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National Night Out

Hundreds of children, parents and other family members came out to the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus Tuesday evening for food, games and safety demonstrations during the annual Kingsville-Kleberg National Night Out event. National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, better places to live.

The event is traditionally held on the first Tuesday in the month of October, bringing together residents and law enforcement to increase awareness of community programs.

The Kleberg County Sheriff's Office, Kingsville Police Department and Texas A&M University-Kingsville Police Department sponsored the event, with dozens of vendors providing free games, food and entertainment for attendees.


$4.3M grant for J.K. Northway officially awarded

Kleberg County has officially been awarded a $4.3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, to support renovations of the J.K. Northway Exposition Center.

Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid made the announcement at this week's Kleberg County Commissioners meeting on Monday and thanked Kleberg County employees, Kleberg County Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick, City of Kingsville officials and "all those who helped make this possible."

Madrid said in an interview in July that the EDA grant will fund renovations to the J.K. Northway as part of the Kleberg Regional Public Safety Training and Emergency Operations Command Center project.

The project will create a regional training facility for first responders in the area, and an emergency command center for any natural disasters in the future.

The facility will also be used for academic training for Texas A&M University-Kingsville, educational enhancement training for teachers in the local school districts and an upgraded site to host regional events in the area like the Kleberg-Kenedy County Junior Livestock Show.

"This is going to be a training facility, and a multi-complex coliseum by daytime," Madrid said. "But it's an emergency operation center by natural disaster."

Madrid said the plans for the renovation include installing a helicopter pad for HALO Flight outside

of the facility, expanding and adding a new parking lot and applying upgrades to the facility for concerts, events and conventions.

"It was crucial that something be done, not five years from now, not 10 years from now. But now it needs to happen right now," Madrid said.

The budget included the total project cost of $5,375,000, with the proposed award amount at 80 percent of the total project cost, which is $4.3 million from the EDA.

The remaining amount of money will be matched by Kleberg County and the City of Kingsville, which will not exceed $1.2 million.

"We appreciate the cooperation that the city has given us," Madrid said. "We had to come up with the match money, and the city unanimously agreed to pay half of it. We sincerely appreciate their cooperation and their generosity in helping put money into the pot. And at the end of the day, they manage the facility, so it'll be a huge team effort. I'm very eager to hit the ground running on it."

"This investment from EDA will provide nine counties with a much-needed facility to prepare for and react to any future natural disasters," Dist. 34 U.S. Representative Filemon Vela said in a statement about the award. "With the catastrophe that was Hurricane Harvey, these communities will benefit greatly by obtaining this command center. This project will also attract future investments and facilitate economic growth in the region."

"With the help of community, resilience, and sheer hard work, Texans have come a long way since Hurricane Harvey hit two years ago, but scars of its devastation still show throughout our state," Senator John Cornyn said in a press release after receiving the news. "I'm thankful to the Trump Administration for providing this grant to Kleberg County to strengthen emergency preparedness in the area and boost economic growth."

Madrid said the renovations are projected to be complete within 6-9 months.

Frank Cardenas can be contacted at fcardenas@kingranch.com or (361) 221-0243.


Adams named KISD interim superintendent

In a 4-3 split vote, the Kingsville Independent School District Board of Trustees named assistant superintendent Kamara Adams as the district's interim superintendent during a special meeting held at noon Friday.

Adams fills the vacancy left following the resignation of KISD Superintendent Elida Bera, who ended her tenure with the district after the board accepted her resignation during their Sept. 23 meeting. She served as the district's superintendent for less than 10 months.

Adams was hired as the KISD assistant superintendent of support services in December 2018. She had previously worked with Bera at Judson ISD as its human resources director.

At the start of Friday's meeting, held four days following Bera's resignation, Board President Brian Coufal addressed the audience regarding the district calling for a noon meeting to name an interim superintendent.

