Election Info…

City of Devine Voters-

All registered voters in Devine can vote in the mayoral race, and early voting is now underway at City Hall.
There are two contested races in the City of Devine, including:
Mayoral Race
-Cory Thompson (i) and
challenger Butch Cook.

District 2 Race
-Angela Pichardo (i) and challenger Michael Hernandez

Distict 5 councilwoman Debbie Randall is unopposed.

Early Voting:
April 24-28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.;
May 1-2, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Early Voting one Saturday, April 29 – 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Election day: May 6, 2023, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
You can Vote at City Hall, 303 S. Teel, Devine.

Devine ISD Voters-
Polling locations in both Medina and Frio Counties

Vote For or Against the following Bond issues:

Proposition A – 31.5 Million for Safety and Renovations of Schools, Band Hall

Proposition B – 1.5 Million – for 4 New Tennis Courts

Medina County Polls:
Vote at Medina County Precinct 4 Annex Building this year (317 TX-132 N, Devine).
Early Voting: April 24-28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and Saturday April 29 9am-2pm; May 1-2, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. May 6, 2023 (Election Day) 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Election day: May 6, 2023, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Frio County Polls-
Voting at the Bigfoot Alternative Center, 13777 FM 472, Bigfoot, TX 78005
April 24-28, 2023 (Early Voting) 8:00 am – 5:00 pm; April 29, 2023 (Early Voting) 9:00 am – 2:00 pm and May 1-2, 2023 (Early Voting) 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
May 6, 2023 (Election Day) 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Medina County- Vote at Medina County Precinct 4 Annex Building
(across from Tractor Supply)
Voters can vote in the ESD District elections, where they are registered to vote.
Medina County ESD 2 – (Devine Fire area) – add 1.25 % to sales tax
Medina County ESD 5 – (Natalia Fire area) – add 1.25% to sales tax
Medina County ESD 4 – (EMS Devine/Natalia areas – add .50% to sales tax
ESD4 overlaps both fire districts (2&5), since EMS can bill for services they are asking for only .25 from each district, so .25+.25= .5% sales tax
*Note: 8.25% is the maximum any city or county in Texas can charge for sales tax. Medina County is at 6.75% currently, so that leaves 1.5% open.
ESD 2, 4, and 5 – All Voting at County Building:
Election day: May 6, 2023, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Early Voting: April 24-28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and Saturday April 29 9am-2pm and May 1-2, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
May 6, 2023 (Election Day) 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Lytle ISD- Vote for one or none, Single Member District 2

Trustee Special Election for Single Member District 2 will be on May 6, 2023 between Jessica Perales , and one write-in candidate Jeremy Davenport.
Voting in a trustee for Single Member District 2. (Voters must vote in the Single Member District where they are registered to vote.)
Note: Lytle ISD is only conducting the special election. They were able to cancel the general election, which is the annual election due to unopposed candidates. The special election is due to having two SMD vacancies however, they canceled the SMD 5 election, but not the other as there was one write-in candidate for SMD 2 before the deadline.
Polling places:
Lytle ISD Administration Office, 1537 Cottage St., Lytle, Tx.
Medina County Courthouse Annex, 1300 Ave. M Room 108, Hondo, Tx.
Medina County ESD No. 1, Station #15, 17934 FM 1957, Rio Medina, Tx.
Medina County Pct. 4 Annex, 317 State Hwy. 132 N. , Devine, Tx.
Medina County Pct. 2 Annex, 8366 FM 471 S. , Castroville, Tx.
Early Voting weekdays: April 24-28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and May 1-2, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday April 29 9am-2pm.
Election Day: May 6, 2023 from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

City of Lytle – cancelled election due to uncontested races.
Natalia City/Schools – no elections
LaCoste City – no elections

Outside audit gives county government clean bill of health, shows a year’s worth of reserves

