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MUD

The Bell County Municipal Utility District No. 2 is seen near Chaparral Road in Killeen.

Nearly seven months after Killeen City Councilman Steve Harris requested an investigation into an agreement between the city and the developer of a 3,750-home special district coming to Killeen’s southern border, the item will go before the council Tuesday.

The council will prioritize a number of pending items at its workshop session Tuesday, including a probe into whether there might have been collusion between city staff, council members and Bruce Whitis, the owner of WB Development and developer of the $238-million Bell County Municipal Utility District No. 2, said Killeen Director of Communications Hilary Shine.

The council, in a contested 4-3 decision in 2013, approved an agreement between the city and Whitis clearing the way for the district, which will levy its own property tax and issue municipal debt to pay for road and water-sewer infrastructure.

In May, WB Development manager Josh Welch said the development agreement was mutually equitable for the city and district.

“The development is the most restricted project I know of in the area,” Welch said. “The consent that was finally given included design standards, required open space, parks, and amenities so there should not be any concerns.”

According to the agreement, the city will impose a number of building and infrastructure design standards on the district in exchange for completing surrounding infrastructure improvements to aid the district’s growth.

Among the projects specifically listed in the agreement for city funding are the extension and widening of Chaparral Road, improvements to Trimmier Road and the construction of 1-million-gallon, above-ground water storage tank.

To accommodate additional expected residential growth south of Killeen, the city decided to increase the proposed tank’s storage capacity to 3 million gallons.

While the city would receive no property tax revenue from district residents, the city can eventually call for the district’s annexation — as long as it also picks up the district’s debt.

In March, the Herald found Whitis used family members to facilitate the creation of the district in a 2014 Bell County general election. Two of Whitis’ second cousins voted to create the district, enumerate its debt-issuing and tax-collecting powers, and elect its five-member board of directors made up of two more family members — one a Copperas Cove elementary school teacher and football coach — and past Killeen government officials.

Harris request

In June, Harris, who was one of the dissenters in the 2013 agreement vote, requested an investigation into whether there was collusion between city officials and Whitis to push the agreement through council deliberation despite push back from some council members.

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Steve Harris

Steve Harris

“During the debates for and against the MUD agreement, questions were presented and not answered adequately by staff, which bred concerns from some council members,” Harris wrote in a June 21 email to City Manager Ron Olson.

On Thursday, Harris said he discussed the MUD investigation with Olson, who said creating the budget and drafting new financial policies had pushed the item back on the calendar.

“It didn’t discourage me because I knew that other things had priority, and I knew he wanted to get things done,” Harris said. “I told him we can’t wait forever on this, though.”

Shine said the investigation would be one of a suite of items the council will prioritize for future consideration at its Tuesday workshop.

Harris has frequently taken advantage of a rule that allows council members to bring items up for a council consensus prior to full discussion before the body. Despite the MUD investigation being approved for discussion by council consensus in June, the city has not brought the item up for consideration in nearly seven months.

A number of other Harris requests have either been voted down by council consensus, folded into larger council discussions or have not yet been discussed.

“All of Councilman Harris’ requests have appeared on workshop agendas under the Councilmember Requests for Future Agenda Items section,” Shine said in an email. “The fate of some of those items was decided by consensus of the body at the meeting at which they were presented; however, many of Councilman Harris’ requests are part of larger items being prepared for Council’s discussion.”

Future of the MUD

Shine said Thursday the city had been in contact with WB Development on the status of the district but not specifically the questions raised in Harris’ request.

The city’s agreement with the MUD came back to the forefront in December, when Olson asked the council to consider calling for a general obligation bond referendum in May to pay for road infrastructure surrounding new school facilities proposed in a potential $426-million bond referendum by the Killeen Independent School District.

The four highest priority projects the city identified, with current construction estimates, include:

• Expansion of Chaparral Road from two to five lanes — $21.5 million

• Expansion of East Trimmier Road south of Stagecoach Road from two to five lanes — $7 million

• Expansion of West Trimmier Road between Stagecoach and Chaparral roads from two to five lanes — $7.9 million

• Expansion of Featherline Road between Stagecoach and Chaparral roads from two to five lanes — $9 million

The total cost for all four projects — the baseline principal amount for a proposed bond — is $45.6 million.

The Chaparral Road and West Trimmier Road improvements are both specifically listed in the MUD agreement, with the district set to reimburse some of the construction costs as homes are built out.

Shine said the terms of the agreement would be included in a potential bond referendum in May.

“Terms of the MUD agreement would be factored into any potential bond prior to its proposal,” Shine said “The bond discussion is on the list of priorities to be considered Tuesday.”

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(1) comment

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

To me, this is the most confusing article I have seen in a long time.

