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The Lead Jan. 24, 2022: The Kerr County commissioners consider ARPA funds — again

The commissioner's court has wrestled with what to do with $10 million from the federal government.

Good morning, Kerr County.

We are ready for another full week of things to do in and around Kerr County. Today, we will see some actual moisture touching the ground before this storm clears out and results in partly cloudy skies for the rest of the week.

On today's episode of The Lead Live

We will welcome the Republican Women of Kerr County members Sally Thiel, Crystal Smith and Suzanne Gschwind. The RWKC are coming off a big meeting last week where Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha and Capt. Jason Waldrip spoke about the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border and its impact on the county. We'll get an update on some of the organization's activities heading into a busy 2022 election season. Join us at 9 a.m.

Things to add to your planner this week:

Today's public meetings

  • 9 a.m., Kerr County Commissioner's Court Meeting, Kerr County Courthouse.
  • 4 p.m., Kerrville Economic Improvement Corp, Kerrville City Hall.

Tuesday's public meeting

  • 5 p.m., Kerrville City Council workshop, Kerrville City Hall.
  • 6 p.m., Kerrville City Council regular meeting, Kerrville City Hall.

Friday, Jan. 28

The Kerrville Renaissance Festival

River Star Arts Park

10 a.m. 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday; Feb. 5-6

Family-friendly fun featuring: Last Chance Forever Birds of Prey Show, the music of Coal Black Rose, Vinland Texas Vikings, live glass blowing demos, eight stages of continuous entertainment, food, crafts, games and much more.

Live music by Tim Porter & Gary Hatch

Cafe at the Ridge

6 p.m.

Live music by Davey Schrank

Southern Sky Music Cafe

6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 29

Market Days at La Escondida 1962

516 W Jefferson St N, Kerrville

Pick up a unique gift at La Escondida.

Live music by Harry Tetens

Cafe at the Ridge

6 p.m.

The New Buddy Holly Band

Cailloux Theater

7:30 p.m.

In their 11th year, The New Buddy Holly Band has become the Hill Country's favorite 1950s, and early/mid-60s hit machine. Celebrating the sound of their namesake and all the great bands that created Rock-n-Roll, they put on a show everyone can love.

Let's give it back

The specter of federal oversight continues to hang over the head of the Kerr County Commissioner's Court, and Pct. 4 Commissioner Don Harris wants to rescind an order to take American Rescue Plan Act funds.

It's a jam-packed agenda for the commissioners this morning with a ton of reports and requests to wade through, but this worry about ARPA funds continues to trouble the court. At question is $10 million in federal funding, of which $5 million has already landed in the county's accounts. The worry of executive orders has drawn howls of protest from activists. However, the decision on the funding will most likely meet opposition from Judge Rob Kelly. He has said he's determined to take the money and spend it on significant needs for the county rather than passing it along to taxpayers.

Previously, Pct. 1 Commissioner Harley Belew tried to give the money back, but that motion died. One of the concerns was vaccine mandates, but the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled it won't allow large-scale vaccine mandates. So, how this will play out today will be something to watch.

Some of the other items the court will consider are:

  • Kerr Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gil Salinas gave a presentation about the organization's 2021 accomplishments and plans for 2022.
  • Kerr County Animal Services Director Reagan Givens will ask the court for a temporary office building to help ease crowding at the county's shelter.
  • The Hill Country Youth Event Center managers will provide an update on how the center fared in 2021.

Is COVID-19 ready to peak in Texas?

The omicron variant of COVD-19 has proven to be a menace for hospitals across Texas, including at Kerrville Peterson Regional Medical Center. There was a bit of good news on Sunday when hospitalizations fell. Now, this wasn't a big number, but it was a decline to 13,099 — the first decline in at least two weeks.

