Bull Market owners offer property to city

The owners of a vacant convenience store building have chosen to gift the property to the CIty of Batesville rather than clean up the area Mayor Jerry Autrey told aldermen Tuesday in the board’s regular meeting.

The Bull Market, located on the northwest corner of the Hwy. 51 S. and Eureka Rd. intersection, has been closed for several years, and the Batesville Code Enforcement Office has repeatedly attempted to have the owners cut the grass and maintain the building and grounds.

Aldermen have complained to Code Office administrator Pam Comer for months about the condition of the property, and she has contacted the owners several times about the eyesore.  Comer told board members at an August meeting she had finally made contact with the owners  – Georgia Commercial Stores, Inc., of Dunwoody, Ga.

The company learned that it would cost about $3,500 to bring the building into compliance, which included cleaning the lot, removing all signage from the building and taking down the stand-alone sign and support poles, painting areas of the building that were faded or mismatched, removing all graffiti, and having an electrical engineer property cap all exposed wiring.

The building was “red tagged” by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in 2014 when a regular inspection by the state revealed the station was out of service and standard drop tubes were missing, which left the tanks without a form of overfill protection.

Another directive by the MDEQ in 2015 required the tanks to be emptied and permanently closed. Autrey informed the board of the company’s willingness to gift the property to the city, telling aldermen the MDEQ, through its Groundwater Assessment and Remediation Division, has said that should petroleum be discovered during the process of digging up and removing the tanks, the site would be considered eligible for the Mississippi Groundwater Protection Trust Fund.

With this assurance, the city is essentially assured that any leakage from the tanks – none is believed to exist – would not be a costly endeavor for local officials should they decide to take the property. The letter received by the city further states that available trust fund money is specific to the gifting scenario, and any other future owner would be responsible for possible gas seepage.

Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell said the board should take the offer under advisement while he studies the matter, and decide whether to accept the property at a later meeting.

Police Department

Police Chief Jimmy McCloud asked the board to approve an agreement between the Finch-Henry Job Corps Center and Batesville police to provide security at their property on Hwy. 51S. This is an agreement the board approves each year.

McCloud also asked the board to approve the signing of an extension of the agreement between the police department and the South Panola School District that allows the city to be reimbursed for the cost of providing School Resource Officers at various district campuses.

The chief asked the board to adopt into the department’s Law Enforcement Policies and Procedures a policy that references the proper use and carrying of Narcan nasal spray by officers. “Some of the drugs we are dealing with now if you touch them they can go through your skin, and can automatically put you into cardiac arrest,” McCloud said.

Local police do not carry Narcan for overdose patients, he said, because city policy is to wait for medical personnel to address those incidents. Officers have been trained on the use of Narcan, which became popular as national opioid overdoses began to increase.

McCloud also asked the board to declare a list of old computers and equipment as surplus property to be taken to Martin Bros. Scrap Metal for crushing. The board also gave permission to sell for scrap an old Mighty Mover Radar Trailer that no longer works.

The board also voted to allow the police department to donate several old radios and walkie talkies that are no longer used to the Tate County Emergency Management Agency.

Code Enforcement Office

The board approved a conditional use permit for the sale of produce to Anthony Fondren.

A variance for a cul-de-sac for the proposed The Coves Subdivision in Lakewood was approved. The road will be 2,193 feet long, more than is allowed without a variance for cul-de-sacs.

At the request of the Code Office, the board also set public hearings for two setback variances – Jimmy Davis at 204 Woodland Rd., and Annette Clark at 303 Patton Ln. – and a rezoning request from Ramesh Purohit from I-2 to C-3 at 710 Hwy. 35N.

Comer also reported that her office has issued a demolition permit to Michael Dyson for his property at 214 Hays St., ending a mini-saga that started when the landlord purchased the property with intentions of making repairs and renting the house. The Code Office inspected the property and the list of needed upgrades and renovations was more than Dyson wanted to invest at the address. Comer had been giving aldermen regular updates about the property before the owner decided to raze the structure.

Gas Department

Superintendent Kevin Hodges reported a gas line west of the city limits has been damaged, and repair would require boring under Hwy. 6W. Hodges said just one house is currently being served by the line, which was originally installed to service the defunct West Side  School just past Tennessee Valley Gas. Two other houses near the old school have gas meters, but are not using the city service.

Declaring the estimated repair cost of $4,000 was outside “economically feasible” guidelines, the board voted to cap the line, and make arrangements for the city to replace whatever natural gas appliances the occupants currently use with propane appliances. The city will give notice of its intentions before any changes are made.

The city will abandon that portion of the gas line, saving the expense of repair.

City Attorney

Mitchell told aldermen he has completed work on several ordinances that are ready for adoption, including measures that address the use of vehicles, including off-road ATVs, at all city parks and the Indian Mounds walking trail area.

City Clerk

Aldermen voted to authorize City Clerk Susan Berryhill to pay the September claims docket in the amount of $238,268.16.

The board approved payments of $4,339.90 to Slaughter & Associates for ongoing city annexation work, $204,734 to Travelers Insurance for the city’s annual workman’s compensation premium, and $175,080 for the second of two installments to Travelers Insurance for employee premiums.

The board also approved for payment, at Berryhill’s request, a donation of $53,000 to the Panola Partnership for special events. This was a previously approved and budgeted line item.

The board approved the transfer of $100,000 from the Tourism Fund to the Multi-Purpose Building Fund. A certificate of attendance for Rene Hubbard to the Municipal Court Clerk conference was acknowledged.

Civic Center

Civic Center Director Roy Hyde reported that he has met several times with electrical engineers and representatives from TVEPA in preparation for electrical upgrades at the facility. The center will host two major cattle shows next year, and in 2020, that will require substantial upgrades to the electrical infastructure, and Hyde, with City Engineer Blake Mendrop, has been working out the details of what is needed, and what the costs will be.

Mendrop told board members a final report of needed upgrades should be ready by next month, and aldermen can study their options then.

Executive  Session

Aldermen voted to close the meeting to spectators to allow for discussion of personnel matters in both the fire and police departments, and to hear updates from their attorney on the progress of proposed purchase and/or sale of real property.