Paving company expanding here
By Jeremy Weldon
A Tupelo asphalt paving company is expanding its operations to Batesville.
Murphree Paving received approval from the Panola County Land Commission last week to use its property on Hwy. 6 West as a “lay down yard” and storage facility.
The Lee County company has been in the paving business 40 years, area manager Chris Lefler told the commission.
Board members opened the meeting praising the considerable improvement the company has already made to the property, then spent 30 minutes questioning Lefler about plans for dressing up the existing structure.
Lefler told commissioners that Murphree Paving closed on the property in March and began cleaning the lot in preparation to move here.
The company later learned about the Land Commission and the need for its approval to open for business, Lefler said.
He told board members the company stopped cleaning and improving the property until the owner could get a better understanding of what would be required to open.
Lefler said his company plans to use the property for storage of tandem axle trucks, skid steers, small pavers, and sweepers.
He said the company does not mainline paving and no work for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. “We are strictly a residential and commercial paving company,” he said.
Murphree doesn’t produce any of its product, and buys asphalt from Lehman Brothers and APAC locally.
Lefler said the company has worked jobs in Batesville and Panola County, and has had positive experiences in the area. They hope to begin operations here in the next few days, he said.
“We have equipment at West Point and Tupelo sitting there waiting to come to Batesville,” he said.
“I think there’s a need for it here, and I’m glad to see you’re coming in,” board president Danny Jones said.
Jones said he and other commissioners want to protect the appearance of the important Batesville-Oxford corridor.
While the board is pleased with the progress and happy to see the overgrown area cleaned up, how Murphree makes the property look from the highway is equally important, Jones said.
Lefler reminded the commissions the company was not given any guidelines about the appearance of the property, nor was a typical made available to Murphree representatives for reference.
“I can tell you this,” Lefler said. “What is there now will not work for us. We intend to give the shop a facelift and eventually build a permanent structure.”
He said Murphree will use some of the existing building for office space now, and has plans to wall up most of the open sides to allow for equipment storage and maintenance.
“We’re not going to build the Taj Mahal out there,” Lefler said, but assured the commissioners the company will continue to improve the property and it’s overall appearance.
The major sticking point was Murphree’s plan to put a small construction trailer adjacent to the existing structure.
Lefler said those plans were drawn before the company studied the feasibility of using the current office area, and the trailer could be left off the plans.
He also agreed to consider some type of decorative covering on the chain link fencing, but said the elevation of the property is such that machines will always be visible from the highway.
Commissioners also asked Lefler about the possibility of having the company owners agree to brick the end of the building facing Hwy. 6, but were reminded by board counsel Ryan Revere the Land Commission has no site design regulations or building guidelines, and no authority to make that mandate.
Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar addressed the commissioners on behalf of Murphree, saying the company has already begun to work with local business and industry, quoting several upcoming projects.
“I have been on their job sites before and their equipment is pristine,” Azar said. “I was very impressed with the way they keep their machinery looking like new.”
The board discussed approving the application contingent on a three-year review, but Lefler said the company would agree to a 12-month review.
The approval was granted on that basis.