University and city government work together for change

Published in the March 8, 2017 issue of The Bells

As the UMHB campus has evolved over the years, the university has maintained a healthy relationship with city officials and local government.
The university recently worked with the city of Belton to make decisions concerning building and road projects like the newly-completed MLK bridge that leads to Loop 121.

“That project in itself took years of planning. A decade ago it was just undeveloped land that the city knew that one day we would need to connect this road to get traffic off of Main Street. But it took a lot of planning, coordination and securing of a grant to make it happen,” said Belton Public Information Officer Paul Romer. “The university contributed $200,000 to that project.”
Romer believes that Crusader Stadium had a direct impact on the success of the MLK bridge.

“I don’t think it [MLK bridge] would have been built if the new stadium hadn’t been constructed,” he said. “The new stadium is going to be used by people coming in and out, and it’s a catalyst for other projects.”
The officer said the city had to prepare Belton’s infrastructure for the building of Cru Stadium. One way they did that was by putting a new sewer pipe in by the stadium to prepare for the thousands of people who would be using the restroom at the new stadium during halftime.

“There had to be a change in infrastructure before that was ever built. People don’t ever think that we come in, dig up the ground, and put in bigger pipes, but that has an impact later on down the road,” he said. “A lot of times the city will do it if there’s any opportunity to connect that pipe to future businesses we’ll go ahead and run that and it saves time and money.”
The university also recently contributed $100,000 to the upcoming extension of the hiking and biking trail that runs alongside the edge of the College View apartments. The path will now be extended to University Drive and then to Sparta Drive once completed.

“You’ll be able to get from Lake Belton all the way to 35 on sidewalk or hiking trail,” Romer said. “I think there’s things that students aren’t aware of that are occurring because of the cooperation of the city and the school.”
Romer said City Hall has had a positive experience with students thus far. Several work study students help out in different departments such as the parks department. Another work study student works at City Hall digitizing old city records.
Belton’s Chamber of Commerce has also created Apprentice Belton, a program designed for students to have a mentor from their chosen career field. Romer has been a mentor for two years for the program.

“That’s a really good program that gives students exposure to the workplace and allows professionals to share what’s going on in their job and to be a mentor.”
Another group of city officials in Belton is the police department. The police work diligently to patrol Belton’s streets. Students occassionally come in contact with the department when they are pulled over or if they are involved in an accident such as sophomore accounting major Logan Gwin.
The sophomore was involved in a fender bender as he was turning left onto Loop 121 from MLK Drive because he didn’t see the other car in time coming over the hill.

“Our experience with the cops was very good,” Gwin said. “They had a nice conversation with us to help get our minds off of what had just happened.”
The university has had an impact on the economy, community, and government of Belton, and the city would not be the same without UMHB and the students who reside there. The university will continue to strive to make a positive impact on the city as the campus grows.
“I think there’s a strong connection there between the university and the city. Belton is happy to be associated with a Christian-based university with high standards, high morals and high academic achievements, and what’s going on on campus kind of filters out through the city.”

Author: Lauren Lum

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