Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

Motheral Conflict of Interest

KERRVILLE CITY COUNCILMAN BRUCE MOTHERAL: ENGINEERING CONSULTANT TO THE GRAVEL QUARRIES

  • Does Kerrville City Councilman Bruce Motheral have conflicting interests by supporting river preservation and tourism downtown, and facilitating river destruction when his engineering fees secure him money?


Since the City of Kerrville doesn’t pay its Council a salary, in order to be a City Councilman candidates have to be independently wealthy—or find the time to practice their professions on the side.


This hasn’t been a problem in the past, since many of the elected City Councilmen are self-employed entrepreneurs and developers. In fact, being a City Councilman—acquiring an intimate knowledge of the way the City works and rubbing elbows with the local power brokers—could be very convenient, if the Councilman is an Engineer and his clients are the local gravel quarries.


Could anyone, living in the Kerrville area, travelling on Highway 27 to Center Point, or driving down “scenic” Sutherland and River Roads, not be aware of the curse of gravel quarries in this area, disfiguring the landscape and polluting the Guadalupe River? The land of the closest quarry, Rountree, is owned in part by developer Richard Colvin: it is located right in the city’s backyard, in the ETJ (the City’s Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction). Ever wonder where all that dust comes from, as you approach the airport travelling east? This quarry is a major air polluter, although you can’t see the actual facility from Highway 27. Travelling east, the next quarry encountered is just south of the airport, on the south side of the highway. A new quarry, it’s only been open a few years, on land owned by wealthy developer Max Duncan. It’s leased by mega conglomerate Martin Marietta Materials Southwest, Ltd. Immediately adjacent to the east is another quarry, owned by Joe Drymala, who also mines for gravel in the Comfort area—in fact, right in his own front yard. East of Drymala is the Bedrock Sand and Gravel Plant, owned and operated by Martin Marietta. Next time you are on Google Earth, check out the huge blotch on the landscape caused by this facility. Then we all know about the controversy several years ago over the expansion of Wheatcraft east of Center Point. Surely eastern Kerr County and the City of Kerrville’s Hwy. 27 “Gateway” could be given another name—“Skid Rock Row.”


Much of the gravel located immediately south of Highway 27, east of the airport, comes from a major tributary to the north, “Nowlin’s Hollow” (more on why this is called Nowlin’s Hollow later.) Nowlin’s Hollow actually travels at a slant on its insistent run to the Guadalupe River, running from the NE to the SW. So much water cascades down the hills east of the airport that the resulting gravel has made the mine owners millionaires several times over. There are several locations where the water flow is so heavy that TXDOT has expansive culverts underlying Highway 27; in the 1978 flood the highway in this area was completely covered with water, and impassable.

From Highway 27From Highway 27
A few weeks ago, people living in the area east of the airport noticed some heavy duty bulldozing and construction going on, right next to the highway, in the area of one of these culverts—on property owned by Joe Drymala. Since the area under construction is located in the 100-year flood plain, before any work was done, Drymala needed a Floodplain Permit from Kerr County Floodplain Administrator John Hewitt (technically, since the construction area is in the ETJ, the City of Kerrville should be conducting the floodplain permitting, but since the City and the County are fighting over development jurisdiction in the ETJ, this area has been given to Kerr County for floodplain review.) No permit application had been made to Hewitt, and his office had no idea what Drymala was proposing. However, we were informed that Drymala would be preparing the proper study and technical information and it would come from his Engineering Consultant—Kerrville City Councilman Bruce Motheral.

Drymala 3From Highway 27
Since the proposed development is within the City’s ETJ, other reviews and permits could also be required. It’s very possible that the Kerrville City Council, or one of the City’s Boards, like Planning and Zoning, will be reviewing this construction. Do you think that, under these circumstances, it is a conflict of interest for Councilman Bruce Motheral to serve as Drymala’s Engineering Consultant?


