The anticipated discussion of a plan to expand the boundaries of a regional water district while doing away with election of its board members was over before it began at Tuesday’s meeting of the Killeen City Council.
Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King was the first to move to table the presentation from the Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 until a later meeting, saying that the council did not have adequate information to make a decision. Nash-King argued that no one really had enough information.
“Residents have not had the opportunity to voice their concerns, and they haven’t been informed about what these changes mean for them,” Nash-King said in her motion.
Nash-King said she had requested the city’s contract with WCID-1 but it had not been provided, reminding the council that the contract was established in the 1950s and arguing that it needed to be revisited. Nash-King also expressed her desire for a public forum to allow residents to hear both sides of the discussion.
Councilwoman Shirley Fleming was not far behind Nash-King in making her request to table the discussion.
“I agree with everything she just said,” Fleming said. “We have to consider our constituents, and we need to look at this closely. This looks like a rush deal, and we can’t rush this.”
Fleming held up a copy of the city contract, dated 1952, and said she also wants the contract to be revisited and changed.
“We need to either table this or kill it,” Fleming said.
Councilman Steve Harris also spoke on the topic, quoting a poll he posted on his Facebook page.
The post read:
“WCID-1 representatives will be presenting the district’s case to the council this Tuesday, 8 Dec. 18 concerning its plan to eliminate residents’ ability to vote on its board members after having its first election in 24 years last May. In place of elections, the district would move to a system of board appointments by the cities and entities it services.
“How do you want me to vote? Please read the story on KDHNEWS.com,” Harris’ Jan. 6 post reads.
Out of 124 votes that had been cast as of Tuesday evening, Harris said 123 voters said “no”.
“I can’t say I would support it anyway, but information is always good to be given,” Harris said.
The Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 voted 3-1 on Dec. 19 to eliminate public elections for its board of directors. The same proposal would expand the district’s 34-year-old voting boundaries to include customers previously left out of board votes.
In order for the district’s bylaws to be changed, the measure must go to the state Legislature for consideration. The Legislature convened its term this week.
In the meantime, the district has been soliciting resolutions of support from cities in the district’s service area.
Copperas Cove approved such a resolution Thursday, and Belton and Harker Heights approved resolutions backing the plan on Tuesday.
However, the Heights council voted unanimously to amend the resolution to require that the district forfeit its taxing authority, which it has not used since its inception 67 years ago.
Heights City Attorney Burk Roberts advised council members it would be up to the Legislature to determine the district’s taxing authority.
“I would like to see us change the contract to better the city government,” Councilwoman Fleming said after Tuesday’s meeting. “I would like to see the council kill the whole thing on Jan. 22. We need training on the water issues, and we need to change the boundaries so all citizens have the opportunity to vote.”
The district’s customers include Killeen, Copperas Cove, Belton, Harker Heights, Fort Hood, Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 3 and 439 Water Supply Corporation.
In other business, the council heard a proposal for a five-year contract with CCL Ventures, which would bring Blimpie sandwich shop to the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.
In the past, the airport has had contracts with Subway, Jesters Lounge, Green Beans Coffee and Automatic Chef to provide food and beverage service within the airport.
However, Jesters Lounge terminated its contract in 2010, Subway in 2016, and Green Beans Coffee in 2017.
The council also discussed the recent naming of the assistant city manager, David Ellison.
Ellison comes to Killeen with over 20 years of experience in several cities across the state, including San Antonio, Sugar Land, Carrollton, Lubbock and Denton.
“If I’m appointed and approved, I pledge to serve with vigor, with honor, and with ethical standards,” Ellison said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Last week, City Manager Ron Olson selected Ellison to fill the position in place of Dennis Baldwin, who announced in October his plans to retire after 35 years of service with the city, However, according to city charter, the council must act to confirm or not confirm the appointment.
It will do so at its Jan. 15 meeting.
Herald staffer Dave Miller contributed to this article.