September 2012 Meeting Minutes

Wooten Neighborhood Association

Meeting Minutes 9-10-2012

President Joshua Merritt called the meeting to order at 7:00 pm in the Redeemer Lutheran School cafeteria.

Betsy Thaggard shared that a Capital Metro spokesperson had accepted an invitation to
speak tonight regarding a light rail stop in North Austin. However, the spokesperson has since canceled and said that Capital Metro has no further interest in adding a North Austin stop. However, at Sustainable Neighborhood’s September 20 meeting, a Capital Metro spokesperson is scheduled to attend.

Steve Rogers moved to approve the minutes from the July WNA meeting. Patty Colligan
seconded the motion, and all members approved.

Marilyn Rogers gave the Treasurer’s Report. We currently have a balance of $1856.18 with no outstanding bills. If all 65 current WNA members re-join in November, we can expect to collect an additional $325.

Joshua Merritt welcomed all the new neighbors attending the meeting.

Steve Rogers gave a report on the Wooten Neighborhood Plan Contact Team (WNPCT). The WNPCT is an organization that deals with the city or a developer who would like to adjust the zoning of the approved Neighborhood Plan and Land Use Map. Next week, the WNPCT will elect a new chairman and secretary because the current office-holders are limited to 2 years in these positions. The meeting will be held next Monday, September 17 at Mi Casa restaurant at 7 pm. In addition, the WNPCT will approve some modifications to their by-laws.

Next, the WNA discussed the officer election. Steve admitted that he did not make phone calls to the current WNA members informing them of the election, but he did send out an email a couple of weeks ago. The current officers (President Joshua Merritt, Vice President Carolyn Spock, Secretary Sarah Gregory, and Treasurer Marilyn Rogers) are willing to re-up unless someone else wants to serve. No other WNA members expressed interest in becoming officers, so each officer briefly summarized his/her duties. Still, no WNA members were interested in running.

Steve Rogers made a motion to accept the slate of officers by affirmation. Victor Engel
seconded the motion. All members were in favor, and the motion carried.

President Merritt introduced the next item on the agenda: trash on Mullen and Wooten Park Drive. Many neighbors have been commenting on this on the WNA listserve, so Merritt opened the floor for discussion. Mary Lou Gibson mentioned the Wal-Mart carts at the Lulen apartments on Bowling Green and Lanier. She feels that these carts are a mess and is especially concerned because these apartments are at an entrance to our neighborhood. Marilyn Rogers pointed out that comments on the listserve have suggested that a man in a wheelchair is leaving the Wal-Mart carts. She asked that neighbors do not allow his wheelchair to justify him being a slob. Sam McGlamery has contacted the city health department in the past in order to make an owner clean up his property. However, he feels that his recent calls to 311 have been re-routed to people who do not have the authority to address his concerns. Years ago, when neighbors notified the health department, the offenders were given notification that forced them to clean up. He added that the maximum height for grass in the neighborhood is 18 inches. Solana Wooldridge noticed a white liquid that looked like paint thinner in a canal near Burnet Middle School a couple of weeks ago. It turns out that workers from the private cleaning company that is contracted by school had dumped floor wax and stripping chemicals into the canal. Later, the company returned to pump out the chemicals. Solana said that the city did respond to her complaints after 3-4 days. Betsy Thaggard noted the strong smell of smoke coming from El Recio on Ohlen. She feels that the smoke detracts from air quality and wonders
if the restaurant has been cited for this. Marilyn Rogers encouraged all neighbors to contact our district police representative Taber White to address these issues. He is the liaison between the neighborhood and the police department.

Solana Wooldridge suggested that we ask the city to install trash cans around Burnet Middle School. She feels that trashcans around the school would prevent wrappers and bags from blowing into neighbors’ yards. President Merritt agreed to contact the principals at Wooten Elementary and Burnet Middle School to encourage them to speak to the students about littering. He also suggested that someone volunteer to contact the city regarding the installation of trashcans around Burnet Middle School. Solana Wooldridge agreed to do this. Further, President Merritt encouraged neighbors to bring trash bags when walking in the neighborhood. Steve Rogers pointed out that the more that people see litter in the neighborhood, the more likely it is that people will continue to litter.

Kevin Luke suggested that someone start a shopping cart recovery service. Someone could approach the management at Wal-Mart and offer to return carts for $5-10 each.

