By Lisa Soule
Killeen Daily Herald
While some Killeen council members Tuesday sang the praises of last month's Operation Family Affair, one councilman called the city on its gamble.
"Do we have the right to risk the taxpayers' money in such a fashion?" Councilman Eddie Vale Jr. asked during a workshop update of the four-day June festival co-hosted by Killeen and Fort Hood. "We put that money on a roulette wheel."
Initial predictions from Killeen Civic and Conference Center Director Connie Kuehl had indicated the event may have lost between $20,000 and $30,000.
Although the city and military post had planned to split the profits earned from the festival, the city may be left holding the bill when the losses are tallied.
Killeen Deputy City Manager Dave Hall said Fort Hood could not encumber federal funds.
"Fort Hood can't give us cash," Hall told the council. "They gave us a number of in-kind services."
Hall distributed a handout to the council outlining the event's financial situation to date. The information showed about $120,000 in donations and revenue and about $94,272 in paid expenses.
With about $26,300 left in the special escrow account established for the event, it is yet to be determined how the remaining $84,000 worth of expenses will be paid.
Hall noted that more contributions, including between $5,000 and $10,000 in pledged funds and other large donations, are still expected to come in.
"I don't recall ever having a discussion about this or about us paying for this with taxpayer money," Councilman Dan Corbin said, calling for the non-existent line item in the budget which authorized the funds. "My concern is we're spending taxpayer dollars on something the council didn't vote on."
Mayor Maureen Jouett likened the festival to other city- sponsored events, such as the annual Easter egg hunt.
"We want our citizens to have something to do," Jouett said.
The event's biggest cost, at about $120,000, was to ALW Entertainment of Dallas, a promoter responsible for bringing in concerts.
Although Hall gushed about the event's success, calling it "incredible" and "phenomenal," he said the downside was that the concerts did not go so well.
Except for a gospel performance by Yolanda Adams which packed the conference center, other $15 per seat concerts, including rapper Lil' Flip and country artist Carolyn D. Johnson, were ill-attended.
Other bills for the event include the Cowboys of Color Rodeo, which cost $15,000. Bouncingball, LLC charged $5,000 to run a four-on-four basketball tournament.
Elite Basketball Inc., will be paid about $1,900 for parking and Roger Westmoreland will be paid $4,178 for catering services.
Las Vegas Consultant Sheryl Parks charged about $4,700 in professional services. Veshell Willis of Killeen charged organizers about $2,500 for event support.
Other costs included limousines, production assistance and $755 to the Korean Culture Dance Group.
Hall said the first-ever event was a success, celebrating culture and diversity while providing something for families to enjoy.
For military families who are in the midst of a deployment, Hall said the event also communicated a sense of local family.
"We wanted to say, 'You are home we are your family,'" Hall said. "That took place in spades."
Organizations have already signed on for a second Family Affair next year, Hall said.
"This is the kind of event we want to host in our city," Hall said. "It would rival the state fair in its significance."
While Councilman Dick Young expressed his support for Operation Family Affair, he said the council had never talked about the event in terms of losing money.
"I don't want that to diminish what a great a success this was," Young said. "This did a tremendous amount of good. I hope no one gets too down on the process until we get the final figures."
After nearly an hour of discussion, Councilman Tim Hancock questioned the council's concern.
"We ought not to be having this discussion," Hancock said, noting that nobody had asked the council to authorize money to pay for the event. "No one said you are obligated for anything yet."
Councilman Corbin wanted to know who had signed contracts and in what capacity.
"I've heard 'they, they, they,'" Corbin said. "If we're not responsible, and 'they' are who are 'they?'"
Hall said the Army had worked with ALW Entertainment and that he would provide council with the contracts.
Young joined Hancock in his call for the end of the discussion.
"This is not our concern until it comes to us for funding," Young said. "This is premature. It seems we are off on a witch hunt."
Hall said the information provided to the council at Tuesday's workshop represented only a snapshot of the event. He said it would likely be next week before the final figures could be tallied.
Contact Lisa Soule at firstname.lastname@example.org