The city of Killeen will “strategically defer” a $30 million bond election originally proposed for May 5 as it seeks funding for two road projects that surround possible new schools in south Killeen.
The Killeen City Council reached a 5-0 consensus Tuesday to not immediately move ahead with a bond to help pay for improvements to two roads that will service schools proposed in the Killeen school district’s separate $426 debt proposition.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick and Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King were not in attendance.
The district’s potential bond would help cover the construction of a sixth high school on Chaparral Road as well as a collection of middle and elementary schools in the area.
The city originally proposed using its own bond to pay for the expansion of Chaparral and East Trimmier roads, both two-lane thoroughfares, to help accommodate an expected increase in traffic due to the new schools.
In deferring its bond, the city proposed moving ahead with preliminary design and engineering work on the two projects and waiting for the outcome of any school district bond election in May.
“Frankly, right now we have a lot of unknowns surrounding these projects,” Director of Public Works David Olson said. “We’re going to do these studies that are going to be necessary regardless of bond election or no bond election.”
The improvements to Chaparral Road, which is primarily owned by Bell County, and the city-owned East Trimmier Road were listed as “high priority” in the city’s 2015 Transportation Capital Improvement Plan prior the school district announcing its potential bond.
City Manager Ron Olson said the city favored conducting preliminary design work because the funds are already available in the 2018 budget. Olson said the city should be prepared to shoulder the cost of infrastructure running to the new schools if they are approved by voters.
“One of the main points I wanted to make in this whole discussion is although this is a school bond, if they approve that, it’s going to have an impact on the city,” he said. “We’re going to have to follow up on our responsibility.”
Council members said they were pleased they wouldn’t have to bring the two projects to voters without all of the details hashed out.
“I think it’s a great call by staff,” Councilman Gregory Johnson said. “I always thought we were moving too fast. I think a blind person can see the city growing down south, but we have to be strategic about it.”
The city said it would pursue a funding agreement with the city of Harker Heights, Bell County and the Bell County Municipal Utility District No. 2, which has an existing agreement with the city to pay for improvements to Chaparral Road.
Olson said he was hopeful the Chaparral improvements — which are estimated at $27 million — would qualify for federal funding through the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization if the city brought in partners for the project.
“I don’t think we ought to go too far before we get those agreements in place,” he said. “We need to know how much and when KTMPO will give us in federal highway funds. That’s a key piece. I think if we go in as a group and say ‘this is a regional project,’ that has to carry a lot more weight.”