Year in Review: July to September

KILLDEER MOUNTAIN MANUFACTURING PRESIDENT DON

HEDGER announced that Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing would be expanding its aerospace business to Kerr County at an Aug. 13 press conference.

July 2020

• A tragic accident claimed the life of an 11-year-old Center Point boy, according to Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer. Hierholzer said the boy and his father were operating a large “front-end loader type of tractor” when the accident occurred at 12:50 p.m., July 3.

• Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer began fielding calls regarding Governor Greg Abbott’s newly-signed executive order mandating a statewide requirement for the use of face masks in public places by all Texas citizens residing in counties with 20 or more active COVID-19 cases. “My phone is blowing up with people asking me if I am going to enforce this order,” Hierholzer said. “That’s a tough question. It’s hard enough for law enforcement right now and I am not going to make my officers write citations for violating this order.”

• Kerr County commissioners held a “special meeting” lasting less than two hours, and in action items, approved a grant coming to the Kerrville-Kerr County airport; and a separate state grant to the county from Texas Department of Transportation.

• With an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in South Texas, demand for convalescent plasma increased more than tenfold, from about five orders per day from area hospitals at the beginning of the month, to more than 100 per day currently. Because of the surge in orders, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center over a recent weekend was unable to fill several orders for patients who are fighting COVID-19.

• The Kerrville Police Department hosted 11 enthusiastic middle school students in the KPD Junior Police Academy the week of July 6.

• At a community update meeting July 9, City of Kerrville and Kerr County officials weighed in on recent developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn noted that anger, frustration and fear are prevalent among many locals. “In the midst of all that, I would suggest we come back to Kerrville kindness,” Blackburn said.

• Schreiner University and Condensed Curriculum International (CCI) partnered to better serve the community by providing online, certificate training courses - starting this Fall - for high-demand healthcare worker jobs.

• Possible COVID restrictions and “unreasonable” property appraisals filled a County Commissioners’ meeting lasting four-plus hours July 13. Pct. 2 Commissioner Tom Moser also announced, as the meeting started, that volunteers were successful in collecting the necessary 2,016 beverage sale petition signatures and more, to get the question on the Nov. 3 General Election Ballot to allow alcoholic beverage sales in that precinct.

• A makeshift memorial now stands at the site where three members of the Thin Blue Line Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club were killed and nine others injured Saturday, July 19, shortly after noon on Texas Highway 16, a few miles south of Kerrville.

• Kerr County Precinct 3 commissioner Jonathan Letz told fellow commissioners and the public during the July 20 special meeting that he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19.

• Notre Dame Catholic School in Kerrville re-opened their doors to their students on Aug. 17 for the 2020-21 school year, with a mixture of in-person and virtual classes being offered.

• It was not an entirely empty glass that was served up to members of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools during a July 17 webinar dealing with the business of how to proceed with handling fall's extracurricular activities during the upcoming school year.

• Commissioners honored the Historical Commission July 20; and debated again COVID-19 requirements and restrictions versus county control.

• Kerr County Sheriff’s Office deputies, along with Kerrville Fire Department EMS crews and firefighters were called to a home in Guadalupe Heights on July 24, shortly after 1 p.m., where it was discovered a 78-year-old woman had died overnight due to a contained fire. According to Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer, the woman appeared to have died due to smoke inhalation.

• Some questions were answered and some more were raised when the UIL in July released its plan for athletic activities going forward into the 2020-21 school year. Answered is the fact that high school sports in Texas will be played, meaning Kerrville Tivy will take the field in football, court in volleyball and team tennis, and the course for cross country.

• Kerrville ISD’s board of trustees held a three-hour Zoom meeting July 27, with heavy emphasis on the COVID-19 pandemic; and how to safely re-open school and manage finances in spite of it. They asked parents in the district to choose in July whether their students would return Aug. 24 to classes online or to in-person classes.

• Kerr County Commissioners held a regular meeting July 27, and mulled two added vehicle registration fees and the FY21 budget for the Kerrville-Kerr County airport.