By Anton Riecher
Medina County ended the 2021-2022 fiscal year in September with equal to almost a full year of general fund expenditure held in reserve in its fund balance, the county’s official outside audit states.
Travis Rogers, certified public accountant for Pattillo Brown & Hill in Waco reported that the county is “well set up to deal with any change of circumstances that arise in the next year or two.”
The audit, presented to the Medina County Commissioners Court on April 6, shows that the county added about $1.6 million in fund balance to the general fund as the result of operations during FY 2021/2022, bringing the total fund balance to about $17.3 million, Rogers said.
“If you compare that to total expenditures for the year, even if you take out capital outlay or about $864,000, that’s still roughly about $20 million in the general fund for the year, which means in the ending fund balance you have close to a year’s worth of general fund expenditure,” Rogers said.
A general rule of thumb for local governmental entities such as counties, is to keep three to six months in reserve, he said.
“If you have nine or 10 months you’re in excellent health financially and in no danger of running out of money any time soon,” Rogers said.
As for the state of the county’s bookkeeping, Rogers said his company issued Medina County an “unmodified or clean opinion.”
“It’s the highest level of assurance we can provide meaning no issues or material departures were noted as part of our audit,” he said.
In other county financial news, the monthly treasurer’s report showed that the county ended February 2023 with a cash balance of $34.714 million, Total debt ending the same period totaled $25.025 million.
On a motion by Precinct 3 Commissioner David Lynch, seconded by Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre, the commissioners approved $2.071 million in accounts payable. The court also approved disbursement of funds since the last commissioners meeting totaling $10,780.
Commissioners approved a payroll for the period from March 18 to March 31 totaling $663,894 for its 326 employees.
The county auditor’s report showed a March beginning balance of $34.328 million and an April beginning balance of $34.880 million.
A line-item transfer of $1,959 was approved to allow Precinct 2 Constable Jim Przybylski to move funds from office supplies to auto maintenance to cover the removal of old graphics and installation of new replacement graphics on his vehicle.
The commissioners also approved the transfer of $150,000 among various funds used for emergency dispatching.
ESD No. 2
An annual financial report for the Medina County Emergency Services District No. 2 submitted to the county indicates that the district ended the 2021-2022 fiscal year with a budget deficit of $177,795.
“In the General Fund actual revenues received were less than anticipated by $15,665, expenditures more than anticipated by $162,130, resulting in a budget deficit of $177,795,” the outside audit states.
Total revenues budgeted were $432,200. However, the audit shows the actual revenues received totaled $416,535.
“In the Interest and Sinking Fund, actual revenues received were less than anticipated by $9,481, expenditures were less than anticipated by $227, resulting in a budget deficit of $9,205 for the year ending Sept. 30, 2022,” the audit states.
The court granted emergency management coordinator Mark Chapwick permission to train a volunteer intern.
“It’s an unpaid internship with no cost out-of-pocket for us,” Chapwick said. “The investment for us, of course, is an investment of time. What it does is take people and build them up in the skills to be able to do this kind of work.”
Chapwick, who joined the county staff last year, said he has conducted an internship program for the past 12 years with good results. One of his previous interns just took charge of emergency management for the community of Ruidoso, N.M.
“You can also use this as a platform for training some local volunteers to work specifically in emergency management,” Chapwick said. “It would be an augmentation for us.”
Under subdivision development, the commissioners gave final approval to vacate and replace a lot in the Mi Tierra Subdivision on County Road 340 in Precinct 1. The action followed a brief public hearing on the topic that drew no comment.
Precinct 1 Commissioners Timothy Neuman made the motion, seconded by Sittre.
In Precinct 3, the San Antonio Trust Subdivision located on FM 463 north of Natalia and Lytle received preliminary approval to vacate and replat one lot. Commissioner Lynch recommended the court withhold final approval until further discussion with the Texas Department of Transportation about subdivision entrances.
On a motion by Sittre, the commissioners approved Unit 16B and Unit 16A in the Hunters Ranch subdivision. On a motion by Neuman, seconded by Sittre, the commissioners voted to accept a construction bond for Valley Oaks subdivision, phase 2, located in Precinct 1.
Commissioners accepted a community-wide fair housing analysis regarding disability, race and ethnicity required by the Texas Department of Agriculture before the county can apply for grant funds. The court also approved a resolution authorizing application for the 2024 Indigent Defense Improvement Grant Program for the Hill Country Regional Public Defender’s Office.
Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Linette Dury petitioned the commissioners to approve a contract with the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department for residential services. Likewise, a similar interlocal agreement with the El Paso County Juvenile Board was approved.
On a motion by Neuman, seconded by Sittre, the court authorized application to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Police Service to participate in the COPS hiring program. Since 1994, COPS has provided $14 billion I assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies to help hire community policing officers.
Commissioners voted to extend the annual eDispatch system contract for the county. EDispatch automatically detects audio dispatches and delivers notifications directly member devices.
The county also approved extending an annual $3,000 lease by Keller Grain of county property in Precinct 2.
For complete video coverage of the commissioners court session visit the Devine News YouTube channel at youtu.be/Ps3a7rg52Yc.

Neighbors speak up about water concerns, traffic problems with new county subdivisions including 2,800 acre development

Sky View subdivision representative Dan Mullins, left, confronts neighboring property owners Joe Finger, center, and Frederick Gierisch, during a public hearing at the Jan. 12 Medina County Commissioners Court meeting. Finger and Gierisch expressed their concerns about the impact the new development would have on water resources and traffic.

