Editor’s note: The following responses received from Killeen city council members have not been edited, and have been included in their entirety, at the request of some council members. The Herald usually edits comments for brevity and minor grammatical errors. The same questions were sent to all seven council members. As of Saturday, Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Nash-King and Councilwoman Jessica Gonzalez had not responded. The questions were sent to the council members on Wednesday, while Killeen’s citywide boil-water order was still in effect. It was completely lifted on Friday. Councilman Michael Boyd answered the questions in one statement, rather than answering each question individually. The Herald provided his full statement under the first question.

Who is responsible for the citywide boil-water order, and why?

Michael Boyd: Our Public Works department worked tirelessly to resolve the water quality issue. I believe involving WCID and TCEQ were important approaches to producing a favorable outcome

I am grateful for the patience and cooperation shown by citizens over these past 10 days. Unfortunately, the prolonged boil water notice proved to be a major inconvenience for our residents and businesses across Killeen. In transparency, myself as well as other council members continued to provide updates to citizens as progress was being made. At this point, I am interested to learn from our City Manager what relief may be possible for customers affected by the prolonged boil water notice.

More importantly, I do believe the time has arrived for Killeen to address our aging infrastructure, including our waterlines, as well as reconsidering the WCID contract for control of our [own] water, like the majority of Texas’ cities have.

Mellisa Brown: From everything we have learned so far, there are a lot of factors that came together at once to cause it, so ultimately the question is who holds the majority of the responsibility. While it’s true that

Killeen could have been using chlorine boosters, it was also stated by the WCID 1 manager that if they had disinfected their system even ever other year, Killeen would not have been under a citywide boil water notice.

When I called several other water distributors from south of Austin to North of Waco, the majority of them told me that they disinfect their plants on an annual basis and they haven’t seen these problems.

So while we could have taken even more extra steps, we also pay a lot of money currently, and have put hundreds of millions of dollars into the infrastructure and operations of WCID 1. We shouldn’t have to be taking extra steps and adding more chemicals to our water just to make sure it is not going to potentially make someone sick. If everyone is having to add chlorine when they get their water, then I would suspect it’s in the process or a problem in the transmission.

When I go buy bottled water at the store, I don’t come home and boil it because I expect it to be ready to drink. When we buy water that has been treated, I don’t expect to need to treat it again.

Nina Cobb: (Cobb did not answer this question)

Rick Williams: The city’s communications department has done an excellent job in explaining why the citywide boil water notice was and is in effect.

Ken Wilkerson: I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone person is nor do I feel that that is important at this point. I think it’s more important to fix the problem, Find out why it occurred and try to make sure it doesn’t occur again.

City officials are so far not releasing water testing data in the days before the Oct. 19 citywide boil-order. Should the city release that information? Why or why not? (Editor’s Note and Update: The Herald originally asked the city on Oct. 22 for testing data showing what the chlorine levels were in the days prior to Oct. 19. The Herald also asked the city for the data on four other occasions in the past week. The data was released on Friday afternoon.)

Mellisa Brown: It’s public information. It should be released. Both the tests before we flushed lines and after. If I remember correctly, we take most of those samples from our take points - where the water comes in from WCID’s transmission lines and enters the city’s water system. WCID 1 should also be releasing all of their test results for the same time period including the ones at the plant and the ones at the point where it enters every customer’s system.

Nina Cobb: After the many Press Conferences and videos we have given all the facts that we have, there was open dialogue during our last City Council Meeting, Public Updates and Action Plans shared through our Media and Communication department. We are working hard to ensure the safety of every resident and would like to encourage everyone to be patient but Most Importantly Thank You Everyone for adhering to the Boil Notices for the safety of this City and our families.

Rick Williams: I do not believe it is necessary to release data prior to October 19, 2021, because there was no noted problem. Therefore, why would that be necessary?

Ken Wilkerson: I’m not sure that’s true.

Will businesses that have had to shut down, reduce menu items or were affected by the boil-water order be compensated for the loss of revenue? What about their employees or other people who have been adversely affected?

Mellisa Brown: The City Council had dedicated some of our ARPA funds to help businesses in Killeen. I think this would be a good way to apply at least a portion of them.

Nina Cobb: Compensation has not been discuss. However, we have very smart business owners within our City and it is our hope that their Business Plan consist of emergencies. This is a first time occurrence, I am compassionate to their needs and apologize greatly for the inconvenience or if they had to use their emergency plan.

