City paying $16k for balcony replacement

Published 10:26 am Friday, October 5, 2018

Local attorney Gaines Baker was on the agenda again this week as the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen considered quotes for the repair of the balcony removed from Baker’s building on the Downtown Square in 2016 during new sidewalk construction that was part of a city beautification project.

The board opened quotes from Brocato Construction ($47,377)  and Drake Metal Works ($16,906) for the project at the meeting. The quote from Drake did not include the pouring of footings sufficient to support the weight of a wrought-iron balcony while Brocato’s quote was inclusive.

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After the quote amounts were announced, Baker asked the board to consider contracting directly with him for $16,000, provided the city will complete the footings and finish the concrete.

Board members liked that suggestion and agreed to pay Baker $16,000 and asked Code Enforcement officer John McCollum to oversee the installation of the balcony, making sure all building requirements are met.

“If I have it built, or if the city had it built, it’s going to be built to acceptable engineering standards because I’m subject to have a gathering up there a time or two and I don’t want any problems,” Baker said, bringing ripples of laughter from across the room.

Before Baker removed the balcony at the city’s request, it was a popular hot spot for revelers on the Square, especially during SpringFest and other downtown events.

Aldermen, concerned about the load bearing limit of the balcony, asked Baker how many people he thought could safely attend his events.

“Well, I reckon that depends on how big the folks are and whether they are sitting or standing,” Baker replied.

The aldermen asked him no further questions.

The board took up several additional matters, including the following:

Fire Department

Firemen Stephen Sarkis, Devante Alexander, Lee Mitchell, and Cameron LaCook were approved to attend a Rope Rescue course scheduled for Sept. 27-29 and Oct. 11-13 in Oxford.

Approval was given for firemen Grant Thompson and Josh Wedgeworth to travel to the Mississippi Fire Academy to retake the final exam for the Trench Rescue class attended in August.

Approved the recommendation of Fire Chief Tim Taylor to make salary adjustments Johnathan Burke and Sean Copeland for completing necessary basic training at the Fire Academy.

Agreed to hire a full time certified fireman to help the fire department cover the C shift. Chief Taylor told aldermen one firemen is serving a military tour in Somalia and won’t be home until May, 2019 and seven fireman are not yet certified and will soon begin going to the Fire Academy in pairs for seven week each.

Taylor also said hiring an experienced firemen will help raise the average age in the department which is running lower than usual because of an upswing in turnover the past two years.

City Clerk

The board approved City Clerk Susan Berryhill’s request to hire a deputy clerk to fill an open position at City Hall.

Berryhill also asked board members to include in the meeting’s minutes a list of the streets they agreed to have resurfaced during last month’s budget negotiations. Designated for resurfacing in the spring of 2019 were Dettor St. (500 feet), PIne Lodge Lane (500 feet), and Mill Cross Rd. (2,000 feet).

Agreed to pay an invoice in the amount of $3,801.09 to Slaughter & Associates for work done in connection with the proposed annexation project currently being finalized, and submitted for approval in Chancery Court.

Code Enforcement Office

Administrator Pam Comer asked board members to consider establishing a central location for temporary vendors and food trucks. She said the Planning Commission studied several areas in the city, and decided on the parking lot of the Civic Center as a possible location.

Comer said the Planning Commission has tried to stay within guidelines of allowing permits for “unique and seasonal” vendors, and doesn’t want produce stands and food trucks operating all over town.

She added that the city has a responsibility to brick and mortar businesses who have invested in Batesville to control and limit temporary vendors, such as food trucks, crawfish and seafood trailers, seasonal fireworks sellers, and produce stands.

Aldermen were not keen on making the Civic Center parking lot the designated area, and some were concerned that several vendors who have been parking along Highway 6 for several years will be slighted. Comer said the general public would be better served with all such business being in one place, and that vendors shouldn’t mind once people learned where to look for temporary vendors.

The board took no action and will continue to take suggestions for a central location.

Batesville already has the Cotton Warehouse – a farmers market and inside vendors spaces – located on Hwy. 6W, but some vendors have been reluctant to locate there because there is a weekly space rental fee, and there are already many vendors plying wares there every day.

Comer noted that the Cotton Warehouse is zoned for those types of businesses, and vendors who set up there are not required to seek temporary approval from the Planning Commission.

Board Visitors

Aldermen were introduced to Emily Burton, the recently appointed head librarian at Batesville Public Library. She was introduced by Barbara Evans, assistant director of public works for First Regional Library, the system of libraries that oversees the local branch.

Burton told board members she has many plans for the library, including programs designed to get teens interested in reading. She said the library has good community participation, but she has noticed that teens aren’t checking out many books.

Bishop Anthony Rodgers, senior pastor at Faith In Action Ministry on Van Voris St., asked the board to consider building a fence, or putting a screen on the existing hurricane fencing, that surrounds the city’s equipment and material storage area across from the church building.

The area is also used as the city dump and roll off containers are kept there for Batesville residents to dispose of trash and debris. Rodgers said the view from the front of the church is of the dump are and that sometimes trash from the bins blow onto church property.

The mayor told Rodgers the city will look into the matter, and find a way to hide the area from church members’ view.

The regular meeting was adjourned, and aldermen met behind closed doors to deal with some personnel matters in both the police and fire departments, and to discuss ongoing litigation and pending real estate deals with board council, assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell.