ELIZABETHTON — When Kenneth Bass looks out at his front yard he feels his patience wearing thin.
Zigzagging through the middle of his well manicured yard is a 12-inch diameter water line that carries half of all the water the city of Elizabethton uses each day.
“They said it was only temporary when they put it in,” Bass said. That was over a year ago and there still is no sign the city is prepared to take out the temporary line.
“Mr. Bass was told we are in the process of obtaining a loan from the state revolving fund,” Elizabethton City Manager Fred Edens said Friday. “We intend to use part of that money to build a new line that will bypass his property entirely.”
Edens said he wished he could tell Bass when the new line would be installed.
“I can’t say with any certainty when the money will come. You know how the economy is and dealing with state and federal government is always a slow process.”
Elizabethton City Attorney Roger Day said he sympathizes with Bass’ situation.
“We hate that it has taken this long, you can hardly blame him for being upset,” Day said Saturday.
Day said the city anticipated having the money for the project by January, “but I understand the loan was only approved on June 24 of this year.”
Even though the temporary line is an ugly sight on Bass’ property, he does say it has been a big help. He said the old city water line went directly under his house and it was leaking. He said the ground below his house was always saturated with water and his timbers were mildewed.
“It was really bad,” Bass said. His complaints led to the construction of the temporary line. Even though the temporary line goes beyond the city’s easement, Bass said “I volunteered to let them do it.”
Bass is not pleased they left the line above ground. “I even offered to pay to bury it, but they wouldn’t do it.”
Edens said the line was left above line to make any leaks easy to find.
Edens said the ground on Bass’ property can be “squishy” but he said other neighbors have the same problem in wet weather.
“He lives beside one of the most productive springs in the entire region and he lives in a flood plain,” Edens said. “We have tested the water in Mr. Bass’ yard and it is not treated water, so it is not coming from our line.”
Bass does not believe the water is coming from the new line. He believes the water is rain and spring water being conveyed by the old abandoned water line onto his property. He thinks the problem can be fixed by capping the abandoned line above his residence.
“One reason the city put in the temporary line was because you don’t want to dig around under someone’s house when you have a problem with the line,” Day said. “It is ugly to have it in his yard, and when the new line bypassing his house is put in, I have no doubt the city will do what it can to make things right for Mr. Bass.”
Edens did point out that the problem originates with where Bass built his house in the 1970s.
“When Mr. Bass first walked in my office, I asked him if he built on top of our water line or did we jack his house up to run our line under his house,” Edens said.
Bass said he did not know where the city’s water line was located when he built his house.
He acquired the property after the death of his parents. At that time, his parents’ house was located on a vacant lot where Bass now has a garden and a dog lot. He decided to build a house for himself and the only empty space that he did not know contained the buried water line.
Tempers reached a peak last week when Bass went to Eden’s office to ask for papers on which he is supposed to have agreed to the city’s building the temporary line on his property. He said he does not recall signing such a document but does admit he volunteered to let the city build it. During the heated exchange, Bass allegedly made threats to turn off the water running through the line.
As voices grew louder and louder, Chief of Police Matt Bailey escorted Bass from the office.
A few days after the confrontation, Bass said “I don’t want to go to jail, I am old and I have cancer and I have had stints put in my arteries,” but he still points to the huge hunk of metal sticking up from the giant pipe snaking through his yard.
“That is the valve that shuts it off.” If he is faced with a flooded yard this winter and having to once again pump out his septic tanks because of all the water, he hints that he might be tempted to turn the valve.
“It is a federal offense to interfere with a public water line,” Edens said.
But the city has yet another reason to get the bypass line built as quickly as possible.