By Anton Riecher
Water, traffic and security were the principal concerns cited by property owners during public hearings before the Medina County Commissioners Court regarding pending action on several new subdivisions.
Precinct 3 landowner Frederick Gierisch said that he has seen rapid depletion of his water resources in recent years. Now developers of the Sky View Ranch subdivision off FM 1796 are petitioning the court for preliminary approval of the project.
“My water well, in five years, has gone down 50 feet and I’m right across the fence from their development,” Gierisch said.
Beside the hearing on the Sky View Ranch development, commissioners also heard from landowners on creation of the Megan’s Landing Public Improvement District and revisions to Private Road 1505 in the Holiday Villages of Medina subdivision.
Precinct 3 Commissioner David Lynch presided over the Jan. 12 meeting in Lutz’s absence. New County Judge Keith Lutz and Precinct 4 Commissioner Daniel Lawler were not present as they were attending the Texas Association of Counties conference in Austin.
Beside the impact on water resources, Gierisch told commissioners that Sky View Ranch is a 2,800-acre development involving 220 lots. Figuring three members to each new household the new development represent added pressure on local roadways.
“It might add as many as 600 more people to an FM road that can’t handle the traffic that it has now,” he said.
Landowner Joe Finger of D’Hanis mirrored Gierisch’s complaints in his comments.
“I can’t drill another well,” he said. “My well is at the bottom of the table. If my well dries, and it has dropped an average of about 10 feet every year, everybody in my area will be as out of luck as I am.”
Like Gierisch, Finger said increased traffic on FM 1796 represents a growing menace.
“You’re going to get somebody killed by putting that many people on that road when it is not meant to handle the traffic,” Finger said.
Dan Mullins, representing the developer, said steps have already been taken to address the concerns raised by Gierisch and Finger. Regarding water, landscaping is being restricted to only 5,000-square-feet of irrigation.
“So on a 10-acre tract nobody is going to come out and sod the whole thing,” Mullins said.
Regardless of Mullins’s reassurance, commissioners voted to approve a motion by Lynch giving preliminary approval for the subdivision only if it receives the okay of county consultant Alan Stanton of Westwood Engineering on the water use impact.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre asked Mullins to consider reconfiguring the arrangement of lots to reduce the number of homes bordering FM 1796.
“This is, to me, a safety hazard to have 24 lots come out on that state highway,” Sittre said. “That is not good.”
The public hearing for the Megan’s Landing Improvement District received a ringing endorsement from Sittre who praised the inclusion of what he described as one of the largest systems to recycle irrigation water in Texas.
“We’re in the worst water crisis and this will save probably 60 percent of the water,” Sittre said. “Sixty percent of the water that goes to homes goes on the yard. This is going to be 100 percent recycled water on the majority of yards.”
During the public hearing on the Holiday Villages of Medina development a representative for Texas Holiday Villages asked that commissioners schedule final plat approval for their next meeting.
“We expect today you are going to hear some complaints about the private roads, their construction,” the representative said. “I just want to make sure that the court notes that those roads have been inspected both by independent third parties and the county and passed that inspection.”
Texas Holiday Villages has entered into an agreement with the local homeowners association to guarantee the road for the next 10 years, he said.
But property owner Paul Wade said the developer’s decision to reduce the minimum lot size from one acre to a quarter acre is bound to impact the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Also, the security of the gated community has been compromised by unrestricted access from Castroville Road.
“They paint a pretty picture of what they will do for you as long as it doesn’t cost them,” Wade said.
The Texas Holiday Villages representative said access from Castroville Road was only temporary to allow in construction equipment and has since been closed. Tom Crawford of the homeowners association said plans are in the works for a more substantial fence to block that entrance.
In other business, a report from County Auditor Eduardo Lopez put the available county funds at $20 million compared to $18.1 million at the same time last year. The commissioners approved $2.1 million in accounts payable with $19,599 in funds disbursed since the last court session.
Commissioners approved a request by Darcy Hasty, director of Medina County Pre-Trial Services, to permit her office to adopt the use of a smaller, more sophisticated breathalyzer testing device used to check the status of offenders while on the job.
Chief Deputy Gilbert Rodriguez sought approval for the sheriff’s office to comply with a request by the state attorney general to assign an investigator to the issue of Internet child abuse. The state pledged to reimburse the county for the computer equipment needed.
Commissioners asked for further information on payment of an architect in regard to redoing the parking lot of the courthouse annex completed in 2020. Lynch explained that the architect was needed to make the county’s case that the parking lot be redone.
Sittre said he was opposed to any effort by the contractor to cover the parking lot project from contingency funds.
“They screwed up our parking lot and they want to take it out of our money to fix it – no,” he said.
The commissioners voted to authorize advertising for a public hearing on reducing the speed limit for CR 640 in precinct 3. Meanwhile, Precinct 1 Commissioner Timothy Neuman said he wants the cost of advertising about applications to replat to be borne by the property owners in the future.
“My precinct has paid nearly $3,000 to advertise for this,” he said.
The commissioners’ tabled action on Neuman’s proposal until further legal research can be conducted.

