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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 11, 2007, New Braunfels, Texas  IT THURSDAY, JANUARY 11,2007 Herald Zeitung SPORTS SOCCER Area soccer teams begin seasons in tournaments at New Braunfels, Smithson Valley. Page 5A NEWS SOPHIENBURG Group of youngsters tried to buy Coffee Pot Cafe, only to learn it was condemned. Page 8A immmmmmmmmSi Ap Newspaper of the Year mmammmmamammmBmammanmm Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852. Vol. 147, No. 47 14 pages, 2 sections CLICK 5O0 www: i a1 Mostly cloudy High Low 68 61 Details .... 1B DEAR ABBY 3B CLASSIFIEDS 4B COMICS 2B CROSSWORD 2B FORUM 4A OBITUARIES 3A SPORTS 5A TV GRIDS 3B Dozens turn out to discuss quarry qualms By Jessica Sanders Staff Writer Katie Stout is afraid that blasting from local quarries might do more than shake the foundation of her home. Stout, a resident of the Shadow Hills subdivision, said her home is built over caverns, a situation mat makes her especially wary of blasting Officials say blasting poses no threat to homes from three nearby quarries. "I'm in a situation where we can hear the echo from the caverns underneath when there's blasting," she said. "That's scary." Stout was one of about 100 Comal County residents who packed Oak- Run Sixth Grade Center on Wednesday for a public meeting called by county commissioners. During the meeting, representatives from Cemex, Chemical Lime and Martin Marietta quarries addressed residents' concerns about dust, blast- ing noise and vibrations. Dairell Brownlow, director of geology at Cemex, said there is no scientific evidence or history of any quarry operation causing caverns to cave in. Me also said most residents were concerned about "air blasts," or the sound that comes from blasting. "Every shot that we've ever made has been monitored," he said. "Air blasts have no effect on the ground, only things above the ground." Vibrations, which can cause damage to buildings, are monitored by local quarries and by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality. See QUARRY, Page 7A Last run Photos by DAVID INGRAM/Herald-Zeitung New Braunfels Fire Department Battalion Chief Don Zercher works on bills in his bedroom/office at Station 1 on Wednesday afternoon. He retires Jan. 31 after more than 32 years at the department. Longtime firefighter prepares to hang up his hat on Jan. 31 By Jessica Sanders Staff Writer New Braunfels Fire Department Battalion Chief Don Zercher won't deny that he's a lucky man. "I'm lucky to have a good job," Zercher said with a sly smile. Zercher, who is retiring Jan. 31, said he's experienced many blessings during his career with the New Braunfels Fire Department. However, the firefighters at Station 1 insist that their chief's fortune is almost supernatural. "Never gamble or make a bet against the guy - not that firemen gamble," said Robert Stephenson, an engineer with the New Braunfels Fire Department. "I think he actually owns a rabbit's foot." Though he would not disclose the specifics of Zercher's luck, Stephenson said that he will not miss losing moneys to the chief. However, after working with him for 10 years, he said he will miss Zercher around the fire-house. "He's capable of being a boss and also a friend," Stephenson said. "We've gone fishing together, but I've also gotten written up." Firefighter Andy Muller, who has worked with Zercher for about a year, said he considers the chief a father figure. "I think, as a chief, he looks out for all of us," he said. Zercher, 54, spent more than 32 years with the fire department, but said he hadn't planned on becoming a firefighter. See FIREFIGHTER, Page 7A New Braunfels Fire Department Battalion Chief Don Zercher retires Jan. 31. House votes to raise minimum wage WASHINGTON (AP) - The Democratic-controlled House voted Wednesday to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, bringing America's lowest-paid workers a crucial step closer to their first raise in a decade. The vote was 315-116, with more than 80 Republicans joining Democrats to pass it. "You should not be relegated to poverty if you work hard and play by the rules," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. The bill was the second measure passed since Democrats took control of the House, ending more than a decade of Republican rule. The measure, which now goes to the Senate, would raise the federal wage floor by $2.10 from its current rate. Senate Democratic leaders already have signaled they will accept changes designed to shield small businesses from adverse consequences of higher labor costs. See WAGE, Page 6A How they voted How did area congressmen vote on HF) 2, the minimum wage bill, which passed 315-116? L. Smith (R-Dist. 21) � C. Rodriguez (D-Dist 23) � LDoggett(D-Dist. 25) � H.Cuellar (D-Dist. 28) � Bush to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq George W. Bush WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he erred by not ordering a military buildup in Iraq last year and said he was increasing U.S. troops by 21,500 to quell the country's near-anarchy. "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me," Bush said. The buildup puts Bush on a collision course with the new Democratic Congress and pushes the American troop presence in Iraq toward its highest level. It also runs counter to widespread anti-war passions among Americans and the advice of some top generals. In a prime-time address to the nation, Bush pushed back against the Democrats' calls to end the unpopular war. He said that "to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale." "If we increase our support at litis crucial moment and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home," Bush said. But he braced Americans to expect more U.S. casualties for now and did not specify how long the additional troops would stay. In addition to extra U.S. forces, the plan envisions Iraq's committing 10,000 to 12,000 more troops to secure Baghdad's neighborhoods - and taking the lead in military operations. Even before Bush's address, the new Democratic leaders of Congress emphasized their opposition to a buildup. "This is the third time we are going down this path. Two times this has not worked," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after meeting with the president. "Why are they doing this now? That question remains." There was criticism from See BUSH, Page 6A COMINGSUNDAY Tasty art The 27th annual Dinner with the Arts features singing, dancing and a look back at a year of artistic contributions. Trial of man accused of indecency continues Staff Reports Jury deliberation will continue today in the trial of a 64-year-old Somerset man accused of indecency with local child. The jury retired at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday to consider the charge Lawrence David Hernandez of indecency with a child by contact. 207th District Court Judge Jack Robison allowed jurors to break at about 6 p.m. Wednesday. Comal County Criminal District Attorney Dib Waldrip said that 1 lernan-dez is accused of touching his granddaughter inappropriately on June 29,2005. The child, a New Braunfels resident, was 8 at the time. Waldrip said the alleged incident occurred in New Braunfels. Hernandez has been registered as a sex offender since 2003 for two counts of attempting to commit an act of indecency with a child. 0856825000011 ;