Newspaper Archive of
Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
June 23, 2010     Hays Free Press
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June 23, 2010

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Hays Free Press June 23, 2010 NLqNS Page 3A Hays Free Press wins best in state m':F RlOm" , The Hays Free Press swept its division in the Texas Press As- sociation's statewide newspaper competition, bringing home 10 awards that indude three first-. "place finishes and eamingthe title ofbest ]a_rge weekly in the state. Results were announced last weekend at the association's 131st annual convention at the Wesfin Rivetwalk Hotel in San Antonio. The Hays Free Press won more awards than any other weekly newspaper of any size. Only three dailynewspapers out the 172 pub- lications that submitted entries in the competition won awards in more categories. "Best editorial and selection of news coverage seen. Excel- lent in just about every respect," one judge wrote in evaluating the paper. The Hays Free  won the' top prize in the advertising and page design category for work by production manager David White and assistant Jorge Gar- cia. Additionally, columnist Clint Younts took a first place award for his "View from the Crow's Nest" humorous column. Judges awarded the Hays Free Press second place in news photography for Cyndy Slovak- Barton's photo of Fire Chief Glenn Whitaker on the scene of a fatality accident, and Mary Stone's picture of alight pole that crashed into a Hays CISD gym. Slovak-Barton also took a second place prize for sports photography, and the recently redesigned website received second place honors. Sports editor Jason Gordon and sports reporter Mark Caul rook third place for overall sports coverage, and editor len Biundo received a third place prize for feature stories on a local mid- wife and a young war widow. Biundo also mok a fourth place prize in newswriOng for smiles on a Buda train wreck and sex education in local schools. The Hays Free Press placed third in the general excellence category. The newspaper won its divi- sion sweepstakes prize with an accumulation of 700 points, 200 more than its closest competitor. Bob Barton and Cyndy Slo- yak-Barton are co-publishers of the Hays Free Press;, ]en Biundo is the editor. ' Cyndy SIovak- Barton received s .econd place honors in news photography for her photo of Glen Whitaker (above) on the scene of an auto fatality. Staff members (right) include (front row, left to right) Su- zanne Hallarn, Jorge J. Garcia Jr., Cyndy Slovak-Barton, David White; (back row) Jason Gordon, Jen Biundo, Brenda Stew- art, Connie Brewer, Clint Younts, Tracy Mack, Sandra Grizzle, Brad Rollins and Bob Barton. PHOTO BY CYNDY SLOVAK:BARTON PHOTO BY BOZENABARTON , , I I Goforth Connect City staffers said they had received some phone calls from citizens saying that the change has added an extra 15-20 minutes onto their commute, but councilmem- bers say they haven't heard the complaints. "There was this thought at the time that there would be this huge outcrywhen the access road went one- way and people would be stranded," Tenorio said. 'md what happened is we have not gotten that reaction. People are won- derful about adjusting their routes. If it's not causing the problem that some pedple thought it might cause, let's not go there." City staff estimated that the 1,415 feet of roadway would cost $700,000 in right- of-way purchase and $1.6 million in construction, with the price inflated by plans m include an eight-foot high sound wall to deaden the noise for Ashford Park homes that would back directly up m the planned mad. "Basically when we were given the cost estimates, we said, 'that's $2 million we ought to be spending on something else,'" said Buda Mayor Bobby Lane. Lane, who lives just off Goforth and commutes to far north Austin every da said the conversion hasn't negatively impacted his drive.While he used to head up the west access road to the FM 2001 overpass, now he drives north through the Sequoyah subdivision to Main Street, occasionally taking Cabela's road back to FM 2001 if the line at the Viain Street light is long. "It maybe adds two min- utes - it's really not speak- able," Lane said. "In fact, the way I go now, technically itls safer because you're not dealing with oncoming traffic. I really don't stress over it." Lane also said that he hasn't noticed additional traffic through his subdivi- sion. City officials say they plan to call for a traffic study on the issue after school starts this fall. $4 million find eases Kyle budget BY BRAD ROLLINS in a recession it is very difficult to keep the already borrowed. That's a projected six- brad@haysfreepress.c'om :The