Slight name change proposed for Medina County Appraisal District, board considers building new 4,000 sq ft office

Medina County Appraisal District board chairperson Tim Hardt, left, addresses chief appraiser Johnette Dixon, right, during the board session Tuesday night in Hondo.

By Anton Riecher
Could a minor name change help make clearer the distinct role of the appraisal district as a governmental entity separate from Medina County? Such a change is under consideration by the district’s board of directors.
Chief Appraiser Johnette Dixon recommended the directors change the Medina County Appraisal District’s name to Medina Central Appraisal District.
“The longer we are in existence the more people think we are part of the county,” Dixon said.
Video coverage of the entire meeting can be found on the Devine News YouTube channel at youtu.be/MqjSg6L1o_w.
In Texas, appraisal districts are responsible for appraising property for tax purposes for the various taxing units such as cities and school districts within the appraisal district’s jurisdiction. An appraisal district is established in each county and has the same boundaries as the county’s boundaries.
The county and the appraisal district remain separate governmental entities. An appraisal district is a political subdivision of the state governed by a board of directors appointed by the governmental taxing entities in its jurisdiction.
Historically, appraisal districts have had a hard time making that distinction clear to the public, Dixon said.
“Our (district) is probably the worst because we are housed right in the same building with the (county) tax office,” she said. “A lot of people think the tax office is the appraisal district and the appraisal district is the tax office.”
Since being formed in 1979 to standardize the administration of local property taxes, many appraisal districts sought to distinguish themselves from the county government by either dropping the word “county” from their names or adopting the word “central” as a substitute for “county,” Dixon said.
“When I first started working here that was what was on the door,” Dixon said. “It said ‘central appraisal office.’”
Board chairperson Tim Hardt said the same proposal was discussed by the board several years ago. However, that discussion never went forward.
He said he had no objection but wanted a legal opinion on the extent that a formal name change might impact district operations.
“If this were a legal corporation we would be changing all our corporate documents, our IRS number and a lot of things involved with the name,” Hardt said.
No formal motion was made on the proposed change in name.
Also concerning the appraisal district’s future, Dixon reported on her discussion with the city staff in Hondo about acquiring property to build a proposed 4,000-square-foot headquarters building for the appraisal district.
“It’s an item we’ve talked about for two years now,” Hardt said.
Dixon said she had been in touch with Hondo City Manager, Scott Albert, about city owned property zoned for governmental use available near the Southwest Texas Junior College. However, four acres is far more property that the appraisal district needs.
The district had hoped to find property along Castro Street, she said. But that area is zoned industrial and is not available.
Hardt said the district is proposing a metal building on a concrete slab with a brick veneer on the front. It would be built to suit what the district needs rather than “buy something that doesn’t fit,” he said.
What is available to rent is either “too big, too small or too expensive,” Hardt said.
“We don’t need a Taj Mahal like a bank building or something,” he said. “The research we did approximately two years ago (showed that) land cost in buying from the city of Hondo would be the least expensive commercial property we could find.”
Construction cost would be in the range of $100 a square foot for a total of about $450,000, Hardt said.
Nearly two years ago the district had entered into an agreement with the county to purchase the former Hondo office used by the 38th Judicial District of Texas district attorney. However, lengthy litigation over the ownership of the property led the district to reconsider and reject the purchase.
Plans call for the county tax collector’s office, presently housed in the county-owned building shared with the appraisal district, to move to one of two bank buildings in Hondo recently purchased by the county. Dixon said one possibility is to wait the two years until the tax collector moves and then acquire the building from the county.
Hardt restated his proposal to build a new center for appraisal district operations.
“The concept has always been it would be nice to control our own destiny, own our own building and not be tenants,” he said.
He asked the district staff to obtain one to three preliminary proposals from contractors on the costs involved in the estimated 4,000 square foot project.
In other action, the board approved a 10-year contract with Eagleview Pictometry, an aerial imaging company specializing in accurate property measurement data. The annual cost of the contract is roughly $75,000, Dixon told the board.
The company conducts an extensive aerial photography flight every other year. Then, using computer software, the appraisal district is able to determine changes affecting property value, Dixon said.
“We are able to use that to flag properties that we don’t have on the tax roll,” she said. “Because (sometimes) we can’t get on the big ranches. There is a program called Change Finder that compares the two flights … and will tag the account to have an inspection done.”
The previous Eagleview Pictometry contract covered only three years. The 10-year contract locks the company into current prices regardless of future inflation, Dixon said.
Another bi-annual contract agreement decided by the board involved the depository bid for a local bank. Despite soliciting bids from eight banks in Castroville, Devine and Hondo only Castroville State Bank sent a complete formal bid for the district’s account, Dixon said.
Hardt, who sits on the board of directors for the bank, said he would not take a position on the bid other than to chair the meeting. However, the board did reject an incomplete bid from another bank that only submitted a copy of their fee schedule.
“Since they didn’t follow the form that you all would expect them to do it’s made it a little more difficult to compare,” Hardt said.
The district currently holds a certificate of deposit for $260,000, a money market account for approximately $80,000 and funds of more than $300,000 to cover its operating budget, Dixon said.
In a financial report to the board, Dixon reported that all 24 taxing entities within Medina County have paid their portion toward the district’s operations.
“Everything is just sort of finishing up for the year,” Dixon said. “The appraisal review board went over which we knew because we had so many hearings this year. It think that’s the only thing that went over. Everything else is still under budget.”
The appraisal district conducted more than 800 appraisal review hearings this year, she said. Of the 4,600 tax appraisal protests scheduled, only about 40 percent actually appeared for the scheduled hearing, she said.
“That seems to be the state norm,” Dixon said.
As for the results for those who followed through Dixon said appraisal review board did not seem to favor either the district or the property owners unfairly.
“Most of them, if they had any evidence to show the board was sympathetic,” Dixon said. “A lot of them had repairs to be made that we didn’t see.”
Those present were Tim Hardy, chairman; Jody Jacobs, vice chairman; Cindy Segovia, member and Clay Bell, member. Absent were Mamie Navarro, secretary, and Melissa Lutz, tax assessor-collector.
The next appraisal board meeting is 6 p.m. Jan. 10 at the district office in Hondo.

