Cafe gets ready to open for dinner

Zac Jenkins is ready to serve at Main Street Cafe in Jonesborough.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

Anyone craving a Pork Chorizo burger on Friday or Saturday night that happens to be wandering in downtown Jonesborough will soon get their wish.

Main Street Café, which currently is open for lunch only, will stay open on Friday and Saturday nights until 8 p.m. beginning May 4.

According to the restaurant owner Zac Jenkins, “Not only is Jonesborough ready for us to be open in the evening, but they’re beating down my door to have it done.

“A lot of people, the Eureka Hotel, the bed and breakfast’s in the area, they said their number one issue with people coming in … they say ’Your town is beautiful, we love it, there’s stuff to do, but there’s nowhere to eat downtown.’”

Jenkins purchased the café from his parents, Beverly and Herman Jenkins, in May 2015.

The elder Jenkins’ originally opened Main Street Café as a kitchenware store called Village Cupboard in 1982 at the location where the Corner Cup now resides. After selling only pots and pans for roughly six months, they opened a sandwich counter to cater to the lunch crowd. The Jenkins’ bought the old post office building in 1987 and moved the restaurant to its current location.

“My parents attempted 15 years ago — tried staying open at night for a small time, two or three months. It was unsuccessful,” Jenkins said.  “Jonesborough has changed tremendously in the last 15 years.”

After being lobbied by locals to open the café in the evenings, Jenkins said he and his wife, Kati, had actually planned to begin offering dinner service before this year.

“All the locals have asked me since I’ve started … residents have asked me specifically ‘We really want you to stay open.’

“We were going to do it last year but my wife got pregnant and it was just not the right time.”

Jenkins attended a culinary program called “Gastronomicom” in southern France that lasted eight months, where some of his fellow students turned into Michelin Star chefs.

According to Jenkins, the first four months of the program involved cooking classes and learning to speak French. The final four months were an internship based upon your performance and ability.

He said he has no interest in serving extravagant meals, although some of the meals he and his wife are planning to serve sound downright delicious.

“Opening night Friday (May 4), we’re going to have a Pork Chorizo burger. Ground pork with Chorizo sausage. It’ll have caramelized red onion, roasted red pepper, green olives, lemon mayonnaise, and it’ll come on a glossy burger bun,” Jenkins said.

“And it will be with double-fried, hand-cut French fries with Cajun curry rub on it and roasted Brussels sprouts with Parmesan cheese. That’ll be one of our specials that night. We’re (also) going to do meatloaf that night.”

Jenkins also realized that serving dinner will not be the same as serving the lunch crowd so he and his wife plan to keep the regular menus similar.

“Again, we’re getting our feet wet so we’re going to keep the menu the same,” he said.  “In the evening we’ll have specials. One of them will be something that’s kind of quick and easy that we can get people in and out. Or even a to-go order so they can get down to ‘Music on the Square.’ Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans. Those are things I can just go boom-boom-boom and get people out.”

Jenkins continued, “I want to have an option for people to just be able to get-in, get-out and they can sit in their chair and cut the meatloaf with a fork, no big deal.”

While the Main Street Café has not been open for dinner, Jenkins said he has kept his doors open after normal closing hours to give patrons a better experience.

“People appreciate that, people from out of town. They remember that. Part of your experience when you travel is eating. I like people to say ‘Jonesborough, it was adorable and this nice young man stayed open for us’  … I always try to go the extra step to make people enjoy my restaurant because they enjoy the town, their experience, and they want to come back or tell a friend. (Jonesborough is) heavily based on tourism. We need them to have a good experience.”

According to Jenkins, the café offers beer and wine and will begin serving gelato, or Italian ice cream, in early May.

With a seven month old son, Harrison, at home and his wife, Kati, returning to work full-time on May 2, Jenkins believes a successful expansion will benefit his family life.

“Our ultimate goal is to be successful enough that we can get some good help to be able to take a little more time off to spend with our family.” 

Beginning May 4, Main Street Café will be open from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday until the end of Oct.  Jenkins added that extending evening service to Thursday nights is possible if all goes well.

Main Street Café is located at 117 W. Main St. and can be reached at (423) 753-2460.

Top 10: County celebrates outstanding students for 2018

Daniel Boone High School Senior Blake Hicks accepts his award from Director of School Kimber Halliburton while BOE member Todd Ganger and Annette Buchanan look on.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

On Monday night, a Washington County School System tradition continued; the highest-achieving students from Daniel Boone and David Crockett High Schools gathered for the district’s celebration to honor those students at the Top 10 banquet.

David Crockett and Daniel Boone High School students (and their parents) gathered at the Top 10 banquet on Monday night.

The students, who were selected into the top 10 percent of their graduating class based on their GPA, were invited to attend the banquet held at the Millennium Centre in Johnson City. But this year’s students weren’t just the highest achieving at their school; the group earned a combined 4.4 out of a 4.0 GPA, which is the highest group GPA at a Top 10 banquet in the last 10 years — not to mention that 71 percent of this group of students had never made a grade lower than an “A.”

“Being in the top 10 is a huge honor,” Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton told the Herald & Tribune. “It’s really difficult to get to this banquet in that 71 percent of the students here have never made below an A — that’s an incredible accomplishment. They work so hard to make sure that they turn in their course work on time, many of these kids take AP classes and we just want to honor them — and hopefully motivate future students to want to come to this banquet.”

And honored they were; the high school seniors were treated to dinner with their families, along with enter tainment from Reflections, the vocal group from Daniel Boone High School. President of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Jeff Aiken also shared a few remarks after dinner and before each student was awarded a medal he or she will later wear with cap and gown at graduation.

Upon receiving their awards, each student’s career goals and current achievements and involvement in sports and clubs were also mentioned. From robotics and drama club to football and softball, these future dentists, lawyers, pharmacists and educators were showcased for being well-rounded, but above all, dedicated to their studies.

“Many of our students, you’ll see, are involved in a lot of extra curricular activities. But this banquet is a way to say, ‘We also recognize the number one thing that you’re here for and that is getting a quality education,’” Halliburton said. “I just think so many times we honor athletes, and that’s important, I don’t want to take away from that, but what we’re really about is your academic education. You’ve got to make sure that you’re honoring that.

“The students who have worked hard academically sometimes get left behind. They get left out. And I think that we should do more to honor academic achievement.”

The event focused not only on the future and the inevitable change often associated with graduation; it was also about continuing hard work and striving to stay on a path which has set these students on an avenue to success so far in their lives.

“Beyond the academics,” Halliburton said, “there are a lot of things that these particular students in the top 10 did right — making good decisions, practicing their faith, staying close to their family, working hard, being kind to one another, helping one another out. I just want to encourage them as they move on to university to continue those same kinds of habits that led them to this place.”

The Daniel Boone High School students honored at the banquet included Victoria Barnett, Nashirra Best, Brianna Birchfield, Chadwick Blankenship, Nolan Bledsoe, Mackenzie Boughner, Chloe Buckingham, Kelby Buxton, Josie Carter, Natalie Chandler, Elizabeth Edwards, Dominique Fair, John Good, Kennedi Hambrick, Kaitlyn Harville, Sarah Hayes, Lauren Head, Blake Hicks, Grace Holdway, Deborah Karpeh, Taylor Marsh, Heather McCreary, Mason Mounger, Emily Napier, Greyson Nave, Gunnar Norris, Jacob Pfefferkorn, Josie Roark, Whitney Sams, Noah Shelton, Morgan Snapp, Hope Stidham, Kaytlin Stout and Kaleigh Utterback.

The David Crockett High School students honored at the banquet included Kailee Amburgey, Saxton Beals, Tristan Blevins, Emily Bowens, Garrett Bray, Erika Brickey, James Broyles, Taylor Carmack, William Compton, Alexander Conner, Corbin Cowden, Dakota Euscher, Sydney Fox, Caitlyn France, Dray Gentry, Zeb Holland, Kyra Holt, Rebecca Jaynes, Lenzie Jenkins, Sierra Kinley, Makina Lambert, Dakota Lemerond, Casey Luevanos, Rachael Neufield, Kylee Phalen, Breanna Roy, Isabelle Tisor, Chance Trent, Hannah Vaughn, Reagan Vest, Isabel Vallanueva and Mary Whaley.

Virginia Causey to fill empty seat on BMA

Virginia Causey is now the latest Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman member.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Virginia Causey just thought she had retired.

In another surprise move by the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman Monday night, current Aldermen Terry Countermine, David Sell and Adam Dickson unanimously approved appointing Causey, former administrative assistant to Town Administrator Bob Browning, to the alderman seat vacated by now-Mayor Chuck Vest.

“All I ask, Virginia, is after being your supervisor for so many years, that you remember the nice things I’ve done,” Browning said to a beaming Causey as she took her seat on the board.

Causey retired in March of last year after serving for the town for more  than 30 years.

“I’m excited to be back in Town Hall,” Causey said.

The decision to appoint Causey was, in the end, an easy one, according to Countermine, who nominated the former administrative assistant for the position.

“When (former mayor) Kelly Wolfe resigned last month, I was surprised. I didn’t know it was coming,” said Countermine, who nominated Causey for the position. “And I have been on the phone this month more than any month in my life.”

Wolfe has served as town mayor since 2008 and would have been up for reelection this fall. His  resignation, and the appointment of Vest to the mayor’s chair left the board short one member, and it was a position Countermine knew they needed to fill.

He said he realized that their next course must not only the best for the town, but also the least disruptive.

As Dickson said, they needed “someone who could hit the ground running.”

“We need a caretaker,” Dickson said, “to serve out the six or seven months until election. At the same time, (we need) to encourage individuals who are qualified to run.”

Sell, too, was convinced, and seconded Countermine’s motion.

“I think its a wise decision to make,” Sell said. He pointed out that the board had already been hearing from so many candidates, and having the board — rather than the voters — choose just one could cause problems.

“You don’t want to upset somebody’s feelings,” he said. By appointing Causey, the board would still be leaving the path clear for interested individuals to run in the November election, letting the voters make the final choice.

Causey was sworn in Monday by Chancellor John Rambo, who was already present to over see the swearing in of Jonesborough’s new mayor, Chuck Vest. The board will reconvene in May fully staffed, with a mayor and four aldermen — Countermine, Sell, Dickson (appointed at the March 12 meeting)  and newly appointed Causey.

Honoring a legacy: Town celebrates Ernest McKinney on day to remember

Dr. Ernest McKinney is remembered on this special day for the town of Jonesborough — as an educator, an alderman and a husband and father.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

No matter where you look around Jonesborough, the legacy of Dr. Ernest McKinney has left a mark, not only in the town projects he helped to build, but also in the people he influenced.

On Wednesday, April 4, the Town of Jonesborough will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of McKinney’s initial election to the town board, proclaiming Wednesday to be “I Remember Ernest McKinney Day” to honor the man who has meant so much to Jonesborough.

“The purpose of it was just to take a moment and stop and say, ‘We remember Ernest, this was somebody important in Jonesborough, not only as a leader, but also as a person.’ He was an outstanding person,” Jonesborough Town Administrator Bob Browning said.

According to information supplied by the McKinney Center, which is named for the man himself, Ernest McKinney was born in Chesnee, South Carolina on Nov. 26, 1923 and moved with his family to Johnson City in 1936.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Agricultural & Industrial College in Nashville in 1947 and married his wife of 59 years, Marion, in 1950.

Ernest McKinney began his teaching career as a teacher and principal at Booker T. Washington School, now the McKinney Center for the Arts, and also taught at Langston High School and Science Hill High School, where he served as assistant principal.

McKinney also became the first African-American elected to the Board of

Mayor and Aldermen of the Town of Jonesborough on April 4, 1968, which was the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

“It was after Ernest was elected that we heard about it,” his wife, Marion,  said about that day. “It put a damper on everything. A lot of us cried. We were regretful. We all went home in our sorrow.”

Ernest McKinney, called ‘Fess’ – short for professor – by his students and his children, was reelected to the BMA in 1978 and was the first African-American elected to the Washington County School Board in 1980.

He eventually became the Chairman of the Board.

His wife said one of her husband’s passions was that he believed strongly in the value of education, not only with his students but his own children as well.

“He taught them how to use the tools, but they had to use them themselves.  He never answered their questions. He’d tell them where to go and get the answers.”

Marion McKinney also reminisced about the day they became engaged. She had known Ernest from her youth in Johnson City and was roommates with his sister at Swift while he taught there. “I fell in love with Ernest when we were at Swift.”

After Swift, Marion attended Tennessee State along with his sister and Ernest McKinney came to visit during homecoming.

“We were sitting in Hadley Park on the swing and he asked me to marry him,” she said.

McKinney influence, of course, went well beyond his family. 

“I’m a beneficiary, or a product of the example of Ernest McKinney,” Town Alderman Adam Dickson said. “We stand on (his) shoulders. So I’ve had a great deal of respect for Mr. McKinney. As I entered the political field, (the McKinneys) at various moments would have encouraging words and really tried to instill in you that ‘Yes you can. Don’t let anything or anybody stop you.’”

During his time on the BMA, Ernest McKinney provided leadership and helped many important projects that still resonate to this day, according to Browning.

He served in (former mayor) Jimmy Neil Smith’s administration,” Browning recalled. “And that board had a major impact on what’s going on in Jonesborough and Ernest was what I would consider a fierce leader in that time period in terms of looking at quality of life issues regardless of skin color or age or anything else.”

Former mayor Jimmy Neil Smith worked closely with McKinney and came to rely on his advice at times.

“When I had an issue that I thought I had a solution to I would always run it first by Ernest McKinney. And if you couldn’t convince him of the solution you don’t need to be proposing the solution,” Smith said.

“He was also honorable. You could always count on him to tell you the truth. Sometimes maybe you didn’t want to hear it but he’d tell the truth.”

Kelly Wolfe, who passed the proclamation as one of his final official acts as mayor, knew McKinney when Wolfe was a child and he said he recognized the impact this man had.

“He was somebody who was always positive, always encouraging and always pushing folks to do the best they could possibly do. I found him to be an inspiration,” Wolfe said.

While the Town of Jonesborough is asking residents and businesses to take the time to remember Ernest McKinney and to post “I Remember Ernest McKinney” on signs and social media, the McKinney Center is hosting a story gathering session Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Anyone willing to share an Ernest McKinney story is encouraged to share.  Jules Corriere from the McKinney Center said, “We have digital recorders and these stories will become part of our archives.”

According to Corriere, “What happened when Ernest McKinney was elected is he began a legacy of African-American participation on the BMA since that time and since then there has been a person of color on the board ever since.”

Browning recently shared his own McKinney story, which “is sort of at my expense.”

He said when McKinney was on the BMA with Smith, they were in the process of trying to balance the town budget.

“I was the Community Development Coordinator for the town at that point and they were within $300 of balancing the budget and they were looking around trying to figure it out … I can remember standing behind Ernest and Jimmy … and they were talking and they sort of sit back and took a breath and looked around and Jimmy turned around and looked at me and Ernest turned around and looked at me.

“There’s this conversation going on and they cut my salary by $300 to balance the budget. The way they did it, just looking at me and the look on their faces, I found it hilarious. They had given me a raise, they just reduced it $300.”

Former mayor Wolfe may have summed up the general opinion of McKinney throughout Jonesborough, “Ernest was a jewel of a man.”

Eureka Inn takes a bite out of brunch

The Eureka is now offering a brunch spread Friday through Saturday from 8 to 11 a.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Jonesborough.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

There’s more than a fair share of history within the walls of the Historic Eureka Inn in Downtown Jonesborough, but now the Main Street mainstay is offering something new — brunch through their latest food venture, Eureka Bites.

The Eureka offers breakfast-meets-lunch items from 8 to 11 a.m. Friday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. For Innkeeper Katelyn Yarbrough, Eureka Bites is the perfect way to fill a need and extend what they’re already doing at the Eureka — which is tending to those sitting at their tables in the morning.

“There is a definite need (for restaurants) in Jonesborough and you can’t just pop up a dinner restaurant,” Yarbrough said. “So we kind of waited to see what our little niche would be and we already serve a full southern breakfast to our guests who stay overnight.

“We would get people coming in off the streets saying, ‘Oh, can we buy breakfast?’ And we didn’t want to take away from the guest experience until we actually knew how to take care of both aspects.”

Innkeeper Katelyn Yarbrough’s handwritten menus play homage to Jonesborough while offering breakfast and lunch items.

Though it started as breakfast from Thursday through Sunday, Eureka Bites now offers everything from BLTs and chicken salad to classic breakfast items like homemade biscuits and gravy and pancakes, all listed on their handwritten menu.

