JASPER, Tenn. — Marion County leaders have been working for months to revive the once-doomed idea of a regional wastewater treatment plant.
Since taking office in September 2014, County Mayor David Jackson has made no secret of his strong belief that Marion's future prosperity lies in recruiting new industries looking to make long-term investments in the area.
A regional wastewater facility serving the entire county would go a long way toward validating those recruitment efforts, he said.
"That's one of the things we're lacking throughout this county — infrastructure, especially sewer," Jackson said.
This week, Jackson announced the county was awarded a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office to help pay for a feasibility study.
The grant was supposed to be for $20,000 to cover the cost of the analysis, he said, but Marion didn't receive the full amount.
"The county is going to have to kick in $5,000 to do this study," Jackson said.
The Marion County Commission voted unanimously to do so.
Commissioner Tommy Thompson supports the idea, but he is wary about officials across the county working together to make it happen.
"We went through this regional waste thing once before, and I hope this one don't turn out like the last one did," he said. "That's to be seen. I think, maybe, we have people that will work a little better [together] than they did before."
A planned $10 million wastewater treatment plant in Marion was a near certainty in 2010 until the South Pittsburg City Commission voted to withdraw from the proposed deal.
Former South Pittsburg Mayor Mike Killian said in June 2010 he was "fully with this project," and he thought the regional treatment was "doing the right thing" for the county.
Just five months later, Killian urged city commissioners to pull the town's support for the project.
As its biggest investor then, South Pittsburg's opting out dramatically dropped the odds the facility would ever be built.
Kimball and Jasper leaders vowed to move forward together with the project, but postponements with funding and environmental surveys plagued it from there.
By March 2012, the project was scrapped.
Jackson, who helped spearhead the regional wastewater project as Kimball's mayor at the time, is hopeful new leadership across the county will promote better cooperation.
At a recent stakeholder meeting about the project, he said there was "some good discussion of what we need to do and where we need to go."
"We had a really good meeting that night," Jackson said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.