BEAN BLOSSOM — When work first began almost 20 years ago to get a sewer in Bean Blossom, Diana Biddle remembers walking the roads with her mother, Nina Jo McDonald, and spreading word as people passed through the family’s grocery store.

The town once had five gas stations, multiple groceries, real estate offices and a motel, she said.

It had hair dressers, a gun shop, a print shop and a paint store. Biddle talked about the fruit market with gas pumps — now an antiques dealer. There was even a Mexican restaurant at one time.

Now, the town sits largely empty.

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Much of the loss of business is because of not being able to rent buildings without functioning restrooms, Biddle said.

Even where the soil may be suitable for a septic system, many of the lots are too small to accommodate both septic and a building, Biddle said.

The Bean Blossom Regional Sewer District was formed in 2005 to solve some of these problems. Another group, Friends of Bean Blossom, had been working on them for years earlier.

The district has since been renamed the Brown County Regional Sewer District, and it is still working to bring sewer to the area.

Mike Leggins has lived in Bean Blossom all of his life. From his perspective, too, the town is slowly folding.

He volunteered to be on the Bean Blossom Regional Sewer District Board 11 years ago.

He estimated 80 to 85 percent of homes in the area have septic systems that are either failed or failing.

When mowing in area yards, Leggins has had to watch out to not get stuck.

His neighbors are more than aware of the problems and need for a sewer before Leggins even told them, he said.

“I live at the bottom of the hill, and we know which way crap flows,” he said.

Leggins owns two four-bedroom rental homes on Old Settlers Road. He only allows two people to live in each, for fear the septic would blow out if it was used to its intended capacity.

The newest home he knows of on that road is 16 years old, and most septic systems are expected to last about 20 years with proper maintenance, he said.

Several companies have expressed interest in placing gas stations in Bean Blossom, but all have lost interest when they found out there was no sewer, Biddle said.

Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park and Campground is one business, especially in summer, that’s still alive.

Owner Dwight Dillman said though he hasn’t seen all the figures for how much it would cost him, he supports a sewer through the town.

He remembers several times over the years when he has had conversations with sewer board members, going over the numbers and work involved. “They’ve talked about it forever,” he said.

If there is no sewer, Dillman doesn’t believe it would hurt the park. Currently, all the wastewater from the campground is stored underground and trucked out, and he expects he could continue that method. But expects a sewer could cost him less than that method.

Biddle talked about getting sewer as more than an economic development move. It’s a matter of keeping the town alive.

Years ago, a group called the Bean Blossom Boosters won a grant for street lights, paid the electric bill, and repaired and saved the historic Bean Blossom Covered Bridge, Biddle said.

Veterinarian James Brester, local churches, the Fruitdale Volunteer Fire Department and people all over the small community still chip in to keep Bean Blossom’s lights on.

But Biddle said if she stopped collecting, she doesn’t know who would be left to take the lead.

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.