The Lead April 20, 2022: Kerrville parks get a master plan; public safety building draws opposition

The future of Kerrville's parks is defined, it's expensive but the role they play in our community is vital.

Good morning, Kerr County!

Tuesday evening's light rain — more like mist — was a welcome relief from our recent weather patterns. The best part is that it didn't involve destructive hail or winds. We can expect clearing skies and a high of around 84 degrees today. The next chance of rain comes Thursday with a 20% chance of thunderstorms.

On today's the Lead Live!

We will break down all of the news from Tuesday, and we'll talk about startup businesses with Vecino's Food Truck owners Gerardo and Michelle Martinez. We're confident this conversation will make us hungry because the Martinezs make some of the best Mexican food in town. Speaking of startup businesses, Kerrville attorney Greg A. Richards' webcast "The Bald Truth" is at 6 p.m. tonight on The Lead. Richards specializes in helping businesses get started.

Today's featured event

TexS Talks — Schreiner University, 7:30 p.m. Free event. The details: Inspired by the TEDx speeches given worldwide, tonight's event at the Ferguson-Dietert Chapel in the Junkin Campus Ministry Center will focus on Texas' role in the space program. The speakers for the event are:

  • Gerald (Gerry) Griffin, former Director of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and Flight Director for the Apollo manned mission.
  • Col. Michael Fossum, former Commander of the International Space Station.
  • Jeff Stone, former Space Shuttle in-flight maintenance (IFM) engineer.
  • Dr. Kim Arvidsson,professor of physics and astronomy at Schreiner University

On your calendar

  • Collegiate golf — Riverhill Country Club, TBD Information: The details: The Western Athletic Conference Women's Golf Championships come to Kerrville with California Baptist, Chicago State, Dixie State (St. George, Utah), Grand Canyon, Lamar, New Mexico State, San Houston, Seattle, Stephen F. Austin, Tarelton, UT Rio Grande Valley and Utah Valley competing in the three-day tournament.
  • 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.
  • Live music by Bernie Wilson — Gravity Check Saloon and Arena, 6:30 p.m. Information: The details: Inviting all songwriters and live music lovers! Hosted by hit songwriter Bernie Nelson, the singer-songwriter series will feature four rounds of singer/songwriter performances. During each round, three different writers will perform three songs each. Bernie Nelson will kick things off with an acoustic set at 6:30 p.m., followed by singer-songwriter rounds at 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., and 9 p.m.

Today's newsletter is sponsored by

We've had a busy few days photographically

Kerrville Police Department Special Operations Unit conducting a demonstration on April 19, 2022.

Check out some of our recent photo galleries:

Kerrville Citizen's Police Academy's Special Operations Unit Training:–sou-training

Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce Mixer at Museum of Western Art:

Western Athletic Conference Women's Golf Tournament:

Billy Bob Thornton and The Boxmasters at Arcadia Live:

Easterfest at Flat Rock Park in Kerrville:

A night on patrol with the Kerrville Police Department:

Recreation plans gets a review

Kerrville Parks and Recreation Director Ashlea Boyle discusses the specifics of the parks master plan to the Kerrville City Council on April 19, 2022.

Kerrville is unlike most cities in its size when it comes to parks and recreation, with 4 square miles of parkland to manage. That's a quality of life perk for Kerrville residents, but it also means maintaining those parks.

If the city wanted to keep up, it needed a new master plan, especially when obtaining grants from the state. On Tuesday, Ashlea Boyle, the city's parks and recreation director, told a joint meeting of the Kerrville City Council and the parks and recreation board that capital improvement projects could cost $20 million to $30 million.

It's not a surprising amount considering that Kerrville possesses about 40 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents — nearly four times the national average. For example, the city spent more than $500,000 to rebuild its walkway from the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library to the Guadalupe River Trail and to connect Tranquility Island to power. Now, the city wasn't on the hook for all of that expense — some private donations helped the electrical issue — but it shows that recreation can be pricey.

What made Boyle's presentation fascinating was determining the priorities for capital improvement projects, with the 100-acre Singing Wind Park coming at the top of the list and the Olympic Pool right behind. The more than 500 acres of Kerrville-Schreiner Park were third, with the 64-acre Louise Hays Park fourth.

Mayor Bill Blackburn and the rest of the City Council had plenty of questions for Ashlea Boyle about her master plan for parks and recreation.

Determining the cost of a comparable Olympic-sized pool — say one that's a competition length of 50 meters and eight lanes — is challenging. Two examples: Fort Worth is considering redoing an Olympic Pool with a price tag of $11 million, while the California State University at Fullerton is building an $8 million pool.

So, sticker shock might be real, but when parks and recreation compiled its surveys — the pool was the No. 2 priority. Those surveyed said they wanted to see the pool become a year-round operation, suitable for use for potentially future aquatics programs at Tivy High School and Schreiner University. All of that, however, are big what-ifs. Neither institution currently has competitive aquatics.

