Board promises campaign to clean up city

Published 9:47 am Friday, May 18, 2018

Board promises campaign to clean up city

This tarp-covered truck, parked just a few feet off of city hall property, was one of the topics of discussion at the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday. Abandoned vehicles, piles of debris and other eyesores were discussed in length by the city council.

By Jeremy Weldon
The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen heard from local restaurant owner Sheila Pounders about trash, garbage and the general appearance of the city for an hour at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Pounders, who owns Court Street Cafe just off the Square, cited several examples of unsightly piles of construction debris, general trash, abandoned vehicles, and other eyesores in the city limits.
She brought to the board pictures of 106 different examples of debris she said has been ignored far too long.
Pounders also railed against the condition of some of the city’s rental properties, saying that it is unfair to homeowners and others who strive to keep their properties clean.
Alderman Stan Harrison agreed. “We have some of the best slumlords anywhere.” Harrison said he keeps more than 20 houses he owns in good condition and others should also.
The alderman has long pushed for a cleaner Batesville, but like other city officials has been discouraged because of the lack of legal authority municipal boards seem to have to regulate a town’s cleanliness.
The Code Enforcement Office writes letters and seeks to have properties cleaned, but until the board sets public hearings and moves forward within legal parameters, offenders often go unpunished and properties uncleaned.
Pounders pointedly told board members the City of Batesville will soon be like any little Delta town unless action is taken. She suggested the board use its current codes to begin cleanups, and push for other options to address sub-standard housing, especially mobile homes.
She cited the trailer park on Broad Street, among others, as property that is shameful to citizens who want to attract business and industry to the area.
Harrison said he will travel to Tupelo today to meet with city officials there about regulations for rental property.
In some cities, including Tupelo, landlords are considered as retail businesses and must obtain privilege licenses. Included in that process is a much stricter set of guidelines for renting houses and apartments as a business.
City council members generally agreed with Pounders, and Mayor Jeff Autrey said the board “has some work to do,” after her presentation.
In other business, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen:
• Approved travel for Officer Jason Irby to attend AR15/M16 Carbine Armorer’s course July 9-11 in Jackson.
• Approved travel for Lt. Richard Lott to attend the Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission training June 25-27 in Biloxi.
• Paid $173,780 for the first installment of the city’s property, general liability, and vehicle policies to Caldwell Insurance.
• Agreed to pay Panola County $3,044.50 for one-half the total cost of installation of an HVAC unit at the Boys and Girls Club.
• Heard from Colmon Mitchell, board attorney, concerning ordinances regulating animals and motorized vehicles in city parks. Those are expected to be adopted soon.
Mitchell also gave aldermen a draft of a city park use agreement he has been working to complete for the board. The use of parks and buildings by various groups has come under scrutiny recently and the board wants to regulate who is using the facilities and how much they are paying.
• Agreed to pay Southern Boring and Piping $9,024 for the repair of farm taps on Hwy. 6 West. The need for repairs was declared an emergency by the board on Dec. 5, 2017.
Mitchell questioned Kevin Hodges, superintendent of the Gas Department, about the delay in the repairs after it was presented as an emergency several months ago.
Hodges said the company was delayed because of problems in the delivery of parts ordered for the repairs.
• Agreed to pay $37,040 for the purchase of two outdoor weather warning sirens from Integrated Communications. The city will be reimbursed $34,320 as part of the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant.
Additionally the city accepted a quote of $10,800 from Trimble Electric for the installation of the new weather sirens.
The sirens will be placed on Hwy. 6 East near the water tower, and on Hwy. 6 West near the current city limit line. Fire Chief Tim Taylor said that siren will be close enough to North Delta School to alert students and staff of dangerous weather.
• Appointed Mayor Jeff Autrey as its voting delegate for the Mississippi Municipal League and Alderman Bobby Walton as his alternate.
• Approved several promotions in the Police Department including Officer Justin Mills to sergeant, Officer Mark Mills to sergeant, Sgt. Richard Stonestreet to lieutenant, and Detective Sgt. Jeremiah Brown to detective lieutenant.
• Hired Taylor Haney and Blair Williams as part time employees from June 1 – July 31.

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