Category Archives: Local Issues

Issues faced by the City of Kerrville, Kerr County, and surrounding communities.

Fact Check: Sports Complex

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Fact-checking the Kerrville Sports Complex

The brand new Kerrville Sports Complex opened this week on Holdsworth Drive. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, January 17, and the ceremonial “first pitch” and “first kicks” were held on Saturday, January 20. Lots of news coverage has focused on the complex this week.

In an article authored by Zeke MacCormack and published in the San Antonio Express News about the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new sports complex on Holdsworth Drive, the author writes about issues connected to the complex that are several years old and have a confusing history. Here are some of the statements from the article and our fact-checks and context that should help inform readers about the new facility.

Please note that we have not addressed the purely political aspects of the article and have instead chosen to focus on the hard facts.


TRUE: “The city estimates that each six-day tournament involving 500 players or more will generate $1 million in local economic spending — at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and such.”

  • This was stated by Ashlea Boyle, director of parks and recreation, City of Kerrville.
  • This estimate relies on official estimates from the Convention and Visitors Bureau that states at least 3 visitors accompany each player in a multiday baseball tournament

 

NEEDS CONTEXT: “The city issued $9 million in debt to cover the remaining costs of putting in the sports fields. The debt will be paid off using local sales tax proceeds.”

  • The debt service will be paid using 4B sales tax revenues, which are required to be spent on economic development projects.
  • The funds do not come from the general sales tax revenues that the city relies on for its operating budget.
  • The EIC approved the funding for this project, and council blessed it, in 2015.
  • See our white paper on the city’s finances for more context.

 

FALSE: Mayor White was quoted in the article: “I wasn’t opposed to the project at all. I was opposed to how it was funded and how the contracts were structured.”

  • Mayor White voted against the project five separate times in 2015 and 2016.
  • She also voted numerous times against the water reuse pond and reuse distribution lines that were a critical element to the success of the sports complex.

 

NEEDS CONTEXT: According to Mayor White in the article: “[DBAT] have two years’ free rent, and we have the debt service and maintenance costs to cover… We may never receive any lease revenue if they have 20 or more tournaments a year, the way the contract is structured.”

  • The lease contract with DBAT includes a clause that DBAT pays no “rent” on the building as long as they continue to host at least 20 baseball tournaments per year.
  • As stated above, each baseball tournament has the potential to generate $1 million in local economic activity, so up to $20 million annually.
  • DBAT’s rent would never be as high as the economic potential of 20 baseball tournaments.
  • Therefore DBAT is incentivized to do even more public good for the community and host as many baseball tournaments as possible.
  • This incentivization has the potential to greatly exceed any potential rent revenues the city could extract from the building.

The sports complex is officially open for business. Soccer and baseball events, games, and tournaments are already filling up the calendars for the spring and summer. For more information about the sports complex, visit the following websites:

https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/1461/Sports-Complex

http://www.dbatkerrville.com/

Sports Complex Grand Opening

The brand new Kerrville Sports Complex is officially open for business. The ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, January 17, and another ceremonial opening will be held on Saturday morning at 10 AM, including a ceremonial first pitch and first kick.

Despite many on social media that urged Mayor Bonnie White to “recuse” herself from the ceremony, she, along with former mayor Jack Pratt and Cailloux Foundation representative Ben Modisett performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Mayor White repeatedly voted against various measures related to this complex and was asked by former Mayor and Councilperson Stephen Fine to step aside to allow those that were actually in favor of the project to be the ones to cut the ribbon.

The new sports complex will have an economic impact of about $1 million annually. An estimated 3 visitors accompany each player for a standard baseball or soccer tournament, bringing visitors to Kerrville, heads in beds at hotels, filling chairs at restaurants, and a huge boost to local sales tax revenues.

This complex was built without a bond issue and without raising taxes. A large portion of the cost, including the land, was donated by the Cailloux Foundation. The Kerrville Economic Improvement Corporation (or EIC) provided the remainder of the funding through 4B sales tax revenues.

The city’s Parks Department will maintain the grounds and oversee the soccer field administration, while DBAT, a tenant within a large indoor practice facility, will coordinate the baseball tournaments.

Fine urges Mayor White to move aside during Sports Complex ribbon cutting

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter was submitted for publication on Kerrville United by Mr. Stephen Fine, former mayor and councilperson on the City of Kerrville City Council. Mr. Fine is referring to the ribbon cutting for the new Athletic Complex on Holdsworth Drive, scheduled to be held on January 17. Here is the letter in its entirety, published with permission.

