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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 8, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas New Braunfels WEDNESDAY January 8, 2003 12 pages in 2 sections 12 pages in 2 seeHerald-Zeitung HH Vol. 152, No. 49 Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852 IMH 50 centsState fire marshal begins inspections at CISD By Ron Maloney Staff Writer The state fire marshal’s office Tuesday began its fire safety inspection of the Comal Independent School District at Smithson Valley High School. The SVHS inspection, conducted by Inspector Mike Mendiola, was expected to take two days, according to Comal County Fire Marshal High School,” Manford said. In a Dec. 4 letter to CISD officials, Manford cited concerns about a number of safety issues, including blocked exits, pull alarms that didn’t operate and technical details such as missing outlet plates. Manford requested that the state inspect the entire district — a move welcomed by CISD officials. “As building principal, safety is my ultimate responsibil ity,” said SVHf$ Principal Brad Williams. “The fire marshal makes my job easier and is a tremendous resource for us.” Tuesday’s was the first of a series of inspections of all CISD facilities that could last two weeks. Wayne Smith, Director of Fire Safety Inspection Services for the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office in Austin, said the inspection came out of concerns at the school dis trict and the county fire marshal’s office about problems with fire alarm systems. ‘We’ll conduct a full life safety inspection and produce a report to the school superintendent and the county fire marshal, make recommendations for improvements if needed and follow up to help in those improvements,” Smith said. Items to be inspected include the alarm systems, doors, door hardware, location of exits and their markings, lighting, storage of combustible materials and many other features, Smith said. CISD Public Information Officer Kari Hutchison said the district has hired a consultant to evaluate fire safety procedures in all of its schools. “Their job is not done, but their help has been extremely valuable to this point,” Hutchison said. Lin Manford. The inspection of the school district could last two weeks. “Assistant Fire MANFORD Marshal Wayne Ellington and myself will assist at Smithson ValleyEyeson the Skywam radio operators ‘indispensable’ By Ron Maloney Staff Writer On Dec. 30, the National Weather Service office in New Braunfels issued a tornado warning for northwest Bexar County and the interior of Comal County.At a glance The Skywam program is looking for volunteer radio operators, lf you can help, call 625 1683. Part of the reason the NWS could issue the warning was its array of expensive, state-of-the-art Doppler radars. But, while the radar indicated a tornado could occur, the multimillion dollar system was backstopped by a ham radio operator who is also a Helotes fireman. He confirmed the existence of the tornado by actually looking up into the funnel cloud. The fireman is part of the nationwide “Skywarn” network of weather observers. They use shortwave or “Ham” radio to keep the weather service informed in real time of what is happening in a storm situation. Ray Taylor of New Braunfels (call sign N5NAV) is the sector chief or controller for K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Meteorologist Larry Eblen monitors area weather conditions on Doppler radar units at the National Weather Service center at the New Braunfels Municipal Airport. Eblen explains how, during storms, volunteer “Ham” radio operators monitor a station at the NWS, collecting data from Skywam weather observers out in the field. the local Skywarn spotters. National Weather Service Meteorologist Larry Eblen says the network is indispensable. “Skywarn is a National Weather Service program that uses mainly amateur radio operators as their mobile eyes and ears. We find that they are very technically oriented. They’re amazing. These are the folks that, you find something that’s broken, you give them a toothpick, a nail and a rubber band and they’ll have it working again for you — probably better than it did before,” Eblen said. A volunteer “Ham” operator mans a console at the NWS office in New Braunfels during storm events, taking data from operators in the field and channeling it to meteorologists. “It’s critical information. We think the world of these Doppler radars. They’re the greatest piece of equipment anybody has ever given us. But they’re not IOO percent for sure. You can see all the evidence on this radar that a tornado’s forming, but it doesn’t guarantee there will be one,” Eblen said. “We’ve had some of the most significant of signatures — rotations, hooks — just continue for dozens and dozens of minutes. Yet our amateur spotters running right underneath the storm say, ‘yeah, the bottom’s See SKYWARN/3A Cougars pounce School districts to release report cards later this week By Tony Cantu Staff Writer More than likely, schoolchildren across the city are cheering. Their holiday gifts safely secured, New Braunfels students may find the timing of report card issuance this week fortuitous. By week’s end, parents will receive their children’s report cards — their arrival a week late to base gifts on their contents. Comal Independent School District spokeswoman Kari Hutchison said report cards from their campuses would be sent out by Friday. Elementary students would be handed their report cards home to give to their parents, while secondary students’ will be mailed to parents. The Comal ISD report cards represent academic performance for a nine-week reporting period. This past Monday was the final day for that period, Hutchison said. Similarly, the New Braunfels Independent School District is expected to issue See REPORT/3A Inside Abby....................................4A Classifieds..........................2-4B Comics................................6A Crossword..........................4A Forum.................................5A Movies......................  4A Obituaries...........................3A Sports..............................7-8A Today..................................2A Stocks.................................4A Key Code 76 56825 00001 K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Canyon High School’s Zach Pickelman battles for a rebound attempt in the Cougars’ 67-44 win over Lake Travis. For game details, see the story, 7A. New Main Street director envisions tourism by train By Michael Cary Staff Writer Jan Soechting, the new Main Street director for New Braunfels, has a vision of steam trains making daytime runs from Austin to New Braunfels to boost tounsm in the city. “I have been talking to the Austin Steam Train Association,” Soechting, who began working for New Braunfels Nov. 25, 2002, said. “They are interested. Currently, they run trains out of Cedar Park.” The Austin Steam Train Association operates the Hill Country Flyer on a couple of rail tours, including one to Burnet. It features a 1916 steam engine, five 1920s-era passenger coaches and three 19508-era lounge cars, and makes Saturday and Sunday excursions. “I’ve been negotiating with SOECHTING Union Pacific about the proposal,” Soechting said. Union Pacific owns the rail lines that run through New Braunfels. “The railroad’s history is so rich, it changed everything. What better way to celebrate the era of steam engines and the railroad than to have a tour that runs on Saturday and Sunday from Austin to New Braunfels?” Soechting said a steam train excursion would be an excellent way to promote heritage tourism, where people could stop in downtown New Braunfels and shop at local stores and tour historical sights during an all-day trip. See TOURISM/3A County taps lawyer for civil cases By Ron Maloney Staff Writer Comal County has hired a new county counsel. Attorney Geoffrey Barr began work Thursday advising County Judge Danny Scheel and commissioners’ court on civil law matters. Criminal District Attorney Dib Waldrip hired Barr as an assistant district attorney. He has replaced Waldrip in the role of providing legal advice to county officials and departments on policy, contracts, subdivision rules, right-of-way issues, employment law, real estate, water and state regulations — virtually any civil issue to come before BARR the county. “I look forward to the broad range of issues ITI get to deal with,” Ban-said. “I intend to represent the county to the best of my ability. I want to help this county move in the right direction as it grows.” Waldrip, whose office prosecutes criminals in Comal (bun ty, also oversees da? county’s civil legal needs. In December 2000, Waldrip had to step into an active role as the lawyer for commis sioners’ court when then-coun-ty counsel Nathan Rheinlan-der, 45, died. At the time, Comal County was rewriting subdivision rules, adding water availability, drainage, runoff and on-site sewage facility guidelines. Barr is the son of New Braunfels oral surgeon Gary Barr. A graduate of St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio, he served as an intern in Waldrip’s office durmg his second year of law school. Prior to taking the county job, Barr was in private practice, mainly dealing with creditor’s rights and representing commercial businesses. ;