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The Lead Feb. 23, special edition: Winter mix is headed our way

Icy rain should make life fun in Kerr County

Good afternoon, Kerr County!

Ah, our friend freezing rain has returned to the Hill Country. There's a continued chance of wintery mixes of rain and ice tonight and into Thursday morning. The National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the Texas Hill Country, including Kerr County. Here's the key message from the Weather Service:

"In areas where temperatures drop to or below freezing, a mix with or changeover to freezing rain/freezing drizzle is expected," the NWS said. "The favored areas for this to occur are over the Edwards Plateau, Hill Country, along the I-35 corridor north of San Antonio or generally along and north of a Rocksprings to Boerne to New Braunfels to Giddings line. Precipitation amounts are forecast to be light. Light ice accumulations on exposed surfaces such as trees and elevated roads will be possible. A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for this area through noon Thursday."

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COVID-19 update

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed Kerr County's 11th death from COVID-19 in the month of February. Even as the virus wanes, the death toll continues to mount across the state and in Kerr County.

The latest death happened on Feb. 18 — most likely at a hospital in the San Antonio area. Peterson Regional Medical Center said it had seven people hospitalized and three in the intensive care unit.

Lost in Tuesday night's meeting

The best description of Tuesday night's Kerrville City Council meeting was one of distraction. Most of the last half of the meeting featured drama over City Councilman Roman Garcia's feud with City Attorney Mike Hayes. (Read more about that here: What that discussion overshadowed were some pretty significant decisions made by the City Council. Here's a rundown:

Speeding on Bandera Highway

The Council voted unanimously to lower the speed limit on Texas Highway 173 from Loop 534 to just south of the entrance to Comanche Trace to 50 MPH from 55 MPH, but it was clear the majority of the Council wanted it lower. The Texas Department of Transportation's complicated highway management — one technically owned by the state, with traffic enforcement handled by the city — made the decision more complex because it was clear there seemed to be a consensus among the councilmembers to lower the speed limit.

The neighbors aren't happy

Councilwoman Brenda Hughes brought the speeding situation to the City Council, because 36 driveways dot the roadway between the Loop 534 ridge to just beyond the Comanche Trace entrance. One of the speakers, former Kerr County Judge Fred Henneke, said he's lived along the stretch in question for 17 years, has watched the traffic grow exponentially and was the victim in a 55 MPH rear-ending that left him in the hospital.

City employees to get raises, tax collections rise

The City Council unanimously approved 5% cost of living raises for city employees. The raises will cost the city about $1 million, but better-than-expected revenues cover that expense.

When it comes to better-than-expected revenues, Kerrville's hotel occupancy tax continues to soar — it's 18% above what city staff budgeted and 15% above the previous fiscal year. Through the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city has incurred less expense than budgeted.

That might be even better next year

During the City Council's 4 p.m. Tuesday workshop, city staff discussed their plans for eclipses in 2023 and 2024 — solar events that will cast a big shadow across Kerrville and lure tourists.

At least that's the thinking from Parks and Recreation Director Ashlea Boyle, who led the presentation. The annular solar eclipse on Oct. 14, 2023 will bisect Texas, passing over Kerrville, and people will see a brilliant ring as the moon passes the sun. In 2024, Kerrville will receive about four minutes of darkness during an April 8 solar eclipse.

The city budgeted $50,000 to plan for the events. City Manager E.A. Hoppe said Kerrville's position on Interstate 10 means it will be a natural location for people to see the full impact of both eclipses.

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