At a budget workshop Saturday, city council members discussed funding options for one of Killeen’s most critical issues: roadwork and infrastructure.
During the meeting, city management presented a list of the 16 roads most in need for reconstruction, including the three roads in most desperate need for attention: Gilmer Street, Willow Springs Road and Bunny Trail.
The list of roads was created based on the Current Pavement Index, which rates roads on a scale of 0-100. Both new and repaved roads begin at 100, but Killeen’s current CPI is 76, down to 67 in five years.
City Manager Kent Cagle presented several alternatives for funding road reconstruction.
His official proposal was to increase the monthly street maintenance fee from the current $1.70 to $7 and issue $60 million in bond debt.
Mayor Jose Segarra endorsed the proposal, but many members of the council were hesitant to raise the street maintenance fee by 311%.
“What we’re hearing is, go be aggressive,” Cagle said.
Councilman Ken Wilkerson agreed with increasing the street maintenance fee, but proposed a lowered fee of $4, instead of $7.
“If we do nothing, then we would be negligent, and we’d make a lot of people happy. However, the level of service we are required to provide necessitates us to do something,” Wilkerson said.
Williams also indicated approval to a tax rate increase, but did not say what number he would prefer.
“Citizens have been asking for improved roads, but no one wants to pay. If we’re gonna do this thing, we need to put a dollar amount on it and bite the bullet,” Williams said.
Councilwoman Mellisa Brown raised the concern that bonded debt may be shifted within the budget and be used for non-repair related funding.
The conversation that ensued lasted around 30 minutes, and ended with Cagle promising to return with full funding alternatives, including a prospective on the impact of maintaining a flat street maintenance fee as opposed to treating it like the annual increases of cost of living adjustments.
Assistant City Manager Danielle Singh presented an option to the council where the city would select and present contracts to three to four construction firms, and to bring those contracts back to the city council for review.
One of the most important roads for the discussion was Rancier Avenue, with a projected reconstruction cost of $18.4 million.
“We talk a lot about improving our image,”Segarra said. “Rancier is more than a road; it’s a gateway to Killeen. It’s our image. How people see Killeen has to do with the state of Rancier.”
To that end, Cagle presented a plan to fund Rancier roadwork through the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.
“We’ve got all this money that’s not being used,” Cagle said. “I believe that reinvesting in this area allows us to use the TIRZ fund.”
However, the Rancier project would take at least 18 months’ notice to begin, as it is “extremely invasive and disruptive.”
Cagle encouraged foresight as he gave his presentation, explaining that the city’s engineering department can only handle $20 million in road improvement contracts before it is forced to outsource.
The discussion concluded with a general approval to increase the street maintenance fee, but how high it will be raised or the exact amount of debt bond to issue is still to be determined, leaving the future of Killeen’s roadways in the balance.