Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Weather (Or Not), Blood Drive, Council Report and More!

Rain?  Not yet.... It is a little cooler today.  Chances improving this week with some cooler temperatures.  Lots of clouds today.  Here's a link to my weather station for current conditions and rain amounts (if we get any). 

Don't forget the Lakeway Blood Drive this upcoming Saturday from 8 a.m. till noon.  Email LakewayCommunityBloodDrive@gmail.com for an appointment!

The Public Safety day was a GREAT success!  Thanks to all that attended and a special thanks to all the first responders and volunteers that made it a great success!

*****Council Meeting*****

3)  This is the 11th month of the current budget.  It appears we have a positive variance of about $1,474,004.  Here's a link to the graphic that shows the income and expenditures.  The Interim City Manager, Julie Oakley, says a lot of this is timing.  $600K is unexpected BDS Permit fees that will be used for inspections in the next budget.  The problem with this is the council is requesting a tax increase partially because of inspection cost increases.  All inspections should be covered with permit fees.

Even so, that leaves nearly $500,000 carryover from the current budget. 

4)  Another report on the Police Station.  Council Member Vance was concerned of duplicate billing (especially on concrete work) and the auditors were contacted and reviewed those charges and scope issues.  No duplication was found - Good Project, On Time and Under Budget.  No inaccuracies found.  $600,000 returned to the city!

5)  Public Hearing on Proposed Budget - no data provided in the packet, no one spoke and council had no comment.

6)  Public Hearing on Proposed Tax Rate.  No data provided in the packet - it appears they are still looking at using this years rate for 2020 - effectively raising citizens taxes.  That's with $1.5M from last year plus $600K return from the Police Project.
No public comment, no comment from council.

7)  Request for HOT funds from Lake Travis Chamber to snag a Firefighters Conference for Lakeway.  Includes travel expense and conference expenses to attend current conference to make the pitch.  Probably will more than pay for itself if we get the conference.  Approved unanimously.


8)  Chair Larry Harlan gave an update on the Comprehensive Plan update progress.  Moving along, still struggling with how granular it needs to be - my opinion is a general framework with few specifics.  The old one was too redundant.  Another Town Hall in November.

9)  Donations for the Heritage Center and the historic Liebelt Cabin.  Artifacts from the cabin and that time period.  Thank you! 

10)  Discussion and decision to abolish the office of City Marshal - passed unanimously.

12)  Council Member Mastrangelo donated a handheld infrared thermal camera to the Police Department - no cost to him or the city, he tested it and had no use for it. 

13)  First reading of Chapter 28 Code of Ordinances - more changes.  Here's a link to the marked up ordinance.  If they keep changing things, soon no one will know what they are doing....

15-16)  Infamous Executive Session.  

Council approved spending $30,000 for a City Manager search.


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This is what it looks like every day in my back yard.  I love the deer - but it's not normal to see herds like this in a yard.  This is just the back, two more herds in the front.  We don't feed, nor do my neighbors.  

That's all for today, more soon.  Are electric cars worth it?  I'm working on some info that might surprise you.  National Night Out is coming up soon.  It's a good way to meet your neighbors and enjoy the evening.

If you would like to be added (or removed) to my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get it done!  I appreciate all the support for the blog!

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us


Friday, September 13, 2019

Public Safety Day, Austin Craziness, Taxes and More!

*****Friday the 13th - Be Careful...*****

Weather?  Not much.  Almost rained a couple of day, but didn't happen.  Looks like it's going to be near the century mark again for the next few days.  Here's a link if you want to see what the conditions are real time.


*****Public Safety Day*****

From City Website
Public Safety Day is tomorrow, September 14th!  This is a great way to see the first responder agencies up close.  Police, Fire and even the STAR Flight helicopter will be there.  It's free at the Lake Travis Elementary at 15303 Kollmeyer Dr from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m..   Here's a link to more info - it well worth the time to check it out!