• Kerrville City Council debated the airport and Kerr Central Appraisal District budgets; and considered street construction funding and rezoning requests, and purchase of a new chassis/cab for a fire department brush truck, on July 28.

• At a press conference held July 30, the City of Kerrville in partnership with Peterson Health reported updated COVID-19 numbers and reiterated the necessity of common-sense precautions to flatten the curve of coronavirus in Kerr County.

• Beth Palmer, of Mustard Seed Ministry, was honored with the City of Kerrville’s inaugural “Kerrville Kindness Award” in July for her leadership, dedication and tireless work in setting up food pantries for area citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• The Kerrville area experienced powerful thunderstorms that began around 6 p.m. on July 31. At the peak of the storm, 659 Kerrville Public Utility Board customers lost power due to 18 separate outages in the Comanche Trace, Kerrville South and Peterson Farm Road area.

August 2020

• Schreiner University spring graduates wore masks and were socially distanced while enjoying their long-awaited commencement ceremony held Saturday morning, Aug. 1.

• Local residents were invited to participate in the “Mega Food Pantry” event hosted by Mustard Seed Ministries in conjunction with the San Antonio Food Bank Aug. 1. Hundreds of families were served at Light on the Hill.

• COVID-19 parameters notwithstanding, Center Point Pirate fall athletics sailed forward with normal starting dates for practices and games at this time, pending the UIL’s announcement that allows Class 1A through 4A programs to keep their original schedules. The Pirates began football practices Aug. 3.

• Kerr County Commissioners held a “special” meeting Aug. 3, with a short agenda that included only four agenda items, but one took up most of the nearly three-hour meeting. Citizens spoke to the court on the “Meadowbrook Retirement Community Manufactured Housing Rental Community” development plan.

• Governor Greg Abbott issued a Proclamation extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 Election by nearly a week. Under this proclamation, early voting by personal appearance will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, and continue through Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

• The Tivy High School Athletic Hall of Fame inductees for 2020 were announced the week of Aug. 3, honoring 2000 graduate Marty Jefferson, 2005 graduate Jacqueline Overby-Brummett and longtime sports reporter and photographer Stuart Cunyus, to be inducted under the “Avid Supporter” category.

• A reported violent carjacking that began in Midland ended on Interstate 10 following a harrowing high-speed pursuit by multiple local law enforcement agencies. According to Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer, deputies were alerted to a stolen pickup truck out of Midland being in the area Friday, Aug. 7 at 6:26 p.m.

• Texas Parks & Wildlife Department officials confirmed that local veterinarian Dr. Bob Dittmar was one of three victims killed in a helicopter crash that occurred Aug. 8 in West Texas. The crash occurred Saturday while Dittmar and two TPWD employees were conducting aerial surveys for desert bighorn sheep in West Texas on TPWD’s Black Gap Wildlife Management area in Brewster County.

• Kerr County Commissioners on Aug. 10 discussed an airport board appointment; a downtown patriotic celebration next month; virus numbers; and a requested use of former JDC space. Commissioners Harley Belew, Tom Moser, Jonathan Letz and Don Harris held this meeting in person, socially distanced, with Letz leading the meeting, and County Judge Robert Kelly joining by phone.

• The staff at Peterson Regional Medical center, especially in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit, were notified in August that the hospital has earned an “Acute Stroke Ready Certification” for their policies and procedures in treating possible stroke victims.

• Peterson Hospice announced in early August that they are offering a new program to their hospice patients who also are pet owners, the “Pet Peace of Mind Hospice Program.” The motto of the Pet Peace of Mind program is “Keeping pets and people together during hospice care.”

• The majority of the hour-long meeting Aug. 11 was taken up with presentations and discussion of City Manager Mark McDaniel’s proposed FY2020-21 budget for the city, with added information from City Finance Director Amy Dozier. Council also was asked to consider the initial resolution leading to the FY21 tax rate to be applied to property-owners’ certified valuations.

