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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 31, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas Zeitung Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852. CL WWW. Vol. 153, No. 41 14 pages, 2 sections 500 8 "56825 00001'" 1 W Mostly cloudy High Low 68 55 Details .... IB DEAR ABBY 4B CLASSIFIEDS 688 COMICS 3B CROSSWORD 38 FORUM    4A OBITUARIES 3A SPORTS 5-6A TV GRIDS 48 "KKtfKfcKftKXKXKN ALL FOK' ADF To,. WEDN    IS1 WM571 «/«/« nHW    «*!»> STMwwtiaw t mDILL OR Ll FASO TX 799ft? i I " 11 i 11,11« I,, I {,,, j”, 11, (j |, J j JL VX JLJL^ LIFE MOTIVATION COUPON BARGAIN BOX People tell how they found the inspiration to lose weight and keep it off. Pages 1, SB Bring your own box to The Cottage in Gruene, and fill it with savings. Take 35 percent off all stock. Page BA FRONTand Center Maps TOP IO STORIES OF 2003 addnew I voting precincts NB split between Smith) Rodriguez Lamar Smith By Ron Maloney Staff Writer Commissioners Tuesday approved four new voting precincts and changes to seven others that will accommodate new U.S. congressional districts approved by the state legislature. The new federal lines divide New Braunfels between Republican 21st U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith and Democrat 28th U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez. They were created during a compromise that ended an acrimonious months-long redistricting fight in Austin that twice saw Democrat lawmakers leave the state to try to block the process. A panel of federal judges is reviewing Ciro Rodriguez the plan. Whichever side loses — Republicans who say they want districts that reflect state voting patterns and Democrats who say they disenfranchise minority voters — is expected to appeal. But Comal County is up against its own deadlines for getting the new districts on its books and for applying for U.S. Department of Justice pre-clearance in accordance with the Voting Rights Act. County Clerk Joy Streater, Elections Coordinator Linnell Hinojosa and county staff have worked for weeks to create new districts in New Braunfels based on the state maps. The law requires that no county election district can contain territory from more than one congressional district. Tuesday's court action — which presumes the federal judges will approve the districts worked out in Austin — means the county adds four voting precincts — and will add one more polling place. County officials will issue voter registration cards that reflect the new districts beginning Jan. ll. See PMCINCTS Page 3A 5 TOYOTA TWO-STEP Toyota agreed to build its next Tundra truck plant on the south side of San Antonio. Before the ink was dry on the documents, local chamber of commerce, city and county officials were working to court parts suppliers. So far. two small ones have been attracted to an industrial park in Schertz. A third one passed up New Braunfels recently for Williamson County. 6 BUDGET TROUBLES The state, the county and the city all experienced budgetary problems this past year Millions in state spending was cut or shifted to other entities — including cities and counties. In New Braunfels, officials wrestling with budgetary shortfalls raised taxes and fired more than 20 city employees to make ends meet Comal County held the line on taxes and jobs, but is warily eyeing 2005 and beyond. New Braunfels Independent School District hired a consultant in anticipation of budget woes next year. 7 TOURISM REBOUNDS New Braunfels and Comal County rebounded from a disastrous summer of 2002 in which a Fourth of July flood wiped out Guadalupe River and Canyon Lake-related tourism. Chamber of Commerce and lodging officials reported in September that visits and hotel stays matched the record summer of 2001. The Water Oriented Recreation District began exploring creation of a public relations program that could coordinate advertising campaigns and media coverage in future seasons 8 TOUGH ACT New Braunfels High School Principal 'Mike Fitsko retired at the end of the 2002-03 school year. In Rickey Williams, the New Braunfels Independent School District could not have found a man with a style more different than Fitsko s. As soon as the school year started, there were issues among staff, students and parents about the new principal's people skills, the dress code and the way Williams ran the school. I WAR IN IRAQ U.S. forces began bombing Baghdad in March. The troop and force buildup that led to the 'shock and awe' campaign went on for months. Like many cities across the United States. New Braunfels sent some of its sons and daughters and husbands and wives to that war. The actual combat was short — just a few weeks. Now, the United States will work to give Iraq back to its people. 