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.
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.
“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.”