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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 18, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Vol. 149 No. 66    20    pgs.    in    2    sections    February    18,    2000    PRIDAY    Serving    Coma!    County    since    1852 50 centsNew cable company eyeing NB By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff Writer Paragon Cable is the only cable game in town now — but that could change. A startup company headquartered in Austin has announced plans to build and operate a billion-dollar fiber optic communications network in New Braunfels, Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio. The city of New Braunfels got a letter of intent from Grande Communications this past week. City officials might meet with Grande representatives as early as next week to start discussing a franchise agreement. “We look forward to sitting down at the table with them,” assistant to the city manager Don Ferguson said. Grande Communications, a broadband communications network, plans to deliver analog and digital cable, local and long distance telephone and high speed Internet access services over one single fiber broadband network. “It has such a tremendous bandwidth, that we’re able to offer cable, telephone and Internet services,” executive vice president Tipton Ross said. The company plans to start construction in the next few months and complete the entire Interstate 35 corridor in five to seven years. The company expects to bring as many as 1,200 permanent jobs to the area. Because New Braunfels has a nonexclusive franchise agreement with Paragon Cable, it is able to allow cable competition. “We’re open and willing to talk to anyone who’s interested in exploring this,” Ferguson said. Paragon Cable, a Time Warner Cable company, took over New Braunfels’ cable system in early June. The company’s takeover happened gradually, phasing out TCI Cablevision, which provided cable service for New Braunfels since the late 1980s. The company’s departure was said to be part of an exchange agreement that would give Time Warner, Paragon’s parent company, access to TCI markets in Texas in exchange for TCI’s acquisition of Time Warner-controlled markets in Oregon and Montana. In April, New Braunfels City Council voted to release TCI from its current franchise agreement, allowing Paragon to take over. Time Warner Cable president Navarra Williams said officials were designing a fiber optic system in New Braunfels now. Most residents could hook up to the system by the end of 2000, he said. And because customers will be hooked into fiber optic lines, they should experience more reliable service, he said. “Customers should experience fewer cable outages and better picture quality,” he said. Customers also will have the option to hook into Paragon’s new digital service, which offers up to I ll channels.See CABLE/3A Council takes up bed tax petition today A ALEXANDER Councilman wants to give voters another choice By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff writer Councilman Larry Alexander wants his bed tax freeze plan on the May 6 ballot right beside the petition initiative — but some residents can’t figure out why. Alexander says he’s trying to give voters a choice. Others aigue that vot-ers already have a choice — to vote yes or no to the petition initiative. At a special meeting 4 p.m. today, council will decide whether the initiative, turned in Tuesday with more than 1,000 signatures, and the freeze plan will go on the May 6 ballot. Because the initiative includes more than 30 percent of registered voters who voted in the last general election, council must consider the proposal, which would eliminate using the city’s portion of bed tax revenue for a convention center. If council votes against the petition, the initiative goes on the ballot anyway. If the petition initiative goes on the ballot, Alexander said he wanted council to put the freeze plan on the ballot as well. The plan approved at Monday’s council meeting, calls for the city to freeze 20 percent of revenue made from the I percent hotel/motel tax for two years andMeeting ■ WHAT: New Braunfels City Council special meeting ■ WHEN: 4 p.m., Friday ■ WHERE: New Braunfels Municipal Building, 424 S. Castle Ave., Meeting Room D ■ RESULTS: To find out how the council votes today, check out the Herald-Zeitung website at after 6 p.m. for coverage of the special meeting. Career expo expanding minds, views By Heather Todd Staff Writer A career in the funeral service industry might not have appealed to most high school students before Tuesday morning, but an eyecatching display and some brochures at the Annual Career and Community Awareness Expo might have changed a few minds. The casket and embalming fluids on display caught more than a few passing glances from visitors walking by the Funeral Services Careers booth at the New Braunfels Civic Center Tuesday. Curiosity finally got the best of them as groups of students gathered around the