Talk of city improvements likely to resume
Major capital improvement projects discussed at (or near) Batesville City Hall during the last couple of years, then put on the back burner until after election, will likely resurface in the near future. City hall renovation, construction of a new depot building on the Square, city purchase of the old Eureka Theater building are among them.
There’s also discussion about the best future use of the old Panola Mills property. Demolition was near completion last week. Mayor Jerry Autrey said that the large slab underneath the building is solid and new construction, possibly a building to house a city department and equipment, could begin there.
(The newer part of the complex is also in good shape and rented to an industrial customer as a warehouse.)
There has also been discussion among the mayor and aldermen in executive session of the city’s purchase of land adjacent to city hall where a new fire station could be constructed. (There we go with executive sessions again. Certainly, negotiations involving price should be allowed behind closed doors, but that is all. If city officials are entertaining the idea of purchasing such-and-such a piece of property, they need to share that information with the public whose interests they represent and who pay the taxes, etc. that fund city operations. But that’s for another day.)
My concern is whether a new fire station built adjacent to the present city hall will offer the best fire protection for the west side of town. A couple of years ago city officials considered building a fire station on city-owned property on Van Voris Street near the old Panola Mills site. After a grant application for its construction was not approved, the price looked too steep for the city to absorb on its own and those plans were shelved.
A new station, wherever it is built, must be fully-staffed around the clock with living quarters for the fire personnel assigned there.
Our concern is that a new fire station adjacent to city hall will have the same problem as the fire station now located behind city hall. During school days fire equipment responding from that station will enter the same bottleneck from school traffic on College Street that it faces now. To reach the west side of town, fire equipment will often also have to navigate another potential traffic bottleneck on the Public Square.
We think that a fire station on Van Voris would allow firefighters and equipment faster response times and easier traffic navigation. If city and fire officials have other reasons that they believe locating a new fire station next to city hall will make city residents, their property and firefighters safer, they need to make their reasons known during the open part of a public meeting.