"We as a board do not like to have noon meetings," Coufal said. "At all. It's not something that's fair to the public. It's not something that we do regularly and routinely. The only time we schedule meetings for noon is if it is absolutely necessary or the items to be considered are predominantly administerial in nature, which today's are."

Coufal said the Texas Open Meetings Act requires school district to post board agendas at least 72 hours in advance.

"So with the events that happened Monday night, the absolute earliest that we could post an agenda was Tuesday morning," he said.

"It's imperative that we get the district administration in place for our employees, for our faculty, for our staff," he added. "We are not meeting today to try to prohibit anyone from attending. We are not meeting today to try to prevent the public from participating.

"We are meeting because it's necessary and this is the only time that we can get a quorum together in order to conduct the business that needs to be conducted."

The board met in closed session for less than 25 minutes to discuss the interim superintendent position, along with an assistant principal vacancy at Kleberg Elementary School.

After reconvening in open session, board trustee Nick Prado made the motion to name Adams as interim superintendent along with a $3,000 monthly stipend, which Board Secretary Corando Garza seconded.

The motion passed in a 4-3 split, with Corando Garza, Board President Brian Coufal and trustees Prado and Lynn Yaklin voting in favor. Board Vice-President Brandon Greenwood and trustees Cory Garza and Steven Crites voted against the appointment.

In a phone interview Friday afternoon, Greenwood said he wanted to clarify his reasoning for voting against naming Adams as the interim superintendent.

"I don't want the community to feel that my negative vote was against Ms. Adams," he said. "It was not."

Greenwood said he wanted Adams to be named "the next superintendent" that day, as "having an interim superintendent does not protect the district at all."

"And personally, I'm afraid that we're going to lose Ms. Adams," he said. "We're going to lose another good employee just like we lost Ms. Bera."

As of Wednesday, the KISD Board of Trustees had not convened to discuss or take action on a timeline or method to hire a new superintendent.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.


Two pedestrians struck on 15th St.

Two men in Kingsville were taken to Christus Spohn Hospital Kleberg after being struck by a vehicle Monday morning.

Officials with the Kingsville Police Department said just after 9:20 a.m., a 69-year-old Kingsville man was traveling eastbound down Lott Avenue before he turned north on 15th Street.

According to reports, the driver was waving at friends on the side of the road while heading down 15th Street when he accidentally struck two men who were standing near a vehicle in the road.

Both men were taken to the hospital and the driver was cited for the incident.

On Wednesday, law enforcement officials said one of the men had been treated and release. The condition of the other man was not available.

KPD officials said the driver had no signs of intoxication.

Frank Cardenas can be contacted at fcardenas@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0243.


National 4-H Week is Oct. 6-12

The Kleberg County Commissioners approved and read a proclamation during their Monday meeting naming October 6-12 as National 4-H Week.

This year's theme is "Inspire Kids to Do," and Kleberg-Kenedy County 4-H students and leaders will spend the week promoting the program and participating in service projects.

National 4-H Week culminates with One Day 4-H on Saturday, Oct. 12, where 4-H'ers will work with Animal Rescue Kleberg volunteers to clean kennels and construct beds.

For more information on 4-H and youth programming, contact the Kleberg-Kenedy County AgriLife Extension office at (361) 595-8566.


KISD approves Austin School sale

The Kingsville Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a resolution during a special meeting held noon Friday to sell property housing the Weavers of Love soup kitchen to Kleberg County, along with a memorandum of understanding with the county for sheriff 's deputies to serve as a school resource officer for the 2019-20 academic year.

Since 2015, the non-profit organization Weavers of Love has run a soup kitchen at the Austin School property, located at 720 E. Lee St., which they had been leasing from the KISD at $1 per year while providing their own maintenance at the building.

The school board has attempted to sell the property during the past couple of years while volunteers with the organization requested on multiple occasions that they consider options that would allow the Weavers of Love to continue operations at the site.

