published Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Grant key to Jasper annexation

  • photo
    Billy Simpson, the mayor of Jasper, Tennessee
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. — City administrators are waiting to see if they receive a $500,000 grant before the plan to annex land between Highway 41 and Interstate 24’s exit 158 can proceed.

“We are still staying on schedule, but all of this is really contingent on the [Appalachian Regional Commission] grant,” Jasper Mayor Billy Simpson said. “I would just love to get an approval on this, so we could move forward.”

Simpson said the city had received no word on the grant as of last week.

In February, officials said Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores seriously is considering building a new travel stop at the exit, which could mean an estimated $7 million-to-$8 million investment by the company and up to 30 jobs.

According to the plan, Jasper would annex about 35 parcels of land from the exit to Highway 41 and construct the needed sewer line.

Officials said the property owners and Love’s have agreed to invest $250,000 each in the estimated $1.3 million needed to complete the requirements for construction to begin.

Combined with the Appalachian Regional Commission grant, the town would be left with about $300,000 to pay to make the project happen.

Simpson said some of that money could come from Marion County and other interested parties.

“The county has not come to the table with their commitment yet,” he said. “I’ve had a few individuals come to me and commit [funds to the project]. One person committed for $20,000 to $30,000 input on this, so there’s a lot of interest on it.”

Without the grant funding, though, the project is “dead in the water,” Simpson said.

Officials are hopeful Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will start issuing grant approvals soon.

“The state still doesn’t know what cuts the federal government is going to make, and I think that’s part of the reason the state is hedging,” Jasper Attorney Mark Raines said. “They don’t know what the federal numbers are yet.

“Everybody is cognizant that it would be a tremendous boon to that part of the county and also the city,” Raines said. “It would open up a corridor along Highway 41 for commercial development.”

In the meantime, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen is deciding the dates for public hearings on the issue and sending letters to the property owners who would be affected.

“It’s just a process that you can’t speed up,” Simpson said. “It’s going to be slow. You just can’t make them move fast enough to get approval. We’re doing everything we can possibly do, but we just have to sit back and wait.”

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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