Sheriff  honored, County tax rate set

Kerr County Commissioners hosted an award presentation to Sheriff Larry Leitha in their regular meeting Sept. 13; and approved the FY22 Kerr County tax rate; a Sept. 28 “Voter Registration Day” and the “Airport Race Wars 2” event Oct. 23.

Award to Sheriff Leitha

A national first-place award from the Military Order of the World Wars was presented to Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha at this meeting, for “exceptional duty performance in keeping with the highest traditions of public service.”

Norman Wells of Kerrville’s Hill Country Chapter, MOWW, presented the award, saying the local chapter nominated him for the Individual Exceptional Law and Order Award; and his nomination took first place at the MOWW National Convention in August.

Wells’ nomination concerned Leitha’s leadership at the KCSO Feb. 11-19, 2021, “when Kerr County and much of Texas endured sustained record-breaking extremely cold temperatures, severe ice and snow/sleet accumulation, and related disruption of public utilities, transportation and communication.”

Wells’ narrative said Leitha had been in office only six weeks, yet managed the emergency “with great skill, superb judgment and exceptional allocation of resources …”

The nomination noted the downed power lines blocking State Highway 16N; using Facebook posts to advise the public; assisting at Interstate 10 traffic accidents and then helping DPS Troopers close that highway; sheriff’s officers camping out at the office for most of a week despite a broken water pipe; arranging for food for jail inmates when regular delivery wasn’t possible, and for diesel fuel to keep generators running; using personal four-wheel-drive vehicles to make “welfare checks” at residences, and delivering firewood in some cases.

Leitha thanked Wells and MOWW for the honor; and said retired Sheriff Rusty Hieholzer advised him the department had good people and he needed to take care of them. Leitha said that “good group” included outlying police and volunteer fire departments “in a full team effort.”

He also said he’s since bought some sets of “snow chains,” after a committee meeting to plan ahead.

Tax rates set

Commissioners offered a public hearing on the proposed county tax rate, and no one asked to speak. Then they voted unanimously in individual “record votes” to approve a county tax rate of $0.4542 per $100 valuation. Of that total rate, the largest portion - $0.3948 per $100 valuation – goes to the Maintenance and Operations portion of the new county budget as of Oct. 1.

Small amounts go to the Interest & Sinking Fund for debt service, and to Lateral Roads.

They also offered a public hearing and then adopted the 2021 tax rate for the Lake Ingram Estates Road District. That was set at $0.1521 per $100 valuation for residents in that specific district. All funds go to their I&S account for roads.

National Voter Registration Day

County elections chief and Tax Assessor-Collector Bob Reeves got commissioners’ unanimous approval on a resolution naming Tuesday, Sept. 28, as “National Voter Registration Day.”

County Judge Robert Kelly agreed under that vote to sign the official resolution.

Runway closure for Airport Races

Airport Manager Mary Rohrer from the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport got the approval of Commissioners’ Court to sign a “temporary closure for non-aeronautical special event request” for the “Airport Race Wars 2.”

That event is scheduled Oct. 23 at the airport. Rohrer said this new official Texas Department of Transportation/ Aviation application was approved by her airport board in late August. Once authorizations are provided from both the county and City of Kerrville, the application will be sent to TxDOT.

Proclamation, ‘Night Sky Month’

Kevin Russells, representing Bill Rector, asked commissioners to proclaim October as “Hill Country Night Sky Month.” He cited the unwanted effects of light pollution, and asked the court to support the benefits of lighting managed for night skies.

He called their request an “educational proclamation” and invited the court members to an Oct. 6 private party in the Hill Country at an observatory. Their agenda request also said the U Bar U Dark Sky Park and Observatory is the only dark sky park on private land certified by the International Dark Sky Association in the United States.

Rector is president of the Kerr County Friends of the Night Sky.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approved the resolution.

Hazardous Waste Collection event

Commissioners unanimously approved a motion to partner with the City of Kerrville for a “Household Hazardous Waste Event” to be held at the Hill Country Youth Event Center on Saturday, Oct. 23.

Timing for this has not been set yet, but probably will be between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., same as last year, according Commissioner Don Harris.

It was noted that is the same date as the Airport Race Wars 2 at the local airport.

Artwork donation

Artist George Waring got Kelly’s approval to donate a sketch he made of the original Kerr County Courthouse, drawn from archival records.

Kelly thanked him for his artistic work and accepted the sketch for display in the courthouse.

By-laws, Historical Commission

Bunny Bond of the Kerr County Historical Commission asked commissioners to approve that county- sponsored group’s revised By-Laws. Bond said per the suggestion of the Texas Historical Commission, the draft was first sent to the county attorney and the county auditor for review, and they responded with suggestions.

Bond said a four-person committee undertook this long-delayed task, revising it to be combined into a book of goals and procedures, as they work to preserve 165 years of county history.

She also got approval to use the Kerr County logo on official documents of this commission.

9-1-1 budget

Mark del Toro, director of Kerr 9-1-1, requested approval of the FY22 9-1-1 budget, saying they decreased it slightly from last year, because fewer area residents have a wire-line landline phone anymore. And that has decreased their possible revenue.

The Kerr group is one of 21 emergency communication agencies in Texas, he said; and they have asked for increased funding across the state, through the state Legislature. But they were turned down by the Governor’s Office until the next regular session.

Other business

Commissioners:

•    Approved a county contract with the Divide Volunteer Fire Department;

•    Got a report from Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator William “Dub” Thomas on COVID-19 numbers including about 20,100 vaccines available; 43,900-plus vaccines administered; 21,418 people fully vaccinated; and percentages of various age groups’ vaccination rates;

•    Updated their liaison positions to replace assignments held by former Commissioner Tom Moser and assign those to new Commissioner Beck Gipson; including Veteran Services Officers, 9-1-1, city fire/EMS, economic development, Joint Airport Board and Library Board;

•    Approved a revised fee schedule for Sheriff and Constables.

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