By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

Harker Heights Mayor Ed Mullen told several dozen members of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee and local dignitaries Wednesday that the City Council had approved a plat for a four-story hotel, which will be the city's tallest building.

The building will stand between the temporary building housing the Heights branch of Union State Bank and the Whataburger at the intersection of Farm-to-Market 2410 and U.S. 190.

City planning and development director Ray Shanaa said later that the facility will be an 80-unit extended-stay Studio 6.

"The builders have applied for permits, and we expect to issue them soon," he said.

"We need a big hotel in town," Mullen said, adding that City Manager Steve Carpenter negotiated to bring the plans as upscale as possible.

"We wanted the appearance to be really good and durable. The landscaping exceeds our criteria, and access and egress are better than what we call for.

"The reason we haven't sought such a tall building before is that we didn't have a fire truck that could reach that height. We do now."

At the luncheon, committee chairman Jim Endicott introduced retiring state Rep. Dianne White Delisi and Republican Ralph Sheffield and Democrat Sam Murphey, candidates to replace her, and U.S. Rep. John Carter's regional director Greg Schannep.

Several other city and county officials attended as well as Randy Sutton, president of First State Bank Central Texas, and Coleen and Sis Beck, president and board chair, respectively, of Union State Bank, corporate sponsors.

Endicott announced that the Association of the United States Army at Fort Hood had just enlisted its 13,000th member, making it almost as large as the largest association at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Mullen said, "I remember when the city budget was $3 million. Now it's $47 million and growing. We're transitioning into a corporate culture. Not long ago, everyone knew everyone across any counter. Now we're strangers learning to work together."

He said housing is growing by 10 percent a year.

About the pending opening of Market Heights, he said, "Steve (Carpenter) said he would work for this project if we were going to make it the most attractive of all regional malls, and it had to have a Barnes & Noble (bookstore)." That drew laughter and applause.

He said the mall would have the first Cracker Barrel restaurant not on an interstate highway.

"Target and Circuit City are closing their stores in Killeen to move here, but we had no part in those decisions," he said. "That was strictly their idea."

Highlighting construction of Skipcha Park, a partnership with Killeen Independent School District to provide a place for children, he said, "I remember the perception that Heights was a community without children, but when we conducted a survey, we found kids all over the place with nothing to do. We're providing places for them."

An athletic park under construction near the high school will have regulation-size facilities for several kinds of sports to attract regional competitions. Mullen recounted that Gary Purser of Purser Construction Co. had given 32 acres on the Killeen city line to be a family park, possibly with a fitness center and wellness center.

He said the city's Web site had been revised as

He said the city is implementing Exploring New Heights II, a continuing effort to discover what residents want.

He said the city is beginning to put infrastructure in the eastern extraterritorial jurisdiction, expanded since the city reached 25,000 in population to reach almost to Nolanville Hill.

"We've bought water rights. We're going to require quality development to ensure sustainable property values," he said.

The city is widening Indian Trail south to its intersection with FM 2410 and continues to work on anticipated traffic problems in the first few months that Market Heights is open. "This won't be completed until early 2009, which means there will be problems for several months," he said.

He observed that Heights would see its 50th anniversary in 2010, and plans for a celebration are beginning.

"And in the 15 years we've had a Chamber of Commerce, we've grown to 800 members," he said.

Contact Don Bolding at or (254) 501-7557.

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