Council approves wildfire plan

Contributed photo
Marble Falls Mayor John Packer signs a Community Wildfire Protection Plan with members of Marble Falls Fire Rescue and the Texas A&M Forest Service at a council meeting on Tuesday evening.

By Alexandria Randolph

The Highlander

Marble Falls City Council approved a Community Wildfire Protection Plan as well as right-of-way allowances for upcoming highway construction.

In a Tuesday meeting, Marble Falls Fire Chief Russell Sander told council that one of the largest threats to the community identified in a recent hazard study is wildfires.

“The goal is to protect human life and protect against property loss,” he said. “We’re protecting recreational areas and the natural beauty of our community.”

The goal of the protection plan is to “educate our citizens on how to protect their property from wildfire,” he said. “When you get a large fire like in 2011, it’s a danger to us.”

The rugged Hill Country terrain is another factor that makes fighting brush fires a challenge, Sander said.

“With the terrain we have here, it’s very difficult for us to get in front of it and stop (a wildfire) or slow it down,” he said.

The protection plan was approved unanimously and ceremonially signed by Mayor John Packer during the meeting Tuesday evening.

The council also approved a Local Participation Agreement, city resolution and conveyance documents to the state authorizing Texas Department of Transportation to make highway improvements within city limits.

The highway project will widen U.S. 281 from RM 2147 east to a point half a mile north of Texas 71.

The project, which is estimated to begin in November, will create a continuous left turn lane in the highway, said TxDOT Burnet area engineer Joe Muck.

“We could not do this in the existing right-of-way,” he said. “At this time we’re finalizing right-of-way agreements.”

“We had a lot of paperwork to get sorted out with the state,” added Assistant City Manager Caleb Kraenzel.

The construction will occur in four phases with alternating lane closures, Muck said. The first phase, which will take about two months, will reduce traffic to two lanes.

“We’ve taken relocation of utilities into account in our schedule,” he said.

The acreage that will be donated by several Marble Falls property owners for the new right-of-way was appraised at $865,232, Kraenzel said.

Council requested that the families donating the land be brought to an upcoming meeting for recognition.

In other discussion, council heard updates on Marble Falls Area EMS service and the Parks and Recreation Department.

To date this year, Marble Falls EMS has responded to 686 calls for medical assistance and 73 percent of those calls resulted in transport of the patient, said Johnny Campbell, Marble Falls Area EMS director.

“Only 94 of those calls exceeded an eight minute response time,” he said. “Call times have been pretty good.”

The agency only had one call that required transport by air medical helicopters, Campbell said.

Calls within Marble Falls city limits account for 35.5 percent of total volume.

In parks news, volunteers recently completed the West Side Park disc golf course, which officials said will draw more visitors to the city.

“We have people come from all around to play,” said Parks and Recreation Department Director Robert Moss.

This year’s Spring Break parks program saw “over 2,700 participants – up 23 percent from 2017,” he said. “I was pleased to see the fire department and police department out (at city activities) during this week.”

Upcoming projects for the department include rehabilitating the boat ramp at Hays Addition Park and adding a parking area, and they are also making minor rehab fixes to the Johnson Park boat ramp, and adding parking there as well.

Moss added that Lakeside Pavilion saw a decrease in rentals over the last several months.

“It just so happens, that is when we raised our fees,” he said. “We have about $22,850 in past business that is not returning.”

The city lost $9,000 in rental revenue when the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce chose not to host the LakeFest banquet at the pavilion this year, Moss said.

Another cause of lost business may be concerns about impending construction and false rumors that the pavilion and pool are going to be torn down. A third issue may be the perceived value and “bare bones” nature of the pavilion amenities, Moss said.

“In the past, it has been too good a deal to pass up, but now that we’ve eased toward the price of other venues, people are willing to pay just a bit more for added (facilities),” he said.

The department has also received feedback that rental customers were asked to leave the building too early into the night, Moss said.

Suggested solutions include adding a reduced nonprofit rate for Friday and Saturday evenings and changing the closing time of the facility from 12 a.m. to 1 a.m.

“The Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously in favor of this,” Moss said.

In other action at the meeting, council approved the appointment of Tomye Folts-Zettner to Place 5 of the Parks and Recreation Commission, filling an unexpired term. Rick Stacy was appointed as the extra-territorial jurisdiction representative for the Impact Advisory Committee.

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