Author Archives: Aaron Yates

City Council Recap for November 14, 2017

CITY ATTORNEY OFFERED A REVISED CONTRACT

After a 3 hour executive session, which was punctuated by a revolving door of City officials and outside attorney being called in and sent out, the Council voted 4-1 to offer City Attorney Mike Hayes a revised contract. (Details of this contract will be furnished soon). Mayor Bonnie White was the lone dissenter. Her clear angry demeanor might characterize the lengthy executive session!

DEBT REFINANCING

The City’s outside financial advisor advised the Council that anticipated changes in the federal laws governing early refinancing of bonded indebtedness (normally effected to capture benefits of lower interest rates) necessitates Kerrville fast track refinancing of up to $20M of current debt. Savings net of refinancing costs is estimated to be over $600,00. Also this refinancing will restructure the debt repayment to facilitate addressing of other near term infrastructure needs. After deliberation the Council voted 5-0 to move forward with the restructuring.

RIVER TRAIL COMPLETION

The Council reviewed bids to complete the River Trail project. This completes the final segment of the trail and provides associated parking and other amenities. The funds to complete this quality of life project have been tagged from City 4B funds. The accepted bid was 13% below the projected costs. This project should commence soon.

CITY/COUNTY AGREEMENT ON LIBRARY AND ANIMAL CONTROL SERVICES

After a lengthy period of disagreement, the two local governmental agencies agreed to reopen the City library for free use by Kerr County residents living outside the City and for the County to assume full responsibility for animal control throughout the County. The agreement will be reviewed in March 2018 to ensure both entities are in support of continuing the agreement or are adjustments needed

TTHM REMOVAL

A study of how to achieve mandated level of TTHM was received and reviewed by the Council. The City has attempted to achieve compliance through numerous changes in the
Potable water system design but it was determined a more significant changed or addition was required. The Council instructed the staff to move forward with design and implementation of the Granulate Activated Charcoal technique with the anticipated capital costs exceeding $4M and annual operating costs over $400,000.

 

Article by Glenn Andrew
Video by Aaron Yates

Sports Complex Fever Broken in November Bond Elections

Although Kerr County’s voter turnout was incredibly low, thanks in part to no other matters on the ballot other than Texas Constitutional amendment propositions, other nearby communities had some important local matters to address.

I found two elections that I think are useful for comparison to one of our local projects, the Holdsworth Drive Athletic Complex. Of course, our athletic complex, which is set to open this spring, was funded without ad valorem tax increases. Our complex was funded by a donation of $1.5 million in land and $3+ million in cash from the Cailloux Foundation, and $9 million from the Kerrville Economic Improvement Corporation (EIC) via 4b sales tax revenue. So Kerrville was not asked to raise taxes in order to pay for the soon-to-open complex — we were able to create a world class facility for our youth without asking taxpayers to foot the extra bill.

However, taxpayers in Gillespie and Val Verde Counties had to make a decision… Would they abide a slight tax increase to provide much needed athletic facilities for the area youth? Continue reading

Lowest voter turnout in at least 12 years for November 2017 Election

The 2017 Constitutional Amendment Election was held on Tuesday, November 7, and only 4.9% of registered Kerr County voters cast a ballot. This is the lowest county-wide turnout for a November election in at least the past 12 years. Constitutional elections are held every two years, and in 2011, and we had a turnout of 8.64%, which was the previous low — about 3.5 points higher than today’s turnout.

Absentee, early, and election day voting options were offered. About 5% voted by mail, 34% voted early, and 61% voted on election day. Four polling places were open — one for each precinct.

On the ballot were seven propositions to amend the Texas Constitution, and are discussed in great detail in this Voter’s Guide provided by the League of Women Voters.

Kerr County voters said “Yes” to all but two of the seven proposed amendments. Numbers 5 and 7 failed to receive a majority of support by our county’s voters.

Number 5 was a constitutional amendment on professional sports team charitable foundations
conducting charitable raffles. Proposition 5 would amend Article 3, Section 47(d-1) of the Texas Constitution, enabling certain professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles.

This measure failed in Kerr County by 51.87% to 48.13%.

