To incorporate or not to incorporate? That will be answered at the polls for Kingsland this November.
Following a public hearing Monday during a scheduled Llano County Commissioner’s Court, Llano County Judge Wayne Brascom addressed the audience gathered in the court regarding the issue of placing the issue of incorporating Kingsland on the November 8 ballot.
Say Yes! To Kingsland, a group of Kingsland residents who spearheaded the effort submitted a petition to place the incorporation issue on the election ballot this fall.
Shelly and David Comerford and Rhonda Coker organized a Town Hall meeting that was held last Friday to address concerns of the incorporation and to allow Kingsland residents the chance to ask questions.
A flyer informing residents about the meeting was sent out in both local newspapers, and a public invitation to those who were members of the Say Yes! To Kingsland were invited to speak. Those five were Mark Chapman, Steve Fraser, Richard Goertz, Mary Hefner and Chuck LaCallade, however, they say they were never contacted by the organizers to attend the meeting and were not in attendance on Friday.
Almost 300 residents gathered at the Kingsland Community Center. The organizers passed out copies of a proposed budget for Kingsland as well as a map of the proposed city limit boundaries.
On Monday, both proponents and opponents of the incorporation movement were present for Commissioner’s Court and several signed up to speak during a public hearing.
Chris Putnam, owner of Putnam Funeral Homes in Kingsland, spoke first, stating that at this point, he was still on the fence regarding incorporation, but that he did not want it on the ballot at this time. His main concerns included insufficient planning, the seemingly secretive manner in which the incorporation request was done, as well as the proposed franchise tax in the proposed budget submitted to the Judge for consideration.
Steve Fraser, chairman for Say Yes! To Kingsland, addressed the court, stating that the effort to submit a petition and incorporate Kingsland had been going on for months and was well known. He said that information would be forthcoming about incorporation and that he believed that this decision needs to be made at the polls.
Richard Goertz, also with Say Yes! To Kingsland, stated that ‘the hope of everyone is for a better community.’ He also said that once Kingsland is incorporated, it would be up to the citizens of Kingsland to make it work.
Rhonda Coker, one of the organizers for the Town Hall meeting, stated that ‘we have done a lot of investigation’ regarding the numbers provided by the Say Yes! group, and that they concluded that census numbers used for the determination of growth were not the best ones to use to provide an accurate prediction of growth. She said that incorporation is good for a community, if it is done with transparency, and that meetings of the Say Yes! group were not publicized.
Coker said that if Kingsland were to be incorporated, she would run for council.
RB Hall, proponent of incorporation, said that while he was new to Kingsland, he wanted to see the town become cleaner, be more organized, address the number of empty commercial properties, as well as see the crime rate go down by the city having it’s own law enforcement, relieving some of the pressure on the Llano County Sheriff.
He said that he would hope that a council for an incorporated Kingsland would not raise ad valorem taxes, but that should they have to that it be nominal.
Long time Kingsland resident Brad Bradshaw was the last to address the Commissioners, and expressed concerns of the secretive meetings held by Say Yes! To Kingsland, citing a brochure he received in June for the group that was dated April 12. He alleged that the brochure had language on it such as ‘go for the money’, ‘let’s keep this a secret’ and ‘gerrymandering’. He questioned meeting practices, saying that scheduled meetings were canceled and then moved to private residences.
He said that he would place signs in front of his business that were noncommittal for or against the incorporation, but that would help get the message out about meetings.
Regarding the proposed budget, he said, "I question the amount of money they say it will take to run this city.
Once all public comments had been made, Judge Brascom explained the process and requirements for submitting the petition for incorporation.
He stated that, according to the Local Government Code, Chapter 7 for the State of Texas, stated that any group of residents of a town with a population of 201-9,999 (Kingsland has almost 6,000), may submit a petition for incorporation to be placed on an election ballot, if they meet the following requirements: 1. They must submit a petition calling for the election with at least 50 registered voters’ signatures. 2. They must submit the proposed boundaries, showing that the required number of people live within the plat determined to be the city limits. (Kingsland met the territorial requirements of more than 5,001 residents within nine continuous miles.) 3. They must submit the proposed name of the General Municipality. (City of Kingsland was submitted as the proposed name.)
If a proposed city lies in two counties, than the petitioners may submit the request to the county judge of either county.
With these criteria met and verified, the Local Government Codes states that the "county judge shall order an incorporation election."
Judge Brascom stated that the plat for the territory had been drawn up by Cuplin and Associates and verified by Fred Thompson.
He said that based on the preponderance of evidence, he had no choice but to call for the issue to be placed on the ballot.
He explained that the decision rests with the county judge exclusively, and that a public hearing was not required. He stated, "I chose to delay to give the opportunity for public comments."
Because Kingsland is located in two counties, the issue will be placed on both ballots, so that all eligible Kingsland residents will be able to vote on the issue.
If a resident is unsure whether or not they are eligible to vote, they will be given a provisional ballot.
The election has been called for November 8, 2011.
Following the meeting, Say Yes! Chairman Steve Fraser stated that the group plans to get information to voters so that they will vote for the incorporation.
Say Yes! To Kingsland released a press release regarding the Judge’s decision and said, "Noting that the issue is both complex and confusing due to rumors and misinformation, the advocating group, "Say YES! To Kingsland", encourages voters to take the time to study the issue completely. A variety of information is available to anyone at: www.sayyestokingsland.com."
Shelly Comerford said that she did what she set out to do, made the public aware of the issue and brought it to light.