Alderman consider Downtown requests

Published 2:21 pm Monday, June 17, 2019

Singing groups, various organizations use the Square with few guidelines

By Jeremy Weldon

Who is allowed to use Batesville’s Downtown Square, when, and for what purpose are questions the Mayor and Board of Aldermen are expected to consider in coming meetings as city officials try to define what are proper uses for the public space.

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The downtown area, including the gazebo, has traditionally been available for anyone or group that wanted to reserve the space for a variety of events, including prayer gatherings, musical performances, and at least one wedding in recent years past.

Privately, though, some officials have begun questioning the city’s liberal reservation policy, saying that a more thorough vetting system should be in place and at least some parameters of reasonable usage attached to the application process.

Of late, the city aldermen have been asked to approve a number of events billed as gospel singing, and similar activities. Officials have approved each of the requests, but some have sent signals indicating they are having second thoughts about the Downtown Square area.

On the agenda for today’s meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen at City Hall (2 p.m.) at least one visitor will again ask to use the downtown area to host live gospel music. Aldermen have been reluctant to deny anyone access to the Square, especially when the event is proposed by a local church, but worry that similar events downtown increases the city’s liability exposure and sometimes adds extra payroll costs to the budget, usually from the police department.

Also increasingly popular this time of year are the requests to have “block parties” in different neighborhoods in west Batesville. Essentially, most or all the residents of a city block, sometimes two, ask the city to close access to a certain portion of a street for a few hours to allow for a community gathering with food and play activities.

In past years the city has tried to accommodate each of the requests and have provided extra police officers for an area that wished to have a block party. Although the added overtime expense created by assigning officers to one specific area and not patrolling all of the city are a burden, police use those opportunities for community outreach efforts and to build relationships with citizens in each of the city’s neighborhoods.

Further discussion of the Downtown Square and block parties are expected today and in future meetings. Other visitors on the agenda this week include two citizens who want the city’s trash collection truck and trailer to spend more time in their vicinity, and requests from at least two citizens who wish to have a speed bump installed on their streets to help control speeding,.