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JLK Event Center trade approved

Llano County commissioners Jerry Don Moss and Linda Raschke

Llano County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Don Moss walks the Commissioners Court through the details of a trade between the county and the city of Llano for the John L. Kuykendall Event Center and Arena. Moss spearheaded the deal with the city, which was approved on Monday, Oct. 24, with Precinct 2 Commissioner Linda Raschke (right) voting in opposition. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

In a 3-2 vote, the Llano County Commissioners Court approved a trade deal between the county and the city of Llano for the John L. Kuykendall Event Center and Arena during its regular meeting Monday, Oct. 24. The county will receive the event center from the city in exchange for county-owned parks, lots, and structures that lie within city limits. 

The deal is conditional upon the county finding proper funding and conducting appropriate inspections of the center. 

The decision was months in the making. The split vote came after commissioners debated the merits of taking on the costs of operating the center. The city was losing money on it.  

The deal would see Llano County receive the event center and arena, 78 acres surrounding the center, and the Ray House in exchange for Grenwelge and Badu parks, the Girl Scout Hut, and various lots across the city. The city would keep 10 acres of soccer fields on the event center property.

“If you look at the values of the property, to me, there is no comparison at all,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Don Moss. 

Moss presented data from the Llano Central Appraisal District that showed an estimated value of about $2.7 million for the properties going to the county and $393,158 for the properties going to the city.

The Commissioners Court discussed funding the center using hotel occupancy tax funds, which typically support tourism and hospitality services.

The trade was instigated by the city of Llano in July when Mayor Kelli Tudyk proposed a swap, stating that the city was operating the center at a deficit and could no longer afford to do so. That deficit ranged from $50,000 to 90,000 a year between 2016 and 2021. Moss began negotiations with the city, which is in his precinct, in August.

“I do think the county can operate (the center) a little more efficiently,” Moss told, “mainly because we have more manpower and we have a budget from the hotel occupancy tax that can fund it.”

Commissioners agreed, however, that HOT funds could not be used indefinitely to support the center.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Mike Sandoval opposed the deal, saying it only benefited the city of Llano and not the county as a whole.

“We (other precincts) don’t benefit from that JLK center,” Sandoval told the Commissioners Court. “Who benefits? All of Llano’s hotels will be overflowing.”

While Moss agreed, he pointed out that no law exists to keep the county from funding something within a city’s limits.

County Judge Ron Cunningham said the county has funded events like the Llano Earth Art Festival and the Llano Crawfish Open in the past, setting a precedent.

Prior to the court’s discussion of the JLK trade, several residents spoke up about the value of the center to the youth in Llano County.

Llano County AgriLife Extension Agent Whitney Whitworth, Llano High School agricultural science teacher Jenna Pool, Llano County Junior Livestock Show board member Fred Reyna, and former Llano County AgriLife Extension Agent Jamie Osbourn all voiced their support for the trade.

Moss made a motion to approve the trade deal with the added conditions that the county determine proper funding, conduct building assessments and surveys, and finalize other closing documents. Precinct 1 Commissioner Peter Jones seconded the motion, and the vote passed with Moss, Jones, and Cunningham in favor and Sandoval and Precinct 2 Commissioner Linda Raschke opposed.