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Future of south downtown Abilene buildings debated

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ABILENE, Texas -- Taylor County commissioners met Tuesday to talk about the future of county-owned property in downtown Abilene.

In Tuesday morning's meeting, there were two sides to the issue: Private investors who want to revitalize existing buildings and some county commissioners who want to hold onto the property for potential use in the future.

Local developer Tim Smith, who turned the former Boys and Girls Club into an event venue, says other investors are ready to renovate buildings in the district south of downtown Abilene.

"Right now they are doing nothing for us as a community," said Smith.

"We have vacant properties sitting there without any good use," Taylor County Commissioner Randy Williams said. "I would rather see them be developed and put back into our tax base. "

Not all commissioners agreed with Williams.

"We have some land if we have to reacquire that land again later on it would be a burden on the taxpayer," Taylor County Commissioner Brad Birchum said.

According to Smith, buildings are "severely underutilized," but Commissioner Kyle Kendrick says some buildings are being used.

"You may not see things come and go but I promise they're being used," said Kendrick.

County Judge Downing Bolls says the City of Abilene put together a master plan in 2010. That plan included the district south of downtown Abilene.

"When they put this plan together, these buildings were in use by the county and we will continue to use them," said Bolls.

Smith still says letting these buildings go into the private sector will benefit the community.

"For one, it increases our tax base. Two, it makes Abilene a better place to live when you don't have vacant run down properties around you and I think we all want a thriving downtown and that's going to be possible with these properties are all locked down," said Smith.

Ultimately, the buildings will be held onto by the county unless commissioners decide otherwise down the road. Right now, there are no plans to sell any buildings.


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