During the KISD board's April 8 meeting, Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid offered $1 for Kleberg County to purchase the Austin School property to uti-

lize for public services as well as maintain the soup kitchen and the legacy of the Weavers of Love's founder, Sister Elizabeth Smith, "for many years to come."

Madrid also brought up a "counteroffer by one or two of the school board members" during his presentation for the county to provide security at some of the district's campuses in exchange for the property sale.

The board voted unanimously during that meeting to authorize the district's superintendent and board president to begin negotiations to sell the property to Kleberg County.

The resolution to sell the Austin School property was on the agenda for the KISD board's Sept. 23 regular meeting, along with a memorandum of understanding with Kleberg County for a sheriff 's deputy to serve as a school resource officer.

However, Board President Brian Coufal requested more time for the district's legal counsel and administration to finalize both items before proceeding with formal action.

"I would like to do (both the resolution and the MOU) formally at the same time when everyone has the documents in front of them," he said.

Coufal said during the Sept. 23 meeting that the district and the county have been "trying to achieve two ends at the same time" with the property sale and school resource officer.

Coufal said the Kingsville ISD has advertised the sale of the property at least twice, but never received a bid. He said the county has "a better, vested interest in what's being offered" at the property.

As for the SRO, Coufal said per the memorandum of understanding, Kleberg County would provide a school resource officer while the KISD hires a second officer, providing salary and benefits for a one-year term beginning Oct. 1.

According to the MOU, the salary range for the SRO would be between $47,971 and $63,919.

Both items were put before the KISD board again during their Sept. 27 special meeting. At that time, Coufal said while attorneys for both the KISD and the county were still negotiating the terms of additional language to the agreement, the district's legal counsel was "comfortable" with the board taking action on either the original or the revised MOU.

While the board unanimously approved the resolution to sell the Austin School property, 7-0, the revised school resource officer agreement passed with a 6-1 split as Board Vice-President Brandon Greenwood voted against the MOU.

"I just want to make sure that we're getting what we're signing up for," he said prior to the vote. "I don't particularly agree with giving property away for one year of service. Does that equal? I don't think so. That's like giving my house away for one year of bodyguard service."

Board Secretary Corando Garza said to Greenwood the district "can't even sell the property for $50,000." Trustee Steven Crites said the Austin School had been appraised at $130,000, "but it was going to cost $70,000 to tear it down and haul it away."

In an interview on Monday, Judge Madrid said he "made it clear (to the KISD board) that these were two separate projects."

"I know that there was some confusion thinking that they were giving us the Austin School building in an agreement that we would provide an SRO," Madrid said. "That's not the case."

Madrid said with reports of bullying and school shootings incidents occurring around the state and nationwide, he and Kleberg County Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick wanted to offer Kingsville ISD assistance with campus security.

"There's a need to have extra security, especially in this day and age," he said.

Madrid said the SRO agreement was made for one year rather than multiple years to allow it to serve as a "pilot program to see how it works out."

"So we can see what works and what doesn't, and then we'll grow it from there," he said. "It doesn't mean we will be done after one year. We are committed to working with (the KISD) for the long haul."

Per the MOU, the agreement automatically renews each year beginning Oct. 1 unless either party gives a notice of non-renewal no later than Aug. 30. Either side can also terminate the agreement, with or without cause, by providing written notice at least 60 days in advance.

As for the Austin School property, Madrid said it would continue to serve as the home for the Weavers of Love soup kitchen, as well as the Palmer Drug Abuse Program that is also housed on the site.

With the county's purchase of the Austin School, Madrid said he can now begin seeking grants and plan improvement for the property. Future plans include a "computer resource center" for underserved children and families along with other educational services, he said.

"First and foremost, we're going to make it a bigger, better facility," Madrid said. "As of right now, I see it becoming an awesome public service center that we're going to provide to our citizens."

Both the resolution and MOU still need to go before the Kleberg County Commissioner's Court for approval before either can be finalized.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.