Repairs

The building at 413 N.W. Third Street is receiving repairs as it was a public safety threat. The Abilene City Commission will hold a public hearing on Sept. 14 on the status of those repairs.

Though it’s been a three-year process, the outer wall of a building at 413 N.W. Third Street in downtown Abilene is being repaired.

The Abilene City Commission set a hearing date of Sept. 14 to follow up on the process and decide if the structure should be condemned and ordered repaired or demolished it its regular meeting on Monday.

John Graves, owner of John’s Upholstery, said the outer wall is in the process of being repaired and made safe.

Though he couldn’t give a time frame, Graves said next on the renovation list are the windows on the west side and the roof of the building.

City Inspector Travis Steerman said the building was a public safety threat. A building permit was issued in February 2019 and extended to Aug. 31 of this year.

“Construction has started,” he said. “But construction is not 100 percent complete.”

Commissioner Dee Marshall asked about the windows on the west side of the building and the roof of the building.

The city voted 5-0 to set a hearing date of Sept. 14 to see if the repair was complete.

“If the building permit goes to the end of August and presumably work may be completed by then, during that hearing all we need is that it has been completed and you can tell us it’s satisfactory” said Commissioner Trevor Witt. 

“Yes, we are working on the front of the building now,” said Graves. “As soon as that is complete, we are going to the side and fix all the windows on the west side.”

Marshall again asked about the roof.

“That will come after that,” Graves said, although he had not set a timeline.

 

Budget

The commission voted 5-0 to approve the 2021 budget.

Finance Director Marcus Rothchild said the budget shows an 11 percent drop in sales tax.

He said while April showed a 38 percent increase in sales tax from a year ago,  it only showed a 2 percent increase in general sales.

“This is the time when people were stockpiling items due to the uncertainly of the pandemic,” he said.  

He said there was a huge 300 percent increase in the compensating use tax.

“Instead of people going out of town to Salina, people were sitting in their living rooms shopping. The sales tax was still collected for the city of Abilene for the compensating use tax,” Rothchild said. “That may make our projections somewhat conservative but with the unknown that is out there, we just want to be safe. We want to make sure we are prepared. If we come out ahead in the long run, that will only be better for the community.”

He said the department heads cut their budgets.

“They have found a way to fund all of those essential operations that are needed for the city,” Rothchild said.

Mayor Chris Ostermann said the city was only one component of the Abilene mill levy which also included the county, school district and the hospital.

“I think the city is sitting in a very good place. I don’t have any worries about 2021 or 2020,” said City Manager Jane Foltz. “It’s just waiting on how COVID will affect us for the next few years. We will work hard to keep a balanced budget and keep it satisfying for our consumers and our community.”

The final budget has a mill levy of 51.003, which is a slight drop from 2020 which is 51.489.

A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

The final budget shows an increase in budget authority of about $1 million more in 2021. The city’s valuation increased almost 1 percent from 57,431,278 to 57,989,051.

 

Eisenhower 

Memorial

Fiktz said the dedication of the Eisenhower Memorial is still scheduled for Sept. 17.

“As far as staff, they are planning on doing something but it could be virtual,” she said. “Depending on what Washington mass gathering limits are, which is currently 50 people, Abilene and Denison (Texas) are not planning any additional activities in Washington, D.C. or Gettysburg.”

An Eisenhower Legacy trip to Washington was canceled last May 8 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Planned was a trip to Washington, including a tour of the Eisenhower Gettysburg home, the White House and Smithsonian.

“That was postponed,” she said. 

In her report, Foltz also said the city received 81 applications for the position of chief of police. The application period ended last Friday. Staff will narrow the field and interviews will be conducted next month.

She said Abilene will receive funding from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Pathways grant for two new swings.

“One will be a connections swing where a parent and child will be facing each other,” she said. “The other is a freedom inclusion swing for children with disabilities.”

Street work was completed on Sterl Lane around the Royer Band Shell last week.

The parking lot at the Community Center is partially finished. Once that is finished, the crew will work on the parking lot at the Senior Center.

“You are going to see a lot of construction around those areas,” she said.

Work on the Vine Street sidewalk has also started.

The city approved 4-1 drainage easement in northeast Abilene. Foltz said the next step is to receive bids for a retaining pond to assist with the flood along Faith Avenue.

 

Vistor’s kiosk

The city commission on a 5-0 vote authorized Julie Roller Weeks, director of the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau, to seek funding through a SPARKS grant through COVID-19 for a kiosk for tourism.

“This would reduce the need to have face to face interaction,” she said.

She said that a project that would be eligible for the grant through Dickinson County is an outside kiosk in front of the visitors center.

“Visitors should be able to stop 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and have access to visitor information,” she said.

Currently the visitors center is closed.

This is something the CVB board discussed in the past but funds were not available, she said.

She said the Dickinson County Commission has already approved the request for $35,800.

The kiosk is a standalone unit with a 42 inch screen.

Foltz reported on memorandum from Public Works Director Lon Schrader that Abilene was one of 18 cities receiving funds through the City Connecting Link Improvement Program (CCLIP). The funds will be for projects on South Buckeye Avenue.

Olson Associates and the Public Works Department applied for two-year funding for the preservation of South Buckeye.

Schrader said the city will received $300,000 of a $468,596.64 project for the first year. The city’s cost will be the remaining $168,596.64.

“We did get year one approved,” Foltz said. “We have not heard about year two. We will reapply for that.”

The approved section (first year of the two year project) of Buckeye is from S.E. Sixth to the BNSF tracks. Resurfacing, storm drain inlets, some curb and ADA sidewalk ramps will make up the work. The second section which we will be resubmited in March of 2021 is from the BNSF tracks north to the UP tracks. 

 

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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