Published 12:00 am Friday, August 28, 2015

City gearing up for Polar Express; holiday train rides begin in Nov.

By John Howell

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City officials continued preparations during Tuesday’s meeting for the arrival of the Polar Express Train Ride, authorizing paving, security camera purchases and fencing for parking and pedestrian areas.

Iowa Pacific Holdings CEO Ed Ellis told Mayor Jerry Autrey in July that his company would base the North Pole fantasy experience in the Batesville Square, with train rides starting in November. City officials and the staff and volunteers at Batesville Main Street and Panola Partnership have been scrambling ever since to prepare for an estimated 30,000 visitors who are expected for the train rides during excursions tentatively scheduled to begin November 20.

(At presstime Thursday, still no word on ticket purchasing. Watch web sites, or the Batesville Main Street Program Facebook page for updates.)

During Tuesday’s meeting aldermen voted to prepare, seal and stripe asphalt surfaces along the railside at the depot site, to prepare and lay asphalt to create railside parking 40 spaces between Broadway Street and the tracks, to clean, seal and stripe the parking lot adjacent to Davis Family Pharmacy and Dale Copeland Jewelers and also the drive between Smith Cleaners and the alley behind the row of buildings that includes Flint’s Hardware.

Aldermen accepted the $18,950 quotes from Double S, Inc. of Grenada as the lower of two quotes.

City officials had earlier agreed to allocate $6,000 to Batesville Main Street for decorating and other preparations for the Square during the holiday seasons.

On Tuesday, aldermen approved $4,000 for the purchase of two poles to hold video surveillance cameras on the Square. Police Chief Tony Jones said that $50,000 in the 2016 police budget had been allocated for the purchase of cameras to be mounted on the Square. The cameras would also help the police department monitor activities during Springfest and other functions, he said.

Other preparation for Polar Express Train Ride parking include relocating the recycle trash bins in the Davis/Copeland parking lot to create more space and construction of an eight-foot wood fence to between the city material lot and parking spaces.