Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

​ Kerr County's Bridge to NOWHERE




Kerr County Conscience has learned of another old Kerr County bridge scheduled for replacement. This low water crossing at the Guadalupe and Ehler Lane actually goes to nowhere. The road sign on East Highway 27 warns of "no outlet". After crossing the bridge there is a turnaround in a dirt field with a closed ranch gate and a distant house in site.
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The bridge is in Texas Department of Transportation plans and funding has been completed. Total cost of this one bridge replacement is $804,727.76. Engineers have already spent $44,881.80 on the project. Because this is a traditionally funded bridge the county pays a portion of the cost. State funded road projects originate at the local level with your elected county commissioner, in this case Jonathan Letz, Precinct 3. Do not blame TxDOT for this questionable expenditure, they will not proceed with any project not requested by the responsible commissioner and approved by the commissioner's court. TxDOT depends on elected County Commissioners to inform their constituents and hold public hearings to secure public opinion prior to beginning any project. How many voters in Precinct 3 have heard about the bridge replacement on Ehler Lane? How many county resident's had an opportunity to offer their opinion?

Yes, your county property taxes are going toward replacement of this bridge.


Ehler Lane

Is this the best use of your tax dollars? Could this bridge replacement have been delayed while Commissioner Letz was posturing over expenditures for EMS/Fire protection and opposing library funding? Who will benefit from this bridge to nowhere? You can offer your opinion to TxDOT at http://www.txdot.gov/contact_us/form/ and the Kerr County Commissioner's Court at commissioners@co.kerr.tx.us.


F. Lovett
KCC
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Open Letter to Kerrville Daily Times

Mr. Armstrong,


Thank you and the KDT for your continued coverage of water issues. I hope you will be able to correct a statement in yesterday's edition. Specifically, "restrictions imposed by the state on how much water the city can pull from the Guadalupe River have curtailed the city's safe operating capacity". Actually, there is almost no water in the Guadalupe River to pull. TCEQ only requires the city to maintain the same river flow out of Town Lake that flows into the lake during periods of low flow. During periods of above normal flow the city is required to simply maintain normal flow over the dam. There has been very little flow into Town Lake for months and the TCEQ cannot produce additional river water. The city of Kerrville has free access to all the water in Town Lake they simply must assure that the same amount flows over the dam as flows into the lake.

You should be aware that Charlie Hastings, Director of Public Works, has blamed the TCEQ's watermaster program for Kerrville water restrictions in previous years by promoting the idea that the city is being punished. Your article implies that untruth is being promoted again. The TCEQ (state) does not dictate anything beyond assuring the river continues to flow. I hope you will take a critical look at the facts surrounding river pumping and provide a factual analysis to your readers.

The Kerr County Conscience website provides historical data from the USGS gauges located along the river in Kerr County. I believe a brief check of this data is invaluable to understanding that our current river water situation is indeed a crisis which we cannot blame on the state. Click here to view this data.

Frances Lovett

East Kerr County

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HISTORIC CAMP VERDE ROAD SAVED

There were archaeologists; a beleaguered Kerr County Historical Commission Chair; a Native American; old-timers and recent immigrants; a recused Kerr County Commissioner; and a friendly, smooth-talking spokesperson for a multi-million dollar international corporation—the Kerr County Courthouse had its share of drama on Monday, Feb. 28, when the Commissioners Court met to receive public input on a proposed plan to abandon and sell the historic Camp Verde Road (owned by Kerr County) to Saint Christopher Properties, LLC (see accompanying article by Frances Lovett.)

After three hours of presentations and testimony, it appeared to be the impassioned pleas of old Kerr County families that swayed the Court, and caused Mr. Felipe Jimenez of Saint Christopher Properties, LLC (SCP LLC), to relent and withdraw the company’s petition.

THE COMMISSIONERS’ COURT

Guy Overby, Precinct Two’s new Commissioner (chosen by Judge Tinley for the Precinct, to replace deceased Commissioner Bill Williams) ignored the pleas of many of his own constituents by supporting SCP LLC’s petition. After huddling with Jimenez, Overby spoke vigorously and at length, reciting the economic benefits that he believed SCP LLC’s new restaurant would bring to Kerr County. Jimenez hinted darkly that the new restaurant wouldn’t happen without the road abandonment. Overby’s figures didn’t change the minds of the protesters.

Bruce Oehler, Commissioner for Precinct 4, might be called the hero of the day. Early in the afternoon, during Jimenez’s presentation (also lengthy), Oehler said that he “wasn’t convinced” that SCP LLC’s petition carried enough merit to outweigh the concerns of Kerr County residents. Rumor had it that Oehler received an onslaught of emails and telephone calls against the abandonment.

H.A. “Buster” Baldwin (Precinct 1), the Commission’s Liaison Appointment to work with and support the Kerr County Historic Commission, didn’t say a word, but beamed upon hearing that Robert E. Lee, while at Camp Verde, kept a pet rattlesnake.

