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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - September 7, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas I New c't s; Water Restrictions ■ New Braunfels Utilities customers with addresses ending in 6, 7, 8 or 9 can water today before 9 a.m. ancfafter 7 p.m. Well users with addresses ending in 6 or 7 can water today between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. and from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Herald A UNG ] Vol. 149 No. 219    16    pages    in    2    sections    September    7,    2000 Thursday Serving Comal County since 1852 50 cents NBISD wrestles insurance dilemma By Jennifer Rodriguez Staff Writer A sticky web of health insurance premiums, bus driver drought and living costs entangled the New Braunfels Independent School District board of trustees on Wednesday night. And less than one month into the 2000-2001 school year, the board has a hefty load on its wagon. Faced with higher premiums, the district switched health insurance providers last year and opted for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. But before August ended, McKenna Memorial Hospital and Hill Country Medical Group announced they were dropping out of the Blue Cross network of providers. In addition to explaining why some employees would be taking home less money than last year, the district and its insurance agent, Frank Witting, will have to explain why employees might have to travel farther for care or pay more for an out-of-network provider. “They’re telling them you either have to go out of town or pay more,” Dr. Don Bedford said. Representatives from both hospitals told the board they had no choice but to terminate their Blue Cross contracts. They claim reimbursement rates were based on decade-old rates, too low and too slow in coming. They also said the insurance provider unfairly adjusted rates this year w ithout giving the health care providers enough notice. Tim Brierty of McKenna Memorial Hospital and Randall Jacks of Hill Country Medical Group said they have tried working it out w ith Blue Cross, but have not heard from the company in more than a month. “I don’t envy you. You have hard choices to make,” Brierty said. “Eve got the same kind of employees you do, and we have a similar situation - how to pay for everything on a tight budget. “It really bothers me that a company out of C'hicago is dividing this community,” he said. “We have to work together.” Jacks said the decision to drop Blue Cross, and therefore cut coverage options for some of his patients, was painful. But some district employees are tired of hearing about the doctor’s and insurance company’s woes, especially in light of how much the premiums and service are pinching them. “I feel real bad about McKenna and Hill Country, but to me, all they’re telling me is they don’t want to serve us,” said John Tur- See NBISD/8A City targeting junk cars, weedy lots By Jo Lee Ferguson Staff Writer The New Braunfels Building Standards Commission wants the public to know who has the cure for substandard structures, junk cars and weedy lots. The commission on Wednesday agreed to spread the word about the remedies the city has for those and other kinds of code violations and the work the commission is doing. The commission was dormant until about a year ago, when City Attorney Floyd Akers revitalized the group. The city gives property owners and others a chance to comply with city ordinances about the upkeep of buildings, junk vehicles and weedy lots. Akers told the commission Wednesday that buildings include old tool sheds, for instance. In the cases of structures, those who do not comply can be taken before the commission. The commission can order a property to be boarded up or demolished and can impose civil fines, Akers said. Akers approached the commission Wednesday about ways to build future cases and manage and resolve the cases. The city has received “excellent compliance” when it notifies a property owner about code violations, Akers said. “We’re getting a lot of compliance on our junk vehicle and weedy lots,” he said. “People have seen that y’all are serious about what y’all are doing.” See JUNK/8A Signals get green light Metal poles arrive in time to allow Loop 337 signal installation K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-News Traffic in front of New Braunfels High School is brisk at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon. Buses loaded with students or returning empty to the lot must contend with speeding automobiles and trucks passing through on Loop 337. By Jo Lee Ferguson Staff Writer Two local traffic signal projects will move ahead despite a statewide shortage of metal poles to hold the signals. Greg Malatek, area engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, said work would begin next week on a three-way traffic signal at Loop 337 and New Braunfels High School. Work on a four-way traffic signal at Texas 46 and Oak Run Parkway w ill begin in October. Malatek had said earlier that a statewide shortage of the metal poles that hold the signals would delay the work until January. However, he said the contractor, E.Z. Bel, found eight metal poles through its supplier. “I’m glad its coming a lot sooner,” Malatek said. The contractor actually has been hired