published Monday, October 14th, 2013

Agencies join forces on road repair in Marion County

JASPER, Tenn. — The poor condition of Jasper's First Street West, which runs next to Marion County's Justice Center and 911 Center, has prompted the county and city governments and the 911 board to form an unusual partnership.

Jasper Mayor Paul Evans said in August that the road has severe drainage problems, numerous potholes and a large ditch where some service lines were placed for the 911 Center.

"I'll vouch for [the poor condition of the road]," he said. "I have driven it down through there, and it is in bad shape."

Commissioner Wayne Willis said recently that he has been working with County Mayor John Graham and Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett to get something done about it.

"We've sort of worked out an agreement with the city of Jasper and the 911 [board], and each one of us will pay one-third [of the cost to repave the road]," he said.

County workers will complete the paving at a cost of $7,000, he said, and each of the entities will pay $2,333.

The County Commission voted 13-1 this week to approve the payment to Jasper. It will be the city's responsibility to ensure that the work is done.

"We're not taking on any obligation to bring the road up to any standard," Willis said about the county's part of the deal. "It still belongs to the city of Jasper."

Commissioner Tommy Thompson said the First Street issue has been brought before the county board "three or four times," and it has been reluctant to put money into the problem because the street's condition is so bad.

"That was the problem I had then," he said. "As long as we're not getting into any environmental things and just giving our $2,000, [the road] does need fixing."

The paving won't solve the street's drainage issues, he said, but it will alleviate them somewhat.

Willis said the repair project is "superficial."

Commissioner Kenneth Cookston agreed the road needs to be paved, but he said it's not the county's responsibility.

"That's a city road, and I think the city of Jasper should be responsible for it."

Thompson said there has been "an occasion or two" where the board has "stepped out there" and assisted the municipalities with similar projects.

"I know you open up a can of worms, but these cities are having a hard time just like we are," he said. "They don't have the fund balance [the county has]. Of course, they'd all like to get some of it, I guess."

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

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