Batesville City Council receives Christmas lights update, fills a vacated seat, and does other business at Tuesday meet


It may only be June, but Johnathan Abbott is already thinking about Christmas.

Abbott is the supervisor of the City of Batesville’s Landscaping Department and is in charge of installing Christmas lights at Riverside Park and downtown. Abbott is always planning ahead for the holiday display and tries to come up with something new every year.

Abbott told the Batesville City Council Tuesday that the most complaints he receives each year involve the horse-drawn carriage rides and the long wait (up to three hours) some have to endure to take a ride. To help alleviate this problem, he has come up with an idea: a “train” pulled by a tractor with a cab transformed into a train engine.

The train cars are trailers retrofitted to look like railroad cars or, perhaps more accurately, trolley cars.

The train cars could accommodate entire families at one time, unlike the carriage rides, Abbott told the council. He said he would prefer that the carriage rides continue because they appeal to couples and those who like the “romance” of such rides. However, that decision would be up to the owner of the horse-drawn carriages.

Abbott estimated the cost of the tractor at $40,000 with another $6,000 to make it look like an engine. The cost of the trailer, he estimates, would be $5,720. A trailer that is ADA compliant to accommodate wheelchairs was estimated at $6,315. Abbott put the total cost at just over $58,000.

He estimated the potential revenue from the train rides at $20,300 a season. He bases this on charging $7 per ride, which is what the carriage rides cost. He also said it was possible that private donations might be received to help with the cost.

The council voted to allow Abbott to proceed with his proposal.

The city council also said farewell to a colleague and then filled the vacancy created by her departure.

Sonya Crafton.jpgBatesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh presents a plaque to Sonya Crafton Gaither at Tuesday’s Batesville City Council meeting for her service. She recently resigned from her position. / Image by Bob Qualls

Ward 3, Position 1 Councilwoman Sonya Crafton Gaither recently married and moved outside the city and her ward. Mayor Rick Elumbaugh presented a plaque to Gaither for her three and one-half years of service on the council.

The mayor declared a vacancy for the position and following an executive session, the council voted 7-0 to appoint Julie Hinkle to the Ward 3, Position 1 seat. Gaither had already resigned and did not vote.

Hinkle will appear on the ballot in November for the Ward 3 spot. She was the only candidate to file for that position so she would have taken office in January. Because of this, the council decided to appoint her to finish Mrs. Gaither’s term.

After the executive session, the council reappointed two members of the Batesville Planning and Zoning Commission: Cord Davidson and Kyle McMullin. The terms are for five years.

In other action, the mayor and council rescheduled meetings in June and July. The council will meet on June 11 and will only have one scheduled meeting in June. In July, the council will meet on July 17 and July 31. The changes were made because of conflicts with the mayor’s schedule.

The council also heard a presentation on the marketing of the city at its meeting Tuesday.

Crystal & Eric.jpgCrystal Johnson, president and CEO of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Eric Bork, a chamber volunteer, discuss marketing plans for the city. / Image by Bob Qualls

Crystal Johnson, president and CEO of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Eric Bork, a Chamber volunteer, briefed the council on efforts to market the city after it received six Trendsetter City Awards in 2017.

Bork, who works in marketing at Lyon College, said the first phase of the program is using social media to advertise the city’s achievements.

In late 2017 at an Arkansas Municipal League meeting in Fort Smith, Batesville received four Trendsetter City Awards. The four categories that Batesville won were wellness for the new community center and aquatics park, infrastructure for its wastewater treatment facility, public safety for the Batesville Police Department, and environmental for the wastewater improvement project, the community center and the development of walking and biking trails.

Bork showed one of the short videos that are being produced for use on social media, including Facebook. Johnson said the first phase of three targets retirees and entrepreneurs. So far it has reached 10,000 views.

In other action, the council adopted two resolutions regarding park projects.

One of the resolutions authorizes the mayor and council to contract with RJR Enterprises of Rogers for play equipment and installation at Riverside Park. The amount of the contract is $105,996. The cost will be paid from a grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

The other resolution allows the mayor and council to contract with RLH Construction of Salem for improvements in Maxfield Park. The cost of the contract is $72,650 and it, too, will be paid from a Department of Parks and Tourism grant.

The city council also approved an ordinance regarding the Batesville-Independence County Industrial Development Corporation.

The Independence County Quorum Court approved a similar ordinance at its May 14 meeting.

The ordinance amends the original ordinance that created the corporation in 1980. The corporation was established to establish an industrial park, which it did, and now all of the land in the park has been sold and occupied.

The amended ordinance broadens the scope of the corporation by adding “attracting and developing businesses and service, and developing and maintaining infrastructure to support these activities.”

It also adds three ex-officio members to the corporation’s board: the mayor of Batesville, the county judge and the executive director of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce. The ex-officio members will have no vote and will not be counted in determining if a quorum is present.

Another section of the new ordinance permits the corporation to receive funds from the city, the county, and other appropriate sources and to use these funds for the following purposes:

To purchase or obtain by gift real property to be used as an industrial park suitable for the location of industrial development and the creation of additional jobs;

To attract and develop businesses and services including, but not limited to, retail businesses, restaurants, transportation, businesses and services supporting recreation and tourism, and medical services, and

To develop and maintain infrastructure in support of these activities.

The ordinance was approved by a unanimous vote of the council.

Reporting by Bob Qualls


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