| By Jason C. Mattox
Batesville aldermen voted Tuesday to offer preferential water and sewer rates to an industry considering a Highway 35 North location.
The initial offer of a reduction of about six percent in sewer and water rates for the high water volume user was reconsidered in a called meeting Wednesday when aldermen voted to offer an additional reduction.
City leaders were made aware of the prospect by Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons, who appeared before the board to make the request.
Simmons told the board that Batesville is on the company’s short list which also includes three other towns in Mississippi that were not named.
If the industry locates to Batesville, it would employ 125 people on the opening date, with more hires coming thereafter, he told city leaders.
"We have a major industry looking at 100 acres in the area of the Panola County Airport and the Industrial Park," he said. "They are talking about constructing a 600,000 square foot building."
Simmons said representatives of the company flew into Batesville, looked at the site and left happy about the potential.
"We have been told that our site is well talked about by the company," he said.
Simmons went on to say the company would need a power and water and sewer provider.
"[Tennessee Valley Authority] and [Tallahatchie Electric Power Association] are looking at the power request," he said. "They are asking the city for support on the water and sewer."
According to Simmons, the company has asked all four semi-finalists to submit their best possible water and sewer rates for consideration.
"They are also asking that you figure the sewer on 60 percent of the water volume used," he said. "The remaining water will evaporate off and not actually go into the sewer."
Should Batesville make it to final two consideration, city officials will have to look at extending a 10-inch water line that is presently stubbed near the property.
"Right now there is only a four-inch water line that can serve the property, and that will not meet their volume needs," Simmons said.
McBride Engineering representative Blake Mendrop said the city would need to examine cost estimates and added the expansion of the line could be paid for using a Community Development Block Grant.
"Once we make it to the final two, we will definitely need to look at the line expansion and cost estimates," he said.
When discussing the water and sewer rates, Simmons informed the board that other towns in contention would be offering discounted rates.
"While I am not sure how much they will offer, I know some of the communities involved will offer discounts on the water to remain competitive," he said. "They need to know the absolute best you can do."
Simmons said Batesville’s proximity to Interstate 55 was a plus for the city’s candidacy.
"Logistically speaking, we are in a better position because of our access to I-55," he said. "Some of the others are in more rural areas.
"So the interstate access would provide them with easier access to their providers," Simmons added.
Bill Crawford of Will Polk and Associates, proposed a six percent discount on the water and sewer rates during Tuesday’s meeting but the rate was further reduced Wednesday.
With the six percent savings, the company would save nearly $15,000 per year.
"This company will use a lot of water," Simmons said. "Based on their estimates they could use a minimum of 900,000 gallons during the cooler months and up to 3 million gallons during the summer months."
Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow suggested the city look at creating an industrial rate.
"The city’s code presently states that you will look at rates for high-volume users on a case by case basis," assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell said.
Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders reminded her fellow aldermen that the city did not make money on water.
"We all know we don’t make any money on water, but we need to do whatever we can to get this project," she said.
Simmons added that the company was looking to invest $60 million in the project.
"That will mean a lot of new money coming into Batesville that will circulate three to five times before it gets out of town," he said. "That is a substantial investment."
Simmons was to submit a proposal to the company by noon on Wednesday. The final two sites will be announced on Friday.