Inside this issue Mayorâ€™s welcome
Harker Heights growth
City managerâ€™s welcome
Changes to I-14 speed limit
City permit changes
Renovations to city buildings
Mobility 2030 plan
Fire station renovation
Commercial property growth
City sales taxes
Residential property growth
Property tax evaluations
Seton Medical Center Harker Heights
Armed Services YMCA
Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce
Vision XXI Leadership Program
Heights police, firefighter of the year
Harker Heights Progress 2017 A Harker Heights Herald publication. Contact Us Editorial: firstname.lastname@example.org | 254-501-7542 Advertising: 254-501-7500 | Circulation: 254-501-7400 On the cover: Design by Renee Blue
Find more news at harkerheightsherald.com. | Harker Heights Progress 2017
Sergio Flores | Herald
A retail center on Knights Way in Harker Heights has space available for new business. Commercial development is one of the areas city officials focus on to ensure high quality of life for residents.
Heights mayor keeps focus on cityâ€™s quality of life Dear Residents, This is my first correspondence since assuming the role as Mayor of Harker Heights in May. I look forward to working with the city staff and the city council. We will continue to focus on providing the services and quality of life which you deserve and expect. Harker Heights is a dynamic city Smith that has seen significant growth in residential development and commercial enterprise. It is imperative that we maintain a long-term plan for the future of Harker Heights, while addressing the near-term demands with the resources which are available. The mayor, city council and city staff actively participate in organizations where we have influence in county, state and federal matters. The Killeen Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization has a signifi-
Gabe WOlf | Herald
Edith Rodriguez of Three Bandits Dog Barkery helps Jamal Smith pick out dog treats at the Harker Heights Farmers Market on July 15.
cant impact on transportation issues and funding. The recent designation of Interstate 14 through Harker Heights should have a significant economic impact. The Central Texas Council of
Governments is comprised of numerous counties and cities which cooperatively address regional issues of importance to all of us. The Harker Heights City Council conducts workshops and meetings on
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alternating Tuesdays. The meetings are open to the public. We actively solicit input from the residents on the topics which are under consideration. In addition, there are various commissions and boards comprised of citizens which provide valuable service to the community. Harker Heights has achieved and maintained a stellar reputation throughout Texas for the outstanding accomplishments of its students, business owners, fraternal organizations, volunteers and charities. The mindset of being a part of something greater than oneself has enabled our city to become a place where people can work, play, rest, and pray. We look forward to a prosperous future in the years ahead. Thank you for the honor and opportunity to serve Harker Heights. Sincerely, Spencer H. Smith Mayor
City ‘Exploring New Heights’ as population passes 30,000 By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
The City of Harker Heights has a vision: Providing public services that empower people to focus on what matters most: their goals, hopes and dreams. Joseph Molis, director of planning and development for the city, said, “To this end, the city began the newest Exploring New Heights study, working with a focus group to determine the needs throughout the community.” The final report from this study will act to guide future development and planning for the city for the next few years. “It is important to continually get feedback from the citizens as we move forward, to ensure we are still meeting their needs and guiding the city in the direction they desire,” Molis said. Harker Heights continues to grow, having surpassed 30,000 residents, according to city estimates. In a news release issued in May by City Manager David Mitchell, he stated that the city had reached the milestone during the month of April. In 2010, the city’s population was
AMY PROCTOR | Herald
Harker Heights Firefighter/EMT-B Austin Simpson explains features on his fire truck to children at the Harker Heights Library.
a little more than 26,000, showing a gradual increase in residents moving to the area over the past seven years. Mitchell said, “The city uses a variety of methods to track population growth; data sets from the census that are taken every 10 years. Those are cross-referenced with water account information and building permits.”
According to the release, the milestone brings no changes to the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction or to city operations. Harker Heights was founded in 1960 as a result of work by Pinckney R. Cox and Harley Kern. The Harker part of the name is a actually a shortening of Harley Kern’s name. The focus of the growth is along East Knights Way and Stillhouse Lake Road, following the construction of a sewer interceptor north of Knights Way and east of Warriors Path. “We are currently working with a number of developers with interest in properties along this corridor,” Molis said. According to Mitchell, “At the time of the city’s founding, it had 600 residents living on 950 acres. Today, Harker Heights has grown to 9,000 acres.” Molis said, “As for the core of the city, we have developed a new zoning district, called R1-I (Single Family Infill Dwelling District). “This new class of residential zoning is designed to allow development on the historically smaller lots in the older parts of town, encourage the construction of starter homes, and al-
low more residents to have the option of home ownership,” he said. “We have seen a few of these new residential units constructed on the east side of Harker Heights, but there is some potential for construction appearing on the north side as well.” City staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission are still looking at the revitalization of Veterans Memorial Boulevard. “It is a complex issue but they are progressing towards creating a zoning overlay district, whose goal is to encourage more commercial development in the area while creating a pleasant aesthetic standard,” Molis said. This year, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a workshop to discuss the vision of the Veterans Memorial Boulevard Corridor, and invited representative of the cities of Nolanville and Killeen in the hopes of creating a holistic vision for the corridor, or at the very least, inform them of plans for it. Both cities had representatives present, and all reportedly felt that a regional approach would benefit all communities, and a good first step was taken for an open dialogue about the future of the area.
Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
Heights city manager focuses on improving services Dear Harker Heights Residents, Businesses and Visitors: We consider it an honor that we get to serve you and be a part of your story. We hope that through our service you will be better be able to focus on what matters most to you! In fact, our Vision Mitchell Statement centers on just that: Providing public services that empower people to focus on what matters most — their goals, hopes and dreams. Major road projects are ongoing or scheduled. Farm-to-Market 2410 is currently being widened to a fivelane road section, including a center turn lane from the city’s limits with Killeen back to the bridge over Interstate 14. The widening of I-14 from the city’s limits with Killeen to just west of Indian Trail from a two-lane road section to a three-lane roach section each direction is scheduled to be bid in late 2017. The city also acquired funding for a turnaround bridge to be constructed to the east of the FM 2410 which will allow traffic traveling west on the I-14 service road in front of Market Heights to loop back around to the eastbound service road of I-14 without having to go through the FM 2410 intersection. This project could begin as early as late 2018. Providing a unique quality of place is important to the city, and as such, the city continued its focus on sidewalks. Sidewalks were constructed along a portion of FM 3481, Prospector, and Mountain Lion Road. Sidewalk construction is ongoing along Amy Lane. The City Council also passed an ordinance requiring sidewalks in all residential developments. More additions to the city’s sidewalk network are planned in the future. The City is always seeking ways
Eric J. Shelton | Herald
Construction is seen along Farm-to-Market 2410 in Harker Heights on July 18. The roadway is being widened to five lanes.
to provide an even greater level of service for residents, businesses and visitors. The Parks and Library departments are always bringing forward new and exciting programs to engage all interests in our community. The Fire Department has embarked on major renovations and additions to the Central Fire Station. These upgrades will allow our firefighters and paramedics to provide even greater service.