“In God We Trust” signs to go to all school districts countywide

Last Wednesday, October 12th, Mr. Bob Oberlender, a member of the Medina County GOP Executive Committee and Natalia resident, donated four posters displaying the National Motto, “In God We Trust” to Superintendent Harry Piles of the Natalia Independent School District. Each campus of the NAISD received a sign. This donation of the signs is encouraged by Texas Senate Bill 797, signed by the Governor last year, which directed schools to publicly display such donated signs. The National Motto display is to remind students of the founding of our nation and our dependence on divine guidance. Other schools in the county are also receiving such signs.

By Anton Riecher
Medina County Commissioners addressed a variety of topics at the Sept. 13th meeting, including hearing a couple speakers from the Democratic and Republican parties.
Medina County Democratic Party chair Sandy Young warned that those caught stealing or defacing campaign signs for gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke will face “creative punishments” if the vandalism continues, she told county commissioners.
Rather than pursue charges under criminal law as misdemeanor offense, Young said she intends to prosecute those guilty under civil law which permits greater input into what eventual punishment the court levies.
“If we have input into what the civil punishments will be I can assure you that we will be very creative,” Young said.
Having raised five children Young said she was very experienced in devising punishments that fit the crime.
Young reported that large four-by-six foot signs for the O’Rourke campaign have been stolen or vandalized on at least 10 different occasions recently. At one location on Highway 90 in mid Hondo the sign was up less than eight hours.
“That sign has been vandalized three times,” Young said. “They have painted over it and changed ‘Beto’ to ‘ghetto,’ which is racist.”
Other times the offenders have been brazen enough to simply steal the signs and then use the stakes driven to post signs for their own candidates, she said. In response, Young said that cameras have been placed to record any further vandalism.
“It is a misdemeanor if it is charged as a crime,” Young said. “They will get a ticket and a slap on the hand.”
“I also want to say that it’s funny that they are only doing it to the Beto signs, which tells me they are really nervous,” Young said.
She also said she was just as willing to deal harshly with any Democratic candidates linked to the destruction of campaign signs.
“It is unethical, it’s theft and it’s a crime no matter how you cut it,” Young said. “
Also addressing the court during the public comments portion of the agenda, Robert Oberlender of Natalia, liaison for the Medina County Republican Party to area schools, presented the commissioners with an early prototype of a sign to be provided by the GOP to local campuses.
“The county Republican party is providing signs to every school campus in the county with the national motto of ‘In God We Trust,’” Oberlender said. “If the school received a donation of those signs state law now says they should publicly display them.”
He said the prototype presented to the commissioners was one drafted during the process of developing a “legally approved sign” in compliance with what the state law allows.
Oberlender also told commissioners he wanted to thank them for providing additional school resource officers to protect area schools in the wake of the Uvalde school shootings in May.
“I’ve talked to a couple of the superintendents,” he said. “We’ve got big problems. But that’s for a later discussion.”
In other action, the commissioners approved accounts payable totaling $574.164 as reported by County Treasurer Debbie Southwell. The commissioners also approved payment of utilities totaling $61,873.
“Everybody needs to keep the air conditioner at 85 degrees,” County Judge Chris Schuchart said.
Total combined funds ending in August was $29.3 million with total debt shown as $26.9 million, Southwell reports.
The commissioners approved service plans and assessment plans presented for public improvement districts in Potranco Acres, Potranco Oaks, Potranco Ranch and Potranco Gardens. Jay Juarez of McCall, Parkhurst and Horton explained that the original agreements establishing the PID need to be updated annually.
A Public Improvement District is a special district created by a city or county under the authority of Chapter 372 of the Texas Local Code. The statute allows for a city or county to levy a special assessment against properties within the district to pay for improvements to the properties within the District.
Within seven days of the court’s approval of the update orders that include both the service plan and assessment plant is added to the real property record, Juarez said. The plans include the average home value, the number of new homes being built, the assessment rate, the net assessable value, the projected revenue and anticipated costs.
