By Hailey Persinger

Killeen Daily Herald

Killeen city staff will start work on plans for two concepts proposed for the former First Baptist Church property during the City Council's Tuesday meeting.

In addition to the previous concept plan to allow the Richard Milburn Academy, Head Start and Bell County offices to move into the space, potential uses for the building include a youth homeless shelter and a currently unspecified cultural exhibit or museum.

While council members ultimately approved both concepts to go on to the planning phase, the brainstorming process angered some.

Councilwoman JoAnn Purser, who in August suggested the church house a butterfly or science exhibit, told council members she was ready to hear their suggestions in addition to her own.

"We have only been brought one project, one plan," she said. "Y'all keep mocking me about butterflies … I'm trying to be serious. I'm very serious about bringing revenue to this community."

Councilman Ernest Wilkerson told council members that instead of revenue, Killeen residents should be the top priority when it comes time to decide on a plan.

"In public government, there's something called the greater good," he said. "We need to look at the greater good. We're so focused on making a buck."

Purser has said at past meetings that she would rather use the building as a means of bringing tourists to the downtown area instead of using it as rental space.

Despite the move forward, the council is still under pressure to decide what will become of the property. The Head Start program, which has federal grant money with a September 2010 deadline for its use, will need a decision from the council by the end of the month about whether it will be able to move in.

After Nov. 30, the organization will start looking for a new building. Like Head Start, Milburn Academy has also requested a decision regarding its move-in by the end of the month.

The city itself also has energy efficiency and community development block grants, the earliest of which must be used by September 2010. The roughly $800,000 will go toward roofing, upgrades and renovations to the 80,000-square-foot building.

City Manager Connie Green said planning for both approved concepts will take longer than a week but that the city will work to put them together as quickly as possible.

Regardless of what plan the council ultimately chooses once those plans hit their desks, Councilman Juan Rivera said council members should focus on the long-term results of their decisions.

"Lately we're in the micromanagement system," he said. "That's not our function. Our function is to make policy."

Contact Hailey Persinger at or (254) 501-7568,

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