Demand for housing in Heights remained steady with 155 single-family permits being pulled over the past year. Residential duplex development accounted for 18 more permits. Stillhouse Flats, a 96-unit multifamily project, is almost completed. Commercially, the city has had almost $3,064,288 in reported commercial permit activity over the past 12 months. Harker Heights is blessed to have the support of our City Council and
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our amazing volunteer force! I also must thank my staff who pour their hearts into service every day. We encourage all citizens to get involved. Attend Council meetings, participate in a board or commission or volunteer in other ways throughout the community. Just like you, Harker Heights has a special story; be a part of it with us! Sincerely, David Mitchell City Manager
Elected officials ready to tackle city’s growth By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
When former Harker Heights Mayor Rob Robinson decided he would not seek another term as mayor in 2017, the political landscape changed rapidly. Robinson had served as mayor since Mayor Mike Aycock resigned in 2014. Robinson was subsequently elected to a full three-year term in May of that year. Stepping up to the plate to fill the vacancy left by Robinson was Spencer Smith, who was a councilman in Place 3. By filing for mayor, Smith vacated his Place 3 seat but was allowed to continue serving until the May 6 election. John Reider had filed for re-election to the Place 4 seat, making the two the only candidates running for office, at the time. That changed when Pat Christ, a former councilman, quickly filed to fill the vacancy being left by Smith. Then the last day of the filing period, Feb. 17, Laurie WilliamsonMcElhiney and Jackeline Soriano Fountain — both political newcomers — filed to run against Christ for the Place 3 seat. Harker Heights voters elected Smith as their new mayor and re-elected incumbent Councilman Reider on May 6, but the race for the Place 3 seat went to a June 3 runoff election between Christ and Fountain, with Fountain prevailing to win the unexpired term. Smith, the new mayor, was first exposed to city government serving six years on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Smith said last week, “In my experience as a councilman and now as mayor I look forward to working with an outstanding staff. They’re all blue chippers, smart, and very well known throughout the state and nation for their expertise.”
Jackeline Soriano Fountain
Smith said, “There are several things we need to focus on, such as educating the electorate about the challenges we face, fiscal responsibility and that we’re able to provide the services that our citizens expect. “Water will be a big deal because without it you don’t have a city, safety is the final issue and we want police officers and firefighters to have the resources they need to do their jobs at the highest level,” Smith said. Reider became involved in the council in 1999 specifically related to private property rights. He has served in city government for 15 years. At the conclusion of his new three-year term, he will have served as a councilman for 18 years. “We want to be a destination that people are interested in and I think Harker Heights has done a good job of doing that in its methods of development,” Reider said. The growth in Heights is moving in the direction of Farm-to-Market 2410, Reider said.
“As you head to the south southeast the topography changes quite a bit, so we’re going to have get more creative with development, water issues and water conservation,” he said. Another matter faced by the council is issue of property values, which proved controversial this spring after the Bell County Tax Appraisal levied huge increases in valuations to some parcels of land along the FM 2410 corridor. “It’s not going away anytime soon,” Reider said. Fountain was sworn into office at a council workshop on June 6. Fountain will serve an unexpired term that ends in 2019. The election of Fountain added a unique dynamic to the council in that the governing body now has two members who are women, for the first time in almost 20 years. Jody Nicholas became the only woman elected to the council since 2005 when she ran unopposed in 2015 for the Place 5 seat.
Nicholas and Fountain make up the third group of women who have served concurrently. Fountain said after taking the oath of office that she learned that her supporters wanted a resident who would be a voice for them and make sure that the City is meeting their needs. “Many of them spoke about younger representatives on the council and term limits,” she said. “Several people told me that council members should serve the maximum time allowed. They didn’t agree with the coming off and getting back on approach to council membership.” Fountain said the property tax crisis is real and will be an issue that the council will be talking about for a long time. “The best thing the council did was host a public hearing to give residents a chance to tell their stories about some unbelievable circumstances,” Fountain said. “It’s really exciting and challenging to be a representative of our citizens.” Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
Several road projects underway across the city By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
The following street rehabilitation projects have been budgeted and approved for construction, according to Mark Hyde, Harker Heights director of public works. The projects include: Lakota/Ponderosa Drive: Construct concrete valley gutter. Cattail Drive near Lakota Drive: Construct concrete valley gutter. Oakwood Drive: Increasing the street with to 24 feet measured from back of curb. Cement stabilizing the base subgrade 8 inches in depth, constructing concrete ribbon curb on each side of the street and paving with 1.5 inches of Hot Mix Asphaltic Concrete. Elmwood Drive and Elmwood Circle: Increasing the street width to 24 feet measured from back of curb. Cement stabilizing the base subgrade 8 inches in depth, constructing concrete ribbon curbs on each side of the street and paving with 1.5 inches of hot mix asphaltic concrete. The cul-de-sac in Elmwood Circle will be increased to 80 feet in diameter measured from back of curb. Awarded July 11, 2017 Project Amount: $647,069 Contractor: TTG Utilities, LP Estimated Completion Date (Weather Permitting): December 2017 Traffic Roundabout at Commercial Drive & Heights Drive The project includes constructing a one-lane traffic roundabout at the intersection of Commercial Drive and Heights Drive to reduce the traffic congestion on Commercial Drive. The city has been awarded Category 7 funding from the Texas Department of Transportation for construction of the project. Category 7 projects are selected by the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization with consultation from the Texas Department of Transportation.
Eric J. Shelton | Herald
Cars travel through the intersection of Heights and Commercial drives in Harker Heights. The city plans to build a roundabout on the site.
The city is finalizing negotiations with the Wal-Mart Super Center for the additional right of way required for the project. The construction probable cost estimate for the project is $483,573. FM 3481 Left-Turn Lane Improvements at Gomer Lane, Summer Glen, Fuller Lane and Del Rey Drive The project includes constructing a left-turn lane on FM 3481 for Gomer Lane, Summer Glen, Fuller Lane and Del Rey Drive. According to TxDOT, the intersection at FM 3481/Fuller Lane did not meet the warrant requirements for a traffic signal light. The city will enter into an Advance Funding Agreement with Texas Department of Transportation for the left-turn lane project. The city of Harker Heights has requested TxDOT to provide the engineering design for the project with the city funding the construction cost. The construction probable cost estimate for the project is $325,000.