“We felt like we were ready for this so we started it,”Yarbrough said. “It’s gotten pretty successful so now we’re having to rework things again which is pretty exciting.”

But Eureka Bites doesn’t just offer a place for hungry Jonesboroughians to take a minute and fill their tanks; Yarbrough explained that Eureka Bites also offers a way for Yarbrough and her husband Blake to give people the opportunity to see the inside of the historic building.

“We’re always trying to get people into the hotel because there were many many years when you couldn’t really get in there to look around,” Yarbrough said. “Since Blake and I took over, we try to have the doors open and we want people to come in. We never mind to show people around. And if we’re busy in the back making breakfast, we’ll tell them they’re welcome to take a look around.”

The Eureka Inn, located on Main Street, is now the brunch spot in downtown Jonesborough.

When they’re not making brunch for hotel guests and hungry passersby, Yarbrough said the Eureka will also be bringing back Friday Night Bites during the summer to go along with the Music on the Square schedule. That weekly event will offer a different food theme such as tacos or barbecue while guests can spend time in the Eureka’s courtyard.

Until then, the Eureka aims to keep serving up breakfast and lunch items in a way Yarbrough hopes is welcoming and different from what one might picture when they think of brunch at a historic inn.

“With Eureka Bites, it’s our little thing we want people to enjoy. We like serving breakfast, we like serving people and meeting new people,” Yarbrough said. “We didn’t go with the victorian theme, historic Jonesborough kind of theme — it’s a little quirky and a little weird. I think people have an appreciation for that in Jonesborough and the Tri-Cities. I didn’t want to conform to what every one expected it to be.”

Luck of the Irish: Downtown bursts into colors of green for St. Paddy’s

Crowds gathers at the International Storytelling Plaza on March 17 for more than a little St. Patrick’s Day fun.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

What do you get when you combine beautiful weather, a great band, beer and a giant Irish wolfhound? Easy.

You get downtown Jonesborough this past Saturday night.

Hundreds of folks flocked to the plaza at the International Storytelling Center on March 17 to sample Irish-based food and listen to Irish music with a cold brew in their hand. Many others came downtown Friday night for Paddy’s Dash while some sleuths tried to “Find Paddy,” the leprechaun figure, or solve the “JBO Hunt” scavenger hunt.

“It was great. The whole weekend was busy,” Main Street Jonesborough Director Melinda Copp said. “We had lots of people that came down and participated in the scavenger hunt and we were very happy with the whole weekend.”

The highlight of the weekend was the “Shamrockin’ on the Plaza” event Saturday night. At the entrance to the plaza stood the kissing booth; manned by “Henry” the gigantic Irish wolfhound.  Henry stayed busy for the majority of the night, either giving out kisses or being the subject of many pictures.

Also busy was the Depot Street Brewery Beer Garden, which provided the refreshments, while corned beef and cabbage was provided by Boone Street Market.

Two attendees who competed in the scavenger hunt were Jennifer Johnson of Jonesborough and Melanie Patterson of Erwin.

“We were searching for this (last clue) for a while because of all the people,” Johnson said.  While they came downtown to decipher the clues, Patterson admitted, “Oh, well, I heard they had beer, too.”

The Irish music came courtesy of  “The Organic Family Band” out of Baltimore, Maryland.  David Wiley, the founder and president of the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society, booked the band originally for a “Contra Dance” held that Saturday night at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center. Wiley said the band “enthusiastically decided” to play the “Shamrockin’” event.

“I would say it was over-the-top successful,” Wiley said.

The St. Paddy’s Weekend attendees weren’t the only people having a nice weekend. “All the (downtown) merchants said they had a good weekend,” Copp said. “I think everybody had a good time.”

Next year’s St. Paddy’s Weekend may even get bigger, she said. “We hope to continue and expand it each year. You learn each year what works and what doesn’t; we’re excited to expand.

“Maybe next year we’ll have more music and things during the day instead of just the evening hours.”

Copp added that the successful weekend was due to the assistance of many people. “Thanks to everyone that participated, many thanks to the Jonesborough Area Merchants & Services Association for helping us sponsor it, the McKinney Center for coming and doing the art and the HJDS for partnering with us with the bands. Overall, it was a lot of fun.”

Mayor resigns

Kelly Wolfe, former Jonesborough mayor, hugs town resident Marcy Hawely after he bids the board farewell.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

In a move no one seemed to have seen coming, Kelly Wolfe announced his resignation as Jonesborough mayor Monday night during the town’s regularly scheduled Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting.

“I am first and foremost a lover of my town and the people of my town, but I’m not sure that what I’m doing at this point in serving as your mayor is what I need to be doing in my life,” Wolfe told Jonesborough residents who filled the board room at the March 12 meeting. “It has brought me a great deal of pause and brought me to a great deal of prayer. I believe I would be remiss if I didn’t listen to the little voice that has gotten steadily louder.”

That voice, he said, “is telling me that it’s time to move on.”

Wolfe has served as town mayor since 2008 and would have been up for reelection this fall. His announcement, given during Mayor’s Comments toward the beginning of the meeting, left a board already grappling with the recent resignation of former alderman Jerome Fitzgerald, at something of a loss.

“I’m sure we’re all somewhat shocked,” said Alderman Chuck Vest who would be appointed as mayor by the end of the night to fill the empty spot. “I’ve told (Kelly) many times, he’s the best mayor this town has ever had. He came along at the right time.”

During Wolfe’s tenure the town saw major infrastructure improvements, a host of downtown improvements, the building of the town’s state-of-the-art  Jonesborough Senior Center, the restoration of the Booker T. Washington School into the new McKinney Center for the Arts and the purchase of the historic Jackson Theatre, a purchase toward which both Wolfe and his wife, Jennifer, contributed.

“He is a visionary. He looks to the future. He always has,” Alderman David Sell said, admitting to, at times, disagreeing with the mayor, but in the end always coming together “for the good of the town.”

Town staff, residents and even some board members were visibly in tears following the announcement. Following a 15-minute recess, the remaining board sought to fill the vacant alderman seat with former alderman Adam Dickson, then voted to appoint Vest to fill in the rest of Wolfe’s term.

Though Vice Mayor Terry Countermine said he had wondered if Wolfe would run for the seat in November, he said he did not see this particular move coming.

“I consider Kelly a very good friend, and that certainly makes me a bit biased,” Countermine admitted. “I think he has done an amazing job. Part of the reason is because he and (Town Administrator) Bob Browning work so well together.

“When you look at what has happened in the town in the last few years, it’s phenomenal. He is going to be badly missed.”

Wolfe later acknowledged his satisfaction in helping to shape the town for the past 9-plus years.

“I’ve often said that there are two types of people who run for office; someone who runs to be somebody, and someone who runs to do something,” he said. “And I, my friends, am proud to have been a part of something bigger than myself and proud of all we have accomplished.”

But with his business growing, one daughter in college and the other ready to become a new driver, Wolfe said he felt the pressure of time, both in being able to do what he wanted to do to the greatest of his ability and in being able to spend precious time with his family.

Still, he said, he continues to value each staff member he has worked with and each community member he has encountered.

“I look back as mayor with no regrets and with joy in my heart of the experience and the love that I have felt.,” Wolfe said. “I thank you board. I thank you for all of the support you have provided me and I thank you for the fact you have let me serve with such a wonderful group of people. I will be leaving the board now and I will encourage you all to continue your great path forward.”

Did BOE find solution to Jonesborough School conundrum?

The current Boones Creek Middle School property was discussed as a possible source of revenue for Jonesborough’s proposed school.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education might have found an alternative route that could lead to an answer to the board’s Jonesborough K-8 School project woes.

At the school board’s March 1 meeting, board member David Hammond made a motion for the Washington County Commission to consider entering a local agreement to trade the Boones Creek Middle School property deed for funds in return. The motion passed in a narrow 5-4 vote.

Hammond said those funds could then be used for the over-budget portion of the Jonesborough School project cost, which the board is lacking on some design plans.

“For months I have suggested we use money from properties we’re going to sell and I was told it was illegal,” Hammond said. “But our school board attorney, Scott Bennett, and I discussed this last month; We can enter an inter-local agreement with our county commission based on the sale of that property. We’d actually be turning the deed over to them.

“I would just like for the county commission and the board to consider this. Let’s get this behind us.”

Hammond’s motion came three days after the county commission meeting where county mayoral candidate and Commissioner Joe Grandy mentioned possibly reducing the tax levy in the upcoming fiscal year budget in light of the delay on the school project.

