Killeen: Street fee higher for mosques than churches

(Photo by Chelsea Edwards)

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) Mosques will pay at a significantly higher rate than churches under the terms of an ordinance that establishes a utility fee to pay for street repairs in Killeen.

The additional fee to fund repairs on old, damaged streets will be added to utility bills starting in July and proceeds will be used to pay the cost of contractors, personnel and material.

The fee for the owner of a single-family home is $1.70 a month, but fees for other types of properties will be adjusted based on the amount of street use a property generates.

But when it comes to places of worship, there’s a significant disparity.

The current ordinance says churches will be charged 24 cents for every 1,000-square-feet of building area, while a mosque will be charged $2.09 for the same square footage.

A founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen says the rate system is biased and has brought shock to his small community.

"That kind of disparity strikes as discriminatory,” says Osman Danquah.

“Religious places should be classified as religious places. We do the same work."

He says he is in the process of appealing to the city for a change after he wasn’t able to address the council when the ordinance was passed in December but adds that if officials can't come to an agreement, he will reach out to national Islamic organizations for help.

City Manager Ron Olson said during a February council meeting that the monthly fees were determined using research from the Institute of traffic engineers and that the rate is based on churches usually having more property with multiple buildings.

A quick online search reveals that Killeen has more than 20 churches, in a variety of sizes.

In response to repeated attempts by KWTX to interview Killeen’s director of public works, city spokeswoman Hilary Shine issued a brief statement.

"We understand the concern and are working to ensure all religious institutions will be classified the same. We have been in contact with Islamic Community of Greater Killeen and made them aware this change will take place prior to the fee's implementation in July."

The current ordinance also doesn't list rates for other religious facilities such as synagogues.

Danquah hopes the rates are fixed but believes they should have been adjusted to match property owners’ land use before the new fee system was passed by the council.

“It just doesn't fit under the national model they've used,” he says.

“They should not use a national cookie cutter to cut a small town cookie.”