The Belton Journal

As the spring continued, Belton saw the effects of continued growth and business expansion. Facility projects in Belton ISD, funded by a May 2022 bond, took another step forward when in April, the Board of
Trustees approved guaranteed maximum prices for the first phases of the renovations and additions. Three projects were underway to address growth and equitable facilities across the district — an addition to Southwest Elementary, a Fine Arts expansion at Lake Belton Middle School and additions and renovations at Belton High School. Trustees also approved a GMP of $3,552,863 for site work and long-lead items for the Fine Arts expansion at LBMS. For the additions and renovations at BHS, trustees approved a GMP of $12,423,229 for site work and long-lead items.

In downtown Belton, the Railway Express Diner, owned by Christi Williams, began serving up meals at the MK&T Depot. With her father being a former employee of the Santa Fe Railway and wanting to remember her father, Williams began the business with her husband. Her father had worked for the railway for 27 years before he passed. She was approached around the anniversary of his death about opening the diner, which gave her even more of a nudge to open. Some of the community menu favorites are the Chicken-Fried Steak, Twisted Chicken-Fried Steak, and the Hobo Burger. Their specialty item, also named after Williams’ father, is the Fuel Mans Favorite.

The Leadership Belton Class of 2023 organized a successful 5K Run “Chase Your Future” on Saturday, April 22nd. The purpose of the run was to connect students and the community at large with local employers. Leadership Belton is a 10-month program sponsored by the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce focusing on three key elements: community awareness training, leadership training, and team building.

More than 60 runners of all ages participated in the 5K Run. The Bell County Sheriff Department, Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, Crunch Fitness, Coryell Health, and 9 Round Gym also came and showed their support, making it a community-wide event. Over $500 was raised, which will go to the Belton Area Chamber Scholarship fund benefiting local students.

Owens Corning presented Tanner Roofing, Inc., with the prestigious 2023 Product Excellence Award at the 2023 Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Conference. The locally owned company installs residential and commercial roofs, including shingles, TPO, metal, and coatings. The Belton company owned by Eddy and Gwen Tanner, established in 1956, stands firm on their core values: Integrity, Honesty, Community, Faith, and Family.

Results from the May 6 election showed that the Belton Independent School District board of trustees filled two at large positions on the board. Incumbent Janet Leigh was reelected, and the new at-large board member is Rucker Preston. For the Belton City Council, candidates for Places 1 and 2 ran unopposed, and the City of Belton canceled its election. Belton resident Dave Covington, 37, filed for Place 2, currently held by Dan Kirkley, who did not run again. Place 1 incumbent John R. Holmes Sr. is reelected to Place 1.

In May, the Bell County Commissioners Court considered the inclusion of June 19, National Independence Day, as an authorized county holiday. After discussion, the court voted to recognize Juneteenth as part of the 2023 Fiscal Year. This decision marks the first time in decades that a holiday has been added to the county calendar in the middle of a fiscal year.

The Bell County Health District issued an announcement that although the COVID-19 National and Public Health Emergency (PHE) declarations ended on May 11, 2023, it does not mean that COVID-19 is gone, but it does mean that some resources and services that were expanded or put into place during the pandemic response are ending.

For the first time, Texas State Technical College awarded six $10,000 scholarships to students for competition excellence in selected contests at the 2023 SkillsUSA Texas Leadership and Skills Conference in Corpus Christi. Among them were Belton High School students Chad Robertson (Carpentry) and Nathaniel Hernandez (Plumbing).

A ceremony was held at Chisholm Trail Park in Belton to dedicate a tree in honor of the 2022 Beltonian and Citizen of the Year award recipients. This award is presented annually by the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2022, Don Al Ringler received this prestigious award for his unwavering commitment to the community, particularly his youth programs and charitable donations.

DeShon Williams, a Navy Veteran, has been recognized as the 2022 Citizen of the Year for her outstanding volunteer service as a dedicated leader in the community. She transitioned from the Navy as a firefighter and located in Belton in 2016. A longtime service club in Belton closed on May 31, 2023.

Rhonda Hershey, President of the Kiwanis Club of Belton, announced that the club had struggled to gain new members and the club’s numbers had dwindled. The club’s multiple projects included partnering with Project Apple Tree, Project Angel Tree, and various other ministries of Helping Hands, as well as Christmas on the Farm and other Aware Central Texas projects. Likewise received a Kiwanis International grant to equip a science lab at a remote school in India. Locally, Kiwanis of Belton sponsored Service Leadership Programs in elementary, middle schools, high schools, and colleges, with two elementary, one middle school, two high schools and one college program. Best known for its annual Turtle Festival, the club provided a day of fun at Yettie Polk Park with free activities, entertainment from various community and school groups, food vendors, and more. The day also included 2,000 rubber turtles dumped into Nolan Creek, which then “raced” to the finish line. Prior to the race, the numbered turtles were “adopted” by individuals and the adopter of the fastest turtle received a prize of $1,000.

