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The Lead Aug. 16, 2022: Kerr County moves to place bond on the Nov. 8 ballot

The $27.5 million bond draws fire from a future commissioner, but it still passes 4-0.

Good morning, Kerr County!

After weeks of temperatures in the high 90s and heat indexes topping 100, we had a remarkably cool and breezy Monday that produced a high of 84. It's the first time since June 28 that we've finished the day under 90 — that's right, 47 consecutive days over 90. It was also the coolest day since May 25, when it was 83 degrees. For those keeping track at home, the 2011 drought produced 104 consecutive days of temperatures over 90 degrees — the streak was from May 24 through Sept. 4. So, how does the rest of the week look? The highs head back to the 90s. We'll also see some unsettled weather later in the week — thunderstorms and an alleged chance of rain.

On today's The Lead Live!

We welcome Jean Nunnally, who has authored a book about how to "unschool" your children. Nunnally's two children were "unschooled" and both achieved in college. Andrew Gay will provide us our morning financial report, while Leslie Jones will give us an update on what's going on today! Join us at 9 a.m.

Today's events

High school volleyball

  • Medina Valley at Tivy, 7 p.m.
  • Comfort at Center Point, 6 p.m.

Coming Wednesday


  • Our Museum of Us: Curating Your Family's Stuff into a Digital Future — Hosted by the Kerr County Genealogical Society at the Upper Guadalupe River Authority, 2-4 p.m. Information: 830-896-5445 The details: a hands-on workshop with Dr. Mark Standley. Sometimes our stuff possesses us, as much as we keep it. We accumulate stuff throughout our lives in our' hills of enough'. We have stories about our things but don't always take the time to share them with others. During this workshop, participants will learn how to ask questions, curate stories and digitally record memories and items of value with their smartphones or other devices.

Markets and sales

  • Kerr County Produce Market Day — The Big Red Barn, 10 a.m., Information: 830-896-7330 The details: Kerr County Produce Market Day (The Big Red Barn). Local Hill Country wholesale warehouse distributor for the finest fruits and vegetables. Open to the public.
  • 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. Ma

The City Council is behind closed doors for a workshop

The Kerrville City Council meets in executive session at 10 a.m. today for a workshop about active shooter emergency management. It's unclear why this requires a closed-session meeting, but it's happening. The Council comes out of executive session and will hear a presentation about how to stop bleeding from the Kerrville Fire Department.

Today's newsletter is sponsored by

Check out the Texas Hill Country Podcast with our good friend Tom Fox. This week, Tom chats with Andrew Gay and Gilbert Paiz, our other good friends from Texas Hill Country Advisors! Listen here:

The county's bond measure is headed to the ballot

The Kerr County Commissioner's Court voted 4-0 to approve placing three bond measures on the November ballot totaling $27.5 million in improvements for county facilities, including constructing a new animal shelter.

After nearly three years of study and discussion, the court finally approved the plan to float the following bonds on the Nov. 8 ballot:

  • Proposition A is a $13.685 million bond to pay for courthouse improvements required by the state, although unfunded. The bond also covers significant security upgrades at the main courthouse. It will also build a new annex to serve West Kerr County. It would also cover the costs of a new storage center for documents.
  • Proposition B asks for $8.065 million to fund repairs for the indoor arena at the Hill Country Youth Event Center.
  • Proposition C is a $5.75 million request to construct a new animal shelter.

Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly led the effort to get the bond on the ballot. In the last year, Kelly quietly moved to purchase land around Earl Garrett Street to house a new tax office and a home for the regional public defender's office.

"We've worked hard," Kelly said of the land acquisitions and bond preparation. "We know what we've got to do. So, I'm going to make a motion so that we're legally in play here that we set this bond measure to a vote."

But the decision was not without criticism. On Monday, Rich Paces, who will become the Precinct 2 commissioner on Jan. 1, 2023, spoke out against the bonds.

Paces immediately blamed the county for not maintaining its "assets," including the indoor arena with a leaky roof and many other issues.

"The real issue is that you're asking for $27.5 million," Paces said. "I have zero confidence that you can achieve these projects within $27.5 million. And the timing couldn't be worse. We are in a middle of a recession. We have inflation at a 40-year high."

Paces read off a litany of other problems he foresees when building the county's projects, including increased labor and supply costs. However, he was blunt in an assessment that the county didn't need courthouse improvements, defer the West Kerr Annex, and neither was a new animal shelter.

"Look, we don't need a $6 million animal control facility," said Paces, who preceded that comment by saying the county's Capital Improvement Project Committee should go back and reduce the bond by half.

Paces' comments drew a measure of rebuke from Kelly.

"We've got three years of planning into what we consider focused, responsible solutions," Kelly said. "We respect your disagreement. But we're still going forward. These needs are not going away. These are needs. These are not wants. These are not optional."

The current West Kerr Annex's phone system is housed in a bathroom.

Former County Judge Fred Hennecke, who served on the CIP committee, spoke after Paces.

"I want to say planning, not wish commission," Hennecke said.

Since 2019, the five-member CIP of Brenda Hughes, Robert Templeton, Hennecke, Peter Calderon and Chris Hughes went through every space in the county to identify the most problematic areas.

"We drug ourselves to every possible county facility," Hennecke reiterated to the court. "We kicked them. We touched them. We listened to the people who worked there, and unanimously we were appalled by the state of the facilities. We sincerely appreciate the employees that worked in those conditions. We have an amazing, dedicated cadre of employees working for our benefit."

One of the county's biggest problems is an unfunded mandate by the state legislature to expand jury trials from six members to 12, which means a significantly larger jury pool. The county plans to move the jury room into the current tax office and move that office to a former church just up the road on north Earl Garrett Street.

Commissioners Jonathan Letz and Don Harris praised the work of the CIP in developing a plan for the bond. Harris lauded Brenda Hughes, now a member of the Kerrville City Council, for taking hundreds of photos of the problem areas.

With a 4-0 vote, Precinct 1 Commissioner Harley Belew was absent, the court approved the measure, but now comes the hard part. A political action committee is in the formation stage to run the campaign for the bond, but opposition is already mounting.

We The People, Liberty In Action, an ultra-conservative group, previously urged the court to reject the bond.

TEA hands out grades; Ingram earns an A

On the first day of school, the Texas Education Agency handed out its report cards for districts across the state, including here in Kerr County.

"These results show our state's significant investment in the post-pandemic academic recovery of Texas public school students is bearing fruit," said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. "I'm grateful for the driving force behind this year's success: our teachers and local school leaders. Statewide policy in Texas continues to remain focused on meeting the needs of students, with an accountability system that supports high expectations, robust tutoring supports, rigorous curricular resources, and an investment in evidence-based training for our teachers."

Ingram Independent School District set the bar with the highest grade — 96 of a possible 100 points. The district received an A grade, as did its elementary, middle and high school campuses.

Ingram's ranking was among the top 33% in the state. In 2017-18, Ingram rated a C, but jumped to an A in 2019. The state did not assess grades for two years during the pandemic.

Ingram's highest score was closing the education gaps — meaning how it serves all students in the district. The district earned praise for its financial performance. More than 70% of Ingram's 1,000 students are economically disadvantaged, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Kerrville Independent School District earned a B grade, but three campuses were rated an A. The district earned a C for Hal Peterson Middle School. Center Point, Hunt and Divide school districts all earned B grades.

Kerrville's B grade is consistent with previous years, and the district saw improvement in closing its educational gaps.


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