By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald
Two former council members, who also are developers, are responsible for petitioning Killeen City Councilman Larry Cole to consider repealing an amendment to the city's drainage design manual.
"I fought the builders and developers just as much as any councilman," said Cole. "It's a matter of hearing them. I'm giving them the opportunity to state their case."
The City Council will discuss the drainage issue at a special meeting Thursday, before the Nov. 8 recall votes are canvassed, removing five council members from office.
Cole asked to place the drainage item on the council agenda after longtime friends JoAnn Purser and Don Farek personally requested a re-hearing. "When a friend asks you to do something, you do it," he said.
At the Nov. 8 council meeting, District 3 Councilman Terry Clark submitted an amendment to the drainage manual, which was subsequently passed by the council in a 4-3 vote.
The amendment change mandates that water could rise zero inches above a curb during a 25-year flood. Developers felt a rise of three inches above a curb was sufficient.
Farek said the manual, as originally presented, fits with the standards cities around Killeen have adopted.
However, surrounding cities have drainage standards that are equal to or exceed the standards set out in Clark's amendment. Harker Heights mandates water cannot rise above a curb during a 10-year flood, while Copperas Cove adheres to zero inches above the curb during a 25-year flood.
Purser said she felt developers, who worked with the city on the manual, were blindsided by Clark's amendment. She added that the process that took place should have been respected.
"Mr. Clark, who is not a professional engineer, who is not accomplished in land development, decided to modify the ordinance and make it more strict, which is going to add more cost (to homebuyers)," said Purser. "He didn't ask for (the amendment) to be tabled for further discussion. He just arbitrarily did it."
Cole confirmed Purser's concerns. "The builders felt they had not been heard. They thought the issue had been heard in committee. They thought (the drainage design manual) was a slam dunk," he said. "They didn't know Clark (would offer his amendment)."
Purser said, "We want the facts presented (to the council)."
Clark could not be reached for comment for this story.
Drainage design manuals manage a city's ability to handle water runoff during major storms, so a city's wastewater system isn't overloaded or damaged.
The Federal Emergency Management Association describes a 25-year flood as a major weather event that has a 4 percent chance of occurring in a given year. FEMA also lists 10-, 30-, 50- and 100-year floods as being significant.
Building to the standards Clark recommended, developers would see an increase in costs related to new buildings. Those costs are estimated to be about $7,000 per lot, said Farek. When asked how he came to that figure, Farek said he was given the information by an engineer he declined to name.
The former council member also took issue with Clark weighing in on engineering design standards without any experience in the field. "My gosh, when you're talking about engineering parameters, you need people who are knowledgeable about it," said Farek. "This is a very serious and technical subject."
Farek also took aim at Killeen residents who believe developers are attempting to back-door a regulatory change in their favor before the council loses its quorum. "I know the blogs are going wild out there," he said. "These bloggers just go wild with theories. We've got a bunch of grassy-knoll people out there."
Purser and Farek said the space lapse between Thursday's meeting and when a new council is seated, which possibly could be as late as May, prompted their request to Cole.
"If it wasn't put on the agenda, nothing could happen until the next council meeting," said Farek.
When asked about recall election's outcome and the drainage request, Purser said: "This is the council that voted on it. They should be able to rectify the problem they created."
District 2 Councilman Juan Rivera said he has no intention of considering the agenda item, or even attending Thursday's meeting. He said he believes it is improper for the council to reconsider the drainage amendment after voting on it last week and being recalled.
"The recall has been established and voted on. For me, it's official," said Rivera. "My district recalled me, and I have to respect that."
Contact Sean Wardwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.