Brandon Wollerson asked about WNA’s outreach to the apartments in the neighborhood,
specifically those on Wooten Park Drive. President Merritt said that historically the WNA has not had any outreach to the apartment residents, although they are welcome to join. He is aware that the school PTOs reach-out to the apartment communities. Kay Pruett suggested that we reach-out to the apartment communities through the school PTOs. Carolyn Spock mentioned that in the past the WNA had sent postcards to apartment residents. President Merritt said that realistically we would need a bilingual interpreter. Brandon Wollerson said that he thought it would be helpful to have a representative from the apartments on Wooten Park so that we could maintain contact with the community. He said that neighbors tend to project problems on the apartment community, but we have no communication with residents there. President Merritt suggested that we form a small task-force in order to reach out to the apartment residents. He noted that we have several active WNA who are bilingual in Spanish and English. Steve Rogers wondered what we could offer to the apartment residents in terms of support. President Merritt suggested that the task force meet and discuss before visiting the apartment community. President Merritt and Brandon Wollerson agreed to start up this task force.

Betsy Thaggard and Victor Engel spoke about a new website that they have been
experimenting with called www.wooten.nextdoor.com. It is another way for neighbors to
communicate, and people can create photo albums. Betsy pointed out that groups can create private forums and that it might be a good way for task forces and committees to communicate. Kevin Luke questioned the privacy policy. He pointed out that sites like Facebook own everything that people post on their site. Betsy said that the nextdoor privacy policy is similar to Facebook’s privacy policy. President Merritt and Victor Engel recommended that we stick to our official form of communication with the yahoo listserve and that people are still welcome to use the Wooten Facebook page as an alternative.

Jonathan Armstrong wondered if we could make the Wooten Facebook page more private. Every time someone comments on the page it pops up on his friend’s home pages. President Merritt pointed out that the creator of the Wooten Facebook page could make it more private, but he is not sure who he/she is. He recommended that we use the yahoo listserve, wootenna.com, and the newsletter as WNA official modes of communication.

Patty Colligan gave a re-cap of the Neighborhood Watch committee business. Burton Anderson led 2 trainings for volunteers interested in neighborhood watch patrols this summer. The trainings were well-attended, and Burton is asking volunteers to pick an hour each week when they can patrol the neighborhood, either by car or on foot. Burton is developing a calendar to organize the patrols. President Merritt added that the premise is to foster good communication among neighbors and to increase awareness.

Betsy Thaggard asked the WNA members if anyone would be hosting a gathering for National Night Out in October. President Merritt would like to compile a list of all the sponsors, and he added that his family would be hosting an event on Mullen Drive. MaryLou Gibson told the WNA members that she registered for National Night Out with the fire department last year, and they brought a fire truck and kids were able to explore the truck.

President Merritt opened the floor to WNA member discussion. Brandon Wollerson has noticed a house on Belford that was damaged by fire and has not been repaired. He is concerned because he does not want the house to affect home values. He wondered if anyone had advice. Sam McGlamery said that the problem is that the owner is haggling with the insurance company because the fire with started due to negligence. He suggested that Brandon call 311.

Marilyn Rogers has been contacted by a woman who is running for Austin ISD school board of trustees place 3. The woman had wanted to attend a WNA meeting, but Redeemer Lutheran (where the meeting is held) does not allow political candidates in their facility. Marilyn has the woman’s business cards if anyone would like to meet with her at another time.

Victor Engel wondered if any WNA members would be interested in monthly meetings, so
that he if missed a meeting, he would be able to come the next month. Kay Pruett said that as an infrequent attender, she would probably skip meetings more often if they were held once a month. Jim Bedrich said that when WNA meetings were held monthly, the attendance plummeted. Betsy Thaggard pointed out that if you miss one meeting, it will be 3 months before the next meeting. Chris Gregory pointed out that the WNA meeting minutes are posted on wootenna.com. Steve Rogers mentioned that not everyone wants to attend meetings, although they may volunteer or participate in WNA in another way (by reminding neighbors to put up WNA meeting signs, for example). Kevin Luke said that Facebook and the listserve provide alternatives for neighbors to stay informed. President Merritt said that he understands the desire to have monthly meetings, but he feels that attendance would be negatively affected.
Jeb Kendrick said he supports more frequent meetings because he has missed several, but he feels that we could have “special meetings” if there is something in particular that WNA needs to discuss. President Merritt said that the best way to determine the effect of having monthly meetings would be to try it and see what happens.