Kyle City Council is committed m spending less cash next year than this year for capital outla shaving nearly a cent and a half from an anticipated property tax in- crease, Mayor Lucy Johnson said this week. Councimembers at a redent budget work- shop agreed m spend no more than $356,674 from its general fundm pay outright for proj- ects, less than the $549,449 included for simi- lar jobs in the current year's budget. "We have been issuing debt over the last eight years to help us grow and build our infi'astructur. Partially because of the re- cession, we haven't had the growth in sales tax and property tax revenues that would have stopped a tax increase from happen- ing," Johnson said. "The llard truth is that same level of service without increasing the tax rate. I am very concemed with sav- ing as much taxpayer' money as possible without lowering our level of service." The coundrs recent cost-cutting will help blunt the impact of a forthcoming tax hike but is nonetheless modest compared to the $8.9 million in new debt the council is con- sidering borrowing through its utility and general funds. Those loans will fund projects that include infrastructure for a new lihi, securing future water supplies through the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency and the city's share of reconstructing Dacy Lane. New capital improvement program spending is on course to increase the tax rate four cents per $100 in property value, interim City Manager James Earp said, in addition to a two-cent increase the city will need in order to pay its note on money cent property tax increase, about a $90 in- crease for the owner of a $150,000 house. The increase might have been even steeperwere it not for city staff's rediscovery of $4 million it borrowed a couple years ago while courting the U.S. Foods warehouse and distribution facility. Johnson said she was told the mone borrowed before she was on the council, was set aside m provide utility and road infrastructure to a parcel U.S. Foods was considering buying on Dry Hole Road. U.S. Foods ultimately decided to locate the facility near Buda. Of the $4 million borrowed through cer- tificates of obligation, half was specified for roads and half for water and waste wa- ter improvements. Council members are considering applying the street portion of the fund to the Dacy Lane project and to resurfacing downtown area streets. Foreclosures on the upswing in Hays Co. BY JEN BIUNDO After two months of decline, foreclo- sures in Hays County have shot track up to nearly a record high, possibly influ- enced by the end of the federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers. According to records released this week by the Hays County Clerk's Office, 155 properties are scheduled to face fore- closure auction next month on the steps of the Hays County Courthouse, a whop- ping 61 percent increase from the 96 properties listed for the June auction. The most recent numbers represent a three percent increase from the 150 prop- brties listed for last July's auction, and are the third highest listing the county has seen to date. Foreclosures in Hays County rose to record highs in early 2009 as the country faced a nationwide collapse of the hous- ing market, and they continue to rise, In 2008, 'the county recorded an average of 80 foreclosures each month, a number that had remained steady for the previous five years. In 2009, that abruptly climbed 58 percent to an average of 125 foreclosure listings per month, and in 2010, the aver- age stands at 136 listings per month. Despite the high numbers of foreclo- sures and a slowdown in sales, home val- ues have remained roughly constant in the county, realtors say. Local realtors said that the dip in May and/une may have been partially due to increasing numbers of short sales, in which a bank permits a homeowner to sell their property for less than the total amount of the loan, throwing a borrowers who are underwater on their mortgages. Homeowners on the brink of foreclo- sure and trying to offload their home likely benefited from the $8,000 federal tax cred- it for first-time homebuyers. The tax credit applied to purchases in which a sales con- tract was signed by April 30 and the home purchase is completed by June 30. A bank can begin foreclosure proceedings when a property owner falls three months behind on their mortgage payment. Kyle City Plan: Workin' out the kinks MESA, a planning firm from Dallas, received about $280,000 to develop the exten- sive plan, a blueprint for Kyle that predicts and designates economic development, land use, conversation and com- munity character. In 2001, the city had a frugal attempt at a comprehensive plan but the new plan