Power company hints of future contributions 2/11/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Power company hints of future contributions

By Rupert Howell
South Mississippi Electric Power Association CEO/general manager Jim Compton told Panola supervisors Monday that his company would not close the door on future contributions such as the $2 million donated last year to Panola County and South Panola School District.

But “not this year,” Compton said revealing that SMEPA had budgeted $30 million for repairs and maintenance for the natural gas fired steam driven generating facility now known as Batesville Generation Station located in the Harmon Industrial Park. The company spent $6 million for repairs and maintenance the previous year.

Compton told supervisors that he felt his company had been portrayed as, “. . . the grinch that stole Christmas,” when they purchased the power plant from bankruptcy court.

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It was quickly learned that as an electric cooperative, the new owner would be exempt from county property taxes on the facility valued at approximately $200 million.

Both the county and South Panola School officials were scratching their heads worrying about how to make up for the loss millions of dollars in tax revenue. State Representative Steve Hale sought and received some type of payment in lieu of taxes resulting in the voluntary $2 million contribution from SMEPA.

That contribution along with payment in arrears for 2011 taxes and the 2012 tax taxes, helped South Panola transition into budgeting with the lost assessment. Senator Hale was also present at Monday’s meeting and praised Compton and SMEPA, “For making a contribution that they did not have to make.”

Hale reminded supervisor board members and others present at Monday’s meeting that it takes a partnership of business, state and local government to make things work.

Hale’s comments were echoed by supervisor board president Kelly Morris, and South Panola Schools superintendent Tim Wilder who too was present at Monday’s meeting.

Wilder told Compton, “It (funding the school’s budget) would have been a big hurdle to overcome (without the donation),” and thinking of future budgets added, “Keep us in mind.”

Batesville mayor Jerry Autrey was also at Monday’s meeting. SMEPA continues to pay municipal property taxes. Autrey joined the other officials in welcoming Compton and SMEPA.

Compton said that 92 percent of taxes paid by the local power generating facility go to the City of Batesville.

Compton noted that another company bidding against them on the local power plant in bankruptcy court purchased a similar facility in Ackerman.

“Our co-bidder mothballed the plant in Ackerman,” he said, earlier noting that SMEPA was here for the long-term.

The CEO noted that the millions in maintenance and repairs at the facility would lead to additional sales and motel taxes paid in the community.