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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - March 23, 2004, New Braunfels, Texas TUESDAY, MARCH 23, 2004 Zeitung Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852. SPORTS Oh, brothers FORUM AWESOME 'OZ' Vol. 153, No. 114 10 pages, 1 section CL 5O0 WWW. 56825 00001 MM Chance of storms High Low 77 61 Details .... 6A DEAR ABBY CLASSIFIEDS COMICS CROSSWORD FORUM OBITUARIES SPORTS TV GRIDS 8A 9A 7A 7A 4A 3A 5A 8A Two sets of twins help power the SVHJ Rangers soccer team. Pages 5A Three letter writers say the local production of "The Wizard of Oz" is worth the support of the community. Page 4A Front and Center RlnnLpH in DAVID INGRAM/Herald-Zeitung Bob Pullin waits to return to his Rose Lane home while a Union Pacific train blocks the crossing on Bunker Street, the only public road in or out of his neighborhood. Local residents blowing whistle on train problems DID YOU KNOW? 5 The Union Pacific Railroad has its own police force For crossing problems, inciud-ing crossings blocked by trains, call Union Pacific police dispatch at (888) 877-7267 B The Texas Transportation Code calls for a Class C misdemeanor citation if a train blocks a crossing for more than 10 minutes in cases other than when the train suffers a mechanical breakdown or other "Act of God * By Bon Maloney Staff Writer Imagine explaining this one to the boss. Every once in a while, you’re late for work. Sometimes, you’re really, really late for work — say, two hours. Car break down? No bus to catch? Don’t suggest to anyone living off Bunker Street south of New Braunfels that they catch a train. Hie train’s the problem. Just off Bunker Street is a Union Pacific switching yard. Residents of the street and the Deer Park subdivision sometimes find themselves stuck behind trains that block the way out — the only way out. Most times, the delays aren’t unreasonable. When one factors in living next to a niilroad yard, delay's can be expected. But residents say they seem to be coining more often — and seem to be getting worse. Bob Pullin and his family moved to Rose Lane off Bunker Street about 15 years ago. “It wasn't tis had then as it is now,’’ lAiliin said. “Its a lot worse than it has been.” Sometimes. Pullin said, the train obstructing Bunker Street will be parked and there’s no Union Pacific employee in the area to seek out for help. “You get out and look, and it s so long you can’t see which end of tile train has the engine,” Pullin said. “You’ll sit there for awhile. A couple weeks ago, my wile sat there for nearly two hours. She got there at 7 a.m. and she didn’t get to pass until 8:45.” A sheriff’s deputy told Pullin there was nothing he could do. Comal County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. l im Kolbe said his agency gets a lot of calls about trains blocking Bunker Street. The calls are a real concern, he said, because the road isn t just blocked to residents. It’s also blocked to patrol cars and emergency vehicles. Reviewing dispatch logs, Kolbe found nine recent incidents in which the crossing was blocked for 425 minutes — an average of 47.2 minutes each. That doesn’t mean there UNION PACIFIC TRACKS were only nine calls,” Kolbe said. “They happen quite often. Sometimes, they block it 15 or 20 minutes. One time they blocked it two hours. Of course, there could have been a good reason for that.” Kolbe said the Texas Transportation Code calls for a Class C misdemeanor citation if a train blocks a crossing for more than IO minutes in cases other than when the train suffers a mechanical breakdown or other “Act of God.” Deputies regularly cite Union Pacific crews between $100 and $300, Kolbe said. “The situation is a difficult one because of the length of time the subdivision has been there,” Kolbe said. “But the railroad has been there since when? The 1800s? You have to understand that’s a switching yard out there. I’m sure theres a solution, but it hasn't been found yet.” Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said railroad policy is to “break cars” if theres a problem — uncouple the train at the See TRAINS Page 3A County officials, Union Pacific to discuss possible solutions By Ron Maloney Staff Writer (xjmal County Commissioners Thursday will ask the I Inion Pacific Railroad to Ik* a little mon* neighborly in its operatic>n of the switching yard oil Bunker Street. Commissioners will consider a resolution calling on the railroad to break trains, or do whatever needs to be done so neighborhood residents will not experience excessive delays caused by trains blocking the street. Commissioners' Court meets at 8:15 a.m. in the courtroom at 199 Main Plaza. Deduct 2 Commissioner Jay Million said he and County Engineer