Trash, water fines draw residents' ire
(Editor's note: On Wednesday, City Manager Kent Myers said several issues are being addressed. He said the city's goal is to accomplish voluntary compliance with regulations, rather than issue citations, which should be reserved only for repeat violators. The city also is changing its process for issuing warnings and improving efforts to educate customers about code enforcement regulations. Wording has been changed on violation notices. Myers also said fines are set by the municipal court and court costs are set by the State of Texas.)
Fredericksburg City Council members on Monday listened to a complaint from a resident who received a trash violation for a trash bin slightly overfilled that was placed in her mailbox with no warning.
The fine totaled $138 including court costs.
Jennifer Keller said she and roughly 300 other residents had received citations and many of them held a 45-minute heated discussion with the municipal court judge that was heated.
She said she felt the violations were mishandled.
“I received my citation for watering at 9:42 a.m.,” she said. “That was my watering day.”
She also was warned when her neighbors’ sprinklers were running. She said she keeps her yard green by using reused shower water and letting her grass grow longer to retain moisture.
“I also have never had an issue with trash being over-filled,” she added, saying she was cited for that as well.
Keller said calls to the code enforcement officer’s office were not returned for three days.
She added it was never explained that if they contested the fine, residents faced an additional court cost or receive probation.
“We’re faced with ‘criminal negligence,’” Keller said. “That’s steep for a watering violation. I feel there are a lot of us paying money we shouldn’t have to pay. There should be a warning system.”
Another resident, Belinda Zeisler, said she was cited for a trash violation, also given without warning, and no notice was in the city’s monthly utility bills. Zeisler also was given a trash citation, then received a second one before the first citation had arrived in her mail. She was cited for having a slightly overfilled trash bin where the lid would not close completely.
Zeisler also complained that citations were placed in local mailboxes, which is a not allowed by federal law.
“The postmaster at the Fredericksburg Post Office was surprised to hear that as well,” she said.
Mayor Linda Langerhans said the complaints were well-stated and the processes for violations “will be looked into.”
Langerhans said the staff will look at its literature and see where information was not made clear and come back with recommendations to the council.
The council also approved the annexation agreement and ordinance for the Seven Hills Hotel and Conference Center. Brian Jordan, the city’s director of development, said the ordinance establishes a “PUD,” or planned unit development.
The project consists of 22 acres of property which will include a 35,000-square-foot conference room, 150 hotel rooms, 11 Sunday houses, retail shops and other amenities.
“We’re finally at the point of closure for this project,” Jordan said. “We’ve been doing quite a bit of work on it.”
The Seven Hills project is estimated to cost $74 million.
Resident John Rodriguez asked the county to consider asking its utility suppliers to switch to solar and wind energy, as done by the cities of Georgetown and Denton, which have all-renewable energy goals.
Rodriguez said a 500-megawatt solar plant is being proposed near New Braunfels, and towns including Denton, Bryan and Kerrville have expressed an interest in buying power.
“There’s a lot of interest all around us in the Texas Hill Country for this kind of power,” he said.
Rodriguez also said solar power costs have decreased from $150 per megawatt hour down to about $30 per megawatt hour.
He cited the closing of coal-fired plants and addition of solar and wind power initiatives.
He said Fredericksburg’s suppliers still get nearly half their power from coal-fired power sources.
“Texas has more wind energy than all but five countries,” Rodriguez said (22,000-plus megawatts). “I’m asking the city to take a look at this and consider a change to solar or wind energy. I spent nearly 40 years in the power industry in petro-chemical, offshore, onshore, refineries — I’ve seen what these people put into the air and it’s not pretty. I’m also trying to clean up Texas.”
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