Number 7 was a constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings. Proposition 7 would amend the constitution to allow the legislature to authorize credit unions or other financial institutions to conduct promotional activities that can award a prize to one or more of the institution’s depositors selected by lot to encourage savings.

Kerr County voters said “No” by a margin of 50.18% to 49.82%.

The other propositions garnered wide majority support “For” the measures.

The statewide turnout ended up coming in at around 5.7%.

Statewide election night returns: https://enrpages.sos.state.tx.us/public/nov07_320_state.htm

Article by Aaron Yates

Editor’s Note: This post has been edited several times to update the turnout numbers and correct a statement about previous Constitutional Amendment Elections.

Special meeting to discuss Mike Hayes contract

City Council has called a special meeting for Friday, October 20, at 2:00 PM in council chambers at city hall to:

Deliberate the employment, evaluation, and contract of the City Attorney.

The meeting agenda includes language to allow the council to adjourn into executive session, which would be closed to public viewing. However, the public is allowed to attend the open portion of the meeting, which includes voting on any action that was discussed during the executive session.

Some social media viewers have already criticized the scheduling of the meeting during a workday, which precludes much of the public from being able to attend and support Mr. Hayes.

At this time we don’t know if this meeting will bring resolution to this matter, or if it will just be an additional discussion or negotiation with Mr. Hayes. We will bring you the latest news as soon as we have it — most likely on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

We seek to understand all points of view

The goal of Kerrville United is to inform and educate the voters about the most important issues we face as a community. Although we do express particular viewpoints from time to time, we have always invited those who might disagree with us to give us insight from their point of view. To that end, we want to officially encourage and invite Mayor Bonnie White, Councilman Vincent Voelkel, Councilman George Baroody, and others who support them to provide us with statements — whether the format is audio, video, or written statements — or other materials to help understand and clarify “the other side of the argument.” We will publish them! Or if you prefer, we are happy to host an interview. Whether it’s about the Mike Hayes contract, or any other issue that we discuss on this page, we invite a polite and substantive debate.

On that point, I want to encourage our readership to engage one another in a manner that we would be proud to show our children and grandchildren. It’s ok (and encouraged) to debate the issues, but the most constructive debates don’t include any grandstanding, name-calling, ad hominem attacks, or any other obscene or obtuse behavior. Let this be a forum to discuss these matters in a high-minded way, because we’re setting examples for our children, and we’re advertising to other communities what Kerrville is all about.

To properly educate our audience, we want to be clear that we are still actively seeking engagement from all points of view, and we encourage you to come forward and share your views with us! Feel free to reach out to me at any time.

–Aaron Yates

Termination of City Attorney Mike Hayes Contract

This is a developing story with new information coming in all the time. Please be patient, and we’ll edit this post as more information becomes available.

During the City Council meeting of October 10, 2017, the City Council apparently terminated the employment contract with City Attorney Mike Hayes. See the full video below.

 

Here is a copy of the contract between Hayes and the City.

2016-56 Employment Agreement Between City of Kerrville and Michael C. Hayes-City Attorney by Aaron Yates on Scribd

Council Voting Records: May 2017 to Present

The latest set of videos and posts that I published mentioned the voting trends that have become apparent since the new council was elected in May 2017. Rather than speak subjectively about a perceived phenomenon, I elected to study this matter objectively and provide the results to the public.

To be clear, the trends that I had noticed subjectively and wished to study were as follows. These were my hypotheses:

  • White, Voelkel, and Baroody tend to vote as a single bloc very consistently.
  • Summerlin and Ferguson tend to vote as a single bloc, but not as consistently.

To test those hypotheses, I examined the meeting minutes and the video recordings of every single council meeting held since May 16, 2017. That date was the first meeting that included Place 1 winner Vincent Voelkel and Place 2 winner George Baroody. I did not examine any previous data.

I recorded ALL votes, whether procedural or substantive, so that I did not introduce any subjectivity into this process. Many of the votes here are just to approve the Consent Agenda. Some of the votes are to enter into executive session. But those procedural votes are votes nonetheless, and are counted in this data.

The vote tallies were collected into a single spreadsheet with a record of the date, a description of the motion, and the vote that each candidate cast. Sometimes a councilperson was absent, and their absence was also recorded.

