Local News

Story published: 07-30-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Called meeting set for third vote on county loan

By Karen Sells
Assistant Editor

Hoping the third time’s the charm, Budget Committee members will present the same recommendation for a $6 million capital outlay note during a called meeting of the Washington County commission on Monday, Aug. 5.

“Let me ask this question again. Is there anything you want to take off the list, anything you feel is a want rather than a need?” Mayor Dan Eldridge posed to committee members during a called meeting last week.

Commissioner Joe Grandy said the new $42,000 GIS system for the Zoning Department is the closest item he could see removing, mainly because the county has access to other systems.

Commissioner Mitch Meredith agreed.

“It makes absolutely no sense to duplicate dollars,” he said, adding his constituents would be opposed to funding separate GIS systems for the county and Johnson City.

Commissioner Ethan Flynn said he would recommend keeping the GIS system on the list, but not buying it.

Application for the capital outlay note requires submission of a list of projects the funds would support. However, Eldridge said borrowing is only the first step.

“The money would be set aside in a Capital Projects Fund, and must be voted on again to be spent,” he said. “The breakdown does not commit (the commission) to the specific projects.”

If approved, money for the debt service payments will come from the General Fund, the Debt Service Fund, and funds directly related to the projects such as the Highway Fund, the Solid Waste Fund, the Preservation of Records Reserve, the Courthouse Security Reserve and the Board of Education.

Flynn said he has reviewed the income and expenses of the Highway Department and believes payments for the $515,000 Knob Creek right-of-way acquisition should be moved from the Debt Service Fund to the Highway Fund.

“Johnny, how do you feel about that?” Eldridge asked Highway Superintendent John Deakins.

“Not good,” Deakins responded.

Projects already to be covered by the Highway Fund under the current proposal are a new asphalt plant, trucks and equipment, and bridge replacement and repair.

Deakins has received a third extension on the quoted price of the four new trucks until the Aug. 5 commission meeting. After that, the price goes up $10,000 for each.

“The concern I have is it would take $58,000 away from the county roads and put it toward a state road,” Eldridge said of Flynn’s suggestion.

Washington County and the City of Johnson City committed to the project in 2008 when they agreed to build a five-lane overpass to improve the one-lane tunnel on Knob Creek Road.

Initial funding of $1.26 million from the federal government paid for the design. An additional $6 million is needed to purchase the right-of-way, with the city and county splitting the 20 percent required from local government.

With no formal motion for Flynn’s idea, support for the project will remain under the Debt Service Fund.

The Budget Committee recessed until Thursday, Aug. 1, to discuss the 2013-14 county budget. If the debt offering is not approved, the county could be looking at a $3 million deficit in the General Fund, a $1.5 million deficit in the school system budget, and a long list of unfunded capital projects, including school security upgrades.

“We can’t make money appear out of thin air. It has to come from somewhere, and there are only a couple of sources,” Eldridge said. “We either borrow it or we raise it in the form of taxes.”