Whitney Michael mentioned the gravel pile by Burnet Middle School. Victor Engel brought up the dirt pile by Wooten Elementary that is “starting to get ugly.” Opie Gonzalez said that it looks like fill dirt not topsoil.

President Merritt brought up Sustainable Neighborhood’s plans to plant 15-20 trees along
Burnet Road and Lamar. Sustainable Neighborhoods (SN) is asking for volunteers to help
plant and donations. SN has a strong record of maintaining the trees that they have planted.

The donations will go toward waterers for the trees. Betsy Thaggard said that SN will need
volunteers for the tree planting on Saturday, September 22 from 9-noon at ShuShus on Burnet and Ohlen. She will make sure that the notice is put on the listserve. President Merritt said that SN’s president and founder, Steven Zettner is a tireless leader and that his events are well-organized. Anyone who shows up to volunteer will be used, and the organization is grateful for any help. President Merritt asked the WNA members if we would like to consider making a small donation to SN from our $1800 budget. Carolyn Spock said that Steven was asking for $500. President Merritt said that even a couple hundred dollars would be a nice gesture. Opie Gonzalez said that the money in our account came from membership dues and newsletter advertisements. It took WNA several years to build up our account. Marilyn Rogers said that we spent $798 on signs. Steven Rogers made a motion to donate $200 to Sustainable Neighborhoods. Carolyn Spock seconded the motion, and all members were in favor. The motion carried.

Betsy Thaggard announced that the next Sustainable Neighborhoods meeting will be held on September 20 at the Village Christian Apartments at 7 pm.

Marilyn Rogers pointed out the current cost of WNA newsletters is $200. This does not include newsletters for residents in the apartments and duplexes in our neighborhood. If we are wanting to reach out to renters, we would need to increase our printing costs. Victor Engel pointed out that we could post a WNA newsletter in the common area of the complexes. Carolyn Spock asked if anyone had reviewed the bond information that Steven Zettner had sent out. He held a meeting with various representatives from north Austin neighborhood associations. If the bond issue passes, these representatives would address this. Steven sent out a 15-page pdf regarding bond projects, and he would like a response by December. President Merritt suggested that we either get him to come to the next WNA meeting or get him to summarize his 15-page document.

Jonathan Armstong wondered if anyone in WNA had ever supported adding bike lanes. He would like to see bike lanes on Burrell and Ohlen. Victor Engel said that bike lanes would help to calm traffic. Betsy Thaggard suggested that Jonathan get in touch with neighbors on Ohlen who are advocating traffic calming on Ohlen.

Also, Jonathan wondered if the Wooten Park is affiliated with the city or Wooten Elementary. Steve Rogers explained that it is a city park. Jonathan explained that he would like to see improvements to the park, such as a public restroom. President Merritt explained that we have to make a commitment to issues if we want to address them–there is no one person who we can contact in order to get a “quick fix.” We would need to form a group and stay on top of the issue. Betsy Thaggard said that the “Friends of Brentwood Park” was a private group that helped get so many improvements at that park. President Merritt explained that it takes a long, patient battle to effect change with the city. We have to commit to our causes. Jonathan said that he would be willing to attend a Crestview neighborhood association meeting in order to learn more about how the neighborhood made improvements to their park and bike lanes. Victor Engel pointed out that the Crestview Neighborhood Association meets at the same time as ours every
month. Carolyn Spock said that she would be willing to go through our city plan and find things that have not been implemented yet. She will sort the improvements according to category (traffic, bike lanes, etc.). Betsy Thaggard said that WNA could use these categories to create special interest groups. Marilyn Rogers cautioned that there was a time when a woman claimed to represent WNA at a city meeting when she did not. She emphasized that WNA needs to work as a group and not create vigilante groups. President Merritt said that he likes the model of task force that Burton Anderson created with Neighborhood Watch. This was really effective.

Whitney Michael wondered if someone was serious about an earlier comment regarding a pile of dead rats. She had thought that she had read about rat problems on the listserve. Two of her cats have died because they ate rat poison and now they have a rat problem. President Merritt assured her that he had been joking, and that if there were a pile of dead rats that this would be a code violation.

Marilyn Rogers reminded members that dues are due on October 1st and that members
should bring $5 membership fees to the November meeting or send to the WNA PO box. Also, members are welcome to pay after the meeting.

Chris Gregory moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:45 pm. Sam McGlamery seconded the motion, and all members approved. The motion carried.

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