| By Jason C. Mattox
Making Batesville’s Downtown Square more pedestrian friendly is one goal of a master plan being promoted by Batesville’s Main Street downtown revitalization program.
Overall improvements on the Square would benefit the whole city, according to Colleen Clark, Main Street manager. The program operates through the Panola Partnership, the county’s chamber of commerce.
Clark told The Panolian during an interview Monday morning that a master plan for the Square has been in the works since Batesville became an official Mississippi Main Street Community in 1999.
The first phase of the plan was the Downtown Memorial Park, completed last year at a cost of $292.000. It included the pavilion, fountain, benches, a new flag pole, most of which was paid through grants, the sale of memorial bricks and private contributions.
Possible future projects on the Square could include landscaping, new lighting, staining sidewalks and another traffic flow study. Also being considered is moving power lines underground.
Main Street board member Mickey Aldridge said whatever project Main Street takes on next will probably have to be paid for similarly to the way the park was.
"We get most of our money from contributions from the business owners on the square," he said. "We get some money from the city board, but private money is a big part of our budget."
As for the next project, Aldridge said he would like to see the board move forward with improving the lighting of the square.
"I think the lighting is the thing we need to tackle first," he said. "Then we could move on to staining the sidewalks."
Business owners on the square have yet to see the master plan, Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said.
Morrow owns and operates Stubbs Department Store and Williams on the Downtown Square.
"I think the plans are in such a preliminary stage that they haven’t been shown to the merchants downtown yet," he said. "I’ve seen them and liked them, but there were members of the board that had problems with some of it."
Proposed improvements "will allow PanolaPeople.htm to just spend time downtown shopping or mingling with their friends while showcasing our downtown," Clark said. "Our downtown area is a historical part of Batesville, and this will help PanolaPeople.htm take notice of what we have."
Clark said drawings for the preliminary master plan have been in development since October 2005.
"The Main Street board did move forward in getting a sketch done, but everything is really in the preliminary stages," she said.
"The thing to remember is that we are still in the very early stages and things are probably going to change before we finalize the plans."
City aldermen asked Clark to change from the preliminary plans is the traffic flow on the Square. According to the plans, traffic on the square would be one-way with entrances to the Square remaining both ways.
"This would basically mean the Square would be kind of a roundabout," she said. "Some of the aldermen didn’t want to do that, and we can still change it."
Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger, for example, said during a recent city board meeting at which the sketch for the master plan was presented that changing the traffic flow would inconvenience PanolaPeople.htm living on Panola Avenue.
"It is important that we get input from the city leadership," Clark said. "We want everyone to be happy with this project when it finally comes to fruition."
For PanolaPeople.htm expecting the entire Square to be revamped at once, Clark said that won’t happen.
"This is a step-at-a-time project," she said. "The downtown park was our first step."
Clark added that the Main Street Board of Directors will also look closely at moving existing power lines underground.
"That is something we have discussed, and it is something we will look at, but we have to weigh the cost against the benefits to see if it is really worth doing," she said.
As for which project is next for the Square, Clark said that decision has yet to be made.
"We don’t know where to go next," she said. "All of us want to work together and make this a project that will be a big plus for the city.
"The Main Street Board just wants to beautify the downtown area," Clark added.
Members of the Main Street Board of Directors include Aldridge, Kim Carver, Charlie Dulany,
Kim LaVergne, Adam Pittman, Maria Prather,
Sonny Simmons, Mary Troxler, Jann Williams and Lynn McCullar.