The Lead Nov. 29, 2022: The Commissioners tackle Kerr County development issue; send Harris to the library

Good morning, Kerr County!

After some morning fog, things will clear up today, with highs reaching nearly 80 degrees. Ok, maybe 78. It's a short-lived warm-up for the Hill Country because the highs will fall about 20 degrees. Wednesday's high could reach 55 degrees. The weekend looks comfortable but cloudy.

On The Lead Live!

We're going to have a whole bunch of doctors on the show! They're not medical docs, but the academic sort — and we're Ok with that. Drs. Eugene Dowdy and Tim Summerlin stop by to preview Symphony of the Hills' Christmas concert on Thursday night! On Sunday night, the Symphony made more tickets available for the performance, which is the most popular of the year. Schreiner University Professor Dr. Ben Montoya also joins us to take another dive into history and George Washington. The show starts at 9 a.m.

The Gibson's 12 Days of Giftmas is shaping up to be something special!

We had some tremendous interest on Monday from some unique businesses that will join us for the first-ever Gibson's 12 Days of Giftmas — it's a chance for small businesses and nonprofits to show gift ideas heading into Christmas.


On Monday, we had commitments from Aurora Joleen Artistry, The Apothecary Shoppe, Joanne Marie and Me Wine Boutique, Billy Gene's Restaurant and Grace Academy. We got an email from Sabrina Luck of the Apothecary Shoppe, and we thought people could use supplements or vitamins, but they surprised us with what they wanted to showcase.

"We are bringing Hank The Cow Dog Books," she wrote. Well, that's undoubtedly a great idea because there's nothing better than Hank The Cow Dog.

So, here's the lineup for Thursday:

  • Gibson's Discount Center
  • NAPA Kerrville
  • Hill Country Arts Foundation Gift Shop
  • Museum of Western Art Gift Shop
  • Tome, Gold Cup Pawn and Fitch Estate Sales
  • Riverside Nature Center Gift Shop
  • Kerrville Hills Winery (only on Friday)
  • Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau Gift Shop
  • Wild Birds Unlimited
  • Billy Gene's Restaurant
  • Joanne Marie and Me Wine Boutique
  • The Apothecary Shoppe
  • Grace Academy
  • Aurora Joleen Artistry

Of course, Wild Birds Unlimited has already provided us with some of their offerings, but look at these items you can pick up now:

Seed House available at Wild Birds Unlimited

A heartwood bird house available at Wild Birds Unlimited

Today's events

The arts

  • Texas Furniture Makers Show — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Information: The details: Texas Furniture Makers' Show® is an annual statewide Competition of the Finest Custom Furniture Makers in Texas. The show is held at the beautiful Kerr Arts & Cultural Center.
  • Works We Love Show — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. Information: The details: "Works We Love," featuring Fred Harman, creator of "Red Ryder and Little Beaver." Also on display are works from our permanent collection.

Live music

  • Vinyl Night — Inn of the Hills, 7 p.m. Information: 830-895-5000 The details: Vinyl night is a night of listening to music our favorite way and playing records!

Markets and sales

  • Art Mart — Hill Country Arts Foundation, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Dec. 17. Information: The details: The annual Hill Country Arts Foundation showcase of hand-made arts and crafts by area artists. Gift ideas that are perfect for holiday giving.

Judge Kelly understands their concerns about development

When Jack McGuire came before the Kerr County Commissioners' Court on Monday to discuss his concerns about a proposed 800-acre development along Eagle Ridge Road in southern Kerr County, he had at least one sympathetic — Judge Rob Kelly.

McGuire and other homeowners in the rural area are worried about increased traffic in the area, including the impact on an increasingly busy Bandera Highway. The residents fear an additional 200 vehicles traveling Eagle Ridge Road daily.

Kelly and County Engineer Charlie Hastings delivered good and bad news for McGuire and the neighbors. The good news is the developers are pushing back their final plat until sometime next year, and that the Texas Department of Transportation will require a left-hand turn lane from Bandera Highway to Eagle Ridge Road. The turn signal decision came last week, and Hastings admitted it would be news to the developers.

