The water level for Lake Buchanan, one of two reservoirs in the six-lake Highland Lakes chain, dropped dramatically over the summer of 2022. According to the Lower Colorado River Authority, the level on Aug. 11 was 1,003.99 feet, or 63 percent full. When full, the lake level is about 1,020 feet. A year earlier, the lake was 99.6 percent full at 1,016.72 feet, according to waterdatafortexas.org. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
Just as we collectively hoped, COVID-19 (mostly) took a back seat in 2022 as a top news story, making way for rapid growth, drought, public policy, and politics. Dominating DailyTrib.com headlines were water management and drought, growth, the Granite Shoals City Council, the Llano County Library System, and crime.
The most-read online stories were about fatalities, crime, and growth, especially when it concerned new businesses or residential development.
The top five stories accessed by readers in 2022 were:
Hillside Marble Falls on Rocky Road, which is being developed by Lauren and Seth Martin of Burnet, owners of Perissos Vineyard and Winery. It will have restaurants and music and wedding venues, among other features.
City Hall needs a new home, and the council is on the hunt for a place to build it. While land acquisition talks are carried on in executive sessions, councilors have hired Randall Scott Architects to come up with designs.
Several elected officials found themselves on the other side of the law during a year that also saw a spate of murders, police chases, and sexual assaults.
Burnet County Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall was charged with animal cruelty and turned himself in to law enforcement in November. He had already settled a civil suit after the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office seized a herd of 79 cattle. An investigation revealed the cattle were malnourished. They were taken to the Burnet County Fairgrounds, where they were cared for until well enough to sell. Due to the settlement, the auction money went to the county to pay for expenses in moving and caring for the animals.
Cottonwood Shores Mayor Donald Orr was arrested in the final days of the year on deadly conduct charges. Orr faces two Class A misdemeanor charges for endangering the lives of two first responders while following an ambulance to a hospital on Oct. 4. Orr’s wife, Susan, was in the ambulance, which was allowed through a roadblock set up at an accident scene. Officers tried to stop Orr, who just kept going, striking one of the officers, according to an affidavit.
Game rooms have been popping up in Marble Falls, Burnet, Buchanan Dam, Kingsland, and Llano. Game rooms fall in a gray area of the law, with game room operators claiming they are legal and many law enforcement officials saying they are not.
Llano County commissioners passed an ordinance regulating the hours, locations, and physical setup of game rooms, even hiring a game room administrator. Game room operators must pay $1,000 a year for a permit. Despite urgings by District Attorney Sonny McAfee and the proliferation of game rooms in Burnet County, commissioners have yet to take up the issue. Officials have said, however, they are interested in discussing whether or not to join Blanco and Llano counties in regulating game rooms in the 33rd and 424th judicial districts, which include San Saba, Blanco, Llano, and Burnet counties.
County regulations would not affect game rooms operating in municipalities. So far in Burnet County, only Granite Shoals has a game room ordinance.
The pandemic affected hiring, especially in schools and law enforcement as people retired, changed jobs, or just stayed home. Local governments also felt the strains of losing employees to higher wages in surrounding counties. Commissioners in Burnet and Llano counties, local school boards, and city councils approved raises in their 2022-23 budgets in an attempt to retain employees and draw new hires.
Although COVID numbers were dropping through the summer and early fall, the winter season brought a new onslaught of flu, RSV, and COVID in what experts called a “tripledemic.” The uptick in the three respiratory diseases is attributed to the past few years of COVID precautions. Without exposure to viruses, people didn’t build up their usual antibodies to common illnesses. Precautions include hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and vaccinations.