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The Lead April 13, 2022: The great radio debate for Kerr County; Kerrville City Council meeting is quick, somewhat testy

Kerr County and other agencies are studying what would be the best fit for public safety communications, a consultant suggests they already own the VHF infrastructure to do it right.

Good morning, Kerr County!

We're still facing significant fire danger, and on Tuesday, we saw temperatures creep toward 100 degrees. Not a good start to April, and things will continue to be warm in the days to come, including the mid to high 90s on Saturday and Sunday. The National Weather Service is expecting red-flag warning conditions today: "Very low relative humidity and gusty northwest winds are forecast Wednesday behind a cold front from the Rio Grande to near the I-35 corridor. These weather conditions, combined with dry and drought-stressed fuels, could result in fires that are difficult to control."

On today's The Lead Live!

It's Wonderful Wednesday, and that means it's our weekly chat with Rachel Fitch, owner of Fitch Estate Sales. Where the conversation goes? Who knows. However, we will add Leslie Jones from the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau today to make things even more fun. Join us at 9 a.m.

Come join us April 18 for a special episode of The Lead Live!

We are opening The Lead Live up to anyone who has a story to share, a product to pitch, a song to sing, a campaign to mount, an opinion to give, an event to celebrate, and a business to promote. It's THE SUPER SHOW. We start the show at 8 a.m. and will go until about 2 p.m — or longer. The rules are you get 10 minutes to chat with us and you have to RSVP here:

Today's featured event at Arcadia Live


8 p.m., SATURDAY, APRIL 16

"Well, we're very much just a band who's influenced by the 60s and early 70s and you know, we write original music," Thornton said

On April 16, Thornton and his band, The Boxmasters — a collaboration with his longtime friend J.D. Andrew — will play Arcadia Live! This is a makeup show from 2021, when COVID-19 finally caught up with the band. And like a lot of musicians, The Boxmasters didn't sit around — they went to work.

"Well, we made three albums," Thornton said on a special Thursday afternoon episode of The Lead Live. "That's what we did. Um, we were out there. We had 43 shows and we got through 21 of them before the shutdown. I was actually right before we came to Texas when we got shut down. We just went to the studio and we made records."

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Plan your day

  • Live music by Rooster Martinez — Trailhead Beer Garden at Schreiner University, 7 p.m. Information: The details: Rooster Martinez is a poet and writer from Austin, Texas. He has a Master's Degree in creative writing, literature, and social justice from our Lady of the Lake University. He has written for several magazines and conveys his personal experiences through spoken word poetry and writing.
  • Friends of the Library Book Sale — Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, 1-3 p.m. Information: The details: Looking for a great read? Or better yet, come down and support the work of Friends of the Library. Maybe find a banned book? That sounds like a fun day to us.
  • KACC Exhibits — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: Three exhibits are running at KACC through April 16. The Hill Country Youth Art Exhibit; Kerrville 1940-1960, a photographic history of the community sponsored by the Kerr County Historical Commission; Passion Project: Our contributions to the world, a collection of work from Schreiner University, senior art students.
  • Heaven's Declare Art Exhibition — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. Information: The details: Featuring works by renowned artists who celebrate the heavens. The exhibition will feature works by Phil Bob Borman, G. Russell Case, Tim Newton, Laurel Daniel, Linda Glover Gooch, David Griffin, David Grossman, Michael Magrin, Denise LaRue Mahlke, Phil Starke and John Taft.
  • The Fiber Show and Sale — Hill Country Arts Foundation, Ingram, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Information: The details: An exhibit of fiber art by artists from across Texas.

If you need more to do visit here:

Blackburn, Baroody trade barbs

As he nears the end of his tenure as mayor, Bill Blackburn has withstood persistent criticism over the city's election, spending and proposed public safety building.

In his penultimate meeting as mayor, Blackburn pointedly responded to criticism that the city had lied about tax increases for the proposed public safety building on Tuesday night.

The target of Blackburn's ire was persistent gadfly and former City Councilman George Baroody, who suggested the city was not telling the truth about the tax bill for the proposed $45 million public safety building.

"Speaking of that, Mr. Baroody, I have a question for you," asked Blackburn, taking the unusual move to respond to a public forum speaker. "Several council meetings ago, you sent the message that you had a message from the Secretary of State saying we should change the date of our election from May until November, as it turned out that was not true."

Baroody returned to the microphone to offer this retort: "I did not actually tell you that I had something from the Secretary of State that said the election should be moved. Go back and read my email and the statements I made and find out what I said."

Baroody has argued that the city violates its charter by holding its election in May rather than November. Kerrville City Council candidate Robin Monroe is attempting to test that claim in court, but the city has the backing of the Secretary of State.

Baroody started his comments by arguing that the city was playing a game with its taxes, especially with its projections on financing the public safety building. Without evidence, Baroody suggested that significant budget cuts would be needed to pay for the building.

Was there anything else from the City Council?

In a meeting that lasted just 49 minutes — a stunning feat for recent Council meetings — the Council approved a small annexation, two short-term rentals and some ordinances. The Council did appoint Tabor MacMillan, a vice president at Guadalupe Bank, to the planning and zoning commission.

And then there was this

There have been repeated suggestions in the open session that the City Council's closed executive sessions are contentious because of questions of handling of documents and electronic devices. However, on Tuesday, Place 2 City Councilwoman Kim Clarkson made it clear that the City Council must address those issues during a future meeting.

"I think that we need to discuss the procedures for executive sessions and handling of materials and devices, and all related matters," Clarkson, who drew support from fellow Councilwomen Judy Ecyhner and Brenda Hughes. With a second from Eychner, the motion to visit the policies and procedures carried 4-1 — with Councilman Roman Garcia voting against the motion.

