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  • Location: New Braunfels, Texas
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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - May 24, 2007, New Braunfels, Texas THURSDAY, MAY 24,2007 ZeitungOfficials prepare to clamp down on pump fraud SPORTS NBA NEWS BIBLE COURSE Senate members agree to allow public schools to offer Bible classes as electives. Page 3A Experience has helped Spurs gain a 2-0 lead in Western Conference finals. Page 5A Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852. Vol. 154, No. 166 16 pages, 2 sections 56825 00001 — r< I 40% chance of rain High Low I 86 68 1 I Details .... 1B DEAR ABBY 3B CLASSIFIEDS 5B COMICS 2B CROSSWORD 2B FORUM 4A OBITUARIES 3A SPORTS 5A TV GRIDS 3B The Associated Press ■ Offending gas stations face stiffer penalties DAITAS (AP) — Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said Wednesday his office is increasing penalties for gas stations that cheat drivers with inaccurate fuel pumps, a fraud that drivers are more sensitive to as prices climb to record highs. Starting Friday, the minimum fine will he quadrupled for pumps that exceed the state’s tolerance for measurement discrepancies. Its the first penalty increase since 1996. “Gas prices are high enough without consumers being shortchanged at the pump,” said Staples, who announced the change at a busy Dallas gas station. “Drivers need to have every confidence they are receiving exactly what they pay for every time they fill up.” Staples noted that Texas fuel vendors already have a 96 percent com pliance rate with state standards. But lofty prices have drivers focusing on their gas spending. Consumer complaints about faulty pumps increased 109 percent from Fiscal year 2004 to 2006, said David Kostroun, the Agriculture Department’s assistant commissioner for regulatory programs. Inspectors found 7,400 violations in fiscal year 2006. They’ve flagged 3,400 pumps from September through now, the department said. Average retail gasoline prices in Texas are setting record highs with each passing day, according to the AAA Texas survey of regular-grade gasoline. Wednesday’s average was a record $3.09 per gallon, up 14 cents from last week’s average of $2.95. The record before this week was $2.96 in the wake of Hurricane Rita in September 2005. “We have heard a number of complaints about” inaccurate pumps, said Jason Toews, co-founder of the Web site, a consumer advocacy site that tracks gas prices. “It may not be that there’s more of that going on right now, but people are paying more attention because of the high gas prices." The state Agriculture DepartmentSee FRAUD, Page 8A FIND IT IN OUR Advanced! Brc 'I MORE IN IT FOR YOU www.Herald-Zeitung.Com LOCAL SPORTS Search Officials meet to begin work on loop plans By David Saieh Rauf The Herald-Zeitung State and local officials who were asked to help hammer out specifics for the creation of an outer loop around the city gathered Wednesday at a six-hour, invitation only conference at the New Braunfels Civic Center. The second in a series of meetings for the New Braunfels Outer Loop Study was designed to give RJ Rivera Associates, Inc., the consulting firm hired by the Texas Department of Transportation, insight from state and local entities about the feasibility of a proposed route for the creation of a loop. The exact location and route of the loop won’t be determined for about two more years, TXDOT officials said. “It was mainly to pick folks brains,” said Greg Malatek, TXDOT area engineer for New Braunfels and Seguin. “The final study will show a route that is submitted to both Comal and Guadalupe counties.” About 50 state and local officials were broken into groups of seven and given tasks to complete throughout the day. Officials examined a variety of questions and potential See LOOP, Page 3A DPS on lookout for bad drivers ■ Motorists urged to be safe on roadways this weekend From Staff Reports Despite high gas prices, many Texans plan to pack up and head out of town for the Memorial Day weekend. The Texas Department of Public Safety has put together a game plan to help drivers remain safe on the state’s roads and highways. “ We ll have our troopers on the streets and highways targeting those drivers who are unsafe,” said Capt. lack Webster, commander of the highway patrol in San Antonio. “We will remove drivers from the highways who decide to make alcohol consumption part of their travel game plan. If that driver is not sober, we will arrest them,” he said. Mothers Against Drunk Driving statistics show that alcohol related fatal accidents are a concern for officers over the Memorial Day holiday. In 2004, 358 fatal traffic accidents happened on Memorial Day, according to MADD’s nationwide statistics. Out of those See MOTORISTS, Page 7A Center of attention ■Crews focus on August deadline despite months of delays by rain Senate slashes guest worker program as White House pushes bill By Julie Hirschfeld Davis The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted Wednesday to slash the number of foreign workers who could come to the U.S. on temporary visas as part of a broad bipartisan immigration bill. A new guest worker program would be capped at 200,000 a year under the proposal, which passed 74-24 over strong opposition by the Bush administration. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the change, proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., would interfere with a “cen tral component” of the White House-backed immigration measure. That plan provided for 400,000 worker visas annually, plus an option to increase that number to 600,000 if market conditions demand it. “The Bingaman amendment would eliminate this critical flex ibility and cut the size of the temporary worker program in half,” Gutierrez said in a statement. His comments came as the administration urged the Senate to approve the immigration legislation despite fresh criticism from See BILL, Page 7A By David Saleh Rauf The Herald-Zeitung FAR LEFT: Rock used for the exterior of the city's new civic center is cut to size and matched for color in a lot across the street from the building site. Chad Ratlike refuses to let a little rain slow down the $12 million expansion of the New Braunfels Civic Center. But Rathke, the cigar-chewing superintendent of construction at the center’s expansion site, might soon have to succumb to a grim reality: 14 inches of rain — twice the average for this time of year — that have pounded the area in the past three months have caused him, and his crew of about 75 workers, to miss a total of 22 work days since March. As a result of the wet conditions, the first phase of construction and renovations at the site are two months behind schedule. Phase one, which includes construction of a new main lobby, a new exhibition hall and parking lot, five meeting rooms, the addition of showers, bathrooms and catering and kitchen facilities, began in August of See CENTER, Page 7A Photos by DAVID INGRAM/Herald-Zeitung Crews continue work on the new portion of the New Braunfels Civic Center despite rain delays that have put them behind schedule. ■ Total cost for expansion — $12.3 million Bl Current size — 15,000 square feet. After expansion — 50,000 square feet _ ■ Center's name will be the New Braunfels Kongresshalle Convention Center Workers move around large section of scaffolding inside the main room of the new ortion of the ew Braunfels Civic Center earlier this week. ;