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Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
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October 12, 2011     Hays Free Press
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October 12, 2011
 

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THEY REALLY SAID THAT? "I don't think Hays County wants to be in the water business and I don't think the county wants to buiM a pipeline. I don't see that ever happening." -Lon Shell, member of the Water and Sewer Authority Board Hays Free Press 12, 2011 Page 3A HISTORICAL Ton ere will be a nauseating post- ortem seeking to attach blame the Bastrop fires. In the military, we call the procedure Lessons Learned. Surely we have learned a few lessons, but unless somebody comes up with a way to make it rain, the principal preventive weapon will be unavailable. The Bastrop fire offers all the proof we need that public service is no proper venue for the settlement of grudges and massaging of egos. It has not been long since the Austin Fire Department, following orders and policy; nearly let Pfluger~le burn to the ground. It has been nearly 50 years ago, but Hays County and the City of San Marcos had a stupid brouhaha that resulted in an increase of fire exposure for all concerned. I have joined in the complaints of lavish fire stations. If I were really pushed on the matter I would stick to my guns on these towers that seem to be totally useless. Still, we need to put fire apparatus somewhere, the firemen need a place to sleep and to eat, and by the time we crank in repair and train- ing venues we will have large buildings. We didn't need those living quarters in the past. Until recent years service on volunteer fire departments was considered de rigueur for young men as they paid back to their communities. But, firefighting is far more compli- cated these days, and volunteer firefight- ers have been supplanted by full-time firemen. These guys are trained to the nth degree and fire departments have evolved to fireand rescue agencies. Today's firemen and women do far more than spread water. They are, at times, the first to showup in medical emergencies, brining in their blood-pressure appara- tus and other medical gear. We see firemen at virtually all traffic accidents, helping direct traffic and mak- ing sure that there is no spread of toxic materials. This is a good investment for public agencies, since the fire fighters are already on the dock. The flashing lights on the fire apparatus serves to warn motorists of the accident. If you have not been a police officer investigating an acddent and dodging cars you may not appreciate what I am saying. Firefighting equipment is horrifically expensive, and there is not a city on the planet that can afford enough equip- ment to deal with a fire as large as Bas- trop's. We need to recognize that when one department takes personnel and equipment out of their bailiwick their own area of responsibility is left some- what defenseless. This is not a case for profligate spending, but in the sort of event experienced by Bastrop there is no place for a consciousness of the budget. Job One must be putting out the fire. When the fire is over, the bills will remain and many localities simply cannot underwrite the expenses of an event of this magnitude. Bastrop County and Bastrop Indepen- dent School District now have a dimin- ished taxbase due to the destruction of so much property, yet the expenses to government remain the same. How those governmental entities are going to pay their bills remains a question. We need to have a serious ongoing discussion about fire issues, a dialogue that stays objective and forgets ego mat- ters. It will prove to be a big chore. OFTENq E, Considering it was a Friday night in Kyle, it was a big crowd, good enough that we spilled outside the small meeting space into the yard, seated in cheap but cozy plastic lawn chairs, waiting. Tim O'Brien, the Vietnam vet and Pulitzer-finalist-author of"The Things They Carried," was late, but the evening felt almost like true fall despite the drought, and once O'Brien arrived he was charming enough for any civilized soul to overlook the tardiness. He told how his boys loved Tigger, from "Winnie The Pooh," and had taken to pretending they had bouncy tails of their own. This led O'Brien and his wife sometimes to wear tails themselves, and to O'Brien once answering the door having forgotten a slinky-toy hanging down from the back of his trousers. The pretend-tails became such an issue that O'Brien made up a story to illustrate the dangers of make-believe to his children. One of his sons told him he thought he understood the concept of pretend but was troubled. Sometimes, he said, when the dad was away on trips, the boy would pretend the father was still with him, protecting him. Was that bad? Not so long afterward, O'Brien said he woke up early one morning to write. He was waiting on coffee to brew when he imagned his own father, recently lost, was still with him. He imagined him throwing a baseball and singing. O'Bfien spoke of an acclaimed short story by the Argentinean Jorge Louis Borges, rifled "The Aleph." In the story a character in a