“If they’re not going to do a Jonesborough project,” Grandy said at the commission meeting. “I think it’s just disingenuous to ask tax payers to pay for a project they’re not going to do.”

To some board members, the Jonesborough project has gone from a waiting game to a blame game. In light of the possibility of a tax-levy decrease, a shifting construction schedule and the threat of increased interest rates and construction costs, Chairman Jack Leonard, in a fiery discussion, placed the need for a decision on the board in order to make moves on the Jonesborough School project.

“Board, we were the ones that changed the plans. We all voted to accept the 40 cents based on a new Boones Creek School and a renovation of Jonesborough. That’s why the county commission voted for the 40 cents,” Leonard said. “We’re the ones that have changed the game plan. And we keep trying to blame the county commission. We are the ones that are responsible for this mess because we can’t make a decision.

“I’m just telling the tax payers of Washington County why we’re having to continue to wait on the Jonesborough project when we have the project and we have the money now to build them a school.”

At the meeting, Washington County Commissioner and Finance Director Mitch Meredith told the board the issue with Hammond’s plan for a local agreement with the county regarding the Boones Creek Middle School property is not having cash for the project.

“From a financial perspective, the problem is you have to have the cash in-hand,” Meredith said. “Our issue is that if we need to fund the project with $3 million, we have to pay the contractor to do that. If we don’t have that cash available currently, we have to borrow for educational purposes, which makes that a $6 million debt because of sharing (with Johnson City).”

When it came to Hammond’s recommendation, Meredith wasn’t the only one who voiced concerns; school board member Todd Ganger said the agreement with the county could send the wrong message to the community.

“I don’t want to set that precedent of turning land over when we need money because I think it’s going to come back to bite us,” Ganger said. “I really think we need to look forward. We have major projects that have to get done in this system and we’re trying to spend extra money on something that, really, we shouldn’t be.”

Meanwhile, school board member Mike Masters asked about the value of the property. Hammond said he felt a property appraisal would need to be done.

“How do we know the cost on this?,” Masters said. “I don’t feel comfortable turning over the deed on anything until I know what I’m going to get in return.”

Two of the four design plans were up for discussion, but failed at Thursday’s board meeting; Phillip McLain made a motion, which failed in a 6-3 vote, to accept the Scheme 2A plan that includes renovations, additions and the tearing down of the round portion of the current Jonesborough Elementary School building. But McLain was ready to suggest a few adjustments. He suggested cutting two of the wings out of the proposed plan and instead adding another level to the one remaining wing. The plan also included portable classrooms, which he admitted was the “wild and crazy” part of his suggestion.

“It would get the round building torn down, it would get us as many rooms as the addition to the middle school would have. if we couldn’t redistrict to where we could reduce the students that will fit the school, then perhaps, until we get the property sold down the road, we could put some portables in if we absolutely had to.”

Meanwhile, Clarence Mabe also made a motion to accept the Scheme 3 plans.

“We can be sure we’ll get something done and it won’t be a gamble that we may get the money or we may get the land,” Mabe said. “We’ll get a nice facility.”

That motion failed in a 5-4 vote.

Leonard, who voted in favor of the Scheme 3 plan, said he felt the community’s issues with the current Jonesborough Middle School building would be addressed should the Scheme 3 plan be chosen. He also pointed out that Sulphur Springs and Fall Branch schools were both older than the middle school facility.

“I know when we went on our school visits to Sulphur Springs and Fall Branch, their buildings are even older than the Jonesborough building and they look great. They were having school. Scheme 3 is going to practically be a brand new building. The only thing that will be there will be a shell of a building we’re seeing now,” Leonard said. “(School architect Tony Street) has already told us the plumbing and everything is being torn out of it. We’ve heard complaints about the water and about the smell — all that’s going to be brand new.

“I just don’t understand why it’s alright for kids in Fall Branch and Sulphur Springs to go to those schools, but it’s not alright for the Jonesborough kids to go to Jonesborough Middle School. What’s wrong with that?”

Could taxes be decreased due to Jonesborough School project gridlock?

The Jonesborough School project is still being discussed by county officials in Washington County.

By MARINA WATERS

The Washington County Board of Education was unable to come to a decision on the Jonesborough K-8 school project at their most recent meeting — but that could spur a huge decision from the Washington County Commission regarding the tax rate in the county’s upcoming budget.

At the commission’s meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, Commissioner and Budget Committee Chairman Joe Grandy recommended the commission consider reducing the tax levy in the upcoming budget because, he said, currently, the school board has not been able to agree on a decision regarding the school project’s building plans.

“If they’re not going to do a Jonesborough project,” Grandy said, “I think it’s just disingenuous to ask tax payers to pay for a project they’re not going to do.”

In 2016, Washington County Commission approved a 40-cent tax increase. Part of the increase was to be put towards a new Boones Creek School and renovations and additions for a Jonesborough School at the current Jonesborough School building as well as an academic magnet school at the current Jonesborough Middle School building.

Board members have since requested to forgo the magnet school in order to put those funds towards the Jonesborough School project.

In December, the board voted to tear down the round potion of the Jonesborough Elementary School site, but that plan, which was $6,052,000 over budget, was voted down by commissioners. Since then, the board has remained in gridlock over the project’s construction plans.

But if the tax levy is decreased where does that leave the Jonesborough School?

Grandy said the project’s Scheme 3 option (which includes renovations and additions to the current Jonesborough Middle School building) is within budget and is still an option. However, board members and citizens have also voiced their concerns in opposition of the Scheme 3 plan.

“That’s a logical question — what would be the plan (if the tax levy is decreased)? There is a plan there. I hope the board of education will step up and go ahead and move forward and do what they need to do to get this project moving forward,” Grandy said. “That would be the right thing to do is to do what is best for those children and correct the facilities that are creating learning problems.”

As for the money already collected for the school project through the tax increase, Grandy said there’s a possibility some school system maintenance requests, such as roofing and heating and air conditioning needs, could be addressed with those funds, though no plans set.

“In order to get to the $20 million (for the Jonesborough School project), we had to defer some maintenance projects and push them down the road on a couple facilities,” Grandy said. “What might happen is we just go ahead and do those projects with those funds.”

Time’s not up for all the Jonesborough project pieces just yet; Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge also said at Monday’s commission meeting that during the commission’s March meeting, he would be asking commissioners to reaffirm their decision on the McCoy property which sets beside Jonesborough Elementary School. Until then, he said he is not prepared to go ahead with the land purchase. The option to purchase the property now runs out at the end of March.

“This is a $750,000 investment. Maybe the school board will get a clear direction and will make a decision in the next few weeks,” Eldridge said. “But I want you all to know I am not prepared to follow through with this purchase without your confirmation of the decision that was made over a year ago.”

The next Washington County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education located at 405 W College Street, Jonesborough.

County mayor race kicks off

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The race is officially underway.

The 2018 election for the Washington County Mayor, made vacant by current Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s decision not to run for re-election, is officially on.

Four candidates have thrown their name in the race. Republican candidates will face off in the county primary set for May 1, with early voting to begin on Wednesday April 11. The general election is scheduled for Aug. 2.

In gearing up for the election, the Herald & Tribune spent time learning about each candidate:

Mark Ferguson (Republican)

Mark Ferguson could be returning to the commission — but this time as county mayor.

Ferguson was a county commissioner from 2006 to 2010. He also owns multiple properties and businesses such as Mark’s Car Wash in Johnson City, Gray and Jonesborough and Mark’s Self-Storage.

Now, after the 40-cent tax increase in Washington County, Ferguson says he’s ready to bring a conservative mindset as county mayor.

“We just went through the highest tax increase in Washington County,” Ferguson said. “I just think I’m a little more conservative than what we have. I’d like to have all of our services second to none. We need to do it in a conservative way so we don’t put anymore of a burden on the tax payers than what we’ve put.”

Ferguson also told the Herald & Tribune that if he’s elected, he wants to serve as a mayor for city citizens as well.

“When you look at what’s happened in the last two years or so in Washington County, you’d think Johnson City is not a part of the county,” Ferguson said. “I thought I missed something so I checked on it and Washington County goes all the way from the Greene County line in Limestone to the the Carter County line in Watauga and Johnson City’s a part of that. So I want to be a county mayor who represents the entire county and does what’s right for the entire county.”

Joe Grandy (Republican)

Washington County Commissioner Joe Grandy’s name might not be appearing as a commissioner this election, but it’s been under the mayoral candidate column since November when he made the announcement.

