KILLEEN, Texas — In May 2019, a 6 News investigation revealed the city of Killeen had not inspected its fire hydrants for years. Just a few months after the investigation aired, the city said that would be changing.
The 6 News investigation began after a fire destroyed the home of Tanisha Hill in December 2018, and the hydrant three houses down failed first responders.
An email 6 News uncovered stated the city public works department requested a two person crew to do the work every year for the past six years.
That request had been denied each time.
After 6 News shed light on the issue, the city is now funding those positions.
"There will be two employees added. Hydrant maintenance will be the focal point of their jobs," city manager Ron Olson told 6 News at a media-only budget presentation.
Olson said he didn't remember what happened to the request in previous years, but did say many justified requests from departments had gone unfunded due to budget restraints.
"Every year there are many decision packages that we get to look at. Most of them are very justified, unfortunately we can't pay for most of them either," Olson said. "There are a lot of things we should be getting that we simply can't afford."
When asked why the fire hydrant inspections made the cut this year Olson simply said, "It's an important issue, and we are funding it this year."
After the 6 News Investigation on hydrant inspections broke in May, Killeen spokesperson Hilary Shine said the city had actually already restarted the hydrant maintenance program in late April.
However, an email uncovered by 6 News the city didn't have the resources it needed for the program.
An email water and sewer Steve Kana sent to Shine in December said the water department had been lacking funding for years.
"Every budget cycle for at least the last six, I have asked for a two-man crew and equipment to inspect/main the 4,665 FHs and 9,950 valves in the water system," Kana wrote. "Each year this request has been denied."
Shine said the current staffing of the program has inspected 286 hydrants in just over three months.
The city of Killeen has 4,665 hydrants, according to Kana's email. This means the water department has only been able to check just over 6% of the hydrants.
The city has already repaired or replaced 21 hydrants in 2019. Of those, 17 hydrants were scheduled for repair or replacement in or after April.
Mayor Jose Segarra and several council members told 6 News in March they didn't know the funding had been asked for in previous budgets.
Several council said they would be looking at the issue as they reviewed the 2019-2020 budget.
"Once we find out what the projected number of fire hydrants we have are, or we will have soon, we can look at our budget and decide what needs to be done with the budget to help us get as many fire hydrants as possible inspected within a year's time," councilman Steve Harris said. "We can't go too long without fire hydrants being inspected...that's public safety."
"We don't want it to develop into a problem," Councilwoman Fleming said. "Maybe all of them work; who knows? But unless we check them out, we will never know."
Councilman Jim Kilpatrick also told 6 News fire hydrant safety will be one of his top priorities this budget cycle.
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