Highway Committee helps woman with water issue vs. city

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

The rain has dissipated. Highway workers have scraped snowy roads. The Carter County Highway Committee doesn't have many citizen complaints to worry about right now.
   After months of dealing with citizens grumbling about rain water runoffs from county roads, committee members were happy to see only one person who arrived at the monthly meeting with a highway concern.
   Wanda Markham, 1844 West G St., presented to the committee a problem she is having with her personal water line. Markham claims the city of Elizabethton Water Department dug into the creek adjacent to her house on Water Plant Road, where her son currently resides, around November 2003 and destroyed a section of her 550-foot water line located underneath the creek bed.
   The damaged section of the water line is a short distance from the Big Springs Water Treatment Plant.
   She alleges the Water Department dried up Gap Creek over time because it pumps more than one million gallons of water each day out of the creek for treatment. The lack of water running over her water line removed any natural insulation, leaving the line exposed to the elements and risking the chance of freezing, she said.
   "Then they decided to take it upon themselves to bury it again. That's when they busted it," Markham said. She also said they did this without her permission.
   The city also damaged the county road in the process without permission from Perkins or the Highway Department, said Markham.
   Despite trying to obtain contractors to fix the problem, Markham's son is still without water service because of the damage done to the line. Numerous contractors declined to work on the line until County Planning Director Chris Schuettler helped secure a contractor Dec. 9, 2003.
   Afterward, the line ruptured again a short time afterward.
   According to Commissioner John Lewis, city of Elizabethton officials told Markham the only way her problem could be repaired would be to tap into the city's water system, which would cost $1,200.
   Markham said she is unwilling to do that. "I am not going to give them $1,200 for a new tap that I have had since the 1960s," she said.
   "I understand if she has got an account for south utility. I wouldn't give the city $1,200, because she has already got a tap," said Commissioner John D. Snyder.
   The committee decided to turn the matter over to Commissioner Robert Davis, who will take the matter to County Attorney George Dugger. Dugger will also decide if legal action against the city is necessary for other locations where the city has damaged county roads without permission from the County Highway Department.