Grandy is a commissioner in District 6 who is currently on his second term. Grandy is also the president and generalmanager of Ferguson Enterprises Inc.

Grandy said his main concern is on the schools.

“The need going forward in the community is to continue our educational programs. I’m a big proponent of improvement in the schools and providing opportunities for our students so they can stay here,” Grandy said. “And that dovetails with the economic development component … Our existing businesses are just desperate for quality folks to come help build their business.”

Grandy also said, should he be elected, he hopes to continue the county’s debt management plan.

“It’s just critical that we have solid leadership and good, solid financial direction for Washington County,” Grandy said, “and to continue the plan that will take Washington County out of debt in the future.”

James Reeves (Independent)

James Reeves ran for mayor in 2010, but now he’s back for the 2018 election.

Reeves owns and operates Reeves Alinement and Auto Care in Johnson City and has addressed the county commission and the Washington County Board of Education on issues such as the tax increase and plans for the Jonesborough K-8 school project.

Now, Reeves is hoping to also focus on schools — namely, an increase in teacher pay.

“What I want to do ultimately is figure out how we can get teacher pay in the county close to what they pay in Johnson City,” Reeves said. “It’s never going to be more. But it shouldn’t be that far apart. There shouldn’t be that much of a discrepancy between the two.”

Like Ferguson, Reeves also said he’s concerned with being a mayor for Johnson City citizens as well as those in unincorporated areas.

“You go to these meetings and you see the lack of cooperation. It’s almost like Washington County and Johnson City are, in most things, against each other,” Reeves said. “I do believe that I can do a lot better than what’s being done, better cooperation.”

David Tomita (Republican)

David Tomita is the current Johnson City Mayor, but in the 2018 election, he’s looking to become the county mayor.

Tomita was previously a Washington County and Johnson City Commissioner until he was elected as the Johnson City Mayor in 2017.

Prior to filing to officially enter the county mayoral race, Tomita picked up the necessary papers to run for Washington County Trustee.

The Herald and Tribune reached out to Tomita, but was unable to reach the mayoral candidate.

***

The voter registration deadline for the county primary is set for Monday, April 2. The county primary’s early voting period runs from Wednesday, April 11 through Thursday, April 26.

County mayor not ready to ‘pull the trigger’ on school land purchase

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said he will be asking the county commission to confirm its decision to purchase the McCoy property at the commission’s March meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education and the community aren’t the only ones trying to make sense of the Jonesborough K-8 School project.

At the county’s budget committee meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, Washington County Commissioners and Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge discussed the Jonesborough School’s future.

In light of the school board’s most recent meeting where the board failed to choose another design option, the county mayor said he’s not ready to go ahead with the purchase of the land adjacent to the current Jonesborough Elementary School site.

“In March, I will be asking the county commission to confirm its decision to purchase the McCoy property that adjoins Jonesborough Elementary,” Eldridge said. “Given the school board’s lack of direction, I am not willing — without confirmation from the commission — to pull the trigger on that purchase.

“There will have to be a decision made regarding that property because, where we are today, I will not exercise the option to purchase it.”

Eldridge said the option for the land ends at the end of March.

Though the school board remains in gridlock over a design decision, the committee discussed the board’s design options such as “Scheme 2”, the plan to tear down the round portion, make renovations and additions to the current Jonesborough Elementary School building, and “Scheme 3”, the plan to make renovations and additions to the current Jonesborough Middle School building.

The committee also discussed the option to delay the project which was included in Commissioner Mitch Meredith’s presentation focusing on the financial aspects of each design plan. School board member Keith Ervin said at a recent meeting that he still felt that waiting to build up funds through delaying the project was the way to go.

At the Feb. 14 meeting, Eldridge said he wanted to make it clear that there is no plan for a totally new school for Jonesborough no matter what plan is chosen and when it will be complete.

“What I want everyone to understand is there is no difference in the facility that they’re going to get six years from now versus two years from now,” Eldridge said. “There is so much chatter in the community right now about, ‘Well we’re just going to delay this and get a new school.’ No you’re not. That is not what the school board has requested, that is not what the architect has proposed.

“There has never been a new school proposed for Jonesborough since 2015 when the school board was told very clearly by the county commission, ‘We cannot afford a new school at Boones Creek and a new school at Jonesborough.’”

Commissioner Todd Hensley added that there was a way to build a new school for Jonesborough that no one wanted to mention — and that involves another tax increase and possibly undoing the county’s debt management plan.

“There is a way they can get a new school — but it’s not palpable to any of us sitting here and it totally ignores all we’ve done. They can get a new school by raising taxes another 15 or 20 cents,” Hensley said. “That’s not being said because you’re looking at another narrative coming into an election and they’re not saying what it would take (to build a new Jonesborough School). And they could come in and blow this plan out of the water, which is unfortunate.”

Eldridge mentioned that, in discussing the Jonesborough School project issues with County Commission Chairman Greg Matherly, Matherly mentioned the idea of consolidating Boones Creek School and Jonesborough School into one location at the Boones Creek site, which is currently under construction.

“There is one other option that would allow for a new school. He (Matherly) suggested that the school board should consider doing an addition to the new Boones Creek School for Jonesborough and move the Jonesborough kids there — consolidate them into one new campus and everyone gets a new school,” Eldridge said. “Oh and by the way, it can be done within our budgeted amount.”

With budgetary concerns in mind, in addition to the county’s slipping student enrollment numbers, committee members said consolidations might be an avenue the school system might consider in the future as well.

“Down the road, maybe not in our lifetime, Fall Branch and Sulphur Springs — I don’t think you could pick one to build a new school and not consider a consolidation given the enrollment they’re receiving right now,” Commissioner Rick Storey said, “We’ve had community schools for years, but, going forward, maybe (consolidation) is something we need to think about.”

Meanwhile, Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton had concerns about consolidating Jonesborough and Boones Creek schools.

“Of course it’s up to the school board, but my concern with building a school that large with that amount of capacity is you’re going to lose a lot of the intimacy for students, that relationship-building with teachers and students, in a school that large,” Halliburton said. “You’re talking about a 1600-man school. It’s a unique challenge. You’re going to lose some things with a school that size.”

Halliburton suggested Meredith present his presentation to the school board at a joint meeting. That date is yet to be set.

The next county commission is set for Monday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. in Courtroom 7 of the Justice Center, 108 W Jackson Boulevard, Jonesborough. The school board will hold a called meeting for policy review on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m. and a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education located at 405 W College Street, Jonesborough.

BOE joins liquor tax funding battle

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education will be joining two other county systems in Tennessee who have opted for an application for permission to appeal to the supreme court.

The school board voted unanimously at the Thursday, Feb. 8 meeting in hopes of receiving what Cleveland, Tennessee attorney Jim Logan referred to as their “fair share” when it comes to the state’s consumption on the premises tax.

“Counties are no longer receiving the kind of revenue they did in years gone by,” Logan said at the meeting. “The places of sale have changed … Counties do not receive the percentage of sales taxes because we’ve got the mega stores. Most of the restaurants which serve alcohol are located within the cities.

“The time has come for counties to be active in the legislature.”

According to Tennessee Code Annotated 57-4-306, half of the liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue goes to the state’s general fund for education. The other half is to be split between the unincorporated areas (the county) while the other goes to the city or town in which the tax is collected. The method to determine the dollar amount is based on average daily attendance.

Back in 2015, Sullivan County Chancellor E.G. Moody ruled in favor of the Washington County School System in a lawsuit against Johnson City for $3.4 million in liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue. But Logan also mentioned at the BOE meeting that since that ruling, the state’s Court of Appeals at Knoxville ruled in favor of a city entity in a similar situation.

Logan also told the board that because Tennessee’s Courts of Appeals at Nashville ruled in favor of the Coffee County School System in a similar litigation against Tullahoma, the odds may be in Washington County’s favor in the liquor-by-the-drink tax matter.

“We can’t have a different set of laws governing the middle section of our state and those governing the eastern section of our state,” Logan said. “Supreme court has to act favorably to the application for permission to appeal.”

Back in the Washington County School System court ruling in 2015, Washington County joined in the case. However, Logan said that the Washington County Commission wouldn’t need to be involved in the decision.

“You (the school board) are the real party in interest because you are the agency and political agency which is entitled to the monies,” Logan said. “I do not think the county commission has to act as we thought as they might.”

