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Workshops define vision for city

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Under the direction of Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher, Bandera City Council held a first budget workshop prior to a regular meeting on Thursday, July 5. During the hour-long session, infrastructure and possible city park improvements were discussed.

Explaining how past budget workshops were conducted, Schumacher said, "Previously, the council was given a (monetary) figure to work with after the former mayor and city administrator decided out much money would be allotted. This year we'll have a different process."

'Vision for coming year'

She asked the councilmen to think about goals for the city - both theirs and those of residents. "After we get a sense of where we want to go, then we'll work with the numbers," Referring to the city's master plan, Schumacher said "We need a vision for the coming year. We're here to talk about what we and the residents want and need. We're here to brainstorm, and to decide our priorities for the coming year."

She also emphasized the value of city employees, noting, "Everything we do is through our city employee base. If we don't have a solid base and support them through benefits, technical assistance, equipment and training, the city's goals will not be reached."

According to Schumacher and City Administrator Mike Cardenas, one of the first priorities necessary for a vibrant and viable community is a strong infrastructure - with a healthy and abundant water supply being particularly critical. Other high priority infrastructure components include the wastewater treatment facility, drainage and flood issues, sidewalks, streets and parking.

City Engineer Rudy Klein, who will attend the next budget workshop on July 12, had included a detailed assessment of the infrastructure in the Master Plan, Schumacher noted.

Problematic 12th Street

Regarding infrastructure, Councilman Brandi Morgan identified drainage ditches on 12th Street as being problematic.

"Mike and I agree," Schumacher said. She added, "The project was driven by the amount of money the former administration wanted to spend and not by what the area needed. We have to correct this situation and make it right for the residents and businesses on that area of 12th Street."

"Also, the amount of property we had to work with wasn't large enough for placement of the boxes," Cardenas added. "We revisited the area two weeks ago. In the next big rain, we'll lose the sides of the ditch.
The grade is too steep and the curbs are too close to the curb boxes from one end to the other."

To correct the problem, Cardenas suggested installing boxes in the entire ditch or installing pipes in a size to correlate to the boxes then covering with dirt and eliminating the curbs. Planting ground cover on the filled-in ditches would prevent soil from washing away during a heavy rain.

"Pipe is an alternative and the easiest to install," Cardenas said, adding "We'll have estimates on pipes and boxes by next week." However, he noted that concrete boxes run approximately $180 per foot per box. "After we know the particulars, we'll discuss the situation at another budget hearing then put in on the council agenda."

Schumacher pointed out that local business owners, Johnny Boyle and Margo Denke, MD, had already installed extra concrete boxes in front of their properties at their own expense. In order to correct the entire issue, the council will consider reimbursing them for what the city should have done in the first place.

Wastewater facility

Regarding the city's wastewater treatment facility off Highway 16 South, Cardenas' main concern was the repair and replacement of feeder links to the facility. Those original clay pipes were installed in the 1940s.

"Although the treatment facility is running at 50 to 53 percent capacity now, infiltration from faulty pipes can cause problems. When we start running at 60 to 70 percent capacity, we must report to the state," he said. "At 75 percent capacity, we have to develop plans to expand the facility."

Cardenas said, "Replacing the lines will cost $75 to $100 per foot for material and labor. We have to go out for bids and determine a schedule for line replacement." Matching grants are available to off-set the cost.

He also suggested that council begin looking for property to relocate the wastewater treatment facility. "The next time we're underwater, we won't get a permit to expand in a floodway.

We need a higher location for the plant." Cardenas suggested beginning the search on Highway 16 toward San Antonio. "The current facility could be used as a pump station," he explained. Cardenas continued, "This search should begin now and not be put on the backburner. We need to have the land bought and ready to go when we need it."

According to Cardenas, other items essential for a safe water supply include more storage capacity and upgrading pumps on city wells. "Water main replacement is 90 to 92 percent complete. The last area is the Mulberry to 14th Street area. We need to get the concrete and asbestos out of the ground. After that, the replacement project will be complete."

Enhancing City Park

Suggesting that council give more attention to City Park, Cardenas said, "We have to have something there other than a river running through it." The City Park took in $4,000 on Wednesday, July 4 - revenue that goes into the general fund but is earmarked for the park budget.

Councilman Nancy Montgomery suggested installing some simple swings and a slide between the two covered pavilions rather than an elaborate $75,000 playground.

"We've been waiting for the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) to do something, but the park is also the city's responsibility," Schumacher said. "We have to take care of it."

Earlier, Morgan had researched playground options and offered to bring her findings to the next workshop. She suggested placing small informational and educational installations designed for children along a walking and jogging trail. "The installations are not very expensive and would be fun for kids," Morgan said. "There are lots of options and $4,000 would pay for a couple of stations."

Cardenas also felt that an enclosed type of pavilion should be constructed to protect park personnel from the heat and sun. "It should be more substantial than the canopy Joe's using now." Joe Frazier serves as park attendant.

Other improvements include installing recycling bins for plastic containers and aluminum cans. Seconding that idea, Patricia Moore, executive director of the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, "It's worth a try again. Recycling is a very large issue."

Moore also advocated using the park's "natural amphitheater" area by the dam for concerts, movies, videos and other presentations. Her suggestion struck a chord; all councilmen agreed that movie nights would be a fun way to utilize the park. City Secretary Linda Boshek had previously obtained information on companies that support this type of activity.

More mundane, but equally important, was a short discussion on expanding restroom facilities in City Park - the consensus being expansion is needed.

Budget workshops are expected to continue throughout July and August.