Salado certainly saw its share of tragedy and celebration in 2015.
First, let’s start with the celebration, marked each year by the Salado Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet. Tommye Prater was named the Citizen of the Year for 2014 at the Chamber’s Jan. 8 banquet held at Tenroc Ranch. Century 21 Bill Bartlett was named the 2014 Business of the Year along with the service of commercial bus for sale. Tim Brown’s name was added to the Chamber Hall of Fame. Paulette Chandler was named the Volunteer of the Year. Dave Hermann awarded Dave and Pat Broecker with the Chairman’s Award.
The 2015 award winners will be announced at the Jan. 28 Banquet at Tenroc Ranch. For ticket reservations, call the Chamber and Tourism Bureau at 254-947-5040.
Debbie Charbonneau announced her retirement from the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau in mid-year. She went on to work for the City of Temple and is now the Downtown Development Coordinator for the Temple Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Village of Salado hired Mary Poché as executive director of the Chamber and Tourism Bureau, beginning work in November. Erin Klingemann began work for the Bureau in late December as the Marketing and Events Manager. Paulette Chandler will be part-time at the office in an administrative role.
The Village of Salado began negotiations with The Sanctuary developers and Mayor Skip Blancett signed a series of agreements with property owner Billie Hanks, Jr. on Nov. 25. The agreements include the gift of six acres of land for the placement of a sewage treatment plant and a discharge permit from the state for treated wastewater, as well as annexation of the entire property by the Village, economic incentives for developers and property owners that include property tax rebates, hotel motel occupancy tax rebates and the use of up to 200,000 gallons of treated effluent per day for a period of 15 years by the developers.
Getting to a signature on the dotted line was no easy feat. During the year-long negotiations, the Village considered a study of the cost and benefits of tying in to the city of Belton, which is extending its line south along I-35.
The Village ordered the study by Kasberg Patrick Associates to begin in March. The KPA report came back with a cost of tying in to the Belton system that aldermen felt was higher than the cost of the Village building its own system. When the Village began to consider the Belton alternative, Sanctuary developers supported the possibility in March.
Throughout the spring and summer, Village officials and Sanctuary CEO Robert Sulaski continued to meet in discussions of tying the Sanctuary on to the Village wastewater system in return for the donation of land and discharge permit. Aldermen voted on April 23 following an executive session to re-enter negotiations with Sanctuary after they had voted at a meeting in March to break off negotiations. The two entities signed a Letter of Intent in April. The Board of Aldermen also approved an Economic Development policy in June as well.
The BOA learned in late June that it qualified for a $1 million economic development grant from the U.S. Commerce Department to aid in the construction of a sewer system for the downtown business district. In early July, cost estimates for the construction of the sewer system topped $10.8 million. At an early morning meeting on July 27, aldermen approved the sale of $8.18 million in bonds for the design and construction of the sewer system.
The BOA directed staff on Sept. 3 to begin drafting the boundaries of a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) and directed the Village Administrator to “contact a professional to pursue a contract for property within the specifications by the Village’s wastewater engineering firm for the purpose of acquiring a wastewater treatment plant site, such recommendations for acquisition of a specific site to be brought forth to the BOA as soon as practically possible. The property should be no less than 8 acres.”
At the same meeting, aldermen voted 4-1 to amend the Wastewater Services Agreement and Donation Agreement that were signed by Billie Hanks, Jr. Sept. 2 in several ways, both minor and major in nature. Coachman gave the motion, which had 13 parts to it, including strict deadlines, and which received a second from Michael McDougal. Coachman, McDougal, Fred Brown and David Williams voted for the motion. Amber Preston-Dankert voted against.
Aldermen voted 4-1 on Oct. 1 to indefinitely postpone talks with Sanctuary. The indefinite postponement of negotiations ended on Nov. 3 when aldermen met in executive session with city attorney Alan Bojorquez and Jim Reed, executive director of Central Texas Council of Governments to discuss the latest developments with Sanctuary. Aldermen met in special session Nov. 5 and rescinded the postponement of negotiations.
Finally, after an executive session of more than two hours on Nov. 19, aldermen approved four agreements with Sanctuary developers and property owners. There was no discussion of the agreements in the open session portion of the meeting. Amber Preston-Dankert voted against each of the four motions on Nov. 19.
