We've made it! It's Friday. Some big things are happening this weekend, but the weather may have a hand in it. Happy first day of October.
- It looks like those outdoor activities for today and Saturday will be on hold as strong series of storms moves into the Hill Country. The National Weather Service says we can expect up to a half-inch of rain today and another quarter-inch of rain tonight. The storm sticks around through Saturday with a 60% chance of rain.
- Speaking of rain, the National Weather Service reported Tuesday night-Wednesday morning's storm dropped 1-inch of rain in about six hours. In the words of Kerr County Pct. 4 Commissioner Don Harris, we really needed that rain.
- Thursday was one of the rare days in the last 20 months that Peterson Health didn't update its COVID-19 numbers. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services noted there were still 270 active cases in Kerr County. The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report on Thursday that found rural areas are being hit hard by COVID-19 deaths. From the report: "Since the pandemic began, about 1 in 434 rural Americans have died of covid, compared with roughly 1 in 513 urban Americans, the institute's data shows. And though vaccines have reduced overall covid death rates since the winter peak, rural mortality rates are now more than double urban rates — and accelerating quickly." The study quoted a northeastern Texas hospital as an example of the struggle facing rural areas, prone to low vaccination rates: In rural northeastern Texas, Titus Regional Medical Center CEO Terry Scoggin is grappling with a 39% vaccination rate in his community. Eleven patients died of covid in the first half of September at his hospital in Mount Pleasant, population 16,000. Typically, three or four non-hospice patients die there in a whole month. "We don't see death like that," Scoggin said. "You usually don't see your friends and neighbors die."
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked the legislature, now in its third special session, to harden penalties for "illegal voting." "The state of Texas has made tremendous progress in upholding the integrity of our elections," Abbott said. "By increasing penalties for illegal voting, we will send an even clearer message that voter fraud will not be tolerated in Texas."
- A Boerne man pleaded guilty to a charge of rioting in connection with protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Ivan Harrison Hunter is allegedly a member of the Boogaloo Bois', a far-right extremist group. Hunter said he fired 13 rounds from an AK-47-type rifle into a Minneapolis police station during the unrest following Floyd's death.
- A U.S. District Court will hear arguments from the Department of Justice today about Texas' abortion law. On Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito defending the Court's decision to not stop the law from going into effect.
JUDGE KELLY MAKES HIS DEBUT ON THE LEAD LIVE
Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly is determined to leave the county in good shape when he leaves office — by his estimation in 2026. That's right, Kelly will seek one more term as the judge, but he's staking his political weight to as many as three general obligation bonds to voters in November of 2022.
The bonds would pay for a slew of building projects to give the county 30 years of breathing room. On Thursday, Kelly talked about the efforts of a capital improvement committee to identify the county's problem areas, along with some of the growth challenges facing the county.
When it comes to buildings, the truth is that Kerr County is out of space, has some really crappy facilities (think icky West Kerr Annex) and has a host of other problems involving information technology.
However, the county's problems with facilities are longstanding, and former county Judge Tom Pollard, Kelly's predecessor, was working on it before he left office.
"They had retained (architect Peter Lewis) to do a remodel of the courthouse," Kelly said. "I really call it musical chairs of just shuffling people around because there's limited space there. We have people that fit in an office that is a closet. That's fact."
The courthouse remodel was necessitated by a 2019 mandate by the state to enlarge rural juries from six members to 12. Kerr County remodeled a courtroom before that mandate came down, but now it's too small. And, by the way, the mandate was unfunded.
So, the county faced a real spatial crunch.
"So, we have to reconfigure, remodel, do something with that courtroom that we just paid a lot of money to remodel," Kelly said. "So, the only choice we really had was to expand that jury room and the only place we can expand is into the tax office."
Yes, that's right — the tax office.
As Kelly explained, this was now a mission to acquire land around the county to shore up the facilities. The top of the list was relocating the tax office to an old church at Earl Garrett and North streets. It will have a drive-thru, and it seems appropriate that the tax office is now in a church.
Other needs include replacing the Kerr County Animal Services building and Ingram's West Kerr Annex. The county used a short-term loan to raise about $3 million to purchase 16 acres off Spur 100, near the county's maintenance yard, the Kerrville National Cemetery and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center, property around Earl Garrett Street and the new site for the annex. There are other projects the county is studying.
Kelly said the debt's interest rate is less than 1%, with repayment expected in seven years. Kelly described the land deals as wins for the county because some deals were below market value. If the land was above the market rate, the county could never make the deals under state law.
"We were frugal buyers," said Kelly, who was accompanied on the show by commercial real estate broker Bruce Stracke.
WAIT, THERE'S MORE
The wide-ranging conversation also veered into other topics about Kerr County's growth. Some of our takeaways from the conversation were:
Kelly is concerned about the state of water in the county, especially as more and more developments inch their way into areas like Center Point. Kelly was doubtful that the controversial Center Point Village project, which would add more than 100 homes and 100 recreational vehicle lots, would meet the water service requirements. In Texas, developers have great latitude on meeting conditions, but they must meet subdivision guidelines and rules for serving water and handling wastewater. "Water regulates how much we can grow," Kelly said. "At this point, water availability is the name of the game."
Kelly said Center Point Village also asks for variances to the county's subdivision plan, but granting a variance is complicated under state law. "We have strict criteria for granting variances, none of which has been met with regards to Center Point Village," Kelly said. "We haven't even had an opportunity to a hearing of hearing evidence to satisfy the requirements."
In the last two weeks, we've chatted with Kerrville real estate developer Justin MacDonald and 53rd District Rep. Andrew Murr about development issues in the county, and both suggested Center Point may have to consider incorporation as a city to manage growth. Kelly echoed those sentiments. "As the Center Point area grows, people there are going to demand that public services be provided," Kelly said. "The most practical thing would probably be to go ahead and incorporate."
WATCH THE VIDEO HERE: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=155178233477959