By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
Council candidates rallied around public safety issues Tuesday night at the Plaza Hotel.
West Bell County Lodge Fraternal Order of Police No. 32 members, Killeen Professional Fire Fighters and other residents asked questions about the employee pay plan, police officer ratios and budgeting safety needs.
Ward 3 Councilman Fred Latham said the city is working to raise the number of city police officers per capita, but simply training new officers takes time.
Latham and other candidates said the best way to meet the immediate need was to hire ranking officers from other areas that could make a lateral move into the department.
In addition, Ward 4 Councilman Ernest Wilkerson said the city should also work on increasing retention rates by offering incentives, like tuition assistance and paid training.
If we gain nine but lose 14, its still a losing battle, he said.
Ward 4 candidate Otis Evans said problems can be solved, but it may take raising taxes to do it.
If youre serious, understand that raising taxes is part of it, Evans said. If thats unacceptable, expect a little less.
Council candidates were confronted by KPFF president Jeff Ferrell about overlooking department equipment needs.
Ward 3 challenger Michael Turo, a former police officer, said that unless the problem is brought to the councils attention by department heads, any issue can go overlooked.
But once brought to the councils attention, solutions can be quickly formulated.
Residents heard more from candidates at the Killeen Community Center Monday evening at a forum sponsored by the Killeen Branch of the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4535 and Killeen Alumnae Delta Sigma Theta.
For about two hours they listened to area council candidates take their stance on issues ranging from traffic needs to city spending.
Ward 1 Councilman Dan Corbin said one thing that has to be done, which isnt done well now, is that the council needs to reach a consensus on what the important priorities are for spending.
Instead of raising taxes, the city should better allocate its limited resources.
However, Corbins opponent, former City Councilwoman Kathy Gilmore, said each council member will have a different opinion on what is a priority.
While other council members offered closer spending scrutiny and more staff communication as paths to wiser spending, solutions for one community priority transportation needs were a little harder to pinpoint.
Corbin said the city has to look for additional sources of funding for street repairs.
There simply has not been enough money in the budget to maintain streets, he said.
Ward 2 Councilman Dick Young said drainage issues are the cause of poor roads, but money needs to be put to better use than just a quick fix, like chip-seal.
Hiram Reynolds, Ward 2 candidate, said he would implement an aggressive maintenance program.
Take care of those things right away, he said. Dont let them get out of hand.
Killeen resident Fancy Pace said she thought the questions on Monday were meaningful and candidates presented good answers.
Before the forum, Pace said she didnt know who all the candidates were or where they stood.
This opened me up to making a better vote, she said. Had I done to vote without coming here, theyd just be names on a list.
Contact Sarah Chacko at firstname.lastname@example.org