Kerrville nursing home suffered COVID-19 death on March 15

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, nursing homes have been hit hard by COVID-19, and on March 15, a Kerr County patient died at Alpine Terrace Nursing Home.

There is at least a two-week delay in the accounting of nursing home deaths, tracked by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. There have been 25 COVID-19 related deaths in Kerrville nursing homes since 2020.

Whether the resident is originally from Kerr County is unclear.

So, what's going on with COVID-19

Thankfully, the latest variant is leaving Texas alone, and we're seeing some of the lowest positivity rates during the pandemic. There's a gigantic but there — we're also probably testing less.

In Kerr County, there were 10 cases reported from April 1 through Tuesday. Peterson Regional Medical Center hit a milestone — albeit short-lived — on March 18 when it said no COVID-19 hospitalizations for a week. It was the first time in more than 80 weeks that the hospital could report that number. The hospitalization data comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Of course, that doesn't mean Kerr County is out of the woods for COVID-19. Over the last two weeks, patients have returned to Peterson with COVID-19 and influenza.

The radio situation comes into focus for Kerr County

The Kerr County Commissioner's Court has an expensive decision to buy a new radio system for the sheriff's office and the volunteer fire departments. Just how expensive isn't clear, but Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly estimates it could be as much as $7 million.

On April 18, the commissioners and Sheriff Larry Leitha will attend a workshop where the Lower Guadalupe River Authority and Motorola will outline proposals. No matter the price tag, Kelly is determined to pay for the new radios with funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act — an action that could consume 50% or more of the $10 million given to the county.

On Monday, the commissioners heard a report from the Alamo Council of Government about the importance of the unified radio system — one that would easily connect the county to its neighbors and larger agencies.

Jeffrey Wendling, a Kerrville resident who is the Regional Interoperable Communications Coordinator for ACOG, briefed the court on the benefits of moving toward a unified system.

"That equipment is long past its shelf life," Wendling said of the sheriff's office's current radio equipment.

The city of Kerrville is considering implementing a 700 megahertz system — similar to what the county is considering — that would give it greater operability versus the city's current outdated system. However, since Kerrville Fire Department handles emergency medical response in the county, it's vital everyone is on the same system.

Wendling, however, argued that the county would be better off with a VHF system — which the county currently utilizes. Wendling said the county had reached 95% of its coverage area, but a new system would provide more expansion and flexibility.

Wendling said he spoke with Kerrville Fire Department Chief Eric Maloney and Kerrville Police Department Chief Chris McCall about maintaining the VHF program. He said he worked to assuage their fears about the signal penetrating some of Kerrville's larger buildings. Previously, Maloney said his department's radios have difficulty connecting inside Peterson Regional Medical Center or big box stores.

Wendling said technological improvements allow VHF to reach inside large buildings and are low-cost solutions. The VHF system reaches the county's hilly terrain, and Wendling argued that a 700 MHZ system is better suited for a flat area.

"Staying with VHF, as a professional communications person, that all of us in our committee as part of ACOG, we've talked about your county, and what in the best case scenario what to do, and that is a VHF," Wendling said.

Fireworks and fire danger and common sense

The lengthy and meandering Kerr County Commissioner's Court meetings often take days to digest, but this nugget was interesting.

Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator Dub Thomas urged the court to follow Kerrville's lead and tamp down open fires at parks, including barbecues, at county-owned parks. After days and days of red-flag warnings, Kerr County is entering into a potentially perilous fire season — one already marked by two significant fires last month.

However, the commissioner's court is never one to allow facts to get in the way of reason and didn't take action. Judge Rob Kelly worried that it was infringing on people's liberty by removing their ability to burn stuff recreationally.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Harley Belew was dismissive of the fire danger — even when Thomas said propane barbecues would be OK but didn't want to see anything that would allow a spark to get loose.

"We've had it this bad and worse," Belew said of the fire danger. "I trust the people in Kerr County — most of them. I think people have had their belly full of you can't do this."

Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Harris, who frequently expresses concern about drought, said he hoped the conversation would spark some awareness.

"I think this will bring awareness to it and our media people will cover it," Harris said.

In the end, the court took no action.

Sante Clinical Research finds a home in Kerrville

When Danielle Monclava launched her business seven years ago, she didn't know what to expect from Kerrville.

Monclava was striking out on her own, venturing into a field focused on larger metropolitan areas, but in seven years, she's found her place conducting clinical drug trials right here in Kerrville for some of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.

Watch Tuesday's interview with Sante Clinical Research's Danielle Monclava

Move to about the 10-minute mark in the video

"It's been it's just been great because Kerrville has been so receptive for clinical trials," Monclava said. "Everybody is willing and really wanting to opt in for this, you know, particular type of medical treatment for them as well too."

What Monclava's company studies are drugs in phases 3 and 4 of clinical trials — meaning they are in the final stages of approval by the Food and Drug Administration. In the case of phase 4 trials, the drug has gained FDA approval, but the pharmaceutical companies continue to study the effects.

"We're working in all different types of fields," Monclava said. "We have a lot of trials currently going on in the respiratory area where we're working asthma, COPD, chronic cough, things of that nature. We're also working in dermatology, looking at eczema atopic dermatitis. We're also working in endocrinology. We work with diabetics. We work with patients that have high triglycerides. We're currently finishing up some GI trials for gastroparesis and cyclical vomiting."

Monclava has a team of five employees, and she also works closely with two physicians and three nurse practitioners who help investigate the drugs. One of her key collaborators is Araceli Morales, a Kerrville native and certified clinical research coordinator.

Morales has worked for Sante for four years and continually learns on the job.

"If anyone's definitely interested in research, it's fast-paced and you are constantly learning," Morales said.

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