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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - August 4, 2001, New Braunfels, Texas Air quality ♦ health alert New Braunfels SATURDAY August 4, 2001 16 pages in 2 sections ■VHP-    16    pages    in    2    seed*Herald-Zeitung I; . Si ----n Vol. 150, No. 228 Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852 50 cents Pilot missing for almost a month By Ron Maloney Staff Writer BULVERDE — On Sunday, July 8, Johnnie Laird left his residence to report to work in Reno, Nevada. He got into his silver and blue 1990 Chevrolet pickup truck and drove off. He hasn’t been seen since, and sheriff’s detective Sgt. Tommy Ward is looking for him. Laird, 53, is a pilot who works for a Maryland firm that transferred him to Nevada, where he was supposed to report to work on July 12. “On July 16,” Ward said, “the company called Mr. Laird’s mother in Bulverde and asked why he hadn’t shown up for work. The case is unusual because Laird seemed satisfied with his work and had no record of absenteeism. The detective entered Laird’s name and vehicle tags in a national database, but so far, has gotten no “hit” on the truck or its owner. Ward is investigating, but has developed no information, he said. Laird’s photograph has been entered in missing persons sites on the Internet and has been provided to news outlets with no result. “It’s a difficult case because it spans the entire United States,” Ward said. “Mr. Laird left a position in Maryland because his employer transferred him to Reno. He left Maryland, stopped in Bulverde and was going to Reno.” Laird, who is unmarried, wears contact lenses. He enjoys hunting and fishing and old movies “like John Wayne movies,” Ward said. “He likes reading, computers and traveling.” If anyone thinks they may have seen Laird or his truck or knows anything about his disappearance, Ward can be reached at (830) 620-3400. Photo submitted Johnnie Lexie Laird is shown here with an unidentified woman. Laird, who lives in Bulverde, left his residence for work in Reno and hasn’t been seen since.Missing Johnnie Lexie Laird Date of birth: Dec. 26, 1947 Laird is 6 feet tall, weighs 235 lbs. and has blue eyes and curly grey hair. He was last seen leaving his Bulverde home in a silver and blue 1990 Chevrolet pickup. The license plate number is Texas: 2ZW Z41. Anyone who has any information or might have seen Laird or his vehicle is asked to call detective Tommy Ward at (830) 885-4883 or (830) 620-3400. NBU hires outside firm to manage outreach campaign By Amy Clarkson Staff Writer In order to position itself for electrical deregulation and possible competition, New Braunfels Utilities launched a $250,000 public relations and community outreach campaign this week. The municipally owned utility hired a public relations firm from Austin, Talk Media, to handle publicity for the new approach. They also conducted an employee meeting to announce its increased focus on customer service and community outreach Thursday afternoon. The utility closed early to hold the meeting at the Comal County Fairgrounds. “This is the culmination of about two years of effort,” NBU General Manager Paula DiFonzo said. “We’ve looked at becoming more efficient in the way we conduct business, more responsive to customers and to create a stronger relationship with those customers. We want every contact customers have with NBU to be pleasant.” The Texas state legislature chose January I, 2002, for state utilities to begin deregulation and start offering competition. As a municipal utility, NBU has the option to join the program whenever it deems it necessary. “We won’t be offering competition in January,” DiFonzo said. “The program is something we opt in to. And we want to make sure that it “This is the culmination of about two years of effort. We want every contact customers have with NBU to be pleasant. ” — Paula DiFonzo NBU General Manager will be beneficial for all our customers — commercial and residential.” Although competition won’t be offered next year in New Braunfels, DiFonzo said the utility saw a chance to increase its focus toward the community and its customers. “We’re working on several programs that we’ll have ready by the end of the year,” she said. “An interactive Web site is one of them and budget billing is another. The main thing is working through the software and getting it ready.” The biggest focus of the new public relations push is __ a    series    of programs called SAFE-haven. NBU operated SAFE-haven in the schools, telling ele-m e n t a r y school children that if they are lost or in trouble to go to an NBU truck to ask for help. NBU hired Talk Media to help launch the SAFEhaven programs and begin the first year of the community outreach push, DiFonzo said. The firm will be involved this year and next as NBU implements the program. “We have trucks and people all over the area,” DiFonzo said. “So we’ve encouraged children, kindergarten through third grade, to go to the trucks. They’re equipped with radios, so they can call emergency services for help.” Expanding SAFEhaven to other areas is now in the works, NB spokesperson See CAMPAIGNS Inside Gala Event Abby................... .............5 A Classifieds........... ..........4-6B Comics................ .............3B Crossword........... .............5A Forum................... ..............6A Local/Metro.......... .............4A Movies................... ..............5A Religion.............. ............8A Sports.................. ..........1-2B Today................... .............2A The American Cancer Society’s Starlight Gala 2001, “Fabulous Forties,” will begin at 7 p.m. Friday Aug. 10, at the New Braunfels Civic Center, 380 S. Seguin Ave. General admission is $1 OO for two tickets. For information or to purchase tickets, call (830) 606-5810 or (830) 606-0376.    I Key Code 76 A: Hierrf* SUK***' Eat at Grampy’s With a loyal following, the name really belies this Braken restaruant County approves $22,000 for mulch loader K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung “Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy” are hard at work on their second year at Grumpy’s Mexican Cafe. The restaurant is located at 18816 FM 2252. By Ron Maloney Staff Writer BRACKEN — A couple of years ago, a guy everyone in Bracken calls “Grumpy” and the missus were driving south on FM 2252 toward San Antonio. As they cleared the rise at the Garden Ridge city limits, the husband saw a house nestled in the trees with a “for lease” sign hanging in front. Grumpy had been running other people’s restaurants for years. As the San Antonio area operations manager for a major chain, he was in charge of 27 of them. He had an idea. “I said, ‘let’s get this place, make good food and enjoy ourselves,’” he recalled Wednesday with a broad white smile that belies his adopted nickname. “I’d never thought I’d want my own restaurant. But when I saw this place, I said, ‘I can do it.’” His wife thought he’d flipped out. The place wasn’t even a restaurant and wasn’t located anywhere, really, being in Bracken on the road between Garden Ridge and Loop 1604, where there are more chain restaurants than Grumpy could count on IO fingers and IO toes. And Grumpy and Mrs. Grumpy had it all. The big job — she was a district manager in the same chain — the big paycheck, the big benefits and the promise of a bigger future. They looked at the little house in the trees and chucked it all for a dream that just seemed too right to pass up. “I said, ‘this is what we’re going to do,”’ Grumpy said. “She said, ‘OK.’ She’s just See GRUMPY’S/3A By Ron Maloney Staff Writer Comal County voted Thursday to spend nearly $22,000 — and could spend a quarter million dollars more — to buy equipment that will delay the closing of the county landfill. The money, which will be used in conjunction with a $25,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority, will be used to buy a boom-type material handler for moving and loading recycled mulch. This will be the first step of a program that County Commissioner Moe Schwab hopes will enable the county to better process branches, trimmings and ultimately yard wastes. Comal County has applied to the Alamo Area Council of Governments for a grant to pay for a large, platform wood chipper to process the materials into mulch. That machine, which will cost an estimated $250,000, will turn acres of branches and road trimmings into garden mulch. County officials hope to know later this year whether they got the grant. Upgrading the capability of the recycling center is important, Schwab says. The Comal County landfill, owned by Waste Management, Inc., will run out of space in a few years. What Schwab and other county officials want to do is prevent every bit of yard waste or organic material from finding its way into the landfill, extending its life as long as possible. So yes, Schwab acknowl- K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Neighbors Buddy Faulkner and Pam Capps work out last minute details to dump the collected brush they have brought to the recycling center on Highway 46. edges, $22,000 for a mulch handler and a quarter-million more for a chipper, sounds like a lot of money. “But it’s nothing in the long term, compared to the cost of trucking garbage somewhere else,” Schwab said. The commissioner hasn’t brought a proposal to court See MULCH/3A ;