The Killeen City Council approved an ordinance creating a $1.6 million street maintenance fee that will seek to address the city’s ailing road infrastructure at its meeting Tuesday.

During a court vote in which Councilman Gregory Johnson complained the city was not allowing residents a chance at a public hearing on the item, the council followed the same 4-3 script from its workshop Dec. 4 to approve the fee.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick and council members Shirley Fleming, Hugh “Butch” Menking, and Juan Rivera voted to approve the fee with minimal discussion. Johnson and council members Debbie Nash-King and Steve Harris voted against.

The approved ordinance came with four amendments to a previous version aimed at addressing resident and council concerns over how the fee would be spent and what the formal mechanism for review would be. According to Public Works Director David Olson, the four changes add language that:

Explicitly excludes new construction or expansion of existing infrastructure as qualified expenses for the fee.

Adds two annual audits of the fee program — one internal and one external — that would be performed on a roughly six-month basis.

Specifies that the fee would not be assessed on vacant property that does not generate traffic.

Specifies that the fee would be assessed on “utility bills” rather than “water-sewer bills.”

The fee, which will be assessed on resident and business water bills, will charge ratepayers for the estimated impact their home or business has on the city’s streets. For instance, a single-family home will be assessed $1.70 per month, while large supermarkets could be charged upwards of $167 per month, according to city estimates.

Revenue from the fee would be accounted for in a special revenue fund that would be separate from other funds, effectively raising a barrier between the fund and the city’s other operations.

The ordinance will immediately go into effect and the fee will show up on utility bills in July 2019 after a six-month implementation period, city staff said.

In a tense exchange with Mayor Jose Segarra, Johnson loudly decried the lack of a public hearing prior to the vote, accusing the city of quieting residents without a fair opportunity to address the council as a whole.

“This is a fee that they are going to pay, so I think it’s only fair for them to be able to speak,” he said. “It’s this type of stuff that I continue to talk about — I think it’s a slap in the face to the citizens.”

According to state law, the council is not required to hold a public hearing on certain ordinances, but the council is allowed to acknowledge resident comments during a meeting if they reach a consensus to do so.

Following the vote, Kilpatrick, who has been the face of the “pro-fee” bloc of council members over the last few months of debate, said the vote was a positive step forward to address the city’s ailing roads.

“It’s not about me, it’s about residents five years from now looking around and saying, ‘there are no more potholes,’” he said.

Fleming, who told residents during a District 1 advisory committee meeting Monday that the amendments to the ordinance were coming, said she thought the fee was the only logical way to address the deferred road maintenance backlog.

“I had no other choice,” she said. “These roads have to be fixed.”

Once the fee is implemented, the ordinance outlines that the $1.6 million raised per year would be combined with the $300,000 currently budgeted for street maintenance to hit the $1.9 million annual target established by an external road inventory study in 2013.

The fund would be used not only for road repairs, but also repairs to the city’s “transportation system,” which includes bridges and rights-of-way, the city said.

The funds can only be used for routine maintenance and not major capital improvement projects, such as those planned for Watercrest Road and Rancier Avenue.

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(3) comments

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

@Cherbear: I am not either as this is the way this city government has operated and I've here going on 16 years. You know we still have not received answers on Hancock and the $750,000 and look where he is now. And on and on and on.

Copy: 'I am sure for the first year that money will go where it's supposed to.' End of copy.

But remember I had asked the question of, 'What's the time frame as to what is 'new construction and at what point does the new construction revert to a maintenance need'. That question they did not answer. Another statement is as new construction reverts to maintenance requirements, at what point does the city start jacking up the percentage re: the $1.6 Million and start asking the citizens for more money. The council has dug us a grave and the city is just waiting on to fall in.

And what about the fact that the sewer fee is on a graduated scale to where businesses will be paying more which they in turn will pass on to us. That is a double jeopardy scenario if I ever saw one.

And council woman Fleming just parroted the phrase, 'kick the can on down the road'. She doesn't know what she has done.

But I think you are correct in that not only should we go to a 'member at large scenario' but also enlarge the numbers of council persons, say to 10 to 15. That way we can dilute the simple majority.

And I still contend that when this council is in session, that there should be an open period of citizens voicing questions and concerns, and that the work session is just that work on what is to be done but no vote taken, this should be reserved for in council general session. And there should be a new classification added, new business in which anyone can voice an opinion.

I agree with councilman Gregory Johnson in that there is too much secrecy in our city government, that apparently there is not a way for a citizen nor a council person to amend the Charter through a resolution, you are poo poo out of luck in desiring that.

Well enough. Can't we get some more comments about what went on in the city council meeting?