This article:

Copy: 'Nearly seven months after Killeen City Councilman Steve Harris requested an investigation into an agreement between the city and the developer of a 3,750-home special district coming to Killeen’s southern border, the item will go before the council Tuesday.'
Continuation of copy: 'The council will prioritize a number of pending items at its workshop session Tuesday, including a probe into whether there might have been collusion between city staff, council members and Bruce Whitis, the owner of WB Development and developer of the $238-million Bell County Municipal Utility District No. 2, said Killeen Director of Communications Hilary Shine.'
Continuation of copy: 'In March, the Herald found Whitis used family members to facilitate the creation of the district in a 2014 Bell County general election. Two of Whitis’ second cousins voted to create the district, enumerate its debt-issuing and tax-collecting powers, and elect its five-member board of directors made up of two more family members — one a Copperas Cove elementary school teacher and football coach — and past Killeen government officials.' End of copy.

Now it seems to me to be an 'open discussion among both 2nd cousins of the Whitis family and closed to citizens of the city of Killeen of which there are by most accounting at least 130,000' and which would be footing the bill for this endeavor. I personally feel that this should have come up for a vote of all of the citizens of Killeen and 'not just the 2nd cousins of the Whitis family'. In that respect, then I personally am of the opinion that there was a form of collusion, in the form of block voting, between certain city council members and the Whitis corporation in that by this doctrine, it only took 2 family members to vote for this inclusion and not the city of Killeen citizens. If it had been the case of a vote to be considered by the entire city of Killeen, it is the opinion of this writer that 'the measure would have been defeated'.

Copy: 'In May, WB Development manager Josh Welch said the development agreement was mutually equitable for the city and district.'

Continuation of copy: “The development is the most restricted project I know of in the area,” Welch said. “The consent that was finally given included design standards, required open space, parks, and amenities so there should not be any concerns.” End of copy.

Can the gentleman who was talking support these allegations because I feel certain that a large contingent of voters do not support this endeavor.

In this agreement, the matter that was agreed to was only in the form of an agreement between the 2nd cousins of the Whitis family and the WB Development company and not a part of a general vote of the citizens of Killeen that was duly registered as a vote in the State of Texas. As such, I am of the opinion that this was not a legal vote of and by the people of the city of Killeen, Texas and should be considered as 'null and void'. The people who constitute the citizens of Killeen, Texas should be given due consideration a to this application. They should be given the opportunity to pass or deny this resolution by popular vote of the citizens and not just a city council vote that does not represent 'the people but only the representation of the7 city council people. Lets put it to a city wide vote of the citizens.

In as much, it is the personal opinion of this writer that had the citizens been given the opportunity to vote on this matter, it would not have passed thus negating any future considerations of any bond issue that would have arisen and the bond issue that is presently in discussion would not be in discussion.


Copy: “Terms of the MUD agreement would be factored into any potential bond prior to its proposal,” Shine said “The bond discussion is on the list of priorities to be considered Tuesday.” End of copy.

In my mind, it is of foremost importance that the decision on whether or not to carry forward be whether or not the water authorization be brought to a head so as to give meaning to:

Copy: '• Expansion of Chaparral Road from two to five lanes — $21.5 million'
Continuation of copy: '• Expansion of East Trimmier Road south of Stagecoach Road from two to five lanes — $7 million'

Continuation of copy: '• Expansion of West Trimmier Road between Stagecoach and Chaparral roads from two to five lanes — $7.9 million'

Continuation of copy: '• Expansion of Featherline Road between Stagecoach and Chaparral roads from two to five lanes — $9 million'

Continuation of copy: 'The total cost for all four projects — the baseline principal amount for a proposed bond — is $45.6 million.'

Continuation of copy: 'The Chaparral Road and West Trimmier Road improvements are both specifically listed in the MUD agreement, with the district set to reimburse some of the construction costs as homes are built out.'
Continuation of copy: 'Shine said the terms of the agreement would be included in a potential bond referendum in May.' End of copy.

This is not a proposal that I would like to see as it is certainly 'one sided' in it's approach, one that presupposes that the resolution is already a cut and dried matter.

Once again, I am of the opinion that this is a matter calling for a vote of the citizens of Killeen as they are the ones who must bear the burden to pay for this for quite some time.

In my mind, this council has in the past voted as a block to gain or continue what this small group of citizens wants, such as the consensus vote by the KEDC board and agreeing to allow this company which will employ what I consider hazardous chemicals in their manufacture of cleaning agents necessary to manufacture silicon wafer components. This has 'never' been introduced into the 'in session' city council and thus it has not been officially voted on by this city council, nor has it been stated by the city manager 'where he stands on this form of government IE: whether or not a city council member can officiate in and on the presence of a profit making corporation while holding a city council seat'. This should also be a point of reference as to 'who can vote on this and any corresponding measures or whether or not it should be a stated by the city manager, a vote of super majority, IE: a margin of 6 to one'. This should be brought out at the start of the next city 'in session' city council meeting.


This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

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