Local team to manage ‘Express’

Published 7:23 pm Thursday, September 22, 2016


Local team to manage ‘Express’

By John Howell
Sheila Pounders and Don Clayton of Court Street Patio LLC will provide local management for the Polar Express Train Ride’s 2016 Batesville season.
“We were hired by Iowa Pacific to run this show from the ground up,” Pounders said Tuesday, speaking to the city’s board of mayor and aldermen at their Third Tuesday meeting. “That is putting it together on the Square, hiring the employees, getting them in here, getting supervisors, everything we need to do.”
Pounders and Clayton were accompanied to the meeting by Victoria Fondren whom Pounders introduced as an administrative assistant.
“Our main objective is that we want to make this year very merchant friendly,” Pounders continued. “We intend to fully involve Colleen (Batesville Main Street Manager Colleen Clark) and the Partnership and whatever they want us to do, whatever the city wants us to do.”
Pounders outlined changes for 2016 that will included incorporating the ticketing office and gift shop in the old Sterling’s building owned by Jan Williams at the corner of Panola Avenue and the Square. Use of the building will eliminate the need for the large tents used last year on the Square, according to Pounders.
“We’re going to funnel everybody to the (Davis Family Pharmacy) parking lot,” she said. Guests will then be routed to the ticketing office and then to train boarding.
City officials have asked the railroad to stop the Polar Express engine short of the ADA compliant walkway and steps leading to the opposite side of Square where passengers board. This week the city is completing paving of the trackside boarding area almost to Short Street.
Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association is working with Court Street Patio to provide sufficient electrical service to eliminate the need for generators and propane tanks.
Pounders said that Iowa Pacific had asked the city to consider paving the vacant lot behind the old Shackeroff’s building to provide all weather parking for Polar Express employees.
“It would certainly be an asset to us and it would certainly be an asset to the downtown area because it would be one of the few areas that is not paved down there,” she said.
“They have told us to expect between 60,000 and 65,000 people. Our goal is to make this better every year,” she said. “We are having a tremendous amount of response right now. Supervisors have been hired and they are all people from Batesville, Mississippi.
“We want the merchants to make some money this year,” she continued.
A job fair for additional hiring has been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, October 3 and 4. Restroom facilities will be consolidated into one area and larger signs will be placed around the Square to assist visitors.
City officials took no action Tuesday on the parking area pavement request.
City officials attending Tuesday’s meeting included Mayor Jerry Autrey and Aldermen Ted Stewart, Bill Dugger, Stan Harrison and Teddy Morrow. Alderman Eddie Nabors did not attend.
In other business:
• Aldermen approved Batesville Main Street Manager Colleen Clark’s request for Saturday street closures on the Square for the October 1 Showoff on the Square Car Show and for the October 29 Scare on the Square;
• A subdivision plat for a development on Leland Drive was approved;
• Aldermen gave the City Code Office the go-ahead to hire an additional employee;
• Revisions in the police department’s policy governing officers’ body art and tattoos were approved;
• Aldermen approved with minor revisions the city’s small business loan policy for loans up to $20,000.

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