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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - March 5, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas -T    WEDNESDAYNew Braunfels    March    5,2003 14 pages in 2 sections ""HP* "WHr    14    pages    m    2    sccti<Herald-Zeitung  .      ...     ES_______________SSS__■j'T'K______   »    •    -    :•__________ ?____________ Vol. 152, No. 96    Serving    New    Braunfels    and    Comal    County    since    1852    50    centsAustin man who was found shot dies in hospital By Ron Maloney Staff Writer The 56-year-old Austin man found shot on Conrads Lane Friday night died Monday in a San Antonio hospital. Comal County Sheriff’s detective Sgt. Tommy Ward said James M. Webber succumbed at 1:02 p.m. Monday to complications stemming from the gunshot wound he sustained to his chest. Up until noon Monday, Brooke Army Medical Center had listed Webber’s condition as “satisfactory.” The precise cause of Webber’s death has not been released pending the outcome of an autopsy performed Tuesday by the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. Ward said he did not release news of the death until Tuesday night because of difficulties in finding Webber’s next-of-kin, a son who fives in Kansas. “We’re investigating this as a possible homicide until we prove otherwise,” Ward said early Tuesday evening. “Until we know exactly what happened, the Comal County Sheriff’s Office considers every death a possible homicide.” Ward released no information on a possible suspect — and refused to say whether he had a suspect. Webber was found at 11:20 p.m. Friday in a roadside drainage ditch beside his parked truck, about 50 yards southeast of the Union Pacific railroad tracks on Conrads Lane. The area is just more than a mile behind the Rip Griffin Travel Center on Interstate 35 North. Webber told deputies that a hitchhiker had shot him. Deputies found a .22 caliber rifle a few feet away from Webber. Sheriff’s deputies and New Braunfels police officers conducted an extensive search of the area using police dogs, Ward said, but found nobody. Sheriff’s deputies spoke See DIES/4A Gruene Road widening, street standards By Dylan Jimenez Staff Writer New Braunfels Planning Commission approved Gruene Road improvements and official street standards were approved during a regular meeting Tuesday night. Residents in the Gruene district have been campaigning for a wider Gruene Road for several years siting traffic safety. Other residents have been opposed to the project concerned increased traffic would change the character of the area. “We’ve gone through quite a bit of process to be here today,” Michael Short, city engineer, said. Schools throw prom for senior citizens K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung (Above) ROTC cadets Stephanie Garcia (center) and Christina Sanchez (right) bring a smile to R.E. Hubbert’s face as they swing to the sounds of the oldies at the Senior Citizens Prom Tuesday evening. (Top) As sophomore Jayme Allison finishes her song, “Because You Love Me,” New Braunfels High School Cadet Cpl. Jason Pliego releases the tender grip he kept throughout the slow-dance with his wheelchair-dancing partner, Ruby Robinson. Robinson’s daughter, Beverly Lee, bought her mom’s wrist corsage and sat by her side when she wasn’t dancing throughout the event at Canyon High School. approved Short said he realized Gruene Road needed to be widened based on use and the city master plan. He said the staff and the community understand the uniqueness of Gruene Road. He recommended that Gruene Road from Waterway Lane to Sunny Brook Drive be 24 feet wide with 4-foot shoulders that can be used for a possible hike and bike trail or pedestrian traffic. Planning commissioners also approved city street standards, which will apply to how streets are built and repaired. See APPROVED/4A From hay to a home Volunteers band together to finish man’s straw house By Sean Bowlin Staff Writer CANYON LAKE — Herb Nordmeyer of San Antonio didn’t know Greg Tbmko before Tbmko died. But Nordmeyer and many others are giving up their weekends to help Tbmko’s family complete his vision — building an energy-efficient home with walls made of straw. Tomko fell Sept. 20, 2002, from the roof of the straw home he had been building. He had been coming to Canyon Lake, which he’d fallen in love with, from Chicago on the weekends just to work on the house. That’s where Nordmeyer came in. Tbmko called him several times because of Nord-meyer’s considerable expertise on straw construction. Nordmeyer, who has a background in construction materials chemistry, had gotten into building straw homes in the 1980s ‘The Tuesday after he had the accident, we were planning on getting together for lunch,” Nordmeyer said. After Tbmko fell, within a day, one of his sons contacted Nordmeyer, who contacted family members. Nordmeyer saw there was a need to help. Then Tbmko died IO days after the fall. So, Nordmeyer contacted members of the Straw Bale Association of Texas. See HOME/4A K. JESSIE SLATEN/Heraid-Zeitung (Top) Matty West, artist Al Tamez, Juan Rodriguez and science teacher Dawn Lewis all volunteer their work to finish a house with walls of straw after the home’s owner, Greg Tomko, died after falling from the roof of the house. (Above) Chris Davis finishes off the exterior of one upstairs window while Dawn Lewis watches and learns. Lewis says almost everyone immediately thinks of the Three Little Pigs” house of straw when they hear what she is working on. “That was a thing of the past,” Lewis says, literally.” CCSCT pairs with utility to help residents pay bills By Dylan Jimenez Staff Writer Some New Braunfels residents can get help paying utilities starting this month. NBU Board of Tr ustees decided Feb. 27 to help NBU customers who are experiencing difficult financial situations. The Community Council of South Central Texas will distribute funds to pay for electric, water and wastewater services provided by NBU. “Our board and employees recognized that there was a definite need in our community for a program of this type that addresses assis tance with multiple utility services,” said Judy Waring, NBU executive director of customer and employee services, in a press release. “The establishment of the NBU program is especially timely in fight of the closure of several major businesses in New Braunfels, as well as the fact that government funding for electricity utility assistance has been cut in recent months.” Jeff Thompson, NBU executive director of business services, said there have been similar utility programs in other areas since the earlySee BILLS/4AInside Abby....................................5A Classifieds...........................4-6B Comics................................3B Crossword..........................SA Forum.................................4A Movies................................5A Obituaries..........................3A Sports..............................7-8A Today..................................2A Key Code 76 a 56825 00001 Treasurer to ask county for assistant By Ron Maloney Staff Writer Comal County Treasurer Susan Patterson will ask commissioners to establish an assistant treasurer’s position Thursday. Patterson was elected in November. She said she intends to fund the first year’s salary for that employee with money she saved in reviewing the county’s banking agreements. What she found was that reduced fees negotiated nearly two years ago with Wells Fargo Bank was never applied to the county’s accounts. “I was able to work with Wells Fargo. I asked for a meeting to review bank charges. In June 2001, we had negotiated a lower rate per item, but that rate had never been implemented,” Patterson said. The bank has recounted and applied balances for 2001 and 2002 totaling $23,369.96 — more than enough, Patterson said, to pay the salary and benefits for an assistant for the next nine months. “We’ve found a way that won’t cost the taxpayers a penny,” Patterson said. What Patterson wants to do with the position, she said, is return the Comal County Treasurer’s Office to doing all the work the Tbxas Constitution mandates. In Comal County, she said, a situation evolved over some years where much of that work moved into the office of Auditor David Renken and the Computer Services Depart ment headed by John Dumas. “What I’d like to is pull the treasurer’s office back together again. We want to start doing all the things the Tbxas Local Government Code recommends the office should be doing,” Patterson said. Those duties include bank reconciliations, receiving money and batching daily check runs, Patterson said. “I want to be generating the work and then have David and his CPAs audit the work,” Patterson said. Renken’s office has done a See TREASURERS ;