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Costly project on horizon at Crockett

An aging sewer system at David Crockett High School will likely cost the county major money in a couple of years.
The miniature sewage plant that services the county high school was constructed at the same time as the school — in the 1970s.
“It’s 40 years old. It is worn out,” said Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge. “We have gotten the full life expectancy out of it. It has lived a full life.”
Eldridge said it is “very common” to have onsite treatment facilities at schools like Crockett. “It’s the only option when you are out in a rural area that is not serviced by a (municipal) sewer system,” he said. Most of the other county schools operate the same way, he noted.
Now, county officials must decide whether to pay for the construction of a new, self-contained plant at Crockett or pay to extend the Town of Jonesborough’s sewer lines out to the school to hook up to the town’s sewer system.
“That decision hasn’t been made yet,” Eldridge said. “You’re talking about a lot of money either way we go. It’s a major project.”
Eldridge said he and other leaders, including Director of Schools Ron Dykes, are “eyes wide open to the fact that this is going to be extremely expensive.”
They are hoping to garner a federal Community Development Block Grant to help fund the project. However, the county cannot apply for such a grant until it uses the remaining money of its current CDBG grant.
Washington County was awarded $500,000 to extend water service to the Bulldog Miller Road area a couple of years ago.
The project, completed in 2011, ended up costing less than the grant amount. The county has requested the remaining $144,000 be used for the extension of water service to the Lady Lane area.
If approved, that project would be completed in the spring, making the county eligible to apply for a 2014 CDBG grant for the Crockett project.
“Because we are impacting so many people with this sewer line at Crockett, we believe the project would score high (to receive the grant),” Eldridge said. “On any given school day, that place is like a small town. It is a campus with 1,200 students, at least, I’d say, and 100 faculty members. You’ve got a lot of people down there on 77 acres.”
Even if the grant is awarded, it would likely come with a matching component that requires the county contribute at least 20 percent of the cost. Such grants also have a $500,000 cap, Eldridge said.
No cost estimates have been determined as of yet. According to Jonesborough Town Administrator Bob Browning, town staff is working with engineers to come up with an estimate for the sewer extension option.
Eldridge cited at least one potential advantage to working with the town to connect to its sewer system — the possibility for more economic development.
“It offers the opportunity to open up a new area of the county to new development,” he said. “From my perspective, I’m really hopeful we can work something out.”