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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 5, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas I I New iBraunfelsHerald-Zeitung Vol. 149 No. 34    16    pgs.    in    2    sections    January    5,    2000 Wednesday Firefighters keep watch at CL blaze site Serving Comal County since 1852 50 cents By Erin Magruder Staff Writer Firefighters and volunteers continued their vigil against flare ups Tuesday at the site of a Monday wildfire that scorched about 700 acres near a Canyon Lake area subdivision. The blaze was contained Monday evening, but flare ups continued overnight and all day Tuesday, Canyon Lake Volunteer Fire Depart ment Deputy Chief Shawn Wherry said. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Texas Forest Service and Comal County Sheriff’s Department, Comal County Fire Marshal Lin Manford said. The blaze started in the backyard of a residence near Purgatory Road and Oak Valley Estates, Manford said. A firefighter reported that two piles of burning brush near the resi dence might have ignited the blaze. Dry, windy weather also contributed to a fire early Tuesday morning that burned about 60 acres in the Stoney Creek subdivision off Texas 46 near Smithson Valley High School. The fire was started by individuals shooting off fireworks in the area, Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department Chief Raylon Schlued-er said. Board: Separate parks projects By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff Writer New Braunfels City Council should let residents vote on park-related bond propositions sepa-, rately, the city’s parks and recreation advisory board agreed Monday. As is, residents could vote on two park propositions: • a $1.14 million proposition for new restrooms and playground equipment; and • a $ 12 million proposition (estimated) for an indoor pool, several fields and a gymnasium. After deliberation and public input, council approved this packaging at its Dec. 13 meeting. But council has until mid-February to finalize the package, which will go before voters in May. Parks advisory board member Carl Fox made a motion at Monday’s meeting that the board recommend unbundling the $12 million proposition and let voters decide on the estimated $5.5 million pool, $2.5 million fields and $4 million gymnasium separately- “It’s going to kill it if (the city includes) everything,” Fox said. “We need to be realistic.” The motion passed 3-1; the recommendation will be passed on to council. Board member David Feltmann cast the dissenting vote. He said the pool wouldn’t have as good a chance of passing if separated from the other projects. Feltmann also serves on the board of the nonprofit New Braunfels Youth Sports, the driving force behind the sports complex, and has volunteered his time to research the feasibility of an indoor pool. NBYS has a 100-year lease on IOO acres off Doeppenschmidt Road and Interstate 35 — the site where it wants the city’s sports complex to be built. The group plans to raise money and aud extra fields, a track, a football field, hiking trail and other amenities. Inside Abby................................5    A Classifieds.......................5-8B Comics...............................2B Crossword..........................7    A Forum.................................6A Local/Metro........................4A Movies 1....................5A Obituaries...........................3A Sports............................7-8A Today.................................2A Television.............................2B Key Code 76 The party’s over AMANDA BECK/Herald-Zeitung The last remnants of the holidays started disappearing Tuesday afternoon as New Braunfels Utilities employees began removing Christmas lights at the Main Plaza. Constable race draws six hopefuls By Heather Todd Staff Writer The March primary races are of!' to a running start with five Republicans and one Democrat seeking the job of Pct. 4 constable. The opening of constable Ed Mullins’ position this year prompted Republican candidates J. Ronald “Star” Carey, Lee Hernandez, Jim Higdon, Wylie 1. Queen and Ben Scroggin to jump into the primary race. Democratic candidate Jim Sutton is running unopposed for his party nomination for the Pct. 4 constable position. Sutton lost to Mullins in the 1996 election. Mullins did not file for re-election. He could not be reached for comment. Filing for the March 14 primaries ended Monday evening. The general election is Nov. 7. The last day to register to vote in the primary elections is Feb. 14. The first day of early voting is Feb. 28. The Pct. 4 constable position represents the Canyon Lake area. List of Comal County candidates — Page 4A Several candidates said they filed for the Pct. 4 constable position because the vacancy opened an opportunity to run for office. Comal County constables are peace officers elected by the precincts in which they reside, but