Two new city councilmembers will find their seats on the dais Tuesday afternoon following the May 4 election. Place 1 Gary Cochrane and Place 2 Kim Clarkson will be sworn in at 5:00 PM Tuesday at City Hall, and at 6:00 PM, they will sit for their first meeting as council members. In addition to the full slate of agenda items during the regular meeting, the new council will also appoint a Mayor Pro Tem, which is basically the “vice mayor” that serves in the mayor’s absence.
In addition to the ceremonial and new council topics, the newly-installed council will also consider several items related to the new junior high school on Loop 534, some zoning matters, and they will receive an annual report from the Youth Advisory Committee.
A large audience attended Tuesday night’s meeting, which was one of the most informative meetings in recent memory (in this author’s opinion). The information presented was interesting and valuable, but the audience also received a bit of a civics education along the way. Because of the major issues handled during this meeting that relate to at least one candidate up for election, we believe this meeting should be required viewing prior to the citywide election.
Enjoy the entire meeting at this link, or see the embedded video below.
Two items were of particular interest in last night’s meeting: Baroody sanction relief request, and Baroody’s debt presentation. Let’s discuss each of those in more depth.
As readers will remember, in November 2018, Baroody was removed as Mayor Pro Tem and was barred from discussions about a federal lawsuit that the city is defending. Baroody went against legal advice and made contact with the opposing legal counsel.
On Tuesday night, Baroody and his attorney presented a request to reinstate him to those lawsuit discussions. Several times, Baroody insisted that he has no plans to file a lawsuit against the city, and that his attorney is only helping him understand what’s happened and what his options are going forward. According to Baroody, he “never meant to do harm,” to the city, and looking back he, “would have done things differently.” However, Baroody offered no apology for his actions.
Six members of the audience spoke against the request to reinstate Baroody, and none spoke in favor of, or in defense of, Baroody. All of the council members gave their views, as well.
Place 1 Vincent Voelkel stated, “I don’t mind restoring George’s position on council. I believe I did before, and I still feel the same.”
Mayor Blackburn stated, “Our attorney in this federal lawsuit asked not to be in touch with the plaintiffs or the plaintiffs’ attorney. The next morning, Mr. Baroody went to contact the plaintiff’s attorney… The attorney representing us in this federal lawsuit said it was wrong, our city attorney said it was wrong… We took the action we did because we thought it was prudent for the city… I don’t see it as punishment. I see it as the council being prudent.”
Place 3 Judy Eychner addded, “His actions were inappropriate and irresponsible… it could have put the city in a great deal of jeopardy.”
Place 4 Delayne Sigerman said, “The sincerity of his regret, I would question. Back in November, December, January, February, March, you could have had that regret that we heard tonight, but you never did. So, running for reelection might cause you to have regrets that you didn’t have before. And that’s why I question if you are sincere… I think [the case] was in jeopardy… I stand by our decision.”
Following the discussion, Mayor Blackburn asked for a motion, but no motion was made. Council went on to the next agenda item.
Baroody Debt Presentation
The next agenda item was also requested by Councilmember Baroody. He presented graphs and information that was nearly identical to the political advertisement that appeared in last weekend’s Kerrville Daily Times, that we dealt with previously in this article.
The graphics compared 16 Texas cities that are similar in population and have a “AA” bond rating from Standard & Poor’s. Baroody took exception to the graph that was presented to council in March which showed the amount of tax-supported per capita debt for these 16 cities. Baroody displayed his own graphics next that showed the total debt, total per capita debt, and total debt to personal income ratio. Unfortunately we do not have these graphs to show here in a better format because Mr. Baroody only made them available to the city staff and to the other council members on Tuesday afternoon. However, the charts are very similar to the political ad we linked above.
Mr. Baroody stated several times that he is not passing judgment on the debt, and he does not think the city is in dire financial straits. In fact, he stated that the city is in a strong financial position. He claimed he only brought this up so that the community is better informed about the entire debt picture.
Following Mr. Baroody’s presentation, the community became much more well-informed about all aspects of the debt thanks to a presentation by Director of Finance Amy Dozier. Mrs. Dozier presented and discussed numerous slides to paint a fuller picture of the city’s debt as compared to these other Texas cities.
Mrs. Dozier’s presentation is difficult to sum up in a short article, so we strongly urge our readers to watch both Mr. Baroody’s and Mrs. Doziers presentations via the embeeded video below. The takeaway from Mrs. Dozier is this: The city does indeed have debt — around $60 million worth. But the City of Kerrville is somewhat unique in that very little of this debt is property tax-supported. The vast majority of our debt is supported by other revenue sources such as 4B sales tax revenue, utility revenues, etc. She cautioned everyone to be clear on the difference between “tax-supported debt” and “tax-secured debt.” See the video below for more information.
Public speakers that followed Mrs. Dozier, including former Mayor Jack Pratt, accused Baroody of political grandstanding ahead of the election. Former city councilperson Mary Ellen Summerlin questioned why Baroody was bringing this up now, just weeks before the election, instead of during the nearly two years that he’s served on council.
