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The Lead April 26, 2022: When it comes to Kerr County civility we'll give it to the birds

The Kerr County's Commissioner's Court meeting features opposition to federal funding, along with a slew of anti-government conspiracy.

Good morning, Kerr County!

It sure felt good to have some rain on Monday, helping give momentary relief from our dry conditions, but it's still not enough. We will continue to have unsettled weather this week, with a 40% chance of thunderstorms through this afternoon and mild temperatures. How much rain can we expect? Hard to say. Hopefully, we'll get more precipitation in the coming days.

On today's The Lead Live!

The Point Theater's Daniel Kirkland discusses the newest production at the Ingram theater — "Two Drunk Habits." We're also looking forward to a visit from Dr. Everett Lamb, a magician and psychologist. Lamb is performing on Saturday night at Pint and Plow. Finally, Bruce Stracke will join us to discuss Prop. A.

Today's newsletter is sponsored by

The Painted Buntings are here

We were invited to see a colorful display of Painted Buntings at the home of Jon and Sandy Wolfmueller, and we were not disappointed.

Plan your day

Public meetings

  • Kerrville City Council — Kerrville City Hall, 6 p.m.

Early Voting

  • 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Cailloux Center for the Performing Arts and the Ingram Independent School District


  • KACC Exhibits (Recurring through Saturday) — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: "Monday Painters" members of the Monday Artists painters group exhibit, Paintings by Laura Roberts, "Guadalupe Watercolor Group" judged watercolor exhibit by members of the GWG. Artist reception April 30th, 1–3 p.m.
  • Heaven's Declare Art Exhibition (Recurring through Saturday) — 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.
  • Pottery for kids — Bridget's Basket, 4-6 p.m. Information: The details: Children aged 8-11 can learn to make a Mother's Day mug with this pottery class taught by Tess Outlaw.
  • Tour the Kerrville Police Station — Kerrville Police Station, 2 p.m. Information: The details: Get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Kerrville Police Department.

Split commissioner's court says yes to federal funding

In what has become the norm for the Kerr County Commissioner's Court when discussing federal funds, a crowd showed up to voice conspiracies and worries about accepting dollars from President Joe Biden.

Monday morning was decision day for the court to determine if it would spend American Rescue Plan Act to pay for a new radio system for the Sheriff's Office and the county's volunteer fire department. Cutting to the chase, the court voted 3-2 to spend the money.

"You're a traitor," a woman yelled as Judge Rob Kelly spoke during the meeting.

The county received $10 million in ARPA funds, and Kelly repeatedly expressed determination to spend money to fix essential county infrastructure. Kelly drew support from Precinct 2 Commissioner Beck Gibson and Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz. Commissioners Harley Belew and Don Harris voted against the expenditures.

There was almost nothing civil or constructive about the discourse leading up to the vote. Speakers railed against the federal government and said the money was a tool to enslave people and could lead to vaccine mandates. In one downright bizarre rant, one woman said 5G cellphone transmissions spread COVID-19 by preventing lungs from absorbing oxygen.

It was a bingo card kind of day of the bizarre — and for Kelly, visibly irritating. When the speaker called him a traitor, Kelly shot a look and said, "we will be civil."

The always verbose Belew played more the part of his morning talk show host routine than that of an elected official by rattling off a slew of anti-Biden conspiracies, including suggesting the president was in collusion with Mexican drug cartels.

Belew said the county should have looked at leasing options on the radio equipment rather than spending the money. However, Kelly has said he'd rather spend the ARPA funds than pass the costs along to Kerr County taxpayers, who will vote to fund about $30 million in bonds to improve county infrastructure in November.

As the people exited the room, the same speaker yelled out, "You're all traitors."

Kerrville Independent School District Board of Trustees may have a buyer for old school

On Monday night, the Kerrville Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved accepting a potential bid to purchase the former Hal Peterson Middle School campus on Sidney Baker Street.

KISD Superintendent Mark Foust told the board that on March 29, the district received strong bids for the approximately 25-acre site, and he was presenting the best offer. However, there is a 60-day inspection period before the sale can go through, followed by a 14-day closing window. The site could fetch more than $2 million for the district.

Bolstering morale for the school district

Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees devoted a large chunk of Monday's meeting to a survey about employee morale —containing good news and some areas of improvement for the district.

Tops on the list were compensation and benefits — a significant issue for the district. Superintendent Mark Foust said the district was giving retention stipends to keep teachers and staff, but it may not be enough in some cases.

While 91% of district employees said they were satisfied with their work, there are some worrying underlying issues for the district to address, said Assistant Superindent Wade Ivy. Those issues ranged from fatigue to what some teachers described as excessive demand for professional development. Nearly 90% of the district's employees participated in the online survey.

One major issue has been a state-mandated initiative called the Science of Reading, which requires a certification for teachers in early childhood education through third grade. Foust said the program was supposed to complete it in 60 hours, but some teachers have spent over 100 hours.

"It's been a bear," said Foust, who added the district has bonuses or stipends for any teacher who passes the test. Foust said the state badly underestimated how long the training would take to complete.

Trustee Andree Hayes expressed concern about the amount of staff development time. A former teacher, Hayes said it was critical to let "teachers teach." Foust said he believed the district was a "learning institution," and that teacher and staff development training would still be an essential requirement.

It's just one example of some of the external pressures facing the district's staff, including navigating inflation and Kerrville's lack of affordable housing. The survey showed some of its lowest marks, 71%, on whether they believed in district leadership.

Foust said the district's staff, including himself, were not "defensive'' about the data and would use it to improve the district's scores in the next survey.

On the agenda for the city of Kerrville

In its final meeting before the May 7 municipal election, where the City Council could see significant change, the Council will meet to discuss two important projects — parks and body cameras. The Council meets at 6 p.m. at Kerrville City Hall.

After hearing a presentation about the future of Kerrville's park and recreation system during a workshop last week, the City Council could adopt the master plan from Parks and Recreation Director Ashlea Boyle. During the workshop, the Council seemed receptive to the plan — although how to fund the long list of capital improvement projects is still a question. Boyle said the city needed an updated master plan to obtain funding from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which could underwrite some of the city's plans.

The other key agenda item is accepting a $317,000 grant from Gov. Greg Abbott's office for new body-worn cameras.


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