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The Lead May 24, 2022: Eychner faces the Kerrville spotlight in first City Council meeting

Tonight's meeting is all about development and planning; voters return to the polls today to decide runoff races in primary.

Good morning, Kerr County!

The good news about the weather is that we will certainly break our streak of months without an inch of rain because we could see 2 inches today in parts of Kerr County. The National Weather Service expects heavy thunderstorms throughout today and into the evening.

On today's The Lead Live!

Former Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn will tell us about what it's now like to be away from meetings and what's next. Kerr Arts and Cultural Center Director Lanza Teague gives us a preview of the upcoming Southwestern Gourd Show, which starts Thursday. Today's show marks our 100th episode in 2022, with more than 280 guests since January. Coming Wednesday, we will have Rachel Fitch for WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY.

It's time to vote

The primary runoff is today, and here in Kerr County, that means Precinct 2 Republicans will decide their choice between Sonya Hooten and Rich Paces for county commissioner. Since there isn't a challenger from the Democrats or another party, the winner here likely gets a seat on the commissioners' court. Hooten narrowly placed first in the primary election in March, but Paces is well organized and has the backing of hardline conservative groups.

Hooten isn't without her backers and has earned an endorsement from former Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer and the others, including several members of Kerrville Pets Alive. While KPA! doesn't make political endorsements, its members cross political divides and seem enthusiastic for Hooten. The other element to watch is if Hooten can attract Democrats and Independents to her cause.

The other one to watch was third-place finisher Stan Kubenka earned 452 votes — or 18%. If Hooten can win over those voters, she's got a pathway to victory. However, if she splits Kubenka's voters and Paces picks up the voters of Jack Pratt and John Sheffield, it looks like a good chance Paces will win. It will be tight.

The two candidates don't disagree on much except when it comes to accepting federal funds. Since Judge Rob Kelly plans to use the American Rescue Plan Act funds to help pay for a new communications system for the Kerr County Sheriff's Office and volunteer fire departments, it has drawn support from Hooten. Paces, however, argues that the funding has too many conditions.

Vote — Primary Runoff Election, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • Precinct 1 (100s on your ballot), River Hills Mall, 200 Sidney Baker South
  • Precinct 2, (200s on your ballot), Union Church, 101 Travis St
  • Precinct 3, (300s on your ballot), Cailloux Theater, 910 Main St.
  • Precinct 4, (400s on your ballot), City West Church, 3139 Junction Hwy, Ingram

Other races of note

  • The Republicans continue their heated races for statewide offices, including a nasty race to succeed Sen. Dawn Buckingham as the likely representative in the 24th senate district. Raul Reyes and Pete Flores have been locked in a battle since March. Flores has the backing of the Republican establishment, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
  • Buckingham faces a runoff for the Republican nomination for the Texas Land Commissioner against Tim Westley. The runoff for the Republican nomination for Texas Railroad Commissioner features Wayne Christian and Sarah Stogner, which may be the most unusual race on the day. Stogner made headlines with a risque campaign ad where she was atop an oil pumping unit in undies and pasties — yup, Texas politics is never dull. Then Stogner received a $2 million infusion to her campaign from a West Texas rancher.
  • Finally, there's the race for Attorney General between challenger George P. Bush — son of Jeb; nephew of George W.; grandson of George H.W. — and incumbent Ken Paxton, who has the backing of former President Donald Trump.
  • The Democrats have a battle between Ricardo Villarreal and Claudia Zapata for a chance to face U.S. Rep Chip Roy in the November election for the 21st congressional district. Zapata nearly won the primary outright in March, and is the favorite here. Despite the heavy Republican registration in the Hill Country, Zapata has spent a lot of time knocking on doors in Kerr County.

Start your day with a plan

Public meetings

  • Kerrville City Council, 6 p.m.


  • Texas Watercolor Society Annual Exhibit — Hill Country Arts Foundation., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Through June 30. Information: The details: The Hill Country Arts Foundation is hosting the Texas Watercolor Society's 73rd National Exhibit. This exhibit features watercolor pieces by over forty artists from across the United States. In 1949, TWS was founded by Margaret Pace Willson and Amy Freeman Lee with the mission to advance the art of painting in watercolors and hold annual exhibitions of watercolor paintings. Today, more than 60 years later, TWS continues to promote the high standards set by its founders. Thus, as a national exhibit, TWS proudly takes its place among the elite watercolor organizations in the nation.
  • Heaven's Declare Art Exhibition (Recurring through Saturday) — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. Information: The details: Featuring works by renowned artists who celebrate the heavens. The exhibition will feature works by Phil Bob Borman, G. Russell Case, Tim Newton, Laurel Daniel, Linda Glover Gooch, David Griffin, David Grossman, Michael Magrin, Denise LaRue Mahlke, Phil Starke and John Taft.
  • KACC Exhibits (Recurring through Saturday) — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: "Monday Painters" members of the Monday Artists painters group exhibit, Paintings by Laura Roberts, "Guadalupe Watercolor Group" judged watercolor exhibits by members of the GWG. Artist reception April 30th, 1–3 p.m.

Kerrville City Council dives into a hot topic

Kerrville Mayor Judy Eychner will preside over her first full meeting tonight.