Birchwood Drive Water Main Extension Project The project includes installing a 6-inch diameter water line on Birchwood Drive replacing the existing 3inch water line. One new fire hydrant will also be installed. Awarded July 18, 2017 Project Amount: $95,455.82 Contractor: B-Corp Utilities Estimated Completion Date (Weather Permitting): November 2017 Water Storage Tank Rehabilitation Project The project includes cleaning, sandblasting and recoat the inside and outside of the Cedar Oaks 1 MG Stand Pipe, Cedar Knob 100K Ground Storage Tank, Verna Lee Ground Storage Tank 1.5 MG (Inside Only) and the Evergreen 150 K Elevated Tank (Spot repair only). The project is currently in the engineering design phase. The construction probable cost estimate for the project is $782,000.
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Demolition of Decommissioned Water Ground Storage Tanks and Pump Station Demolish the Arrowhead 300,000gallon steel ground storage tank. Demolish the old Maintenance Pump Station, valve vault and 500,000-gallon steel ground storage tank. The project is currently in the engineering design phase. The construction probable cost estimate for the project is $80,000. 2015 Community Development Block Grant Wastewater Improvements Project The City of Harker Heights received a Community Development Block Grant for this project in the amount of $275,000; the city was required to contribute $55,000 from the Capital Improvement Funds for the CDBG projects. The city also included additional wastewater rehabilitation projects to be funded from the FY 2015-16 Capital Improvement Funds. The project is substantially completed.
Eric J. Shelton | Herald
Construction is seen along Farm-to-Market 2410 in Harker Heights on July 18. The roadway is being widened to add a dedicated left-turn lane.
Awarded March 8, 2016 Project Amount: $587,820.17 Contractor: B-Corp Utilities Estimated Completion Date (Weather Permitting): September 2017 Mountain Lion Road Retaining Wall Reconstruction Project The project includes removal of the existing cross tie retaining walls and existing privacy fences on Mountain Lion Road from Wilderness Drive to one lot past Modoc Drive; construction of a 4-feet-tall average height segmented block retaining wall with new 6-foot-tall wooden privacy fences and the relocation of the 6-inch water line and fire hydrant assembly. The project is currently in the engineering design phase. The construction probable cost estimate for the project is $238,490. Drainage Master Plan CIP No. 2 The project includes widening the drainage channel from Indian Oaks Drive to Clore Road; constructing culvert improvements at Clore Road, Beeline Road and Robin Lane and constructing storm drainage improvements at Cherokee Drive, Elbert Lane and Cardinal Lane. The project will increase the capacities of the culverts and concrete channels, reducing
the limits of the 100-year floodplain and reducing the flooding impact on surrounding properties. The project is currently in the engineering design phase. The construction probable cost estimate for the project is $178,356. City Wide Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System Upgrade Project The project includes installing SCADA telemetry to 10 lift stations and alarm monitoring for critical areas at the wastewater treatment plant including the UV disinfection system, air blowers, raw water pumps, dry well high water alarms and plant flow rates. Currently, the 10 lift stations are monitored by autodialers or web based telemetry. The city has a master SCADA system serving the water distribution system and the Trimmier Creek Lift Station. All of the upgrades will be served by the existing master SCADA system. In addition to the increased monitoring capabilities, the SCADA improvements will eliminate telephone line and web based monthly fees for the 10 lift stations. The project is substantially completed. Awarded April 12, 2016 Project Amount: $307,900 Contractor: T. Morales Company
Electric and Controls, LTD Estimated Completion Date (Weather Permitting): September 2017 Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative Flow Monitoring and Final Report The City of Harker Heights has completed the 10-year Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Initiative agreement with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This project is the follow up flow monitoring of the city’s 18 sanitary sewer basins and submission of the final report to the TCEQ outlining the inflow-infiltration reduction results from the ten years of sanitary sewer rehabilitation projects. The city recognizes increased flows in the sanitary sewer collection system during heavy rain events. The objective of the 10-year program was to “tighten up” the sanitary sewer collection system to reduce storm water from entering the system. The goal is to reduce storm water related sanitary sewer overflows and to reduce storm water flow to our wastewater treatment plant. Based on the results of the 2006 system study, defective manholes were the leading cause of storm water entry followed closely by private
sanitary sewer service line defects. The final report will be submitted to the TCEQ in December 2017. Professional Services Contract Awarded January 10, 2017 Project Amount: $140,277 Engineering Firm: Burgess & Niple, Inc. Completion Date: December 2017 WATER REPORT Concerning water and infrastructure, the Heights City Council was recently presented with a Water Plan through 2040. City Manager David Mitchell said, ”Most cities have master plans for the major projects such as water and wastewater and drainage. There are many plans to guide us through major infrastructure projects.” “The water plan projects there to be 45,000 residents at that time. Otto Wiederhold with Walker Partners used a sophisticated computer model,” Mitchell said. “They put monitors on spickets and looks at what the current pressures are at certain times of the year. “That computer program tells us that it made certain connections and keeps a constant report on our water usage. We keep an eye on the data until it tells us what system will work and we go with it,” Mitchell said. Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
Heights officials ask TxDOT to lower speed limit on I-14 By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
Harker Heights-area motorists will soon see a reduced speed limit along U.S. Highway 190 / Interstate 14 within the city’s limits. Harker Heights City Council members told City Manager David Mitchell and Public Works Director Mark Hyde in late May that they want the speed limit lowered back to 65 mph following a surprise move by the Texas Department of Transportation in early April to increase the speed limit to 75 in the eastbound lanes at the Harker Heights city limits in front of Seton Medical Center. TxDOT spokesperson Ken Roberts said the speed limit had been dropped to 65 mph during construction on the freeway. Now that the construction — which stretched from the exit of W.S. Young Drive to Farm-to-Market 2410 is completed — the speed limit was returned to 75. Mitchell said in a Herald story that was published April 5 that if he began to hear concerns about the change, he would be willing to take steps to address them.
eric j. shelton | Herald
Cars pass by the Interstate 14 sign in Harker Heights on July 18. City officials asked TxDOT to lower the speed limit on the roadway through town.
