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I hate to be put in those positions, but if you look at this thing, we've basically had it for 20 years for nothing.
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David Jackson

JASPER, Tenn. — When the cost to rent the property for the Suck Creek Mountain convenience center significantly increased, Marion County leaders were sent scrambling for a solution.

At the county commission's May meeting, County Mayor David Jackson said the board's sanitation committee had met on the issue four or five times over the last month.

Convenience centers are used by residents in rural areas to dispose of garbage, and Marion has paid $300 a year for the last 20 years to use the Suck Creek convenience center site. But Jackson said the current landowner recently increased the rent to $700 a month.

So county officials offered instead to buy the property outright.

Jackson said the cost to build a new convenience center elsewhere is estimated at more than $74,000.

"Keep in mind, that price does not include buying the property, clearing the property, and getting it to level," he said. "That's just building the convenience center itself."

The total cost for a new center would be more than $100,000, Jackson said.

After some negotiations, the Suck Creek landowner agreed to sell the less-than-one-acre site for $65,000, and the board approved it 13-1.

Commissioner Allen Kirk said even if someone in the Suck Creek area donated property, it would still cost more to build a new center than to buy the current one.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson, chairman of the board's sanitation committee, said state permit requirements and other fees would push the costs for a new center even higher than the estimate.

"[The current] property is not worth near that," Kirk said. "But what are we going to do?"

Thompson said the county is indeed "kind of over a barrel."

"I hate to be put in those positions, but if you look at this thing, we've basically had it for 20 years for nothing," he said.

The county will save money "in the long run" by buying the current site, Thompson said.

Commissioner Donald Blansett cast the lone dissenting vote.

Marion County now will own all but one of its nine convenience centers, but Commissioner David Abbott said he fears this purchase will encourage others to take advantage of the county by putting it in a similar position.

"When the county needs something, it becomes real valuable," Thompson said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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