*****Austin Telco Credit Union*****

Got word that Austin Telco made the Best of the Best in Austin in the Credit Union Category!  Have you considered a Credit Union for your financial institution?  If not, maybe you should!  Non-profit, means all the profits are given back to the members, free checking with no minimum balance, high rates on CD's, low rates on all types of loans and ATM's all over.  Give it a look!  atfcu.org


*****Austin Craziness Continues*****

Have you been watching the latest craziness in Austin?  First they made it legal to camp anywhere on Austin public property.  Now they have folks with tents on medians and all over.  But now there are complaints - folks that run the ARCH (homeless shelter) don't want anyone camping near them - too dangerous....  Also UT wants
Photo Courtesy Change.org
to restrict camping and homeless there - safety concerns, and streets around 6th street also - safety concerns.  But it's o.k. to camp and sleep near businesses and residential areas - no safety concerns there.  Am I missing something?  I hope it doesn't move this way!



*****Taxes*****

I got a card with a website address - travistaxes.com - that allows you to put in your address and see the changes you and I will be writing a LARGER check for next year.  Lakeway is a small part of this but still a part.  In my opinion, we don't have an income issue, we have a spending issue.  Consultants, Assistants, Directors and legal expenses.  Government finances are different than business finances.  They say we need more money - how much?  Would 20¢ per hundred be enough?  30¢ per hundred?  50¢ per hundred?  Plan projects and spread the time out so it fits within your budget - that's how citizens have to do it.  Let your elected officials know how you feel, maybe it's just me!  They got a pretty good raise this year - $245,000 from new property, sales tax increases and even a $600,000 refund from the Police project.  That's a bigger increase than I got from Social Security.....

*****Council Meeting*****

Looks like another long meeting Monday - packets aren't out yet so I'll just hit the highlights.  

4)  Previous Business - Update on scope of work for police station?  No clue - I do know that it's done, it didn't raise your taxes and 10 years from now we won't be looking at a bond to enlarge or remodel it - like we are doing for the City Hall (probably cost twice as much to enlarge than original cost to build).  Now we know how big Lakeway will be - land locked - construction costs go up significantly every year.  

5)  Public Hearing on Budget
6)  Public Hearing on Tax rate.  Discussion at last weeks meeting of what would have to be done to increase the rate to the rollback rate - they could go even higher but would have to face a possible petition to roll it back.

7)  Looks like Lake Travis Chamber is going to ask for some HOT funds.  If they have a process to track funding it might be a reasonable request.  They are looking to bring the Texas Firefighters Conference to Lakeway.

8)  Committee Chair Larry Harlan will give a presentation on the Comprehensive Plan.

9 & 12)  Donation acceptance.

10)  Try again on abolishing the City Marshal - probably a good idea - who's going to use the plate reader purchased for the Marshal?

11)  Third reading of the Animal Ordinance

13)  More changes - looks like they want to change the Subdivisions and Site Development Ordinance.  I guess we are unhappy with Lakeway and its rules - do we really want to change Lakeway to Austin?

15-16)  And of course, the infamous executive sessions.  One to talk about suing the previous City Attorney (my assumption) and the other to talk about the City Manager (I thought they did that?).

More once the packet is out.

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The Lakeway Community Blood Drive is scheduled for September 21st.  Put it on the calendar!

The Lakeway Wildlife Advisory Committee has been moved to September 26.  If the Council doesn't want to listen to the recommendations, why continue?

That's all for now - more as the packet is released or when the meeting is over.  Here's a link if you want to watch the council meeting live Monday night.

More as I find out!  I'm working on some info on Electric Power, Electric Cars and Windmills.  I'll try to get it out next week - need to look at the facts, and see if it's worth it!

If you want to be added to my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get you added.  Thanks again for all the support for Bella!  She's looking forward to showing off for the calendar!  

Joe Bain








Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 11, Weather, Women's Club, Council and More!

*****September 11, Special Meaning*****
This is an important day.  For those of you in my age group, I'm sure you remember the shock of seeing planes crash into the World Trade Centers in New York followed by the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.  343 Firefighters, 60 Police Officers, 8 EMT's and 2997 Civilians lost their lives the day we were attacked.  I'm not going to post pictures of the event, but I am posting a link to the Budweiser commercial that aired only once - it is a fitting tribute to the men and women that lost their lives.  Click here to see that tribute.  Take a moment to think about those that lost their lives that day and those that risked everything to help others.


