In a special called meeting Thursday, the Batesville City Council approved a zoning code change to allow a Children’s Advocacy Center in the city.
Dianne Lamberth and Beatrice Moore, members of the board of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Independence County, explained the purpose of the center.
Lamberth said the center would serve children from birth to age 17 who are victims of physical or sexual abuse or neglect. The center will be a non-residential facility but Lamberth said the board wanted a neighborhood location rather than a storefront. They found that location at 510 Boswell St.
The Independence County center will be the 17th advocacy center in Arkansas. It will serve children from Independence, Izard, Stone, Cleburne, White, Woodruff and Jackson counties and part of Prairie County.
Lamberth said 90 children from Independence County have been served at the center in Searcy. The Department of Human Services, law enforcement agencies, and prosecuting attorneys refer children to the advocacy centers.
Lamberth said she and other board members have talked to neighbors to the Boswell Street location.
The Planning Commission held a public hearing June 18. It decided to add the definition of a children’s advocacy center to the zoning code. That was the change that was approved by the council on a vote of 8-0.
The commission’s definition states that a Children’s Advocacy Center as a “child-focused, community-based facility that coordinates the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse while reducing the trauma to child victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect.”
The center is permitted by right in the Historic Residential District, which includes the Boswell Street house, and is permitted conditionally in other zoning districts.
Lamberth said the special meeting was requested because the board is applying for a funding grant with a deadline of July 15. She said the executive director will arrive in a month and the center is expected to open in October.
The council also approved a resolution at Thursday night’s celebrating the life of Don Zimmerman, the longtime executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League, who died Sunday at age 75.
Zimmerman worked for the league for 52 years and 500 cities belong to the organization, including Batesville. Mayor Rick Elumbaugh served as president of the league a couple of years ago.
Story by Bob Qualls