Year in Review: January to March

Blair Casey, Kerrville firefighter/paramedic, left; and Bubba Laws, retired Houston cop, right, officially met for the first time in Laws' San Antonio hospital room, after Casey donated part of his liver as a replacement for Laws' damaged organ.

While COVID-19 dominated the news cycles in 2020, Kerr County residents also witnessed tremendous growth potential with the opening of the new H-E-B store and the announcement of the Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing plan to open locally, while also suffering tragic losses of longtime, high-profile residents.

The following is a recap of the year:

January 2020

• On New Year’s Day, 64 sliders welcomed the new decade with a big splash. Presbyterian Mo-ranch’s 27th annual Polar Bear Plunge kicked off at 1 p.m. on Jan. 1 with volunteers sliding down the 116-footlong and 35-foot-high Mo Slide into the 50-degree Guadalupe river.

• Liam Beregond Hicks entered the world at 5 a.m. on Jan. 2 to the delight of his parents Lara and Ben Hicks, and big sister Brynn. Liam was the first baby to be born in 2020 in Kerr County at Peterson Regional Medical Center.

• Kerrville City Manager Mark McDaniel opened his presentation at the “2020 State of the City” luncheon the week of Jan. 6 with a declaration that the state of the city “is really all about relationships – the council to our citizens, city staff to our citizens and customers, city staff to the council – all of us working together for the benefit of Kerrville.”

• On Jan. 13 Kerrville school trustees approved Career/Technology courses; called a trustee election for May 2 for two seats; and celebrated School Trustee Month by receiving compliments and gifts from a student group.

• Participants in the Hill Country District Junior Livestock Show began arriving and preparing for a week’s competition Jan. 13. The County Show began on Tuesday and the HCDJLS judging began Wednesday. The annual auction on Saturday concluded the week’s events.

• Out of 19 teams competing in the first Lego League Alamo Region Qualifier at Schreiner University on Saturday, Jan. 11, KISD saw two teams advance in competition and four teams earn trophies.

• The staff at the Hill Country Community Journal were honored with a host of awards Jan. 19 at the Texas Press Association Winter Conference in Galveston, landing the newspaper as runner-up in the “Sweepstakes” in the medium-to-large weekly category.

• In a Kerrville City Council Meeting Jan. 21 that lasted almost four hours, councilmembers voted 5-0 to approve the proposed Vintage Heights development and the new “deal points” offered by developer Chuck Cammack. Council also proceeded on plans to extend Olympic Drive; gave final approval to City Charter amendments; and called the municipal election for May 2.

• Organizers for this year’s “MLK Gala” were A.T. Flowers, Gregory Hudspeth, Dollie Hudspeth and Laresa Anderson, founder of the “Dream Team,” sponsors of the event held Jan. 18 in honor and memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

• Architect W. Scott Schellhase, of Kerrville and Lubbock, led a workshop at City Hall on Jan. 21 that began with the announcement of a new local history museum to be established in the historic A.C. Schreiner house downtown.

• Delayne Sigerman, place 4 Kerrville City Councilperson, and 28 local volunteers set out early Jan. 23 to try to determine the number of homeless residents residing within the city limits.

• Gerry Griffin informed and entertained a large audience in the Schreiner University ballroom the week of Jan. 20 with stories not so much about the technology of Apollo 13 as about the people and organization that launched and then safely returned the crew of the aborted lunar landing.

• Kerr County Commissioners on Jan. 27 considered a request to erect a statue of Adm. Chester Nimitz at the courthouse; approved use of Flat Rock Park for July’s River Clean-up and the addition of a handicapped-accessible “porta-potty” there; and chose contractors for airport roofing repairs.

• Kerrville City Council considered on Jan. 28 a development and incentive agreement for Vintage Heights, south of Riverhill on State Highway 16 S. City Attorney Mike Hayes outlined changes and clarifications, saying the “deal points” were agreed to at last meeting, and the development agreement was on this agenda.

February 2020

• Harbor Freight tools, America’s leading retailer of quality tools at the lowest prices, celebrated the grand opening of its new store in Kerrville on Feb. 1.

