Editor’s Note: While there were many notable events around town this year – charity events, youth events, grand openings and ribbon cuttings for businesses ofa all types, projects of a variety of size and scale taking place, and so much more – this is a list of what we feel are the Top 10 Most Notable Moments from 2013, but we want to extend our appreciation to the community members, outstanding citizens, hard working employees, and all of you who are dedicated to keeping Belton the Gem of Bell County.
Without further ado, this is Part 2:
H-E-B celebrates 50 years in Belton
By Christine Foster
50 years ago, because it was one of the fastest growing counties in Texas, H-E-B moved to its Central Street location in Belton. Having outgrown that area, the store moved to the Main Street location and then two years ago, with Bell County being the second fastest growing county in the state, H-E-B built an H-E-B Plus! store on North Main Street, solidifying its role as one of Belton’s premier retailers.
The H-E-B philosophy began in 1905, when Florence Butt spent $60 to start a grocery store. Butt ran the store until the 1920s when her son Howard took over. But the H-E-B story is not one of new locations and corporate honors, it is the story of the H-E-B people. The people like Fred Williams, a 10-year partner, who was looking for a job after being discharged from the military. As he went from place to place, he never heard a bad word about H-E-B and so he decided that was where he wanted to work, a decision he has never regretted; or Geno Dwinell, manager, who has been with H-E-B for 32 years and feels the same. Blanca Gonzales-Morin, who now works in receiving, has worked in almost every department in the store, including floral. She has 35 years at H-E-B and the distinction of having worked at all three Belton stores. She has fond memories of the friends she has made from each of the stores and recalls the close relationships that developed between the employees and the customers. But the list of long time employees continues to roll on. We have James Woods with 25 years, and Don Chaney who has experienced more than 15 moves during his 32-year tenure.
H-E-B employees are proud of what they have managed to accomplish. Each of these partners has great stories to tell about their wonderful experiences as H-E-B employees. And the length of time they have spent with H-E-B is a testament to the value of their work and dedication.
But H-E-B employees are also proud of where they have brought the company. In 2002, H-E-B was ranked 6th in the nation and 1st in Texas in a Consumer Report readers’ survey based on various fundamental services in the store. They were also ranked 10th in the nation among privately held companies based on $11 billion in annual sales (according to Forbes). These accomplishments are fueled by the energy and customer satisfaction you encounter as you enter the Belton H-E-B. From the baggers and the stockers, everyone works to create the successful bottom line. With more than 340 stores in 155 communities and 76,000 dedicated employees, our H-E-B is part of a family of motivated individuals who give, as you can see, more than 100 percent every day.
Guiding this family is the responsibility of Eric Tovar, the general manager, who has more than doubled the revenue from the old store. Tovar started his H-E-B career 26 years ago as a bagger. He has a strong philosophy about his time with H-E-B, especially his time in Belton.
“It is the right thing for the customer base and product lines to take the best care of the customer in a broader way. It is a multi faceted philosophy that focuses on the customer, the partners and the community of Belton,” Tovar said. “We offer customer experience rather than customer service,” which is the perfect way to describe the attitude of each of the employees you encounter when you walk through the front door.
And as you walk through that automatic door, the fragrance of flowers inundates you, the whiff of bakery products, the visual landscape of the fresh produce and the activity at the Cooking Connection all make this a magical shopping experience; so happy 50th birthday Belton H-E-B! We welcomed you then and our welcome continues to grow!
Patriot Plaza dedicated to past, present, future veterans
By Grayson Edds
The City of Belton and the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce held a ceremony just in time for Veterans Day to commemorate the completion of Patriot Plaza, an enhancement project at the corner of I-35 and Central Avenue in Belton.
As you enter Belton from the interstate and turn on to Central Avenue, a beautiful entryway with an 80’ flagpole, a new welcome sign, and manicured landscape provides travelers with a picturesque glimpse of Downtown Belton as they head into town between the antique-style street lights.
Three years ago, the BACC marked their Veterans Day celebration with the opening of Patriot Way, a pathway of bricks purchased and inscribed with the names of veterans and storyboards to pass along the history of a few important veterans. So far, approximately 500 bricks have been installed.
This year’s celebration marked the completion of the entire project, honoring veterans along the way, and marking the importance of veterans to our community.
The flag was raised by the color guard from the Belton Police Department and the 13th Sustainment Brigade.
“The walk and plaza shows honor to those that have served, are serving and will serve,” said Jay Taggart, BACC Military Relations Committee Chairman. “We hope to honor you in a special way. We dedicate this walk and plaza to you.”
Council approves MLK street renaming
By Grayson Edds
After a lengthy process, Belton City Council held a public hearing and considered a motion on whether or not 9th Avenue from Main Street to Loop 121 was to be renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
The process began when there was no procedure or policy in place to have a street renamed. The City of Belton and the applicant worked through the glitches together, albeit with some frustration.
The road suggested was changed, the policy and application procedures were altered, until, finally, the process was completed from application to City Council approval.