“We’ve heard from several resi-
dents who are extremely anxious
and puzzled about the faster speed,” Mitchell said. With the council’s support, Mitchell and Hyde began the process of negotiating with TxDOT to lower the speed back to 65. Hyde said TxDOT would send a recommendation to its traffic operation division, which then goes to the transportation commission. The commission was expected to send an order for the changeover to the maintenance section that will change the signs lowering the speed to 65 along I-14 from the Killeen/Harker city limits to the Harker Heights/Nolanville city limits. The signs are expected to be changed in about a month. TxDOT is planning to expand the highway from FM 2410 in Heights to Simmons Road in Belton. Mitchell said, “The scope of the work on Highway 190 will be one mile east of 2410 to Simmons Road, just above Nolanville Hill.” TxDOT is adding a third lane within the existing median going to the inside. “I would assume construction would begin late this year,” Mitchell said, adding that the project was scheduled to be bid out last month.
Heights council nixes garage sale permit requirement BY BOB MASSEY HERALD CORRESPONDENT
The Harker Heights City Council voted last month to repeal the city’s requirement for garage sale permits and clarified garage sale requirements. Joseph Molis, director of planning and development, told council members that on May 2, the city staff was asked to update Chapter 111 among others. Molis said, “We would like to eliminate the need for residents to obtain a garage sale permit. Ultimately, it uses up a lot of staff time to track garage sales. “Charging a fee for a permit doesn’t really ben-
efit the city,” Molis said. “We spent more than the fee to complete the paperwork.” The amended ordinance still limits residents to two garage sales per calendar year, excluding the communitywide garage sales each fall. The portion of the ordinance regulating garage sale signs will stay intact. The previous code required sales to be confined to a home’s garage or patio. The revision states that sales can take place anywhere on the premises. “We feel like these changes will benefit the citizens,” Molis said. “It’s one less amount of red tape that has to be dealt with when it comes to enjoying their property.” According to the code enforcement department, there isn’t a garage sale problem in Harker
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Heights. “For that reason we felt it that it would be unnecessary to require a permit,” Molis said.
Among several other additions, updates and amendments to the city’s code of ordinances was an updating of the sidewalk ordinance. Previously, the code was written to exempt certain developments from requiring the construction of new sidewalks. “An updated ordinance was written to exclude the requirement of sidewalks in large-lot subdivisions,” Molis said. “The language, however, did not specifically refer to residential subdivisions. A revised ordinance corrects this deficiency.”
City Hall expansion tops renovation projects By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
Harker Heights City Hall is at the top of the list of completed projects continuing into 2017. The Pet Adoption Center on Indian Trail will be the next facility set for major renovation, possibly in October. The renovation of City Hall created additional office space. City Manager David Mitchell said, “There was not enough space for future growth. “The first addition was an Informational Technology wing that was appropriately designed to house our servers,” he said. “The IT offices are now in walking distance of the servers which increases efficiency for the IT professionals. “When the building was first built, servers were up and coming and we had no room for them in the available space,” Mitchell said. The renovation allowed for additional offices plus individualized private rooms near the entrance of council chambers. “When the plaintiffs come in, there are rooms where they can wait until their time to enter the chamber to meet with the municipal judge,” Mitchell said. Mitchell said use of the electronic kiosk on the south side of the building is increasing. “Our customers tell us there is a need for it so people can pay bills;
Eric J. Shelton | Herald
The new drive-thru is seen at City Hall in Harker Heights on July 18. The remodeled area also includes an electronic kiosk for bill payments.
court fines and take care of other financial business after the drive-up window closes and on weekends and holidays,” he said. On the Recreation Center side, office space was quite limited, Mitchell noted. Two to three people were housed in one office and that posed a lot of issues when there needed to be meetings with parents, coaches and small
groups. There was no privacy. “The renovation added a sufficient space for new offices and provided a conference space,” Mitchell said. Renovations at the Harker Heights Pet Adoption Center will add additional square footage and a procedures room where a veterinarian can come to the center and perform medical procedures on the animals. “Currently we have to transport
the animal to a veterinarians office for procedures which is inconvenient and time consuming,” Mitchell said. There will also be a separate facility for puppies, which are more vulnerable to getting ill when they’re around larger dogs. Mitchell said, “There will also be other improvements to the building. We want it be an inviting place and make people feel welcome.”
Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
Photos by Eric J. Shelton | Herald
The Stillhouse Flats, at 613 Stillhouse Lake Road in Harker Heights, are seen July 21. The city has realigned roads and added sidewalks to improve mobility in the area.
Officials continue developing Mobility 2030 plan By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
Mobility 2030, the city’s transportation plan, is still under development, but its effects are becoming more apparent with each year. The first two sections, the street network and sidewalk network, have been adopted by the City Council and are reflected in current development projects throughout the City. Cedar Knob Road has been realigned, and the new Cedarbrook Ridge subdivision, currently under construction, will connect Prospector Trail to Loblolly Drive, as outlined in the street network. Sidewalk connections have been made on Prospector Trail, Mountain Lion Road, and Stillhouse Lake Road. Also, the sidewalk portion of the Amy Lane project has begun, creating another connection in the sidewalk network. The other three sections of Mobility 2030 are in various phases of development, said Joseph Molis, director of planning and development. “The Planning department is work-
As part of the city’s Mobility 2030 plan, the new McDonald’s at 920 E. Knights Way in Harker Heights has bicycle racks out front.
ing with other departments to create a pilot off-street mountain bike trail, as reflected in the draft of section three of Mobility 2030. “This trail will allow recreational cyclists (and hikers) to travel through existing drainage features and creeks, and hopefully enjoy some of the undeveloped natural areas throughout Harker Heights,” Molis said.
In conjunction with the off-street trail system, section four of Mobility 2030 calls for bicycle lanes throughout the city. The Planning Department is working to create a pilot for this as well, maybe in parallel with the off-street trail pilot, to give citizens an idea of what the future bike lanes could encompass.
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Another facet of the Mobility 2030 plan is also emerging: the strategic placement of bicycle racks in key locations in Harker Heights. Provided by a grant from KTMPO, the City has acquired several bike racks for placement in locations of our choosing. The first racks were laced at City Hall and the Recreation Center earlier this year. The Planning Department then reached out to the Knights of the Round Table, a group of Harker Heights High School Students that work with city staff on numerous projects, for guidance for the placement of additional bike racks. “Following their input, bike racks were provided and installed by the city at the new McDonald’s on East Knight’s Way. It is our goal to continue to work with local businesses to place bike racks at locations identified by the Knights of the Round Table,” Molis said. “As for section five of Mobility 2030, we are following the HOP’s route updates very closely so we can better coordinate transit throughout the city.
