Frenzy under way as town awaits arrival of Express 11/17/2015

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Frenzy under way as town awaits arrival of Express

By Rupert Howell
One resident caught up in all the hubbub of the inaugural trip of Polar Express described it as stepping into an ant hill.

Monday morning found dozens of workers doing dozens of tasks around what we call The Batesville Downtown Square in anticipation of the arrival of Polar Express this week.
Contractors and their subs were cleaning and preparing areas of the square for paving. (We need to be reminded that the downtown renovation contract was let before city officials had a clue that Polar Express was coming.)

Close by a bulldozer was running to and fro attempting to level out dirt, and some mud, so that it could soon be sodded. The sod was stacked nearby and may by this reading have already been placed as rain was predicted for Monday evening and into the week.

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Landscapers had obviously arrived over the weekend and planted small trees, bushes, flowering plants and greenery and packed the floral islands with pine needle mulch.
Electricians were cutting through the newly laid landscaping to find connections needed to finish their tasks.

On the previous Friday paving had been completed along the railway next to the courthouse and Broadway Street to serve as a loading area for Polar Express. City workers were busy reforming curbs and sidewalks at that site damaged by paving equipment.

Batesville Garden Club volunteers were busy refreshing parking island beds that they maintain on a year ‘round basis, with extra emphasis due to the upcoming season.

On the west side of the square around Stubbs, ladders were in front of almost every building with painters brightening up the facades, many already with a fresh coat of paint.
A small “cherry picker” was in among them while workers prepared to hang new awnings in front of several of the store locations.

The city has rented a building next to Panola Avenue and workers there were assisting volunteer and Panola Partnership Ambassador Glenda Bailey with decorating, arranging furniture, hanging art and re-hanging art. The building will be used as a hospitality room and location for those using food truck services to sit and eat, out of the weather.

Crews were also busy inside three large tents on the east side of the square that will be used as staging area, will call and gift shop by Polar Express. Decorations and lights were hung, Christmas trees placed.

On the upper end or east side of the square, new paint and awnings have been added where needed and decorations have appeared since the previous Friday.

On the corner at the Batesville Courthouse…is the Batesville Courthouse. A suggestion by Circuit Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps at a recent supervisors meeting for the county to join in the festive atmosphere by decorating the courthouse received a “tepid” response at best.

Meanwhile on Highway 51 and Bates Street, Panola Plaza is receiving a facelift with a facade that rivals strip malls in upscale locations.

What does this all mean?
Having been here for 60 years I can say Batesville has never undergone such a community overhaul and I’m willing to predict, it never will again.