However, Van Johnson, president of the Potranco Ranch Homeowners Association, challenged the home values used to calculate the proposed assessments. The assessments he had studied had home values estimated at $420,000 when the actual value is closer to $700,000, he said.
“The home values make the whole plan they are delivering to you incorrect because the home values are a lot more,” Johnson said.
Schuchart asked Juarez to look into the accessments issue and report back to the commissioners. However, on motion of Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre, seconded by Precinct 1 Commissioner Timothy Neuman, the court voted unanimously to approve the assessments.
In other subdivision related action, the commissioners approved an extension of the preliminary plat approval for units 14B, 15B, 16B, 18A and 18B in Hunters Ranch and unit 1 in Potranco West Phase II.
Andrew Ortega of MTR Engineers reported that all the homes were presently under construction and scheduled to be finished in six months. On a motion by Neuman, seconded by Sittre, the extension was approved.
Ortega also asked for final approval on units four and six of the Potranco Oaks subdivision located in precinct two off FM 1957. The homes are the last two units of the subdivision and were completed several week earlier.
Commissioners also gave preliminary approval for the Double Five Acres subdivision located in precinct four off FM 2200. Gary Allen of Allen & Associates explained that the owner had purchased a 10-acre tract west of Devine wanting to subdivide it into two five acre tracts for sale.
On motion of Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Beck, seconded by Precinct 3 Commissioner David Lynch, the subdivision approval was granted.
The commissioners also granted preliminary approval to subdivide a 4.6 acre tract of Encino Park Estates into three one-acre tracts and one 1.6 acre tract, all fronting on County Road 6723 in precinct 4.
Commissioners approved a quote for information technology services to migrate county records from its 26 servers to a secure government platform or “cloud” to improve efficiency. The most immediate impact on county operations will be improved email security.
The migration is expected to be completed next year, Schuchart said.
Only one local resident was heard from during public hearings on proposed speed limit reductions on CR 265 in precinct one and CR 443 in precincts one and three. The new speed limit on the affected portion of CR 265 is 40 miles per hour,
The new speed limit imposed on CR 443, also known as Cemetery Road, is 35 mph. Neither located previously has a posted speed limit.
Lynch noted that any county road without a specific posted speed limit automatically defaults to 60 mph.
Neuman reported that road work to expand Cemetery Road from 22 to 24 feet wide would resume next week, part of nearly five miles of paving that he expects to complete in the next few days. The county recently completed adding culverts along the Cemetery Road route.
The commissioners also approved the placement of stop signs on CR 381 at Hunters Ranch East in precinct two.
Sittre reported that with the help of his neighboring commissioners nearly 2.25 miles of new paving was completed in precinct two the previous day with plans for another two miles this week.
Commissioners Lynch told the court that a town hall meeting on Oct. 11 in D’Hanis to discuss a proposed flood mitigation project drew nearly 100 people.
“There was positive feedback from the landowners,” Lynch said.
Earlier this month, Medina County commissioners approved preparation of grant applications worth more than $7 million to finance both a county drainage plant and, in D’Hanis, a flood mitigation plan.
The D’Hanis meeting included a presentation by Westwood Professional Services, the company retained by the county to draft the application. There was also a tour of property that would be affected by the flood mitigation plan.
Schuchart informed the commissioners that Uvalde County district attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee has chosen to challenge the Fourth Court of Appeals decision in favor of Medina County and others regarding the former office of the 38th Judicial District attorney.
“We keep winning and she has now appealed it to the Supreme Court,” Schuchart said. “We hope that the Supreme Court denies writ which will mean it dies and we win.”
Medina County’s right to sell the building to the Medina County Appraisal District was challenged by Busbee, the district attorney now representing the 38th Judicial District after the state authorized Medina County to form its own district.
Despite the win in the Fourth Court of Appeals, the appraisal district opted to back out of the purchase after an 18 month delay.
Commissioners Beck asked Schuchart if Uvalde County was still “onboard” with the ownership challenge.
“Somebody is paying for it,” Schuchart said.
Schuchart told commissioners he has instructed that future meeting of the “Go Medina” development board be posted as workshop sessions for the court. The next meeting is 9 a.m., Oct. 25 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in La Coste.

