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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - August 27, 1999, New Braunfels, Texas 7 a New (BraunfelsHERALD-ZEi I UNG smmmmz wmmmsa ■£■-,. I Vol. 148, No. 201 22 pages in 2 sections August 27, 1999 Friday Serving Comal County since 1852 50 cents Group derails transportation study By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff Writer AUSTIN — A new luxury car could be provided to each new rider of the proposed Austin-San Antonio commuter rail, and cities’ pockets wouldn’t feel the difference. So said Texas Public Policy Foundation president Jeff Judson when he addressed the Texas Department of Transportation commissioners on Thursday. Judson presented a formal response to the TxDOT-funded Carter-Burgess study, which concluded that a 110-mile commuter rail between Austin and San Antonio through New Braunfels was feasible. TPPF, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute based in San Antonio, conducted a comprehensive analysis of the feasibility study, which was released to the public in March. “I couldn’t disagree more with the finding of Carter-Burgess that commuter rail is in any way feasible,” Judson said. For one, it would be costly to operate, he said. The annual cost per new daily commuter would be $12,200. “Leasing each new rider a luxury automobile in perpetuity would be less expensive,” Judson said. The overall startup cost would be about $475 million in 1998 dollars, which could be financed with 50 percent federal funds or funds from a subsequent transportation act. A regional sales tax of about $. 11 cents also could help fund the rail. Judson said Carter-Burgess’ $475 million estimate was low and would be closer to $500 million, if not more. “In comparison, one freeway lane running each direction could be added to Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Georgetown for an estimated $425 million,” Judson said. He said the major flaw in the commuter line proposal was that it would have no real effect on traffic congestion on Interstate 35.See STUDY/5ACounty approves 2000 budgetPlan criticized by rural fire prevention district leaders By Heather Todd Staff Writer Comal County Commissioners approved the 2000 budget Thursday despite protests from several rural fire prevention district officials. Commissioners adopted a $23.9 million budget in a 4-1 vote. The plan called for a 5 percent pay raise for elected officials, including commissioners. To support the budget, which reflects more than $700,000 more in total expenditures, Comal County Judge Danny Scheel proposed a tax rate increase of six-tenths of a cent. The proposed 2000 tax rate is $.324 — up from the $.318 tax rate in 1999. Commissioners w ill not set the tax rate until sometime in September. During a public hearing Thursday morning, members of volunteer fire departments asked commissioners to provide more funding for emergency services. Funding for the four rural fire districts was cut in the from $40,000 in 1999 to $34,000 next year. Rural Fire Prevention District No. I will receive a $35,000 stipend from the county — a drop from $45,000 last year. Fire districts official said they needed more funding to handle a grow ing demand for emergency serv ices in the county. The districts — funded in part by taxpayers and county funds — have a maximum tax rate of $.03 per $ IOO valuation. Keith Lew is, treasurer of Rural Fire District No. 4, said “There are many groups demanding funding and they are all very justified but the heart of the county is the essential services. You are providing funding for nonessential services but reducing funding for essential services” The fire districts were among 40 local organizations asking for contract services from the county, including public libraries and charitable organizations. Budget requests for contract services in the 2000 budget totaled more than $630,000. The county grave $427,000 to organizations for contract services this past year. The 2000 budget cut funding in half to $390,000. During the budget adoption session, Scheel said he wanted to look at combing the fire and emergency services in the county. “Within the next two weeks, we’ll call a meeting with all the fire districts and fire chiefs and have a presentation on Drainage committee continues fee discussion By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff Writer Those attending Thursday’s Drainage Advisory Committee meeting agreed the burden of drainage improvements shouldn’t fall solely on businesses, but be spread equitably throughout the city. But how it would translate into a drainage fee structure was not as certain. Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, Inc. president Michael Meek said he wanted to see a fair method for fees developed. “Rain does not discriminate when it falls on impervious cover,” he said. “It doesn’t know the difference between a business and a residence.” Under a proposed drainage ordinance being rev Jewed by the committee, the monthly drainage fee for commercial, industnal and retail uses of land would be $10 a month. But the monthly fee for residential units would be $5 — although the committee already has said $2.50 would be more reasonable. These utility fees, along with proposed development fees, would go into a “Watershed Management Fund,” used to fund con struction and maintenance of drainage facilities. Freese Nichols engineering company of Dallas and Austin drafted the ordinance. The six-member committee has not accepted any proposed fees and plans to continue discussion at future meetings. City council will give final approval to the ordinance; the committee is charged with making recommendations to council. Meek said the fees should be based on the amount of imperv ious cover on a lot, not on whether it was residential or commercial. “A lot of us conjure up a Wal-Mart Distribution Center,” he said, “but that's one business out of 3,(KH).” Committee president Hal Herbelin said the most important goal was to be fair to both residents and businesses. Herbelin said he liked the way San Marcos was planning utility fee structures. San Marcos homeowners might pay between $2 and $3.61 per month, depending on the size of the lot; and commercial property owners would be levied fees according to the amount of land covered by structures and parking lots.See BUDGET/5AInside Abby...................................7A Classifieds.....................4-1 OB Comics...............................8A Crossword...................  7A Forum  .......................6A Local/Metro.......................4A Movies.......................7A,    11A Religion.........................9-10A Sports..............................1-4B Today................................ 2A Television...........................8A www.herald-zeltung.coni Key code 76 Police school WAI Ll/Herald-Zeitung Comal County Sheriff’s Capt. Wayne Lehman reviews DWI techniques with police officers on Thursday. Similar training sessions are offered once per month to police officers throughout Texas. Business is healthy at rural clinic WAI Ll/Herald-Zeitung David Patten, a physician assistant at the New Braunfels Rural Health Clinic, 189 E. Austin St., examines a patient’s leg. By Heather Todd Staff Writer A new rural health clinic in New Braunfels could provide more efficient primary care in a community w ith grow ing health care needs. The clinic opened its doors as a primary care provider a little more than two months ago, but physicians have seen a steady stream of patients. Clinic administrator Sarah Torres said the clinic saw an average of 20 to 25 patients a day since opening June 15 at Dr. Stan Handshy’s old office at 189 E. Austin Street, Suite 106. Physician Rosemary Stogre and physician assistant David Patten examine clinic patients, but local family practitioners Dr. Carlos Campos and Dr. James Bartay are medical directors for the clinic. Campos said the clinic was created to alleviate a shortage of local primary care providers. “The problem is that 67 percent of doctors in the state are not primary-care providers, which means they are specialists. That means two-thirds of all doctors do not take care of primary care patients,” he said. “One-third of family doctors are over the age of 55.” Campos said in IO years, the majority of family doctors would retire. “New people moving in to the city have a hard time getting into a family doctor’s office because there are not enough to go around,” he said. Veronica Carte, chief executive officer of H.C. Health Systems, which ow ns the clinic, said rural health clinics were set up to ensure enough physicians were available. Carte said one primary care provider should be available for every 3,500 residents. “In New Braunfels, there are a lot of specialists in town, but not that many primary care providers,” she said. Torres said the clinic originally was supposed to be located in Garden Ridge. “We didn’t have the patient volume, so we trans WAI Ll/Herald-Zeitung Physician assistant David Patten (left) and Dr. Carlos Campos help run the New Braunfels Rural Health Clinic, established to fill the gap between primary care providers and patients. ferred the designation to New Braunfels,” she said. The clinic took over Handshy’s patient load of which 80 percent was Medicare and Medicaid patients — when he closed his practice. Campos said many physicians were unable to take on more Medicare or Medicaid patients. “The Medicare and Medicaid population are really in need of physicians to see them,” he said. Campos said he believed more rural health clinics would open in the future. “I think we’re going to see more and more to meet the need for primary care of patients as the town continues to grow,” he said. Patten said the clinic did not have a cap on its patient load and accepted most insurance companies and workers compensation. The clinic offers five exam rooms and one pediatric room. Patton also said the clinic treated minor emergencies. Torres said the clinic saw a variety of patients, from infants to the elderly, but more serious problems would be referred to specialists. The clinic also provides some lab testing and offers on-site visits at some local nursing homes. She also said the clinic was looking at increasing the number of patient v isits to 30 a day. As a rural health clinic, the clinic receives a higher reimbursement per Medicaid and Medicare patient clinic visit. ;