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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 30, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas New Braunfels THURSDAY January 30, 2003 12 pages in 2 sections ■WF ■•■■pf    12    pages    in    2    scctKHerald-Zeitung '.yTVv"   B— ........................................... iii Vol. 152, No. 67 Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852 50 cents TxDOT: Intersection now warrants traffic light Legislators help pave way for signal near Smithson Valley HS By Ron Maloney Staff Writer SMITHSON VALLEY — Local school and government officials got some good news Wednesday about a controversial intersection near Smithson Valley High School. The Texas Department of Transportation has announced that the intersection ofTbxas 46 and Farm-to-Market Road 3159 has met the standards for installing a traffic signal. The intersection is on the border between county precincts I and 2. Precinct I Commissioner Jack Dawson welcomed the news. “We have a letter from TxDOT telling us that this intersection we’ve been banging on the table over for years finally meets the warrants for a signal. This is just great news,” Dawson said. CASTEEL Comal County has for years sought help from TxDOT. County Judge Danny Scheel and former judge — now District 73 state representative — Carter Casteel have both worked the issue. WENTWORTH “We did everything we could when I was county judge, but it never would warrant it. I am just thrilled,” Casteel said Wednesday in her Austin office. This past fall, Casteel, District 25 state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, Comal County and the CISD approached TxDOT again. Dawson credited Casteel’s interest with helping to make the most recent traffic study happen. “We can’t take full credit for this,” Dawson said. “As soon as she got to Austin, Carter hammered them on this.” Casteel was modest about her part in the issue. “Senator Wentworth and my office worked on it, and we’re glad if we helped,” she said. “There is no more precious resource than our children and we have taken a See TRAFFICK Council’s new plan for city annexation really no plan at all By Ron Maloney Staff Writer As the City of New Braunfels prepares to move forward in this year’s round of annexations, council has decided that the best annexation plan might be no plan whatsoever. That does not mean there will be no new annexations. The New Braunfels Planning Commission will consider annexing a commercial subdivision in Solms at its Feb. 4 meeting. Also on the agenda is an item calling for planners to consider approval of an annexation schedule for 2003. The planning commission meets at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall council chambers, 424 S. CasteU Ave. By a 5-0 vote, Tuesday night, council decided to scrap the five-year annexation plan that has been the subject in recent years of contentious public debate and has led to lawsuits. District 3 Council member Debbie Flume and District 4 Council member Robert Kendrick were absent at the meeting, which was a continuation of Monday night’s regularly scheduled council meeting recessed by Mayor Adam Cork. Council instead has adopted a plan that Planner Frank Robbins said would allow the city more flexibility in its annexation program — and, city officials hope, should cut down on contention over the annexation issue. “The Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended we amend our plan by not having a plan,” Robbins told council. “The fundamental reason is it will provide the city with a great deal of flexibility. Many municipalities are doing the same thing.” The new plan sets no annex-At a glance After a fracus over annexation in 2001 and resulting litigation, New Braunfels City Council trashed its original five-year annexation plan and now will focus on areas exempt from state law requiring studies and set timetables. Those include commercial tracts, uninhabited tracts and areas with fewer than 100 homes. ation timetable for specific tracts — although most of the same tracts targeted in the previous plan remain in the new one. New Braunfels will look to annex tracts of land that are exempt from state laws that set timetables and require extensive studies. In cases where the city decides to annex nonexempt areas such as a subdivision, a three-year timeline goes into effect for bringing the areas into the city. In 2002, the city departed from its five-year annexation plan — one year after a lawsuit filed by residents of two subdivisions resulted in their being removed from the annexation list for 2001. “We didn’t do any of this in 2002. The biggest reason was a number of us took a very close look at what the state law really meant and what we were planning to annex in the next year,” Robbins said. “We began to wonder if that was what we should be doing. The target areas haven’t changed. "We’ll pretty much annex what we were going to anyway, but we’re not stuck having to follow that assiduously,” Robbins said. Prayer vs. free speech K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Canyon High School students Megan Wells, Krystle Weidner, Erin Wiegand, Alina Ott and Micaeli Smith (from left) aren’t letting their school off the hook about being not able to pray over the public address system during athletic events.Students challenge CISD policy By Sean Bowlin Staff Writer Five Canyon High School students who want to pray over the public address system during athletic events are asking the Comal Independent School District to lift its ban of all speeches over the p.a. system. One of the five, senior Erin Wiegand, appeared Nov. 20, 2002, on a segment of the “Donahue” show to talk about the separation of church and state. Wiegand said that during the previous school year, the Student Council chaplain, Alina Ott, prayed over the p.a. system at a football K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Wiegand searches a video tape of her appearance on the “Donahue" show, where she spoke about student’s inability to pray during athletic events at school. game. Then CISD officials got a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State saying they would sue the district if the practice continued. The school district abolished the chaplain position, and students were prohibited from speaking over the public address system at athletic events — about any thing, much less to pray. Wiegand said she and fellow students Ott, Krystle Weidner, Micaeli Smith and Megan Weils wrote to the school board asking it to change the policy. "It is our current procedure that students cannot use public address systems at athletic events because we had reason to believe a student was planning to lead the audience in prayer last season at a football game,” CISD Superintendent Jim Grunert said Wednesday. “The district is responsible for following the laws of the land, and must to the best of its ability make sure they are not violated.” “They’ve taken an elephant gun to shoot a mouse,” the students’ attorney, Kelly Coghlan of Houston, said ofSee CHALLENGE/7A Inside Abby....................................5A Classifieds..........................2-4B Comics................................8A Crossword..........................5A Forum.................................6A Local/State   4A Movies................................5A Obituaries....................,......3A Sports..............................1-2B Today..................................2A Key Code 76 « ' 56825 00001Interstate accident K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung After a minor collision on the Solms Road overpass, New Braunfels firefighter Brett Patton helps load a patient into the ambulance. The Intersection, which was a four-way stop during construction, now only requires drivers on the overpass to stop. According to witnesses and officials, some are having problems “reading” the intersection. - 15 percent of area children out sick By Sean Bowlin Staff writer Flu-like symptoms and seasonal allergies have driven up absenteeism in local schools, officials said Wednesday. New Braunfels Independent School District Public Information Officer Stephanie Ferguson said Wednesday illnesses have kept seven to IO percent of the district’s students were out of school in the last two weeks. Comal Independent School District spokesperson Kari Hutchison said about five percent of that district’s students has been ill in the last two weeks. But Nurse Supervisor Sharon Wright has examined CISD attendance figures and compared them to last year at this time and found the absenteeism rates are similar. Principal Debbie Garinger of Memorial Intermediate School said her school has plenty sick students. Garinger said about 58 students were absent Tuesday and 22 were sent home — many students were vomiting with a fever or have had allergies and fever. School nurse Laura Dietert of Lone Star Primary School said on a bad day, she usually has three out of 171 students absent. Eighteen were absent Tuesday. At New Braunfels Middle School, school nurse Sue Hanner has noticed st udents with upper respiratory^ infections and some stomach viruses that seem to be circulating. "Kids need to be kept home when they’re sick and running a fever,” Hanner said. She said her school’s absenteeism rate was IO percent. “That’s way over normal,” Hanner said. “Its normally less than five percent. And the number of kids who are going home is way over normal.” Nurse Joan McNett of Carl Schurz Elementary said the number of sick students has decreased this week.See FLU/7A r ;