published Monday, April 4th, 2011

Marion, Franklin dispute border

By Ryan Lewis

JASPER, Tenn.—After more than a decade, the border dispute between Marion and Franklin counties has resurfaced and officials estimate the outcome could affect over 200 property owners.

Marion County Mayor John Graham said the two sides discussed the issue two weeks ago with the intention of compromising on a map that contains five possible border lines.

The lines have been drawn over the years by contracted surveyors, the state Department of Transportation and TVA, officials said.

Graham said Franklin County officials proposed a line that included a large indentation into Marion County.

“That is the one that they suggested we adopt as the official county line, and I wasn’t prepared to do that for two reasons,” he said. “First, I don’t think it’s correct. Second, that’s too far into our county for me to make that decision.”

Marion County Commission Chairman Gene Hargis said he’s “not in a compromising mood with the county line.”

“I’m not for giving any part of Marion County to another county because they want to run roughshod,” Hargis said.

Franklin County officials declined to comment on the disagreement.

Graham said he believes the most western line, which was drawn by TVA, should be the official border.

“I think the federal government, with all their resources and manpower, has a better way to determine that than most of us,” he said. “After the years and years of maps that I have studied up until the late ’80s and early ’90s, that straight line down has always been the county line. There has never been an indention in it that would justify that to be the new line.”

Hargis said he thinks the disagreement is less over lines than politics.

“[Franklin County’s] surveyor was pretty much in agreement with our surveyor,” Hargis said. “He was not disputing anything, but some of their officials were. I felt pretty confident about that. I think it’s our responsibility and our duty [as county commissioners] to set this line right once and for all.”

Marion County attorney Billy Gouger said there is absolutely no legal basis for Franklin County’s proposed line.

“This has been an issue for about 12 years now,” he said. “We thought we had resolved it back in the late ’90s by an agreed-upon line. It runs at a slight angle toward the [TVA-designated line]. There is evidence in the minutes of both county commissions that line was agreed upon, but Franklin County is now saying that’s not what they really meant to do. They are now trying to find a way to back out of that.”

There have been no recent studies to show how much tax revenue Marion County would lose if it compromised on the borderline, officials said.

“It would be a significant loss financially to the county if this line is conceded,” Gouger said. “It does impact other things besides property taxes. It can affect planning commission jurisdiction and even criminal court jurisdiction. It has consequences all across the board.”

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

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