Rick Williams: We are currently living in a time where all aspects of our lives have been touched and changed by the global pandemic. Both, our businesses, and citizens are flexible, adaptable, and strong.

Ken Wilkerson: Sure, to some extent. Refer to my first answer.

What are your thoughts on the current contract with WCID-1? Should the city have more control of its water? Should the contract be revisited?

Mellisa Brown: I don’t know why anyone would have ever written a contact with a company that essentially gives away all of our ability to control what is the most valuable resource in the world. We should definitely have more control over our water at a minimum. We need to review this contract and we need to make revisions.

Nina Cobb: I will remain patient until the After Action Report. I choose not at this time to place blame on anyone without FACTS. “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” It is my job to wait on the documentation and facts no assumptions.

Rick Williams: All contracts that the city manages on behalf of citizens should be revisited at the appropriate time and for appropriate reasons.

Ken Wilkerson: I don’t have thoughts about WCID in general. I was elected to focus on Killeen. If you mean should the contract be terminated, as opposed to what?

What, so far, are your biggest takeaways from this incident?

Mellisa Brown: First, our staff was great. They worked hard around the clock despite the negativity they received to fix a problem they didn’t cause and also make sure everyone had as much information as possible as quickly as possible. We made a lot of improvements compared to Uri.

We need to make more improvements in getting out alerts for major events and we will need to make some changes to how we handle and distribute our water once we receive it.

Nina Cobb: If I may simple use this analogy: “This is a first time occurrence we will have trial and error, but learn important ways to control or prevent it from happening again (nothing is perfect).” But

“It also reminds me of a swimming pool, everyone is in a large body of water some are leaving the pool to take care of business and others simply stand in a corner or bring no attention to themselves as they take care of business while in the pool. However, because so many people are in the pool and the water consist of everyone we can’t determine where the business has comes from.” “So the lifeguard and regulators must blow the whistle, have everyone leave the pool, check/clean the pool water, blow the whistle again and we are back in the water for a refreshing clean swim.”

City of Killeen, District 3, Businesses, “Thank you for your Patience, we will have the water restored as soon as we can and we will be back with our water, along with new practices. I assure you your City Council, Public Works Staff and Regulating Agency is hard at work. Making sure everyone receives “Healthy and Safe Water.”

Rick Williams: My takeaway is that our city employees a dedicated to serving our citizens and that once again we have proven that we are strong and compassionate city of persons who will take care of each other.

Ken Wilkerson: My biggest take always are that KDH and some people are more interested in assigning blame than fixing problems and trying to make Killeen better.

(4) comments

txk90

“ Ken Wilkerson: My biggest take always are that KDH and some people are more interested in assigning blame than fixing problems and trying to make Killeen better.”

I want to thank the KDH for putting pressure on city leadership to get some answers on what happened during the 10 days no one in this city had clean water. I for one would love to know what parties are responsible and what/when mistakes were made. I am certainly not going out on a witch hunt (I don’t think KDH is either), but we do deserve answers. If it was left up to city leadership this would’ve all been swept under the rug. Perhaps if city leadership did the right thing and talked to KDH to offer transparency from the jump they wouldn’t have had to hound and inconvenience anyone for answers.

I’ve lived here all my life. My family has lived here all our lives. Nothing has ever fundamentally changed. The company that is crafting our new comprehensive plan said it themselves. It’s a shame when an outside entity (we are paying) even sees the lack of follow through and initiative. Downtowns decline has been as steady as the rise in crime. People can’t even go to the store for a late night snack without fear of being shot up by a teenager. I’m not surprised KDH had to put the pressure on leadership to get some answers. Our city leadership has a tendency of being reactive and not proactive, so I don’t think anyone was truly shocked about the water or the fact that no one wants(ed) to speak up.

Alvin

Copy: 'Killeen City Council answers questions about citywide boil order'

'Where oh where will the little ball land, that is the question'. For the guilt of the Killeen, Texas water department is already known,, And I say the guilt rests with the city of Killeen, Texas water department for 'not showing the initiative of taking care of the responsibility that they were given. How much guilt is for 'others' to determine but I would say that an extensive portion belongs within the ranks of the water department.

Now when it comes allocation of guilt, there was approximately 150,000 citizens that were called upon to 'boil water' and the duration of the 'boil water' was 10 days. Then the boil water notice finally give way to another round of high chlorine residual and this time it is for a minimum of an additional 30 days. Now I ask you, 'Is that a normal occurrence for city drinking water'? I say no and I say it is 'because the city of Killeen, Texas laid down on the job again'. And why do I say this, it is because no other city had the problem that was encountered except Killeen.