Logan said initially, his fee for his work in case was going to be $250 per hour. But now 50 percent of the bill will be split between Washington County and Bradley County who also voted for an application of permission to appeal.

This isn’t the first time education funding between the county and city systems were considered in Washington County; In 2017, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge also expressed his concern for the amount of funds the county school system receives. The county mayor, along with Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton, met with Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen in August of 2017 to discuss the disparity between the county and city schools. Eldridge cited these sort of taxes as a leading cause in the school funding gap.

“The issue is that every dollar in revenue that the county puts into education, the county matches to the city,” Eldridge said at a 2017 county commission meeting. “But the city has all these resources of revenue available and they’re not required to share any of those, regardless of who’s paying those taxes.”

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to acknowledge that treating half the kids in this county as second class citizens isn’t right.”

After the school board opted for an application for permission to appeal, Logan, like Eldridge, mentioned equal opportunity as a main factor in the counties’ mission for equal funding.

“Most of the counties educate most of the students across our state,” Logan said after the school board opted for the application for appeal. “Counties provide the education services required by our constitution across our state. Now it’s time for our legislator to make it clear as a bell.

“We want to make sure that every student is provided equal funding for their education to be administered by the school boards across the state, irrespective of where they live when it’s a state tax.”

Second time around the tracks: ’I Am Home’ cast prepares for return

The “I Am Home” cast and crew gathered together for rehearsals before the show debut on Feb. 23.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Most plays consist of a group of people together on a stage. But for those gearing up for “I Am Home,” it’s all about the community coming together to share the stories and history of Tennessee’s oldest town.

“I Am Home”, which is set to run on Feb. 23, 24, 25 and March 2, 3, 4, is made up of stories that take place throughout Jonesborough’s history. The stories were gathered throughout a year-long process and thus created a play that was designed to take the audience through multiple time periods and stories that helped shape Jonesborough.

But for playwright and McKinney Center Director of Outreach Programming Jules Corriere, “I Am Home” is also about that true sense of community.

Play Director Jules Corriere gives the cast direction during a rehearsal for the play.

“I’ve been writing plays like this for 20 years in communities around the country and what I see happen every time is a community sheds light on its stories — not just the easy ones, but the difficult ones,” Corriere said. “In rehearsing those difficult moments on the stage, we learn to bring that rehearsing out into the community and put it into practice so that we are better and stronger with each other.

“We become stronger neighbors because we are growing and understanding of each other’s stories.”

The play also aims to honor the stories of Jonesborough’s past leaders in the community; for many cast members, it’s that rich history that brought so many to the stage in the McKinney Center for the “I Am Home” community production.

Among these historical characters is local historic icon, Alfred Greenlee. Greenlee was an integral part of Jonesborough’s integration and he even attended the African American school which used to be in the McKinney Center building on Franklin Avenue in Jonesborough from 1940 to 1965.

Ken Bonner, who plays the role of Greenlee, said he felt the importance of the part in joining the cast as the Jonesborough historical figure — but that only gave him more motivation.

Ken Bonner will play Alfred Greenlee in the community production of Jonesborough historical stories.

“When I read about this one in the paper, I just kinda told myself I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and come down here and try out for a role — I didn’t know it would be Alfred Greenlee,” Bonner said, laughing. “As I learned more about him, his character and history in Jonesborough, I just made a commitment to myself to bring that character to life. Then as I got into it and started realizing the importance of his role, it became a little bit bigger.

“I’m really excited about it — especially to be playing an event that actually took place here.”

But Greenlee isn’t the only one with history dating back to the McKinney Center building and other sites in Jonesborough such as the Jackson Theatre; Donna Olujani was involved with a community play seven years ago with her son and daughter. Now back in this year’s production, she doesn’t just attribute the play for the history lesson it offered her and her kids — it also allowed her father to open up about his past during the segregation era.

“My dad actually grew up here, so when he would go to the Jackson Theatre, he had to go up to the balcony — I had never even heard that story from him before,” Olujani said. “So it allowed us to go back and listen to even more history from my dad where he hadn’t shared some of that. When he came to the play, it just made it to where he would talk about things more. There were a lot of things going on in that time that he just didn’t share or talk about because it was less painful not to talk about it.

“This play brought it out and showed us how important it is for him to do that with his grandkids and for them to get a better understanding.”

Among her other roles in the play, Olujani will play a mother in the Jackson Theatre, where her father once stood in the balcony. And it’s this sort of real history that she hopes others will take away from the local production.

Cast member Donna Olujani watches other members of the “I Am Home” play during her break on set.

“A lot of times, I feel like Jonesborough kind of gets lost. We’re the same county as Johnson City, but we get lost. Since I’m from here, I wanted to be proud of Jonesborough. I wanted my kids to be proud of Jonesborough and to be proud of where they’re from.

“I think (the play) is kind of where I think the communication kind of got lost as far as the history. That’s what’s important, that people know this history.”

Whether it’s to honor a local historical figure or to share the history that took place in the same building in which the play will be performed, the community, past and present, are the centerpiece of the show for cast, crew and directors alike.

“What I want the community to take away when they see this play is just the power of its people, the perseverance and tenacity of its own people, what they have lived through, what they continue to live through and what they have continued to grow into whatever was coming next,” Corriere said. “They’re innovators, they’re creative and they didn’t let the world pass them by. They built the world and made it happen as the world was growing.”

I Am Home will be featured on Feb. 23, 24, 25 and March 2, 3, 4 with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $14 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students and are available by phone at (423)753-1010 or online at www.jonesborough.com/tickets.

Parents gather to question school choices

Parent Candice Greenlee was one of many to speak at Thursday’s community meeting at Jonesborough Middle School.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Jonesborough community, once again showed up for the upcoming Jonesborough K-8 school project.

But this time, it wasn’t in a board room at the central office — it was in a crowded middle school gymnasium where multiple members of the community stood face to face with county officials in order to voice concerns and ask questions regarding the project.

“I’m just glad you’re listening to us and are letting us be a part of this process because it’s important,” Jonesborough Elementary School parent Candice Greenlee said. “It’s not going to be the big debacle of 2018 where we wasted a bunch of money. It’s going to be ‘the community came together, we thought this through, we made a good decision and we moved it forward for these children.’”

In an attempt to better help the community understand the project, board member Phillip McLain presented all four of the future school’s design plan options and dollar amounts, including the “scheme three” plan to renovate and add on to the existing Jonesborough Middle School building where the meeting was held. For Washington County Commissioner Lynn Hodge, who answered community questions at the meeting, Scheme Three is the only viable option.

Washington County Commissioner Lynn Hodge spoke at the community event while also answering parents’ questions about Jonesborough School project funding options.

“The decision you have to make should not be a decision based on perceived fairness, but should be a decision based on what Washington County can afford,” Hodge said, “partially considering there are schools in Washington County far older than what the Jonesborough School is. Washington County cannot afford option one or two without tax increases, but we can afford option three. And it is within the budget.”

Of the plan options, Scheme One includes renovations and additions to the current Jonesborough Elementary School site and Scheme Two includes renovations and additions to the elementary school and demolition to the round portion of the school. Meanwhile, Scheme Two (A) involved renovations, additions, tearing down the round and slight reductions in size. Scheme Three involved renovations and additions to the middle school building.

Scheme One, Two and Two (A) are out of the county’s budget. Scheme Three is within budget.

But for Kerrie Aistrop, a Jonesborough parent who recently announced her candidacy for the upcoming school board election, a remodel of the middle school still brings about concerns.

Parent and school board candidate Kerrie Aistrop (left) speaks to Architect Tony Street and Commissioner Lynn Hodge at the community event.

“We’re not getting a new gym floor, we’re not getting new lockers — pretty much we’re getting a paint job on this school and then we’re going to build on,” Aistrop said at the meeting. “That part’s going to be brand new. So I don’t know that this is technically a true remodel for the middle school … I feel like this scheme has been taken down so small that this is as good as it gets.”

“If we could get a full remodel at this middle school, I’d say absolutely. If you’re going to guarantee these pipes are going to be cleaned, every bit of asbestos is out of this school, I’d say go for it. But my main concern is safety for my kids.”

Along with board members and commissioners, the project’s architect, Tony Street, also came ready with information, including a list of what all a remodel of the middle school building would entail.

Street said the school would have replaced glass, new heating and air for the entire building, a new roof, new plumbing in existing dressing rooms, replaced concrete floors in dressing rooms and bathrooms, hardware for current doors, new ceilings and lights, a refinished gym floor, new ceiling tiles, enlarged classrooms, new intercom and security systems, new sewer and water lines and a stage in the gymnasium.