The Sanctuary agreements were signed on Nov. 25 by Mayor Blancett and property owner Billie Hanks, Jr.
While Sanctuary and sewer seemed to dominate headlines in 2015, I-35 construction and its ongoing delays also had its place in the news.
In February, Salado residents were shocked when they were told by TXDOT officials that the expansion of I-35 through Salado would not be complete until August 2016, more than a year and three months after the three-year contract date with James Construction.
Salado aldermen, Salado Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Salado citizens began a furious letter-writing campaign to state and federal elected officials.
Gen. Joe Weber, executive director of TxDOT, came to Salado in June and met with local government officials and business owners and told them that the August deadline was not acceptable.
He told James Construction employees that “you’re killing this town.” At the June meeting, Weber asked if the project could be substantially completed by the end of 2015 with the proper change orders put in place to prioritize the project.
That assurance was passed on to local officials, who learned later in the year, that a gag order had been in place on James Construction and TXDOT concerning the new estimated date of completion.
In the second town hall meeting of the year with TXDOT Saladoans then learned that the estimated “substantial” completion date for the project is now May 2016.
The new timeline for the project calls for the access road south of Thomas Arnold to be opened no later than the end of February 2016, which is nine months after flood waters damaged the asphalt of the southbound access road bridge. TXDOT closed the road until the new access road bridge is completed, stating that closure of the road rather than repair would allow James Construction work crews to expedite the construction of mainlanes and the southbound access road and bridge.
The new timeline calls for the construction of the Salado Plaza Dr. to Williams Rd. underpass to be completed by March 11, 2016. The opening of the mainlanes of I-35 over Salado Plaza Dr. will be on May 9, according to James Construction President Mike Kilgore.
The reaction of most residents and business owners attending the town hall meeting with James Construction and TXDOT officials earlier this fall was far from positive.
Following a year in which the overpass bridge beams at FM 2484 were hit by a trailer on March 26, the crossunder at the north end of Main St. has been closed since July and the southbound access road south of Thomas Arnold has been closed since May 25, Salado residents and business owners have resolved themselves into the attitude that “It will be done when it is finally done.”
By the way, no charges have been filed in the March 26 accident involving a semi truck and the girders of the FM 2484 overpass bridge.
Despite the highway construction and its woes, Salado was featured in February’s edition of Texas Highways as a haven for new artists. A few months later, the Village made state press again when Texas Monthly ran an article about the construction entitled “The Road Construction Goes on Forever and the Misery Never Ends.”
Road construction was completed by the Village in fairly quick form by Wheeler Coatings when Salado Plaza Dr. and Mill Creek Dr. were completely resurfaced this summer, despite heavy rains.
The Village learned this month that it has qualified for a $300,000 federal transportation grant for the beginning of a trails system that will connect Salado College Hill park to the creek in a looping walk and bike trail. The grant calls for a 20 percent local match. Construction is expected to begin on the trail in late 2016.
The Village has also applied to TXDOT for an expansion of Main Street to include sidewalks and bike trails within the 100 foot wide right of way of the state. No word yet on the success of this application request. TXDOT has committed to resurfacing Main Street when the I-35 expansion is complete.
In other news, Salado ISD and the Village entered into negotiations to annex the school properties on Thomas Arnold Road into the Village.
The school district also learned this fall that it will remain in 4A UIL Competition when the realignment is announced in February 2016. This announcement caused some controversy among parents concerning the number of transfer students in the school district. SISD held an informational meeting on the transfer policy and will conduct a second meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 5 at the Intermediate School about the transfer policy.
The district also formed a community strategic planning committee this year to consider the facility needs of the schools. A report is expected in 2016 from this committee.
Salado High also hired a new athletic director in February, Marvin Rainwater. In November, the district announced that Head Football Coach Brent Graham will resign his position at the end of the year. The district is currently taking applications for the position.
Graham was 2-29 in three years as Salado Eagles football coach. The Eagles finished the season with a 1-10 record, making the playoffs as the fourth place team in a five-team district.
It was an historic year for the Salado Lady Eagles soccer team, which won district and lost 4-2 in the Regional finals to Boerne. The girls ended their season at 25-2 on the year and return all starters except China Saxton who graduated in the spring. The Eagles soccer team ended their season with a 10-12, 2-4 record, losing in the Area round of the playoffs to Bandera.
