Burt Utley was first to speak to the court and said that he and others had recently formed the Karnes County Taxpayers Association.
Utley said that he supported the idea of bond elections for funding large projects.
Utley said that one of his group’s major intiatives was to delay the restoration of the courthouse.
“We think the citizens have a right to vote in a bond election,” Utley said, “and hopefully you will move that way.”
Shanna Hall was next to speak and questioned why biased people are allowed to be part of the decision making process in terms of making decisions about county spending.
Hall said that the committee for the annex building was comprised of the county judge, the architect, one county commissioner and a representative of the Karnes County Historical Commission.
“This isn’t a panel that is non-biased,” Hall said. “It is not a panel that is going to serve the purpose of achieving a functional and reasonably priced building that fits the needs of our county.”
Next to speak was former County Commissioner Darrel Blaschke who presented the agenda and minutes from the January 31, 2000 meeting of Commissioners Court.
Blaschke read the agenda item, to approve or disapprove the courthouse master plan as presented by Mr. Fisher for grant application.
Commissioner Jeffrey Wiatrek made the motion to approve the courthouse master plan, and it was seconded by Commissioner Darrel Blashke, according to the minutes that Blashke read.
“All voted aye, and the motion carried,” Blashcke said. “Now I am going to give you who all was on Commissioners Court at that time: Judge Alfred Pawelek, Darrel Blashcke, Jeffrey Wiatrek, Juan Martinez and Isidro “Stormy” Rossett. At that time everybody was in favor of courthouse restoration. I don’t know what has happened since.”
County Attorney Robert Busselman was next to speak, reading a letter on behalf of Gary Deskin who, according to Busselman, was unable to attend.
Deskin’s letter asked, “What is patriotism?” and then went on to criticize and challenge statements made in a recent letter to the editor published in The Karnes Countywide.
Deskin’s letter went on to say that three of the members of Commissioners Court do not make decisions do not make decisions in the interest of the majority of citizens.
“What we have in Karnes County are people who are trying to gain the freedom to vote when these people have already paid the price for the freedom to vote, what must our cost be to vote?” Deskin’s letter asked. “Are not four generations of soldiers’ deaths enough price to pay for the right to vote? How many more losses of friends or family members will be required for three Karnes County commissioners to understand why Karnes County citizens are screaming for our right to vote? Is this America or are we all slaves again?”
Earl Stimson spoke next expressing concerns about the rising cost of buildings and repairs in Karnes County.
“I would like to ask our present administration to please take care of the needs of our county before putting us deeper in debt,” Stimson said, adding that he would like to see law-enforcement and road maintenance take a higher priority for county funding.
Sue Butler Carter was next to speak and she said she wondered where the opposition to the courthouse restoration is coming from.
Carter said that the grant had the support of many different entities and organizations across the county and that support for the project is very broadly based.
“We are trying to get it done as economically as possible,” Carter said. “And to restore the courthouse economically. We need to take advantage of the funds from THC.”
Carter said there was $20 million allocated for courthouse restoration in the current state budget.
“The THC feels obligated to complete the courthouse restorations that they have started,” Carter said. “Their word means something and I would like to think that our word -- as a county -- means something.”
Carter said the financial picture for the county is bright and projections of anticipated tax revenue for the county show that there will be a lot to spend of a lot of things. Carter said the county will have more funding for law-enforcement, roads and courthouse restoration.
Tony Toledo was next to speak and told county officials that it would be impossible to restore a 117-year-old building for the same cost as building a new one.
Toledo said he was in favor of restoring the courthouse as long as it is fiscally sound, but he needs to see facts that prove that it would be fiscally sound.
“My personal feeling about this restoration of this courthouse -- it is based on sentimentalism and nostalgia and emotions and not fiscal soundness,” Toledo said. “Let’s not get like our national government and go $14.65 trillion in debt. They can print money. We can’t print money.”
Maurice Yarter was next to speak and criticized the court’s decision to not move forward with a bond election toward funding courthouse restoration.
“What you have effectively done -- which has basically already been said -- is you have denied the people of this county to vote on a major expenditure of funds in this county,” Yarter said. “It doesn’t matter whether it is building the courthouse or the annex.”
“The people of this county have a right to vote and you have denied them that right,” Yarter said. “Servicemen in this country -- in this Commissioners Court, with the exception of Mr. Jauer, have not served in the military. You have never been overseas. You have never had to train to go in to fight for this flag. Yet you take this very blase attitude that you can deny me my right to vote which I have fought for for the better part of my adult life. I would like to ask that the Commissioners Court bring the vote back up for a bond election to support the restoration of the courthouse. If the county votes for it, then there is no issue. If they don’t vote for it, then there is a reason for it. But you don’t have the right to take my vote away. I have fought for my right. You did not. And I will continue to fight for my vote.”
Maggie Hunt was next to speak and talked about the importance of local law-enforcement.
Hunt said that the jail beds for county use as part of the new GEO detention facility, is good news for local law-enforcement efforts.
“We are very excited that under the former administration that the burden of building a new jail has been relieved from this court,” Hunt said.
County Attorney Robert Busselman read another letter on the behalf of David Rappstein, who was unable to attend the meeting.
Rappstein’s letter expressed concerns about spending county funds for the courthouse restoration for sentimental purposes.
The letter said that a cap on grant funding could mean that local tax dollars may be needed for half or more than half of the cost of the project.
Rappstein said that courthouse restoration was a self-indulging project that was undertaken by a few that do not represent what the greater county wants.
The letter criticized the court for voting against moving forward with a courthouse restoration bond election.
Betty Yarter was next to speak and said the county was in a different situation financially when officials voted to approve the courthouse restoration master plan in 2000.
“There was a huge difference in the county at that time,” Yarter said. “One was that in terms of the whole consideration of budgets and money. We were in a whole different position financially and we were looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million for the total cost and now we are looking at almost double that cost.”