Mayor Blackburn went further, stating, “I don’t think the citizens realize the hours and resources the staff spends on almost weekly basis answering your objections and charges and accusations. And you are virtually never satisfied with what the city staff says. And as somebody’s indicated, it really reflects an abuse of the staff and a disrespect of the staff.”
At the end of the lengthy discussions, no action was taken, and council moved on to the next agenda items.
Commentary & Takeaways
No action was taken as a result of either agenda item that Mr. Baroody requested. These two items dominated the majority of the meeting duration and numerous community members rose to speak out against Mr. Baroody’s actions and claims (and none rose to support him). Staff spent time preparing a response to Mr. Baroody’s claims and did a fantastic job of presenting a complicated subject in an easy-to-understand manner.
Tuesday’s meeting was the last one before early voting begins. The next meeting is scheduled for April 23, and early voting begins on April 22. Election Day is Saturday, May 4. All citizens residing in the city and eligible to vote are able to cast a ballot in this year’s citywide election.
The Kerrville City Council met for the first time in 2019 this past Tuesday evening at Council Chambers within City Hall. The meeting lasted from 6 PM until almost 9 PM with a jam-packed agenda contributing to a longer than average meeting. Some of the highlights of the meeting included the following:
Support state tax rebate to help fund hotel/conference center
Council passed a resolution supporting state legislation to allow Kerrville to become eligible for a tax rebate that would be used to support the funding of a hotel/convention center. City Manager Mark McDaniel explained that this legislation would allow Kerrville to receive a rebate from existing taxes, and that no new taxes are proposed, nor any increase in taxes.
This program is part of the Texas Tax Code Chapter 351 Section 102b, which allows eligible cities to receive these rebates to support specific hotel/conference center projects. The rebate comes from the 13% hotel tax that is currently collected. Currently, 6% of the hotel tax goes to the state, and 7% goes to the city. Under this plan, the 6% going to the state would come back to the city for up to ten years to help pay for a public/private partnership for a hotel/conference center. 39 other Texas cities have taken advantage of this tax program.
Council and McDaniel were careful to explain that no specific site or project has been committed to at this time. A developer would partner with the city to construct such a project. McDaniel also reminded council that a study was conducted in 2018 that researched what Kerrville could support as far as a hotel/conference center. The study concluded that a large demand for space is currently not being met in Kerrville, and visitors and conferences that would prefer to be in Kerrville are actually forced to go to other locations since we do not have the facilities in place. Since that study was completed, the City has worked to develop funding measures to implement the recommendations from that study.
Council voted unanimously to approve this resolution.
HEB plans move foward
Council held public hearings for a zoning change on the HEB Main Street property as well as on the closure of Hays Street between Main and Jefferson — both items to facilitate the construction of a new HEB building oriented facing Lemos Street, and new gas pump stations on the property.
After hearing citizens’ concerns regarding legacy oak trees that would be removed, and concerns about closing Hays Street, the council voted unanimously to pass both the zoning change and the street closure ordinances.
River Trail extension to Schreiner University receives EIC funding
Council considered a request to use EIC funds for about a mile of new River Trail that would extend from G Street to Schreiner University north of the Guadalupe River. The route is pictured below.
In the agreement, the EIC would provide $1.5 million in funding in two installments to allow the city to construct this portion of the trail. Schreiner University would contribute $50,000 in cash, provide a public trail head, and would construct public restrooms near the trail head. The project would be complete by 2020.
Council voted unanimously to approve this funding agreement.
Contract to construct Legion Lift Station
Council unanimously authorized a construction contract with Keystone Construction for $5.5 million dollars to build a new Legion Lift Station. This sewer infrastructure project has sought for many years and will alleviate the wastewater bottleneck that hampered new development in that portion of the city. This project will be paid for with monies from EIC, the Texas Water Development Board, and the city’s water and sewer revenues.
Council appointed new members to the following boards:
Charter Review Commission
Animal Services Advisory Board
Recovery Community Coalition
Senior Services Advisory Committee
Planning & Zoning Commission
The next regularly scheduled City Council meeting will take place on January 22.
City Council Chambers at City Hall, Kerrville, Texas
Interesting agenda items for the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, February 9 @ 6 PM:
Presentation from the ad hoc committee on water reuse and pond construction project. The committee will approve the effluent project that the city has already solicited bonds to build. The committee chairman is John Lovett.
The city will ask the council to approve a contract with Peter Lewis + Associates, PLLC, for architectural design of the indoor athletic facility and admin offices at the new sports complex on Holdsworth. The contract will be worth $161,000.
A small tract of land originally intended for the river trail is to be deeded back to the adjoining property owner, Kevin Sutherlin. This very small tract was given to the city to use as part of the river trail, but the trail route was actually constructed on the other side of the river, so Sutherlin is asking that it be deeded back to him in accordance with the original intent of the gift.