Tom I Ionise th went out to Bunker Street Monday afternoon to discuss possible solutions for residents who are sometimes trapped behind trains. Bunker Street and the Deer Park subdivision are sometimes cut off from Earm-to-Market Road 482 — the only access — when trains block the street while taking on cars or engines. “This is a problem that goes back 15, 20 years and probably longer than that,” Minikin said. County officials have identified options that would indude building a bridge over the tracks, digging an underpass tliat would Ik* Hooded during rainy times or building a road around the crossing. Coyote Hun parallels Bunker Street a si ion distance to tile south, but it’s a private road, Minikin said. “Those folks don’t want it to become a county road,” he said. “Almost all of the solutions would cost several hundred thousand dollars and involve condemnation of property and excessive taxpayer expense,” Mil-iikin said. “Hie real answer and the most saleable one seems to be having the railroad stop sitting at the crossing." Minikin said the county has a number of concerns, not the least of which is the possibility of legal action. “We run the risk of lawsuits if someone needs medical attention and can’t get help, or needs emergency assistance and we can’t get an ambulance in,” Million said. City’s tax year to change By Scott Mahon Staff Writer With a unanimous vote, the New Braunfels City Council approved Monday changing th** city’s tax year, which will give taxpayers a six-mon th reprieve from property taxes. Officials said the city also will change its fiscal year to be in accord with other municipalities. Some council members initially hesitated, saying the change would cost the city $3.5 million in lost tax revenues; however, City Manager Chuck Pinto and Mayor Adam (/irk eventually convinced council the change would save the city money in the long run The city sets its tax rate against a certified tax roll that is 18 months old, and theoretically loses tax revenues against appreciated property values within the current year, Pinto said. The county, however, establishes its tax roll in January of each year, and begins collecting its property tax revenues in November. lite city currently contracts w ith the New Braunfels Independent School District to prepare and mail its tax statements, but will contract with Comal County, which will save the citv about $40,000 a year. “The way you do it now, you’re try ing to fund your 2005 fiscal year budget with 2003 tax money ,” said Comal County Tax-Assessor (Collector She? man Krause, who attended Monday’s meeting. “You’re losing out on new (property) values. See TAX YEAR Page 2A Council votes 4-3 to draft ordinance for permit-only parking By Scott Mahon Staff Writer The New Braunfels City Council voted 4-3 Monday to draft an ordinance for permit-only parking in an area bounded by Peace Avenue, Mather Street, Union Street and Common Street. (xtuncil sent the issue to tile Transportation and Traffic Advisory Board for consideration last (ktober 'Ihe Traffic Advisory Board voted 4-2 March 11 to keep permit-only parking along Mast I incoln, Washington Avenue and Cross River Street. It also recommended extending the zone to the adja cent neighborhood, bounded by Peace Avenue. Mather Street, Union Avenue and Common Street. City Engineer Mike Short advised council that Monday's agenda item involved only the neighborhood hounded by Peace Avenue, Mather Street. Union Avenue and Common Street. District 6 Councilman Ken Valentine said riv er-side neighborhoods deserved protection. “The city hasn’t invested in infrastructure, like shuttle services,’ he said. “ Ihat s why these neighborhoods are under siege. We need to find a way to protect these people, and parking restrictions are a way to do it. Mayor Pro Tem Lee Rodriguez adv ised caution and compromise. Short said city staff feels the Peace Av enue neighborhood is too large for permit-only parking. “The majority of the t raffic Advisory Board felt we should do this, but staff leels the area is too large,” he said. NBPD Et. John Wommack said the area bound cd by Common .Street and Peace Avenue was too large to enforce permit-only parking Pospisil, Alexander, Valentine and Rodriguez voted to have city staff draft an ordinance tor permit-only parking in the area bounded bv Peace Avenue, Mather Street, Union Avenue anil Common Street. Cork, Hull and District I Councilwoman Soma Munoz voted against the idea. COMING WEDNESDAY Lost livelihood Husbands and wives are working together to preserve fuming heritage in Comal County. MILLER & MILLER Insurance Agency Check us out on the web at: www.miller-millerinsurance.com625-3000186 S. Casten Ave. - Downtown New Braunfels •SWS M iMMMK MHM Mr ’Wk ;