published Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Marion County Commission backs Jasper annexation

Beth Jones, Southeast Tennessee Development District executive director
Beth Jones, Southeast Tennessee Development District executive director
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. — The plan for Jasper to construct a sewer line and annex an area between U.S. Highway 41 and Interstate 24's exit 158 has the support of the Marion County Commission.

On Monday, the board voted unanimously to support the project as long as there is an agreement between the county and the city to pay back any money the county commits.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson said he supported the plan as long as the county was repaid because there is "too much at stake" not to support it.

Jasper plans to annex about 43 parcels of land and build the sewer line to make way for the construction of a Love's Travel Stop and County Store in the area known as Shellmound Business Park.

Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Development District, said the plan comes down to "having infrastructure in place."

"Love's cannot and will not come here without sewer connection service," she said.

The $1.377 million price tag for the sewer extension is "a lot to take in," Jones said, but with Love's investment and job creation, an Appalachian Regional Commission grant and commitments by some local property owners that total $1 million, most of the cost has been covered already.

Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger said the most likely scenario would have the county paying whatever remains of the cost of the sewer. Then, Jasper would commit the future tax revenue from Love's to pay back the county.

If the tax revenue from Love's was dedicated to paying back the $377,000 remaining, Jasper could have it paid off in less than four years, officials said.

Love's Real Estate Project Manager Bill Gleason said the proposed travel stop would be similar to an existing facility in Charleston, Tenn., and would create 50 part-time and 30 full-time jobs.

"We'll be a sort of anchor in that development area," he said. "Other businesses will come in. We're excited about this location, and we're just looking to finalize the budget concerning the sewer line so we can get rolling."

Officials estimate the travel stop will bring in $6 million to $7 million per year in retail sales.

"Once we build it, it's not going anywhere," Gleason said. "It's not like a manufacturing job where a plant comes in and in just a few years moves to Mexico. This is something that, generation-wise, when we're long gone, it will still be here providing jobs and taxes."

Jasper Attorney Mark Raines said the city is sending out notification letters to affected property owners.

"The feedback that the town has received so far from the businesses has been strong," he said. "People will have the opportunity to voice any concerns they might have."

A public meeting on the issue will be held Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. CDT before the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen's regular monthly meeting.

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