A little bit about a lot of things:
• The long-awaited ground-breaking of Newman’s Taco Bell was met with great enthusiasm in the community.....but as the building pad grew, and grew, and grew ever higher some of that excitement was tempered with a bit of “wait, what?” concern.
Yes, that is some pile of dirt out there on which the building will sit.....no doubt about it.
The reason, we’re told, is to stay in compliance with local flood maps established by FEMA, which were adjusted about 10 years ago, resulting in a higher base elevation standard. Most builders, City Manager Michael Holland explained to the City Council last week, meet the flood certification by going a foot over the base elevation. The height of the Taco Bell pad is not of the city’s making or mandate, he emphasized. Some form of flood mitigation is required, Holland advised, and simply building above the base elevation is the option most commonly chosen.
Hence, the pad of quite impressive height.
So here’s what the Building Department tells me about how that high pad will be transformed into a functioning Taco Bell.
On the highway frontage side, a three- to four-foot retaining wall will support the pad height. The drive-through lane will be at the elevated height on the Highway 33 side of the building and screened by a hedge from the highway traffic.
On the other three sides of the building, the landscaping will taper down to the original grade height.
City Manager Holland last week told the council that the Taco Bell will actually stand at the same elevation as the Dollar General store across the highway.
One difference is that the initial grade beneath Dollar General is of higher elevation to start with than that beneath the Taco Bell, so less of a build-up was required. Secondly, and probably more significantly, Dollar General is set well back from the highway so there was room to extend a gradual slope from the highway to the building, softening any aesthetic impact.
The Taco Bell pad, by contrast, sits close to the highway frontage so there is no room to feather back a slope.
I think the description gives me a little better understanding of how the site will be developed....but I’ll withhold my opinion on the appearance until the project is complete.
I think it’s fair to say, though, that it will probably be a little bit different.
Beyond the comments and concerns regarding the appearance, let’s not overlook that Taco Bell will add an option for local consumers and represents still another investment in the community by a well-known company. As City Manager Holland told the council, every time a business like Taco Bell comes in others often to take a look as well at the local market potential, potentially leading to more economic development activity in the city.
Time will tell, but for now plenty of people are just excited at the arrival of Taco Bell.
• Community service is sometimes as simple as seeing that something needs to be done and just stepping in to do it rather than waiting for somebody else.
Newman resident Elaine Collison did just that recently when she took it upon herself to spruce up the city’s downtown tree wells.
She had noticed the tree wells were in need of some attention, Collison shared. Public works does an “awesome” job, said Collison, a clerk at the Newman Police Department, but can’t be everywhere all the time so she was more than willing to pitch in.
When the blue bows in memory of Cpl. Ronil Singh were replaced and with the Fall Festival fast approaching, Collison decided a few weeks ago that the time was right.
She since spent a number of evenings working on the tree wells, a project that proved to be a bit more daunting than originally envisioned.
But the results were worth the effort, Collison reflected, and she was happy to do her part to help beautify downtown Newman - particularly as the city was preparing to put its best foot forward in welcoming the Fall Festival crowds.
“I wish we could have a day that people just got together and worked on projects,” she said, citing Sherman Parkway as an example of another area of the city that could use some TLC.
That was the spirit of the “Love Newman” days held a few years ago, and we’d like to see that type of event return.
One person can make a difference, as her project demonstrated.
But there is greater strength in numbers. Wouldn’t it be great to have an organized campaign that brings together volunteers sharing a common goal of community betterment.....and, of course, a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work?
Great job, Elaine. You set an example that we all would do well to follow.
• “Inspirational” is the best word I can find to describe the 300-mile bike ride of Los Angeles police officer Andrew Gonzalez to present a flag to the family of Cpl. Ronil Singh in Newman last week.
Gonzalez pushed through physical agony to complete the ride and make the emotional presentation to Singh’s family at the fallen officer’s memorial in front of the police station.
His sheer refusal to quit is testament to the fact that “good” perseveres in our world and ultimately prevails.
Truly, a remarkable moment.