*****Weather*****

Well, it almost rained here yesterday.  I expect some got a shower - it was all around us.  Maybe today!  Not quite as hot - high yesterday was only 96.8°!  Lake Travis is currently at 675.08, about 6 feet below full.  Here's a link to all the current lake levels.  

*****Women's Club of Greater Lakeway*****

They're Moving!  The Women’s Club of Greater Lakeway announces a venue change to Flintrock Falls Country Club for the 2019-20 year. The first meeting is Monday, September 23. Membership is open to residents of Lakeway, the Lakeway ETJ, and The Hills. For more information, go to https://www.lakewaywomensclub.com/


*****Council Special Meeting*****
Council met in Special Session for a Budget ++ meeting Monday.  Here is a link to the agenda/packetHere's a link to the video.  Set a record, it was only 2.5 hours.

3)  Julie Oakley presented the FY2020 Proposed Budget.  There was discussion about the $600K from the police bond - after a meeting with the bond attorney it was determined that the money could not be used on the M&O for the police facility but could be used for Public Safety projects.  Seems to me they could repay some of the bond, but I'm not sure what can be done.  They did decide they could use it for Fire mitigation along Hamilton Greenbelt.  

4)  Public Hearing on proposed tax rate.  Some discussion on what it would take to raise the rate to the rollback rate.  One citizen spoke and said they need to raise the rate as much as possible because more money was needed.

5)  Andra (Parks and Rec Director) was given permission to ask LCC for funding to update the Heritage Center, Pool Office and some exercise boards.

6)  Abolishing the City Marshal position was put off until later.

7)  Infamous Executive Session to talk about the Cherry Knoll lawsuits.  That is moving along, I have had some calls from the attorney to ask questions.

8)  Executive session about City Manager - after this session, Julie was appointed "Interim City Manager" and was given a 10% raise.  Congratulations!
Click for Larger
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Think about today, think about our wonderful city and the freedom we enjoy because of the sacrifices of others.  

Thanks for reading the blog - Lakeway is important to me!  Let's keep it GREAT.  If you would like to be added to my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get you added.

Joe Bain

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Still HOT, Bella's in the Calendar!, Council and MORE!

Well, it's still HOT🔥!  The rain that some got last week helped a little but we need some more!  Here's a link to my weather station if you want to see how hot it is....  No rain in the forecast until next Wednesday, the good news is the temperatures are trending down a little - mid ninety's, ugh - it is September, right?  Got my electric bill - it was definitely HOT.

Some good news!  Bella placed 2nd in the Calendar Contest - thanks soooooo much for everyone's help.  It's a GREAT thing for the local rescues, Addicus' Legacy Dog Rescue and 365 Pet Connection - they will be getting some much needed funding to help area animals.  There will also be calendars for sale a little later in the year and you will have a chance to enjoy the winners every month next year!  Big thank you to Kim Ortiz Portrait Art for putting this together!

Council meets in Special Session Monday.  Here is a link to the agenda / packet.  

4)  First on the list is the proposed budget.  I have been critical of the current thought process - happy they voted to make the "not exceed" tax rate the same as last year, $0.1645 per $100 - I still believe they need to drop it to the "effective tax rate" that would mean residents would not experience a hike on city tax - they will be pounded on all the other entities.  

Let's look at the press release:

  • Funds will help pay for additional city staff?  Do we really need that?
  • Increased health insurance costs - I'm sure I heard the new insurance costs proposed were much lower than expected because the company wants the city business.
  • Salary increases - ok, they probably need to give some folks a raise
  • Computer equipment and software?  For the whole city?
  • Operating costs for new Police Station?  They got a $600,000 return from the bond and contingency fund - it's restricted but can and will be used on the police facility.
  • Police equipment - I'll give them that.
  • Consulting fees - I guess that's the $150K to study internal and County roads.
  • Outsourced inspection costs.  The permit fees are supposed to pay for ALL the inspection costs - they just had a permit fee increase.  

