Mayor Weldon Hurt underscored the significance of inclusivity and active listening in shaping Abilene's future at the annual State of the City Address February 6, his key remarks focusing on creating an environment where diverse opinions are valued.
“We want everyone to have a voice, and most of the time it’s just sitting down and listening to what someone has to say,” he said. “I’m not going to say that we’re always going to agree on everything. But in the long run, what I want to do is what’s best for our city and our citizens of Abilene.”
Returning to a live, in-person meeting after a hiatus during COVID-19, the event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Abilene Downtown Convention Center focused on the Abilene City Council’s Strategic Goals under the banner of “Building Community Together.”
For a full look at the City of Abilene’s State of the City Address, including comments by other community partners such as local school districts, the Development Corporation of Abilene, and the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, visit yourabileneinvestment.com.
Working Toward the Future
Mayor Hurt and others reviewed Council and City Department accomplishments for 2023 and strategies and objectives for continued success and growth in 2024.
The presentation emphasized the Council’s seven strategic goals which guide and shape its work, along with that of the City Manager and each City of Abilene Department.
Those priorities are practicing effective governance; providing excellent service; exercising sound financial discipline; developing and maintaining reliable infrastructure; encouraging economic growth; creating a high quality of life for residents, and actively seeking and fostering an engaged community.
Progress toward those goals is reviewed and tracked by City management to ensure the Council’s priorities remain the driving force behind every effort and action taken throughout the year.
Key takeaways from Mayor Hurt’s presentation include:
Abilene Wins Big With Dyess
The City’s commitment to Dyess Air Force Base, its top employer, remains vital, as does continued partnerships with the Abilene Chamber of Commerce and its Military Affairs Committee.
The base’s 14,182 total personnel population, including 736 civilians and 3,564 retirees, contributes at least $3 billion to the Texas economy in 2021.
The base also is responsible for a $528 million-plus economic impact across the Big Country.
Street Maintenance Fund Making Streets Better
The City’s Street Maintenance Fund has raised $46 million since its inception in 2016, with $28.5 million coming from the fund itself and $17 million from separate funds. Those include the City’s General Fund and contributions from the Development Corporation of Abilene.
Since 2016, $123 million has been invested in roads from all funding sources. (Street Maintenance Fund, bond funds, certificates of obligation, etc.) About 26% of Abilene’s roads have been improved through all sources in that same period.
The projected expenditure from the fund for 2024 is $14 million.
Animal Services Partnership with All Kind Building on Success
In 2023, the City of Abilene’s Public-Private Partnership with All Kind Animal Initiative hit a major milestone when the Jane & Phil Guitar Pet Adoption and Rescue Center (PARC) broke ground August 15, 2023.
Representing a collaboration built on $5.5 million in private donations and a $6.1 million from the City of Abilene, the facility – tentatively scheduled to open in late 2024 – will sport kennels equipped with indoor/outdoor runs and a full veterinary suite on-site.
All Kind’s shelter services in 2023 saw:
- 6,505 animals cared for.
- 2,873 adoptions.
- A 73% save rate.
- 1,025 Fostered cats and dogs.
- 1,235 Volunteers with 3,022 total volunteer hours.
- 1,148 Cats and dogs spayed or neutered.
- 515 cats humanely trapped, neutered & released.
- 589 rescue transport animals transferred to a forever home.
Animal Outreach, a service of the City of Abilene, responded to a total of 10,719 animal-related calls in 2023, including:
- 466 aggressive animal reports
- 284 animal bite injury reports
- 398 animal cruelty or welfare calls
Outreach picked up 2,060 dogs and 554 cats.
Infill efforts set to revitalize city
The city’s Rebuild ABI initiative is set to promote and encourage the construction and renovation of quality, affordable single-family homes in designated infill development areas.
Qualifications include new construction or major renovation projects, located in designated target areas. Those areas include the Sears & Carver Neighborhood Empowerment Zones and lots north of South 27th Street on a case-by-case basis.
As an example of how the program benefits home builders, construction of a 1,200 square foot, 3 bedroom, one bath home in the target area costs $190,000 and sells at $203,000.
At closing, the builder would receive a 10% equity payment from the City of $19,000, with a 5% completion payment of $10,150 from the City. In addition, the builder would also benefit from $1,075 in waived permits and fees, $2,500 for sidewalks, $1,200 for a debris container, and $8,000 in demolition, for a total of $12,775.
Collectively, the savings would be $41,925.
Locally-purchased materials are used, and the buyer occupies the home as their homestead. Builders accessing the program must be members of the Big Country Homebuilder’s Association.
Investing in people pays off
The City of Abilene recently increased compensation packages for all of its City employees to 94% of the 2021 market rate for each position. A second phase will increase compensation of all City positions to 100% of the 2021 rate.
Market rates were determined by surveying Abilene’s 10 peer cities and federal databases.
Bringing compensation to market rate allows the City of Abilene to attract and retain top talent, enhance motivation and moral, and maintain cost control by proactively preventing both overpayment and underpayment.
Board service helps build a better Abilene
The community and City of Abilene depend on residents serving on City boards to set policy and guide the work of municipal government. Serving on a board involves an average of 2-5 hours of service per month.
The City of Abilene manages or nominates individuals for a total of 34 boards, about 234 seats. Applications are reviewed by the Mayor. The Abilene City Council confirms the nominations. Background checks are performed on all board applicants.
To apply, go to abilenetx.gov/boards.