Abilene City Council to discuss breaking ground on downtown hotel, hikes in Atmos Energy bills

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — The Abilene City Council will be discussing several items at Thursday’s meeting, including breaking ground on the downtown hotel.

Downtown Hotel  

Abilene’s downtown convention center hotel is slated to break ground this October. 

“We’re one of the largest cities in Texas that does not have a downtown convention center hotel. We don’t have a downtown hotel period,” said Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna. 

Hanna says city council members will look to approve the issuance of hotel revenue bonds as well as $6 million in certificates of obligation bonds to construct the city facilities. The rest of the hotel funding will be coming from the state and grants. 

Once the money is in the bank, Hanna says they can start construction. 

The hotel will be a Double Tree by Hilton, and they will be managing the building. 

“I think it’s a compliment to the structure of this deal, and Hilton’s belief in this product. They don’t normally manage the franchise that they provide,” said Hanna. 

The hotel will be full service with 200 rooms, a restaurant, hotel bar, lounge, and conference rooms. 

Hanna says the hotel will bring great economic impact to Abilene, as it will attract groups and businesses that the city has not been able to host before without a place to stay. 

City council will also vote for the final reading of changing the street directions in conjunction with the hotel. 

Atmos Energy

If Atmos Energy is your supplier, you may soon see an increase in your bill after a settlement agreement with the city. 

Atmos originally put in a $43.4 million request for additional revenues, but through the rate case process, the City of Abilene reduced the price to $22.78 million. 

Hanna says they will be delaying the implementation of the rate change by about two months to save residents some money. 

“That saves rate payers for the whole, not just Abilene, but this is a whole contortion of savings, we’re talking about $3.8 million for the first year of implementations,” said Hanna. 

The impact to the average consumer in Abilene is about $1.28 each month for residential rates, or a 2.2% increase. 

Commercial rates will be increased by an average of $4.03 cents, or 1.61%.

If approved, the rate change will go into effect in December 2021. 

New LiDAR Guns for Abilene PD

You might want to start watching your speed while driving, because the Abilene Police Department will be taking a closer look. 

Right now, APD uses a doppler radar system, which can track your speed, but may not always be accurate to which vehicle or moving object it is targeting.

After receiving a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) the department would like to purchase nine LiDAR guns, handheld devices that are more accurate at capturing a vehicle’s speed. 

“A laser device that will allow our patrol officers to be able to issue more tickets using a more confident, more certain device,” said APD Chief Marcus Dudley. 

Chief Dudley says Abilene PD applies for the JAG grant every year, and this year were awarded $44,000, half of which will be shared with the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office.

Airport Improvements

The Abilene Regional Airport received a $1.23 million grant through the FAA to make some needed improvements.  

Hanna says normally there is a 10% grant match required, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the FAA gave ABI the grant in full. 

They are going to use this to repair boarding bridges. 

“Anyone who has flown out of ABI and looked out the window or landed can see that our boarding bridges are a little old. This will refurbish or replace them,” said Hanna. 

Hanna says they can also use part of the funding for restroom renovations and other improvements around the terminal. 

Abilene FD Tower Renovations  

Abilene Fire Department needs a new fire tower since their current one is beat down after years of fire practice. 

The department is asking the city council to approve spending $122,000 from the fire department apparatus fund to make needed renovations to the tower. 

The fire tower utilizes a burn building to conduct live fire training for continuing education and the training of new fire recruits.

The tower has surpassed its life span of 10 years and now they are needing to replace it. 

City council will discuss approval of the funds during this week’s Thursday morning meeting. 

Low-income housing near Tequilas night club

There could be some low-income housing developed near a night club off South First street near Eplens Court.

A developer named BETCO, wants to build a family apartment complex in the open land behind Tequila’s night club.

Several residents voiced their concerns during a past planning and zoning meeting about future noise complaints, since part of the development would be 40 feet from the club. 

Tequila’s owners are worried because they were told if the apartments had been there first, they most likely would not have gotten their liquor license. 

Being so close to a family development, they are now concerned about losing their business even though they were in the area first. 

The developer will be presenting their plans at city council this Thursday morning at 8:30 to address the concerns of the residents and club owners. 

The city council will also go over the budget once again and vote to approve it and the tax rate. 

This meeting is open to the public, and there will be a time for public input.

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