JASPER, Tenn. -- Even though city administrators still haven't gotten confirmation on a $500,000 grant to help fund an annexation plan for an area between U.S. Highway 41 and Interstate 24's exit 158, they are proceeding as if they have.
Jasper Mayor Billy Simpson said the Appalachian Regional Commission grant is crucial to the project, and without it the plan is "dead in the water."
"We're still waiting on word," he said. "They say the application is on [Gov. Bill Haslam's] desk. We thought we would hear something last week. We certainly hope we get an answer this week."
Despite the delay, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed last week to allow Simpson to sign papers to move forward on a proposed sewer extension to the site, known as the Shellmound Business Park, contingent on the ARC grant approval.
"There are several documents that I have to sign to move this thing forward once we get an answer [from the governor's office]," Simpson said.
City officials recently received a letter from William Gleeson, the real estate project manager for Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores in Oklahoma City, Okla., which reaffirmed the company's plan to build a facility at the site if everything works out.
In February, officials revealed that Love's was considering building a travel stop at the exit, which 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 about 35 parcels of land from the exit to Highway 41 and construct the 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 would be left with about $300,000 to pay to complete the project.
Last month, Simpson said some of that money could come from Marion County and other interested parties who have already begun to commit funds to the project.
"[Jasper] needs to be prepared to do this if they don't want to render some of those revenues to the county," Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said in February. "We know for a fact that without the sanitary sewer connection out there, the site is not viable and will not be considered."