Today, the mayor read his State of the City 2020 address in a video stream from the Batesville Community Center. Read the text in full below.
State of the City: 2020
Mayor Rick Elumbaugh
This is my 14th year as your mayor and I am humbled by the faith and trust you have placed in me to guide the future of the City of Batesville. I am also extremely grateful that you have continued electing community-minded individuals to the city council who are dedicated to continuing the progress our community has experienced over the past decade. Like many journeys in life, this month turned out much different from when I took office in 2007.
My biggest challenge in 2007 was creating a plan to correct our outdated wastewater plant and updating our water infrastructure. In 2008, we faced the closing of GDX and White Rodgers plants along with the financial crisis. In those early years, the City of Batesville also had two “100-year flood” events within a two-week period. Back then, I honestly did not think there was anything else that could match the challenges that were thrown at our great city during that period. I had no idea that in 2020, our city would be facing a national pandemic. COVID-19 has already changed many things in our daily life.
It is difficult to grasp that our schools have moved to online, restaurants have gone to take out only, barber/beauty shops, sporting events, car races, and church services have all been affected, and it is especially difficult to not be able to sit down with friends and have your morning coffee. While it is hard to imagine that this could be happening, this great city has made so many great strides and we will continue to meet all of our challenges head-on.
Of course, the reality of COVID-19 is that it is here and our citizens and businesses are stepping up and doing amazing things to make sure our city comes back to normalcy as quickly as possible. There has been an abundance of groups making medical masks with the help of Marshall Dry Goods donating over 1,000 yards of material to the cause. The City of Batesville’s Parks Department has implemented a free grocery delivery to individuals age 55 and older. Local churches are volunteering to all needs that individuals and families might have. I have had calls from restaurants that volunteered food for the cities fire and police and local families in need. All of our area schools are making sure that students and families are getting food and meals provided.
I cannot say enough about the leadership of Mr. Gary Paxon and his dedicated staff at WRMC. They have been transparent from the beginning and continue to strive to keep our community safe. Governor Hutchison has done a magnificent job as well, keeping our great state informed on a daily basis. Representative Stu Smith and Senator James Sturch also continue to update the district regularly.
The City of Batesville staff continues to provide our normal services. These include sanitation, roads, water, sewer, animal control, fire, police, code enforcement, and administrative offices. Of course, the community center and playgrounds will be closed temporarily, but I encourage citizens to continue using our greenway trails and walking paths.
2019 brought many things to be proud of. Each year I continue to thank city employees, the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Batesville, local schools, businesses and our citizens for relentless support, vision, and accomplishments. Last year we celebrated several new business ribbon cuttings and events throughout the city, including the opening of the Maxfield Park, thanks to the talented Danny Dozier. We are also proud to have a permanent home for our city police department. Also, the city now has new places to stay, including The Royal on Main, a luxury boutique hotel and a unique addition to our historic Main Street, and the Hampton Inn, the first Hilton chain located in our area.
In order to remain positive, the city employees and I will continue to focus on upcoming projects and improvements for our city. Planning and incorporating new things will remain our top priority at city hall.
There are many things to look forward to in 2020. One is the completion of the Sarah Low Dog Park, located in Riverside Park. We have broken ground and the park will consist of a small and large breed fenced-in play area with a covered pavilion. Water fountains and waste removal stations will also be included. Many thanks to all the citizens that have been to meetings and helped make this possible. Many thanks to Mr. Steve Bryant, a local business owner, who has continued to lead in the fundraising efforts to support this project. Next, the Corp of Engineers stabilization of Stillhouse Branch is also in the works. This involves a $1.3 million project that will stabilize the area located in Riverside Park. The city was responsible for 30% of the total cost of this project. This will prevent erosion of the bank and will increase a much-needed support of the current bridge on Chaney Drive.
An additional street project to look forward to is the Myers Street makeover from St. Louis Street to 20th Street. This will include Batesville’s first “roundabout”, which will be at the intersections of 20th, Pioneer, and Myers Streets. This “roundabout” will improve the traffic flow at the intersection during school traffic hours and help to alleviate problems involving ingress and egress to and from the community center. Extended turning lanes from the stoplight back to Sidney Street will also be an added improvement. This project is estimated to cost $1.5 million and the city has been awarded $400,000. Without this grant, the city would not be able to undergo this type of road improvement. This grant, as well as an additional $250,000. street overlay grant that the city received in the past is primarily funded from the state’s half-cent highway tax. This tax is set to expire in 2023, unless voters decide in November to make it permanent. The proposal to make the tax permanent is Issue 1. It is critical that voters realize that if they choose NOT to support this tax, there will be a definite impact on our local streets and roads in Independence County. Beginning in 2024, Independence County as a whole, including all of the cities, will lose over a million dollars if Issue 1 does not pass. The City of Batesville will lose approximately $239,000, Southside $91,000, Newark, $27,000, and all other cities lessor amounts. In the near future, there will be informational meetings scheduled by ARDOT to discuss this proposal.
In closing, I wish to repeat how blessed we are with an extremely dedicated group of city employees who put the needs of our citizens first. When needed, they graciously work 24/7 to get the water turned back on, fight fires, get our streets back open after a storm or flood, pick up our trash and police our community. They definitely make my job much easier every single day and I am very grateful for their service.
I am confident that the City of Batesville will come out of this pandemic and come back stronger. My hope is that our economy will stabilize and we return to our normal routines that we have all grown accustomed to. In the meantime, embrace your family and friends, reach out, and serve individuals that need assistance. Please continue to be mindful of avoiding crowds and keeping a social distance of at least six feet from each other. When we are all clear to go back to our normal way of life, please be mindful of shopping local at the many small businesses in our city.
Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
I want each of us to remember that we are all in this together and together we will succeed. We are a strong, vibrant community and I believe we can overcome this crisis and keep Batesville moving in the right direction.