| By Jason C. Mattox
Inside the city limits of Batesville, new construction, new businesses and cleaner streets are all anticipated in 2007 by Mayor Jerry Autrey.
Autrey said Covenant Crossing, the retail development at the intersection of I-55 and Highway 6, a Starbucks and a Walgreens should all begin construction at some point during 2007.
Starbucks entered into a contract to purchase more than one acre of city-owned property near Covenant Bank and Backyard Burgers. Walgreens is being pursued by Sinker Properties, LLC, which purchased the Dale’s building at the corner of Highways 51 and 6.
"The city has already agreed to seek Tax Increment Financing for infrastructure at Covenant Crossing," the mayor said. "That will mean new water and sewer lines going down in that area, and if the money is available, we will go ahead and run lines behind the development.
"That is the next area of the city that is going to see a lot of growth," Autrey added, referring to commercial properties east of I-55.
It is also important to the mayor to see a new industry move into the MOOG building in 2007.
"That building has been vacant for a few years now, and we are actively seeking a new tenant," he said. "Finding a factory that is looking to expand or relocate is difficult, but with the help of the Panola Partnership, we are hopeful the building will be occupied in 2007."
The mayor also touted the city’s recent enrollment in the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) clean-up program as a big step for the city.
"We will use work-release people who are working off court fines to clean up MDOT streets in the city limits," he said. "Once they complete MDOT streets, they can move on to other areas of Batesville."
The program will cost the city no money as MDOT will pay a supervisor and provide a vehicle and gas for the clean-up. A similar program is in operation through the county sheriff’s department.
Autrey said several streets would receive an overlay in the coming year.
"We were able to do $250,000 in paving in 2006, and we have another $200,000 budgeted for 2007," he said. "We don’t know which roads will get the overlay yet, but there are several in the city that need it."
One thoroughfare Autrey is hoping will be repaired is Keating Road.
"We have a lot of development out that way," he said. "The street is in bad shape, and we are looking at ways of getting it re-paved."
Autrey said the Keating Road repair will not come from the city’s street budget.
"We have tried to find money from the state, but they told us they can’t help us," he said. "I am hoping maybe the county will agree to overlay it if the city buys the asphalt."
While on the subject of Keating Road, Autrey said he has received notification from Cable One agreeing to expand its services into that area.
"They have told me they have plans to provide services to the homes and the National Guard Readiness Center that are in that area," he said. "Once that is done, they are going to consider going out east of town to the hospital and the homes out there."
The final subject Autrey discussed is the construction of a skateboard park.
"We received a lot of input on this subject late in 2006," he said. "We have gotten (consultant) Jimmy Gouras to go out and look for grants, and he is working on one with the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
"If we find out that we are definitely getting the money, we will go ahead and look for loans that will allow us the chance to get to work on it sooner," he said.
"All in all, these projects will have a tremendous impact on the city in the coming year," he said. "The new businesses will help provide us with more tax revenue and the cleaner streets will be appealing to the people of the town and businesses who might be looking to relocate or construct new facilities."