There’s a Jack’s restaurant, a Dollar General and a small, town-owned strip mall with a pizza parlor, hardware shop and Ohatchee’s only grocery store.
But Mayor Steve Baswell thinks a sewer system could flush businesses into the town, and has proposed the Town Council take a look at what it might cost to bring such a system to the intersection of Alabama 77 and Alabama 144.
“It’s difficult to get any type of restaurant out here,” Baswell said on the lack of interest he said some owners have shown in setting up shop in Ohatchee. “The only way to really change that is to get a sewer system.”
Baswell said the last estimate he received totaled the project at about $570,000 for a system that could handle a flow of 10,000 gallons per day. If the council could secure grants, the mayor said, he thinks it’s possible the town might only need to borrow around $100,000 to get started on the project.
Most business that have located in Ohatchee have taken advantage of the town’s strip mall building across the street from Town Hall. Danny Poss, the owner of Ohatchee Hardware, said the building shares a septic system with the neighboring Dollar General. But if businesses want to start from scratch, it’s nearly impossible to get them to consider installing their own septic system, he said.
“Before you can really bring any business in, they need a sewer system,” said Poss, who’s run the hardware store in Ohatchee for almost eight years. “Especially restaurant growth, you really can’t do that without a proper sewer system.”
Poss said he recalled five or six years ago a man was looking to open up a Subway restaurant in town, but was scared off when he found out how much it might cost to install a septic system.
“If I remember correctly that was the only thing that made him backtrack,” Poss said. “He just couldn’t afford to meet all the county regulations on that.”
Town Hall’s septic tank has also caused a snag in bringing in new business, Baswell said. Sitting on a prime piece of real estate next to the town’s senior center and library, the underground tank makes it impossible to develop the land for commercial use.
“If we could get rid of it, that’s a great place to put something else,” Baswell said.
If the town gets a sewer system, it would be limited to the business district, Baswell said, but he hopes it might one day expand to residential areas, where the lack of sewer system has caused just as many issues.
“It’s always been a problem, even for just a house,” said Baswell, explaining that soil in the town doesn’t drain properly. “Normally a septic tank costs about $3,500 to install, but out here it’s more like $13,000 because when you engineer the system you have to haul in dirt.”
Baswell said he couldn’t put a timetable on when bringing a sewer to town might become a reality, but said it’s a top priority for the next fiscal year.
“I think it’s the first step to really see Ohatchee grow,” he said.
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.