KIMBALL, Tenn. - Even though city administrators passed a resolution last week agreeing to collaborate on upgrading Jasper's sewage treatment plant, they did not vote to sign the proposed contractual agreement.
"We've got several concerns [with the agreement]," Kimball Mayor David Jackson said. "We've got to look at the gallons per day and some type of out in this contract other than the lack of funding."
Jackson said officials also would like to see documentation that the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will permit the facility to have 1.5 million gallons per day in capacity.
In the proposed agreement, Jasper would get two-thirds of the plant's capacity, while Kimball would claim the remaining one-third, though the cities will split the costs equally, officials said.
"When I questioned that, the response I got was that Jasper thinks that's a fair and equitable division because they are transferring their existing plant, land and outfall line to this authority at no cost," Kimball Attorney Billy Gouger said. "It's being done at no additional cost, but the [newly created] authority does have to assume the debt on it."
In fact, Jasper needs more capacity than Kimball, officials said, because Jasper will serve most of the customers.
"I cannot vote to approve this, because I don't see a guaranteed number of capacity for this town," Kimball Alderman Mark Payne said. "One-third of nothing is nothing. I want to see some true flow numbers that we can expect before I vote for this [agreement]."
"Maybe it's just a matter of language, but I like [solid numbers] a lot better than one-thirds and two-thirds," Gouger said. "If it's going to be 500,000 gallons per day, that's fine. Just say that. You're guessing that TDEC is going to permit 1.5 million gallons per day, and they may not."
Another concern expressed by the board was that there was no way to get out of the agreement before actual construction began other than having financing problems.
"There is no out in this contract other than the inability to get financing, which I don't think is likely to be a problem," Gouger said. "So, if [Kimball] agrees and signs this contract, it's binding."
"I think if you sign the papers to get the funding, you're obligated, but not before that," Jackson said.
Kimball officials voted to approve the resolution to join Jasper on the project because they believe their issues with the agreement can be worked out quickly.
Gouger said the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development office needed the resolutions from both towns to begin submitting the applications for the project's approval.
"My understanding is all they needed were the resolutions, not the agreement," he said. "I think the agreement can be worked out while all of that is in the process."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org