New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 19, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas
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Vol. 149 No. 176 18 pages in 2 sections July 19, 2000
Serving Comal County since 1852
50 centsCharity care saps coffers
By Jo Lee Ferguson Staff Writer
Something has to give.
That was evident as Dr. John Flanagan, a 16-year employee of McKenna Memorial Hospital and medical director of the hospital’s emergency services, spoke.
He sat in his office, his face filled with concern, as he talked
Third in a Series
Prognosis for hope
about the serious problems threatening hospitals —
problems that also could drive doctors and nurses out of the medical profession.
Love for medicine and help
ing others isn’t the problem, he said. But in recent years doctors’ and nurses’ jobs have come with an added pressure as hospitals struggle to survive in a world filled with financial landmines.
Medicare reimbursements are being whittled down, he said. It’s become harder to get third-party See MCKENNAN
Charity care and bad debts
Throughout the past decade, McKenna has had to write off an increasing amount of funds not collected.
SWB officials: Outage was heat-related
By Jo Lee Ferguson Staff Writer
Southwestern Bell has set up a wind tunnel of sorts in its New Braunfels office.
Several large fans, winch are placed around the equipment that operates New Braunfels telephone service, blow visitors’ hair back against their heads and make it hard to hold a conversation below a yell-level.
But nobody complained Tuesday when Southwestern Bell officials gave local officials and residents an opportunity to tour its switching office. The fans are part of the company’s effort to prevent another outage like what occurred in New Braunfels between June 30 and July 4.
Thousands of customers were without service for hours on June 30, and intermittent phone service plagued the city through early July 4. Both the primary switch and back-up system handling the city’s phone service failed.
This happened despite regular tests of the two systems, according to Gene Moreno, Southwestern Bell external affairs director. He spoke to a group of about 30 people Tuesday who gathered at Krause’s Cafe to hear Southwestern Bell’s side of the story.
“The machine had a heat stroke,” Moreno said. “It was heat-related — the cause of the problem.”
The disruption occurred at 5:23 a.m., generally one of the cooler times of day. Moreno and Brad Parrott, area vice president for external affairs, said they do not know why the system got too hot at that time of day.
However, part of the problem could be that the Southwestern Bell facility is housing more equipment and people than it once did because of the new competition laws for phone services.
Southwestern Bell has had to See SWB/4A
Higdon defends self; found not guilty
By Ron Maloney Staff Writer
It has been said again and again: the man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. If Jim Higdon ever looked like a fool, he does not now.
Higdon, a Bexar County deputy constable with a high school general equivalency diploma, took the full measure of the Comal County District Attorney’s office and prevailed over two attorneys Tuesday, being found not guilty of possessing an illegal wild animal.
That means Higdon and his family will be able to keep their pet dog, wolf or wolf/dog mix, Shadow, which they have had for five years.
The case grew out of an incident in November 1988 in which Shadow allegedly killed two pet chickens belonging to a woman who lives near Higdon. Higdon was convicted in Justice of the Peace Court Pct. No. 4, and appealed the case to jury trial in Comal County Court at Law.
Higdon argued that the Comal County animal control order and w ild animal order go beyond state law, do not properly define his dog as a “wild” animal and are unconstitutionally vague. Additionally, he said, there was no way to prove Shadow is a wolf.
Jurors, who voted to acquit him in about 40 minutes, agreed.
“It was clearly a domestic animal,” said juror Adam Cork of New Braunfels. He said he thought the county and the state Legislature “need to clarify the law.”
“I think the main deciding factor was the interpretation of the actual law,” said juror,Mark Cole. “We couldn’t with good confidence feel the case was proved beyond a reasonable doubt. We didn’t feel like this animal was a threat.”
Assistant district attorneys Melissa Smith and Ellen Salyers inherited the Higdon case only a week ago when another assistant who had been handling it went on maternity leave.
“It was a lot to digest in a week,” said Smith. “I don't know if I’d say I was disappointed with the result. I feel like that’s why we have juries and I think this was a really fair jury. Mr. Higdon felt he was right, we See WOLF/DOG/5A
K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung
Apparently a brief visit was all it took for Shadow to convince a New Braunfels jury that she is not a vicious animal. After a quick handshake with owner Jim Higdon at Tuesday afternoon’s courtroom appearance, Shadow walked back down the aisle and out the courtroom door with Sherry Higdon to await the verdict.
K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung
Southwestern Bell invited local officials and residents to a luncheon at Krause’s Cafe to discuss the phone company’s recent outage. Those who attended were then bused to Southwestern Bell’s New Braunfels office to tour the facility.
Second parks meeting planned
Special to the Herald-Zeitung
New Braunfels parks officials said they hope for a large turnout Thursday at a public meeting about the future of city parks and recreation facilities.
The city has hired Carter and Burgess Inc. of Houston to develop a parks, recreation and open space master plan for New Braunfels. The plan will map out possible future improvements and additions to the city’s parks and recreation facilities.
As part of the master plan’s development process, the city is conducting a series of meetings to gather input from the public. The
second meeting is 7 p.m. Thursday at Landa Haus in Landa Park, 360 Aquatic Circle.
Parks and Recreation Director Iris Neffendorf said everybody was welcome at the meeting.
“We are trying to get input from the public on what it believes are needs or good things, things they’d like to see more of in our parks and recreation areas,” Neffendorf' said.
The master plan will help the city know what its residents want and know how to plan for the future, she said.
About 50 people attended the first public meeting on the master plan, one person suggesting the
■ WHAT: Public meeting about the future of New Braunfels’ parks and recreation facilities
■ WHEN: 7 p.m.
■ WHERE: Landa Haus in Landa Park, 360 Aquatic Circle
city look at providing more recreational facitilies throughout the city. Another resident suggested the city look at a two-tier user fee system for residents and non-residents.
Key Code 76
Committee gets serious about pay as you throw
By Heather Todd Staff Writer
New Braunfels’ Recycling Advisory Committee asked city staff Tuesday to draft a “pay as you throw” proposal for next month’s meeting.
The plan could charge local residents for every bag of trash they throw out in excess of three bags each pick-up day. The city’s current monthly fee for garbage collection would remain the same, but residents would have to buy tags for each additional bag of trash.
The committee is exploring the idea as a way to cut die amount of waste deposited in the Comal C ounty Landfill. ^The program
also could save the city money in collection costs.
The privately owned landfill has a life of about five to six years. The city pays for everything that goes into the landfill.
Currently, city residents pay a monthly fee of $10.83 for garbage collection and recycling regardless of whether they put out three bags or IO bags of trash.
The committee tentatively agreed residents could put out three, 35-gallon bags each trash day. Each additional bag of trash would require a tag bought from the city.
The committee has not discussed how much to charge for See RECYCLING/3A