Aerial view of the Sports Complex on Holdsworth Drive in Kerrville.

Aerial view of the Sports Complex on Holdsworth Drive in Kerrville.


Mayor White,

The public is aware of your voting record and opinion of the Athletic Complex. I would hope that you would do the right thing and move aside so that Former Mayor Jack Pratt can perform the ribbon cutting. You were adamantly opposed to this project during his tenure as Mayor. It would be insincere to now stand in front of the town and tell everyone how great it is for our community. The coumcilmembers that voted for this project received a lot of hostility and accusations from the people in “your corner” during this process. I would hope that you would give credit where credit is due now that it has come to fruition.

Then current Mayor Pratt graciously stood with Former Mayor Wampler and Former Mayor Bock during the opening ceremony for the new City Hall. Former Mayor Bock actually cut the ribbon! Of course they all supported the project. During the opening ceremonies for the Holdsworth Drive Extension, then Mayor Smith, Former Mayor Low and myself all participated. Of course we all supported the project. Former Mayor Low and I dedicated the Scott Schreiner Golf Course remodel together upon completion which we both supported. The pressures and funding for these projects were born under the previous Mayor’s terms for which the current Mayor recognized and respected their participation and contribution to the community in the necessary leadership. The difference, Mayor White, is you did not support this project and do not have the decency to allow former Mayor Prattt the proper honor of opening these fields to the public and sharing this incredible gift from the Cailloux foundation.

As a Former Mayor I encourage you to do the right thing and move aside. As a watchful citizen, not doing so would be disrespectful to the public to try and take credit for something you strongly opposed with your words and vote.

Stephen P Fine
Former Mayor of Kerrville
Former Councilmember Place 1
Former Councilmember Place 2

City Council Meeting Agenda for January 9, 2018

The Kerrville City Council will hold its first regular meeting of 2018 tonight at Kerrville City Hall. This is the first meeting since the December 12 meeting, the highlight of which was the ousting of EIC Member James Wilson. This evening, one of the first items on the agenda is a Resolution of Commendation for James Wilson and Paul Stafford (who resigned the EIC in protest following the termination of Wilson). Typically the mayor gives out these commendations, so we watch with interest to see how that plays out this evening.

Agenda for Tonight

  • Ordering a General Election for May 5 – This is the official resolution that authorizes the May election, which will include on the ballot the Mayor, Place 3, and Place 4.
  • Rejection of all bids for Sports Complex irrigation pond – Both bids exceeded the city’s budget for this project, so council will consider rejecting the bids and re-scoping the project.
  • Amending “home occupation” in Zoning Code – First reading of the proposed ordinance that would change the definition of “home occupation” and how homeowners are allowed to do commercial business in residential-zoned districts. Apparently this item has been moved to January 23, so we may not hear it tonight.
  • Board Appointments – Council will consider appointing members to the Library Advisory Board, the P&Z Commission, and the EIC. Some or all of these items are eligible for executive session. The EIC appointments will replace the two members who were terminated and who resigned in December.

Other items include some zoning ordinances, interlocal agreements, and other matters. The meeting begins at 6:00 PM and is available for viewing at the City’s streaming portal, as well as on local cable television channel 10.

The full agenda packet is available as a PDF at this link: http://kerrvilletx.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/2857

Financial Outlook 2017

This week’s video is an in-depth look at the city’s finances, including revenues, expenses, assets, and debt. Have you ever wondered how the city brings in revenue? How much it costs to provide police and fire protection? Or water and sewer services? How much debt does the city actually have? This is the video for you. We explore the city’s finances without insider jargon.

In addition to the video, some of our members have also authored a white paper with additional information and discussion about finances. See the document below the video. This is the first in a series of white papers that will provide in-depth discussion and facts about the issues facing our community.

 

Financial Review City of Kerrville 2017 by Aaron Yates on Scribd

Turmoil on EIC

The city council voted last week to terminate a volunteer EIC board member for daring to disagree with the council majority. Mr. Wilson, along with a majority of EIC members, regularly voted against Mr. Baroody’s vote. Baroody holds a place on EIC as well as Place 2 of City Council, having run unopposed in 2017. According to Baroody, James Wilson threatened conflict with council. However, Mr. Wilson said repeatedly that he “anticipates” conflict — not a threat.

Merriam-Webster defines “anticipate” to mean: “to give advance thought, discussion, or treatment to” a matter. Mr. Wilson certainly had reason to suspect a future conflict with council, which, at the time, was busy attempting to terminate the contract with City Attorney Mike Hayes.

Learn more by viewing our most recent video.

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

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