By Hayley Kappes

Killeen Daily Herald

SALADO – The project to widen Interstate 35 between Salado and Belton was approved Thursday by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Mayor Merle Stalcup said at Salado's Board of Aldermen meeting Thursday evening that he learned about the TxDOT Commission's approval of the project during a meeting earlier in the day with officials from TxDOT, the CenTex Council of Governments, Belton Mayor Jim Covington, Belton City Manager Sam Listi and state Rep. Ralph Sheffield.

The construction is funded by the federal stimulus package. Estimates show it will cost $132 million to expand I-35's four lanes to six between U.S. Highway 190 in Belton and Farm-to-Market 2484 near Salado.

TxDOT's North Region recommended the widening project as one of five that should be considered for funding by the stimulus package, spokesman Ken Roberts said in a Sunday article in the Daily Herald. TxDOT received more than $1 billion for roadwork from the stimulus package.

Stalcup said TxDOT is still in the initial planning stages of the project.

A public hearing will be conducted at some point to discuss the widening project's impact on the area so residents can ask questions and voice concerns.

"We have to follow TxDOT's procedures and contracts right now," Stalcup said.

In other board action:

The Civic Center Foundation and the Salado Independent School District are talking about turning the civic center into the hands of the district and possibly using it as a convention center.

An official decision has not been reached as to what to do with the center.

The board approved to hire another police officer, bringing the village's police force to three officers and a chief. James Blackmon was mentioned as the top candidate for the position.

Alderman Robert Pascoe volunteered to serve as Salado's code official for no extra expense to his salary on the board. Mayor Pro Tem Michael Cooper said this could pose as a conflict of interest because code enforcement actions are voted on by the board.

Pascoe said he does not plan to run for re-election in May. Pascoe said he would be qualified to serve as code official because he wrote the codes.

The board decided to seek legal counsel before it decides on the appointment.

Alderman Carol Wells said more police coverage throughout the village and extraterritorial jurisdiction is a top concern for residents.

The board authorized Stalcup to sign a contract with Texas country legend Gary P. Nunn to perform at the Founders Day Celebration in October. The village will celebrate 150 years since its settlement.

Contact Hayley Kappes at or (254) 501-7559.

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