Central Fire Station renovation underway By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
Renovations to Harker Heights’ Central Fire Station on Indian Trail could be completed in less than a year. Fire Chief Paul Sims along with Ryan Shipley and Jason Ballard of Wilson General Contractors reported to the Heights Council at an April 20 meeting about the progress of the project. Sims reported that 6,300 square feet would be added to the current facility, bringing the new overall square footage to about 21,800. That compares to 11,000 available square feet when the station was built in 1985. City Manager David Mitchell said the cost of the renovation will be $35 million, not including engineering costs. The project is being paid by certificates of obligation from 2017, according to Mitchell. “The additional space will house the new administrative section, training room, Emergency Operation Center and storage space,” Sims said. “The additional space will house the new administrative section, training room, Emergency Operation Center and storage space,” Sims said. “Construction began on time in June and from day one, there was demolition of the weight room and an attempt to get that built out as soon as possible. There’s also a need for new
Eric J. Shelton | Herald
Construction is seen behind the Harker Heights Fire Department on July 18. Extensive renovations to the station began in June.
plumbing, new bathrooms and locker rooms,” Shipley said. Sims sits in his temporary office these days in a double-wide trailer that is his temporary office along with other fire department administrators while construction and remodeling work is swirling around the station. “It’s cozy and it’s just as easy to
shout to someone than it is to pick up the phone and call them,” Sims said. Station crews have been moved out of the station to a doublewide much like the one being used by the chief and his staff. “It’s cozy like our setup. It’s kind of like camping in a recreation vehicle. We have temporary shower and bathroom facilities for them, too,” the
chief said. “The fire/paramedic crews have been eager to make things happen. It’s been wonderful to have them on the team and be a part of the advancement of what we’re doing here,” Sims said. This is the most global and all-encompassing project undertaken at this fire station since it was built.
Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
Business development focused around smaller lots BY ARTIE PHILLIPS HARKER HEIGHTS HERALD
Commercial business growth in Harker Heights has experienced a drop-off this year compared to this time in 2016, but new businesses are still trickling in, and more stores will be opening their doors in the months to come. “The city has actually had more commercial activity in the calendar year 2017 than it did in calendar year 2016,” City Manager David Mitchell said. “Most of the larger lots along I-14 within the city of Harker Heights have already been developed by larger retailers and what mostly remains are smaller commercial lots within the city.” Mitchell said the city expected that commercial activity would switch to smaller retailers and service industries simply due to the size of the remaining lots in the city, but he said commercial demand for smaller lots remains strong. Halfway through July 2017 the city had issued permits worth a total value of $16.45 million, a 64.68 percent decrease from the $46.57 million in permits that had been issued halfway through July 2016. “We have a number of new businesses that are in progress or have opened their doors. The first one is a strip commercial center at Farmto-Market 2410 and Farm-to-Market 3481,” Mitchell said. “They are putting signage on it at this point and that will house an Express ER, and I think a Great Clips is going in there, as well.” Both businesses are currently completing finish-out work and are expected to open with the next month. The Express ER business is just one more medical business in Harker Heights that has helped contribute to a rise in “young professionals” relocating to the city. Another new business that recently opened its doors is the McDonald’s
Photos by Sergio Flores | Herald
Express ER, above, and Ari’s Italian Restaurant are two of the newer businesses along Knight’s Way in Harker Heights.
New Businesses in Harker Heights (new construction) McDonald’s Express ER Great Clips Strip Commercial Center
Date Opened 7-21-17 September August-September Target date unknown
restaurant located at 920 E. Knights
Location 920 E. Knights Way #2410 FM 2410 & FM 3481 FM 2410 & FM 3481 440 E. CTE
Way #2410. The business had its
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grand opening July 22 and had a soft opening a few weeks before. “We have an additional commercial strip center which will house a number of retailers — we don’t know who yet — but it will be at 440 East Central Texas Expressway,” Mitchell said. “They have broken ground on it and it is going vertical now.” Heights officials are taking a proactive approach to attracting new businesses. In April 2015, the city partnered with The Retail Coach, a company devoted to assessing city demographics and marketing these cities to national retailers in hopes of drawing in new retail businesses. “The Retail Coach helps develop a list of potential retailers and assists the city in targeting them with information,” Mitchell said. “They also represent the city at a number of retail conventions. city staff stands ready to walk any new business through the development process. Our desire is to lure businesses that will provide greater access to services, products and variety for our citizens.”
Sales tax levels off as fewer big businesses open BY ARTIE PHILLIPS HARKER HEIGHTS HERALD
Harker Heights has collected almost $3.8 million in sales tax in the first seven months of 2017, which is just $6,982 more than the city collected last year at this time, according to documents released by the Texas Comptroller’s Office. City Manager David Mitchell explained why this year’s sales allocations are so similar to last year’s. “Everything as far as sales tax goes is how the city has projected it,” Mitchell said. “In the past, the city has had some larger-type developments come in like a Wal-Mart and Sam’s (Club), and when one of those comes in you start seeing big jumps in sales tax, but when you hit that period for the same time the next year, then you are going to see sales tax leveling off.” Month-by-month sales tax revenue allocations show increases in the $1,000 to $33,000 range compared to correlating months. The months of February, March, April and May saw decreases in sales tax revenue. “For the remainder of the year we felt like it would run maybe a 2 percent increase overall,” Mitchell said. “Based on what we have seen this year, I can see us using a very conservative budget number looking at next year, as well.” In January, the city received $505,274 in sales tax allocations, a 2.25 percent increase from the $493,904 allocated in January 2016. In February, the city experienced a decrease from the previous year’s sales tax revenue, albeit a smaller one. The city received $727,251 this year, a 1.38 percent drop from the $737,402 received in 2016. In March, the city received $436,287 compared to $452,333, a 3.55 percent decrease from the same time last year.
Sales tax numbers are calculated and released roughly two months after sales are initially recorded. For example, July 2017 numbers are allotments made based on sales in May 2017.
April’s reporting was $475,844, down 2.52 percent compared to last year’s $488,129 for the same period. May’s sales tax total was down 3.63 percent with $640,243 compared to the $664,367 in sales tax received last year. June brought in $495,842 in sales tax allocations, a 5.17 percent increase from $470,206. July’s reporting was a 6.23 percent increase at $522,713, compared to $490,132 the previous year. “Overall it’s very positive; we still see growth even with the numbers on Fort Hood over the past few years coming down,” Mitchell said. “It may not be great, tremendous growth, but it is growing, so that tell you that more money is being spent today than in years past.” Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
ERic J. Shelton | Herald
A home under construction on Doc Whitten Drive in Harker Heights is seen in the Knights Ridge subdivision on July 21.
