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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 7, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas New Braunfels .TUESDAY January 7, 2003 IO pages in 2 sections ■WMP"    IO    pages    in    2    seemHerald-Z eitung Vol. 152, No. 48Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852 50 centsFunding needs for parks could hike user fees By Michael Cary Staff Writer Higher picnic fees and increased admission prices for New Braunfels parks could be on the horizon during development of the city’s next fiscal budget year, which would begin July I. The New Braunfels Parks and Recreation Department’s Advisory Board began looking Monday night at various ways to fund large capital improvements in new parkInside Abby....................................6A Classifieds...........................348 Comics................................5A Crossword..........................6A Forum.................................4A Local/State.........................3A Movies................................6A Obituaries...........................3A Sports.........................'.....1-2B Today..................................2A Stocks.................................6A Key Code 76 8    56825    00001    i facilities, plus how to replace worn-out playground equipment and decaying bathroom facilities. Carl Fox, a long-time board member, said the city’s population has more than doubled in the past 25 years, but park facilities have not kept up with the pace. “We have less than half the park space per person than we had 25 years ago,” Fox said. He referred to a recent Infrastructure/Improvement (4B) Board’s reluctance to parcel out a portion of the city’s sales tax funds to draw up a plan to rebuild the historical downtown Plaza’s bandstand. One 4B Board member, Kirk Kistner, said it would be cheaper for the city to tear down the structure and rebuild it rather than to spend money to restore the current one. He also referred to the structure as a “gazebo” not a bandstand. The recreation board chastised Parks Director Iris Nef-fendorf for even seeking funds from the 4B board. She had asked for $300,000 to draw up an engineering master plan to develop Camp Comal, which has frontage along the Guadalupe River south of IH-35. In the end, the 4B Board voted to allocate $20,000 to help the parks department work on plans to rebuild the bandstand. At the same time, it allocated $60,000 in funds to Youth Sports Inc., a local nonprofit group, to construct soccer fields on hard-to-access property that is located barely within the city Emits, near the now closed ROAM Open Air Market. The parks advisory board came to grips with the low priority the city gives to its park facilities, despite the presence of one of the more attractive regional parks in Central and South Texas - Landa Park. “We are an advisory board, but we don’t have much pull,” Fox said. One example of the city ignoring the park advisory board was a purchase of property near the intersection of Torrey Street and Gruene Road in the Comaltown area. “The city purchased that property without even consulting this board,” Fox said. “They never came to us, they just went ahead and did it.” Green waste recycling starts Jan. 15 Staff reports New Braunfels residents will be able to leave their yard waste at the curb to be recycled beginning Jan. 15. The program is designed to divert the city’s collected green waste from the Comal County Landfill so it can be processed at the Comal County Rural Recycling Center and then returned at no cost to residents in the form of compost or mulch. Green waste consists of grass clippings, brush, tree trimmings and other yard debris. Tree trimmings and brush must be bundled and no longer than four feet, while all leaves, plant materials and grass clippings must be contained in biodegradable paper bags that weigh no more than 50 pounds each. The green waste program is only available to those residents who are currently participating in the city’s recycling service. The monthly fee for the program is $1.75 (not optional), which will be added to January utility bills. City officials will distribute a limited number of free biodegradable paper bags, and they will be available for pur-chase at local retail and hardware stores. Sanitation crews will not pick up any plastic bags or garbage cans containing green waste. The program is the latest in a series of waste-reduction programs implemented by the city in keeping with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s goal of reducing the amount of municipal solid waste by 40 percent. A residential curbside-recy-cling program implemented six years ago has diverted more than 5,800 tons of waste from the landfill. Returning bell tolls sadness for Lamar Primary students Counselors sent to school to help youngsters cope with loss of friend By Tony Canto Staff writer After a long holiday break in the family hearth, Lamar Primary school students returned to class Tuesday with tragedy foremost on their young minds: the New Year’s Eve death of a peer in a traffic accident. Grief counselors were dispatched to the school to help classmates of five-year-old Samantha Rodriguez cope with her death. She was killed Dec. 31, 2002, when a motorist struck her and her mother on Fqrm-to-Market Road 725 as they shopped for fireworks. The mother has since been released from the hospital. Samantha was airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio but died 30 minutes later. The girl was buried Saturday, but counselors now are confronted with the delicate task of helping classmates achieve their own closure - a task made more challenging given their young ages. “We’ve already visited with the parents over the holidays and shared with them a few ideas on what they can do to help them,” said school coun-’ selor Lisa Schmidt. ‘The kids already know what’s happened, but it’s important for them to have clear and concise information" Toward that end, Schmidt and two colleagues from Lone Star Elementary and Memorial Primary schools would augment counseling efforts, along with Mireya Gonzalez, a family liaison from the nonprofit Communities in Schools. Schmidt’s and Gonzalez’s bilingualism was at a premium Tuesday as the students were counseled in Spanish. Samantha’s classmates are enrolled in the school’s bilingual program as they acclimated into an English-language environment. Children were not the only ones left emotionally unprepared in the death’s wake. Lamar Primary School Principal Leigh Ann Dees is overseeing a student body galvanized in grief for the first time in her career while school is in session. “For 13 years as a school principal, I’ve lost students after the fact but never during the school year,” the five-year Lamar Primary principal said. She previously served as principal at a Comal Independent School District campus. “Samantha was precious, and I’ll miss her sweet little t mile,” Dees said. “Its never easy because you tend to think of them as if they’re your own.”See GRIEF/3ATrying to help A dollar drive among students to help offset funeral exists has been scheduled for the next two weeks at Seele Intermediate, where one of Samantha Rodriguez’s sisters attends fifth grade. Members of the community are welcome to contnbute as well, and can do so by contacting coordinator Susan Wetz, a Communities in Schools project director, at 627-6757. Flocking together Bird watchers focus in on annual count By Michael Cary Staff Writer A pair of waterfowl known as least grebes created a lot of excitement Sunday among a trio of bird watchers who had converged on New Braunfels for an annual bird count. The birds were spotted swimming around in a pond on Ferry Boat Lane early Sunday morning by David Sarkozi and Fred Collins of Houston, who had joined a day-long effort to compile the numbers of birds spotted. Julie Crouch of Austin, a birder for the past 40 years, worked with them as they cruised roads off Farm-to-Market 725 to get a glimpse of different species of birds. Collins, a biologist with the Harris County Parks Department, said he has been bird watching all his life, more than 30 years. “It’s one of those things that gets in your blood,” he said as he approached a thicket and played a tape recording of a screech owl. “This will be my first count in New Braunfels.” The trio were standing close to the thickets on Schumann’s Beach Road and playing the tape of the screech owl to draw any species of smaller birds to the area. “The smaller birds will mob it,” Sarkozi explained. “They are mortal enemies.” “The sound will draw 40 birds within arm’s length," Crouch said. Sarkozi issued a “psst, psst, psst, psst” sound to imi- ; J. ' >    :    "    ^ rn Ss* gp® Clockwise from above, Noel Pettingell observes birds across the Comal River in Landa Park Sunday morning as part of the bird count for the Audubon Society. Caleb Dye compares the different varieties of birds he observes to those found in his book. Fellow bird watcher Blair Moore helped Dye spot some of the harder to find birds. DAVID INGRAM/Herald-Zeitung See BIRD WATCHERS/3A ;