Good afternoon, Kerr County!
We're still trying to unpack from last night's epic meeting by re-watching the proceedings. However, we're also dealing with a bout of back spasms, hindering our efforts for rapid action. With that here's your afternoon update.
Kerrville City Council's key highlights
OK, if you don't have time to dig into the myriad of big issues from Tuesday night's Kerrville City Council meeting, here are the key points:
- The fire and police chiefs handed out honors for its workers, including recognizing EMTs and paramedics for their response to the drag racing crash in October at the Kerrville/Kerr County Airport.
- The City Council voted 4-1 to have its municipal election on May 7 — its traditional time. However, gadfly George Baroody, a former City Councilman, and current Place 1 City Councilman Roman Garcia argued the city was not following the law on the issue. Baroody claims that Councilmembers Judy Eychner, Brenda Hughes, and Mayor Bill Blackburn must serve two years based on the delayed Nov. 3, 2020 election. Baroody's claims at best flies in the face of Gov. Greg Abbott's executive orders suspending election codes to move the municipal elections in the first place.
- The City Council voted 5-0 to place a $45 million general obligation bond on the ballot. Baroody and others argued the price tag was probably too high, suggesting the project should emphasize the police department and not the fire administration, municipal court, and information technology departments. Barbara Dewell, a member of a committee that recommended the bond amount, flip-flopped on her statements by saying the project was a gold-plated wish list.
- Fire Chief Eric Maloney led a presentation about the city's response to the winter storm last week, saying most of the city's biggest problems were related to calls for service on Interstate 10. Police Chief Chris McCall said the city asked the Texas Department of Transportation to close Interstate 10 on Thursday due to the hazardous conditions. TxDOT denied that request. Later Thursday night, there was a weather-related crash on the freeway that led to the death of a Kerrville resident.
- Finance Director Julie Behrens spoke about a mid-year budget amendment due to increased sales tax collection and federal COVID-19 relief funds. The city would give city employees a 5% cost of living adjustment and give raises in some areas where the city is competitive in retaining talent.
- Behrens provided a nugget that as many as 100,000 people could come to Kerrville to see an annular eclipse on Oct. 14, 2023 and a total solar eclipse in April of 2024 — both will best viewed in Kerrville. In turn, the city is spending $50,000 anticipating the expected crowds for the eclipses. The eclipses are already dubbed "The Great Texas Eclipse." Other Texas Hill Country communities are already planning for the event, including Dripping Springs, which is advertising its a top spot to see the action.
- That money the city will receive from the controversial American Rescue Plan Act will likely help pay for a new $2.8 million radio system for police and fire departments. The city expects to get a better deal by purchasing the system with the Lower Colorado River Authority.
George Baroody goes 5-for-5
Former Kerrville City Councilman George Baroody leads the pack of citizens questioning the City Council when speaking at public meetings. He spoke five times on Tuesday night — totaling about 10 minutes of speaking time, more than some of the Councilmembers said. Here are the times he spoke, along with the video timestamp.
- He provided context to a Doyle School Community Center event celebrating Black History from 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 25.
- Speaking about the legality of ordering an election. (27:44)
- Speaking about the debt service rate for the cost of the new public safety building (1:20:50)
- Speaking about the one-time revenue increase to be used for possible wages, Baroody complained the city needed to spend the money on roads. (2:07)
- Speaking about the city's sign ordinance (2:28)
Honoring the police department officers, employees
In the opening moments of Tuesday's Kerrville City Council meeting, Police Chief Chris McCall recognized the work of three employees — two sworn officers and one civilian.
Civilian Employee of the year
Elizabeth Adame, a criminal investigations unit specialist. What McCall said: "Her co-workers describe her work as meticulous and someone with a strong work ethic. Besides her duties that are expected through her job description she goes above and beyond in taking care of all of us in the department."
Supervisor of the year
Sgt. Hal Degenhart. What McCall said: "Hal is described as a person with a wealth of knowledge about the criminal element within our community. If something is going on in our community, there's likely a connection to someone he can talk to to get more information. That leads us down a path to solving things. He is also one of those individuals when you have someone you're dealing with who may be difficult, he's a great one to step in because he's got great communication skills."
Officer of the year
Detective Benjamin Ledesma. What McCall said: He is definitely the epitome of a can-do type of guy. He brings that to work with him every day. He is infectious to those around him."