JASPER, Tenn. - While Jasper officials wait for news about funding and permitting for a proposed regional wastewater facility, the countdown continues to a July 2013 state-mandated deadline for completion.
Mayor Billy Simpson said Jasper and Kimball, Tenn., have been involved in a joint venture to upgrade and expand Jasper's wastewater plant to treat up to 1.5 million gallons of waste per day.
Simpson said that when the project started, USDA Rural Development personnel guaranteed 45 percent "free money" for it, but that offer has been "pulled back" because of budget cuts.
Now, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen doesn't know what percentage the city will get and won't know for at least two more months, officials said.
Gary Cosby of CTI Engineers Inc. said another issue concerns a required permit that was applied for "months ago" with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which also issued the 2013 deadline.
"Until they issue a draft permit for the plant, we won't know the target [for the plant's capacity]," he said. "We have a fairly good idea where we think [the target] might be, but until that permit comes out, we don't know exactly what to design for."
The funding and permit issues are keeping the project from moving forward, Cosby said.
"Yet, we've got an order in 2013 that says [Jasper] has got to be finished," he said. "At some point, we've got to move ahead to meet that order. It's kind of like a fish-or-cut-bait thing. We can't delay hardly any longer and still expect to meet the deadline."
City Attorney Mark Raines said all of the problems are out of Jasper's control.
"I think it would be prudent to at least notify TDEC or file a request for extension [of the deadline] and list all of these reasons," he said. "Put them on notice right now, so that when it becomes crunch time, it's not [a surprise]."
An extension already was granted by TDEC earlier this year, Cosby said.
"The timeframe [for completion] was actually this year," he said. "We got it moved back to 2013. [TDEC] did extend it for the very same arguments back then."
At the time, officials anticipated the current problems would have been solved before now, he said.
Last Monday, the board voted unanimously for Cosby and Raines to collaborate on a letter to TDEC that will outline the problems in meeting the current deadline and request another extension.
"We're a victim of circumstances," Simpson said. "The worst scenario is that [TDEC] will say 'no,' but at least they'll know we're trying."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.