Public hearing on Medina County tax increase on Thursday, September 22

While the tax rate has gone down some, higher appraisals have skyrocketed, and will bring in substantially more tax revenue.
The proposed tax rate, which is the highest allowed without holding an election will be .4743. Total property tax revenues under this rate will raise $23.7 Million, about 7% or $1.5 million more than the previous fiscal year.
The average taxable value of a home in Medina County increasd from $190K to $215K, an increase of about $25,444 or 13.38% increase.
The local Pct. 4 county commisioner urges residents to voice their opinions.
“You are going to hear how low the Tax Rate is and how it has gone down each year for the past several years. But remember that our Property Appraisals are higher than they have ever been,” said Comissioner Jerry Beck. “Our taxes have never gone down or even leveled off.”

Medina County approves Anti-illegal immigration “resolution” with altered wording,
continues to draw opposition from proponents of original document declaring “invasion”

Medina County Judge Chris Schuchart addresses supporters of a proposed anti-illegal immigration declaration during the commissioner’s regular session on Aug 25.

By Anton Riecher
The Medina County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Aug. 25 to approve a resolution in support of Texas governor Greg Abbott continuing opposition to illegal immigration across the state’s border with Mexico.
“Now therefore be it resolved that the Medina County Commissioners Court recognizes the failure of the federal government to perform its duties and supports Governor Abbott’s actions to attempt to Secure the Texas Border,” the resolution states.
Timothy Neuman, precinct 1 commissioner, made the motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Larry Sittre, precinct 2 commissioner.
However, County Judge Chris Schuchart stood firm in his opposition to the legal wording of a “declaration of invasion” supported by other Texas counties and elected officials that cites the U.S. Constitution as granting states the power to expel migrants crossing the border in the event of invasion.
Schuchart, who made his opposition clear at the commissioners’ Aug. 11 meeting, restated his position to supporters of the original “declaration” version of the anti-illegal immigration document.
“The document that you want us to pass is flawed,” Schuchart said. “It basically doesn’t follow the law. It cites five different footnotes that I can only confirm one of them to be fact.”
At the root of the impasse is the definition of the word “invasion” as accepted by U.S. Courts.

Mona Walters addresses the Medina County Commissioners Court Aug 25 voicing her opposition

“The Supreme Court has never overruled three federal appellate courts who say an invasion is not illegal immigrants coming across,” Schuchart said. “We all agree we have a huge problem but it doesn’t fit the definition of an invasion.”
Abbott, himself a former attorney general of the state, has taken no formal action on the declarations.
Schuchart, a retired attorney, also took issue with the proclaiming the document a declaration rather than a resolution. Of the 18 counties that have taken a position on the “invasion” issue, six have chosen to pass resolutions rather than declarations.
“There is a difference between a declaration of invasion and a resolution,” he said. “We will pass a resolution.”
Speaking in support of the original “declaration,” Hank Seay of La Coste said the present immigration situation “definitely fits my definition of an invasion.” To call it anything else amounted to “playing semantics.”
“I understand that politics always seems to get in the way and muddy the waters,” Seay said. “I believe that’s exactly what has happened here.”
Robert Oberlender of Natalia and David Logan also spoke in support of the “invasion” declaration.
“I think it’s an invasion regardless of the terminology and the definition of the word,” Logan said.
Mona Walters, another declaration supporter, inferred that refusal to back the original language amounted to an attack on Medina County Republican Party chairperson Julie Clark who spoke in favor of the declaration at the Aug. 11 meeting.
“Members of our Republican party who support Julie Clark have become alarmed,” Walters said. “Several have called and told me that threats have been made against Julie and her husband.”
Schuchart said he and the commissioners were on the same side as the declaration supporters on the anti-illegal immigration issue.
“We are all Republicans,” Schuchart said. “Everybody sitting (on the commissioners’ court) is a Republican. But for some reason the tactics that are being used against us are astonishing to me…”
Passage of an anti-illegal immigration resolution will not save citizens threatened by crime in the county, he said.
“That man over there (pointing to Sheriff Randy Brown) and his staff will save citizens,” Schuchart said.
To aid in that effort, the commissioners have added six new deputies to the sheriff’s office, plus three more school reserve officers (in Medina Valley ISD schools) who, during the summer, become part of the sheriff’s staff, Schuchart said. The county is also buying the sheriff 14 more emergency vehicles.
“We are spending money to protect the citizens,” Schuchart said.
You can watch our video coverage of the meeting at:

Solar farm project in Moore draws heat from local opponents

Frio County Precinct 2 Commissioner Richard Graf and Frio County Attorney Joseph Sindon address questions from the audience during a community meeting in Moore.