Apart from concerns with current plans, the community also had questions regarding funding; Jonesborough parent Rachel Bates, who has addressed the school board at recent meetings regarding the project, directed most of her questions to Hodge and the county commission.

Bates asked that the commission consider using part of its fund balance to cover the rest of the project’s cost. She also referenced the athletic complex slated to be built next to the Boones Creek K-8 school.

“How can you call it financially responsible to spend $3.5 million on a sports complex when you have the issue we have going on at this school?’ Bates said. “How is that fiscally responsible?”

The athletic facilities complex is not part of the Boones Creek School project. Instead, it’s a county-owned project that the commission has targeted to jointly operate with Johnson City. However, at a recent athletic facilities task force meeting between the two entities, city officials said the sports complex plans don’t fit the city’s current needs.

In looking at the Jonesborough School potential plans, many community members asked about Jonesborough’s athletic facility options as well as where the playground is planned to be placed.

Street said the area to the left of Jonesborough Elementary School could be utilized for athletic fields, though there are no plans to do so currently. He also said the land is privately owned but that the property would be purchased with the project.

“I’m saying this is available for some sort of outdoor activity down the road,” Street said. “Currently it’s not in the budget.”

BOE Chairman Jack Leonard said the land purchase is currently in the hands of the county attorney and that the land option closes at the end of February.

The next BOE meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education Central Office, located at 405 West College Street, Jonesborough.

Mountain View to open new location on 11E

Mountain View market will open its new store at the site of a former county grocer.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The owners of Mountain View Country Market in Chuckey plan to bring a slice of their country shop a little closer to Jonesborough with an additional store.

The upcoming market, Troyer at Mountain View Country Market, will be located on 11E in Limestone. The location was a vital part of an expansion plan that store owner Tim Troyer said he and his family had been considering for some time.

“We’ve been working for a while to try to expand down here or up there for a couple years” Troyer said. “Our markets, we like them in kind of a country setting. The lay of the property was great and we wanted to move closer towards the Jonesborough and Johnson City area. We liked the property and I think it’s a great location on 11E there. We’re excited.”

Troyer said they are planning to  begin construction in February. He also said that if the project is completed on schedule, an opening date in spring or early summer of 2018 is anticipated.

Design plans for the Troyer at Mountain View Country Market are already underway.

The new shop will mirror the original Mountain View store in Chuckey, which offers bulk foods, fresh deli meats and cheeses and housewares. However, the new location will also offer a coffee and custard shop.

“Those (shops) will be our biggest changes,” Troyer said. “We’ll have a bakery also. We’ll basically have what we have here, but we’ll be expanding in our product lines; housewares, kitchenwares.”

Troyer said the location on 11E, which sits next to Mountain View Restaurant, was formerly a grocery. For Troyer and his wife Rachel, who have owned the country market for eight years, the idea of keeping a similar business at the site only adds to the location.

“It actually has a history; it used to be a grocer in the 40s and 50s. It belonged to the Clark family,” Troyer said. “They were kind of excited too because it had roots of being a grocery store and we’re going to take it back to being that yet again. We’re excited about it being a grocer and selling those kind of items.”

The Troyers plan to start a Facebook page to allow the public to follow the project to opening day and thereafter. For more information on the Mountain View Country Market visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/mountainviewcountrymarket or call (423) 257-5739.

Firefighting preacher answers the call

Oakland Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Telford caught fire on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Steve Hartley has been a recent visiting preacher at Oakland Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Telford. Hartley is also a volunteer firefighter for the Limestone Volunteer Fire Department. But never did he imagine he would be filling both of those roles at the same place and time.

Steve Hartley had no idea the church he preached at Sunday would become the scene of a fire he was called to on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10 just after 6 p.m., the church was ravaged by a fire that claimed the majority of the building. Hartley arrived on the scene with the Limestone VFD to see the church at which he had recently preached surrounded by flames.

“When you see something like that, whether its a church or a house, it kind of gives you a sick feeling in your stomach,” Hartley said. “But knowing that it was a church and me being a preacher — my heart went out to the congregation.”

Limestone’s Fire Chief Steve Archer said the fire was an accident that sparked from the church’s breaker box. Jonesborough, Sulphur Springs, Greeneville and Nolichuckey firefighters were also on the scene to fight the fire. No one was injured.

The Herald & Tribune sat down with Hartley a few days after the fire — and after he preached the following Sunday in the only building on the property that was salvaged, the fellowship hall.

“You had asked me a question: ‘What was it like to stand there and preach Sunday and have to fight a fire on the next Sunday?’ I studied on that for a couple days and I remembered there was one point where I went back in the church to fight the fire,” Hartley explained. “All I could do was sit down on the stage and just think about the devastation and the hurt this congregation was going to be going through.

“We had a lesson out of Daniel that says that faith that is not tested is withered. I told them this is God’s test for them to rebuild and to come back even stronger — and to be a light to the community.”

Hartley made entry into the building that night to fight the fire, but he was also able to be there for the congregation he had gathered with just days before..

“I’m glad I was able to be there. I was able to take a break from the fire fighting part of it and go over to the congregation that was there and have prayer with them,” Hartley said. “In a way, I hope I comforted them by them seeing me there and caring enough to come over and comfort them even while we were still putting the hot spots out.”

Though the historical church suffered a great deal of damage, the fellowship hall currently serves as the meeting place for the congregation. Hartley said, though the circumstances weren’t ideal, the service on Sunday after the fire felt like the group hadn’t stepped foot from their typical Sunday meeting place.

“It was just as if we were in the church, just as I preached on,” Hartley said. “In 1 Corinthians 3:9 it says that we are God’s building. I told them it didn’t matter where we met or how we met, but as long as we were together that we could have church.”

Hartley wasn’t alone in that feeling; Wayne Ruppert is a full-time attendee of the church and is in charge of lining up a pastor to preach each Sunday.

“I stood up and told them, ‘There’s only one way to describe the sermon that we had today and that was ‘hallelujah,’ Ruppert said. “He reached the hearts of all of us on Sunday.”

Though the church is still grappling with the damage, church members are looking to carry on as what they consider is truly “a church.”

“The church building it just that, a building,” Ruppert said. “The church is made up of a congregation and the church is in our hearts. And that congregation at the Oakland Church is full of spirit, full of life and we will continue on, whatever it takes.

“With God’s love and support, in the near future, we should be back on the hill. Just pray for us. Just ask everybody to pray for us.”

As for Hartley, he doesn’t accept his role as a firefighter, paramedic or part-time preacher as something he himself is able to complete; that, he said, is just another of God’s blessings in his life.

“Anytime I get to share what God’s done for me or pray for somebody, it’s a humbling experience,” Hartley said. “But to be able to help the church, preach with them, pray with them and work as a volunteer fireman — I’m blessed to be able to do that.”

Town hall meeting set for Jonesborough School discussion

Jonesborough Middle School will be the site for the town hall meeting on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. for the community to weigh in on the impending Jonesborough K-8 school decision.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

If you thought all the pieces of the upcoming Jonesborough K-8 project puzzle were on the table, it might be time to invest in a bigger table.

The Washington County Board of Education has opted for a town hall meeting at Jonesborough Middle School to allow the community to ask questions and voice opinions to board members and county commissioners in regards to the future design plans for the Jonesborough K-8 construction project.

The meeting is currently scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m. at Jonesborough Middle School located at 308 Forest Drive, Jonesborough.

Board member David Hammond, who made the motion at the board’s Jan. 4 meeting, said the main goal of the upcoming town hall meeting is to hear from the community and to bring everyone together.

“The last few weeks, I feel like there’s been an air in the community where it’s the board against the commission and the commission against the board and the parents against the board or commission,” Hammond said. “I think this is a way for everyone to sit down and discuss it in an informal setting — not be lectured to or talked down to — but for everyone to just come and realize we’re all working for the same goal.”

The decision for the community meeting came after the board chose “scheme two,” a design plan that is $5,652,000 over the project’s budget and involves tearing down the round portion of Jonesborough Elementary School and renovating other existing parts of the school. The Washington County Commission’s Health Education and Welfare Committee then voted the plan down just hours before the Washington County Board of Education met on Jan. 4.