Remember, they are getting almost $250,000 from new tax payers on the rolls and a significant sales tax increase too.

It would be interesting to see how much our legal expenses are - maybe someone will tell us....

I have no doubt they can cut enough to lower the rate to the effective rate - lets see if they will do it.  

5)  Funding is being requested from the Lakeway Civic Corporation to fund a redesign of the Heritage Center, redesign of the Swim Center and some Aquatic fitness Boards.

6)  Looks like they are doing away with the Marshal - probably a good idea.  It paid for itself when implemented but collections have dropped off in the last couple of years.

7)  And of course the infamous "Executive Session".  Looks like the appeal is heating up on the Cherry Knoll case.  

8)  Interesting - they will deliberate the appointment, employment and duties of the City Manager.  Ordinance says the City Manager has to have their residence in the City limits after a time.

The "Consent Agenda" is pretty standard.
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Work is continuing at the Lakeway Church - here's the latest picture.  Click on it for a larger view.

Lots going on at the Activity Center - here is a link to that information.

National Night Out is starting to ramp up.  It will be on October 1st this year - why not attend or put together a neighborhood get together to support your neighborhood.

The Canyon Grill had an issue and the manager has been charged for using a concealed recording device in a dressing room.  Unfortunate, but there are bad folks all around - many more that you would think I bet.

The Lakeway Municipal court is now referring young drivers with traffic citations to enroll in RED - Reality Education for Drivers.  Here's a link for more information.

Bee Cave continues to put out a police blotter with info on area happenings - Lakeway is putting out statistics.  I always thought it was good to let folks know what was going on.

That's all for right now - keep checking, sometimes I correct or update....

If you want to be added to my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get you added.  Think about a aerial photo of your house or property - $75 special still available.  Email me for an appointment!  joe@skypcit.com

Thanks again for all the help on the Pet Calendar, it was really fun and Bella is worn out from campaigning.  As always, emails are appreciated and please forward the blog to those that you think might be interested.

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us

Monday, September 2, 2019

Labor Day, Rain, Bella's Calendar Contest and More!

It's always nice to start out the week with a Holiday!  I hope everyone is having a GREAT day!  

Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor. "Labor Day" was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first parade in New York City. In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty states in the United States officially celebrated Labor Day.  So, enjoy it!

Another GREAT thing- Lakeway received about .69 inch of rain yesterday - it thundered and lightninged and poured down for a little while - the yards loved it!

If you haven't seen it yet, our little puppy Bella has entered a calendar contest to support a couple of pet rescues in the area.  If you're willing, Bella and I need your help.  If you are a Facebook user would you go to this link and give Bella a LIKE?
It's for a good cause and we would really appreciate it!  If the link goes to the Kim Ortiz page, just scroll down to the contest and click on it - then scroll to Bella's picture and LIKE it.  It's worth the trouble and supports a good cause - and gets Bella in the calendar!

Lots going on at the Library!  Here's a link to their calendar, check it out!

Don't forget the "Hazardous Household Waste" event this Wednesday.  Here's a link to more information.

I had an inquiry about when the next Drug Disposal event was coming.  It appears CVS has stepped up to help out with this issue.  Here's a link to more info.

Took some pictures for a Realtor out at Spicewood Airport (88R) last week.  It's a beautiful little airport nestled almost right up to Lake Travis.  If you need some pictures, please send me a note and I'll get together a price for you or The "Quick Shot" special is going on for 4 shots for $75.  joe@skypict.com Take a look at some of the pictures on my web site https://skypict.com - be sure to look at the "Recent Pictures" tab!

Thanks for looking!  If you want to be added to my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get it done!

That's all for now - see you in the neighborhood!

Joe Bain
lakeway@bain.us




Saturday, August 31, 2019

Summer Heat, Calendar Contest, Taxes and Much More!

Here we are - another week of Summer behind us.  The high this week was 101.5 and the low was 72.5.  No measurable rain, we had one measurable rain this month (.01 inch) the yard are starting to look really dry.  Here's a link to current conditions.  Looks like it's going to be hot and dry again next week - stay hydrated and be careful with our Texas heat!

Tomorrow, I'm going to ask a favor of my friends on Facebook. I have entered our bulldog Bella in a calendar contest with Ortiz Portrait Studios.  I will furnish a link and instructions - basically I would appreciate a "like" on Bella's picture.  More tomorrow.  I'm hoping to get her on the 2020 Pet Calendar, it is a fundraiser to support area animals - all proceeds are donated to local rescue groups.  More tomorrow!  Thanks in advance!

Expect normal trash service if your pickup day is Monday - these guys work hard don't they?  Get your cans out by 8:00 a.m. and barring unusual happenings it will be collected.


*****Taxes*****

You probably received the Lakeway Newsletter this week.  It was accurate, the council voted to retain the tax rate from last year.  That means if your house increased in value (almost all did) you will be paying more this year.  The average value continues to increase year over year.  Generally over the last 10 years, the council would accept the "Effective" tax rate to keep your tax bill the same.  The "Effective Rate" is about 15.8¢ per $100.  This is a small increase - but remember, it is cumulative.  That means next year it will be built in.  Remember, many of the other taxing entities will be going up to their rollback (8% increase) rate - Travis County for one.  It's better than the "Rollback" rate but they can do better!

One of the reasons given for maintaining the current rate was the cost of the Police Station and the increased operating expenses.  The Police Station was built under budget and on time - a great success.  About $600,000 was returned to the city, part from contingency funds and part from a bond refund.  This money is "restricted" because it was proceeds from the bond, but can be used on the Police Station.  I'm not a lawyer, but I'm told it can be used to maintain and can be utilized for facility expenses.  This was a real win for the community and unlike the City Hall, Court Facility and other city facilities, it will never need to be enlarged or expanded.  The bond rate was outstanding and Spaw Glass did a great job as was demonstrated by the recent audit.  
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Lot's going on at the Activity Center - here's a link to the latest information.  Viewpoints tickets are on sale, the Free Heritage Bus Tour is coming up Sept. 20th and the Community Blood Drive are a few of the events - check it out!

Lakeway Church's construction is continuing.  Here's a picture from Friday, August 30th that shows the parking lot and area to the left where the new sanctuary will be built.  I'm told the building area will start to be cleared next week.  If you're doing construction or know someone who is, aerial pictures can really help with keeping up with the project.  Email me and lets get a progressive shoot scheduled - it's not expensive!

The Lake Travis Regional Re-Use and Recycling Center will be open on Wednesday, September 4th from 9:00 a.m. until noon.  Here is a link to all the pertinent information!

I met with TxDOT and consultants Tuesday about the RR 620 improvement project.  They are meeting with landowners / stakeholders about the new Right of Way (ROW) requirements on the project.  Lots of data!  Here is a link of one of their schematics that shows new ROW and elevations.  You can zoom in to specific areas to see more.   Appraisals are expected to be available to landowners in January.  Start is still a couple of years off.  

I see a lot of complaints on social media about speeding and traffic interactions in Lakeway.  The problem is US.  We used to have a reputation (still do kind of) about tickets going 5 mph above the speed limit.   That is really not the case.  I don't have the current statistics but last I had was of all the traffic stops made, 70% were warnings.  The problem is, police don't check to see if you've had a previous warning - that needs to change.  A driver could get 3 warnings from different officers - what behavior does this contribute to?  I personally think it should be 30% warnings and 70% tickets, but then the other side would complain.  Make your choice and let the city know, but don't complain if you get a ticket. 

There will be an "ACEing Autism" event September 21st at 2 p.m.  Put it on your calendar and support this group.  Here is a link to their web page and I'll have more info closer to the event.  Thanks Tim for reminding me of this event!

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend - but be safe out there!  It's HOT and there will be a LOT of folks on the Lake - by the way, it's still at 676.27, just 4.73 ft. below full - significant for this time of year!

Stay hydrated and be careful.  If you want to be added to my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us and I'll get you added.  Thanks in advance for your support for Bella - I'll send a note out tomorrow as a reminder!

