published Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Marion County officials doubtful waterline will be built

JASPER, Tenn. — The lack of water is an issue residents bring to Marion County leaders almost monthly.

Last week, Bill Jochym asked the County Commission for help getting a waterline placed on an eight-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 41 between Guild, Tenn., and Raccoon Mountain. Jochym said he has spent more than $20,000 "trying to get decent water" by digging wells near his home but has "absolutely nothing to show for it."

"We're just of the opinion that we're taxpayers, and there's no more important commodity than water," he said. "You've got to have water to live."

While sympathetic, Commission Chairman Les Price said the issue comes up whenever the county is eligible for grant money to build such lines.

"This has been talked about many times as a project through our waterline grant, but the bottom line was that there were not enough people per mile to make it feasible for Tennessee American Water to [build it] and for the grant to work out," Price said.

There must be a minimum number of moderate- to low-income houses per mile to qualify for the grant, Commissioner Tommy Thompson said.

"We didn't meet those requirements," he said.

Commissioner Marshall Raines, who also lives in the area, said a proposed waterline was discussed for more than two years and "everything that can be done has been done" without success.

"I'm one of your neighbors," he told Jochym. "I have no water. I have to haul my own water, and so does everyone around me. [Officials] tried to come up with a solution to get water over there, and they couldn't come up with anything."

Commissioner Gene Hargis said ground instability in the area is another huge obstacle.

"The road is constantly sliding," he said. "The mountain is continually moving."

The instability causes road repairs and spot-paving "four or five times per year," he said.

Cutting into rock to install a waterline will cause more problems with ground stability along the road, Commissioner Donald Blansett said, and that is a major stumbling block.

"This issue will come up again when we become eligible for another grant," Price said. "We always check it out, but I don't know that we've got the answer."

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

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