By Anton Riecher and Kayleen Holder
Opposition to a rumored solar panel farm being planned in Moore brought a capacity crowd together Thursday evening (Aug. 25) at the local community center.
Ray Freitas, manager of the Moore Water Supply Corporation, told the audience that a neighbor on Black Creek Road/CR 1660 had confirmed leasing acreage for a solar farm, sometimes referred to as a photovoltaic power station, using a large array of solar panels to convert sunlight into electrical energy.
In an interview afterward, Freitas expressed the concern that “one of the properties leased is part of the Black Creek system and could possibly contaminate the watershed.”
A landowner in the area, Darla Bacon, explained that in all, the solar farm project could span close to 600 acres.
“Solar farms form what’s called a thermal heat island effect, which increases temperature. I am surrounded on three sides so I will be right in the middle of that. It can increase temperature by 5 to 7 degrees,” Bacon said. “I am going to lose my dove hunting operation, and I am probably going to lose my cattle operation too. I have talked to a man in Deport,Tx who lives near a solar farm like this, and he said the humming sound that it makes is another thing that has driven people nuts. Replacing land with photovoltaic panels will likely increase runoff volume and reduce recharge for our water tables.”
Local bee keeper David Park also lives near the proposed solar projects.
“The biggest thing I am worried about is how it will de-value my property. We live in a house on a hill and can see for miles. We have lived here for 17 years. Who wants to look down on 500 acres of solar panels?”
Like most residents, Graves Wallace, had more questions rather than answers.
“Well, it’s certainly not something that you would expect to happen right next door to you. I did not see it coming. How will it affect the value of my property? What are the effects to our environment? And what are my rights? I truly don’t know. Those are questions I haven’t been able to find a positive answer to. One thing is for sure, time will tell us.”
When it comes to progress, Wallace said, “Electricity is great. Technology is great. But that old hand-crank ice cream maker–it always works.”
Moore VFD Fire Chief JD Earls has his own concerns on the firefighting side.
“Equipment, extinguishing agents, training, costs…..What is needed and how do we obtain it? Where do we get specialized training we’ll need?” Chief JD Earls said. “You cannot put water on electricity.”
At the meeting….
A pamphlet presented at the meeting titled “Drawbacks of Living Near a Solar Farm” set down a litany of possible issues with solar farms ranging from health concerns about electromagnetic waves, increased risk of fire from the radiated heat and the potential that harmful chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic, silicon, copper and lead could contaminate the environment. The concern is that damaged units may release contaminants into the environment. 
Frio County Precinct 2 Commissioner Richard Graf presided over the meeting. Also on hand to field questions were Frio County Attorney Joseph Sindon and incoming precinct 2 commissioner Mario Martinez who takes office in November.
Graf told those attending that his office received nearly a dozen calls last week concerned about the rumored solar farm project.
“I’d really like to say that as of this date (the county) still has not been formally asked or told that a solar company is coming in,” Graf said. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt at all that they are coming in.”
However, unless the company applies for tax abatement, it is under no obligation to inform the county of its plans. Graf said he brought the rumored project before the Frio County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting on Aug. 24.
“Based on all the information I’ve got it will be my pleasure to recommend to the court that we do not give them one,” Graf said.
He said the commissioners were “very attentive to what I had to say and were anxious for this meeting to happen so that I could get back with them.”
Graf and Sindon both stressed that the county has no regulatory authority to restrict industrial development.
“We all like living in Texas because we don’t want a lot of regulation,” Sindon said. “The government lets us do what we want.”
People are largely allowed to do what they want “unless it upsets the neighbors,” Sindon said. He noted that the commissioners approved tax abatement for a solar panel farm located on a large ranch with no immediate neighbors to the project (in the Pearsall area).
“Nobody complained,” Sindon said.
Martinez said he was in agreement with Graf in opposing the project.
“For the most part I’m with everyone here,” Martinez said. “I’m not saying we’re going to please everyone 100 percent but we want to look out for your wellbeing.”
Here is the link to the Moore Community Center meeting about the solar farm: https://youtu.be/qQs6pLCOX9g
Please note, there was some confusion at the meeting about how much acreage the Moore solar farm would include, but has since been settled and is reflected in this article as of information we received Tuesday.
The company which has leased land in Moore is based out of Chicago, a landowner said, and is not the same company that received tax incentives in the Pearsall area solar farms that are expected to become operational in 2023.

Medina County Veteran’s services office helps secure millions to take care of local veterans

By Anton Reicher and Kayleen Holder
Medina County Commissioner’s heard a follow-up budget presentation by Medina County veteran’s services officer Ruben Gonzalez this past July 28. The total that the team has brought into Medina County veterans alone is up from approximately $40 million in 2020 to $46 million in 2021.

Continue reading “Medina County Veteran’s services office helps secure millions to take care of local veterans”

Amongst packed court room County leaders push 65+ property tax appraisal freeze idea to the voters in November

By Anton Riecher
Medina County commissioners gave unanimous consent Thursday (July 28) to add a measure to the Nov. 8 ballot seeking voter approval to freeze the appraisal value on property owned by residents over 65 years old.

Continue reading “Amongst packed court room County leaders push 65+ property tax appraisal freeze idea to the voters in November”