Denison's 2019 drew to a close with a fire that rocked the historic downtown district while leaving many homes and businesses displaced in the process. It was a year of struggles and controversies for the city with a few triumphs along the way.

The Main Street Fire

The fire was the big focus for the final three months of the year from the day it struck to the two months it took to clean the ruble out to make room for the next phase. Citizens immediately answered the call with a number of neighboring agencies sending help right away to get the fire on Oct. 9 contained.

Later that night another home was lost to a fire that also displaced another Denison-area family.

Residents went into swift action setting up a number of fund raisers and donation centers to assist those who were displaced by the fire. The city declared a state of emergency, and everal businesses were temporarily relocated or lost to the fire. Others nearby suffered smoke and water damage, including a dance studio that was preparing for its winter recital.

As of December 16 the lots were cleared leaving behind an empty space that once housed a nail salon, a business studio, an art gallery and several houses and more.

The fire itself came days after the city broke ground on what was to be the first new building constructed on the street in decades. Now the city has three more buildings added to that list of new construction.

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The homeless struggle

Beginning in the spring, the city began cracking down and worked to disperse congregations of homeless individuals that had been gathering in the city. A community action team was organized, and Homeless Empowerment Action Team, made up of members from several area churches, began looking for new ways to help the homeless in the city who were falling through the cracks of other programs.

The situation came to a head when the City Council issued a number of guidelines on how it wished to address the situation moving forward. City officials soundly rejected HEAT's call for a central hub location to offer temporary housing for the homeless stating the city would not be allocating tax dollars to address the issue nor did it favor additional non profits, focusing on homeless resources, coming to the area either.

Following the city's meeting, HEAT officials turned elsewhere to seek other solutions that have yet to develop.

Fire department woes

The Denison Fire Rescue staffing levels reached a critical low early in the year prompting chief Gregg Loyd to request the City Council hire a private firm to outsource the city's emergency services to alleviate some of the problem.

Following a vocal backlash from the public, the city decided not to move forward with that plan. However, it did authorize a temporary contract with LifeNet Inc. to provide EMS services for the city while it fast tracks the training of new hires in a condensed program.

The City Council addressed some of the underlying issues by increasing the pay level of fire fighters on the payroll, as well as, authorizing an increase in the contribution to the firefighters retirement funds.

New dining and entertainment options

HeyDay Entertainment brought a new entertainment venue complete with bowling alley, video arcade and laser tag while The Trail Yard Incubator brought the city's first experimental restaurant hub to downtown Denison just in time for the December shopping season.

Domino's Pizza brought a modern restaurant to the historic district with a retro flair reminiscently of the historic culture downtown Denison strives to protect.

More new dining and entertainment options are expected to come to Denisoni n 2020.

Rental Inspections prompt public response

The city stirred some controversy during its budget process when city staff proposed implementing a new rental unit inspection program that would allow the city to register and inspect all housing units used for rentals in the city.

The proposal struck a nerve with the public prompting swift backlash.

The city responded by holding a town hall to receive input from the public in June at which time city hall was packed with people sharing their comments on the proposal. Since then, the city has formed a joint city-citizen stakeholders task force that has been communicating ideas about issues and concerns.

A new police chief brings changes

Denison Police Department saw the arrival of new chief Mike Gudgel in July.

Shortly after the new chief was faced with his first challenge as the department was brought under scrutiny due to a police training video along with some questionable social media posts that were dug up by The Plain View Project. The national project focused on social media posts made by officers and materials that could seen as questionable.

Since that time, Gudgel has made his intentions of reforming the department's pubic image known as he often hands out recognitions at City Council meetings.

Most recently one of the department's own, Detective Kyle Mackay was named Denison's employee of the year.

Automated trash becomes talk of the town

The city made waves when it moved to an automated trash pickup service earlier in the year.

The city's marketing team when into overdrive as they began pushing out information on the city's website, social media and other venues to the point it earned the city the 2019 Municipal Excellence Award for those efforts.

Since then the city has made adjustments to the service plans in response to community feedback as the program continues. The city also revamped it recycling efforts along the way.

Looking to the future

The city ended the year with a number of long term projects either bearing fruit or gearing up.

Voters in the Denison Independent School District passed a $20.8 million bond to expand two of its crowded elementary campuses. The long awaited Katy Trail began construction recently. The city has finalized all the steps to begin the long discussed Designing Downtown Denison city scape project that will begin early next year.

Looking to the future Urban Air is another entertainment venue set to accompany HeyDay at Gateway Village, itself a site with much activity brewing. There are new bars and breweries seeking to come to the city and a recent overhaul in the city's planning and zoning regulations opened the door for more modern travel centers as well as other innovative business ventures.

The city went through some struggles in 2019 with some projects on the horizon to look forward to.