published Monday, July 16th, 2012

Grant puts Jasper annex plan into gear

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

JASPER, Tenn. — The plan for Jasper to construct a sewer line and annex an area between U.S. Highway 41 and Interstate 24's exit 158 has passed a major hurdle.

Last week, Mayor Billy Simpson announced the city has received a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant, which is crucial for the plan to proceed.

"We were very fortunate to receive this grant," Simpson said. "There's been a lot of work done on it, and we've waited and waited and waited."

In February, officials revealed that Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores, based in Oklahoma City, Okla., is considering building a travel stop in the area known as Shellmound Business Park. Officials said the new business would mean an estimated $7 million to $8 million investment by the company and up to 30 jobs.

According to the plan, Jasper would annex approximately 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 of the estimated $1.3 million to complete the requirements for construction to begin.

Combined with the ARC grant, the town will be left with an estimated $300,000 to pay to get the project started.

Vice Mayor Leon Rash commended Simpson on his "work, persistence, and dedication" to the project.

"I know he's done a lot of work on this grant, and he's contacted a lot of people to get their help," he said. "I think it was a job well done."

"I appreciate the board's support and help in [getting the grant]," Simpson said. "It was a team effort. Now we've got a lot of work ahead to make this a reality."

City Attorney Mark Raines said the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen has accomplished several of the steps in the original project timeline. The board now will need to have another public hearing and second reading of the new ordinance concerning the issue.

The first public hearing and ordinance reading was in March, officials said.

The board scheduled the public hearing and second reading for the Sept. 10 board meeting.

"In the meantime, the certified letters will go out to the affected landowners," Raines said. "Some of our public notices require 15 days, and some require seven days. If we tried to get that in before the August meeting, I just don't think we could meet that timeline."

After approving the ordinance in September, the city will send official notification of the proposed annexation to Marion County administrators, officials said.

"We don't want to move too fast, but we do want to stay on schedule," Simpson said.

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