The public hearing heard, once again, from concerned citizens who will struggle from the change. The residents of Chisholm Trail Senior Village are worried about their benefits making the transition, the paperwork involved, the financial risks in case of a glitch or typo.
The City of Belton has tentative plans to ease the transition for the change, not only to assist the residents of Chisholm Trail, but for any resident required to change their address.
“There are a number of us to help you,” said Council member Dan Kirkley. He explained that one possible option could be from those who, like himself, volunteer at local organizations such as Helping Hands Ministry and often help citizens with paperwork in a secure manner to assist the residents. “We do those regularly, and we stand ready to do that.”
The crowd of supporters were exuberant when the council passed the motion unanimously.
In other news, Council received funds from Bell County that’s used for crossing guards. A fee of up to $1.50 for each vehicle registered in Bell County was collected in the amount of $21,556.33, which will be presented to BISD during next week’s school board meeting. Over the life of the Code, more than $231k has been collected to ensure that crossing guards are available to keep local children safe to and from school.
Council heard a status report on the 1894 church, and Council provided the church committee with additional time to make repairs. The committee has made significant progress and has determined the upcoming steps necessary in restoring the building, which includes obtaining bids to have the foundation built, walls repaired and windows replaced. It was discovered that the majority of the floor and ceiling are high quality material and can be restored and salvaged.
Authorization was made for the City to transfer funds to the Employee Benefits Trust in order to meet suggestions made by the state comptroller to keep the funds separate from operational funds.
City Manager Sam Listi was authorized to execute an agreement for the City of Belton to cost share with the City of Temple in a Value Engineering Study for the final design plan for the Temple-Belton Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion project. Belton’s share is 25 percent of the total, or an estimated $18.5m. A phased approach will be taken which will gradually add capacity to the plant over the next 17 years.
The last two items on the agenda pertained to the Nolan Creek Hike and Bike Trail: the necessary change order, which was discussed in the prior City Council meeting, and was approved; and the authorization for Listi to execute an advance funding agreement with Texas Department of Transportation for a Transportation Enhancement Grant, which requires the City to pay a little more than $300k of the $1.5m required for the project.
City Clerk to retire after 22 years of service
By David Tuma
Connie Torres, Belton’s City Clerk is retiring this month. Torres has worked for the City of Belton since 1991. “Belton had an opening and I was the assistant City Secretary for Killeen.
“Over the years it has been pleasant to work with so many wonderful council members, city staff and citizens. Belton has a hometown feel to it,” said Torres. She was in the military and after six years of service got out and stayed in the area.
There will be a retirement reception Nov. 25 starting at 4 p.m. at the Harris Community Center.
“It has been my honor and privilege to work side-by-side with Connie Torres for just 12 of her 22 years of service with the City of Belton,” said City Manager Sam Listi. “She has been an outstanding professional leading the City Clerk’s office. The City’s population has almost doubled since she began her career in 1991, growing from 12,476 to over 20,000. She has conducted numerous elections, served a long list of Mayors and Council members, and worked with two City Managers – Jeff Holberg who hired her, and me. Connie has been at the center of the action in Belton municipal government for over two decades. Her organizational skills, her commitment to excellence, and her dedication to this community inspire imitation. I wish Connie the best of luck in her new career and Godspeed. I will probably be calling her at BISD to locate a file or two.”
Over the years, Torres has watched Belton become the premier place to live in Bell County.
“The growth and the way Belton has evolved to the premier place to live has been wonderful to be a part of. Belton has a lot going for it and it looks great. I love to talk to people who haven’t been to Belton in awhile and how shocked they are at all the improvements. It is very satisfying,” said Torres.
She will begin working for the Belton Independent School District as an executive assistant to Dr. Kincannon.
Bell County District Clerk retires
Special to the Journal
After 35 years of service to the citizens of Bell County, District Clerk, Shelia Norman announced that she will not seek re-election in 2014. The announcement indicates an end to Norman’s 5 terms as District Clerk. Norman was elected in 1994. Prior to being elected, she worked in the Bell County Attorney’s Office, as the office manager of the Hot Check Department.
“I have always considered it an honor and privilege to serve the citizens and courts of Bell County. I have done my best to serve with honesty, integrity, and Christian ethics.” Norman stated.
During her tenure, she has seen the County offices advance from typewriters to computers to cyberspace technology. Norman brought new commitments and new technology to the District Clerk’s Office. She oversees the safekeeping of more than 350,000 district court civil, family and felony records, dating back to 1852. She has carried out the financial responsibility of maintaining approximately $4 million in court cost; minors trust accounts and juror payments annually.
“The staff of 28 is very talented and dedicated employees who have served the courts and citizens of Bell County. I am very grateful for their service and it has been an honor and privilege to work by their side throughout the years.” Norman stated.
Regularly and willingly Norman has supported the community by volunteering her time to civic and charitable organizations, including board positions on the Texas District Courts Alliance and the Texas County and District Clerk Association.
Norman stated: “I am the luckiest person on Earth. Every day, I have gone to a job I dearly love.”