles, which Keep Blanco Beautiful plans to plant in the park, are not native plants, as was the intent of the Master Gardeners.
Linda Howard reported for the Blanco Historical Commission that she has been working with an archeologist to map the boundaries of the original settlement of Pittsburg, across the river from the current city, with the goal of its inclusion in the Blanco Historic District. She plans to get permission from current landowners for archeological research on their properties. Howard announced two vacancies on the commisison and asked for anyone interested to contact her. She also informed council of the program to be held at the Old Blanco Courthouse on November 22, where residents can bring historic documents to be scanned and sent to the Texas Archives, which she said has a dearth of information about Blanco. She explained that any document over 50 years old is considered historic.
Police chief Ed Sonier reported 179 tickets written in October, with 124 being traffic citations. He also introduced Robert Armstrong, a former state trooper, who will be joining the Blanco force. His hiring at a Patrolman 2 position was officially approved following executive session. Council voted to let bids for the construction of the first phase of the police building on Blanco Avenue. As the mayor explained, without some idea of the cost, the city cannot proceed with plans for the expansion.
In other business council denied the request by Elaine Pruden to abandon the Cedar Street easement between 7th and 8th Street, which she has been maintaining. Public works director Nathan Cantrell commented, “We have refused to turn them loose before.” Ron Houston thanked Pruden for her efforts in taking care of the numerous trees in the easement. The mayor said that perhaps Cantrell could look at his budget to see about helping in future maintenance. In later conversation, Cantrell expressed his philosophy that the city should keep the easements in case the need arises to extend streets. Developer Dawn DeLaurentis requested that the city take over the streets in Calico Meadows. The mayor explained that the city will take over the streets once signs are put up and suggested that she have Cantrell order them.
Resident Gene Collins spoke in the Public Comments portion of the meeting, asking what the city had done in response to his requests at the October meeting for increased lighting, a school resource officer, and a curfew for students. Mayor Rodrigue said that he would give Collins on the details of having someone speak to the Blanco Independent School District about the process of getting a resource officer. He explained that Comal County got their officers through a grant but that the county would be responsible for funding the program after the grant ends. Chief Sonier explained that he had attended a meeting of the Citizens on Patrol program and that training will be provided for those in the program.
Finally, council voted to remove probationary status for city employee Brandon Born and to retain the McKamie law firm in the suit filed by Sunset Restaurant owners concerning the fact that the restaurant’s porch sits in the city’s right of way.