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Behind-the-Scenes, Development, Housing, Roads, Sidewalks

City University – {Plan, Develop & Animals}

When I arrived late, Ed McRoy was talking about community enhancement and mentioned the city has received two grants: CDBG & HOME for increasing the quality of low-income housing. He also mentioned in answer to a question, that the city can’t make many improvements right now because almost all the income they receive goes towards paying off debt (interest) right now. Apparently at the rate we’re going, that debt will be paid off in another two years.

So, about Building Codes. Code violations are 80% complaint-based. Meaning someone calls and notifies the city of possible violations. 81% of people apparently take a notice of a code violation seriously and respond. Some don’t though.

We also found out that there are open records. Citizens can find out the status of certain dilapidated buildings and possibly pursue matters of improvement with listed owners.

Part of what this department does is monitor swimming pools. There are more than 140 pools in Abilene we were told, including those in hotels or motels.

The Building Inspection department also issues permits for various construction.

So the aforementioned two grants are:

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

and the

Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME).

From what I could gather the first is $876,000 and the second, $500,000. Most of this is what goes to the loan repayment.

What’s left over is on a first-come, first-serve basis based on an application process and income limits.

***

“An environment where people feel comfortable approaching with issues,” was mentioned next, when we were hearing about the Metropolitan Planning Organization. A desire to involve the public was highlighted and it was stated that their input is important.

~ abilenempo.org is their website ~

The MPO Policy Board meets every two months (January, March, May, July, September, and November) normally on the 3rd Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the Abilene City Hall Council Chambers. The board solicits public involvement. The five voting members listed online are: Mayor Norm Archibald, Judge Dale Spurgin, Judge Downing Bolls, District Engineer Lauren Garduno and Councilman Joe Spano.

We took part in a simulated mock Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Board Meeting, and discussed whether or not to make access roads in a certain part of the city one-way, or leave them two-way. (This issue of frontage road conversion is in fact a real issue right now, in Abilene.) One participant effectively used the Ad Misericordiam method of argument, stating to the effect that anyone who disagreed with making the access roads one-way, was “pro” death and life endangerment — therefore appealing to sympathy, but not addressing the actual decision with facts. Listeners were put in a position of defensiveness and even villain-status, if they disagreed with the stated plan of action. It was all very interesting. Some objections to the construction and change to one-way involved the resulting limited access to businesses along the road, where a two-way had previously allowed for easier access.

This exercise was revealing and highlighted again to me that these decisions are not easily made, and there are a lot of them to make when planning, or developing a city.

Again, “citizen input” was mentioned several times. Check out the MPO website for further information.

***

Next came some sadness that I didn’t expect.

We toured the animal services facility. First hearing about the trapping program. The office lends out traps for 10 days – ones large enough to catch a skunk, raccoon, fox, or “nusiance cat” and then return the animal to the facility.

They were pleased to have a new “mobile adoption house,” being fitted with around 20 kennels, heating, a/c and a generator. Someone found the unused trailer at the Melvin Martin Center (the pretend, little city for kids, next to Rose Park) and suggested it being converted.

There are 5 field officers in this department, and 120 square miles to cover. They are on-call 24/7 and receive 11,000 calls per year. They face dangerous situations and neighborhoods sometimes. Officer Helm said that people sometimes get very intense feelings about their dogs, and he’s had guns and knives pulled on him. Along with ones that they pick up, and ones that others bring in 75 animals a day are collected at the center. Over 3,000 were adopted last year.

I didn’t know about two things in regards to spaying and neutering. One is that some people absolutely are against it, because of a thought that it is biologically good for an animal to give birth. Two is that some people are absolutely against it, because they want puppies or kittens. Where those puppies or kittens will go after they’re born, is then the question. I just thought that people didn’t do it because they just didn’t. Because it might be a hassle to find a vet, make the appointment, pay for it (although there are vouchers available at the animal shelters for a discounted procedure).

In other trivia: There was recently a shortage of chihuahuas for pets in Florida, and several were sent there from here. Yes, you read that right. Cross-state cooperation for the benefit of all.

So the part that caught me off guard, was when we went in to see the facility and the animals. I chose the puppy hallway. Really I hadn’t menatlly processed that most of these animals would die. Something clicked in my brain about the reality of the situation, when I was looking at these little creatures and I had to step outside before honestly I became a sobbing mess.

IMG_5180There is no good answer to this problem. It’s just sad. I guess like with all community problems, education can help, about what to do that will help prevent the problem. Also donations of towels, blankets, newspapers and dry food are always welcome at Animal Services.

I was impressed with the folks working at Animal Services, and thank them for doing their jobs well. Overall so far, I’ve met many people who work for the city that I was impressed with and respected.

Did you know there are donkeys at the Animal Shelter?

IMG_5177Then we toured the new roads, businesses, and residences built recently out north of town, by the new (my term) Walmart. Sidewalks were mentioned, which confused me since from what I could see, sidewalks in this area would be connecting together parking lots. In other words, it seems fine to me for people to walk between various stores, gas stations and restaurants on the pavement that’s there already. Most people need to drive to get out to this area of town anyway, I think. There is a new apartment complex amongst the fields nearby, and it was mentioned that some of these residents would not have cars and therefore we’d want to do the compassionate thing, and help them out by building some. As written in another post, I perhaps see a need for additional sidewalks in Abilene, but I’m thinking these would be most helpful and effective in areas where people already travel on foot or in a wheelchair, for example. I think there might be money for them out here though, and not in these other parts of town. I noticed out in this area that there was no park, but several nice, green fields and wondered about possible green-space plans for the future. I don’t know if that kind of thinking is on the minds of planners for this particular area – but perhaps instead, the focus is on the commercial attractions of many chain stores. This is a legitimate way to develop a city too I think, to provide services and attract business to the area too. I personally don’t prefer a shopping experience that involves big box stores, surrounded by a lot of concrete and asphalt, but I like a good selection of stock as much as the next person.

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