McCAYSVILLE, Ga. — Sharing a river’s water is nothing new for McCaysville and Copperhill, Tenn.
The Toccoa River winds out of the North Georgia mountains to the state line, where its name changes to Ocoee River beneath an iron bridge that links the twin towns sitting on the state line.
McCaysville provides the water system for both towns, while Copperhill treats the wastewater that results.
But people are talking here about the politicians’ fight to nudge the Georgia line closer to the Tennessee River for Atlanta’s sake.
Here, the state line slices through grocery store parking lots. And shifting some of Copperhill from Polk County, Tenn., into Fannin County, Ga., would mean a beer problem.
Beer is for sale in Copperhill but not in McCaysville, although it’s legal in Fannin County.
Raymond Arthur owns a package store in Copperhill. Moving the line would take away his business.
“It won’t happen,” Mr. Arthur said.
“How would they treat businesses? Tennessee isn’t going to give Georgia all that tax money.” But he can’t be sure the political maneuvering will pass him by. “You take 32 years in business, and then they swipe it away from you. I want to retire some day,” Mr. Arthur said.
“If they were fair about it, they’d give it back to the Indians. That’s where they stole it from, anyway.”
Wanda Pittman grew up in the Georgia mountains here and, like many others, moved away for opportunities. Now she is back in McCaysville operating the Nifty 50s Cafe.
On the restaurant’s patio overlooking the river last week, standing above some Canada geese assembled below waiting for a snack, she looked across the iron bridge on Bridge Street into Tennessee.
Georgians don’t pay a lot of attention to the brouhaha, she said. Tennesseans do.
“They’ve always been Tennesseans. They want to stay Tennesseans and, see that building right there? They serve beer. We can’t,” Ms. Pittman said.
“So if the line changes, you have four restaurants that serve beer that wouldn’t be allowed to do so. It would be a huge change for them,” she said.
As she spoke, in fact, a beer truck was unloading on the Tennessee side of the bridge.
In summer, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad excursion trains bring visitors to McCaysville, where they shop in the town’s antique malls, craft shops and restaurants.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Kristi Dugan said as she packed up wares from a weekend antiques sale and auction.
“You’ve got to deal with what’s here now,” she said of the state line. She’s from Blue Ridge, the Fannin County seat.
“Most people are like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ but some are really ticked,” she said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with water.”
That’s what Billy Deal, who owns the antique mall and auction, thinks, too.
“It’s just something for politicians and lawyers to make money from,” he said. “It’s not going to change anything. To me it doesn’t make any difference.”
Sonny Payne, who lives on the Tennessee side near Copperhill, says he has heard very little talk in town about the state line.
“It’s mostly about Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. But it’s been that way so long I don’t think it will ever happen,” he said.
“I’ve not heard anything negative on either side,” said Jan O’Neal, co-owner with her husband, Lamar, of the Rivers Crossing mall where the Nifty 50s Cafe is located. “We’ve always shared the river.”
Evelyn Arp, who works at Copperhill City Hall, pointed to her Big Orange UT jacket hanging on the coat rack by the office door.
“The big thing is that I will still be Big Orange,” she said.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...