Residential growth slows in 2017; new units open soon BY ARTIE PHILLIPS HARKER HEIGHTS HERALD
After a booming year of residential growth in 2016, the pace of construction of new homes in Harker Heights has started to slow down. City Manager David Mitchell said the construction is slowing not because of a lack of a demand, but because of a shortage of available housing lots. “Developers develop land and builders buy the lots, and we simply do not have a lot of lots out in front of the builders at this point,” Mitchell said. “I know the developers are working on that; I know there is a big development just south of the Catholic Church (St. Paul Chong Hasang) and they are getting ready to develop that. That will provide some additional lots.” Mitchell also said most of the lots that are left within the city limits face various topography challenges such as heavily sloped terrain, and as a result, those lots take time to be developed. From August 2016 to midJuly 2017, the city issued roughly 155 permits for new single-family resi-
dences. During the same time frame last year, 176 permits for new homes were issued. Even though there has been a bit of drop-off, Mitchell said the lower numbers were “exactly what we had projected things to be.” “We could look out and see that there were not enough available lots,” he said. “It takes a long time to develop a tract, usually 18 months or so, so we knew when you don’t see those lots down in front you are at least 18 months from getting additional lots, and there is no magical way you can see increases in your permits.” In terms of multi-family housing, Heights’ most recent big construction project, the Stillhouse Flats apartment complex, is expected to open sometime in August. Stillhouse Flats will offer 96 apartment units when it opens its doors. “I think they are running a little bit past when they wanted to be open, but it should be probably within the next month,” Mitchell said. “The delays happen when you have rain and things like that — we had a pretty wet spring — but we are not complaining about the rain.”
| Harker Heights Progress 2017
More Bell County homeowners protest property values By Kyle Blankenship Harker Heights Herald
Several Harker Heights landowners are facing a lighter property tax load after the Bell County Appraisal District earlier this month certified a more than $400 million drop in county land value. The announcement was made after an unprecedented number of landowners protested their 2017 appraisals before the county’s Appraisal Review Board at hearings that began June 26. Nearly 5,900 landowners filed to protest their 2017 preliminary appraisals with the district, totaling $5.1 billion in value — a record amount for Bell County. The average number of protests per year is between 3,500 and 4,500, according to chief appraiser Marvin Hahn. The appraisal district’s targeted property reassessment this year resulted in astronomically high property appraisals, causing an uproar among Harker Heights landowners along East Knights Way / Farm-toMarket 2410 in May. The largest cuts were more than $500,000 lower than the original preliminary appraisal. In one instance, the appraised property value was reduced from more than $850,000 to $393,000. Raymond Hamden, whose vacant lot in the 1700 block of East Knights
Amy Proctor | Herald
Greg Ray, a real estate appraiser with the Tax Appraisal District of Bell County, right, discusses a property appraisal June 26 at the Bell County Appraisal District in Belton.
Way increased in value by 5,050 percent in one year, said he met with his field appraiser and was informed the value would be lowered significantly. Hamden’s initial appraisal of $851,731 was lowered to $393,006 — a 55 percent decrease. The property’s 2016 valuation was $16,536. Other properties along East Knights Way, experiencing twentyand thirtyfold increases in value were lowered drastically, according to appraisal district records. Some of the biggest decreases include: Tai McGorry Trust — 2017 value decrease: $942,834 to $440,521; 2016 value: $33,442.
Hatem Chouchane — 2017 value decrease: $1,164,135 to $625,436; 2016 value: $259,687. Charles McGorry — 2017 value decrease: $300,509 to $204,002; 2016 value: $21,965. Carlos and Mary McDowell — 2017 value decrease: $229,547 to $153,881; 2016 value: $26,670. Wanda Lee Aycock — 2017 value decrease: $109,637 to $69,513; 2016 value: $3,825. Even with the decreases, the appraisal figures represent massive jumps in assessed value, revealing a chronic undervaluation of land along the East Knights Way corridor.
Hahn said last month that properties most affected by across-theboard appraisal increases along East Knights Way from U.S. Highway 190/ Interstate 14 to Warrior’s Path were inaccurately valued due to a lack of sales information in that area. According to deputy chief appraiser Roger Chesser, 1,082 of the protesters were listed as “no shows” at the hearings, while 4,512 protests were settled informally outside of the review board’s official adjudication. Of the 383 hearings the board conducted, 290 received no reduction in their appraisals. The total amount reduced through the hearings and informal settlements was $421 million — or about 12 percent of the total value protested. On July 17, with the numbers certified by the appraisal district’s board of directors, the district provided county taxing entities with their final land rolls and the amount of tax revenue expected in fiscal year 2018. According to the appraisal district’s revised figures, Harker Heights’ property value increased from $1.69 billion in 2016 to $1.8 billion this year — an increase of 6.26 percent. Harker Heights officials will have to calculate budget projections for the coming fiscal year based on the updated appraisal numbers. The preliminary fiscal year 20172018 budget will unveiled next month.
Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
Seton Medical Center marks five years serving city Herald Staff Reports
Seton Medical Center Harker Heights celebrated its fifth year in Bell County last month, and the hospital has seen considerable progress in the years since its founding. “One of our initial goals was to exceed our patient’s expectations for service and quality,” said Zach Dietze, Seton’s CEO. “We have successfully met this challenge as proven by our CMS Four Star Rating for both Overall Quality and Patient Satisfaction, and the hospital received a Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade of “A” this past year,” Dietze said “Seton in Harker Heights is committed to providing exceptional patient center care to our community across the service lines that we feel privileged to offer the community.” In light of this, Dietze said, Seton staff have worked hard to complete disease-specific certifications and are proud of these accomplishments. When Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights opened its doors in June 2012, 269 employees welcomed the first patients. Five years later, more than 400 employees are seeing about 90,000 patients per year — about 50,000 of those visiting Seton’s Emergency Department. Seton now has more than 300 physicians on staff. All physicians practicing at Seton are board eligible or board certified. Dr. Richard Cashion, chairman of the board of directors and one of the founding fathers of Seton, said it began as an idea for about 60 doctors to find a new home to practice medicine. In 2007, Cashion and a group of partners started dreaming of a community hospital. When they were about to give up, they spoke to a contractor and broke ground in April 2011. The hospital opened on June 18, 2012. In May, Seton Medical Center was named by Modern Healthcare as one of the top 150 Best Places to Work in
Eric J. Shelton | Herald
Seton employees Patsy Ponder, left, and Laurri Hoyle cut the cake during the Seton Medical Center Harker Heights’ fifth anniversary celebration.
