Sewer issues put Crete project at risk

A project lauded by some and criticized by others appears to be in jeopardy.

Crete Carrier announced in 2007 that it planned to invest $5.4 million in a new trucking facility on the site that was once home to Atomic Speedway.

The 26-acre site fronts Interstate 40 in East Roane County and is next to the Roane Regional Business and Technology Park.

Leslie Henderson, president and CEO of The Roane Alliance, said the project is in peril because Crete is having trouble getting sewer service.

Henderson said Crete engineers approached the Lenoir City Utilities Board for service, but the two sides couldn’t work out a deal.

Now officials are scrambling for an alternative to keep Crete from backing out of the project.

While they look for a solution to Crete’s problem, the old speedway deteriorates and continues to be an eyesore from the interstate.

“I don’t want to see us lose Crete,” Roane County Executive Mike Farmer said.

The county Industrial Development Board discussed the issue Tuesday.

Henderson told the board that she’s fighting to save the project. The industrial board approved a plan that could do just that.

Tom Bennett, the engineer adviser to the industrial board, said they are considering using a decentralized, on-site sewer system for the Crete project.

Watts Bar Utility District is looking to provide the service.

In order to commit to Crete, Henderson said WBUD needed to know they had some land to use for a drip field.

The industrial board voted to donate a 3-acre parcel of land in Roane Regional for that purpose.

“This is still a backup option,” Henderson said.

Industrial board member Ron Berry voted against the motion.

He wondered if a drip field would devalue the surrounding parcels in the industrial park.

The Crete project was projected to create 50 jobs and add $42,000 a year to the county’s tax base.

Some residents had objected to the project and made their concerns known to county leaders.

If the project falls through it could have repercussions beyond the potential loss of jobs and tax revenue.

Henderson said Roane County got national recognition when it was announced that Crete had chosen the area for a new trucking facility.

She said if Crete decides to pull out, Roane County could be branded as a place where big industry won’t work because of insufficient infrastructure.

Farmer said he’s hopeful the situation can be resolved.

The county must show Crete that local leaders are working for them like any other industry in the county, he said.