• November 26, 2014

Killeen council rejects charter change

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Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 12:00 pm | Updated: 10:50 am, Thu Feb 13, 2014.

By Kevin M. Smith

Killeen Daily Herald

There will not be a charter amendment on the May 2008 election for Killeen voters.

At its workshop Tuesday, the Killeen City Council did not give a consensus to pursue changes to the document that governs the council.

Council members Billy Workman and Juan Rivera were in favor of forming a resident-based subcommittee to consider charter amendments; all other council members were opposed.

Workman asked for the charter amendments because he wanted the council members to get a pay raise.

"It's not about me," Workman said.

He said it would encourage more residents to run for office.

"We have a broad base of citizens out there that want to serve the community," Workman said. "Let's think about the common people out there who want to get involved that might not have the resources as you and I."

Workman said it can be hard for a council member to find a job in Killeen when he or she doesn't vote in favor of some employers and that council member becomes blacklisted.

"I'm living proof," Workman said.

Other council members scoffed at the pay raise, mainly with the method Workman proposed. He suggested a charter amendment in the May 2008 election that would give the council power to set its pay scale each year in the budget.

"In other words, four council persons could get together and say 'We're going to vote for $100,000 a year,' and the citizens have nothing to say about it," Mayor Timothy Hancock said.

If that's the case, Hancock said, then council members should have an office in City Hall and be accountable for their eight hours of work each day.

"I've always had problems or concerns when elected officials can set their own pay," Councilman Otis Evans said. "It's always been the employer that sets the pay for the employee. In this case, we work for the citizens."

Currently, the mayor receives $200 per month and the council members each receive $100 per month.

"I'm not saying it should be left as it is," Hancock said. "Number one,

this charter belongs to the citizens and we have no right to take that away."

Other council members also disagreed with the method and proposed pay raise.

"What we're talking about doesn't benefit anybody but who is in this room," Councilman Kenny Wells said.

Workman said the committee would iron out the details before it goes on a ballot.

"I concur with accountability ... all that can be worked in," Workman said.

Other council members disagreed with the concept of a pay increase.

"I consider it a civic duty," Councilman Larry Cole said about serving on the council.

Rivera said he doesn't mind the idea of the pay raise, but would not implement it by taking the power from the voters.

"I'm willing to look into it, but not that way," Rivera said.

Rivera said he wanted a committee to look at the entire charter and consider other amendments, such as term lengths and limits.

If the council gave consensus to have a charter amendment on the May 2008 ballot, it would form a committee of residents appointed by each council member. Two council members would serve as liaisons for the committee.

In July, Workman asked for discussion to be on the agenda again after the council gave a 4-3 consensus not to pursue charter amendments for November's election.

Workman asked the council to wait before giving city staff consensus because Councilwoman Claudia Brown was not present at the meeting. But Hancock said the council cannot put off decisions because one person is absent.

At the July 24 workshop, Workman, Cole and Rivera voted in favor of a charter amendment election in November – though not necessarily for the pay raise Workman said he wants in a charter amendment. Evans, Wells and Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham voted against a charter amendment in November. Hancock broke the tie by voting against an election.

The city can amend its charter – the document that governs the council and city functions – every two years. Amendments to the charter can be made by an ordinance approved by the majority of the council or by a petition signed by at least 5 percent of the qualified voters or 20,000 registered voters – whichever is less. The petition, if qualified, must then be drafted as an ordinance.

The proposed changes then go to the public for a vote and final approval.

In other business at the workshop:

The council gave unanimous approval to have its workshops at 5 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. The council has been having workshops at 1 p.m. The regular City Council meetings are at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

The council briefly discussed wind turbine and solar power energy sources. Jaslyn Frett, grant administrator for the city, gave a feasibility presentation.

"There is a lot of funding available, but it's geared toward research and development," Frett said.

She said there are 26,373 acres in six Texas counties that have been identified as areas of strong potential for wind energy, but Bell County is not among them. Favorable regions mostly are along the coast and in the panhandle.

"I think by exploring this opportunity, we've got ourselves in a good position," Workman said.

He asked the council to give city staff consensus to explore more funding options for alternative energy in hopes of reducing city expenses.

"It's really going to help us down the line," Workman said.

The council did not give consensus for staff to explore more options. Brown, Rivera and Workman were in favor of the idea while Latham, Cole, Evans and Wells were not.

Contact Kevin M. Smith at ksmith@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7550

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