is better managed with more commu- nity input, former City Man- ager Tom Mattis had said. To ensure that the new plan works, city officials will have to keep the city's future tax gap in balance. In 2040, Kyle's general fund requirement is estimated to be around $54 million. A portion would be raised from city fees, fines and finances while about $21.6 million would come from residential tax revenue. Another $22 million would be funded by non-residential tax revenue, such as commer- cial development. An extra 6,000 acres of non-residential land would be needed to cover that amount, according to the plan's figures. To do this, the plan suggests that Kyle "break its depen- dence on the IH-35 and FM 1626 corridors and promote a thoroughfare plan as well as land use plan that provide for greater distribution of non- residential uses." Since September 2009, Kyle residents have gathered in three public workshops at Leh- man High School to giveqnput SEE THE PLAN To view Kyle's proposed comprehensive plan online, go to: Plan09.php to help envision this plan. Headed by a volunteer facil- itator, residents split into nine city districts to discuss com- munity needs and wants dur- ing the meetings. Last week, two of the facili- tators urged the council to ap- prove the plan. Jenny DiLeo, who represent- ed the Regional Center Dis- trict, used. her child's plastic tools to demonstrate why the city should utilize this plan. While at the podium, DiLeo pulled out a tape measure to emphasize that the plan mea- sures the effectiveness of pub- lic safety and emergency ser- vices as the population grows. She then held up another prop, a toy power drill, when she commented that the plan "drills down" the most imme- diate roads in need of repair. "Kyle is no average city and our comprehensive plan is no average plan," she said. Another facilitator, Den- nis Rose, of the Ranch South District, liked the plan but ad- vised that it would be an ongo- ing process. "I think it's an excellent tool as long as we understand it's a living, breathing and changing document," he said. PEC Board: Firing of general manager,overshadows election of new board members Continued from pg. 1A Representative Patrick Rose issued a joint statement expressing concern at the time of the termination. "The two outgoing directors were part of the legacy board that creat- ed the problems at PEC in the first place. They should not have been part of any decision that impacts the future of PEC," Rose and Fraser said. Landaker said the cooperative needs a new general manager to en- sure it remains solvent amid chang- ing technology and legislation on energy competition. "Our task is to take steps to make sure we are not gobbled up by a gi- ant Wall Street public utility inter- est," Landaker said. "For 70 years, we have enjoyed a protective fence around our market. Our customers are captive. They have no choice in electric providers [but] an en- ergy technology revolution is at our doorstep. Change is coming and it is coming faster than many of us are moving. The wolf is on his way to our door and our challenge is to get our financial house in order now." Landaker referenced the troubled Austin Energy, which is facing steep budget shortfalls and years of con- secutive rate increases; Garza led the city-owned utility between 2002 PERRY FISCHER and 2008 as general manager. "Because they overspent and de- ferred critical decisions for years, they will have to raise consumer rates 6.5 percent in 2012 with more to come. PEC must not make the same mistakes. We cannot over- spend and we cannot defer critical decisions," Landakersaid. Speaking after Landaker, Garza made what seem to be glancing ref- erences to his disagreements with the board. He said board members encouraged him to fire three to five managers left over from the Fuel- berg administration "just to show some blood" to which he replied, "I am not in the firing business. I am in the education and motivation and accountability for actions busi- ness." Garza continued, "The work of re- form is not done at PEC and I regret that I may not have an opportunity to continue to lead it. But I am proud of what has been achieved here. Mostly, I am confident in the people who work here. I am confident that they will continue to do what they do best, provide outstanding service to our members." But Garza said he accepted his fate, in a comment that was not part of his prepared written address: "It is best for the membership that I step down. I know I am disappointing you but that truly is best." lilllllllllllgmlll]llllriiiim-i,lnn* , I I i mllllililllTla/rm"Wmlra,','in"r T, ,,,,,,,,,, ,h,,- .............................................................