basement finds this thing - the aleph- that contains within one point of space all the other points of the universe: every comer, every army; every ant, every face, every secret, every truth, even hidden and obscene love letters. O'Brien talked about how great stories are made as much of imagination as of fact. How boring it would be to talk of even a superhero, even a Batman, if all we knew ofhim were the crisp numbers of existence, the nearly squared building blocks of his life, his address, the make of his shoes, the dates of his exploits. In fiction, as in fact, details lend heft but they do not grab our throats unless there is some compelling story to strengthen their grip. When he was finished, I found myself looking at my own parents, and I imagined that maybe they were thinking in turn of my grandparents, long gone from this universe- long gone but hardly forgotten. There seemed to open up before me my own private aleph, and there in real space were Kate and Bill Johnson, whose foundation helped sponsor the series, and Edward Sledge, who came by to say hello and whose father decades ago was the only Rhodes Scholar I know of from Kyle and whose mother taught piano and violin from her stately, decaying home; but also I could see my children at the Texas-OU game in Dallas, and dear friends near and far. In that one moment, I could see myself the night before in Austin listening to a New York Times editor talk of striving and uncertainty, of the myths we tell ourselves and of stories that matter. I thought of Steve Jobs having died this week. A television clip showed him- a dropout- talking at a Stanford commencement about death being so unwelcome and yet also the best of life because it clears away the old and makes room for new growth, about how the certainty of death and the uncertainty of its timing is our best hope to steel ourselves against seductive complacency and stale dogma. Walking to my car I fell in with two classmates of my high school daughter. I was parked on scorched earth, all dead grass and wounded dirt, in front of a dilapidated house from older days, in one of the fastest growing suburban towns in Texas. Still the aleph was with me, and I could see Loyce Clarke, the long-dead city secretarywith the smoke-encrusted voice who thought she ruled Kyle once, and perhaps did; and the fight over whether to allow bingo in town; elections won and lost; and the Bon Ton on fire; and new subdivisions spreading out where cattle once grazed. Then my thoughts turned to the line from Ecclesiastes: And the rivers rtm into the sea but the sea is not full. I thought of Billy Beane and the Oakland As. There is a movie out about how he gave up millions to stay by his daughter and the small-market baseball job he loved, hoping to win a Series there, never (yet) to do so. I thought of all the lovers I have known, and those I have imagined. I thought of the woman I married and was on my way to pick up and to take home; and of my old boss, a one-time congressman named Jake Pickle, famous in his day, long buried to some, not to me. I thought about the distance between Washington and Austin, between Austin and Kyle, between the Kyle that was and the Kyle that will be- both how close and how far. The wind seemed cooler than it has in months. It felt refreshing, bespeaking a rain at lasti and I thought - I imagined at least- that when my own time comes to be cleared away; if it would only come on a night such as this, with the breeze just so, with so many memories of what I choose to imagine as troth, with an aleph open before me, if the end would come as the tail on a story of commitments kept and dares met and hope for a Series win yet, then maybe, just maybe, I will not object too much. Jeff Barton has almost recuperated from his time as an editor of the Hays Free Press 20years ago. He is a former county commissioner, an urban planner, and a (mostly) silent shareholder in this newspaper. He lives with two dogs, one family, open doors and thirsting trees on the remnants of a seventh-generation family farm between Buda and Kyle. jeff@jeffemonbarton.com LETTERS TO THE EDITOR HCISD'S ILL-SPENT MONEY Nobody opens a new extravagant $25 million elementary school for IH-35 new students - except Hays and we did it twice last year with the opening of Carpenter and Pfluger.We opened Leh- man for 65 new students and we opened Camino Real with nothing but pasture around it. We had to import almost 100% of the students for BlancoVista since, when that school opened, the subdivi- sion had 14 houses. Maintaining under enrolled facilities has wasted and contin- ues to waste millions. The district hired Lyon from Oregon. But, he is from Leander, Texas having left three years prior. He elected to leave the Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS) on his own accord, before we knew him. Presumably; while out of state, he and the school districts he worked for contributed to his out of state retirement. Nonetheless, Hays CISD decided his $179,000 salary plus deferred compen- sation plan, guaranteed 4% minimum annual raise and creating another exclusive Central Office position for his wife was not enough. Our School Board agreed to buy back his state retirement in