The Killeen City Council discussed a possible contract with an Austin law firm to provide redistricting services during a workshop meeting Tuesday.
Council members heard a presentation from City Manager Kent Cagle regarding an Interlocal Cooperation contract with Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta, a law firm in Austin. It’s estimated to cost the city $27,190, should officials agree to sign.
A vote on the resolution was postponed last week so that some council members could gain a better understanding of why the services were needed before moving forward.
Bickerstaff would determine if Killeen’s voting districts are unbalanced during an initial assessment. If it is determined the districts need to be redrawn, the law firm will work with the city to determine a redistricting process to redraw the lines so they are in compliance with the law.
A plan will also be developed to adjust the district boundaries and bring them into “one person - one vote,” balance, according to a staff report from the city.
Councilwoman Mellisa Brown, who had made the motion to hold off on the initial vote, asked Cagle if there were other partners, such as Texas A&M University-Central Texas, that could provide this service, potentially for free.
Cagle said that it was a possibility, but he wasn’t sure if the college had the proper software like Bickerstaff has.
“I don’t think the $27,190 is worth the benefit,” Brown said. “I think council and its partners are more than capable of communicating and drawing the lines.”
“We have overlapping districts,” Mayor Jose Segarra said. “I think we would benefit from the expertise.
Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Nash-King said she thinks this would be an advantage to the city so it can be in line with the county.
“This is done every 10 years, so we must get it right,” Nash-King said. “To invest $27,000 in this firm, it will insure we’re investing in the county so we don’t have a mishap again.”
PAST VOTING ISSUES
Problems with voting had arisen in some districts during the May 1 city election. Dozens of registered voters on four city streets were put into the wrong districts, causing several of them to receive ballots for the wrong district. The race in District 4 also ended in a tie between former Councilmember Steve Harris and current Councilmember Michael Boyd. This district was also where the ballot issues were more widespread.
The issues were identified to have happened on Brookside Drive in Southeast Killeen, and Bermuda Drive, Carpet Lane and Farhills Drive in West Killeen. The findings were given in a presentation by City Attorney Traci Briggs during a council meeting on May 23.
The city’s findings showed that the issues on Brookside Drive can be attributed to Bell County not properly identifying an extended section of the street in its rolls. The county had neglected to put 27 homes into the correct districts, but the city’s digital map was correct.
In District 4, issues plagued Bermuda Drive, Carpet Lane and Farhills Drive. The problems here were more abundant.
District 4 shares Precincts 404 and 412 with District 3. According to Bell County Elections Administrator Mathhew Dutton, voting problems on Carpet Lane affected 39 registered voters in 24 addresses. However, Dutton didn’t mention if there were issues on Bermuda Drive.
Council also talked about a bid from B-Corp Utilities Inc. for the Greenforest Circle Drainage Improvements project in the amount of $626,479.88.
The city posted a bid for the project back in April. Other bids came from SJ&J Construction, LLC for $877,188.50 and Digg Commercial, LLC for $1,069,00.
The Greenforest Circle Drainage Improvements Project is meant to alleviate historical drainage issues and flooding of homes located in the Stillforest Subdivision, according to a city staff report.
Construction would include 1,477 linear feet of storm drainage and sewer outlets, according to a presentation given by Killeen’s Director of Development Tony McIlwain.
Council discussed awarding the Clements Boys and Girls Club $127,000 for parking lot and sidewalk repairs.
Council recommended and appointed residents to citizen boards and commissions.