booth, looking at the cosmetics and gadgets on display and talking with funeral service representatives. The display was one of more than IOO booths represented by local businesses, social service organizations, law enforcement agencies and post-secondary schools at the fourth annual “Opportunities for the New Millennium Career, Life, Education” expo at the civic center, 308 S. Seguin St. Local residents and students from New Braunfels and Comal school districts as well as students from neighboring districts — San Marcos, Marion and Schertz — browsed the booths for information about employment and educational opportunities. Bill Morgan, special education supervisor for CI SD, said 105 area agencies provided free information about employment, school to work programs, financial assistance, disability assistance, training programs and post-secondary educational opportunities. Morgan said organizers expected about 2,500 people to walk through the civic center between 8:30 a.m and 4:30 p.m. This past year’s expo brought in about 1,800 people. then decide how it should be spent. The Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, Inc. asked council to consider saving that money for two years — between $1 and $2 million — for a down payment on a convention center, but Alexander said all proposals would get equal consideration in two years. Council’s action Monday was not binding and could be changed at any time. It gives council the flexibility to designate bed tax money to any project at any time or to refuse to spend its 20 percent until two years is up, even if the petition is approved. “If it’s established by council already, I don’t know why (Alexander) wants to put it on the ballot,” petition supporter Debbie Flume said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”See COUNCIL/3A NBHS student Elise Saegert speaks with Becci Pickelman and Michele Shamrock of Wal-Mart during the Annual Career and Community Awareness Expo Thursday at New Braunfels Civic Center. K. JESSIE SLATEN/ Herald-Zeitung Bomb threat cancels SBMS classes today From Staff Reports Classes at Spring Branch Middle School have been cancelled today after a written bomb threat was found in a boys’ restroom Thursday. School officials said the note indicated a bomb would go off about noon today at the school, 21053 Texas 46 West. School employees, law enforcement officials and bomb-sniffing dogs, searched the school. “We have to take every precaution necessary to ensure that our students and staff are safe," Comal Independent School District Superintendent Jerry Major said. "Students and staff at SBMS will have to make up the day on March 17.” March 17 is a student holiday in the Comal school district. Now, Smithson Valley High, Smithson Valley Middle and SBMS will have to attend school that day because of recent bomb threats that have plagued the district. Inside Abby.......................... ......5A Classifieds..................... .4-1 OB Comics........................ ......7A Crossword................... ......5A Forum.......................... ......6A Local/Metro.................. ......4A Movies........................ ......5A Obituaries..................... ......3A Sports......................... ..1-2B Today........................... ......2A Television....................... .....7A www.herald-zeitung. com Key Code 76 Dam study delivers promising news By Erin Magruder Staff Writer Comal County Commissioners heard promising news Thursday that five additional flood dams could significantly reduce chances of a flood as devastating as the October 1998 flood. Representatives from Freese and Nichols, hired to conduct a feasibility study on flood control structures, told commissioners that the five potential dam sites could reduce the {leak flow at the confluence of the Comal and Guadalupe rivers by 34 percent during a 100-year flood. Four of the potential dam sites are on the Guadalupe River at Devil’s Backbone, Bear Creek, Jacobs Creek and Elm Creek. The other site is on a tributary to Dry Comal Creek, west of Dittlinger quarry. Commissioners voted for FNI to continue analyzing the impact of the five potential dams. “The numbers do show significant results,” Commission er Jack Dawson said. The potential dam sites we picked as a result of FI hydraulic and hydrologic cor puter models that determim the downstream effects floods in the county. The next big blocks of ck to be compiled by FNI will used to determine the cost/be efit ratio of the potential flex dams. Commissioners said the m< recent results of the ongoii feasibility study were encoiSee DAM/2Making the sift K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung After investing almost a year of his life to his lamb, Canyon Middle School’s Wesley Mevrin (with judge) made it through the first “sift’ of competitors at Thursday’s market lamb show, only to get cut in the second round of judging at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. Area FFA and 4-H students are scheduled to show throughout the day today. ;