• Re-enactors vigorously demonstrated medieval fighting techniques to rapt audiences at the Kerrville Renaissance Festival’s second weekend, Feb. 1-2.

• Kerrville City Council on Feb. 3 discussed water issues including their long-range supply plan and a project to drill a new groundwater well on city property in a joint project with Headwaters Groundwater Conservation District.

• A lasting friendship, selfless intentions, and good fortune came together when a Kerrville Fire department firefighter saved the life of a retired police officer and Austin-area resident. KFD’s Blair Casey, 33, offered to donate part of his liver, because the patient’s daughter Kim, a friend of the Caseys from a previous residency in Corpus Christi, posted online about her father Bubba Laws’ need for a transplant.

• Voters had the unprecedented opportunity Feb. 5, to hear from candidates vying for Kerr County Sheriff as they answered questions posed by Rusty Hierholzer, the man who held the position they seek.

• JK Bernhard Construction Company and its subcontractors teamed up to start the process of rehabilitating the front façade of the Arcadia theater in downtown Kerrville on Feb. 7. The team removed the “blade” signage at the front of the building (along Water Street) and transported it to San Antonio where it received intensive restoration and rehabilitation.

• Kerr County commissioners debated community recycling needs and repairs to the Union Church on Feb. 10; and heard a presentation about the new “Heart of the Hills Heritage Center” museum downtown.

• Dezirae Bremseth, a senior in the Tivy High School Band, earned a spot in the 6A All-State Band.

• Kerrville ISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust sent a letter to all district parents the week of Feb. 10 explaining how KISD is handling coronavirus threats.

• The City of Kerrville, in February, approved the city’s first Long Range Water Supply Plan with a 100-year outlook.

• Kerrville City Council met Feb. 11 and passed two ordinances on first reading, one to annex the USDA Laboratory property north of I-10 and west of State Highway 16, and the other to limit heavy truck traffic on Paschal Avenue for safety reasons.

• Kerrville ISD administration and trustees discussed the school construction bond and progress, a changed tuition rate, and factors in forming the next district budget at their regular meeting Feb. 17.

• Despite the inopportune timing of the visit by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspector, Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer was more than pleased with his jail staff, the certificate of compliance he received and the minimal “suggestions” offered following the two-day inspection held Feb. 19-20.

• Three Schreiner University Honors Society students, Matthew Walton, Katie Buerk and Sofia Lopez - who are also 2019-20 Dean Scholars - presented their Dean’s Scholars research initiative Feb. 22 at the 2020 Southwest Fulbright Research Symposium in San Antonio.

• Kerr County Commissioners debated recycling, and two senior housing projects Feb. 24, and approved purchase of a movable lighted message sign.

• In February, Peterson Health continued to work hand in hand with community partners to include the City of Kerrville, Kerr County, local law enforcement, EMS, and local school districts to monitor the activity and spread of the coronavirus.

• Council voted Feb. 25 on prohibiting heavy truck traffic on Paschal Ave.; okayed a proposal for 60 units of affordable housing on Lehman Drive; and approved on second reading the annexation of the USDA Research lab property into the city limits.

March 2020

• Dietert Center participated in the 18th annual “March for Meals,” a national month-long celebration of Meals on Wheels, aimed at raising awareness of the needs of the vulnerable seniors who rely on the vital meal service to remain independent at home.

• Kerr County Commissioners’ Court discussed March 9 the COVID-19 virus, a possible veterans court and a Public defenders’ office, East Kerr wastewater project grants, and future precinct redistricting.

• In March Kerrville-based nonprofit “Big Seed” expanded its resources to a designated office space on the campus at Schreiner University, while Jeremy Walther and other board members continue to plan for future art and music events in the Kerrville area.

• As election night came to an end March 3, Kerr County voters chose Bob Reeves as Tax Assessor/Collector, Brad Rider as Precinct 4 Constable, and sent Kerr County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Elias Garcia and retired DPS Trooper Larry Leitha into a runoff election to determine who will become the next Kerr County Sheriff.

