‘Fort Mitchell is another Ladonia waiting to happen,’ but commission still doesn’t commit to financing a sewer system in that area

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By Blenda Copeland

It’s still a discussion that’s going nowhere, but Russell County Commissioner Cattie Epps isn’t giving up hope. The circular talk about the need for a sewer system in Ft. Mitchell continues – with no action.

At the Russell County Commission meeting Jan. 24, Epps asked a citizen, Cole Phillips, to address the commission. He talked about the need for sewer service in Ft. Mitchell: that lots of land is up for sale, and businesses would come if there were sewer access.

“Ft. Mitchell is another Ladonia waiting to happen,” he said. The comment was a reference to the way businesses have gradually sprung up in the Ladonia area of Russell County, where commercial customers have the ability to be connected to sewer service.

Commissioner Gentry Lee stuck to the stance that Ladonia businesses paid toward the infrastructure they’re using, and that the county can’t cover the cost of sewer infrastructure with a bond issue without knowing it has secure commitments from businesses intending to set up shop in Ft. Mitchell.

Phillips said he understood that viewpoint, however, “there has to be a leap of faith” somewhere.

Epps repeated her continued stance through the years: that the growth is in Ft. Mitchell (people in the audience nodded as she said that), but prospective businesses won’t come if the infrastructure doesn’t already exist.

Commissioner Chance Corbett sided with Lee’s reasoning, saying he didn’t want to “bankrupt” the county over “hoping” businesses would come if the county were to finance a sewer system in Ft. Mitchell. 

“It’s not a prudent decision,” he said, noting it’s the commission’s responsibility to be good stewards of county money.

Phillips and Epps retorted that the county should still try to get sewer service established in Ft. Mitchell.

Corbett referred to a previous ADECA director’s visit, when he rode with county officials to see the area and discuss whether there might be grant opportunities available. Corbett also said he wasn’t going to deny that Ft. Mitchell needs sewer service, but the county should have jumped on the opportunity in the past to get sewer service started. Lee echoed that sentiment, but iterated that there weren’t enough votes in the past to get it done.

Corbett also suggested the county try to get the new ADECA director to visit for an updated look at the county’s needs – to see if any options are available. He also suggested that Phillips talk with the county’s new director of economic development, Victor Cross, about any potential business leads he may have.

Meanwhile, Epps again maintained that risk is a given in life, and that when she first addressed the sewer issue years ago, she was told, “There’s no money in sewer.” So, “we just sat and did nothing,” she said, in summary. Let’s do something, she challenged, pointing out that some septic tanks are already failing in that area.

Regarding Epps’ comment about risk, Lee answered that people can take personal risks, but it’s different when you’re talking about county finances, implying commissioners shouldn’t take risks with the county’s money.

The discussion ended, as it has many times, without action.