Now you may ask, why didn't any other city encounter the similar problem and I will answer that and that was, 'the city of Killeen, Texas does not want to know what the days, weeks, months prior to this occurrence and they do not want the citizens to know what happened and what the values were just prior to this occurrence. Now it's fine and good to express positive vibes toward the employee, but If due these circumstances and the outcome that was produced, including the money that was spent and are still spending, and will continue to spend, something of a punitive nature should occur.

Now as to WCID-1being held responsible, I do not think so. WCID-1 said that the injection rate was increased a few months back. Now was this request administered at the the beckoning of Killeen or was it for a complete different nature, or to put it another way, was it because Killeen, Texas called and requested an increase as the chlorine residual was getting insufficient so WCID-1 needed to adjust in an increase the total chlorine. I suspect that it was not because the city of Killeen, Texas was the complainant. So I do not fault WCID-1 in the least. As they have said, 'we are not the caretakers of each and every city that buys water from us and we do not receive any sample input from these cities so how can we be held responsible.

As to the ownership as to whether or not the city of Killeen, Texas should be the owners of their own drinking water, the State of Texas is pretty clear on that subject. The state of Texas says any city that has a population over 30,000 can put in their own potable water, so Killeen, Texas can surely be on track to 'put in their own facility'.

Now the question of 'who's to pay for it'? I remember that this being a squeamish idea, for they say the city council can obligate us for the money, but the money that is obligated 'goes to the, in this case, to the WCID-1 to spend in any manner they wanted to as far as if it was for the water system they chose. And it was 'the property of WCID-1 as we did not own one iota. S that being said, that the city council can vote to obligate the citizens to spend money for which they have no ownership. So that gives light to the $30 million dollar bond in which we 'owned' 10 MGD of water rights out of 17 MGD. But it turns out that by the excuse of an Elevated Water Storage Tank that was of a design of 1 million gallons and they figured that would not be enough so our city council put on the silver glove an 'voted' to enlarge it to 1.5 million gallons, but they did not assign a price for this increase, Now, 8 years later they voted in the contract that was to increase the water volume from 1.0 million gallons to 1.5 million gallons for a price of $22 million dollars which included 5 different contractual obligations. This now drove the total obligation for the new water plant, including the over runs to approximately $58 million dollars for 10 MGD of which the majority of the water will be for the new housing tract that is not incorporated within the city boundary.

So what is to become of us? Well I say that we do own a certain portion of these 3 water plants and as such we should do a little horse trading, as we own 10/17 MGD or around 60 percent of the new water plant, but the other city's own around 40 percent which equates to around $29 million dollars.

Now Killeen, Texas water allotment was 32 MGD of which we are using around 16 to 20 MGD. The new plant gave us another 10 MGD so that gave us the equivalent of 42 MGD and if you discount the3,750 new homes that is being built, the the growth of Killeen, Texas would be sufficient for many years,

So lets horse trade with them saying we will give you the 17 MGD plant that is being built on Lake Stillhouse, and we will give you the 2 additional plants that are built on Lake Belton for a tidy sum so that we can build on either lake Stillhouse or Lake Belton, the site to be determined. For my way of thinking, it matters not whether we pump suction water or we pump discharge water it's a push so whether we locate the plant on the banks of the lake or we locate the plant right here in Killeen, as I say, it's a push. One thing is if we locate the plant where we have to pump treated water, then are we obligated to pump the treated water many miles and suffer the consequences or do we locate the plant here in killeen so that we do not have to contend with the treated issue.

So this is one of the things that we should contend with. Or is it a 'To be or not to be', that is the question'.

Personally I think we should build our own watering facility so as not to be dependent on others. Right now the city council is busy on name calling and whinnying on 'The Sky is Falling, The Shy is Falling and running around in circles wanting to place the blame on everybody but who should be blamed.

Noneofyourbiz

One of our council members is just so clueless.

Killeen needs to sit the one council member down and explain to that person what public information is, how freedom of information works, and also explain how the economy works. This council member is a dictator and is clueless about freedom of the people.

Just plan clueless and only on council to rule.

Just sad to think this council member only cares about the title and not the people.

txk90

I couldn’t agree more. He wants a pay raise, but can’t effectively and rationally communicate with his constituents.. how does that work? Is it wrong we expect city leadership to do more than the bare minimum?

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