• Wolfmueller’s Books at 229 Earl Garrett has been owned in that location by Jon and Sandy Wolfmueller since 2004, but Jon Wolfmueller’s family has had businesses in downtown Kerrville for nearly the last 100 years. Now, Jon and Sandy have decided this is the time to close the bookstore and retire.

• The City of Kerrville and economic development partners announced Aug. 13 in a major press conference that Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing, based in North Dakota, is expanding its manufacture of electronic components for military and aerospace industries to Kerr County.

• Kerrville ISD trustees approved a budget of $42.2 million and a tax rate to fund the 2020-21 school year at their Aug. 17 meeting.

• The family of 8-year-old Arianna Khaile Guido-Lopez announced her tragic passing on Aug. 17, following a valiant 11-day battle to survive injuries incurred in a suspected drunk driving accident. Arianna was reportedly sleeping in her bed at 10:53 p.m. on Aug. 6, when a 2013 Ford F-250 pickup truck crashed through the wall of her home and into her bedroom, trapping the child underneath the vehicle.

• City of Kerrville Police Chief David Knight announced his intention to retire from the force effective Sept. 10. Knight has served as chief of police since 2015.

• Kerrville Independent School District implemented their re-opening plan as of Monday, Aug. 24; and asked parents in the district to choose in July whether their students would return to classes online or in-person. Before Aug. 24, parent surveys said about two-thirds of them wanted students to attend in-person.

• Kerr County Commissioners unanimously approved a new proposed FY21 tax rate Aug. 24, at $0.4757 per $100 valuation, to fund the proposed 2020- 21 budget. Both decisions still must include public hearings and published legal notices before final adoption. Commissioners also voted to pay earnest monies for properties located on Earl Garrett, part of their plan to house and open the main offices of a new five-county Public Defenders’ Office and a new location for the Kerr Tax Assessor Collector’s Office.

• Kerrville City Council approved a new FY21 “austere” budget on Aug. 25 on first reading; and also approved the new and lower tax rate to fund the budget.

• The League of Women Voters Hill Country Texas celebrated “Women’s Equality Day” on Aug. 26, this year the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, that gave most (but not all) female citizens the right to vote.

• After five and a half long months of closure, Kerrville’s Rio 10 Cinemas reopened Aug. 28 with a new slate of films and a host of safety precautions to protect patrons. The theater shut down in March, along with other local businesses, said Sid Hall, president of Rio Entertainment. He noted that by May 1, movie theaters were permitted to reopen, but with a 25-percent capacity restriction – so the difficult decision was made to remain closed.

September 2020

• Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly said the new Public Defenders Office, to be hosted by Kerr County, will have 31 employees, including 21 attorneys and 10 lay workers. It will serve Kerr, Kendall, Gillespie, Medina and Bandera counties. Those five counties submitted a joint grant application to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, where Judge Kelly was allowed to present.

• In good news Sept. 7, Kerr County Commissioners took a record vote in unanimous (5-0) support of lowering the county’s annual combined tax rate by 7.6 percent. The move came after months of trimming a deficit budget to a workable one, a measure they saw as important during these especially trying economic times. In doing so, they felt it important to reduce the tax rate because of an abnormally high increase of assessed property values.

• Hundreds of members and guests of the Christian Motorcyclists Association gathered over the weekend of Sept. 5-6 for the “Light Up The Hills Rally,” which honored patriots, while also hosting scripture and Gospel events.

• Kerrville City Council held their first in-person meeting for months, using the Cailloux Theater on Sept. 8, with masks and social distancing set up for councilpersons and staff on stage, and the audience in the theater seating. Council unanimously passed on second reading the ordinance adopting the annual budget for the City of Kerrville for fiscal year 2021, after a brief summary by Finance Director Amy Dozier, and with little council discussion. They also unanimously approved the FY21 ad valorem tax rate on second reading, both by a “record vote,” with each councilperson’s vote spoken and recorded separately.

• A key figure in Kerr County’s judicial system who was instrumental in its growth in the past half century – Judge Spencer W. Brown – passed away the week of Sept. 7. Brown retired from the bench at the end of 2014, but not before serving as the judge for the County Court at Law for 24 years.

