Water and sewer lines operating below capacity.
The Macon County Planning Board was recently tasked with looking at some requests made by the Town of Franklin and the Town of Highlands in regards to some infrastructure issues. At the urging of the county commissioners, the board members took on the issues at last Thursday's meeting.
The Town of Highlands listed these key concerns:
The Town of Franklin requested assistance in completing necessary repairs from an infiltration study which resulted in eight major issues in Green Street, West Main Street, Doral Street, Iotla Street, Love Street, Harrison Avenue, and West Franklin (Lyndon B. Johnson Job Corps.)
Many of the issues, as member John Underwood pointed out, are not beyond the city limits.
"My thought is that if it's something within the city limits then the cities need to stand on their own two feet. If you're living in that city then the city needs to step up and take care of those people who are paying city tax,” he said. “If you look at the Split Rail project — and I use that as an example because I know Highlands better — I understand that all of those people also pay county taxes but I don't think the commissioners should have to increase taxes to pay for that. I think the Town of Highlands are the ones installing it, they're the ones who are going to get the money from it.”
The point set the tone for the meeting, leaving the question of if and when the county should lend a helping hand to a municipality.
“I think the commissioners really are wanting the board to look at where future growth in the county might be. When we interviewed the towns both of them really said that they weren't interested in expanding and they'd rather invest in what they've got,” said county commissioner and planning board liaison Jimmy Tate. “But I don't know how interested the county is in maintenance and upkeep.”
Revitalizing areas within the Franklin city limits and quelling urban blight has been a strong message among town officials with Mayor Bob Scott making a strong case at the last League of Women Voters' forum.
“What's the point of building new structures if we're just going to leave the old ones behind,” he said at the forum.
The planning board seemed in agreement that the county commissioners should not address expanding water and sewer in the near future since both towns seemed more interested in focusing inwards.
“I make a motion that we report to the commissioners that after consulting with town and county agencies and officials, that we do not feel that extending water and sewer lines is necessary at this time or the foreseeable future and that one of the reasons for that is to encourage the use of currently existing infrastructure that is currently operating well below capacity,” Susan Ervin said with Ben Laseter seconding the motion.
The recommendation passed with unanimous support. The question of whether the county should be involved in maintenance issues gained a reasonable amount of conversation since some of the listed items are in the county and need repair.
“If there's a line that's been in place for 20 years and it needs repair out in the county and if it's of use and benefit to the county, then I could see how it would fall back to the county,” Underwood said.
He pointed to the Sequoyah Lake dam refurbishment project as a potentially qualifying project.
The other members agreed.
A topic that continued to resurface was that of a water line in need of repair at Queen Mountain in Highlands. Queen Mountain is a development established in the 1970s whose developer guaranteed to have water and then tied it into the town's water system. However, no additional maintenance agreement was put into place.
“If you do Queen Mountain, then look at all of these little subdivisions around Franklin,” said Peggy Patterson. “Are we going to have to go in every time a system tears up to fix it?”
Ervin agreed with the idea that setting the precedent of providing the water and/or maintenance could lead to problems in the future.
Town of Franklin Land Use Administrator and county planning board member Justin Setser suggested that grant opportunities existed for such situations.
Tate agreed to relay the information to the Town of Highlands and the commissioners.
The next county planning board meeting will take place on Aug. 21, at 4 p.m. at the Macon County Public Health Building.