Still, more than 57,000 new cases were reported on Sunday, and hospitals are still crowded. The Texas Department of State Health Services, which reported three recent Kerr County deaths on Saturday, said the county had at least 70 new cases. The actual number of active cases is unknown for Kerr County, but The Lead estimates it's now about 1,000.

Kerr County election officials are ready for 2022

We sat down with Kerr County Assessor/Tax Collector Bob Reeves, who also administrates the county's elections, about the changes to Texas election law. Reeves said his office is ready for the busy 2022 election season, but he's advising people they will need to fill out an application for a mail-in ballot correctly.

Read more of our interview with Reeves here:

4 things we learned from our chat with Kevin Pillow of Wildbirds Unlimited

On the Jan. 21 episode of The Lead Live, we had Kerrville Wildbirds Unlimited owner Kevin Pillow as our guest, and we covered a wide range of topics. Pillow grew up in both Texas and California. He came to Kerrville nearly 20 years ago to set up his "retirement" business after a successful commercial real estate career in Southern California. He spent much of his youth and adult life living in the city of Redlands — a community about 60 miles east of Los Angeles and, like Kerrville, straddles Interstate 10. How he came to Kerrville was easy — it was for the birds.

That's right, Pillow and his wife ended up choosing to come to Kerrville because of the migratory bird patterns.

"Obviously, Redlands (California) was home," Pillow said. "It would be wonderful to be there in Redlands. We didn't have the migratory bird patterns that we were looking for to where we felt like we could make a difference. We started looking at this part of Texas, and you know, short of going down to the valley. This is about the best place where three migration patterns come together."

There are many birds Pillow enjoys watching, but he shared with us his favorite bird of prey to see in the wild.

"Probably a Sharp-shinned hawk," Pillow said. "He's the smaller one that looks a little bit get the Coopers hawk. Just a little bigger than a white wing doves. I tell people the sharp shin is a little more like an F-15 than a B2."

His former hometown of Redlands, Calif. is dotted with some of Southern California's most spectacular Victorian and Edwardian-style homes. So, he thought it would be a good idea to renovate a historic Victorian-era home. It may not have been the best idea.

"You know, it sounded like a beautiful idea in the beginning unless you don't understand Victorians and realize this is not a house you flip," Pillow said. "This is a house you love. You love. And some of those properties in Redlands were just incredible. I tell people all the time, you don't understand. We have castles there. Literally, castles were built by the heirs of Scott Paper Company and some others. But the Victorians were spectacularly built with a lot of old money. A lot of old money, a lot of old industry money out of LA.

"I mean, they're functionally obsolescent to use a real estate term. They don't fit well. It's a bunch of small rooms. A bunch of small hallways. Good luck getting a bed upstairs if you ever try. I learned that one the hard wat. You almost have to crane a bed to get it around the hallway.:

Pillow said he believes Kerrville's connection to nature is one of its biggest selling points.

"If you don't capitalize and sell Kerrville's nature, if you try to fight it, you're really missing the boat," Pillow said. "You've got to capitalize on what Kerrville does right. God put nature here a long time before us. So, capitalize on it. There are actually four migration patterns. So, you've got the western, the central, and the eastern, and they'll all funnel through here coming down through the valley, and it just makes it a wonderful place for birds."

Pillow said the potential emergence of the Green Jay — a relative of the Blue Jay — making its way north is one of his barometers of climate change's impact on birding.

"Green jays are heading up and there's a ranch in Medina that's about 1300 acres, and they are there. We used only to see Green Jays down in the valley, and much further south. So, Green Jays are a good barometer of how the climate's pushing up to get more of a desert air climate up in the Hill Country."

Some of our favorite Kerr County Instagram posts from the weekend:


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#duallykings #whiteramsonly #4×4 #4x4offroad #duallyporn #offroad


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Saturday fun in Kerrville. Being the sports nut I am, I think this is my first basketball game since high school. ❤�…


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And my precious cardinal in the backyard. He and the mrs. don’t come by the feeder often, but I cherish every time th…


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