Texas for work he did not perform and let him "double down." TRS wanted what he would have paid in and what his employer would have paid in had he not left, plus interest. This cost Hays CISD over $100,000. What a steal with our "nationwide search"! These transactions have compro- mised the district and compromised the superintendent. Did this situation con- tribute to the decision to hire back all the people terminated this spring, awarding raises of 3-7% and failure to drop the head count in the bloated Central Office? Since the majority of this money goes to the professional staff and the majority of the professional staffdoes not reside here, this additional burden is extremely hard on taxpayers.The district is not working for you. We're working for it. Creating these avoidable new con- tinuing cost metrics is foolish. Borrowing over $2 million from savings outside the budget and then calling the budget a "projected surplus" is misleading. These actions do not build support for educa~ tion. Affordable quality education is achievable with the right leadership. Bryce Bales Manchaca GOOD JOB, FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY October 16 through 22 is the sixth annual celebration of the National Friends of Libraries week making it an excellent time to publicly thank the lo- cal Friends who contribute so much of their time and talents to enhance the library's services. The Friends of the Buda Public Library were organized in 1992 to support the library through supplying volunteers, raising money and participating in special events for the library. I have been a member of the Friends for eight years and during that time the non-profit organiza- tion has worked diligently to raise and contribute between $5,000 and $20,000 each year to help cover costs of children's programming and special collections, as well as public access computers, with one digitally-savvy "Friend" volunteering to keep those computers updated at no charge. The Buda Library is a source of pride for our community. The Friends will be holding a reception at the library (with homemade goodies) on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. I hope everyone will come out next Saturday to say thanks to the Friends and find out how you can join and support this outstanding group. Pam Nelson Buda WE WEREN'T INFORMED! When the council voted to ap- prove the rate change for the water and sewer the residents were NOT informed that they have a right to petition the rate change? After a little research I have found in the TAC rule 291.22 as quoted," information on how to protest the rate change, the required number of protests to ensure a hearing, the address of the commis- sion, and the time frame for protests"; this is required before any rate change can be implemented. Why were we not informed? What is the time requirement to do this petition? Can we temporarily stop the increase due to the city not following the Notice of Intent to Change rates hales? Any help with this issue would be appreciated. Melanie Triche Kyle COMMENTS FROM THE WEBSITE I would like to thank everyone for their support. I started this business 25 years ago and still enjoy it. I have met a lot of great people along the way and hope to continue for many more years. I love what I do and I want to keep providing good and afford- able prices to my customers. I hope to resolve the issues with the city soon. Thanks for supporting small businesses! Rick Gaitan on Old biz, new troubles: City says roadside institution is an eyesore If a property owner has nothing to hide, then they won't mind inspections. What I think the City of Kyle is concerned about is whether or not places are habitable/ sanitary/safe for individuals to reside in. All owners/citizens of any city need to abide by the code or ordinance set forth. Why wouldn't anyone want their city to be a better place for people to reside in? Maybe those landlords that five 500 miles away and collect their rent through the mall. Out of sight, out of mind. We should hold every property owner to the standards that all humans should be given the fair right to live under. Stacy Jason on Slums of Kyle: City to correct sub- standard housing? MANAGEMENT BARTON PUBLICATIONS, INC. Co-Publishers Bob Barton and Cyndy SIovak-Barton Office Manager Connie Brewer business@haysfreepress.com NEWSROOM Editor Wes Ferguson wes@haysfreepress.com Staff Reporters Sean Kimmons Brad Rollins Jonathan York School Reporter Jim Cullen Community Reporters Sandra Grizzle Myrtle Heideman Pauline Tom Brenda Stewart Sports Editor Jason Gordon Columnists Bob Barton Bartee Haile Phil Jones Clint Younts Donn Brooks John Young Brenda Stewart Proofreaders Jane Kirkham Brenda Stewart ADVERTISING Tracy Mack tracy@haysfreepress.com .Delilah Reyes sales@haysfreepress.com CIRCULATION Circulation Mgr. Suzanne Hallam paper@haysfreepress.com CLASSIFIEDS Suzanne Hallam paper@haysfreepress.com Distribution Gigi Hayes Carolyn Harkins Pete Sizemore PRODUCTION Production Mgr. David White Assistant Designer Jorge J. Garcia Jr. Contact Us: HaysFreePress.com news@haysfreepress.com business@haysfreepress.com BUDA 512-295-9760 KYLE 512-268-7862 METRO AUSTIN 512-262-6397 Fax:268-0262 www.haYsfreepress.com