Denton Mayor Gerard Hudspeth and city Human Resources Manager Tiffany Thompson hosted a virtual State of the City address on Thursday night, highlighting the city’s achievements from the past year and announcing future initiatives.
Hudspeth opened the meeting with a video reviewing the city’s success from 2020, parts of which commended city staff, first responders and citizens for their efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s really not over at this point,” City Manager Todd Hileman said. “But on behalf of our city staff, we’re here to support you.”
Hudspeth said the city is doing well financially but is “not without its challenges and tough decisions.” He spoke briefly on his hopes to supply internships and full-time positions for the many university students in Denton, both during their studies and after graduation.
“We’re looking for graduates to work here, raise a family here and experience the same Denton culture that we have been able to experience,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth also gave an update on the homeless shelter and resource center located at 909 N. Loop 288. The city has completed the property purchase and asbestos abatement and is now moving into the design and construction phases. The mayor timed the facility’s opening “within the year, hopefully” with the “worst case” being the beginning of 2022.
“We’re not sure what it’s going to look like yet,” Hudspeth said. “We want people to get back to housing, get back to work, and this facility will help us do that.”
The building will function not only as a source of housing but also as an all-in-one resource center for those it serves. Possible amenities include a library, storage space for residents’ possessions and an office to assist with efforts to secure employment.
“I’m hoping it will have every service people will need in one location,” Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth noted that infrastructure will once again be a main focus for the city this year. Construction stemming from Denton’s 2012 and 2014 bond programs are to be wrapped up and Hudspeth hopes to start and finish the 2019 program’s projects within 5 years. These scheduled infrastructure developments include more sidewalks, updated roads including an expansion of Loop 288 and new bicycle paths.
During the address’s Q&A section, Hudspeth touched on the city’s role in administering COVID-19 vaccinations. When asked if Denton would have mandatory vaccinations, he noted that such a mandate lies not within the city’s power but the state’s. Hudspeth has not heard talk of a state vaccine mandate, which health policy expert Merrill Matthews told CBS was “highly unlikely.”
“We’re taking guidance from Denton County Health and trying to follow their lead,” Hudspeth said. “From a city perspective, we just try to disseminate information from our partners to the public. Our role is one of advocacy.”
While some city recreation centers have reopened, there is no solid timeline of when all in-person events and services will return. Hudspeth said that these city functions “will be back as quickly as possible” while focusing on safety and the health of citizens first.
Courtesy City of Denton