Kerr commissioners continue bait and switch on animal shelter

The Kerr County Commissioners Court doesn’t seem interested in building the voter-approved animal shelter, and they continue to push back against their promises.

The Kerr County Commissioners’ Court’s continued bait and switch to voters over a new animal shelter took another turn on Monday when the commissioners made it clear they want nothing to do with animal adoptions. 

In discussions Monday, court members continued to shift about the best way to handle something they promised voters but don’t seem to want to deliver — animal adoptions. While Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz tried to explain some scenarios that involved Kerrville Pets Alive’s role in the new $5.7 million animal shelter, he ran into pushback from Pct. 1 Commissioner Harley Belew, who reiterated his point that the county wasn’t going to do adoptions. 

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Before we get into the agonizing discussion, here’s a reminder about what the county wagged out in front of voters last November: 

  • It featured dog and cat adoption areas. 
  • It featured three future office spaces. 
  • It featured a conference and education areas. 

Letz was trying to explain scenarios where Kerrville Pets Alive would have its own facility on the county’s Spur 100 property or inside the new shelter. Once again, Belew rode in to confuse the subject by arguing that the county-owned building shouldn’t be accessible to the KPA! volunteers. 

“My concern goes back to access,” Belew said. 

“I would recommend that you talk (Animal Control Director Reagan Givens) about how we currently operate,” Letz said. “We are going to have to increase the staff if we don’t use volunteers to help with the adoptions.” 

“Well, the county is not an adoption agency,” Belew said. “We are tasked with rounding up nuisance animals.”

Letz explained that KPA is already working in the animal shelter and that KPA’s mission was to support animal services, but that didn’t register with Belew. Letz’s main point was KPA’s volunteers, whether inside the voter-approved facility or outside of it, would save the county money leading to this quip by Pct. 2 Commissioner Rich Paces: 

“I’m for anything that saves the taxpayers money,” Paces said. “If we don’t have to spend the $5.75 million, I’m all for it.” 

But wait, there’s more . . .

The circular nature of the animal shelter conversation continued into their next topic — the interlocal agreement with the city of Kerrville regarding the shelter and Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library.

As of March 13, the city and county have parted ways in their loose alliance to provide animal control to Kerrville and for the city to provide library access to all county residents. 

The commissioners initiated departing from the agreement last year over the presence of LGBTQ+ books in the library — part of a planned nationwide protest against the American Library Association’s selection of banned books. Except for Judge Rob Kelly, commissioners Letz, Belew and Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Harris said they would strip Kerrville’s animal control access over the library controversy, but that was a hollow threat. 

The interlocal agreement between the city and county is loose in its terms, with the county having almost no expectations for expanded service from the city. When City Council candidate Babara Dewell Ferguson came up to get clarification about the agreement — in terms of punishing the city for the books — it became a suddenly vague discussion. 

“We aren’t going to do anything additional,” Letz said. 

But the additional details in the interlocal agreement are vague. The crux of the contract features these expectations: 

  • The county shall provide all animal control services as required by law, including investigating citizen complaints; conducting periodic but daily patrols, 24 hours per day but excluding county holidays, to proactively enforce appropriate state animal-related laws.
  • The county shall operate and maintain its existing animal control facility located at 3600 Loop 534 (“Facility”) in accordance with applicable laws and to provide the services required in this Agreement. The facility shall remain open to the public 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with closure for county holidays and other regularly scheduled times as designated by the county’s Director of Animal Services. 
  • The county shall accept stray dogs and cats at the facility from the public and city employees for holding. 
  • The county shall manage the reclamation of animals by owners and the adoption of unclaimed animals by the public. 
  • The county shall serve as the Local Rabies Control Authority for the city, pursuant to Section 826.017, Texas Health and Safety Code.

And that’s the city’s expectation from the county, much of it covered by state law.

But the end of the interlocal agreement provided fodder for Harris to attack City Council candidates Layng Guerriero and Jeff Harris for their positions on the library. In an unusual bit of politicking from the dais, Don Harris’ attack was followed by Paces saying good luck to Dewell-Ferguson, who is running against Jeff Harris for Place 2 on the City Council. 

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