The bad news, however, was just as significant. The county has little leeway in addressing platting and development issues, a decision handed down by the Texas Legislature in 2019. Developers no longer have to submit preliminary plats to the county. Instead, they can submit a final plat that gives the county just 30 days to raise objections. If there are no objections, the plat is automatically approved.

In turn, Kerr County has a voluntary pre-construction process that attempts to avoid problems with the so-called 30-day shot clock. Kelly said all developers have agreed to these terms with the county.

The county's assertions didn't help the residents, many of them who turned out to voice their objections to the project, which could add about 100 homes to the area.

The real message here for McGuire and the neighbors was the county had done everything in its power to ensure the project was safe, but it had limited options.

"We don't want to be adversaries with any of you," Kelly told the residents, many of whom spoke at the meeting. "We are working hard to not do that. The takeaway here is we want to work together because it's going to be a whole lot more productive than fighting among ourselves."

Commissioners brush aside questions about Hill Country Youth Event Center finances

Kerrville resident Tony Wedig was curious about the failure of Proposition B and decided to take a deep dive into the finances of the Hill Country Youth Event Center. What he found surprised him — Kerr County has lost more than $2.5 million on the facility since 2016.

On Monday, Wedig took his questions to the Kerr County Commissioners Court. Since it wasn't on the court's agenda, the commissioners couldn't comment. Of course, they found a way — later in the meeting.

Wedig argued that there's no income coming into the county through an arrangement with Spectra Venue Management, which took over operations of the venue in 2016.

"The Event Center has shown no income from its use," Wedig told the commissioners in a written statement. "However, the financial statements

do show expenses paid by the county for each year. The county pays utilities, staffing, repairs, upgrades, and other expenses which include paying the venue management company a payment which I think is found in the contract."

Wedig's figures are that since 2016, Kerr County has paid Spectra more than $200,000 per year to operate the center, including more than $280,000 in 2021. Wedig said Spectra also keeps any revenue generated from events at the center. The county covers all maintenance costs.

Wedig made no accusations, only questioning the value of a contract that generates no income for the county. Wedig's curiosity was piqued by Proposition B, an $8.5 million initiative to renovate the Hill Country Youth Event Center's aging and dilapidated indoor arena, which the voters rejected on Nov. 8.

Wedig used a taxi cab driver in his presentation to the court as an illustrative point.

"There was a man who bought a shiny new yellow taxi but he did not want to drive it," Wedig explained. "So he made a deal with a taxi driver. The taxi driver would receive a big salary plus all the income from the taxi. The owner of the taxi would pay for all operating costs. This is a sweet deal for the taxi driver."

Wedig estimated that in the last fiscal year, Kerr County lost more than $600,000 at the center.

Later in the meeting, Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz, who was the lead on the contract with Spectra, said he thought Wedig's comments were a mischaracterization of the issue.

"You cannot look straight at those numbers," Letz explained. "About a third of the year, events are hosted out there at no cost. They are county events, whether they are trainings — there are all kinds of events out there. That is staffed and worked by Specrtra. They don't get paid for any of that. There would be a huge cost to operate all of that."

Letz followed that up by saying the county "has a very good deal with Spectra."

This will be interesting

Kerr County Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz announced that Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Harris will join the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library's advisory board and serve as a liaison between the two governments about the library.

How the Kerrville City Council will receive that is yet to be clear, but Harris' inflammatory comments have irritated city officials. Letz said the county has made it clear where they stand on the library — they want the city to remove or move what it deems as "objectionable content."

Harris joined the chorus of opposition by using words like "groomers" to describe what was happening at the library. During protests at the library, many people held signs accusing the library of being a place for "grooming," which is defined by LGBTQ+ groups as a new form of hate speech because it generalizes them as pedophiles.

The City Council voted 4-1 to stand behind the library and its staff but ordered a review of library procedures involving procuring collections.

Letz also said he would meet with Kerr County Animal Services Director Reagan Givens about the arrangement's future with the city — precisely what that means is unclear. The county is required to provide animal control services to the city, whose taxpayers support the facility.

Previously, commissioners failed to recognize the financial imbalance in the services for animal control and library access. The current interlocal agreement allows county residents to utilize the library for free. County residents paid for library cards in years past, but the interlocal agreement ended that.

Letz said he and Harris would begin negotiating with the city. The court approved that motion unanimously.

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