In her first full meeting as Kerrville's mayor, Judy Eychner has her work cut out with an agenda packed with controversy. It will be an eye-opener for new-old City Councilman Joe Herring Jr., who gets his first taste of the city's capacity for growth and potential tolerance for short-term rentals.

The City Council meets at 6 p.m., and residents can view the meeting online at the city's website and Kerrville Ch. 2.

The No. 1 issue on the agenda is the possible approval of a 366-unit apartment complex on Texas Highway 16, just south of Riverhill Boulevard.

The planning and zoning commission unanimously approved the re-zoning of the 36 acres from a residential estate to a higher-density residential. The site is where Kerrville hoped more than 500 homes would land, but that plan fell through. The new property owner plans to surround the apartment complex with residential estate homes — think large houses on big lots (half-acre or larger).

None of this sits well with the Rivehill area neighbors, who have voiced their opposition to the plan. The biggest concern for Riverhill relates to traffic impact on Riverhill Boulevard, which serves as an unplanned arterial connection between Medina and Bandera highways.

"With 366 planned apartments, that is not sustainable or safe," wrote homeowner Tyler Campbell to the City Council. "That would be one of the most dangerous and catastrophic intersections in Kerrville."

The other issue facing the Council tonight is the ongoing concern of short-term rentals. At least two conditional-use permits to be considered are appeals of denials by the planning and zoning commission last month. The issue will be the topic of a future joint meeting between the City Council and planning and zoning, because the commission has shown increasing discomfort with the number of requests.

Many of those short-term rental requests lead to neighborhood opposition, including one planned for Starkey Street.

"With all the excessive cars and traffic in and out of the street it simply does not allow homeowners on Starkey the quiet enjoyment of their home," wrote Anna Ramirez to the City Council in a letter asking for a denial to a short-term rental. "I am a retired widow and I moved to Kerrville because of the beauty of this city and the quiet nature of the surroundings. Multiple STRs on this street have diminished the very reason why I moved here."

Let's talk about sex — maybe

The issue of sexual health education came to the Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees on Monday night, and it demonstrated a curious way Texas handles the topic.

In years past, the school district would send letters home to parents saying their children would receive instruction in the matter, and if they didn't want that, they could opt-out. During a presentation, Assistant Superintendent Wade Ivy said only a small number of parents opted out previously. However, Texas law now says parents must opt-in, and if they don't respond, their child doesn't take that portion of instruction — often taught in biology or health classes.

How this will play out in the coming years is unclear, but Ivy told trustees that the numbers were higher than in years past, with students not receiving instruction because parents didn't respond.

The topic of sexual health education proved to be a rather bland one, with a ringing endorsement from Dr. David Sprouse, a family physician and longtime trustee, who said he saw no problems with the appropriateness of the course.

After accepting recommendations from a committee, trustees voted unanimously to implement the recommendations and to begin the parental opt-in process.

In other school board matters

Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly administered oaths of office to trustees Michael Tackett and Dr. David Sprouse after the pair won re-election to the board earlier this month.

Dr. David Sprouse takes the oath of office.

Trustee Michael Tackett returns for another term on the board of trustees.

Assistant Superintendent Jarret Jachade told trustees the district would have a $43 million budget for the 2022-2023 school year, but forecasting is challenging. One of Jachade's key points is that the school district has seen declining enrollment over the last year — a loss of about 200 students. That's about a $1.3 million loss to the district's average daily attendance revenue. That shortfall makes things tricky for the district to continue to promise compensation adjustments.

"This is going to be tough but we committed to doing this," Jachade said of boosting district pay, especially for teachers.

Jachade did present good news to the trustees and employees by noting that a new way of regionalizing health insurance rates will help drive down some of the expenses for employees — by more than $240 a month in some cases.

But the pay issues may still contribute to the district's ongoing efforts with retention. Superintendent Mark Foust noted 17 resignations or retirements at the end of May — 14 of those were leaving education for good.

The Tivy High School Band was honored on Monday night.

The trustees also honored the efforts of Tivy's Junior ROTC, girls golf, boys soccer, theater and technical crew, art students, the Golden Girls, the band, orchestra, choir, health occupations, barbecue team and the state champion accounting team. They also honored the undefeated seventh-grade soccer team.

For more photos from the night:

Kerrville Pets Alive makes a report

For several days the volunteers of Kerrville Pets Alive bailed Kerr County Animal Services out of a particularly bad situation — the seizure of 49 small dogs from a Kerr County property.

The dogs overwhelmed the already inadequate animal shelter. KPA!'s squad of volunteers responded by helping KCAS move larger dogs to the Hill Country Youth Event Center, coordinate transportation to other shelters and rescues and put the word out on social media. In return, KPA! rallied community support, including donations of food and fans to keep the barns cool.

So, on Monday, KPA! President Karen Guerriero spoke about the effort and got a thank you from Judge Rob Kelly and Pct. 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz praised the efforts of KPA by saying it made a difficult situation more manageable.

What made the moment odd was that Guerriero thanked the commissioners for "allowing" the court to let them assist KCAS. When given the opportunity to speak, Commissioners Beck Gipson, Don Harris and Harley Belew said nothing about the KPA! effort. They should have been the ones to thank KPA for making the county look good.


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