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.28 % who voted.

Cherbear

Unfortunately I am not surprised that the city council behaved and the way they did. I've been here almost 9 years and it's always the same no matter who is on the city council. I am sure for the first year that money will go where it's supposed to. I am also sure after that that the siphoning will begin. And yes I will vote again and my part of getting members who have been there way too long, moving around from position to position. But our city council will still be broke because I can only vote for my district. Council members I can't vote on get away with what they want and continue to play musical chairs. Personally I think we should be able to vote in or out all members of the city council regardless of district. It's not right that people I never voted for get to make decisions for all citizens and shut the doors whenever they like to keep us out.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

Copy: 'The Killeen City Council approved an ordinance creating a $1.6 million street maintenance fee that will seek to address the city’s ailing road infrastructure at its meeting Tuesday.
During a curt vote in which Councilman Gregory Johnson complained the city was not allowing residents a chance at a public hearing on the item, the council followed the same 4-3 script from its workshop Dec. 4 to approve the fee.' End of copy.

Well it came to pass that not only did citizens get the chance to voice an opinion on the subject, Mayor Segarra, when the last item was introduced, said 'do we have to have another round of discussion, and then went into a secret closed door meeting. I for one, filled out the paperwork necessary to go before the council to discuss this unlawful and not necessary fee that will continue forward and just cost the citizens a whole lot of money, but I was not afforded that opportunity.

And yes councilman Gregory Johnson, I'm with you as it appears to me that this city council is nothing but a Kangaroo court in disguise.

Another incident that again was a reflection on mayor Segarra was when again councilman Gregory Johnson was talking about the golf course, the mayor Segarra made what I thought was a rather curt remark when he exclaimed that, and I paraphrase here, 'I didn't know we were building a Taj Mahal'. I thought that remark was uncalled for, the same as not allowing those in the audience who came t this council meeting, filled out the appropriate paperwork and were deprived to speak their piece.

So in essence I'm of the opinion that this was a deliberate move by mayor Segarra to not seek further input so as to go into secret session and vote for approval, using the same script as the Herald Staff Writer, Kyle Blankenship when he said, and I quote: 'followed the same 4-3 script from its workshop Dec. 4 to approve the fee.'
or to say it another way, 'pro-fee block voting' using the same simple 4 to 3 majority.

Copy: 'The approved ordinance came with four amendments to a previous version aimed at addressing resident and council concerns over how the fee would be spent and what the formal mechanism for review would be. According to Public Works Director David Olson, the four changes add language that:
Explicitly excludes new construction or expansion of existing infrastructure as qualified expenses for the fee.' End of copy.

Now that brings up another pertinent question and that is: 'what constitutes a newly constructed road verses one that qualifies for a maintenance?' How long does a road become a newly constructed road, or bridge since that was one of the stipulations, have to be 100 percent complete before it becomes a road that qualifies as needs maintenance. And also this increases our maintenance needing roads and will just keep adding up the miles and this will tend to add more money to the till. Never should have been approved because the city will just keep adding those dollars to the citizen's account.

Copy: 'Specifies that the fee would not be assessed on vacant property that does not generate traffic.' End of copy.

Property is property the way I see it. The property owner has to pay taxes on this property, why are they excluded from paying this road use fee? They still travel on these roads so they should not be excluded.

Copy: 'The fee, which will be assessed on resident and business water bills, will charge ratepayers for the estimated impact their home or business has on the city’s streets. For instance, a single-family home will be assessed $1.70 per month, while large supermarkets could be charged upwards of $167 per month, according to city estimates.' End of copy.

That's double taxation for when you attach a fee to a business, they just pass on that increase in tax to your bill at the counter. So in addition to the fee that will be assessed in your newly assigned name of, 'utility bills' instead of the tried and true 'water bill'.

Copy: 'Once the fee is implemented, the ordinance outlines that the $1.6 million raised per year would be combined with the $300,000 currently budgeted for street maintenance to hit the $1.9 million annual target established by an external road inventory study in 2013.' End of copy.

Then am I to understand that the $300,000, each year, will be in addition to the $1.6 Million and that this sum is going to increase proportionally each and every year or is that just a sales pitch to sucker the citizens in?

Copy: '“I had no other choice,” she said. “These roads have to be fixed.” End of copy.

I'm sorry councilwoman Fleming but there were other choices if the mayor hod not set so stern a block against 'other measures'.

Yes it is a sad day when the average citizen does not 'his day in court' thus shutting off all communication to the citizen, 'I know what's best for the citizens of Killeen, Texas. You will never know will you mayor Segarra.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.28 % who voted.

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