In addition, I made a note about which votes were unanimous, and which were not. A vote was considered unanimous if no member cast a “no” vote. Even if a member was absent, but all four of the remaining members voted “yes,” I recorded that vote as being unanimous, because it’s impossible to predict how an absent member would have voted, and it would have violated our rule of objectivity for this study.

For all votes that were not unanimous, I recorded whether or not each “bloc” voted together, or was split. That is, for any non-unanimous council vote, I asked, “Did the White/Voelkel/Baroody group vote together or split their vote?” and “Did the Summerlin/Ferguson group vote together or split their vote?”

Here are the findings:

  • The council voted unanimously 78.7% of the time (59/75).
  • The council vote was split on 16 out of 75 votes, or 21.3%.
  • The White/Voelkel/Bardoody group voted together on 97.33% of votes taken.
  • The Summerlin/Ferguson group voted together on 97.29% of all votes taken.
  • When the council vote was NOT unanimous, the White/Voelkel/Baroody bloc voted together 84.6% of the time.
  • When the council vote was NOT unanimous, Voelkel and Baroody voted together 14 out of 16 occurrences, or 87.5% of the time.
  • When the council vote was NOT unanimous, White and Voelkel voted together 12 out of 13 occurrences, or 92.3% of the time.
  • When the council vote was NOT unanimous, Summerlin and Ferguson voted together 13 out of 15 occurrences, or 86.7% of the time.
  • Place 3 Mary Ellen Summerlin was absent for one vote that was not unanimous, but her vote (should she have been there to cast it) could not have swayed the outcome of the motion, because that vote was 3-1.
  • Mayor Bonnie White was absent for three votes that were not unanimous, and hers would have been the deciding vote in all three instances, because all non-unanimous votes taken during her absence were split 2-2.
  • Voelkel, Baroody, and Ferguson have not missed a single vote since May 2017.

I looked more thoroughly into each instance of disagreement among each bloc. I will make a disclaimer here and say that I did choose to introduce a bit of subjectivity from here on, specifically regarding two related votes that were puzzling.

The puzzling votes had to do with the abandonment of an easement on Bluff Ridge Road. Without getting into the weeds, the first vote had Voellkel casting the lone “no” vote, and the rest of council voting yes. This was a motion to draft an agreement to abandon the easement, so clearly Voelkel was against abandonment but the rest of council was for it. But at the next meeting, White, Voelkel, and Baroody all effectively voted against abandonment of that easement. So I examined the voting patterns both with and without that first vote that was puzzling, because at the end of the day, that second vote is what mattered, to me, subjectively, because that was when the vote actually resulted in action (or inaction, in this case).

With that said, here are my somewhat more subjective and specific findings:

Summerlin/Ferguson Bloc

  • Summerlin and Ferguson disagreed on whether or not to move the citizens’ forum to the beginning of the meeting on 6/13/17, with Ferguson voting “yes” and Summerlin voting “no.”
  • Summerlin and Ferguson disagreed on whether or not to amend City Council Procedural Rule 7.5c on 09/26/2017, with Ferguson voting “yes” and Summerlin voting “no.”
  • Each of these two issues came before council only once during this period.

White/Voelkel/Baroody Bloc

  • Mr. Voelkel was the lone “no” vote on a motion to instruct city staff to draft an abandonment document for an easement on Bluff Ridge on 06/27/17. White and Baroody each voted “yes,” along with Summerlin and Ferguson.
  • However, that issue came back before the council again on 7/25/17, and that time the bloc voted together, quashing the motion 3-2.
  • Mr. Baroody was the lone “no” vote on a motion to approve the KCAD budget on 08/08/2017 that passed 4-1. That issue did not come before council a second time.

Conclusions

  • The vast majority of votes cast were unanimous — about 72%.
  • If you disregard the 06/13/17 vote regarding the Bluff Trails easement (since the matter came back before the council and each bloc voted together for the deciding vote), the White/Voelkel/Baroody bloc voted together 98.6% of the time — 66 of 67 opportunities.
  • Disregarding that same Bluff Trails initial vote (same reason stated above), Voelkel and White voted together 100% of the time — 67 out of 67.
  • The Summerlin/Ferguson bloc voted together 97.3% of the time — 72 out of 74 opportunities, but only 86.7% of the time when the council vote as a whole was not unanimous.
  • Our first hypothesis was correct: each bloc votes together on an overwhelming majority of votes taken.
  • Our second hypothesis was correct: the White/Voelkel/Baroody bloc votes together at a higher rate than the Summerlin/Ferguson bloc, whether or not you include the Bluff Trails easement issue, especially when the overall council vote is not unanimous.

