2016 Year in Review

Hays County residents approve bonds totaling $237 million
A pair of separate bond initiatives that called for a collection of county-wide road improvements as well as various improvements to the county jail were given the green light by voters this November. Proposition 1, which called for roughly $106.4 million for jail improvements and a co-located 911 facility, narrowly passed with 51 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Proposition 2, which called for $131 million in road improvements, passed with 59 percent of the vote.

Sheriff incumbent reelected, longtime constable ousted
Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler won the right to keep his seat in 2016 after defeating challenger Rodrigo Amaya by a 13.1 percent margin in the Nov. 8 general election. Cutler, who has served as Hays County’s sheriff for the past six years, claimed a substantial lead after early voting and won with 58 percent of the vote. But as the status quo remains at the sheriff’s office, a changing of the guard will take place in Pct. 2. After a 38 year tenure as the Pct. 2 constable, James Kohler was defeated Nov. 8 by Kyle Police officer Michael Torres. Kohler told the Hays Free Press in November he plans to run for the Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace seat, currently held by Beth Smith, in 2018.

Challengers defeat incumbents in Wimberley city council races
In May, three newcomers defeated their incumbent opposition for three council seats. In the race for the mayoral seat, Mac McCullough defeated Steve Thurber by six votes. Meanwhile, Craig Fore narrowly defeated Cindy Anderson with 51 percent of the vote for the Place 3 seat, while Gary Barchfeld defeated Pam Showalter for the Place 4 seat.

Dripping Springs voters nix ESD 1 tax cap increase
An overwhelming majority of Dripping Springs voters shot down the Emergency Service District No. 1’s aim to increase its tax cap. The measure, which called for the ESD’s tax cap to rise from 3 to 7 cents per $100 valuation, failed with 63 percent of people voting against it.

Voters approve creation of ESD 9
Hays County voters this November overwhelmingly approved the creation of a ninth Emergency Service District. Voters approved the creation of ESD 9, which would service many of the unincorporated areas in eastern Hays County not currently serviced by an ESD. In addition, voters also approved the expansion of ESD 7 in Wimberley to include citizens in the Summer Mountain Ranch, Falconwood, Oakwood Loop, Hugo Road and Cielo Ranch Road.

Henly residents oppose concrete batch plant
Neighbors between Henly, Dripping Springs and the outskirts of Blanco County were up in arms in May over the potential opening of a concrete batch plant and permanent rock and concrete crusher along U.S. Highway 290. The proposed plant was to be located in the 8200 block of east U.S. 290 in Blanco County.

Hands-free ordinance fails in Dripping Springs
Dripping Springs continues to be the only major Hays County city without a hands-free ordinance after the city council voted against drafting an ordinance in February. The ordinance would have banned the use of any hand-held device while driving with an exception for emergency vehicle operators and law enforcement.

Short-term rental fight escalates in Wimberley
Perhaps no issue was as polarizing in 2016 as the debate over short term rentals in Wimberley. Earlier this year, the Wimberley City Council approved an ordinance that regulated short term rentals and requires business owners to apply for a conditional use permit to open one. The move, however, opened debate on both sides of the aisle as residents were split on the new regulations. Due to the influx of CUPs, the city opted for a moratorium on new CUPs for short term rental facilities.

Dripping Springs discharge permit drama
Controversy surrounded the city of Dripping Springs in 2016 as various environmental groups opposed the city’s Texas Direct Pollutant Elemination System permit filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2015. The permit, which is a part of the city’s plan to expand its wastewater treatment system, calls for up to 995,000 gallons of treated effluent to be discharged into a tributary of Onion Creek. Groups including the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District and the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation Districts opposed the permit citing environmental concerns. In October, the TCEQ submitted the draft permit for the city’s discharge permit. But in November, the EPA filed a letter of opposition against the permit, asking the city to show proof the permit wouldn’t affect Onion Creek.

