State of the City: Water, school improvement, employee retention among items discussed

Abilene and Taylor County leaders address the State of the City

ABILENE, Texas - Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald stressed the importance of monitoring water use and drought management for 2014 as part of his annual State of the City address Tuesday.

Archibald revealed his plan to ensure the city isn't hit hard by the lack of water.

Meanwhile, Abilene ISD Superintendent Heath Burns focused on his plans for the voter-approved $80 million bond aimed at improving the district's schools. Voters passed AISD's bond package last year.

In addition, Taylor County Judge Downing Bolls focused on his plan to retain employees and touched on the biggest problem facing the county - the erosion of revenue.

The event was held at the Abilene Civic Center.

During the event, Archibald expressed his excitement over the expansion of Abilene's Five Points Business Park – and with businesses like CarbonLite and Tucker Energy moving into Five Points, he said he's hoping for expansion.

"One of the best things that could happen for us is that we would have to go out and find a new business park to add businesses to our city," Archibald said.

Also Tuesday, Archibald revealed his plan for drought management, noting he favors directing advanced treated wastewater into Fort Phantom Hill, pumping water from Lake Kirby to Cedar Creek and improving the city's water treatment plants.

Burns addressed plans to reopen elementary schools, increase safety and security in existing schools and upgrade classroom technology using the funds from last year's bond.

"We have work to do, but we also have work to do in continuing to regain consumer confidence and consumer trust, and we're very much I believe heading in the right direction," Burns said.

Another topic that was heavily discussed was Boll's plan to increase Taylor County employee retention.

"Last year we did the first part of that. We brought up the employees that were making below 15 percent of this [county employee] average. We brought them up to 15 percent," Bolls said. "This year, we will take a look at bringing them up to 10 percent."

He said he doesn't want employees to have to use the very resources – such as welfare – that they offer residents in need.

Bolls also touched on the importance of the Taylor County Expo Center.

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