New hotel planned

The Holiday Inn Express, built 20 years ago north of Interstate 70, is expected to be rebranded and a new Holiday Inn Express is planned to be located north across Lafayette Street.

The prospect of a new Holiday Inn Express and Suites just north of Interstate 70 is back.

Chuck Scott, director of the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation, told the Abilene City Commission at a study session Monday, the construction of the new hotel was set for March but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott said that within 90 days there could be a new date set to start construction.

“COVID has a tendency to change the process that we are in,” he said. “They were actually ready to go back in March and then everything changed.”

“And it could change again,” said Commissioner Dee Marshall.

“And it could change again. That’s right,” reiterated Scott. “We have gone through new appraisals, new feasibility studies. This is the first step in finalizing the financing component.”

The city commission approved unanimously three incentives for a new Holiday Inn and Suites back in January.

However the cost of the project was $7.5 million. It is now $8 million.

The city commission will consider issuing new industrial revenue bonds for Naryan, Inc., on behalf of Ashish K. Ghosh Hajra, owner of the current Holiday Inn Express.

The city’s issuance of industrial revenue bonds does not create any liability for the city and the bonds do not constitute an obligation of the city.

Industrial revenue bond financing would afford the new hotel property 100% property tax abatement for 10 years. It would also exempt from sales tax all of the costs of the project related to items such as construction materials, building furnishings, and equipment. The city’s costs of facilitating the industrial revenue bond financing, including issuing the bonds, will be paid and/or reimbursed by Naryan, Inc

There would be a creation of a community development district in which the hotel and adjoining area will collect an extra 2 percent sales tax which goes to the hotel developer for 22 years.

There would also be a rebate of the transient guest tax of three percent for 10 years.

The current Holiday Inn Express is expected to be rebranded under another name.,

“COVID hit and they had to go back and look at their refinancing,” said City Manager Jane Foltz said. “That is good news for the city of Abilene.”

“I’m just excited to see this going again,” said Commissioner Trevor Witt.

 

Water/sewer increase

The commission will be looking at an increase in rates for both water and sewer utilities.

In December 2017 the city reviewed the city utility rates.

After the review, it was evident that the current rates were not keeping up with the rising costs of production and operation for both utilities.

The city adopted a three-year plan to bring the rates up to the cost of production.

It was estimated that the average residential water usage of 5,000 will increase water rates $4.46 a month and sewer rates of $5.62.

Finance Director Marcus Rothchild said it is estimated that the cost to produce water is 52 cents per 100 gallons. The new increased rate will be at 43 cents per 100 gallons, thus another increase is expected for 2022.

“We’re still under that but it confirmed that the three-year plan is pretty well right on track,” he said.

 

Pay increase

A recommended 1.75 percent raise for employees of the city of Abilene was made, however, there is also an anticipated 10 percent increase in health insurance.

Julie Yarmer with Freedom Claims Management said the 2021 insurance renewal is actually a 35.5 percent increase but by using reserves that increase is reduced to 10 percent.

According to policy, the city pays 74 percent and the employee pays the remaining 26 percent.

“A portion of the premium is placed in a claims reserve,” she said. “Because the city has done well in the past and has been able to build up that reserve, we are able to utilize that reserve to offset some of the increase in Blue Cross/Blue Shield.”

Traditional plans for a $1,000 deductable premium include:

• $637.10 single

• $1,156.18 employee/spouse

• $1,260.09 employee/children

• $1,686.20 family

For the health savings account premiums include:

• $585.91 single

• $1,089.45 employee/spouse

• $979.71 employee/children

• $1,598.36 employee family

On the family plan it is estimated a $20.58 increase per pay period for the employee.

The recommendation for raises in 2021 is 1.75 percent, said Penny Soukup, director of human resources.

She said that would keep the city in line with the pay plan that was adopted last January. The staff report said the city was doing well financially this year and the adjustment will help maintain the plan.

“It looks like a great idea for us to maintain the habit of staying on top of these pay increases so we don’t get into another situation we got into the last time when we did the study last year and kind of got backed in and had to catch up,” Witt said.

“We’ve had a lot of vacant positions that we budgeted for and some that we are not going to fill,” Soukup said. “That did give us a savings for the year.”

The city also plans a public hearing to consider the condemnation of the church and house structures at 1015 N. Mulberry Street.

Travis Steerman, city inspector, said the house and church have been vacant for some time. The actual inspection of this property took place June 27, 2019. At that time, this property was due to be sold at the tax sale in early 2020. Sometime after the inspection, taxes were paid on the property.

Various weed notices have been sent to the owners throughout the years and an actual notice about the condition of the property was sent out in 2011 by previous staff. This property has received multiple complaints from 2017 to the present.

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

 

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

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