Numerous fatalities take place on U.S. Highway 290
Concern over safety on U.S. Highway 290 in Dripping Springs ramped up in 2016 following four major accidents that claimed a total of ten lives. The accidents ranged from May 8 to Dec. 8. The deadliest incident occurred May 8 when five people were killed in an accident along 290 at Crow Ranch Road. Residents voiced concerns with public officials regarding safety on the highway, which led Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant to hold a public meeting on the subject. The county will allocate $6M toward improvements on U.S. 290, which were a part of Proposition 2 that was passed by voters in November.

New movie theater to open in Dripping Springs
Dripping Springs movie aficionados won’t have to go far for their film fix after a 14-screen movie theater was announced as the anchor tenant in a 90-acre mixed-use development near Belterra. Sky Cinemas, which comes from the creators of the Violet Crown Cinema in Austin, will be located in the Belterra Village shopping center along U.S. 290 near Nutty Brown Road. The development will also include a Torchy’s Tacos, Spec’s and Jersey Mike’s.

Nutty Brown tunes up for final encore in 2017
A beloved Dripping Springs-area live music venue will stay for one final season before moving to Round Rock later this year. In November, Mike Farr, owner of the Nutty Brown Cafe and Amphitheater, accounted the business’ plans to move to McNeil Park in Round Rock had been delayed. The reason was to further develop the new site in Round Rock, Farr said. Nutty Brown plans to stay at the Dripping Springs location until November 2017.

Debate hits Dripping Springs  ISD over transgender policy
Dripping Springs ISD was the center of debate in September after it was discovered a Walnut Springs Elementary transgender student, who was born a boy, was allowed by the district to use the girls restroom with stalls. A firestorm of controversy was ignited as members of the community, both for and against the district’s decision, spoke out during a September school board meeting. According to the district, bathroom accommodations are done on a case by case basis.

Tiger football completes historic season
Football fever hit Dripping Springs this fall as the Tigers took the city on a whirlwind adventure that ended with a school record 12 win season and a best-ever finish in the regional finals. Dripping Springs, helmed by head coach Galen Zimmerman, finished 2016 as co-champions of District 26-5A, which marked the first time in 20 years Dripping Springs has won a district title. The highlight of the season came in the area round of the playoffs where the Tigers stunned the Angleton Wildcats with a last-second touchdown pass from Reese Johnson to Keith Mitchhart.

Wimberley neighbors reflect on Memorial Day flood
Residents and officials alike this past May shared stories of the events surrounding the Memorial Day 2015 flood roughly one year later in an event called Wimberley Strong – A One Year Remembrance of the Flood and Celebration of Recovery.

Flood report trickles in for May 2015 flood
Hays County officials in May officially released an after-action report for the Memorial Day and Halloween 2015 floods. According to officials, the report was delayed as more information kept coming in as it was being created.  The 40-page report broke down the timeline of each flood, including weather pattern figures, rain totals and river gauge levels. The report evaluated the county’s actions when it comes to notification and response, direction and control, incident assessment and resource management categories with 58 points of review. Many of the responses stated a need to clarify personnel roles, notification systems and communication between management and first responder teams.

Home invasion suspect shot
A suspect in a Dripping Springs home invasion in January was arrested earlier this year after homeowners shot him. According to officials, Randall Thomas Dorsett, 25, of Round Rock, was shot in the abdomen by the homeowner after he attempted to break into the home. According to a report from the Austin
American-Statesman,
Dorsett was booked into the Hays County Jail before being released to a mental hospital. Dorsett in April committed suicide.

Wimberley man arrested in father’s murder
Hays County deputies in June arrested Jacob Christopher Krueger, 29, of Wimberley, after he allegedely shot his father at their residence with a shotgun. According to Hays County court records, Krueger was indicted on first degree murder in August. Pre-trial motions on the case begin in January.

Explosives found after assault arrest in Wimberley
A Wimberley man was arrested in October after authorities discovered an explosive device and various narcotics in his home while executing an arrest warrant for an alleged aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Robert Snow, 54, of Wimberley, was arrested on six charges, including three counts of possession of prohibited weapons, which is a third-degree felony.

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