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Alderman provides update on Springfield happenings
Springfield Mayor Barty Alderman (left) chats with Pete Lancaster (right) and other Exchange Club of Effingham County members on April 5 at Renasant Bank. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Don’t be fooled by Springfield’s sleepy appearance. Its government officials are alert and looking for ways to improve the city.
While addressing Exchange Club of Effingham County members at Renasant Bank on Thursday, Mayor Barty Alderman immediately pointed to enhancements at a venerable city property.
“One of the first things people mention when they talk about Springfield is the Mars Theatre,” Alderman said. “Three or four years ago, the city bought it, restored it and we’ve been having first-run movies and concerts. Last fall, we decided that the stage wasn’t big enough.
“We really knew that to begin with.”

The theatre closed briefly late last year so that the stage could be enlarged.
“We also added a green room — which is for the actors and performers — rest rooms and a lot of storage areas, along the back,” Alderman said.
The renovation project had one large snag, Alderman said. The increased depth of the stage made it impossible for some spectators in the balcony to see all the performers. Their view was obstructed by a movie screen that didn’t fully retract.
The problem necessitated the purchase of a new screen.
“These things have to be custom made — and they put a custom price on them, believe me — but we have been promised we will have the screen back and installed somewhere around the first of May,” Alderman said. “That’s when we will start showing movies again.”
Alderman said the return of movies will be a major financial boost to the theatre. He said children enjoy its reasonably priced summer offerings.
“We make money on movies and lose money or hope to break even on concerts,” he said.
Alderman also said the city is working to make the old Walt’s TV, Appliance and Furniture building in the downtown area a viable economic engine. Plans have been drawn up to make a “mini shopping center” out of it.
“Hopefully, we will actually start some construction and renovation on the Walt’s building by the fall,” Alderman said. “We’ve got to get the plans finalized and the financing finalized.”
The mayor also said a restaurant is in the works at the former Blocker’s Fine Foods building on North Laurel Street. He isn’t sure what its specialty will be but he has a preference.
“I talked to the lady who actually bought the building and I told her I hoped she bought the Blocker’s fried chicken recipe,” he said. “Since my mama died, that’s the best fried chicken I ever had.”
Alderman also revealed that a fast-food eatery has expressed interest in locating in front of the new Clarence Morgan Complex on the Hwy 21 bypass.
In addition, he mentioned the possibility of turning property near City Hall into an events center that would seat about 300 people. He said there is ample parking space to accommodate it.
“We are very serious about this,” Alderman said.