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The Killeen City Council voted to change the date of the May 2 municipal election amid public health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The new date of the election will be Nov. 3. The change in date will not require additional money to the already budgeted $75,000 election.

The unanimous vote was conducted inside of a taped-off council chambers on Tuesday night with 17 people, including council members, in attendance.

The council chambers had been marked to keep visitors and council members the required 6 feet apart.

Three council members — Shirley Fleming, Jim Kilpatrick and Debbie Nash-King — participated in the meeting via live stream as a precaution.

City spokesperson Hilary Shine said the meeting met the Open Meetings Act standards because four council members were physically present, meeting a quorum requirement.

During the meeting, one council candidate spoke against the change of the election date. Mellisa Brown, one of 13 candidates who is running for three at-large seats, told the council during the public comment portion of the meeting that the change could cost candidates more money in signage and other campaign expenses.

“I think we should make it a permanent move (each election year) if you move the election date,” Brown said to the council.

Councilmembers also voiced their stances on moving the election date.

Councilman Butch Menking, who seeking one of the three at-large seats, said moving the date “is an opportunity for what we know right now.”

Councilman Gregory Johnson said he conducted an online poll on his public Facebook page and the results were 79% approved to move the date while 21% voted in opposition.

Councilwoman Fleming said she agrees with the proposal to change the date.

Mayor Pro Tem Kilpatrick said moving the date will give “people the ability to vote and hear what the candidates have to say.”

Councilman Juan Rivera made a suggestion that the council table the decision until next week before voting on moving the date.

Councilman Steve Harris asked City Attorney Traci Briggs if there was a way the council could make Nov. 3 a permanent voting date.

Briggs replied that it is up to the state to make a permanent move on elections and the discussion could be placed on a later agenda.

Councilwoman Nash-King asked before making her vote if Menking should vote due to being a candidate in the election. Briggs said he could vote as he voted for the call of the original election and that this vote “was not personal.”

The Harker Heights City Council on Tuesday also voted to postpone the city’s May 2 municipal election until Nov. 3, out of public health concerns connected with the spread of the coronavirus.

The vote was 4-0, with Councilman John Reider absent.

City Manager David Mitchell said he had concerns about politicizing the election by moving it to November, when federal, state and county races are on the ballot. However, he said he believed moving the city election was the right thing to do.

The Belton City Council also voted Tuesday to move the city’s municipal election to Nov. 3.

Gov. Greg Abbott last week issued a proclamation allowing governmental entities with May elections to move them to November, the state’s other recognized standard election date.

The move was prompted by efforts to minimize human contract as a means of containing the spread of the coronavirus.

For the last two weeks, Killeen residents and city officials have stayed tuned to the latest numbers of COVID-19 cases — totaling 18 in Bell County as of Tuesday.

Precautionary measures also are increasing.

Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra — following Bell County Judge David Blackburn’s county measure — issued a citywide shelter-at-home order on Monday afternoon. The order began at 11:59 p.m. Monday and will continue through 11:59 p.m. April 3.

According to the order, essential health care operations will continue to operate. That includes hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, mental health providers, blood banks, medical research or other similar services. This also includes veterinary care and welfare services to animals.

Tuesday’s meeting was exempt under the order as it is considered an essential government function. The council also voted unanimously on Tuesday to hold meetings every two weeks for the month of April.

Herald staffer Dave Miller contributed to this article.

Monique Brand - Killeen Daily Herald

mbrand@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

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City Hall Reporter

Monique 'Mo' Brand joined the Herald in May 2019. Before that, she covered border coverage and county government in Arizona. She also worked as a reporter in Kerrville, Los Angeles, and Norfolk Virginia. The U.S. Navy veteran grew up in Killeen.

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