• As local governmental entities, businesses and organizations attempt to abide by Centers for Disease Control guidelines amid the COVID-19 threat, reports of closures, cancellations and operational hours were changing rapidly.

• While Kerr County commissioners continued to meet as usual, the county’s court dockets were adjusted based on state and national emergency declarations due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. “In keeping with the order, local courts are adjusting and complying with the government’s efforts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Lisa Walter, Kerr County public relations director, said.

• Kerrville City Council met March 10 for one of its shortest regular meetings and approved a grant application to the state for a “tactical micro robot;” and presented a proclamation to the executive director of Dietert Center in honor of “March for Meals” month.

• In a show of unity and strength, city and county leaders gathered March 16 to inform citizens of steps being taken to ensure safety and security amid the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus as Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn issued a “Declaration of Disaster,” which will be in effect for the next seven days, a move that allows for the creation of a Joint Operation Center, among other things.

• A March 4 storm heavily damaged Bunkhouse 2 at the Texas Lions Camp and aid was sought for repairs as soon as possible. Campers started arriving May 31.

• Kerrville City Council held a workshop March 17 that had two items, a briefing from Kerrville Fire Department Chief Dannie Smith on response to COVID-19, with guest Greg Nichols from H-E-B; and an executive session on a business development project.

• Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation March 18 postponing the state runoff primary election until July 14, delaying a resolution to the long campaign season for Kerr County Sheriff candidates Elias Garcia and Larry Leitha.

• Under a stressed deadline, Kerr County Commissioners held their first public “virtual meeting” via YouTube on March 23, and the first agenda item was to “discuss and take appropriate action regarding update, facility use and other matters related to COVID-19.” Again, County Emergency Coordinator William “Dub” Thomas was the primary speaker.

• A shortage of protective face masks led Rosalie Reast to research patterns and begin making them to donate to her sister-in-law and the medical community in Kerrville. She recruited more help, including retired social worker and LVN Patsy Hodges and Wesley Nurse Theresa Standage.

• In response to local and state restrictions on public gatherings, local producers have joined forces to ensure the supply chain of healthy, sustainable, clean, local food for our community remains intact. The Kerrville Farmers Market transitioned to a non-contact, curbside farmers market and delivery operation, effective March 21.

• Kerrville ISD trustees held a virtual meeting March 23 via computers on the Zoom app, as school closures and students in online schooling continues. Trustees and administrators joined in the meeting via computer from their homes and offices, and the board room at the KISD Administration Building.

• Kerr County Judge Robert Kelly filed a proclamation declaring “a local state of disaster due to a public health and economic emergency” for the county. In a brief called meeting at the courthouse March 24, Kelly said the local area, under the COVID-19 virus threat, had become a public health and economic emergency.

• Kerrville City Council moved deeper into the virtual meeting world at its March 24 meeting, limiting the in-person audience to council and essential city staff, seated at a distance from each other; and having phoned-in or emailed comments from the public on agenda items. Council discussed an “Economic Development Grant” agreement between the Doyle Community Center, Inc., and the City of Kerrville’s economic Improvement Corporation.

• Schreiner University President Dr. Charlie McCormick issued a statement March 25 to all students, faculty and staff on the next steps Schreiner University is taking in providing educational continuity to its students.

• Peterson Health offered a new drive-in COVID-19 screening option, which opened March 30 at the Hill Country Youth Event Center.

• Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn led a COVID-19 update during a press conference March 31, with Peterson Health CEO Cory Edmondson and Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly.

• Scott Anglesey, executive chef for Kerrville Independent School District Food Service, was at the helm of serving free meals to the children of Kerrville since late March, when in-person schooling was closed by the COVID-19 virus.

• Virtual learning started for Kerrville Independent School District students on March 30. “We’re used to seeing kids, and hugging on teachers every day; and this has been a struggle,” Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust said.

• In an effort to ease the burden to customers during the COVID-19 disaster, the City of Kerrville ceased disconnection of utility services for non-payment in March of 2020. Utility Billing will resume disconnection of services for non-payment for each billing cycle beginning on July 15.

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