• Finalizing the new Kerr County 2020-21 budget and tax rate filled a large part of the Sept. 14 meeting. First, James Robles from the auditor’s office outlined the category and dollar amount changes included in the budget since they last discussed it. Those ranged from $4,450 for the Kerr County Historical Commission to some six- and seven-figure line items related to the new multi-county Public Defenders’ Office they plan to set up. Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve those additions and changes.

• The Texas Supreme Court issued an order the week of Sept. 14 that required a change to the Nov. 3 General Election ballots and that caused a delay in getting ballots mailed out to Kerr County voters who qualified.

• Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference the week of Sept. 14 to provide an update on the state's ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19. During the press conference, the Governor issued Executive Orders expanding occupancy levels for restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms and exercise facilities and classes, museums, and libraries, and re-authorizing elective surgeries for a majority of the state of Texas. The Governor also announced new guidance related to visitations at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state.

• Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 17 directed the Texas Health & Human Services Commission to expand visitation options for eligible nursing, assisted living and intermediate care facilities, home and community-based service providers, and inpatient hospice, effective Sept. 24.

• Kerrville ISD trustees held a regular meeting Sept. 21 that lasted more than three hours; and covered “maximum class size exemptions,” Career and Technical education; advanced placement exams; an update on the bond issue construction and renovation; and campus improvement plans for the elementary schools.

• While Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly encouraged citizens to continue to wear face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, he did apply to Governor Greg Abbott for, and receive approval for exemption to the statewide mask order, a move that has promoted local entities to add clarification.

• The blood supply in South Texas reached critically low levels, declining to around half of what is needed to adequately serve patients throughout the region. The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of San Antonio based non-profit BioBridge Global, urgently needed 500 donations per day to re-build the supply.

• “Together With Hill Country Veterans” announced the roll-out of a program to strengthen local support for area veterans. The purpose of the newly formed 501(c)3 tax exempt organization is to enlist rural veterans and their local partners to join forces to reduce veteran suicide in their community. TWHCV operates from an office at the Hill Country Veterans Center.

• Kerr County Commissioners terminated their “hazardous duty pay” as of Sept. 21, at their regular meeting Sept. 28; and voted unanimously to be part of a central Kerrville Christmas lighting project.

• Lt. Garrett Barfknecht, an Ingram resident and a firefighter with the Canyon Lake Fire Department, spent 25 days in September deployed with three other Comal County firefighters to aid in fighting the Northern California wildfires.

• Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator William B. “Dub” Thomas reported the week of Sept. 21 the county’s current COVID-19 pandemic totals were: 5 active cases, 616 recoveries and 10 fatalities as of Friday. the county now also has a new reporting category that has 34 cases labeled “to be determined,” thanks to some recent changes made in testing procedures.

• Kerrville City Council met Sept. 22 in their second in-person meeting at the Cailloux theater; and passed the three agreements that are the final steps in building the new Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing in Kerr County. They also approved the neighborhood enhancement team program to continue; and considered amendments to the Thoroughfare Plan, and Sign and Zoning codes.

• Kerrville Independent School District trustees held a special meeting Sept. 28, mostly in closed session to complete their annual evaluation of Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust. Foust, who had been at the helm of the district since 2017, passed the evaluation with only positive things noted in his performance review.

• When a Kerrville resident accidentally lost three keepsake rings in her plumbing pipes a few weeks back, a call went out to the City of Kerrville’s Public Works Department to see if they could find them. City employees Sky Vorhees, Benton Cripps, Josh Jacobs, Matthew Zapata, Juan Garcia and Blake Brinson were able to locate the rings over a three-week period. The first two rings were found 600 ft. from the resident’s home. The third was found even further away. The rings were returned to the happy owner.

• Kerr County’s exemption from the statewide mandatory mask order was removed, meaning everyone inside the county is once again responsible for covering their faces in public to abide by Governor Greg Abbott’s order. Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly contacted the Texas Department of Emergency Management on Sept. 30 to voluntarily ask the state agency to remove Kerr County from its list of exempted Texas counties.

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