Council discusses options for improving Abilene roads
ABILENE, Texas - Abilene City Council held a special called meeting to discuss Abilene's roads and how to pay to improve them. The last time council spoke about the street maintenance fee, Mayor Anthony Williams said it was "too much, too soon" and council voted it down. Since then, City Manager Robert Hanna and Assistant City Manager James Childers went back to the drawing board and presented a new ordinance during Tuesday night's meeting. According to this ordinance, the monthly fee for the first two years would be: *-- Single Family would pay $6.75 per month *-- Multi-family would pay $6 per month, and *- Residents 65 years and older would pay $1.75 per month. For the fiscal year 2020 to 2024, the monthly fee would increase by $2 for multi-family and single family, and the senior rate would stay the same. Each university would pay an annual fee. Abilene Christian University would pay $35,500, Hardin Simmons University would pay $12,000 and McMurry University would pay $11,500. Commercial tiers would begin at $25 per month and increase by $10 up to Tier 6 at $75. From year 2020-2024, the commercial tier will begin at $45 and increase by $10 up to tier 6 at $95. The Development Corporation of Abilene would also provide $8.5 million over a five-year period. Money will also be taken from the General Fund budget totaling $10.2 million over seven years. Council would also need to relocate a penny from the tax rate and allocate it the Street Maintenance Fund. This means the city will not reach $10.3 million annually every year like had been originally planned. Council members didn't decide if they want the item on the May ballot. If they decide to adopt this without going to the voters, there would be an estimated $2.2 million in revenue, but if they wait to get voter approval, revenue would be at an estimated $1.2 million. If this is approved, and does not go on the May ballot, billing would go into effect in April for Single Family Residential and Commercial. It would begin in July for University and multi-family properties. The city's projected revenue for the first year is $4.3 million if there is a straight adoption and it doesn't go before voters?. New businesses would have a chance to opt out for the first three years. During Childers' presentation, the idea of a Street Maintenance Advisory and Appeals board was also presented to council. This was only the first reading. Council plans to have a second reading next month. Mayor Anthony Williams said it will be another meeting at night so residents have a chance to attend after business hours. During public comment, multiple residents asked if it goes on the May ballot and voters vote it down, will the city still proceed with the street maintenance fee. Some council members responded that they wouldn't move forward. Council members spoke back and forth, some wanting to see it on the ballot, others saying we need to stop talking and start doing. At Tuesday night's meeting, they also decided not to censure councilman Steve Savage for a controversial Facebook comment.