By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Mayor Tim Hancock likely would have traded his favorite cowboy hat for a vote Tuesday night.
But as it stood, he simply offered a plea to the seven Killeen City Council members, a plea to vote in favor of the First Baptist Redevelopment Project.
But the council clearly was set on a decision – or to be more precise, four of seven were set on not making a decision, at least not Tuesday night.
Plans for the First Baptist Redevelopment Project hit the bureaucratic brick wall known as indecision Tuesday night, as a motion to approve the $4.3 million redevelopment project failed to pass, getting just three of seven votes.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Cosper, along with Councilmen Juan Rivera and Ernest Wilkerson, voted in favor of the project, while Council Members Larry Cole, Billy Workman, Kenny Wells and JoAnn Purser voted against going forward with the project Tuesday.
Mayor Hancock, without a vote, parked himself next to City Manager Connie Green; the two men scowled into the bright lights of the open council chambers and made no effort to hide their mutual disgust for the events that had just transpired.
"When we say we are looking out for all of our citizens, what about the citizens on the north side?" Hancock said, when it was clear the project lacked enough support from the council. "I believe this facility will solve social issues and help the economy in this part of town to grow, improve."
Hancock said that this project's failure would amount to the "nail in the coffin" for downtown revitalization.
"If you look around, some citizens are already (investing in downtown) because they have heard downtown is going to get revitalized," Hancock said. "Some of us have the intestinal fortitude to stand up, and I think it's a mistake not to move forward with the downtown revitalization. I believe you are putting the nail in the coffin if you do not."
It should be noted that of the four dissenting votes, none expressed an outright stance against the project; they simply shared varying degrees of distrust in the current plan.
Nowhere were those varying degrees more apparent than in the motion by Purser immediately preceding the failed vote for approval.
It was just after each council member had spoken up and shared their views on why they did or did not support the project, when it was clearly known the project no shot of passing on that night.
Purser attempted to pre-empt the vote, saying that she would like one more workshop session to hash out the finer details.
She made a motion to table the issue to the next council meeting, supporting a resolution sooner rather than later.
But that motion failed to even get a second. Neither Wells, nor Workman, nor Cole could see supporting the project on that short a time line.
But Wells said afterward, and even during the meeting, that support would come soon enough, just not on Tuesday.
"When I'm convinced what we will get is what is envisioned, I can see myself supporting this," Wells said. "We just were privy to that vision just 30 days ago. At this point in the issue, will it really revitalize downtown? When I'm satisfied revitalization will be a benefit, I'll support it."
Workman said it sounds like more of the same double talk, which he said has been ever present during his time on the council.
"We're overpaying for bids, we're short on budget, and ask them to cut back. This does not sound right, right now," Workman said. "I've seen it on this council time and time again. Say one thing, and another thing happens. I can't see myself voting for this right now. I don't like this. But if the council votes for it, that's them. But I have to live with my conscience."
Rivera said it was time to stand up and make a decision before the prices on the project jump up again.
"I love to hear Mr. Workman say we have a responsibility. We are responsible for our citizens. This is what our citizens expect us to do."
The redevelopment project had been at best on shaky ground during the past month since the concept plan was revealed, finally seemed to teeter over the edge Tuesday, as dejected residents, and particularly frustrated city staff members, filed out of City Hall. Common comments heard in passing such as "what just happened?" and "I don't understand," were frequent and sincere.
A dozen or so other area residents also spoke out on the project; of those, only one voiced opposition while another spoke for caution. The other 10 took up the better part of an hour voicing heartfelt hopes for the possibilities, for the needs, for all the project could do for downtown Killeen.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.