Jacob Quick and Averi Fischer qualified for the spring State Track Meet.
Jacob Wolf threw a no-hitter for the Salado Eagles baseball team. The Eagles finished the baseball season with a 20-7 record and a District Championship losing in the first round to Navarro.
Salado Lady Eagles were the fourth place team in district and fell to La Vernia in the first round of the softball playoffs.
The Salado UIL Academic Team took third place in State and the One Act Play was the runner up in State.
Cross country sent one competitor to the state meet: Preston Kimbrough.
Salado Lady Eagles varsity volleyball team finished the season with a playoff loss to LaVernia on Nov. 2. The Lady Eagles were the second place team in District 25-4A behind Liberty Hill.
Salado FFA sent two teams to the State Contest:
Salado FFA Wool Team qualified for state, placing fifth in the Area. Nursery Landscape qualified for state placing second in Area.
SISD Finance Director Lyndal Cabaniss retired after more than 30 years in Salado schools. A reception is planned for early 2016, but no date has been set yet.
The faith community felt growth in 2015 as St. Stephen Catholic Church opened its new sanctuary this fall.
Salado Methodists welcomed the birth of Pastor Lara Whitley-Franklin and former pastor Travis Franklin’s baby daughter Erin this fall.
3C Cowboy Fellowship celebrated its ninth anniversary this year and will open its new sanctuary in January 2016.
The year was one of change and growth for Salado businesses as well. In addition to the ribbon cuttings of new business highlighted in the B section of this edition, Salado saw some other new business move into town, others relocated and some expanded.
Among those are the following:
Jon and Rachel Moore opened Chupacabra Craft Beer in March at Cornett Corner. The craft beer complements Salado Lone Star Winery next door which features 12 dozen wines from around the world.
The Red Cactus opened its doors for business in 2015 on Rock Creek Dr.
Lively Coffeehouse and Bistro also opened for business in Salado Square in 2015.
ERA Colonial Real Estate opened a branch office in Salado in 2015.
Snickelbritches opened in late 2016 at Cornett Corner.
Salado Presence moved and reopened as The Nest on Rock Creek in the location that Charlotte’s occupied for so many years.
Gallerie V opened in December at The Venue on Rock Creek.
Also moving in 2015 was Angelic Herbs from Main and Pace Park to the Stagestop Center across from the Salado Civic Center. Angelic Herbs and C.J. Harbuz have been in Salado for two decades.
A ladies consignment shop is expected to open in the Main St. and Pace Park location early in 2016.
The Feathered Nest opened for business this fall at #1 Royal. Rosanky’s continues to operate in the Grace Jones building there at the corner of Main and Royal.
Salado Mercantile has new ownership in 2015: Jan Addair and Katie Naser.
The Mix on Main moved up Main Street to join the vendors at The Shoppes on Main.
Passport to Paradise marked its opening with a ribbon cutting in 2015.
Dee’s Antiques opened this year on N. Main St.
Upscale Consignment moved from N. Main St. to a new location in Old Town Salado and operates under a new name: Creekside Quality Used Furniture.
Raney and Associates purchased the old Post Office on South Main (formerly Wells Gallery) and will open in early 2016.
Salado Village Voice began to offer an online electronic edition of the newspaper in 2015.
The Range at the Barton House began serving lunch on Fridays and Saturdays this fall.
Graydon and KD Hill purchased the old Guest and Sanford granary building on Royal St. They will open Barrow Brewing there this spring.
The business community also saw the purchase of The Halley House by Kathy Michaels this fall.
Stephen Montieth-Clarke, otherwise known as Salado Steve purchased the property at 100 N. Main St. He also purchased two buildings on the south side of Pace Park Rd. Plans for the properties are underway.
Finally, perhaps the most important business transaction in 2015 is the purchase of Stagecoach Inn by Clark Lyda in July 2015. The property is closed for a major renovation that will begin in February 2016. The restaurant is expected to open in July 2016.
The community felt the passing of many of its members in 2015. The loss of Dr. Christopher Spradley and Robert Denman remain in our minds and our hearts as we look forward to a renewal of Salado in 2016.