Old Panola Mills property could be new fire station 3/20/2015

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 20, 2015

Old Panola Mills property could be new fire station

By John Howell
Batesville city officials may convert a portion of the old Panola Mills property into a complex that would include a new fire station and the city street department.

Mayor Jerry Autrey told aldermen during their Tuesday meeting that the city’s application for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help fund a new fire station would be helped by planning to locate it on the city-owned property along Van Voris Street. The city-owned property across Van Voris Street from the old building is now used for parking and materials storage

“It looks like to get those extra points to get this thing we’re going to have to have it close to the lower and moderate income people,” Autrey said, referring to the competitive grant application the city is preparing.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“It would help that area,” Alderman Stan Harrison said.

“I like the idea of that location,” Alderman Bill Dugger said, better than an earlier suggestion to locate the CDBG-funded fire station on the old J. P. Hudson Park property “because of it being residential.”

“We’ve got to get our hands full of aces to get this grant,” Autrey said. “It’s pretty competitive. That would help a lot.”

City plans to seek CDBG funding for a new fire station coincide with ongoing discussions about demolition of the portion of the old Panola Mills building that faces Van Voris Street.

The Street Department is headquartered in part of the old building. The roof and plumbing are “worn out,” Autrey said.

“I just don’t want to spend any more money on that old building,” the mayor continued.

“I’m going to get Blake (City Engineer Blake Mendrop) to help me look for grants to help me do something with the street department,” the mayor continued, adding: “That’s just ideas right now; I’m just throwing out some stuff for y’all to think about.”

The mayor described negotiations with a contractor to remove asbestos from the old building prior to demolition. He said that he would ask the Panola County Board of Supervisors for assistance from county workers and equipment to demolish the structure after the asbestos has been removed.

Adjacent high-ceiling buildings on Vance and Hays Streets are connected to the portion of the complex that the mayor has targeted for demolition.

“Those two buildings that are attached…, they have a high roofs,” Autrey said. “Anything with a high roof can be leased; industry is begging for storage like that.”

Until 1995, the complex housed the Panola Mills division of Union Underwear where 1,500 people were employed in the cut and sew manufacturing of Fruit of the Loom underwear. Union Underwear closed the Batesville operation and moved its manufacturing offshore.