Feb. 19—BATESVILLE — Batesville Mayor Mike Bettice gave his State of the City Address virtually on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Bettice’s full speech can be accessed online at https://batesvilleindiana.us/.
Many see COVID-19 as the dominating factor of 2020. However, Bettice looks at the past year in a different light.
“I came across a mural that was done last year. It was actually put together by a high school student. Her name is Olive Cerniglia and she put together this mural which across the top has this slogan, which is IN This Together,” Bettice said. “The inspiration for this mural was to honor the frontline workers of the COVID-19 pandemic. To me that is what speaks about what 2020 was all about.”
Bettice said COVID-19 changed the world and impacted the City of Batesville.
“We are fortunate that some of our major employers were able to survive COVID-19 without too much trouble, but we have a number of small businesses that have really struggled to survive,” Bettice said. “Part of my plea this evening is to ask everyone to please make sure you support our local businesses. It appears we are making progress on the medical side. The spread is slowing currently. You can’t read into that too much at this point, but things are better with COVID-19 than they have been.”
The mayor said the city is making progress in getting residents vaccinated. He applauded Margaret Mary Health and its staff for its supervision in this process.
“If you haven’t registered yet to get vaccinated, I highly encourage you to do so. Anybody 65 or over is eligible to get an appointment,” Bettice said.
The mayor again emphasized supporting local businesses.
“We are making progress as far as the health side and the medical side and doing the things we need to do to keep people healthy. We still need to work on keeping our businesses healthy,” Bettice said. “At the end of the day when we get on the other side of COVID-19, we would like to be able to say that we have all survived and our businesses are here so we can get back to a more normal lifestyle.”
The mayor thanked those who stepped up to battle COVID-19 and help the community in 2020.
“COVID-19 has certainly been a challenge, but there have been a number of people who have stepped up to meet that challenge. I’d like to take at least a couple minutes this evening to acknowledge those folks and thank them for their service to our community,” Bettice said.
The mayor thanked all frontline workers, teachers, staff and students at all schools, Tricia Miller and the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Deborah Tompkins and the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce, commissioner Mark Horstman, Gary Norman, Sarah Lamping, Ripley County Health Officer Dr. David Welsh and the health department and Dr. Tim Putnam and the staff at Margaret Mary Health.
IN This Together
Bettice then discussed how the city is working to make the area safer for all citizens. He asked listeners to think back to last May when George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officers.
“If we are ever going to fulfill the promise of equality for all, we all are going to have to pull in the same direction,” Bettice said. “We all need to work together to make our community, our state and our nation a safe place for all citizens with all people treated with dignity equality.”
The mayor and Batesville Chief of Police Stan Holt have had numerous conversations regarding this topic and decided to provide additional training for city officers.
“All of our officers will get additional training on implicit bias and also training on de-escalation techniques and minimizing use of force. These are critical for them to have the best training available,” Bettice said. “Our state legislators are debating a bill now that would include these same trainings, but we wanted to get ahead of this curve so officers are getting this training this month.”
The city began the year by replacing the SCADA System at the wastewater treatment plant for approximately $200,000. This is the computer system that monitors and controls the entire wastewater treatment process.
“It became necessary because, when that building was originally built back in the year 2000, it had state of the art equipment in the facility. It hadn’t been touched for 20 years and after 20 years we no longer can get parts and pieces to update the system. So we had to completely replace it,” Bettice said.
The city completed summer road paving as part of its 2020-1 Community Crossing Matching Grant Program. The city received almost $200,000 for the project.
The liner at Memorial Pool was replaced and the city updated the exterior of the building at the pool. Bettice said the city probably invested $100,000 in the pool last year.
Freedom Park also opened on July 4 in Batesville. The majority of the park was completed in 2019 and additions were made in 2020. The mayor said the park has been highly utilized.
Last year, the city began its long term water project. It includes three different portions.
The city has a well field in Franklin County where it has placed three well heads from which it will pull water out of an underground aquifer.
The city completed a 16 mile long pipeline, which connects the well field back to Batesville. It is also working on a water softening plant in town.
All the city has left to do is fix fields it tore up when placing the pipe under ground. The water softening plant needs small work done inside and outside of the building. Enterprise Drive, which runs in front of the plant, also has to be extended.
“We will get those done within the next month or so and then we will start the process of turning that system on,” Bettice said.
The city and New Horizons worked to open an ice cream shop at Liberty Park. New Horizons’ clients are able to gain valuable experience, training in customer service and give back to the community.
