County Commissioners denied on a split vote using a paid consultant for dealing with quarry operators here, but approved Amateur Radio Club use of county property.
Commissioners led by Moser and County Judge Robert Kelly, discussed at some length having an official consulting agreement with Jill Shackleford of Austin for aggregate operations in Kerr County. Kelly said the court can’t do much about the noise and dust complaints and concerns about water quality with these quarries mining gravel near the river, but they can try to keep producers talking with affected residents.
One speaker, a Wharton Road resident, said he recently had a conversation with one company owner (after repeated calls) and, surprisingly, got the owner’s agreement to order new beepers for his equipment that would help silence their continual noise during working hours.
Kelly proposed the Kerr officials use Shackleford as a consultant to help set up a local advisory council on this problem, as she was previously owner of a permitted asphalt/rock mining company and a limestone quarry. She also worked in communication and public input between neighbors and operators.
Moser said the last Town Hall on this topic in January didn’t yield good results; and Shackelford has been noted for talking to both sides. “She’d talk to neighbors individually and with the three operators here; and explain the issues to both sides,” Moser said, adding she could return to court with recommendations, probably a local advisory council of perhaps 10 people. And Kerr would be first in Texas to have one.
But commissioners didn’t agree on the proposed maximum $8,500 fee or $250/hour, the “lack of details” and more exact “deliverables.” Harley Belew, Jonathan Letz and Don Harris thought the money should come from the operators, not the county; and said they’ve done this on other topics without hiring someone.
Moser cited Shackleford’s experience; and Kelly said, as an attorney, he can say whoever pays, has a seat at the table; and if Kerr is the first county in Texas to do this, he favors doing it and doing it right.
The resident asked they put themselves in his shoes and ask if $8,500 was worth it. Belew asked if it was, to him; and he said yes. Belew then said the fee should be paid by those affected; and they should have another Town Hall and pay Shackleford to come and speak; and see if it helps anything.
Moser tried changing his motion, to enter an agreement with modifications in it and “deliverables;” and Kelly said he wanted to “nudge the operators off high-center.” The motion failed 2-3 by that split.
Hill Country Amateur
The area’s Amateur Radio Club got county approval to erect a radio communications tower at the east edge of River Star Arts and Event Park, and use part of the former office building there for their equipment.
Club representatives thanked the court, and said since county officials were concerned about placement of guy wires, the club will pour a concrete pad and erect a free-standing tower about 50 feet tall – a 38 foot tower and a mast of about 12 feet. The club will pay for this.
The height allows them to provide effective emergency communications across a range of HF and VHF/UHF frequencies, they said. Commissioner Tom Moser called it “another layer of emergency communication.”
Commissioner Jonathan Letz said his only questions were about long-term viability of that building, that it wasn’t a permanent structure and would eventually probably be torn down. But county staff and HCARC members will check its current condition.
Commissioners made this agreement a five-year lease with the radio club at no cost to the group, and allowed returning to court for a renewal.
Commissioners also approved the club to use the Union Church for their monthly meetings at no charge the first Thursday each month 6:30-9:30 p.m., reminding them maximum capacity is officially 100 people.
River crossing patrols
Tara Bushnoe, from Upper Guadalupe River Authority, got approval to renew a local agreement for licensed peace officers to patrol river-crossing sites at Hunt, Ingram Dam, and Brinks on most summer weekends, to combat littering and encourage cleanup in those three most litter-prone areas.
The agreement says officers, paid an extra hourly sum by UGRA, can furnish UGRA-provided trash bags; counsel river visitors; keep the peace; prevent public nuisance conditions; and issue citations for littering. They will not check on a set schedule.
Bushnoe also talked about UGRA’s formerly annual River Cleanup, saying COVID forced them to cancel their previous full-day Saturday event, and instead have volunteers schedule their own days and dates, and notify UGRA of their work and “trash collections.” Monday, she got court permission for volunteers to drop their collected trash in a Youth Event Center dumpster as needed.
Spraying ‘giant cane’
Bushnoe asked commissioners to authorize Texas Parks & Wildlife contractors to once again spray invasive “Arundo donax” (“giant cane”) growing on county property.
They agreed; and also said those personnel could refill water tanks at the Hill Country Youth Event Center as needed, being closer to East Kerr locations. This continues the “Healthy Creeks Initiative Program” to manage the cane, and Bushnoe said the spraying is creating improvements especially in the areas sprayed repeatedly.
She said the list of locations is the same as last year, but others could be added; and last year 76 landowners plus city- and county-owned sites were treated.
Memorial Day plans
County VSO Jenna Sanchez spoke to the court about Memorial Day plans, saying Jeff Harris, USMC veteran, will emcee the ceremony 10 a.m. on May 31, assisted by veteran Jake Williamson. The speaker is planned to be a retired Marine Corps colonel/astronaut, she said, and thanked Moser for his help making that connection.
Kerrville-Kerr County Airport General Manager Mary Rohrer and board President Mark Mosier presented the FY2021-22 airport budget, with total expenses of $470,300 and revenues of $930,000. Moser noted the county could approve or disapprove of this budget, but the county and City of Kerrville are not contributing to it.
Rohrer said their expenses are balanced with income; and they are catching up to pre-COVID income levels, especially with fuel flow sales as an indicator.
Commissioners approved this new budget 5-0; and thanked her and her board for their work.
New Airport Board member
Mosier also presented their choice for a new board member, John A. Major of Kerrville. Commissioners unanimously approved his selection; and he was sworn in by Judge Kelly.
Major told them he is a pilot, aircraft owner and tenant of the airport T-hangars.
He has a background in a transaction and restructuring group, KPMG LLP, including on their aerospace and defense team; active in general aviation for 40-plus years, retired now and a part-time flight instructor in the Hill Country.
He also served as a volunteer pilot and wing leader for Angel Flight Central, a nonprofit devoted to medical transportation for individuals in need.
Sheriff’s Office donations
Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha notified the court about six donations given recently for the sheriff’s Equipment Fund, his Special Response Team Fund, and his Training School Fund. The donations totaled $12,800; and commissioners congratulated him on his fundraising.
COVID, winter storm updates
Kerr County Emergency Coordinator William “Dub” Thomas reported there were 45 active COVID-19 cases Monday and 6 hospitalized virus patients. He said state officials say 20,100 vaccine doses have been sent to Kerr County; and 30,151 shots have been given. He said on June 1-2, the Texas Military Department will return to Kerr County to give second doses of vaccine.
Thomas said on emergency storm damage responses, 565 residents now have reported varying damage levels from February’s ice storm; and the state extended the reporting deadline for this to May 20.
He also asked county leaders to approve a memorandum of agreement with FEMA to include iPAWS in conjunction with the current Code Red. Asked to define this addition, he said it allows the warning system to break into local radio stations for emergency FEMA notifications.
Belew, whose business is in radio stations, asked for more information about the program’s function and equipment, and requested Thomas to report back to court on how it will work, after he’s trained. Letz and others cited a higher confidence factor in FEMA, and this item was approved.