Look, we're going to give it to you straight — enjoy the warmth of today, because tomorrow things get ugly quick. The National Weather Service argues that Thursday will be cold and possibly (unfortunately) snowy. Today's high could be almost 80, but the temperatures won't rise about 38 degrees on Thursday. And on Thursday night, the Weather Service says 40% chance of wintry mix. Fun.
On The Lead Live today
Today we should have an interesting show with a wide range of guests, and we're not exactly sure where this conversation with two mayors might go, but it should be fun. The Kerrville Farmers Market's Kayte Graham will lead off the show, who will discuss the market's offering on Friday. After Graham, Bismarck, N.D. Mayor Steve Bakken and Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn will be our guests, but we're not exactly sure what they're going to discuss. They're just showing up.
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Things on our radar today
Candidates for the Kerrville City Council race can start returning their forms to run for two open seats and the mayor's seat today. As we've reported expect Judy Eychner, currently representing Place 3, to run for mayor and for Place 4 incumbent Brenda Hughes to run for re-election. The election is the first weekend in July.
We can't say we were surprised
The lawsuit filed in federal court by Kerrville commercial real estate developer Brent Bates is not surprising. Bates has been battling the city's development services department for nearly two years over his Water Street office project. Last week, the city of Kerrville was served with a summons in the case that will be tried in a San Antonio U.S. District Courtroom — maybe later this year.
Here's the video when the City Council unanimously rejected Bates' appeal
The crux of the issue? Fire sprinklers. The city says Bates needs to put sprinklers in the two-story building that fronts the Guadalupe River, but Bates argues that the city's occupancy standards are ridiculous. For more on that story read here: https://kerrcountylead.com/kerrville-finds-itself-in-federal-court-over-riverfront-office-building-permitting
The COVID-19 situation is still perilous
Hospitalizations across Texas continued to tick upward — but only slightly, according to Tuesday's report by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Hospitals across the state said admissions climbed to 12,344 people on Monday, but pediatric admissions declined to 417. However, the situation remains a challenge for many across the state. On Tuesday, there was a line out the door at Peterson Health's urgent care center on Main Street. COVID-19 take-home tests remain hard to find.
Ingram Independent School District students return to class today. Last week, the school district fell below 80% attendance due to absences. An interesting point was made to us by Misty Kothe, our guest on Tuesday's episode of The Lead Live, and that the Texas Education Agency requires students to quarantine for 10 days, but staff only has to miss at least five days. So, the impact on attendance in the coming days will be interesting and probably require the state to take a hard look at funding models for school districts walloped by the omicron variant.
Tuesday's numbers for Kerr County, according to DSHS, could be more than 60 cases, but it's an estimate at best.
Other news about COVID-19 that is important:
- The Biden Administration authorized the distribution of COVID-19 tests via the U.S. Postal Service. You can sign up for four free tests here: https://special.usps.com/testkits
- While Biden was unleashing that initiative, the White House also announced a plan to distribute millions of N95 masks. Here's more on the story: https://www.politico.com/news/2022/01/18/biden-free-masks-omicron-surge-527335
- For those keeping track at home, more than one million Texans have tested positive for COVID-19 since Dec. 20. Gov. Greg Abbott has rarely tweeted anything about getting vaccinated, wearing a mask or preventing the virus altogether.
Sigerman now leading the Doyle School Community Center board
Delayne Sigerman, who hosts a show here on The Lead every Thursday, is the new board of directors president of the Doyle School Community Center.
Kerrville Police Chief Chris McCall administers the oath of office to Delayne Sigerman to serve as the president of the Doyle School Community Center board of directors.
The Doyle School Community Center executive board of directors, from left, Gilbert Paiz, Delayne Sigerman, Jodie Tilmon and Betsy Fifer.
During her first meeting as the president, Sigerman updated other board members about grants that could be coming to the renovated community center in the days to come. Sigerman's executive board includes Betsy Fifer, Gilbert Paiz and Jodie Tilmon.
Even after the huge renovation to the historic former schoolhouse, there is still plenty of work left to continue improving the facility — from signage to pots and pans for the kitchen.
One of the fundraising events looming is the first-ever Doyle District Juke Joint Blues Festival scheduled for June 19 — as part of the center's Juneteenth festivities. The board is still working those details out.
Chief McCall administers the oath of office to new board members, from left, Rose Bradshaw, Joe Castillo, George Baroody, Robert Blackwell and Marcus Fifer.
The Doyle School Community Center board of directors gets to work.
Speaking of festivities …
The Hill Country Grandstand Show's agricultural mechanics show brought hundreds of students from around Texas to compete in the event, and it proved to be a spectacular showcase.
So much so that Kerr County Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Harris was eyeing several to take home. He was particularly impressed with a cooling shed designed to provide a workstation for hunters to process their kills.
In his years as a shop teacher in Ingram, Harris said he often faced ambitious students, but some of the works on display were exceptional.
"Being a welder, that trailer set up for welders is a piece of art," said Harris, who was assisting with a torch cutting competition.
There were some inspiring pieces throughout the Hill Country Youth Event Center old and grubby ag barn. Emily Felty, 15, of Helotes, showcased her utility vehicle trailer that she built in honor of her grandfather battling leukemia.
Emily Felty, of Helotes, shows off her award-winning trailer at the Hill Country Grandstand Show at the Hill County Youth Event Center.
Felty, 15, later showed she was proficient with a cutting torch.
