Improvements to zoo, sidewalks, civic center pitched to Abilene panel

Abilene Bond Advisory Committee talks sidewalks, zoo, and downtown improvements

ABILENE, Texas - Major projects pitched to the city's bond advisory committee on Wednesday included new exhibits at the Abilene Zoo and improvements to city sidewalks, the zoo and the civic center.

Potential funding of tornado sirens – at a cost of $785,000 – was also discussed during the meeting.

The advisory committee won't decide what projects will be included in a bond package set to go to voters as early as May 2015. The panel will create a list of top projects and then forward the suggestions to the Abilene City Council for consideration.

Council members will decide which of the top projects end up on the ballot.

The city's Planning and Development Services Department proposed sidewalk improvements that would help make Abilene more "walkable."

Officials hope to be able to construct two miles of sidewalk per year for six years – that would cost $3.1 million.

Jon James, the city's director of planning and development services, believes roads are for more than just cars.

"There is a movement around the country to ensure that as streets are built and improved that they are built for all users not just cars," James said.

James also wants to improve South 1st Street and make it safer for pedestrians.

"We will build a sidewalk on the south side of the street to make that area safer for pedestrians," James said.

According to the Bond Advisory Committee Chairman Stormy Higgins, the community seems to be behind the idea of sidewalk improvements more than ever before.

"I think in general the community is wanting more sidewalks than we have in the past," Higgins said.

Gino Sigler, a member of the community, thinks that more sidewalks will also benefit resident's health.

"It would improve the town a bit," Sigler said. "People would go out more, exercise more and enjoy the weather more."

Meanwhile, Higgins said he believes the earliest these proposals, if chosen, will be on the ballot will be May of 2015, and then Abilene residents will be able to vote on the proposals.

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