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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 9, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas New Braunfels THURSDAY January 9, 2003 IO pages in 2 sections ppMM    IO    pages    in    2    sectuHerald-Zeiting I Vol. 152, No. 50 Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852 50 cents County to buy out flooded homes # « glance w    w    Todays    commisjun By Ron Maloney Staff Writer A Comal County Commissioner will be given authority today to negotiate the buyouts of 26 properties flooded this past July. Pct. I Commissioner Jack Dawson will be empowered by commissioners to negotiInside Abby....................................6A Classifieds...........................2-4B Comics................................5A Crossword..........................6A Forum.................................4A Movies................................6A Obituaries...........................3A Sports..............................1-2B Key Code 76 a 56825 00001 ate on behalf of Comal County the purchase of parcels of land worth an estimated $5.5 minion before the flood. Commissioners’ Court meets at 8:15 a.m. in the commissioners’ courtroom, Commissioners’ Court Building, 199 Main Plaza. The buyouts will take place under the framework of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Under the program, owners of properties that were substantially damaged — more than 50 percent of their value — by the flood are eligible to be voluntarily bought out by the county. The county would pay the difference between the appraised value of the property the day before the flood and the value of any insurance settlements or other federal flood relief received by the owner. Dawson said 26 homeowners in unincorporated county See HOMES/3 A Today’s commissioners’ court agenda includes: ■ Authorizing County Judge Danny Scheel to sign documents allowing reconstruction of South Access Road; ■ Opening and awarding bids for 60-inch bailer, conveyor and hopper for Comal County Rural Recycling program; ■ Select members to serve on the Comal County Salary Grievance Committee; and ■ Authorize county judge to sign contract between the Alamo Area Council of Governments for Juvenile Alternative Incentive Block Grant funds. Inmate labor helps rebuild Canyon Lake access road By Ron Maloney Staff Writer CANYON LAKE — Comal County is moving closer to rebuilding the main connector route for the north and south sides of Canyon Lake. County Engineer Ibm Homseth said the county would get some help from the state when it rebuilds South Access Road this month. That help will come horn a state agency’ with a large potential labor pool — the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. TD CAJ inmates helped Comal County clear rock and debris horn the nearby Hidden Valley Sports Park — and were lauded for the job they did. “It’ll be in better condition than it was before the flood,'' County Judge Danny Scheel said. Homseth met Tuesday afternoon with officials of the TDCJ’s inmate work program to discuss the bridge project and work proposed to clear rock, brush and debris from the Dry Comal Creek west of New Braunfels. The July flood closed South Dam Access Road when the spillway overflowed for the first time in the nearly 40-year history of Canyon Dam. Water that rushed at nearly 70,000 cubic feet-per-second at the height of the flood cut a deep channel into the limestone and through the road. Homseth intends to place culverts in the bottom of the channel to allow routine runoff to pass through and fill the cut to road level. A subcontractor will be used to place the culverts while inmates will do the backfilling, Homseth said. Late in the month a county road crew will finish the project by repaving the road, Homseth said. ‘They’ve agreed to go ahead and handle the project up on South Dam Access Road. We’re waiting now for the contractor to set the pipes. The inmates will do the backfilling with heavy equipment support from the county road department,” Scheel said. The TDCJ said it was confident that a crew of eight or IO inmates could complete the work in a week or so, once it gets started, Scheel said. The inmates work 12-hour shifts and would spend nights at the Comal County Jail, Scheel said. Memorial work lagging; subcontractor waits for payment By Tony Cantu Staff Writer Controversy swirls at the New Braunfels Independent School District over campus renovations, threatening to end in litigation. While district officials and the acting general contractor argue over school renovation progress, the main subcontractor awaits $150,000 in payment now three months overdue. The subcontractor, SBS Inc. of San Antonio, helped renovate the district’s three Memo-rial-named schools — the primary, elementary and intermediate campuses. The work is part of a 1999 bond package, calling for such work as roof repairs and refur-b i s h e d restrooms. SBS owner Kelly REAVES PI a s k e r said the delays have rendered her unable to pay suppliers, subsequently compromising her company’s reputation. Plasker said she’s considering suing the district. For their part, district officials have met in closed session to discuss legal options against the acting general contractor, which they blame for work stagnation. It began last summer, when SBS first encountered payment problems. The original general contractor, Associated Able, essentially skipped town without paying subcontractors. No one has been able to locate the owners of the company since. The company’s former address was 233 Lucinda Drive in New Braunfels. Declaring Associated Able in default, NBISD Superintendent Hon Reaves authorized the projects bonding company to take over as general contractor. With Commercial Indemni ty Insurance Co. in charge, prompt payments resumed; however, the relationship between the district and the bonding company has since soured. “The problem is that they are not a general contractor, but an insurance company, so they’re not used to running a job,” Reaves said. “They are not moving the proiects along with the pace we had wanted to. It’s been an ongoing battle.” Reaves said the district is discussing options. While blaming the bonding firm for much of the trouble, Reaves attributed SBS payment delays to work deemed unsatisfactory by project arcliitect Marmon Mok of San Antonio. “We haven’t been pleased with some of the plumbing, tiles,” Reaves said. “Some of it is OK, some of it is not.” Plasker responded angrily: “We have never received notification that payment delays are related to our work. Whenever we have asked about payment, we have been told it’s because of the dispute between the bonding company and the district.” She said the company’s past work for the district has never been questioned. A spokesperson for Commercial Indemnity was unavailable for comment. Life-and-death training Firefighters get hands-on survival instruction By Ron Maloney Staff Writer New Braunfels firefighter Tim McKay fought for breath. He couldn’t see; he couldn’t tell where he was in the old World Car Motors building at San Antonio Street and Guenther Avenue. All he knew was that a wall had collapsed inside and he was looking for a trapped fireman. The furniture, scrap and hanging wires in the building were making the whole experience a nightmare that threatened the fives of two firemen — McKay and the man he was sent to res- See TRAININGS cue. As McKay struggled toward an exit in the dark after crawling hundreds of feet on his hands and knees, his breathing apparatus began to whistle. He was out of air. “Excellent!” said Fire Chief John Herber, his praise echoed by Fire Lt. Stacie Zercher and Battalion Chief Frank Gonzales. McKay pulled off his mask and gulped the cold air in the building Milt Ferguson loaned the New Braunfels Fire Department this week for its Rapid Intervention 'Training. The scenario, Zercher said, is a simple one. Firefighters are battling a blaze in a large commercial building and a part of it collapses on them. Another team has to go in, find the trapped firefighters and then find the way out. “It’s about firefighter survival. We use these techniques whenever there’s a collapse, or we have a Photos by K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung With his axe in hand, New Braunfels Fire Department rookie Nevan Price works his way through the back end of the training course Wednesday. Unable to see in the dark room, everything around becomes an obstacle. (Left) Engineer Roger Brinkkoeter counts the knots on his guide rope as he begins the winding training course. In his path are trip wires, overturned chairs, trash cans, desk drawers and the natural obstacles of an unknown place. Battalion Chief Frank Gonzales monitors his progress. (Above) New Braunfels Fire Department’s Captain Ray Hacker works his way under a tied wire in the darkened storage room. Hacker finished the course without problems, then helped as his crew went through the course. ;