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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 12, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas New Braunfels SATURDAY July 12,2003 14 pages in 2 sections MM mmmmmm    in    pages    in    c    secHerald-Zeitung Vol. 152, No. 206Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852 , 50 centsNBISD school buses have defective roofs City urges TxDOT to move forward on Gmene Bridge By Dylan Jimenez Staff Writer The low-water crossing at Gruene bridge is a public safety issue that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible, Mayor Adam Cork said. The decision to replace the bridge is more than two years old, but New Braunfels City Count-id will discuss a resolution Monday to “encourage” the Texas Department of Transportation to proceed with the project. Since the decision was made the city has had a flood and an election, Cork said. “I think it’s important that we send the message very clearly to TxDOT that we do have a public safety issue with the Gruene, bridge and that the current council is At a glance— In other action, New Braunfels City Courier WHI: ■ not discuss items pertaining to a lease agreement for the city's athletic fields due to the expected absence of the assistant city manager. Items withdrawn from the agenda 7E, 7F and 8A. ■ conduct a public hearing regarding the city’s 2003 annexation plan; ■ consider privatizing the sanitation department; and ■ discuss alkrni tg critical care to lease a hanger at the municipal airport. I OO-percent behind moving as quickly as possible to get a safer bridge done respectful of the history of that bridge and respectful of the beauty See BRIDGE/6A County budget holds the line on taxes, gives employees raise By Ron Maloney Staff Writer County employees would get a raise, and increased property values would keep the tax rate stable under Comal County’s proposed 2004 budget. As proposed, the county’s current tax rate would not increase — although the total budget would rise from $32.5 million in 2003 to $35 million. The county’s general fund budget — the part supported by property and sales taxes — would be $25 million, up from $23.9 million. The tax rate would stay the same for two reasons. First, projected spending increase will be absorbed by increased property values. Estimated appraised value of all Comal County property is expected to increase about 9 percent, from $4.9 billion to $5.4 billion. Second, county department heads have, for the most part, reduced expenses or held them at last year’s levels. County Auditor David Renken said large budget increases will include a 4-percent cost-of-living pay increase — but no ment raises — for all county employees. That will cost $670,000. A 14-percent increase in health insurance premiums By Sean BowlinStaff Writer Fifteen New Braunfels Independent School District buses could be unsafe for passengers, an NBISD official said. The buses are the same type of bus that rolled over this year in Florida. . Because of improper roof welding, the roof of the bus collapsed to the level of the seats. No one was killed in the accident. “We have done an inspection and have found similar issues,” said Gary Schlather, New Braunfels Independent School District’s director of transportation and safety. The School Bus Information Council issued a safety advisory in April to all states to immediately check school buses to determine if structural weld failures existed in the roof structures. If defects were found, the advisory said the buses should be taken out of service immediately. “The information we have is not quite like that. We’re being told we should take them out of service if it’s practical to do,” Schlather said. He said getting new buses would be a problem. Carpenter Bodyworks, the manufacturer of the unsafe buses, is out of business. Time is also a factor. “If we ordered buses today, it would take six to 18 months to get them in,” Schlather said. Schlather said the school district hasn’t decided how it will solve the problem. “Its really a little bit hard,” Schlather said. “So far, we’ve inspected the buses and found the problem. There is an indi cation that the problem exists on all 15 that we know of.” Schlather said he saw a document Thursday that said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wouldn’t recommend a fix for the problem. When the information was released last spring, Schlather said he was led to believe NHTSA would recommend a fix. Schlather said he will meet next week with NBISD Superintendent Ron Reaves and the district’s business manager. “We have to find somebody to weld and maybe get an engineer and a certified welder. And