Here is the raw data that we compiled for this discussion:

Vote Tallies Document

City of Kerrville Budget Process

We have neglected to post all of our content from Facebook onto this website, and we apologize for the oversight! This was a busy week with lots of moving parts, and we’d like to take this opportunity to present the following videos, in order of creation, for your viewing pleasure.


September 20 – Council vs. EIC Budget Dispute

First up, this video was created following the September meeting of the Economic Improvement Corporation. The video explains the disagreement between council and EIC regarding the budget for EIC and KEDC.


September 21 – Developers Approach the EIC

In this video, affordable housing developers approach the EIC to discuss funding of infrastructure to support additional development near the area they plan to build affordable housing units. The video discusses how we treat developers and how we choose who is appointed to various boards.


September 27 – White’s Brand of Transparency

The September 26 meeting was a barn burner! This video examines the process (or the “tick tock”) for the Baroody budget amendments.


September 28 – Mary Ellen Summerlin’s Remarks to Council

This is a selection of remarks from the September 26 city council meeting made by Place 3 Councilperson Mary Ellen Summerlin.

 

What would happen if Kerrville received 50 inches of rain?

The storms and subsequent flooding in southeast Texas have devastated communities from Corpus Christi to Rockport to Houston and beyond. Emergency management officials are classifying the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as a 500-year flood event.

Hurricane Harvey near peak intensity on August 25 shortly before landfall in Texas.

The short answer to the question, “What would happen to Kerrville if we received 50 inches of rain?” is that we don’t really know for sure. During some of the largest floods in modern memory, we didn’t receive that much rain. And due to our topography, where the rain falls in surrounding areas is potentially more important, as our steep terrain causes water to rush downhill toward our rivers and streams.

In the flood of 1987, the Guadalupe’s headwaters area received only 5-10 inches of rain, causing a rise of 29 feet in Comfort. And in the flood of 1978, Tropical Storm Amelia caused up to 48 inches of rain to fall in some parts of the hill country, causing the Guadalupe River to flow at around 1500x its normal rate. The 1978 flood is probably the closest we’ve come to experiencing the amount of rain that is falling now in Houston, but because the topography of the areas is so much different, we experience the aftermath much differently, too.

One of the only sources of information we have to help us predict what a catastrophic flood might look like is FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is tasked with overseeing the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. Within this program, participating communities are mapped for the likelihood of particular flooding events. These maps portray, at least in Kerr County, flood prone areas within a 100-year flood plain and a 500-year flood plain. Using these maps, insurance providers and the NFIP determine what folks pay for their flood insurance, and mortgage lenders determine whether or not they’ll require flood insurance. So these maps are not a guarantee of what will happen during a major flood, but they’re about the closest thing we have to a predictive model.

Contrary to popular notions, a 500-year flood doesn’t really mean that it will only happen once every 500 years. Actually, the 500-year expression is just a way to discuss the percentage chance of this type of event to build actuarial tables for flood insurance programs. So, in layman’s terms, a 500-year flood map really means, “there is a 0.2% chance of this event happening in a given year.”

So what do these maps look like for Kerrville? Our maps were redrawn in 2011 based on some new LiDAR topographic data. That is, basically a very detailed remote sensing operation was undertaken in that year, and the old maps (which were drawn back in 2001) were updated to reflect realities on the ground with higher accuracy and precision. So our current flood plain maps are dated 2011, and are available to download for free at the NFIP website.

Please note… These maps are not “guarantees” of anything! You can’t look at them and say, “oh, I’ll be fine, I’m outside the shaded area.” And on the flip side, you can’t look at them and know for sure that something will be flooded. These are based on the best data we have and the best models we have, but they’re for insurance purposes — not for emergency preparedness purposes. If you’re anywhere near a waterway, you should have plans for flooding. And as we’ve seen in Houston this week, even if you’re nowhere near a waterway, you may still be affected by flooding due to the increase in “impervious cover” in our urban areas. You may have never flooded before, but that’s no guarantee you won’t flood in the future. So, long story short… this is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a survival planning guide!