Like many students, Felty first showed her custom-made work in Fort Worth before making the trip to Kerrville.
El Campo's Zach Clark had a stunning day by being named "best in show" for his plasma torch cutting table — one that allowed the aspiring entrepreneur to scale up his projects. Clark also won the fastest torch competition.
El Campo's Zach Clark cleaned up when the awards were announced.
For Clark's parents, the driving between El Campo to Fort Worth and then down to Kerrville was worth it because Zach Clark has been ambitious for years — and he's just 16.
Clark proved to be the fastest torch on the day during a welding competition.
"We told him that he's going to have to make a lot more money," said Felicia Clark, Zach's mother.
Zach Clark promised he's on the right track and that he plans to put the table to work once the competitions are over.
3 things we learned from our conversation with Misty Kothe of Families and Literacy
We sat down on Tuesday with Misty Kothe, the executive director of Kerrville-based Families and Literacy, Inc., about the organization's challenges in the time of coronavirus. Here are three things we learned from our conversation with Kothe.
With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Families and Literacy forced its focus from in-class instruction to an online experience. Kothe said that's a challenge, especially for some who aren't comfortable with technology, but at the same time, it's provided an extra element of accessibility for others.
"So we have an online curriculum which makes it easier now to offer to those who might work at night or who have families because we used to be able to offer childcare," Kothe said.
"Again, Covid ruined that for us. Childcare is a huge issue. Our online curriculum is awesome, and you can access it from your smartphone.
"I have one gentleman who does it during his breaks. He works the night shift, and he has a lunch break and 15-minute breaks, and he'll do one lesson in those 15 minutes on his smartphone. Every night, they are just keeping him going. Yeah. And so their lessons are built for that where you don't have to sit down and have an hour, two-hour classes.
"If you can fit in 15 minutes, you can get a whole lesson in. It is a lot of work to do it on your own and do it online. It takes a lot of dedication. We have a teacher who helps monitor their progress and can tutor them through a hard spot or give them some pointers on scheduling that time, making that time for themselves, but it is."
Kothe shared one of the program's best success stories, which happened right at Christmas.
"Just over this last semester and at Christmas, she finished testing. She came into us, I want to say spring of last year, and she took classes for GED in spring and fall," Kothe said. "She was going to night classes. She was doing extra outside of that. She was trying to get what she needed to get there, and she wanted to go to nursing school.
"We have the option of giving vouchers for testing, and so we gave her some vouchers to get her testing done, and she finished; I think it was two days after Christmas, she passed like science and social studies like back-to-back testing. We got her last two tests. We were so excited because she was able to get in her application for nursing school by the first of the year. And it was just like, wow. You are going out there. You have made this. You have put in the hard work on your own and class."
Kothe was a basketball standout at Tivy High School and later at Southwestern College. Now she's coaching her son's and daughter's team, and she's amazed about the differences between the boys and girls games.
"Women's basketball to me is so much more fascinating," Kothe said. "It's captivating, physical, you know, and it's funny because when I'm coaching my boys, I'm like, it's OK to touch. It's OK to put a body, and you know, my girls, sometimes I'm like, you gotta back off just a little bit like you can't just hit them."
There's a lot more to our interview with Kothe, and we encourage you to watch the entire segment here: https://fb.watch/aDd-A-Q3Ga/
Or listen to the podcast here: https://anchor.fm/louis-amestoy/episodes/The-Kerr-County-Lead–Jan–18–2022-e1d5274
3 things we learned from our conversation with Verla Bruner of Veterans Assistance Dogs of Texas
On Monday, we chatted with Verla Bruner, who heads up the Kerr County-based Veterans Assistance Dogs of Texas, and the ongoing efforts of the nonprofit organization's efforts to provide services dogs to veterans. Right now, VA Dogs has a 77-person waiting list, and part of the delay is the cost of training the dogs. Bruner said the average cost is $25,000, and the expectation is each dog can perform a wide range of tasks.
Bruner told us about the fundraising efforts related to VA Dogs of Texas:
"Every penny helps," Bruner said. "The cost is about $25,000 per dog right now. Also, if you are interested in becoming a corporate sponsor of us, we have started a new program where we have different levels and we offer different things for different levels and we're looking for businesses to support our organization. We are a Texas organization. We just so happen to be headquartered here. But money is the biggest thing. We don't need dogs."
Wait, what? They don't need dogs? That was one of the interesting elements of Monday's conversation about people wanting to donate animals and how that's not helpful.
"If we had the money, we could train every dog that people want to give us," Bruner said. "We get some, I mean, people offer some wonderful canines to us. It would be great, but unfortunately, we just don't have the ability to do it. So, right now the biggest issue of this thing is that, you know, there's such a such a demand. We talk about this over and over again is that the demand for these services is pretty overwhelming, you know."
And finally, the changing demographics of the military — more and more women — are showing up in the request for dogs.
"Our class that's coming up in March, it's actually split straight down the middle, female and male, which is unusual for us, Bruner said. "This is the first time that's happened. And so a lot more women are coming through our program, and that's been a bit of a surprise to me because they deal with things very different than, you know, just the PTSD. There's sexual military sexual assault. It's been a major kind of on the uptake, unfortunately."
There's a lot more to our interview with Bruner, and we encourage you to watch the entire segment here: https://fb.watch/aDe0EA9e8G/
Or listen to the podcast here: https://anchor.fm/louis-amestoy/episodes/The-Kerr-County-Lead–Jan–17–2022-e1d35ou