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HENNEKE: "They are just jamming stuff everywhere they can"

Former Kerr County Judge says the need for more space is critical for county staff

If one person intimately knows the spatial woes of Kerr County's administrative offices, it's former Judge Fred Henneke.

As the county preps for placing general obligation bonds on November 2022 ballot, Henneke and others on a capital facilities committee are speaking out about the issues they see with county buildings.

"There's just no space,'' Henneke said during an episode of The Lead Live on Oct. 6. "They are just jamming stuff everywhere they can. The county is beyond patching."

While it's been nearly 20 years since Henneke was Kerr County Judge, the problems he was starting to see then are really problematic now. A potent mix of unfunded mandates from the state and a lack of storage are two contributing problems to the county's spatial crunch, but others are emerging.

"I was not aware of the critical situation of the animal control shelter," said Henneke while praising the work of KCAS Director Reagan Givens. "The way the judge described it, it's inhumane. He's right. So we have to fix that."

Henneke joined a committee of Chris Hughes, Bobby Templeton, Brenda Hughes and Pete Calderon to examine the county's needs. It started two years, and the work has only intensified.

Henneke was appointed by former Precinct 2 Commissioner Tom Moser, emphasizing information technology and courthouse security.

"We have an IT department that is jammed into two closets," Henneke said. "It's beyond patching."

The committee is now rolling out an aggressive messaging strategy in the run-up to the election next year. The county has already moved to purchase land in Ingram and Kerrville to site facilities. The county's land purchases were through a low-interest-rate loan that is paid back through the general obligation bond.

"I say you need to have service from your county employees," Henneke said. "The state mandates it to provide certain services. We have to provide those facilities because it's mandated by the state."

The courthouse is plagued with multiple entrances created through the years, which has led to security issues. The busiest part of the court is the tax office.

"We are trying to improve the security of all of the buildings," Henneke said. "There's no way to control the traffic flow. I've talked to experts, I've talked with Sheriff (Rusty Hierholzer) and Sheriff (Larry Leitha) and they agree that until we control the flow of people the security in that courthouse is never going to follow what it should be."

Henneke described the bond strategy as fiscally smart. The short-term debt was good, at least in Henneke's opinion, but the voters need to decide the bigger issues.

As an example, Henneke refers back to the animal control facility that is in desperate need of replacement.

"Do you want something that works?" Henneke asked in regards to KCAS. "Do you want something where we have facilities for the animals where they are treated humanely and where they can get out and exercise? Or do you want something where there just jammed in and suffering? That requires a new facility."

The courthouse has presented plenty of problems, especially since 2019 when the state moved juries from six people to 12 in rural parts of Texas. That created a space crunch in the courthouse, initially constructed in 1926 and had things bolted onto it through the years. The unfunded mandate on the juries is forcing the county to move the tax office.

Part of the land purchase was to relocate the tax office to an old church on Earl Garrett Street. That church building presents the county with a drive-through option to pay tax bills.

"To anyone who doesn't understand the necessity, do you really want to stand in line for an hour and a half to pay your taxes or would you rather get in line and 15-minutes later drive-through?" Henneke said.


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