NEWMAN - The city’s efforts to bring normalcy as best possible in the face of an ongoing pandemic will continue in 2021, and even with the COVID-related challenges officials plan to complete a number of improvement projects in the year ahead.

While the pandemic was a focal point in 2020, the city also broke ground on a long-awaited water system improvement project and laid the ground for a variety of street projects that are expected to become reality this year.

Projects aside, City Manager Michael Holland said, the pandemic remains at the forefront and community outreach will continue.

“We are doing everything we can to try to bring some normalcy to this year,” he explained. “We tried to engage the community as much as possible.”

Those endeavors included holding the fall Harvest Market, sponsoring a Halloween decorating contest, hosting a Main Street Eats that created outdoor dining opportunities for local restaurants and more.

Holland said that he envisions for both the Harvest Market and Main Street Eats - which for a time were held concurrently - to return next fall as well.

“With the success of Main Street Eats, it is our goal to bring that back next year. We want to partner that again with the Harvest Market,” Holland commented. “We plan to have conversations with our restaurants. If they are interested in continuing Main Street Eats, we will continue to host it.”

The city also was able to support the local business community with a grant program that awarded more than $100,000 in CARES Act funds to 22 recipients.

Holland said the city will continue to look for opportunities to build community and support local businesses.

But, he acknowledged, the hardship of the pandemic is likely to continue.

“These are difficult times. We will just have to see how 2021 evolves,” Holland commented. “It is hard for us to plan. We don’t know how long this lock down will continue.”

Against that backdrop, however, the city is proceeding with a number of projects.

Chief among them is the completion of a new water well, million-gallon storage tank and booster pump at a Jensen Road site north of the existing city.

That project, which has been a decade in the making, is scheduled for completion by early summer.

Holland said the project will provide a number of benefits for current residents and help serve future growth.

“We have a little bit of a deficiency (currently) in terms of storage,” he noted. “This does address health and safety issues for our residents, and it does allow for some potential growth and future development.”

The city also plans to submit an annexation request for a scaled-down first phase of the planned Northwest Newman project. The annexation proposal includes about 65 acres, compared to the proposed 121-acre annexation which was voted down by residents of the affected area last August.

Holland said he anticipates submitting the latest application to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission, which holds approval authority over annexations, in January. The overall Northwest Newman project encompasses approximately 360 acres of land earmarked for residential, commercial uses, a business park and more. The proposed 65-acre Phase I annexation primarily involves land earmarked for job-generating business park uses.

One additional benefit of annexing that property, Holland said, is that doing so will allow the city to pursue improvements to Jensen Road between Highway 33 and Fig Lane. That narrow roadway is currently in the county area.

A number of road projects are also planned for 2021.

Kathryn Reyes, the city’s director of public works, said projects planned for the second quarter of the year include repairs and re-sealing of three blocks of Main Street in the heart of downtown Newman, as well as sidewalk infill/alleyway approaches on segments of Yolo Street and Fig Lane.

The city also hopes to go out to bid this fall on a project to widen the Highway 33/Inyo Avenue intersection, Reyes said. That project will include installation of the utility infrastructure needed in the future, when the intersection meets the criteria for installation of a traffic signal.

Other projects in the planning stages include improvements to Kern Street, Canal School Road and the intersection of Canal School and Inyo, Reyes said, although it remains to be seen if those endeavors will go out for bids in 2021.