Construction is about to begin on a new Taco Bell restaurant at 512 S. George Nigh Expwy. A fire on Oct. 16 devastated the building. Contractors started tearing down the remains of the structure on Monday.

G. Oney and Associates, a construction company from Branson, Mo., is building the new eatery. The company was contracted by K-Mac Enterprises, a Fort Smith, Ark., business that owns the McAlester Taco Bell franchise.

Buck Nolen is the superintendant of the project.

“I came down here and got all the ducks lined up,” Nolen said. “Now I’m shooting at them.”

Nolen said the site should be cleared by the end of the week, and he expects to start foundation work on the Taco Bell early next week.

“Typically, from the time I stick a spade in the ground, it takes about 61 working days,” Nolen said. “That equates to about 85 calender days.

“But we’re going to try to beat that.”

Nolen said the new store will be quite different, and some customers may not even recognize the restaurant.

“It’s a completely new style. It’s a square building with added seating and a new color scheme,” Nolen said. “If it wasn’t for the sign, people might not know. It doesn’t even look like a Taco Bell when we’re building it.”

Nolen declined to comment on the cost of the project, but said his crew would finish as quickly and cost effectively as possible. The building that burned was a total loss of around $800,000, according to a fire report.

Two McAlester men have been charged with three felony counts in connection with the fire.

Joseph Wayne Goodwin, 27, and Jeffery Allen Mitchell, 25, were charged Oct. 8 in Pittsburg County court by District Attorney Chris Wilson’s office.

Goodwin and Mitchell are charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, second-degree arson and embezzlement. Both men were employed at the restaurant, according to fire investigators.

Goodwin and Mitchell both entered innocent pleas at the Pittsburg County Courthouse Oct. 18. and their preliminary conference has been reset for Friday, according to the Pittsburg County Court Clerk’s office.