published Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Jasper waives water connection fee in Coppinger Cove

JASPER, Tenn. — After residents in the Coppinger Cove area complained for years about the lack of a waterline near their homes, few of them connected to it when Marion County finally funded the project in 2010.

Only six households are hooked up out of about 30 potential customers, officials said.

The Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently voted unanimously to wave the $400 tap fee and the $500 water line connection fee, but only for residents in Coppinger Cove.

Those residents will have to pay only a $50 meter deposit to access city water, Mayor Paul Evans said.

Officials are unsure how many new customers will want to connect without the fees, but Evans said he has been contacted by about seven residents who want to hook on.

"They just didn't want to pay the [connection fee]," he said.

The city is flushing about 30,000 gallons of water per month through the line because, with so few customers, there's not enough water usage to keep pressure in it, officials said.

"To me, I just think it's the right thing to do," Evans said. "The city has no money invested [in the water line's construction] at all. It's an expense to the city for us to treat that water."

City Attorney Mark Raines said this is a unique situation because Jasper didn't pay to install the line.

"Part of the reason for the connection fees and other fees associated with the water line and the taps is to recover part of that cost," he said. "This is a situation where the county did all that work through a grant and basically turned that water system over to the town of Jasper."

Alderman Leon Rash said he wanted to make it clear that only Coppinger Cove residents are eligible for the fee waiver.

"We are not setting a precedent here," Alderman Steve Looney said.

Raines said if other residents or future customers in other areas complain, they won't have a strong case.

"I think there are specific facts that we can put forth that says this is why that does not apply in your situation," Raines said.

Evans urged others to connect, too, "so that we don't have to incur the cost of treating this water and running it out on the ground."

Officials did not say whether the six households that already have connected to the water line will have their connection fees refunded.

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