Board of Supervisors

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2008

Supervisors back plan to hasten construction of industrial site

By Billy Davis

It may happen in nibbles, not one big bite.

Panola County supervisors agreed Monday that the county’s newest industrial property should be built in phases in order to more quickly attract industrial clients to Panola County.

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“I cannot underestimate the urgency of getting this done,” Sonny Simmons, CEO of Panola Partnership, told supervisors at the First District meeting.

The Partnership CEO stressed “urgency” due to a slowdown of industrial growth across the state – “but not here,” he said, obviously referring to Panola County.

Simmons has been communicating the need for more industrial property since February, when he told county officials that few large tracts are available in Batesville’s W.H. Harmon Industrial Park.

With Harmon park almost built out, the next stage of industrial development should occur on 174 acres located along Highway 35 North near the Panola County airport, he said.

The Industrial Development Authority owns the airport property, which is still unnamed.

In February Simmons estimated $5.34 million would be needed to develop the airport property, but Monday he said about $1.8 million would pay for a phase-one development with three site-ready pads.

Updated figures Simmons shared Monday show an overall cost of $2.6 million for running water, sewer and gas through the entire airport property, and for construction of a 3,500-foot-long road.

The cost rises to $4.1 million due to future costs of a turning lane, readying the other five sites, and construction of a water tower.

Supervisors voted in April to scrap the hiring of a financial consultant and pursue bonds to develop the airport property.

A potential client, who is looking at three sites in north Mississippi, is set to view the Panola County site in coming days, so verbal support from the board of supervisors is crucial before the client’s visit, the Partnership CEO said. The board then voted 5-0 to support Simmons’ phase-one plan.

Simmons also stressed that potential clients must be assured that Panola County government is working quickly to develop the site. To kick off the process, an environmental permit will be requested this week from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he said.

Simmons and engineer Blake Mendrop showed the board a drawing of the industrial property that depicts eight plant sites that can support 100,000-square-foot buildings.

“This is just a conceptual drawing,” Mendrop said. “There are more ways the acreage can be used.”

Mendrop and Simmons described how a main road could be located along the middle of the property, scrapping an earlier idea for the road to loop around the property.

Of the $1.8 million cost estimate, the main road would cost the most, about $800,000, according to figures provided by Mendrop. The three industrial sites would cost about $100,000 each.

 Other costs include engineering work, and water and sewer work.

After the airport property is developed, future plans call for development of Como property near Interstate 55.