Polar Express visitors

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 18, 2015

City preps for visitors

By John Howell

As Batesville Main Street representatives were receiving word from Iowa Pacific Holdings of a larger than anticipated demand for Polar Express Train Ride tickets, city officials during their Third Tuesday meeting were scrambling to prepare for parking and other amenities for visitors.

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Aldermen unanimously approved fence construction and replacement totaling $13,079 for the 

parking lot between Van Voris Street and the Square. An eight-foot-high wood fence will be built to separate visitor parking from the city-owned lot on Van Voris Street. Recycling bins will be moved from their present location in the parking lot to the adjacent lot, and a new, cyclone fence will be built around the city-owned equipment and materials housed there. 

City Code Officer John McCollumn provided quotes from TC’s Lumber Company and two other local materials vendors. TC’s lowest quote was selected for the wood and cyclone fence materials. Charleston Fence Company’s quote was accepted for the erection of the fences.

Aldermen also voted to hold a “special events” hearing to allow vendors opportunity to obtain permits to sell foods and other goods from temporary locations on the Square. The Square’s C-1 zoning prohibits the conditional use permits usually required for temporary sales locations. Even if conditional use permits were allowed there, the usual steps to obtain the permits, first through the planning commission and then from the city board, would delay their issuance until the latter part of the Polar Express Train Ride schedule, assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell said.

Only outside sales require the permits, the attorney said.

In another decision that will improve the city’s appearance at the I-55/Highway 6/278 intersection, aldermen voted to spend $2,300 to hire a private contract mowing company to cut the grass on its 60-plus acres. City officials have grown increasingly impatient with the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s mowing schedule — now reduced from three times to two annually, District Engineer Mitch Turner said last week.

The second MDOT mowing of 2016 won’t come until after the first frost in November, Turner said. The MDOT engineer also told city officials that they could have the area mowed, prompting Tuesday’s unanimous vote in its favor.

Aldermen also voted unanimously to spend up to $12,000 to help repair track on the rail spur that extends across Highway 35. The rail space will be used to park the Polar Express train when it is not in use.

The spur has been little used since its construction in the late 1980s. Iowa Pacific Holdings representatives have been contacting potential rail shipping customers on the Grenada Railway line, trying to renew an interest in rail shipping. The track repair would help reinvigorate the spurs use for freight shipments.

Mayor Jerry Autrey said that a quote from a rail construction company for $42,875. On Monday, Panola supervisors agreed to pay up to $12,000 as their part of the repair. Also pending is approval from the Panola Partnership and the Panola County Industrial Development Authority, which owns the W. M. Harmon complex, for like expenditures in the four-way cost share.