The shop opened for a few Saturday’s in December. The mayor looks forward to the shop re-opening in 2021.
The city was awarded almost $900,000 from INDOT through the 2020-2 Community Crossing Matching Grant Program to fund seven paving and stormwater projects.
Bettice said the Walnut Street Utility Replacement Project is upcoming. The city has been working on it in the background for the past couple of years.
“INDOT came to us and said, hey we would like to repave Highway 229 through the center of Batesville. Our utility guys heard that and said, before you do that we would like to get underground and we would like to replace some of our pipes,” Bettice said. “In particular, our wastewater treatment plant folks and our water folks both have pipes that were installed in Walnut Street back in the 1930s. Those pipes are long overdue to get some love and attention.”
The city will hold bidding for the project on March 8 and aims for completion around September of this year.
Bettice acknowledged many residents may be unhappy with being unable to drive on Walnut Street for a couple of months, but said the project is necessary to take care of the utilities in question for the long-term.
The city will add two sections of walking trails in 2021. The city received funding for the project in 2016.
“The first section will run from Liberty Park to the east toward the YMCA. The other will run from Brum Woods to the north on Mulberry Street and connect with the sidewalk on Mulberry Street,” Bettice said. “When we get that project done, we will be able to have people walk from our two major subdivisions on the east and west side of town.”
Thos year, the city will update its land usage section of its ordinance manual. Bettice said this is a project he has wanted to undertake for a number of years.
Batesville Main Street will begin its Women’s Legacy project this summer.
The organization will reconfigure the downtown bike park and build a shelter with a roof at the site. It will establish locations in downtown Batesville, which honor women who have made an impact on the Batesville community.
Bettice announced the city is working with local resident Dr. Amy Carpenter and others to establish a skateboard park in the city.
The mayor said INDOT is also going to make repairs to Lammers Pike Bridge over I-74.
The city started 2020 with $5,088,034.48 million in savings. The city reported $8,313,003.78 million in revenue and $7,656,789.69 million in expenses in 2020. The city’s year end balance was $5,744,248.57.
“Normally I would not be pleased with that performance. Normally the goal is to get money in, invest it in different projects and use it on different things so we can improve the City of Batesville,” Bettice said. “This year obviously was different and we really had to hold some money back so that we could be in a position to make sure that we can handle any financial challenges that may come up from COVID.”
Last April and May, Bettice said experts from the state and other organizations informed mayors that cities will experience revenue shortfalls in the second half of 2021 and again in 2022.
“We needed to make sure that we were doing what we had to do to do the projects that we had in the books but at the same time not overspend so that we could work our way through the revenue shortfalls coming up,” Bettice said.
Bettice expects the city will likely end up slightly in the red at the end of 2021, but the city’s savings have readied it for the challenge.
Population and housing
The mayor discussed a recent study, which indicates populations are decreasing in rural areas and increasing in metropolitan areas. He said it is important to focus on making Batesville an attractive place to live for more people.
The City of Batesville had a population of 6,686 at the end of 2019.
Batesville currently has 74 single family home lots on the market today and an additional 63 single family home lots are planned for 2021.
A new subdivision, with more than 150 lots, is also in the planning stages. The mayor is unsure on a timetable for the subdivision at this point.
In April, Romweber Depot Square will open 52 market rate apartments.
At the end of his address, Bettice provided the following message to citizens:
I hope that you will see that, for the most part, we have had a really good year. Financially we are still in really good shape. COVID is coming. We may have some revenue shortfalls, but we have gotten ourselves in a position by saving a few dollars the past couple years that we should be able to weather the storm. So I feel good about that. We have a number of good projects on the books we are looking to do this year. The paving is always welcomed in those neighborhoods where we are paving the roads and certainly the trail project is one that I’m sure people will be happy to have. The utility underground is not very sexy but it is one of those necessary evils that you have to do. We have better days coming. I will take one last plea to ask people to support your local businesses and then also to make sure that when it is your turn to sign up to get vaccinated, that you’ll do so. The more people we can get vaccinated the better we can do as far as slowing the spread of the virus and the quicker we will be able to come out of this thing on the other side. Thank you all so much for attending. Thank you for listening and if you have any questions feel free to reach out either to myself or Paul Gates. We will be more than happy to answer any questions. If it is a financial question I may get Paul involved but either one of us will be happy to help with any questions that might come up. We have a lot of good things going and we are very excited about the upcoming year. So thank you all and have a good evening.