their jurisdictions extend throughout the county- They are not full-time law off icers but are on-call 24 hours a day. Constables in Comal County are paid a yearly salary of $20,396. County constables are the officers of the justice of the peace courts and assist in serving writs, processes and warrants. During a Republican Party gathering Monday night, Queen told about 50 guests the Canyon Lake area needed a constable who was a working man and who understood the working class. “We need somebody who is going to stand up for the people,” he said. Queen said he had experience in the security business and as a masonry contractor. He also has worked with the local emergency medical services unit and with the volunteer fire department. ‘i’m out here working with the public every day. I listen to the people about what they need and what they want in law enforcement out here,” he said. Hernandez, who has lived in the* C anyon Lake area for more than 20 years, said he would like to see more cooperation between the constables and other county agencies, such as the sheriff’s department. For the past three years, Hernandez See CONSTABLES A Comal County sheriff’s deputy and a resident of Oak Valley Estates subdivision survey damage caused by a wildfire Monday afternoon that burned 700 acres. AMANDA BECK/Herald- Zeitung NBU plans to allow competition By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff writer New Braunfels Utilities plans to open up the local electric market to competition voluntarily — but just how soon is uncertain, general manager Paul DiFonzo announced at a meeting Tuesday. “We believe there will be a time when our customers should have a choice,” she said. “But we don't know when yet.” An open market would allow customers to choose their own electric company — a move that could lower rates and ensure better service, proponents say. Under Senate Bill 7, investor-owned electric utilities are forced into competition by Jan. I, 2002. But municipal-owned utilities like NBU can decide on their own to participate in competition, although not until Jan. 1,2002. New Braunfels City Council would have final say. NBU probably won’t become competitive until it has time to analyze how investor-owned utilities handle the change, DiFonzo said. Although competition is more than two years away, NBU wants to start preparing as soon as possible, she said. At a special meeting Tuesday, the NBU board approved a potentially pricey staff recommendation to form teams to work on a strategic plan that would help guide NBU as it faces issues of competition. “It will be a plan to make New Braunfels Utilities as efficient and effective as possible for the future,” she said. NBU will form six teams made up of staff', board members and possibly members of the community, to analyze just about every area of operation. The plan also would examine areas not really addressed by NBU currently like marketing. “We haven’t done a whole lot of marketing of ourselves,” NBU assistant general manager of business services Jeff Thompson said. “There’s a lot to be done here.” DiFonzo said she was unsure how long the study would take. At the next board meeting, staff will outline more specifically what the teams will study and present a budget of projected expenses. DiFonzo gave a preliminary cost estimate of $700,000 for the first year. Only $ 116,000 of this is actually budgeted, leaving a shortfall of $184,000. The $300,000 includes costs of consultants and resource materials, she said. NBU also will need to figure in the cost of staff time devoted to the project. “This is a big challenge,” she said. “We’re already tight-staffed.” Mayor Stoney Williams, who sits on the board, said he thought it was a good plan. “It’s needed,” he said. Trustee and former NBU general manager Robert Sohn agreed. “This is a big undertaking,” he said. “But I approve.” In their presentation to the board, NBU staff listed several goals the teams would undertake, including: • Creating and testing NBU’s market image; • Launching a marketing and sales plan; • Streamlining business organization and structure; • Evaluating the condition of NBU’s infrastructure, supply resources and information systems, considering projected growth; • Restructuring electric rates; See NBU/3A Developer plans 240-unit apartment complex By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff writer About 240 apartment units — rented at market price — could be built on the same piece of property many community members hoped would house more affordable homes. New Braunfels Planning Commission approved Tuesday a zoning change on the 15-acre tract of land, west of Water Lane and south of Interstate 35, from R-2 Single and Two-Family District to R-3H Multifamily High Density District. This recommendation will be brought before city council for final approval. Developer John Seidel told commissioners that the proposed apartment com- See HOUSING/3A ;