Healthcare in 2017. Michael Moore, chest pain coordinator, said Seton’s teamwork mentality was evident in November 2015 when the hospital became accredited by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care for Chest Pain. Being Chest Pain accredited means the hospital is recognized by the American College of Cardiology Accreditation Services as an accredited Chest Pain Center. Level IV Trauma Certification signifies that Seton Harker Heights is able to support the area through providing care to trauma patients in the Emergency Department. Joy Custer, trauma program manager, assisted with the medical center receiving the Lever IV Trauma desig-
nation in April 2015 and is currently working to build a trauma prevention program. Joining with Heidi Cantrell, the director of Women’s Services, the hospital plans to offer car seat checks in the future. Since the hospital’s opening, more than 5,000 babies have been born and now, the hospital averages about 90 births a month. In 2016, Seton Harker Heights partnered with Freedom Urgent Care and together will open another Urgent Care in Killeen later this year. In 2016 Seton HH launched a new outpatient therapy program in partnership with the Armed Services YMCA at the 54,000-square-foot wellness center located in Harker
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Heights. With a whole corridor devoted to physical, occupational and speech therapy, the program’s clinic is a partnership with the ASYMCA that has taken off. The clinic, which is open Monday through Friday, retains a staff of five therapists, with the hope of adding more in the next year, rehabilitation director Ron Van Dyke noted. Additionally, Seton Harker Heights continues to staff providers at the Greater Killeen Free Clinic to support the clinic’s chronic disease management program. Dietze said Seton is in a good position for continued growth, and the hospital always recruiting new physicians, nurses and associates in other departments.
Armed Services YMCA serves about 25,000 a month By Val Valdez Herald Correspondent
Now in its second year of operation, the Armed Services YMCA Wellness Center provides services to about 25,000 members monthly. Currently, the center reports 4,039 types of membershipsequalling 10,421 members. The center is at 110 Mountain Lion Road, next to Purser Family Park. Nonprofits like the ASYMCA are continually fundraising to ensure program support and success. This past spring, the 2017 Partners Campaign saw 40 campaigners receive 171 gifts for a total of $31,283. These gifts will go to support soldiers and family members programs at Fort Hood, provide program fee assistance, and help support community-based programs, like Safety Around Water for third-grade students. “One great campaign benefit was the campaign volunteers creating awareness and ensuring presence and support of soldiers, sailors, and airmen,” said Travis Knight associate executive director. “This along with promoting health, wellness, and water safety in the immediate community led to a very successful campaign.” The 54,000-square-foot wellness center, which cost $13 million, fills the needs for the growing community Knight added. In the first six months of 2017, more than 21,000 members participated in classes. “We are always seeking member input on existing and new programs, so we may stay current with fitness and health trends,” said Katie Lochridge, ASYMCA Wellness director. Volleyball, pickleball and dodgeball are some of the sports played in the main gym. On level two is an indoor walking track; weight, exercise and cardio equipment and stationary bikes. The nine new programs this year
Gabe Wolf | Herald
Congressman John Carter, right, takes a tour of the Armed Forces YMCA in Harker Heights on April 21.
This past spring, the 2017 Partners Campaign saw 40 campaigners receive 171 gifts for a total of $31,283. include Barre workout, just weights, junior bootcamp and kettlebells, along with training For Warriors, plus others. Three exercise studios are used for two dozen classes. Members can choose from easy water sports, like water walking, and gentle stretching with yoga to heart-pumping running. Among the other classes are zumba, biddy sports, pilates and spin classes. More intense classes include total
body bootcamp and TRX suspension training. Members can use a supervised child watch area for ages 6 months and older; both the Olympic-size pool and therapy pool have a chair lift for people with mobility issues. Men’s, women’s and family locker rooms with showers lead to the pools. Additionally, three family changing rooms with a shower are available. A café offers healthier food op-
tions, like chicken wraps and protein smoothies. The fully equipped teaching kitchen on the second floor holds monthly luncheon demos conducted by Carey Stites, a registered dietitian working with Wellstone Health Partners in Harker Heights. The one-hour luncheons are open to non-members too and show healthy, and delicious, ways to cook. “We are excited that our membership growth continues to exceed our progress plan, which in turn reflects that the community is pleased with our programs and services,” said Cindy Davis, past ASYMCA board chair. “We are always looking to continue to bring more to those we serve.” Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
Heights chamber reaches out to area businesses By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
With a membership of 800, the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center serves Central Texas with three staff members: Gina Pence, president and CEO; Mary Shabunia, business retention coordinator and Jean Knowles, events coordinator. They provide a plethora of services to varied groups and individuals. The chamber staff reaches out to businesses through recruitment and retention. In addition to all the events the chamber sponsors and the promotion of Harker Heights, the chamber staff plans and researches ways that will improve the image of the city and reach out in an effort for people to know what Heights has to offer. “For the last two years, we’ve concentrated on the tourism side of the house and not just for the chamber and its members. We are about showing and sharing the story of branding our city,” Pence said. Their priorities have become marketing and advertising efforts to promote the city. Their branding, as it’s referred to, is “Discover Harker Heights.” Pence said, “It has worked well and is the focus of all advertising in the media including television, newspaper, brochures, billboards and our website.” The Food, Wine and Brew Fest, scheduled for September, is also being featured again in Texas Monthly magazine. The branding is also seen in the Texas State Travel Guide, the Fort Hood Telephone Directory, KDH Newcomers Guide and Texas Highways. Posters are located at the Killeen/ Fort Hood Regional Airport and there is also a “Discover Harker Heights” website. “Discover Harker Heights” also provides us an opportunity to highlight
Amy PRoctor | Herald
Hundreds of people attend last year’s Food, Wine and Brew Fest hosted by the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 10 at the Harker Heights Community Park.
