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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 28, 1999, New Braunfels, Texas Fire destroys Officials: Low water pressure made little difference in outcome 20332 FELS    E    YOHBEEL    DE Herald iiVol. 148> No, 179    20    pages    in    2    sections    July    28,    1999    xtt    r    ^    r    Serving    Comal    County    since    1852    50    cents Wednesday Drainage committee reviews ordinanceTentative approval given for monthly fee of $2.50 By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff Writer The city’s Drainage Advisory Committee agreed Tuesday that a $5 monthly fee was too high to charge residents for drainage improvements. “It might not seem like a lot, but $60 a year might ruffle some feathers,” committee secretary Mary Cunningham said. The seven-member committee, which spent about an hour reviewing a drainage ordinance draft, did not officially agree on a new amount, but $2.50 was given tentative approval. The committee, which first met in June, will take up the issue at its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. IO, as well as the issue of a monthly fee for commercial, industrial and retail sites. Once the committee approves the ordinance, originally drafted by the Freese Nichols engineering company of Dallas and Austin, it will send the recommendation to New Braunfels City Council. According to the draft, the purpose of the ordinance is to: • provide for the expenditure of public money for designing, building and maintaining flood control and storm drainage projects and cleaning sediment out of storm drains, streets, sidewalks and watercourses; • distribute the burden of constructing drainage improvements fairly and equitably throughout the city; and • establish a means through which the development community can participate in improving the drainage ways to reduce the adverse impacts. The ordinance suggests two specific ways to fund drainage improvements: a “Watershed Management Utility Fee” for developed areas and a “Watershed System Development Fee” for proposed developments. The committee discussed only the utility’ fee on Tuesday. The drafted ordinance suggests charging an initial $5 per month for each “residential lot or parcel of land” for the utility fee. The committee tentatively changed it to a $2.50 per month fee for each “residential unit or undeveloped parcel.” “I think $3 is a good starting point,” committee member S.D. David Jr. said. “If people really argue it, council will have the choice to bring it dow n.” Later, David said he’d agree to a compromise, suggesting $2.50. “I’d love to have a fee structure based on impact,” committee vice president Rick Myrick said, explaining smaller homes wouldn’t pay as much. City engineer C.A. Bolner said, “We may be creating an accounting nightmare here.” A similar nightmare could be in the future. As the ordinance draft reads, the watershedSee DRAINAGE/10A home Map courtesy mapquest com By Chris Crews and Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff Writers Poor water pressure hampered firefighters’ efforts to extinguish a blaze tliat claimed a New Braunfels family’s home Tuesday morning. More than 20 firefighters fought the fire at 1639 Allison Drive in the Walnut Estates subdivision east of Interstate 35. The fire, reported at 3:04 a.m. Tues- - day, destroyed the home Brush fire bums    and its contents, valued at 10 acres near    more than $200,000. Texas 46 Tuesday James Solis, a former — PagelOA    firefighter and now a - teacher in Comal Independent School District, said he watched firefighters use one hose to fight the fire that burned his home. He called the water pressure from the fire hydrant 200 feet from his house “pathetic.” “There was only one hose and I asked, ‘Why don’t you put another hose on it?’ They told me they didn’t have enough water,” Solis said. Solis said he did not know whether New Braunfels Fire Department or New Braunfels Utilities was at fault for the lack of water pressure. Fire Chief Jack Collier admitted firemen had a problem with the water pressure, but said more pressure would not have affected the outcome. “Was there a problem with the water? Yes. Did it make any difference in the outcome? No,” Collier said “Even had there been copious amounts of water, I don’t think the outcome would have been any different because of the fact the fire spread quickly and hid in the attic.” Collier said he discussed the water problem with NBU officials and die matter was under investigation. NBU assistant general manager of operations Roger Biggers said, “I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t have had enough water. We don’t know what happened between the fire hydrant and the hose.” City Council member Larry Alexander lives one block from the fire scene. Alexander said he had been in the neighborhood since 1983 and never had a problem with water pressure. “I asked NBU to check and they assured me there was adequate water pressure and adequate flow,” Alexander said. Officials said the fire started in the garage of the home after a clothes dryer did not shut off. The fire consumed the garage, went into the attic, entered the rest of the house and blew through the roof of the garage. Collier said four firefighters inside were evacuated when the fire broke through the roof. At that point, the house was a total loss and crews concentrated on preventing the fire from spreading to adjacent homes. Solis said his wife, Rebekah, went to bed about 2 a.m. after loading clothes into the dryer an hour earlier. He said he smelled smoke about 3 a.m., awoke his wife and draped his 4-year-old daughter Emily over his shoulder. They went next door to call the fire department. See HOME/10A Photo courtesy New Braunfels Fire Department Flames rise from the home of James Solis, 1639 Allison Drive, on Tuesday morning. Above, a malfunctioning clothes dryer is blamed for the Tuesday morning fire which destroyed the home of James Solis at 1639 Allison Drive. Damage to the home and its contents, including a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, was estimated at $200,000. Above right, Lindsye Hagens, 11, takes a closer look at damage to the room of her 4-year-old cousin, Emily Solis. Lindsye said she hoped Emily would understand what happened. WAI U/Herald-ZeitungInside Abby............................,...6A Classifieds.....................5-1    OB Comics...............................2B Crossword..........................SA Forum  ........................6A Local/Metro........................4A Movies................................5A Obituaries...........................3A Sports..............................7-9A Today.................................2A Television...........................2B Key Coda 76 CISD trustees approve bus plan by slimmest of margins By Heather Todd Staff Writer BULVERDE — Comal Independent School District trustees adopted a new bus plan for the upcoming school year by a slim margin Tuesday night, despite protests by transportation officials. In a 4-3 vote, trustees approved changes to transportation policies that would adjust bus routes, shorten student riding time and divide secondary and elementary students on buses. Trustees Dan Krueger, John Clay and Robert Loop voted against the changes after an hour-long discussion divided the board between adopting them as “policy” or “goals.” Adjustments to bus routes would become effective no later than Jan. 4, 2000, but other policies would begin immediately. Trustee Lester W. Jonas, who developed the plan, said the changes would provide a more cost-effective way to transport the district’s 6,000 students over 600 square miles. He said the plan would improve an inef fective transportation system that had many students catching buses before 6:30 a m. and forced some to ride for more than two hours. Bus drivers currently must transport elementary students to and from school before picking up secondary students. CISD currently does not have the Hinds to buy 30 to 40 new buses to allow all schools their own bus fleet. Each bus costs $50,000. Superintendent Jerry Major told patrons rn June the district would look at changing the current transportation plan after a controversial decision by the board to stagger school start and end times. The board reversed that decision. Transportation director Ken Franklin had several concerns. Franklin said he disagreed with maximum bus routes times in the plan, which set elementary route times not to exceed two hours in the morning or four hours a day. The plan also set secondary routes not to exceed 2.5 hours in the morning or five hours a day. Franklin said the bus route times were not adequate. “Until we get statistics to back up what See CISD/10A ;