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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 1, 2007, New Braunfels, Texas DEPLOYMENT CEREMONY WHERE: New Braunfels Civic Center WHEN: Today, 9:30-11 a.m. Reception for local National Guard troops and their families 9:30. Ceremony begins 10 a.m. FRIDAY, JUNE 1,2007 Zeitung Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852. Vol. 154, No. 173 18 pages, 2 sections <    500 WWW: I 56825 00001 Partly cloudy High Low 89 70 Details .... 1B DEAR ABBY 3B CLASSIFIEDS 5B COMICS 2B CROSSWORD 2B FORUM 4A OBITUARIES 3A SPORTS 6A TV GRIDS 3BHH SPORTS SPURS Western champion San Antonio resting, eager to get another shot at NBA title. Page 6AFire Station 6 construction starts Hotel tax revenues increase DAVID INGRAM Herald Zeitung New Braunfels Mayor Bruce Boyer adjusts his fireman's helmet before he, District 5 City Councilwoman Kathleen Krueger and other city officials prepare for the ceremonial groundbreaking for Fire Station 6 atTexas 46 and Stone Gate DriveThursday morning.■ First quarter receipts increased 40 percent during past two years By David Saleh Rauf The Herald-Zeitung Although Comal County generates nearly 70 percent of its tourism dollars during the sweltering summer months, a steady stream of visitors appears to be pouring into the area during the winter months too. Indication of an upturn in off-season tourism comes from the Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue numbers released to the Herald-Zeitung on Thursday. Officials with the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce and the Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County said Thursday that Hotel Occupancy Tax revenues for the first quarter of 2007, spanning the traditionally slower vacation months of January to March, are not just up from last year — they’re record setting. Chamber president Michael Meek said first quarter Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue, which the city collects everytime someone stays in a hotel or motel in the city, is up 23 percent over last year, generating a $4.3 million in taxable revenue. The city will keep 7 percent — approximately $310,000 — to be distributed to local arts and historic groups, civic center renovation costs and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 2006, the I Iotel Occupancy Tax generated about $3.5 million in taxable revenue, earning the city JAN.-IMAR. HOTEL/MOTEL TAX RECEIPTS NEW BRAUNFELS ■ 2007 - $310,000 ■ 2006 - $245,000 WORD (COMAL COUNTY) ■ 2007 - $21,343 ■ 2006 - $12,361 $245,000 in the first quarter. The 2006 numbers showed a 16 percent increase over 2005. "One of our goals has always been to even out and have whats known as year-round tourism," Meek said. “For the last two years, we’ve been up nearly 40 percent since 2004. We’ve evolved our marketing See HOTEL, Page 10A Economy slows to near halt By Jeannine Aversa AP Economics Writer WASHINGTON — Economic growth skidded to a near halt in the first quarter, with the worst showing in more than four years raising concerns about how long the country’s sluggish spell will last. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that gross domestic product increased by just a 0.6 percent pace in the January-through-March period, much weaker than estimated a month ago. Government statisticians slashed by more than half their first estimate of a 1.3 percent growth rate for the quarter. The main forces behind the downgrade: the bloated trade deficit and businesses cutting investment in supplies of the goods they hold in inventories. “We got close, but the economy did not slip under the waves in the first quarter,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. What largely prevented the economy from going under: consumers, who showed an even bigger appetite to spend. For nearly a year, the economy has been enduring a stretch of subpar economic growth due mostly to a housing slump. That in turn has made some businesses act more cautiously in their spending and investing. The economy’s 0.6 percent growth rate in the opening quarter of this year marked a big loss of momentum from the 2.5 percent pace logged in the final quarter of last year. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says he doesn’t believe the economy will See ECONOMY Page 9A Command Central Commissioners approve plan for certificates of obligation repayment Bi# Mark Knnnmans nrnrppHs of tav-PYpmnt ppr- Hnu/pvpr thp resolution By Mark Koopmans The Herald-Zeitung After acknowledging the return of Comal County judge Danny Scheel from his extended vacation to Europe, County Commissioners approved all seven action items during their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday. The commissioners discussed and approved a resolution that now establishes the county’s intention to reimburse itself for the prior lawful expenditure of funds from the proceeds of tax-exempt certificates of obligation. The county is anticipating that various CO’s will be issued and used to pay for projects such as the expansion of justice of the Peace building No. I, the remodel of the courthouse and various items at local parks, Sheel said. “We can’t wait to start these projects, though,” Scheel said. “So money from the general revenue fund will be used and this (resolution) allows the county to pay itself back.” However, the resolution does not mean the county has committed to one specific project at this time, County Auditor David Renken said. “We put together a rough list before Judge Scheel left (on vacation),” Renken said. “But this is a dynamic process.” Commissioners also approved action items, including the following: • Refunded $16,249 in ad valorem tax overpayments to See REPAYMENT, Page 10A Still not prepared Poll: Hurricane risk still great By Jennifer Kay Associated Press Writer MIAMI — Many people along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts still lack a hurricane survival plan and don’t feel vulnerable to storms, despite Katrina’s dramatic damage and pleas from emergency officials for residents to prepare before the season starts, according to a poll released Thursday. The six-month Atlantic No forecast change Colorado State University's last prediction before the start of the hurncane season remained unchanged from April’s. Forecast vs. actual 16 hurricanes Actual 12 Forecast ’01 02 ’03 04 05 06 07 NOTE: Each forecast represents the third update for the hurricane season See POLL, Page 9A SOURCE Colorado State University APThe Uptown is an Upscale Piano Bar Specialty Cocktails & Friendlyaam Downstairs in the Prince Solms Inn 295 E. San Antonio 830-708-5411 ■Area emergency personnel practice response tactics at Comal fairgrounds By Suzanne Ashe The Herald-Zeitung Emergency agencies’ ability to communicate in a disaster is crucial. That’s why emergency agencies serving the 12-county 3-b Disaster District, that includes Gomal Gounty are testing their communication equipment at the Comal County Fairgrounds and the Emergency Operations Outer in New Braunfels. Emergency buses and trailers pulled into the fairgrounds early Thursday morning. Emergency agency personnel began to set up their satellite dishes and radios to test their communication capabilities. A simulated scenario was issued from the EOC over police, fire and amateur band radios that a terrorist bombing had occurred at Schlitterbahn. Carol Edgett, Emergency Management coordinator for Gomal County, said organizers See RESPONSE, Page 3A DAVID INGRAM/Herald-Zeitung New Braunfels Police Department Lt. Mike Rutherford, right, looks over a map that shows the area around Schlitterbahn during a training exercise that simulated a terrorist bombing at the water parkThursday. Shown inside the mobile command post with Rutherford are NBFD firefiahter/EMT Chad Pruett, left, Comal County Sheriff's Sgt. James Miller and Lt. Brent Paullus, NBFD Battalion Chief Darrin Brinkkoeter. ;