Here is an excerpt of the downtown Kerrville flood plain map.

I’ve highlighted a couple of items to take a closer look at. First, we see the light gray areas known as “ZONE X” on this map. Those are the 0.2% chance areas, aka 500-year flood. The darker gray areas are the “base flood” that has a 1% chance of happening in a year, aka the 100-year flood. The little numbers there are elevations… See 1616, 1618, etc.? That is the elevation of the base flood at that spot on the map. So if you’re building a structure, code requires that your floor be at least a foot above that elevation. And if you’re buying flood insurance for an existing structure, you get a better rate if you’re at least a foot above that elevation.

The bad thing about the FIRM maps, as pictured above, is that they’re hard to see in relation to streets, buildings, open spaces, topographic features, etc. So what they started doing in 2011 is offering this map data in a digital geographic format that can be viewed in GIS programs and Google Earth. This makes it easier to see where those flood zones are located, and this will help answer our question about the 500-year flood in Kerrville.

Downtown Kerrville

If we use this Zone X (500-year) line as our guide to what might happen in Kerrville in that type of event, here is what we see… The pink area is the “base flood” with a 1% chance. The pale blue area is the 0.2% chance (500-year event). As you can see in the image below, all of Louise Hayes park is within the base flood zone, and the entire mall and HEB south shopping center is inundated in the 500-year zone. And according to this map, most of the downtown areas north of the river would be outside both zones.

Flatrock Dam

Here’s another interesting map. Any time we place obstructions in the floodway (the river), you will see a “balloon” effect on the flood plain areas around it. Here’s the area around the Flatrock Dam in southeast Kerrville. Notice how the 500-year flood plain line balloons out to take in much of the low-lying areas in Comanche Trace.

Clearwater Paseo

Another area of the 0.2% zone that could be problematic for large residential populations is the area between Clearwater Paseo (the jail) and Loop 534. As you can see in this image, large numbers of homes are located in this area. By our count, a catastrophic flood could affect as many as 300 homes in this one area.

Quinlan Creek

In 2002, Kerrville experienced a major flood that affected the creeks and tributaries in town more than the river itself. Town Creek, Third Creek, and Quinlan Creek experienced major flooding that year, and the flooding followed a major drought. Those of us living in Kerrville during that time remember seeing cars in trees along Lytle Street, and in the aftermath, the city condemned multiple properties along those three creeks and initiated a large cleanup effort to remove impediments to flood waters.

Schreiner University is situated near the confluence of Quinlan Creek and the Guadalupe River. According to the FIRM map, the 500-year flood could inundate hundreds of homes in this area, and could also rise up into the Schreiner campus pretty significantly.

According to our maps, in Kerr County, at least 8,800 parcels of land are within or touched by the 1% or 0.2% flood zones. Again, this doesn’t mean they’d necessarily flood completely in a 500-year event, but it is something to consider and prepare for as we face a changing global climate.

Here’s the rest of Kerrville’s flood zones…

All of Kerrville’s Flood Hazard Zones

Download your area’s firm map at this address: https://msc.fema.gov/portal/search

View Kerrville’s flood plain maps using the FEMA National Flood Hazard Layers: http://fema.maps.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=cbe088e7c8704464aa0fc34eb99e7f30&extent=-99.31147821289034,30.0025546049908,-98.97914178710955,30.100621195131826

Questions about the flood plain in Kerrville should be directed to the local Flood Plain Administrators:

And, as always, don’t take unnecessary risks during a flood! Here’s a flood safety video produced by your local government agencies:

Council Update for June 2

During the May 23 meeting of the city council, a new coalition between Mayor Bonnie White, newcomer to Place 1 Vincent Voelkel, and newcomer George Baroody opted to remove EIC board member Delayne Sigerman in favor of two financial contributors to Voelkel’s campaign, Gary Cooper and Robert Naman. Baroody was also appointed to fill one of the chairs on that board.

Watch our video to learn more.