Belton celebrated its annual 4th of July festivities with the annual street dance, patriotic ceremonies and the parade. The Belton City Council approved a zoning change from Agriculture to Single Family-1 Residential on 136.8-acre tract in the James Bennett Survey, Abstract No. 71 east of the River Place Subdivision and west of North Main Street. A subdivision plat meeting the subdivision ordinance is required and will be presented to the Council at a future later date.

The property is within the City of Belton Water Certificate of Convenience. There are water lines available to the west and south of the property. The property is within the City of Belton Sewer CCN. There are currently no sewer lines available in this area. A sewer line extension will be determined during the plat process. The area changed from agriculture to single-family family was annexed back in 2006. Parts of this property connect with Red River and River Place Estates Subdivisions.

The former historic Grand Opera building located at 100 Water Street, in the Downtown Belton Commercial Historic District was likewise approved for a Facade Improvement Grant (FIG) by the Belton City Council. The request will help fund replacing existing windows and install previously infilled windows with the exact replacement size.

The architecture maintains a Romanesque Revival stylistic influence. According to a survey, the building was built in 1895 with a limestone exterior and remodeled in 1930 with an arched window opening and fanlight over doors are decorative features. The applicant plans to provide leasable retail and restaurant spaces. Exterior renovations include north facing facade- Water St; West facing facade – N. Main Street; South facing facade-alley. The total cost for the facade project is estimated at $213,000.

The applicant requested the maximum matching grant of $40,000 for two store fronts with three visible facades. Budget funding of $90,000 was included in the TIRZ FY 2023 budget for FIG projects. A zoning request to change approximately 5.78 acres of property on Taylors Valley Road, east of Hubbard Lane and west of the Leon River, from Agricultural to Heavy Industrial, was approved by the council.

The applicant proposes zoning for Heavy Industrial for a concrete batch plant. The applicant recently requested a release from the City of Temple’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and voluntary annexation into Belton. Temple approved the release of the property from their ETJ. A preliminary plat was approved for the Taylor Valley Addition, comprising 43.07 acres located at 2792 Taylors Valley Rd. Texcon Lane has a proposed right-of-way and will have pavement with a curb and gutter. An alternative route for the Georgetown Railroad Hike and Bike Trail is included in the preliminary plat.

The proposed trail will begin at the intersection of Taylors Valley Road and extend through the property to the Leon River. The route may extend across the Leon River into the City of Temple.

The Temple Children’s Museum was awarded a $50,000 grant from Meta to expand STEM exhibits and programs to meet the demands of a growing visitor base. TCM served over 1,500 visitors during June 2023. The expanded exhibits include but are not limited to, an Earth Science exhibit including live bugs and reptiles and a Communications exhibit. Funds were also awarded to expand programming to include monthly camps, discounted military ticket prices, broaden access for low-income families and new visitor reservation software. The TCM has already begun work on these enhancements. The TCM and Meta held an open house for the Earth Science exhibit in September.

Belton resident and the namesake for one of Belton ISD’s campuses, Henry Waskow, was honored in September with Henry T. Waskow Day. The event took place during an assembly made possible by the Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation. Pyle, a national correspondent during World War II, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1944 after telling the stories of the adventures of regular American soldiers serving in North Africa and Europe. His most famous story was titled The Death of Captain Waskow. Waskow, the namesake of New Tech High School, had several family members on hand for the ceremony, as did Pyle. The official designation of Captain Henry T. Waskow Day (Sep. 22, 2023) was presented by Belton Mayor David K. Leigh in some brief remarks and the reading of a proclamation. In addition to the Belton proclamation, Leigh shared a proclamation from the Texas Senate that designated Sep. 22, 2023 as Captain Henry T. Waskow Day for all of Texas.

Another short history lesson was told by Randy Pittenger, president of the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce. He explained that former Belton ISD Deputy Superintendent and current Belton City Councilmember Wayne Carpenter walked into meeting years ago and said, “it’s time to name a school after Captain Henry T. Waskow.” Of course, a school was later named for Waskow. Carpenter was also one of the attendees on Friday.