2 POWER SHIFT New Braunfels City Council incumbents Robert Kendrick and Debbie Flume were defeated in reelection bids this past May The incumbents, who styled themselves as 'proneighborhood' were ousted by candidates Gale O'Hara Pospisil and Valerie Hull, widely considered 'probusiness.' The election could represent a shift in city politics in favor of a more business-and growth-friendly future. 3 TURF TUSSLE Comal ISO replaced its football fields over the summer with plastic grass in $1 million projects in which funding and approval became a political football. Before it was over. CISD trustees punted Superintendent Jim Grunert. buying out the remainder of his contract. 4 REDISTRICTING NIGHTMARE Legislators battled through the regular session and two special sessions to hammer out new congressional districts in Texas that would shift power to Republicans. The final plan, worked out in October, again splits New Braunfels between two legislators — Republican Lamar Smith and Democrat Ciro Rodriguez. County officials Tuesday had to redraw local districts in New Braunfels to accommodate the changes, which are under review in federal court. 9 MISSING BOY Suzanne DeWalt remained on the run throughout 2003 with her 6-year-old son, Jeremy, whom she refused to turn over to her ex-husband in late 2002 — in spite of a court order. DeWalt's mother. Margaret Keams, turned herself in, and has been jailed since September for allegedly interfering with child custody and hindering the apprehension of her daughter. Her bail is $600,000. Her husband. Ed Kearns, will spend New Year's Day in Comal County Jail on similar charges. His bail is $400,000 “I /~V SCOOTER WOES III President and Chief Executive L v/ Officer Doug Harrison announced late in October that The Scooter Store, Comal County's largest private employer, was under investigation by the FBI for unspecified allegations While the FBI confirmed the investigation has been under way for two years, no charges had been filed and as recently as Tuesday, investigators would not say what they are looking for.ResolutionsSpecial section offers health and auf linen tip* far min*!* fwejly- FEMA gives flood dam tentative green light' By Ron MaloneyStaff Writer Comal County might yet get to build a new flood control dam — but County Judge Danny Scheel said he is not holding his breath. Local officials recently met with representatives of U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, Sen. John Cornyn and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and learned the project could move forward by June 2004. A flood control dam project on the Dry Comal Creek near Solms, designed to protect New Braunfels in the next major flood, stalled while local officials conducted wildlife and archeological studies — and then re-studied the studies. Danny Scheel County Judge The dam would be the first in a series of six envisioned on the Dry Comal and Guadalupe River watersheds. About $4.5 million in federal hazard mitigation money earmarked for the project has been frozen while the county goes through the application process. For more than two years, frustrated local officials have watched as federal officials seemingly move the funding bar.Each time Comal County has been told it must do one more thing and completes it, another seems to come up. Thursday, Scheel and County Engineer Tom Homseth reported that there could be movement on the project. “This is the age-old dam project on the Dry Comal,’’ Homseth said, alluding to local frustration. “Where we are right now is we have had some good advancement through Lamar Smith and John Comyn’s offices in terms of pressure on federal officials,’’ Homseth said. The bottom line, Homseth said, is that what he's been told are the final studies will be turned in to FEMA in January. “They say we’ll be able to proceed in June,” Homseth said. Scheel said FEMA had placed a two-year window on completion of the project once funding is announced. In the interim, Scheel said, county officials would attempt to negotiate purchase of the property. “It sounds like we’ve made remarkable progress,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Jan Kennady. “I agree with you,” Scheel said. “But I’ve heard it before. I just think when you’re sitting across the table from these people is when you can make progress. I don’t want to get optimistic, but I think we’re on the right track.” ;