to place a total of five traffic signals, although not all of them are local projects. The other signals, however, are blinking lights. “Because of the urgency or the need for those two locations, our San Antonio district office and local office have decided to put them at two locations here in New Braunfels,” Malatek said. The contractor “begged and pleaded” with its supplier to find poles, he said. “Again, we were scrounging all over the state of Texas to find some,” he said. “We were determined.” Malatek warned the public this past week that the shortage could stall the work until January. “It was just something to where we wanted to give everybody a realistic view of what was going to happen,” he said. The Loop 337 signal will be installed at the high school’s driveway nearest Gruene Wood Villa Apartments. TxDOT agreed to install the signal after two students died in a wreck in front of the school this past year. The Loop 337 signal should be completed by Oct. 19, Malatek said. Traffic patterns at the high school will change w hen the signal is complete. “(The work) should not interrupt traffic,” Malatek said. “We might have an occasional lane closure, but there shouldn’t be any thing that affects traffic.” Installation of the traffic signal on Texas 46 should begin in early October and be completed by the middle of November. “Again, it will be something that I think will help some situations out there,” Malatek said. Malatek said the installation times depend on weather and other factors. Pedestrian crossings also will be See SIGNALS/8A City hall counting petition signatures By Jo Lee Ferguson Staff Writer The New Braunfels city secretary’s office worked in high gear Wednesday. For the second time this year, City Secretary Bonnie Sarkozi and her staff are working to verify signatures on a petition asking voters to decide an issue. Earlier this year, city residents united to put an issue on the May ballot that ultimately prevented the city from spending hotel/motel sales tax money on a convention center. Now, Citizens United to Save Our Rivers want the voters to con-sider an ordinance banning alcohol on portions of the two local rivers. “I've never had it twice in one year,” said Sarkozi, who has been city secretary for 20 years. Sarkozi and her staff must complete the verification process before Friday afternoon, when council will consider possible action on the petition. “It’s a lot of work, but we’ll get it done,” Sarkozi said. Sarkozi has two staff members, Jill Mulhol-lan and Alicia What's Next • New Braunfels City Council special meeting: 5:30 p.m. Friday, 424 S. Casten • Voter registration deadline: Oct. 10 at the registrar, Comal County tax office. • Early voting: Oct. 23 through Nov. 3 in the Comal County Courthouse Annex from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. • Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 7. Voting will take place in six precincts during the hours 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. District 1: Lone Star School; Cist. 2: Memorial Elementary School; Dist. 3: Seele School; Dist. 4: Faith United Church of Christ; Dist. 5: Lamar Primary School; Dist. 6: First United Methodist Church. Crespo, who were helping her validate the signatures Wednesday. The city manager’s secretary, Gail Hardwick, also was helping, and Sarkozi said the police chief had also offered some of his clerical staff to See PETITIONS Inside Abby.................. .............5 A Classifieds............ ...........3-8B Comics................ .............8A Crossword........... .............5A Forum................... ..............6A Local/Metro.......... .............4A Movies.................. ..............5A Obituaries............. ..............3A Sports.................. ..........1-2B Today................... .............2A Stocks...................... ...............5A Key Code 76 Cold front, anyone? By The Associated Press A cold front moved through the state Wednesday, bringing cooler temperatures and speculation that the majority of Texas has seen an end to a long streak of triple-digit heat. The mercury soared to 100.9 degrees Wednesday, but was a lot cooler than the 111.9 degrees posted in New Braunfels on Tuesday. High temperatures in East and North Texas were in the lower 90s and upper KOs, while West Texas temperatures were still hitting the cen tury mark. Wednesday’s high was 105 degrees in Dryden. The cold front should cool off temperatures in West Texas for the rest of the w eek as it pushes through. Parts of South Texas are still recording temperatures in the upper 90s and 100s, but should also get a reprieve Thursday. A disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico will bring welcome relief to parched land as it moves inland Thursday. The system is expected to bring thunderstorms and showers to South and East Texas . Putting out fires Local firefighters have had their hands full with grass fires this past week. Now they are looking for the public’s help to find out who started two of those blazes. See From The Dispatch on Page 4A. K JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Ll.;.:................z:::...........: z ....... r1' ............................................ Fair livestock rules Find updated rules for the 2000 Comal County Fair livestock show in today’s edition/4-5B ;