Texas Representative Hugh Shine also spoke and said Waskow gained the respect and admiration of his soldiers because he was dignified and full of integrity. Current Belton ISD Superintendent Matt Smith called Waskow a “true hero to our community.” In addition to the students in attendance, seven soldiers from Fort Cavazos in full uniform sat near the front of the auditorium.

The Belton area Chamber of Commerce announced the hiring of a new staff member, with Tracy Conoley joining the team as of Monday, Oct 2. Conoley was the chamber’s 2019 Ambassador of the Year, and is also a graduate of Leadership Belton, Class of 2019. Tracy’s focus will be member services. Conoley graduated from Belton High School in 2008 and worked in a variety of customer services positions and marketing.

The Belton Economic Development Corporation received approval from the Belton City Council to enter into an agreement for the possible purchase of 8.78 acres from B&D Mays Limited Partnership with an additional 1.29 acres to be conveyed at a later date by the City of Belton.

The property is located on 6th Avenue and Birdwell Street. The northern property on 6th Avenue was previously owned by the Belton Independent School District and acquired by B&D Mays. The site contains an old rail line owned by BNSF which borders the property. The property is zoned Retail along 6th Avenue and Light Industrial along the southern side of the property.

The sale does not include the home offices of Indeco Sales, a manufacturing company producing office and school equipment. The tract of land along 6th Avenue is prime real estate in an area that is rapidly filling up all available buildings.

The purchase price for the 8.78 acres is $1,147,218. BEDC will pay $105,620 for BEDC’s interest in the railroad segment which is 56,200 square feet. BEDC put up $10,000 in earnest money and will have a 90-day option period. During this 90-day time, BEDC will determine the feasibility of the property and basically do a site evaluation and environmental study. Traditional Industrial out of Dallas purchased 19 acres in the Belton Industrial Park and added another 8.56 acres outside of the park for the development of four office buildings. The four buildings will add 344,000 square feet of office space in the park. These buildings are to be listed as Class A commercial real estate. There are some possible divisions of the buildings for tenants on a moderate scale. The investment in the community is estimated to be $30 million range.

Margaret Chadwick, the visionary and Founder of Eldred’s Nursery in Belton, saw her day-one dream come true when the nursery held its Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting ceremony, culminating Chadwick’s vision to create a training site for individuals with learning disabilities and impairments, helping them to transition into the workforce.

On January 1, 2017, Eldred’s Nursery Foundation was formed by Margaret and Robert Chadwick. The Foundation began selling trees, shrubs, plants, and flowers as a non-profit job training facility for persons with disabilities. After successfully operating the nursery for six years, it now boasts its own restroom facilities and a reliable water supply from Hill Country. With two restrooms, the space can accommodate individuals with lower functioning abilities, ensuring everyone working on the nursery side has access to water. Thanks to anonymous donations received two years ago, the foundation was able to acquire a cottage and a house on the same land, further expanding their services.

The end of 2023 saw the closing of a longtime downtown business in Belton, Perry Office Plus. The company’s owners announced in the fall that their downtown Belton retail location at 214 East Central Avenue would be closing permanently at the end of 2023. Owners Lynnsay and H.B. Macey cite growth in other areas of the Temple-based company as the reason for the change. “We’ve made several acquisitions and expanded our product lines over the last decade to support our customers’ changing needs,” said Mr. Macey. “We’ve made the difficult decision to close our Belton store in order to re-direct resources toward areas where we are experiencing the most growth and demand.”

Since 2019, the company has made four acquisitions of area office products and furniture distributors from Waco to Austin, growing both their product offering and customer base. Perry Office Plus has operated the downtown Belton location since the 1970s when it was a branch of American Printing, owned by J.W. Perry. The company became Perry Office Products in the 1980s and was sold to Debbie & Harry Macey in the 90s and shortly thereafter the name changed to Perry Office Plus to reflect the extended product offerings beyond office supplies. The Maceys sold the company to their son and daughter-in-law when they retired at the end of 2021.

Many Belton residents are likely familiar with the Perry store because of its annual pre-packaged school supplies service that has been in place for decades. Fortunately, the Belton community has programs in place to support local families, from Belton ISD offering parents the option to pre-purchase students’ supplies each spring for the next school year, to Helping Hands Ministry’s need based Apple Tree program that helps families get free school supplies. Pizazz Gifts & Décor, which was also housed in the Belton store, closed as well. While copy and fax services are no longer available now that the store has closed, Perry accountholders are still able to place custom printing orders for delivery, including print-and-bind projects, business cards and stationery, custom stamps and nameplates, and branded promotional products and apparel. The Maceys and Perry Office Plus thanked the Belton community for their patronage over the years and look forward to continuing to reciprocate this support and serve their customers long into the future.