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The Lead Feb 8, 2022: The decision on Kerrville public safety building comes tonight

The City Council could ask for a general obligation bond election to be held May 7.

Good morning Kerr County!

Glad you can join us for another edition of The Lead. This week is proving to be another consequential one in the development in Kerr County, and tonight’s Kerrville City Council meeting is going to be further proof of that reality — if everything goes according to plan.

Speaking of plans, on The Lead Live today

The county’s plan to issue an estimated $30 million in debt moved one step closer on Monday during a workshop session of the commissioner’s court when a committee looking at the county’s capital facilities needs presented its findings to the court. On today’s show, committee members Brenda Hughes and Chris Hughes will discuss their presentation to the court, and what it means for the voters in November. The show starts at 9 a.m.

First off, a man who loved his family, church was victim in fatal crash

Dennis Nelson Keller was simply known as Paw Paw — a pretty good name if you ask us. Keller was Paw Paw to 17 grandchildren, but on Monday, the family confirmed that he was the victim in a Thursday night crash on Interstate 10 just in Kerrville.

Kerrville Police said Keller was the passenger in a Ford F-350 pickup truck struck by a big rig at about 9:30 p.m. on Thursday. Keller died Friday morning at Peterson Regional Medical Center. Another passenger in the pickup truck was injured but released after being treated at Peterson.

Kerrville Police said they are still investigating the cause of the crash, but their initial comments centered around the weather.

Read more about Keller here:

Encouraging news on COVID-19

On Monday, Peterson Regional Medical Center said its COVID-19 patient count fell to 20 people, but seven of those were in the intensive care unit. However, Peterson reported only 27 new cases. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported approximately 20 new cases in its tally.

The good news continued across the state of Texas as the fast-spreading omicron variant appears to be winding down. Regardless, more than 9,600 people remained hospitalized across the state — nearly one-third of those patients in intensive care.

The City Council will call for a bond election

After dealing with all sorts of political back and forth about the future of its public safety building, the Kerrville City Councill will call for a $45 million general obligation bond election on May 7 to pay for the building.

During Monday’s episode of The Lead Live, Mindy Wendele, leading the political action committee, said Proposition A will ask the voters to raise their property taxes about $160 per year to pay for the proposed 69,000-square foot building. The City Council will have to take a roll call vote during its 6 p.m. meeting tonight.

Once the vote is cast, Wendele said the committee would immediately begin the campaign to pass the bond. The proposed building would house the police department, fire administration, municipal court, information technology and an emergency operations command center.

Republicans host primary showdown

State Senate candidates Paul Reyes Jr., Lamar Lewis and Pete Flores debated key Republican issues ahead of the March 1 primary.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the current state of the Republican party — there are conservatives and there are conservatives. Telling them apart? Well, that’s exactly why the Republican Women of Kerr County held a forum with the candidates in the GOP primaries Texas House District 53 and State Senate District 24, because the gloves came off at the Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Conference Center on Monday night.

Of course, all of this is ahead of the March 1 primary election.

The two races have contrasting storylines:

  • The first is District 53, where incumbent Andrew Murr faces a GOP primary challenger for the first time since he first ran for office.
  • The second is a wide-open race between three GOP candidates looking to win the open Senate District 24 seat.

And this wasn’t an example of party unity, this was an example of a no-holds-barred attack on each other based on which candidate was the most conservative, or aligned most closely with former President Donald Trump.

Lamar Lewis is running in the Republican primary election for Texas Senate District 24.

Paul Reyes Jr. is running in the Republican primary for Texas Senate District 24.

Pete Flores is running in the Republican primary for Texas Senate District 24.

The most blatant example of this intraparty fighting was in the senate race forum, where Paul Reyes Jr. repeatedly called fellow Republicans spineless and squishy and then accused his 45-vote loss in the Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives as an example of voter fraud.

When fellow candidate Lamar Lewis, a retired school teacher from Temple, asked that the name-calling be eliminated from the forum, Reyes doubled down by arguing that no one should tell someone else what to do and invoking Trump’s own style of attack as appropriate discourse.

Reyes used the opportunity to attack Pete Flores, a former state senator, as an example of Republican failures in Austin, pushing against a storyline that the party was in no position to compromise with Democrats.

There were some substantive conversations around property taxes, school choice and border security, but all three sometimes ran back to previous points of contention. On property taxes, all three candidates said they needed to be done away with, but none of them offered a real solution, instead referring to vague ideas about consumption taxes.

To his credit, Lewis repeatedly brought up the burden state spending places on local governments with unfunded mandates — an acute issue in Kerr County — which forces counties and cities to raise property taxes to pay for basic municipal services.

However, Lewis then veered in another direction on school choice, suggesting that he would oppose a plank in the 2022 Republican propositions around school choice. Proposition 9 says: ​​”Texas parents and guardians should have the right to select schools, whether public or private, for their children, and the funding should follow the student.”

Lewis said he preferred that money be kept locally, along with local decision making and that he was concerned about charter schools with alleged ties to Islam, witchcraft or transgender teachings. Both Reyes and Flores said competition was good for the schools but didn't elaborate to Lewis' level.

District 53 incumbent Rep. Andy Murr touted his conservative credentials on Monday night.

In the District 53 forum, challenger Wesley VIrdell attacked Murr for failing to prevent shutdowns related to COVID-19, and not beig tougher on Democrats. Virdell said Murr had repeatedly failed his constituents. Murr, in turn, didn’t seem to single out Virdell, but reminded the audience of his credentials, voting record and a litany of conservative groups backing his campaign.

District 53 Republican Primary challenger Wesley Virdell said Murr was absent on making decisions about coronavirus shutdowns and voter fraud.

Sharp-eyed witness reports human smuggling case

The Kerr County Sheriff’s Office made another significant arrest in its effort to stop human smuggling after a motorist spotted a suspicious pickup that appeared to have multiple people in back on Friday afternoon. With the help of the Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, Sheriff's deputies stopped the vehicle and found 16 illegal immigrants.

Deputies placed 12 adults and four children into custody — ages 8, 12 and two 14-year-olds — eventually turning them over to the Border Patrol. Deputies said was determined that they had come across the Mexico border with the intent of being smuggled deeper into the United States.

The driver, Misael Jesus Santiago Hernandez, 22, a non-citizen, was arrested for 16 counts of human smuggling. Booked into Kerr County Jail, Hernandez has $440,000 in bonds holding him.

“Once again, we are faced with the thoughtless disregard for human life shown by human smugglers,” Sheriff Larry Leitha said. “This kind of activity is a cruel type of criminal enterprise. With the icing conditions on the Interstate that day, one patch of ice could have meant the loss of seventeen lives, and perhaps many more had the smuggler hit another vehicle. Smugglers show little care for their cargo, even children in this case, placing money ahead of peoples’ lives. It must be stopped, and we will continue to intercept these criminals, develop intelligence, and submit smuggling cases for felony prosecution.”

In case you missed the Texas Hill Country Advisors show on Monday

Texas Hill Country Advisors Andrew Gay and Gilbert Paiz chatted with Kerrville insurance agent Paul Huchton about the importance of good insurance when starting a small business. Here's the interview:

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