This is not the first time that Motheral has been involved in engineering studies and floodplain permitting—both as a privately-practicing engineer, and as a City of Kerrville official. In 2006, when Martin Marietta Materials Southwest, Ltd. (MM) made application to expand their mining activities to a new site immediately adjacent to the H.M. Naylor Ranch Historic District, and just SE of the Kerr County Airport, Bruce Motheral wrote the engineering study that said it was okay for MM to “demolish” Nowlin’s Hollow tributary and build a road right across the floodplain. At that time, Motheral wasn’t on the City Council—but he was the Chair of the City of Kerrville’s Planning and Zoning Commission. In 2006, the City had the zoning ability to stop Martin Marietta’s expansion. Do you think that under these circumstances, it was a conflict of interest for the Chair of the City of Kerrville’s Planning and Zoning Commission to also serve as Martin Marietta’s Engineering Consultant?


Just one more fact about Councilman Motheral. After knowing this area so well, Motheral, during his tenure as a Kerrville City Councilman, also was a strong proponent of Richard Colvin’s disastrous plan to develop a 280-unit RV Park on the flood plain SW of the present quarries. Old timers talk about this plain, during the big floods—1932, 1978—and most of the plain was covered with water from Nowlin’s Hollow, except for one prominent knoll. Atop this knoll is an ancient live oak tree, the site of the Wellborn family cemetery, where five members of the Wellborn family, in the 1860s, were buried. Colvin planned to completely destroy this family cemetery in his RV development. At the Planning and Zoning Board’s hearing, Motheral could be seen huddling with Colvin, shaking hands, offering his support.This development would have happened—and may still happen—but appears to be on hold, perhaps the only good thing to come out of the recession.



No doubt, when and if it comes up again, Bruce Motheral will be pushing for it—if he wins re-election to the City Council on Saturday.


Please click here for the PDF file for documentation accompanying this article.
Comments

Keeping Them Safe or Keeping Citizens Out

Should Camp Verde Road from HW 173 to Loop 480 be vacated, abandoned and discontinued by the county? The San Antonio resident who owns the land on both sides of the road has requested the road be closed citing security concerns. If the county abandons the roadway it would essentially become the property of the landowner.


Commissioner Letz presented the request in Commissioner's Court on 11-8-10. The commissioners scheduled a public hearing at Commissioner's Court for 12-13-10. The security concerns were not given.

Photos show the road to be a beautiful, peaceful respite and a drive along this stretch proves to be even more intriguing. The road is well maintained and utilized by local residents. Several vehicles passed over the road during the short time I was there.



Will commissioners consider the value of Camp Verde road to the entire Kerr County before voting? Should the interests of one property owner take precedent over interests of the entire county and state? What are the security concerns stated by the property owner? Why are there security concerns on this stretch of Camp Verde Road and not on the stretch to the west of HW 173? Why are the security concerns on this county road any different from any other county road? Wouldl the loss of this section of Camp Verde Road to a private property owner diminish the attraction of the Camp Verde area's heritage tourism? How would the loss affect Center Point?



The real story here goes beyond the interest of a single property owner or the casual mention in commissioner's court. The fairly new landowners bought their property with full knowledge of the road's status as county property. The value of Camp Verde Road for local, county and state residents is significant. The road's elegance and history speaks for itself as a valuable county asset.


Historians note the rich history of the Camp Verde area with the Camp Verde Road playing an integral role. This road dates back hundreds of years to the Commanche Trail from east Texas and was the only original access to the old Camp Verde Store established in 1857. In the immediate area are sites of frontier battles, ranger stations and burial grounds important to Kerr County and the entire state.



As increasing numbers of Kerr County citizens and planners look toward tourism as a source of revenue the Camp Verde area should be preserved and maximized. The Camp Verde Road is an essential component of this attraction. The loss of this road would mean lost tourism dollars for the entire county. Plans for a historical marker for the roadside park adjacent to the road would not be possible.



Center Point residents cannot afford to lose another piece of their heritage and natural beauty. Recent losses to the area include destruction of the old government crossing bridge, commissioner's plans to replace the Center Point Dam bridge, loss of historic cemeteries and progressive gravel mining and industrialization along the river. All of the above have had a detrimental effect on Center Point's current recreation and potential to promote future recreation and tourism.



The commissioners will most likely vote on the road closure request at their 12-13-10 meeting immediately after the 10:00 am hearing. Your thoughts can be presented at the hearing or contact your commissioner. Additionally, you can tell us what you think right here by clicking on the green word “comments” below or if you have a white box login (it’s safe) and type in the big box. Please, share your thoughts!!

Frances Lovett

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