By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
Bell County district courts set a special hearing for early December in the Nolanville, Harker Heights and Belton case, but the cities' attorneys say the hearing will not happen.
Harker Heights filed a suit in October against Nolanville to seek a judicial ruling on Nolanville's most recent population count of more than 5,000 residents, and Belton later joined Heights in the suit.
The cities were supposed to meet in court for the first time Friday, according to Bell County District Courts civil docket.
That hearing was pushed back, with all sides hoping to settle the issue outside of court, said Roger Gordon, a Bojorquez Law Firm PLLC attorney, which represents Nolanville.
"This is an opportunity for us to sit down and discuss all the cities' claims," Gordon said.
Harker Heights and Belton both agreed that meeting to settle the conflict outside of court, if an agreement can be reached, would be ideal.
"It has been Harker Heights' position all along, and I believe Belton's too, if there is some opportunity to resolve the issue out of court then that would be everybody's preference," Harker Heights City Attorney Burk Roberts said.
Belton's City Manager, Sam Listi, agreed with Roberts.
"We are trying to see if there is opportunity for a meeting that would be meaningful," Listi said. "And we remain open to that as we have been through this entire process."
The cities held several meetings prior to Harker Heights filing for a judicial ruling, but an agreement was never reached and Nolanville never presented Heights or Belton with an official proposal for an agreement.
Nolanville's population count, which was passed in December 2008, extended Nolanville's extraterritorial jurisdiction into areas Heights and Belton's ETJs were going to expand into through annexation.
Friday's special hearing was for the judge to decide a plea of jurisdiction filed by Nolanville's attorneys.
"This court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's and intervenor's claims because neither the plaintiff nor the intervenor have pleaded sufficient fact to demonstrate: a) that (Harker Heights and Belton) claims present a ripe case or controversy for decision by the court, and b) that (Harker Heights and Belton) have a sufficient stake in the matter to establish the necessary standing to pursue their claims," stated the plea.
A plea of jurisdiction is a claim that the court doesn't have the authority to make a determination on the case, Roberts said.
"It is a tool ... to prevent the court from hearing a case," Roberts explained.
Gordon was hopeful that a meeting between the cities, which hasn't occurred since the suit was filed, would take place in December, he said. He was also "optimistic" that an agreement could made at the meeting that could be taken to each cities' councils for approval.
"If our attempts fail, we will have this (court) hearing in January," Gordon said.
Contact Mason W. Canales at email@example.com or (254) 501-7554.