Borders of city could expand 6/5/2015

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 5, 2015

Borders of city could expand

By John Howell
Batesville’s mayor and aldermen met for five hours Tuesday, touching on subjects ranging from expansion of corporate limits to the city’s takeover of Batesville Magnolia Cemetery and Batesville Cemetery.

Urban planner Mike Slaughter of  Oxford attended a 1 p.m. work session at the invitation of several aldermen who sought information on annexation of new areas into the corporate limits.

Wardlaw property purchase
“The ballgame changed when the Wardlaw property was bought,” said Alderman Stan Harrison. “We’re playing in the big leagues now.”

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The Panola Partnership purchased 294 acres from the Wardlaw family in June, 2014 to expand the acreage available at the Airport Industrial Park. Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons said that the acquisition would allow Panola County to market itself as suitable for the location of a large industry.

“These plans are now for something big to happen in the next 10 to 30 years,” Harrison said.
Slaughter, a Batesville native, was accompanied by an associate, Richard Donovan.

Slaughter said this his recommendation for annexation priority would be east of the I-55/Hwy. 35 intersection to include the Airport Industrial Park, the jail and airport.

Highway 6 annexation
Another area Slaughter recommended for annexation are narrow extensions east and west along Highway 6. His eastward expansion would extend new corporate limits to the Good Hope Road/Highway 6 intersection.

“Which way is Oxford growing?, Slaughter asked. “I can tell you: To the west. Which way is Batesville growing? To the east.”

On Highway 6 West, Slaughter recommended extending the city’s west boundary from a section line between Tubbs and Farrish Gravel Roads to the Hood Case/IH dealership.

The east and west expansions would only include a narrow strip, 300 to 400 feet along each side of the highway, Slaughter said. The purpose would be to give the city authority to protect the appearance of its approaches.“I strongly suggest that you be proactive in this,” Slaughter said.

Emergency repairs costly
The city officials had met earlier at an 11 a.m. work session for consultation with CPA Bill Crawford of Will Polk and Associates.

(“Work sessions” are meetings set outside regularly scheduled meetings to allow the mayor and aldermen to give more time to an issue. All meetings of city officials are open to the public.)
Crawford recommended amending the city’s 2015 budget to allow for increased expenses, primarily due to the Woodland Road repair following the April 24 flooding rain.

(Later Tuesday afternoon, aldermen unanimously approved, after assistant City Engineer Byron Houston had assured them that he had reviewed the bills) payments totaling over $75,000 for a portion of the work authorized as an emergency repair of Woodland Road.)

Unless the budget is amended, actual spending by each department is not allowed to exceed the amount set for expenses last September when the budget was adopted.

“If there’s an excess over budget, that’s a compliance problem,” Crawford said.

“Susan (City Clerk Susan Berryhill) has met with department heads,” Crawford continued, in preparing an amended budget to permit the increased expenditures.

Aldermen voted 4 to 0 to adopt the amended budget, with Bill Dugger, Teddy Morrow, Stan Harrison and Eddie Nabors voting. (Alderman Ted Stewart arrived later.)

City cemetery?

 Informal discussion among aldermen arose Tuesday for the second time at a city meeting about the feasibility of the city assuming ownership of the two properties known as the “Batesville Magnolia Cemetery” and “the Batesville Cemetery,” adjacent properties between Eureka Street and Highway 51. White residents have traditionally been buried in the former, African Americans in the latter.

Each property has been administrated by boards of directors whose few remaining members are aging and want to transfer responsibilities of operation and maintenance.

The mayor and aldermen agreed that they needed more details from representatives of the cemeteries.

“There’s a lot of good that could come out of it; a lot of unknowns, too.” Alderman Harrison said.