By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
A former member of the Killeen City Council said she feels some people are being priced out of attending one of the events in the city's upcoming 125th birthday celebration.
Rosa Hereford, a member of the Killeen National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who served on the council from 1984 to 1997, said Wednesday that she feels the May 29 black-tie affair to kick off the week of celebrations is too costly at $200 a ticket.
"The cost is so high that people who would normally attend, would not attend," Hereford said. "You have other things you're paying."
Local leaders, however, contend the $200 price is justified for the event, which is a fundraiser.
Hereford initially voiced concerns about the cost at a March 27 council workshop, where she said she was representing the NAACP and herself.
"The tickets are so high that only a certain group of people will be at that event," Hereford said at the meeting.
Councilman Bob Hausmann offered to pay for a ticket for Hereford and a guest to attend the black-tie affair if the NAACP could not afford to send a representative. Hereford refused Hausmann's offer.
"They're missing the point," Hereford said following the meeting.
She said $200 might need to be spent on a car payment or rent. Hereford is asking that the ticket price be dropped at least $100.
"No matter what you do, there's always someone who cannot afford it," Hausmann said during the meeting. "The reality is, there are some things people cannot afford to have, things they want."
The Rev. Roy Sampson, president of the Killeen NAACP, said Wednesday that the organization is not pursuing any efforts to change the ticket price of the event. Sampson said, speaking on behalf of himself and not the NAACP, that he understands the reason for the ticket price.
"After investigating the facts, I didn't feel like it was slighting anybody," Sampson said.
While the 125th Celebrate Killeen Committee pitches the idea that there is something for everyone during the weeklong celebration, some say that not everyone will necessarily get to do everything.
Councilman Billy Workman argued that people should get the opportunity to choose everything.
"This is to celebrate the entire culture of the community," Workman said at the March 27 meeting. "What if they want to choose to do all of those events?"
Kathy Gilmore, 125th Celebrate Killeen Committee chairperson, said the purpose of the black-tie affair is not as much celebration as it is a fundraising event.
There will be free food at the proclamation ceremony on May 15 and all other events – excluding the rodeo – such as the street dance, battle of the bands and laser light show will be free.
"All of that will be free to all who attend because of the black-tie affair," Gilmore said.
Mayor Timothy Hancock pointed out that if the event were free, there would not be enough room at the Civic and Conference Center for everyone who wanted to participate.
"Seating is limited; we do not have a facility in Killeen that can sit 10,000 people, unfortunately," Gilmore said.
Local business owner Horace Grace, who said he will likely attend the event, said he does not think the ticket price is unreasonable.
"Sometimes you pay $1,000 to be at an event a lot of people think is worth $50," Grace said, adding that is the nature of a fundraising event.
Grace said he wishes the debate would stop.
"It's time for us to rally together and support the 125th anniversary of Killeen," Grace said.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550