“We’re constantly trying to figure out our place in the community,” YPP President Stephen Whatley said, speaking to an audience that included county supervisors, Batesville’s mayor and aldermen, and Sheriff Dennis Darby along with appointed city and county personnel.
Citing the community cooperation that led to the success of the city’s hosting the Polar Express Train Ride during November and December, YPP leadership offered assistance with projects to reinforce the positive momentum.
“I think we’ve got a real opportunity,” YPP representative Ryan Revere said. “Now is the time for us to take action.”
YPP members cited quality of health care and education and access to arts as the features of a community that outsiders evaluate when visiting.
YPP members talked with city and county leaders about the appearance of Batesville, including roadside litter, especially the Highway 6 corridor through the city and the I-55/Highway 6 intersection.
Panola County Board of Supervisors President Cole Flint said that the recent rule changes that require qualified SNAP recipients to work could help with the litter. Details will be worked out at a Feb. 23 meeting, Flint said. “We want to get everything together before the grass starts growing.”
“YPP would certainly like to be involved in each corridor coming into Batesville and Panola County,” YPP member Chris Smith said.
“We actually want to do more things,” said Whatley, who also talked about a roster-style data base that would allow people who would be willing to volunteer for one hour of work per year to sign up to assist with future projects.
Talk during the reception’s hour covered other topics, including:
- Retail promotion. City officials and Panola Partnership representative Meredith Fleming will attend the Gulf South IDEA Exchange in Mobile during March to promote the city to targeted retailers and restaurants.
A challenge to marketing Batesville to outsiders is the city and county population. Marketing studies that rely only in census data fails to take into account the surrounding trade area whose population consistently shops and dines in Batesville;
- Healthcare. Merit Health Batesville continues its expansion to become a regional health care facility, director of marketing Missy Hopkins said. The hospital has also grown to become one of the county’s largest employers with over 400 people now working there;
- Schools. Rainy weather has delayed construction activity at the Batesville Elementary School kindergarten replacement building and the new ninth grade building, South Panola Schools Superintendent Tim Wilder said. However, he still expects to open the 2016-2017 in the new buildings.
The school district has created a successful pre-kindergarten pilot program that Wilder would like to expand, if additional funding becomes available, from four classes at BES to one class at Pope School and additional classes at BES;
- The city is working with the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Iowa Pacific Railroad to open a crossing to provide easier access to the Batesville Mounds site on Highway 35. City crews had cleaned away trees and undergrowth to reveal more of the pre-Columbian village site. Boy Scout Troop 478 Eagle Scout candidates are working on projects to create walking paths interpretive media at the site.
“That’s some great, low-hanging fruit from the arts perspective,” Whatley said.
Whatley also offered the services of YPP to community leaders. “Use the YPP as a conduit for your organization getting things done.”
By John Howell, The Panolian