The COVID-19 situation at Kerrville Independent School District continued to escalate as parents shared school emails of positive cases with The Lead.
One parent, who has been compiling the district's COVID-19 notifications, said there were 65 new cases through Wednesday. KISD reported 67 cases last week.
In emails obtained by The Lead, at least 47 students and staff had tested positive at Starkey, Nimitz and Tally elementary schools, Hal Peterson Middle School and Tivy High School.
Another parent, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution, said a parents group is forming to call on the district to take action to prevent the spread. At least six parents have reached out to The Lead to share emails.
Previously, KISD's administration and board of trustees said it would adhere to Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates.
However, the courts have handed victories to Texas school districts that have defied Abbott's executive order.
IF YOU BELIEVE IT, IT'S ALL MAYOR BLACKBURN'S FAULT
To hear the speakers at the Kerrville City Council spin it, Mayor Bill Blackburn is single-handily responsible for killing the proposed public safety complex by diverting funds to a sports complex, Arcadia Live and the Guadalupe River Trail.
And then there's the Sidney Baker Bridge project.
"Many have expressed frustration with the Sidney Baker Bridge project," said Bethany Puccio, the lead organizer for Let Us Vote, a grassroots group that gathered 1,072 signatures to stop the City Council from issuing certificates of obligation to pay for public safety complex.
"For reasons that are unclear, Mayor Blackburn chose to lead the city to reprioritize public safety below elective projects," Puccio told the City Council on Tuesday night.
It has been part of an all-out assault on Blackburn and exposes an underlying problem with his accusers — they don't understand the mayor's job. They also don't seem to understand the city's funding priorities.
"People think I have authority that I don't have," Blackburn told The Lead.
In a home rule government, the mayor is not the city's administrator — that rests with the city manager, as set by the city's charter. The mayor's position is to work with the City Council to develop policy, facilitate public meetings and be the representative face of the city. The mayor is the administrator in large cities, like San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston.
Blackburn has had to remind people that his powers are limited, and predecessors led the projects he's credited with building — like the sports complex. Blackburn was granted extraordinary emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic, making him the sole authority on deciding public activities.
The bridge project was an example of the blame the mayor earned. In reality, the Texas Department of Transportation initiated discussions about making the Texas 16 bridge over the Guadalupe River more pedestrian-friendly. TxDOT has significant oversight involving funding Kerrville's roadways because so many of them are a criss-cross of state highways.
"It's one more sad example of irresponsible accusations not based in fact," Blackburn said.
When it comes to the public safety complex, past City Councils have wrestled with the idea of how to make it feasible. Feasibility studies were drawn up in 2018 at the cost of $100,000 but languished as the city placed more priorities on roads and drainage issues.
In Kerrville's long history, the police department has never really had a purpose-built headquarters. The department was either housed in the former City Hall, now Pioneer Bank on Main Street, or the current Sidney Baker Highway location — once a Greyhound Bus station.
Many speakers questioned why the city didn't use its 30-acres along Loop 534 to build the complex. Police officers The Lead spoke to this week suggested that it's a terrible location because it's not centralized in the city's core. And that's where things get tricky — where do you find a space big enough that's going to house three city departments, vehicles, equipment and expandable? And, by the way, how do you build it in the time of the coronavirus?
And one of the things missing from Tuesday's conversation was an austere budget hammered into the city by former City Manager Mark McDaniel in response to the pandemic.
SPEAKING OF PANDEMIC
Have you wondered why the car lots at Stoepel Ford, Cecil Atkission GM-Chevrolet and Crenwelge Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep look so thin? It's a pretty simple answer. Thousands of new cars are stuck in production, awaiting microchips.
That one component, partially due to supply chain shortages due to the pandemic, has pretty much stopped the dealers in their tracks. One study released this week that it's going to get worse before it gets better. Not exactly the kind of news the dealers want to hear.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Trey Atkission, who oversees a half-empty lot.
The story goes that car manufacturers saw the pandemic and thought no one would buy a car or truck. So, they postponed their orders of some key parts, including microchips. In turn, other companies swooped in and ordered microchips to operate a variety of electronic devices. Of course, many of these of microchips are manufactured in China.
That has resulted in a supply-chain crunch that is clearly demonstrated on car lots in Kerrville.