because of the liability issues, these people maybe hard to find. To put this in perspective, we have been made aware of the safety problem because of the accident inSee BUSES/6A Budget proposals It passed, Comal County's proposed 2004 budget would not increase the current tax rate of 33.37 cents per $100 of assessed value. Proposed 2004 budget: $34 million General Fund budget: $25 million. Road and bridge fund budget: $5 million. Debt service: $1.4 minion Indigent health care: $1.1 million The remaining $1.5 million is comprised of smaller, special revenue funding items. Of the General Fund —-Salaries, taxes and employee benefits: $22 million — inducing a proposed 4 percent cost-of-living pay increase Operating costs: $3 million. Anticipated General Fund revenues: Property taxes: $17.8 million Sales taxes: $3.9 million Court fines and fees: $4.3 million will raise that line item to $2 million. A second county court-at-law will cost $178,000. The cost of indigent health care is expected to increase $182,000 to $1.1 million. In addition, several county See COUNTY BUDGET/6A Ducks for big bucks K. JESSIE SLATEN/Berakj Zertur-g A group of quackers gathers to say cheese Fnday evening as the Comal County Senior Center kicks off its Lucky Duck Derby with a “Quackers and Cheese” party. Lucky Duck Derby raises funds for Comal County Senior Adopt-A-Duck By Dylan Jimenez Staff Writer Not everyone has the guts to wear a bright yellow fuzzy duck hat. Many of those gutsy folks are getting together for a good cause. Sponsors of the annual Lucky Duck Derby were honored by the Comal County Senior Center Friday. More than 150 sponsors, volunteers and staff celebrated at a “Quackers and Cheese ’ party. The center’s biggest fund-raising campaign includes a silent auction, Duck Derby adoptions and the sale of duck hats among other things. Volunteers will sell little rubber ducks for the big race until 5 p.m. today and July 19 at Granzin’s and at Wal-Mart in New Braunfels. The Duck Derby is a rubber duck race. July 25, volunteers will dump as many as of IO,(XX) rubber ducks into the river at luanda Park. The person who adopted the winning duck wins $5,000, second place wins $750, and third place wins $250. Ducks are available for adoption at the senior center on Lands Street and at a number of New Braunfels businesses. Penny Potter, president of the senior center board of trustees, wore a bright yellow fuzzy duck hat Friday. She said you don’t have to be special to sport a duck hat — an original design by a senior center volunteer. “The purpose of these hats is to show support for the duck race,” she said. “That’s all that’s required.” Gerry Webb, center executive direc tor, said duck adoptions are going well, but time is running out for ducks to sell out. “We could always sell more. We have plenty more,’* Webb said. Inside Church Directory..... 5A Classifieds 4-88 Comics............ ?B Crossword.......... ?B Forum............. 4A Obituaries.......... 3A Sports............. 148 Today.............. PA TV................ 3B www.herald-zertung com 8    56825    00001    1 Band director hopes to revive program By Sean Bowlin Staff Writer Smithson Valley High School’s third band director in three years says he hopes students have fun as he rebuilds the school’s band program. “I want to try to get the program on solid footing,” Jeff lightsey said. Lightsey graduated from the University of Tex BH with a degree in music and earned his master’s of music at Baylor University, where he worked with the marching band. He said he’s already got about 170 kids interested in the band. His goals are to lure back kids who quit the program, to win sweepstakes at contests and to represent the school and the community positively. “I think we’ve got great kids at the high school, and the band kids are all great kids. I want to get the kids back because the interest has waned,” Lightsey said. Lightsey said already “a bunch” of students have dropped by. He thinks it s going to be a great year. The Austin native and Austin High School graduate, who served in Bosnia as a member of the Texas Army National Guard’s 49th Armored Division band, taught three years at Alpine High School and Middle School in Alpine, Texas. “It was a really good job, and they were really good,” Lightsey said. He taught for a year in Comfort and returned to Alpine as the band director for two years. His wife, Molly, came to Spring Branch Middle School in 1999 to coach volleyball, See BAND DIRECTOR/6A A Carpenter school bus is pictured behind Bus Driver Trainer Keitha Phillips. In certain models of Carpenter bus, the roof can collapse down to seat level in the event of a rollover. File photo ;