Joe Bain

Monday, August 26, 2019

BSW Newsletter, More Deer and a Resignation, Council and More!

Lakeway Baylor Scott & White has a new addition of "The Pulse".  It's a good reference on what's new at he hospital and the events you might have an interest in.  Here's a link to "The Pulse"!


*****The Deer*****

Unwillingly Feeding the Deer
Couple of items on the "deer issue".  The Council voted to do nothing once again about the "perceived" deer issue in Lakeway.  More studies - The proponents of  "Live with the deer like Austin" pontificated on the great results of Austin.  Interesting article came out last night in the Statesman - headlines "Nearly 100 deer hit by Austin drivers"Here's a link to the article.  Seems they aren't doing very well.  

Here's an article from a couple of days ago.  Seems even the ranches are having some issues.  Statesman Article by Mike Leggett.

It appears the city wants to study this until there's no way to fix the issue - not too far off that right now.  

*****Chairman Haley Resignation*****

This letter is stating my resignation as chairman and member of the Lakeway Wildlife Committee.  Having spent the past year researching and listening to experts in the field, I have come to the conclusion that the Lakeway herd must be limited for the good of the herd and the citizens of our town.  Therefore, I am no longer without opinion regarding what must be done.

At the last City Council meeting it was agreed, essentially, to continue on the present path of no limitations.  When the situation with the deer becomes unmanageable, which all experts agree it will, action will be too late.  I cannot continue because my mind has reached a conclusion.  You appear to require an unbiased committee, so I cannot contribute further.

I want to commend the members of the Wildlife Committee for their fair and diligent work this past year.  They were respectful and considerate of one another as they disagreed and discussed all aspects of the deer problem.  It has been an honor to work with each of them.


Dwight Haley

August 25, 2019
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So there it is.  Council Member Dwight Haley worked for a year+ with several Wildlife Biologists - came up with a plan that the committee approved and members of the council with no training or wildlife education decided to kick the can down the road.

It seems that council is determined to put the residents of Lakeway through another "deer" situation that will see overpopulation (more than now) and disease and herd degradation.  Unfortunately history will most likely repeat itself with a much costlier outcome.


*****Budget Meeting / Special Council*****


3)  Special Use Permit (SUP) was granted to LTISD for their request for portable buildings.  This was previously approve but was "re-done" because of a notification issue.  Tabled last week at the regular meeting.  Passed 5-2, Vance, Howell dissenting.

4)  Significant discussion about how tax rate is not really being raised.  Mr. Kumar mentioned my comments - and his disagreement with my statements.  That's ok, we can agree to disagree.  They set the maximum tax rate at the current tax rate - $0.1645 per $100 evaluation.  There was discussion at the previous budget discussion to set this rate at either the rollback rate or slightly above that rate in case the county information was raised.  That means this was a win - they are now at the same rate as last year.   The rollback rate is $0.1684 and the effective rate is $0.15825.  This is an increase because of the increase in appraisals, but they are still working on it.  Le't see what they can do!

5)  Significant discussion on the Animal Ordinance.  A significant part of this issue is "Officer Discretion".  Council Member Kumar has actually read the ordinance and had great discussion points.  I am on his side - don't include things in an ordinance that you can't enforce and items should not be so broad there are questions.  Thank you!  Many items brought up - again - and will now have a 3rd reading. 

6)  Moves CBC administrative language from Part 24 and puts it in Part 2.  Motion passed 7-0.

7)  Much discussion again.  State of Texas removed all ability for the city to regulate building materials and construction standards that are allowed by the National Building Codes.  Significant changes once again.  Decided to pass the code with changes recited - unanimous.

9)  No one still there to speak at Citizens Participation.  5:00 p.m.

Consent Agenda passed unanimously - staffing another committee.

5:00 p.m. Council went into infamous executive session to talk about lawsuits.

I have to assume the council meeting was adjourned around 5:30 - the video went off.
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That's all for today - more as I find out.  If you would like to be added to my email list, send a note to lakeway@bain.us.   Don't forget to email for aerial photos of your property!  joe@skypict.com

Joe Bain