The Killeen City Council worked on a long list of priorities for the 2023 budget during a March 5 planning meeting at City Hall.
Members were united on many issues, including public safety and economic development.
City Manager Kent Cagle presented an outline developed by an outside company that took into account past issues discussed by the council as a sort of a roadmap for the budget planning process.
Following lively discussion about the needs and wants of Killeen residents, council members discussed the issues where they could find common ground, as well as those that might need more negotiating.
Despite the diversity of the Killeen population, public safety is by far the most crucial issue facing city leaders, council members agreed.
The ability to recruit and retain law enforcement and first responder personnel was just one of the concerns voiced during the workshop. Adequate facilities and equipment are needed throughout the city’s emergency response network.
Records indicate that a mobile command vehicle may be in need of updates or even replacement. With the population increases the city has encountered in the last five years, many facilities are limited on the scope of response they can provide without additional resources. The idea of providing a “neighborhood presence” was discussed with high-crime areas targeted for future needs.
A significant investment of time and money is crucial to develop any revitalization projects or rebuilding in the downtown community. Ideas for fund-raising were discussed, which led to suggestions that specific groups might hold events in the downtown area in the future. The value of a vital “city center” would bring additional attention to business opportunities available for growth. Members recognized the positive opportunities that holding bi-weekly community events might offer.
Improvements to local parks are needed and there is a consensus that additional parks would be welcome. One idea members discussed was to upgrade existing parks.
Another approach would be to create green space from land available now. Using a long-term approach to development, the process could begin with cleanup efforts throughout the city while encouraging citizens to participate and become advocates for “green space” within their neighborhoods. Then, over time, and as the budget would allow, improvements could be added and, perhaps in the span of five or so years, these locations could be safe, viable parks with some amenities available. Spaces complete with lighting, restroom facilities, paved parking and so forth could be the result of years-long development.
4. Human resources, vacant positions
Council members discussed the availability of grant money that is out there for a variety of groups and programs. Hiring a grant writer was discussed as a feasible expense that could conceivably net these funds. A grant writer could assist the council in researching and applying money that can be earmarked for future programs.
While the issue of economic development is a large factor in all decisions and plans for the future, council members discussed some roadblocks and overlapping concerns that could hinder future plans.
Issues like road maintenance, air and water quality, public transportation and the rail system were topics on which they elaborated.
A variety of strategies could be employed to bring industry and businesses to this area, but most were concerned about the city’s infrastructure and accessibility.
A restructuring of the budget for Economic Development may be needed in order to increase funds in some areas as well as decreasing funds for others.
There was some discussion on the need to hire a strategic consultant to assist with plans for improving waste quality.
Such services would outline specific areas for improvement and help in preparing a plan for the future.
Many of Killeen’s municipal buildings are in need of repairs or renovations.
Ideas like restoring Fire Station No. 5 in order to preserve it’s historical value were discussed by the council.
Killeen is also in need of a parks maintenance facility and custodial headquarters. There was discussion about a fixed-base operator at Skylark Airport.
An FBO is an organization granted the right by an airport to operate at the airport and provide aeronautical services such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, and similar services.
Other topics discussed include providing a multilingual messaging service for emergency communications and citywide alerts.
Adding Americans with Disabilities Act access throughout public areas as well as pedestrian bridges and ramps to cut down on pedestrian-involved accidents also was discussed.
The council talked about moving the city’s elections from May to November, the development of reimbursement strategies for offsetting disabled veterans homeowner’s exemptions, increasing lobbying efforts for local issues and creating a better network for city communications.
Some suggested that might include more town hall meetings and more community building events.
Cagle and Singh recorded the comments to develop an updated plan of action for the next scheduled Strategic Plan and Budget meeting.
A date for that gathering has not yet been determined.