The revamp of Singing Wind probably requires some of the heaviest liftings with the repurposing of softball fields into a dog park, more parking, a new entrance, new lights and development of the park for mountain biking. Those are just some of the big items.

At Kerrville-Schreiner Park, which saw significant camping reservations during the COVID-19 pandemic, major renovations for electrical, water and bathrooms are required. The park has 12 miles of mountain biking trails, some limited hunting opportunities and other amenities.

Louise Hays Park, arguably one of the hubs of Kerrville, is not only a huge draw for residents but also for tourists. The park's versatility serves the city's large-scale events — Fourth on the River and the Kerrville Triathlon Festival. However, keeping up with that could be expensive. The river's role in the park is also a complicating factor. The city may have to invest in upgrading the dam.

Those are just some big items; there are plenty more in the city's 41-page master plan. However, as Boyle said, the city needs the document before continuing to assess required investments. Those also include the Sports Complex and an array of other parks and recreational spots — that will all have to be funded somehow.

Opposition to Prop. A

In a move that should surprise no one, the backers of a petition drive to stop the Kerrville City Council's use of certificates of obligation to begin the process of paying for the public safety building have expressed opposition to Proposition A — a $45 million bond measure to house the police department, fire administration, municipal court and information technology department.

Bethany Puccio, who led "Let Us Vote," now represents another group called We The People, Liberty in Action. She released a lengthy email outlining all of her perceived problems with Prop. A, with her interpretation of "facts." Here's what she wrote, we left everything as she wrote it:

  • "We DO need a new Police Department. We care about and appreciate our First Responders. The neglect we see is upsetting.
  • "The Kerrville City Council has neglected our police for years, while spending taxpayer money on unnecessary projects. Now we are facing a crisis they created.
  • "This Public Safety Complex will include a new Police Department, Municipal Court, IT department and Fire Administration. It will also include such things as a "Safety Exchange Zone" and a "Community Engagement Center". If built, it will be GRANDIOSE."
  • "We can build a new Police Department for far less than 45 Million. The building model currently proposed was based on Public Safety Buildings with MUCH larger populations. There was no model presented with a comparable tax base. This is a "Wish List Bond" including many items and expenses that are NOT NEEDS. We NEED a new Police Department. We do not NEED the other things on the list."
  • "If the Prop A "wish list" bond passes, it will RAISE YOUR TAXES and leave the city nearly 100 Million dollars in debt."
  • "Every year the city continues to borrow money to maintain our streets. This is like paying your mortgage or rent with your credit card."

We spoke to people approached by Puccio and her merry band of disrupters during the petition drive and discovered they were playing fast and loose with the facts. It's not surprising, considering we live in a world of "alternative facts."

However, the condescending tone of "we support" the police while then calling the plan "grandiose" and questioning tools that the police department requested like the "safe exchange zone" and the "community engagement center" demonstrates this is nothing more than a just say no to anything campaign. Those items, by the way, are places for people to make safe transactions — think online purchases — and a place for the police to meet with the community — think citizens police academy or open houses.

The argument that construction could be cheaper fails to understand that the city's consultants provided a rough plan to build what the city wanted — a building that is 69,000-square feet. Conversely, Peterson Regional Medical Center is building a $43 million, 43,000-square-foot surgery center.

As we've written previously, people like Puccio spend a lot of time picking at members of the current City Council while failing to look at the long tail of this story. Thanks to our current obsession with "gotcha" and "gratification" through cherry-picking a few bits of fact and turning them into a contextual morass that no one understands. Let's repeat it: Kerrville has never had a purpose-built police station — ever.

So, when she says $100 million in debt — we're assuming she's including the staggering costs to provide sewer services in Kerrville? Who knows, she doesn't.

Look, folks, Kerrville has real problems with growth — just like the rest of Texas — and there's going to be a steep price to pay for years of putting things off in the name of being "fiscally conservative." You can no longer say you're being fiscally conservative when you deny our public safety workers a decent place to conduct the public's business. We also doubt the grandiosity; it will still probably have the free Helvetica font for the building's sign.

On the golf course

UT Rio Grande Valley golfer Mercedes Vega putts on Tuesday at Riverhill Country Club. Vega shot an eight-over 80 on Tuesday and is tied for 46th.

Over at Riverhill Country Club, the Western Athletic Conference women are battling for the conference golf championship today. Defending champion New Mexico State holds a six-stroke lead over Sam Houston State in the team competition.

In the individual competition, Grand Canyon's Siripatsorn Patchana shot a one-under 71 on Tuesday to grab a one-stroke lead over New Mexico State's Amelia McKee, who shot 72 on Tuesday. The day's biggest mover was California Baptist's Hailey Loh, who fired a two-under 70 to move from ninth to fourth.

The final round begins today at 7:30 a.m.

Reader Lynette Wedig shared this photo from her house on the Riverhill course. Wedig is a former New Mexico State instructor, and was showing off her Aggie pride.

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