KILGORE — Community event centers, ways to meet coming technological changes and how to maintain Kilgore’s hometown feel were among ideas shared by the city’s leaders Tuesday.
Kilgore City Council members changed the usual format of their regular biweekly meetings Tuesday.
Instead, they spent more than three hours talking about their visions and goals as they relate to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, 2019-20 Strategic Map, Capital Improvement Plan and 2020 budget.
Discussion topics included how to address municipal issues such as population growth, housing and meeting the recreation needs of residents, along with how to attract and retain more young adults particularly between the ages of 16 and 30.
“A large amount of time and a number of years putting out fires and backtracking to play catch up,” Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said, “and now it’s like we have gotten all of the emerging projects finished and now not only we can take a breath,” but plan in a nonemergency mode.
Spradlin was responding to Place 1 Councilwoman Merlyn Holmes, who said she wanted the city to start accomplishing its big ideas rather than piecemealing projects.
“I want a true look for Kilgore and not a hodgepodge,” Holmes said.
Facing each other across tables, council members discussed topics from City Manager Josh Selleck ranging from what makes Kilgore unique to what they want to see changed and who they want to move into Kilgore and why.
Holmes and Place 4 Councilman Victor Boyd both expressed the need for a new community or events center, but Boyd also said Kilgore needs a workforce training program for residents with special needs and more activities for children.
“Right now, we have the pool for the summer and certain things in the park such as the splash pad,” Boyd said, “but after that, in the evenings, we don’t have anything that’s catered toward the kids or the youth as far as mid-range adults.”
The west and northwest sides of Kilgore need redevelopment such as more homes and businesses to occur, too, Boyd said, pointing to the Texas 135 and Texas 31 corridors.
Selleck responded, “The west side of town is so ill-populated. What I mean by that is … we’ve got all of these streets (and) all of this water-wastewater infrastructure and just a handful of users on that because two-thirds of the houses are gone on the northwest side.
“We’ve got great industrial growth on” Texas 135, Selleck said, “but go back 500 feet, and it is some of the most underutilized territory within our city limits.”
Place 2 Councilman Harvey McClendon mentioned a desire for projects that updated downtown streets, arteries, sewers and regulations. He wants Kilgore to be a community of choice for “like-minded people” whom he described as having a love for Kilgore, want to be Texans and are people of faith.
“I’m not talking about politics,” McClendon said.
The newest council member, Place 3’s Mike Sechrist, noted that the city must consider a future in which Kilgore can’t rely on the oil industry as its financial foundation.
“When I left the real world, we looked heavily at the future,” the Kilgore College adjunct instructor who previously worked in the telecommunications industry said.
“It’s highly likely ... that the oil industry will be significantly less necessary in 10 years, and that’s something that you can’t fathom,” Sechrist said, saying the future could see forever-lasting batteries and breakthroughs in solar power. “People are going to become so accustomed to finding transportation some other way than owning a car, and so it starts to say, what does that mean to us? Because if I’m not mistaken … if it wasn’t for that income stream, our income would be significantly different.”
The city’s aging crop of community volunteers and organizations also was bantered by the council.
The average age of Kilgore’s population is 33.6 years, which is just under the state average of 34.5 years, according to census estimates.
City leadership has noticed, however, that most of the people who take part in civic or local service groups are either over 50 or reaching their senior years. That has made it difficult for the city to depend on some groups to handle or take over operations of certain civic activities or events, Selleck told council members.
For example, the July 4 celebration in Kilgore could be an easy moneymaker for any organization willing to step up and take its reins, but that hasn’t happened, he said.
Council members took no action on any items Tuesday, because the meeting agenda called only for discussion.