One of the protesters’ dramatic triumphs of the day occurred when Commissioner Jonathan Letz (Precinct 3), the Court’s “enfant terrible,” recused himself from all proceedings on the subject, a scant few seconds before the meeting began. Several of the audience planned to ask Letz about rumors that his landscaping company was doing business with SCP LLC. Just before the meeting, Kerr County Attorney Rob Henneke was asked if Letz had filed a disclosure statement about this apparent conflict of interest. Although Henneke responded, “Yes, I think so,” the Kerr County Clerk’s office had no record of Letz’s disclosure statement.

Commissioner Letz, supposedly taking charge on an ill Commissioner Williams’ request, originally brought SCP LLC’s abandonment request before the Commission on Dec. 13, 2010. Due to the fact that the item on the Agenda was misworded (“Verde Creek Road” was used instead of the proper name, “Camp Verde Road”), Judge Tinley moved the issue to a later date, in spite of Mr. Letz’s urgings to continue.


THE COMMUNITY

Two Kerr County Historical Commission Chairpersons were largely responsible for the word getting out about the proposed action. Joseph Luther, Ph.D., a former Historical Commission Chair and professional historian, has extensively researched the Camp Verde historic site. On Nov. 5, 2010 he emailed numerous local contacts about the abandonment. Luther then went to the Hill Country Archaeological Association (HCAA) and asked them to support a request to the National Park Service, Dept. of the Interior, to designate the area as a National Historic Landmark. The HCAA rallied to the cause and many of its members were present at the hearing. Steve Stoutamire, President of the HCAA, gave an excellent presentation to the Court on the proposed historic designation plans.

Julia Mosty Leonard, the current Chair of the Kerr County Historical Commission, had the unenviable job of supporting the community’s concerns, while at the same time being politic with the Commissioner’s Court, which provides all of the Historical Commission’s funding. Monday’s decision proved her to be an exceptional and valuable champion of history in Kerr County.

The historic road appears to be an icon of the Hill Country, as passionate Kerr County residents spoke of their feelings for the road today and their memories of it in the past. One woman, moved to tears, drove from Houston to testify, and remembered driving the road with her mother and father. A tall, gray-haired man spoke haltingly of how he “just likes to drive down the road.” Gerald Witt, a former pilot and author of one of the County’s seminal histories (which now sells for over $100 a copy on Ebay), spoke eloquently to the Court about the road’s significance and the need for its preservation. Dan Simpson, a Native American and Vietnam Vet, spoke to Commissioners Baldwin, Tinley, and Oehler, and told them shortly that the abandonment “just shouldn’t happen.”

The clincher came when Mrs. Clarabelle Snodgrass, 97, tottered up to the podium and told the Commissioners to save the road. Snodgrass has dedicated at least 30 years of her life to the placement of historic markers around the County. She recently received the Governor’s Award, the Texas Historical Commission’s highest commendation.

BIG BUSINESS

Mr. Felipe Jimenez, representing SCP LLC, graciously conceded defeat when he withdrew the company’s petition, citing the overwhelming community response. Remaining cool and collected throughout the day, Jimenez reflected the sophistication and unusual business savvy shown by Saint Christopher Properties. It was obvious that the company had become convinced that community support was more important than the road abandonment. After the hearing, a large group of protesters adjourned to the Camp Verde Store for lunch—and Jimenez footed the bill.

Mary J. Matthews, for Kerr County Conscience

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Camp Verde Road ---- UPDATE

The Commissioners Court vote on closure of the Camp Verde Road was not taken at the December 13th meeting. The agenda item had erroneously listed Verde Creek Road thus it will be rescheduled for a public hearing and vote at the February 28 Commissioner's Court Meeting.

During the court session and afterward several questions arose:
  • Will our new Commissioner Overby speak accurately for the Precinct 2 voters or will he lean toward corporate interests? Commissioner Letz originally scheduled the road closure vote as a "security issue" for the adjoining landowners now we know the landowners plan to build an up-scale restaurant. The road would interfere with the architect's design.
  • Do the beneficiaries of a Camp Verde Road closure have any interest in historic preservation of the road or do they need the county real estate the road occupies for their own expansion? Christopher Jimenez represented Christopher Properties the adjoining land owner and Camelot Hills Group owners of the Camp Verde Store. He verbalized support for historic interests but questioned the accuracy of historic research and publication on the road.
  • Should county and state historic tourism interests and revenue be sacrificed for the corporate interests of Christopher Properties and Camelot Hills Group?
  • Will commissioners consider the value of Camp Verde Road as a part of the overall beauty and tourism for the Camp Verde area?
The public hearing and vote is scheduled for the February 28th Commissioner's Court meeting at the Court House. It is a county wide issue and requires a unanimous vote to close the road. Your opinion matters.

Frances Lovett

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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