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Locals express concern about Johnson City sewer line project

David Floyd • Sep 24, 2019 at 11:25 PM

Kim Sillyman calls her neighborhood in Boones Creek “a little piece of heaven.”

Although her property won’t be directly affected by the project, she’s concerned about how her neighbors will be impacted by the construction of a sewer line in the area and the resulting development that Johnson City anticipates it will support.

“If we start getting in there and start messing all that up, I think it’s going to depreciate Johnson City more than appreciate it,” she said.

Emotions ran high at times during a roughly hour long meeting Tuesday at City Hall about the Upper Reedy Creek sewer line expansion, which acted as an opportunity for Johnson City staff and Mattern & Craig, the engineering firm hired to put together preliminary plans, to walk nearby residents through the details of the project.

The city is moving forward with the sewer line expansion in anticipation of increased development resulting from a new pre-K-8 school in Boones Creek.

The project, which will encompass land between Garland Farm Estates Subdivision and the intersection of Boones Creek Road and Keefauver Road, will involve the construction of about 10,000 feet of gravity sewer lines, 2,000 feet of pressurized sewer lines and a new pumping station.

The city and contractor anticipate the project will be advertised in the winter of 2019 and 2020 and that construction will begin in spring 2020. Construction is anticipated to last about 12 months.

Sillyman said she lives about one mile from Rhonnie and Randy Miller, a local couple who have expressed concern about the impact the project would have on their small farm on Keefauver Road. Back in May, surveyors from the contractor, Mattern & Craig, made an unannounced visit to their property.

“I personally don’t think I should bear the brunt or pay for something that a lot of wealthy developers want,” Randy Miller told city officials during the meeting. “Let them pay for it. If it costs more to go around our property, so be it. Let those developers help the city pay for it.”

City Manager Pete Peterson said the current layout, which isn’t final, shows the line running across part of the Millers’ property. He said the city has made some adjustments to the route based on comments from the Millers to minimize the impact to their property.

He said the gravity sewer line proposed in the current iteration of the plans follows a natural drainage way.

“You make sanitary sewer service available ... to the most property by putting it in that drainage way because it’s all water and it’s all going to follow the drainage way,” he said.

The city said Tuesday that the project will require a limited number of sewer line easements.

Tom Witherspoon, the director of water and sewer services at the city, said there are two types of easements that the city will typically get on a sewer line construction project: A permanent easement and a construction easement.

A permanent easement usually extends seven and a half feet on either end of the pipe, and the construction easement, which will revert back to the property owner once work is complete, will allow the contractor to come in and build the line.

“That’s like someone renting your pasture if you’ve got pasture,” he said. The construction period, he said, could last from six months to a year. “We are compensating the property owner for that occurrence, for that inconvenience.”

Witherspoon said property owners can put things like gardens, driveways and playgrounds on an easement, but would be prohibited from extending their house over the stretch of land. He said the city needs to be able to access the line every 10 years to clean it.

The easement, the city said, would only extend to sewer lines and would not be applicable for other utilities or future roadway projects.

Jayne Lettich, who attended the meeting with her husband Tony, is the trustee of about 110 acres in the Upper Reedy Creek area. She supports the sewer line expansion.

“We think it would be good for our family, we think it would be good for the community and we think it would be better environmentally than to have all these septic tanks going into the ground,” she said.

Looking at the project from a larger scale, Tony Lettich said he wants to see the region grow rather than contract and cited a conference held at East Tennessee State University recently where local leaders ruminated on the region’s flat growth.

“The things we need to do to make it more attractive in the region is to bring in new industry, nice homes, recreational districts,” he said. “This is all part of that in this Boones Creek area.”

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