Heights Parks and Recreation and all that they offer plus the Farmers Market at Seton Medical Center,” Shabunia said. The “Destination Central Texas” website also features the chamber’s new branding. It is a cohesive group that brings conferences, major events, day-trippers and their overnight stays. “That means they stay in our hotels and dine in our restaurants,” Pence said. The past year has brought several huge conferences and events to the area. More than 15,000 people traveled from all over the United States and Canada to attend a fair at the Bell County Expo Center sponsored by
Mother Earth News. The fair featured 150 workshops from the leading authorities on organic gardeners, food preservation, homesteading, livestock and natural health. “Our third conference will be in 2018 and when you’ve hosted Mother Earth for the third time you become a regular location for their conferences. Once they maintain a dedicated following, the number of people in attendance will increase to 30,000,” Pence said. The chamber hosted its first fishing tournament. It was not just a oneweekend tournament but went on for several consecutive weekends. Dinosaur George returned for a
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repeat performance. More than 2,000 kids and their families attended at the new Armed Services YMCA facility in Harker Heights. The Harley-Davidson Riders Hog Rally was held at the Expo Center. The major event in 2017 will again be the Food Wine and Brew Fest, set for Sept. 9, from 2 to 10 p.m., at the Harker Heights Community Park, 1501 E. Farm-to-Market 2410. The chairperson of the event, Jennifer McCann, said, “The first year of the fest attracted a crowd of 600. This is our ninth Fest, and we are expecting 5,000, an increase of 1,000 over last year. “H-E-B is a major sponsor,” she said. The festival is featured on all shelves and you can buy a ticket to the event at any H-E-B in the state of Texas. McCann said, “They’ve been wonderful partners. I don’t know of many stores that would shelve wines from a local city festival.” The festival will offer a promenade of beverages and culinary delights to be sampled and purchased by visitors from Harker Heights, Killeen, Fort Hood, Temple, Austin, Copperas Cove, Waco and Georgetown. “Our after-action report indicates people came from all over Texas, especially the Dallas/Fort Worth area and from California and New York,” McCann said. Live music will be featured all day. The star event will be The Tribute to George Strait. Pence said, “Just so everyone understands, this is not the real George Strait, but the music will sound the same and the performer even looks like George. It’ll be great regardless.” For more information about the Fest, contact the chamber at www. hhchamber.com or call 254-699-4999. McCann said, “I’ve worked with more than 40 chambers in Texas and have never seen such a small, awesome team accomplish so much in a short amount of time.”
Vision XXI Leadership project honors program creator By Bob Massey Herald Correspondent
Since the introduction of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce Vision XXI Leadership program in 2013, the class has always had a project. This year, the project will be named Anderson Arbors, in honor of Dr. Jim Anderson, the creator of Vision XXI and retired chancellor of Central Texas College. “This class was the vision of Dr. Anderson and what better way to show our esteem for him than with this lasting gift,“ said Mary Shabunia, coordinator of Vision XXI 2017. Class members created the projects in the first three years. In 2017, however, the Vision XXI Steering Committee, decided to select the project in advance and reveal it to the class on orientation day.
Anderson Arbors is a beautification development along Knights Way. One of the major announcements at the April 6 Vision XXI 2017 orientation was about Anderson Arbors, a beautification development for the city of Harker Heights using a row of crepe myrtles lining both sides of FM 2410/Knights Way. Along with the trees will be inscribed bricks set in the ground that will identify who donated each tree. The announcement was not only a surprise to class members but to Anderson, who expressed his approval of the idea at a Vision XXI Steering Committee. “He had no idea that we had secretly named the project after him,” Shabunia said.
Cyd West, project mentor for Vision XXI 2017, said, “The chamber board wanted us to choose a project that would benefit Harker Heights and would be determined on day one. The class could decide how to go about promoting and paying for the project but it was to be one that could be continued into the following year or enhanced.” The crepe myrtle idea has met with the criteria required by the City, the Texas Department of Transportation and the utility companies. Once the trees are planted and the bricks installed, the city will maintain the arbor. A descriptive plaque dedicated to the achievements of Dr. Anderson
will also be on display. “This is a cooperative effort expected to bring individuals, organizations, and businesses together in a wonderful way,” West said. “The plan is to sell 100 trees in phase one of the project. They will begin on the west side of FM 2410 at the Chamber of Commerce Building and stretch to near the Wal-Mart Neighborhood store,” according to Gina Pence, president and CEO of the chamber. The total cost is $300 to pay for the tree, inscribed brick and a contribution to the dedication plaque. Forms are available from Vision XXI 2017 members and at the chamber. Trees and bricks can be ordered through the chamber website: www. hhchamber.com or at the office at 552 E. FM 2410. For more information, call the chamber at 254-699-4999.
Harker Heights Progress 2017 |
Eric J. Shelton | Herald
Exchange Club of Killeen member Maureen Jouett, left, and Harker Heights Police Chief Mike Gentry, right, present Cesar Valdez with the police officer of the year award.
Eric J. Shelton | Herald
Harker Heights Fire Marshal Brad Alley, left, and Killeen Exchange Club member Richard Jouett, right, present firefighter Ray Gandara with the Harker Heights firefighter of the year award.
Heights police officer, firefighter of the year honored By Bob Massey Herald correspondent
Ray Gandara, a driver/operator, paramedic and firefighter with the Harker Heights Fire Department and Cesar Valdez, a police officer with the Harker Heights Police Department were honored June 19 during a Killeen Exchange Club luncheon. HHFD Fire Marshal Brad Alley introduced Gandara as the Killeen Exchange Club Firefighter of the Year for 2016. Gandara started with the HHFD in July 2010. He has been a paramedic since 2006, a firefighter since March 2010 and driver/operator since 2014, according to Alley. “Ray saved a person’s life in March 2009 by using CPR which earned him Paramedic of the Year by Scott and White Hospital. He’s been working in emergency medical services community since 2003,” Alley said. The community and his co-work-
ers nominated him for his professionalism, having a positive attitude, providing superior customer service and being an extremely knowledgeable paramedic. Alley said, “Ray is the type of person you can trust to get things done. He also exemplifies the type of person who has the leadership qualities to train new firefighters coming on board and guiding the seasoned crewmembers about changes in firefighting. Gandara said, “I’m honored to receive this award. I love my career and the city I serve and plan to continue that service for many years to come.” Gandara enjoys spending time with his wife, Carla, son Nathan and daughter Guiliana. HHPD Police Chief Mike Gentry introduced Deputy Chief Phil Gadd, Administrative Division Commander Loretta Fox and the honoree for police officer of the
year, Cesar Valdez. Valdez previously served as a police officer for the Mercedes Police Department. He has served as an HHPD for the past eight years. Gentry said, “He is respected by his peers as a hardworking and capable officer. “In his tenure with the department he has consistently provided quality service in the performance of his duties.” In the early morning hours of August 19, 2016, a young man and his friend were walking along a roadway when a vehicle struck them. One of the victims died of his injuries a few days later. The driver of the vehicle fled the scene without giving aid to the victims. This provided only limited information for investigators regarding the vehicle. “Officers searched for days and in spite of concerted efforts to locate the vehicle and the driver, the case
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remained a mystery,” Gentry said. While off duty and driving through Killeen in his personal vehicle, he observed a vehicle that somewhat matched the general description that had been given to investigators. Turning his vehicle around, he diverted from his personal business and was able to locate the vehicle again. He noted that the vehicle had damage that could have been consistent with the hit and run incident. Valdez then contacted on-duty HHPD officers and followed the vehicle through three separate jurisdictions until officers arrived. “Cesar remained to assist them during the stop. Later, investigations determined that he had indeed located the vehicle and the driver suspected of striking the pedestrians,” Gentry said. Both of the first responders received plaques in honor of their service.