KIMBALL, Tenn. — After last month's controversial vote on funding a secondary waterline from South Pittsburg, Tenn., some city leaders wanted to clarify the reasons for their positions on the matter.
South Pittsburg is hoping to win a $481,572 federal block grant in October. If that happens, Kimball leaders hope South Pittsburg will extend a second waterline to Kimball.
The Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 3-2 in February to commit $47,572 for the project.
Alderman Johnny Sisk voted no, and he explained why at the board's March meeting.
"[My vote] was not against the water project being done," he said.
Sisk said he is "all for" a second waterline to Kimball, but "I don't think it was right for us to be paying for it."
The project is estimated to cost $529,200, and Kimball's portion would cover the matching funds for South Pittsburg's grant.
Alderman Mark Payne voted for funding the project last month and said South Pittsburg's water company has helped Kimball repair its sewer system many times.
"They have helped us time and time and time again and haven't charged us a dime," he said. "They've worked with us through countless road widening, waterline moving and sewer line moving. They could have charged us a lot more in the last eight years that I can speak to than $47,000."
Kimball's sewer contract with South Pittsburg expires in 18 months, and Payne said the board needed to be "thinking about these things."
"We need to be cooperating, or we could have our sewer line stuck where the sun don't shine," he said.
Sisk questioned whether the town could connect to nearby Jasper's water system as an alternative.
Mayor Rex Pesnell said Jasper is having "a difficult time" with its water system already.
"I don't know that that would be a solution," he said. "It may be, but I'm just saying that they've got issues up there, too."
Pesnell cast the tie-breaking vote last month to approve the matching funds and said he considered what the town could lose if the current waterline failed.
"I just look at the revenue we would lose in the event of a water break in the one line we have now," he said. "We would lose more than $47,000. I guarantee you that."
Payne said city leaders would have regretted missing the opportunity to get the backup waterline if, for example, a resident's house caught fire while that main waterline was down.
"I don't think it was a bad decision on my part," he said. "If [the public] thinks so — November, two years from now, you know what to do: Throw me out of here."
Alderman John Matthews, who voted against paying the matching funds last month, said he asked a top South Pittsburg official recently how long Kimball could really be without water if the current line failed.
"They said four to five hours," he said.
"Possibly," Pesnell responded. "Or it could be four to five days. We'll never know. They can't say that."
He said board members on both sides of the issue respected each other's opinions, and they are all just trying to do what they believe is in Kimball's best interest.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org