Bethel, a semi-rural community in the Pigeon River Valley, has been divided on the issue of water and sewer lines for several years. Some believe water and sewer lines will fuel unwanted growth and undermine the community’s agricultural character. Others believe the community needs water and sewer lines to reduce the onslaught of septic tanks being installed by developers of residential subdivisions.
The county commissioners have twice broached the idea of running water and sewer to Bethel over the past six years. Both times ballots were mailed to property owners in the community asking them to weigh in. Both times the majority of responses were against water and sewer, prompting commissioners to back off the idea. But the issue has never died.
The Bethel Community Club posed this question to commissioner candidates in a written survey:
“Knowing that 66 percent of the Bethel Community opposes bringing water and sewer into their community, will you oppose a third attempt to bring water/sewer service into this community?”
Here are the responses (see related story on page 10).
Republican Kevin Ensley, surveyor, incumbent
“Yes. We should not force something on a community which it does not believe will enhance their quality of life.”
Democrat Kirk Kirkpatrick, attorney, incumbent
“No. Times change and the needs of a community change. I can never say never. Each time an issue is brought up I will analyze it and weigh all factors. Right now and from the last couple of years I understand that Bethel does not want water/sewer service. I have respected that and will continue to do so, but I cannot say I will always oppose bringing water/sewer to that community.”
Democrat Skeeter Curtis, retired from insurance industry, challenger
“Yes. The Bethel Community has voiced their opposition to water/sewer to their community. The grant money that was available for water/sewer is no longer there, therefore it is a dead issue.”
Republican Carlyle Ferguson, retired farmer, challenger
“Yes. As long as this community has a majority of this percent, yes, I will oppose this attempt. I feel thaey have spoken loud and clear.”
Democrat Bill Upton, retired school superintendent, challenger
“Yes. I see no reason to revisit an issue that has already been discussed thoroughly. A survey was conducted for our commissioners by Mars Hill College in the spring of 2006. The results indicate that the citizens of Bethel want to remain rural.”
Upton is citing a telephone survey sanctioned by the Bethel Community Club that gauged the vision Bethel residents had for their community. It was a separate from the mail-in survey conducted two years ago to gauge support for water and sewer.