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Behind-the-Scenes, Development, Law Enforcement, Transportation, Water

City University – {Earth, Water, Air}

We began in the Municipal Court this time — I’ve learned that “municipal” means “city.” (I think.) If you’ve had a ticket for speeding, or not using a seatbelt, etc. – then this is where that is taken care of. They also handle the warrant round-up and Teen Court.

The “ticket” is entitled a “Uniform Citation and Complaint Affadavit.”

One interesting comment made by the person in charge of the court, was that they don’t actually want to throw people in jail because that costs the city money, instead of generating funds for the city through paid tickets. I never really thought about how this all works: when we mess up, we get a fine and what we pay actually helps provide for things like pay for police support, repaired roads, etc.

There was mention of the JP court – which many of us didn’t know what JP Court was – it means “Justice of the Peace.” There was a mention of “Class C” misdemeanors. It was also differentiated that Teen Court was not the Juvenile System (or “Juvie,” as it’s sometimes referred to).

Apparently, also there have been some changes to Teen Court, effective Sept. 1 of this year (2013) – I am not entirely clear on what those are, but apparently things have changed since I visited Teen Court last April.

***

Then we saw two water treatment facilities.

[Apparently both of them will be completely razed and replaced with a new “reverse osmosis” system by next year (2014). This is in anticipation of the need for more water and from different sources that is being planned for right now, for the near and long-term future. The new cleansing method – as far as I understand it – consists of PVC pipes with membranes in them, through which water is pumped at a high pressure.]

My perception is that the mayor and others are “selling” and pushing this water agenda very strongly. I think I see where they’re coming from, and why they are thinking it’s best. They want to “plan for the future now.” Nothing wrong with that. What bothers me is the debt. I learned from someone’s question at City U, that we’re already paying a line-item right now on our water bill (entitled “Ivie” – which is a lake) which is a debt from a previous water plan. Just as a quick reminder: the way debt works is that there’s interest. You end up paying more for something (lots more), over a longer period of time. Instead of paying say $50 up front, we can pay $500 for something over the long-term, when interest is added. We’re tethered financially with debt. Not free to make decisions and take action when we have no money, because we have money we owe. The fallacies of this system were just strongly illustrated in the recent recession. So, when we save up the money and have the complete amount to spend, then we can buy stuff and own it outright. Then when something else comes up, we can also have (emergency) funds. This system seems kind of boring and plodding, but it’s actually the most fun way to go because there’s freedom and flexibility. To do this in government, I think what has to be done is to raise taxes. (There’s of course the increasing efficiency and lowering spending question too, but that’s another, although related subject – that also brings up the issue again, of communication and of an involved public.) People shriek at the thought of, or mention of taxes going up, so what happens apparently in Abilene, is that we have what is called a Certificate of Obligation or “C.O.” — which is debt. So in order to provide for what elected officials think people need, they “buy”/borrow (take out a loan) one of these, without asking the public (~ 10% voter turnout in the last election here a few weeks ago seems to indicate a not-very-involved public to begin with), therefore not having to present their case for whatever improvement is needed/seen as necessary, and then raise the needed money. So it appears taxes aren’t raised, but we’re all losing money in the end, because we’re in debt. Did that make sense at all? It’s kind of a Catch-22 (no solution situation) if you ask me, but really the answer is probably increased communication (between “the public” and “elected officials” (in quotes because I don’t think there should be, or really is such a division between those two) — but trying to talk with one another is so durned difficult and exhausting, isn’t it?!

Supposedly we’ve got the “CAVE people = Citizens Against Virtually Everything” accusing and pointing fingers and criticizing every move an elected official makes (I’m not sure if ever offering solutions), then we’ve got the “Fat Cats” who are “lining their and their friends’ pockets.” And … communication breakdown. Although challenging and sometimes seemingly almost impossible, in the end it saves time and money for us all to talk — trust gets built, understanding grows and solutions can be found to common challenges.

***

Back to the current Wastewater Treatment Plant tour:

There are 19 employees at the plant(s) and they are staffed 24/7.

One main interesting thing about the sewer plant was the use of hydrogen sulfide to treat/purify the water — a strong substance that “eats paint,” and causes havoc with electronic equipment. So inside one building, where testing of the water goes on they have a “scrubber unit” (some kind of filter?) to treat the air and help preserve the computers.

Over the years there has been a “decrease in flow, ’cause people are conserving” according to Mickey Chaney, Program Administrator at the Hamby location, who was super-knowledgeable and was a great tour guide. Low-flow toilets and shower heads have made a difference.

“Digesters” were super-fascinating – which are anerobic (“good”) bacteria that dissolve solids. The water where the aerobic bacteria (also “good” bacteria)  were was full of air — if something fell in, the object would sink fast to the bottom. It reminded me of a fish tank with all those air bubbles circulating.

At the “aeration basin” insects, birds and spiders, and also some algae were all enjoying the clear, nutrient-rich water.

***

Next we went for dinner at the airport, and a tour of the place.

Highlights of the airport included the fact that the taxiways (not the same as “runways” – I can’t remember the difference, maybe direction of travel) are named — “Mike” is one of them (?!).

One of the taxiways was re-surfaced from 1969-era concrete, to asphalt about two years ago.

As a diversion airport, it collects revenue when there’s rain in Dallas and planes coming from there need to land in Abilene.

I’m pretty sure I have these numbers right:

8 departures and arrivals per day.

76,802 passengers [last] year and, “numbers are up.”

It’s a maintenance base for American Eagle and there are 300 employees.

Fed Ex and UPS fly in and out.

Also located at ABI (the airport abbreviation) are the Native Air Med Evac, and a plane from Cook Children’s hospital.

Sometimes someone needs to drive around out on the runways or taxiways with a “flash banger” to scare off birds.

The Abilene Development Corporation seems to be pretty heavily involved with the airport.

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