There was another previous option, dubbed “scheme three”, which involved renovating and adding onto the current Jonesborough Middle School building. This plan comes in at $31,000 under the $17,560,000 budget approved by the county commission.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, who was present for the committee’s decision to deny the motion for scheme two, said from the county commission’s perspective, the Jonesborough Middle School site is the most plausible option for the project.

“(Scheme three) is viable from the one perspective that the county commission has a say in and that’s the budget,” Eldridge said. “Scheme three is within budget. Scheme two is 30 percent over budget.”

County officials are also considering the option to delay the project to allow cash to accumulate in the capital projects fund. However, increased interest rates and construction costs remain a concern for the board in delaying the project. Street also said at the board’s December meeting that if the project decision was postponed for even three months, the school opening would be pushed back one year to 2021.

Hammond also weighed the conditions at Jonesborough Elementary School as a factor in the option to wait on the project.

“Jonesborough Elementary is going to be in need of a new roof soon. The HVAC system or the chiller system could go at any time. If we wait, we could be in a position where we’ll have to put a million or so dollars in the school while we’re waiting,” Hammond said. “That’s money I would like to see go towards the new Jonesborough School.”

Hammond said in his mind, no option is off the table just yet. Until the board comes to a decision, Hammond wants to keep the community involved.

“This is a community school. This community’s going to be here long after my time is up on the board and long after the county mayor and the commissioners serve their terms,” Hammond said. “They (the community) are the ones left to deal with what we do. That’s why I want the community involved.”

For the county mayor, his concern remains in the timeliness of the town hall meeting and expectations that it could bring to the community.

“One thing that concerns me is that if the school board is wanting to get public input, they’re really late in this process,” Eldridge said. “Bringing the parents in and asking them for their input at this point — I just caution everyone to understand that there is no more money. I’m concerned about the county school board setting expectations with these parents that something more can be done when in reality there is no money to pay for it.”

Top Stories of 2017

In this first week of 2018, the Herald & Tribune would like to take a moment to look back to the top  stories of 2017 – a collection of stories with the greatest impact on our community, many of which promise to continue into this new year. From coach controversy and school disputes to decisions on fluoride treatment and plans for downtown development, 2017 showed us once again that the size of the town has little bearing on the quantity of the news. Below are a few breakdowns of just a few of those stories.

Coach controversy spills off of field

Gerald Sensabaugh landed the Crockett football job in January of 2017.

When Coach Gerald Sensabaugh stepped onto the David Crockett High School football field in the fall of 2017, it was hard to determine who was the happiest: students thrilled to have a true NFL hero at the coaching helm or Coach Sensabaugh, who expressed his determination to make a difference in the lives of each kid he encountered on his team.

“I wanna come to Crockett and bring a winning tradition to Crockett,” Sensabaugh told the Herald & Tribune in an interview at the beginning of the season. “I wanna win as many games as possible. I can’t promise anything, but I can tell you — I’m gonna give it my all. We can do big things here.”

But by early October, the scene had undergone a drastic change. With Crockett’s annual Musket Bowl contest against rival Daniel Boone on the horizon, Sensabaugh announced via social media that his team’s practice had been canceled by the school system.

Director of Washington County Schools Kimber Halliburton said the decision to cancel the Pioneers’ practice came after Sensabaugh practiced an injured player, and referred to unprofessional behavior by the coach, as well as his accusations against employees involved in the athletic program.

Next came the somewhat startling announcement that Sensabaugh  has been put on administrative leave for practicing said player, verbal attacks and profanity. Athletic Director Josh Kite was also put on administrative leave after a claim from Sensabaugh that Kite offered him prescription drugs.

The storm had only just begun. Parents on both sides of the controversy joined the mix, with Sensabaugh’s supporters demanding his immediate reinstatement via protests, rallies and Facebook.

As of press time, the coach remains on administrative leave, and is currently said to be looking at a run for the position of  Sullivan County Mayor.

Off the field, the coach controversy also helped bring into focus frustration with details in the county’s decision for a new Joneborough School. Now united, they stormed the board. And brought about the next top story for 2017;

‘Tear down the round’ cry escalates

Discussions about what to do with Jonesborough’s Elementary School has by no means been limited to 2017. Nearly as soon as talk emerged about the need for a new Boones Creek school, similar calls for a new Jonesborough School began to surface.

As the Washington County School Board and County Commission moved into 2017, however, the course seemed to be set. Jonesborough would not have to wait nearly as long for their new school as originally anticipated, but it would be a new school/renovation hybrid designed to save on costs. As part of that renovation, the elementary school round portion would be retained. And a new magnet school would go into a renovated middle school

As with earlier Jonesborough school discussions, there at first appeared to be little input from the community. Then, amid the Coach Sensabaugh protests, a call to “tear down the round” emerged.

The retention of what many protesters saw as an outdated, inferior product for Jonesborough that could save the county money — against a backdrop of a brand-new Boones Creek School which had broken ground miles down the road – struck some residents as another example of unfair treatment.

The protests continued to rise and, in a surprise 11th hour decision, the board voted to ‘tear down the round’ and make whatever concessions necessary to make that possible.

Still ahead is the question of whether the county – arbiter of the funds – will concur, what will happen to the proposed magnet school and whether current protesters will be appeased.

Fluoride is out, then it’s back in again

The BMA spent time throughout the year discussing fluoride.

The Town of Jonesborough’s decision in early 2017 to discontinue the addition of fluoride to its drinking water took many by surprise.

The vote — unanimous except for one lone holdout, Alderman Terry Countermine – issued a new course for a town which had provided fluoride in its water for nearly 20 years.

The decision came after months of public hearings and discussions, as well as an informal residential vote which came in with about 50 percent for and 50 percent against the addition of fluoride.

Plans were set for implementation of the town’s new directive in the coming summer. And the issue was considered closed – at least for the time being.

But a group of committed local healthcare professionals, including the town’s own Dr. Bill Kennedy and Alderman Countermine, could not let the issue lie. They began meeting to discuss a strategy. And they began to continue to voice their concerns,

In the end, swayed by the arguments, the board reversed its decision with a unanimous vote, this time in favor of keeping the fluoride,.

“Since this issue was brought before the board, I’ve struggled to have many of my questions about our water treatment process answered,” Aldermen Chuck Vest —  who voted in February against fluoride’s use in town water — told the board at the Aug. 14, 2017 meeting.

“I’ve tried to keep an open mind,” he continued. “So recently a reputable study from the Mayo Clinic was released  and I’ve had more conversations with professionals I respect and trust.”

Chuckey Depot tops town improvements for 2017

There is no doubt about it. Jonesborough is a railway kind of town. From those early stories of the Immortal Thirty, that collection of men in Jonesborough’s history who persevered to bring the railroad through their growing town, this community has been one that is used to marching to the tune of a train whistle.

That’s why it seemed so fitting to area historians and train aficionados alike that the Chuckey train depot would come to settle in Jonesborough as the new Chuckey Depot Museum.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Oct., 2, 2017 at its new location at 110 South Second Avenue in what has be christened W.C. Rowe Park. The park is named after Rowe, life-long resident of Jonesborough and the area known for his contributions to the Town of Jonesborough.

The ribbon cutting was the conclusion of a five-year project. Built on the railroad’s right of way in Chuckey, the depot was threatened with demolition and, due to railroad policy, the building could not stay in its original location. 

Now, thanks to work by the town, the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society, the museum provides ample opportunity for visitors to step back to a golden age of railroad and get a firsthand view of what it was like to wait for a train and travel afar.

The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society also partnered in the project, providing the restoration of a red caboose which sits adjacent to the depot in addition to numerous artifacts and photos.

For more information about the Depot, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423)753-1010. 

Commission puts hold on county school ‘game plan’

Commissioner Tom Krieger first suggested a school facilities study be conducted in the Washington County School System.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Commission discussed a proposal for a school facilities study, or “game plan” as Commissioner Tom Krieger has called it, to be conducted for the Washington County School system. However, the commission majority voted in opposition of the study.

Krieger, who is also the Health, Education and Welfare Committee chairman, made the motion for the commission to approve a demographic, enrollment, strategic planning and school facilities study with a cap of $60,000, which was to be paid for by the county.

Of the 22 commissioners in attendance, 10 voted against the proposal. Thirteen votes of approval were necessary to pass the motion. Twelve commissioners voted in favor.

“I don’t really think we know sometimes what we’re doing. I’m not disparaging the commission. I’m not disparaging the board of education,” Commissioner Paul Stanton, who is also part of the HEW committee, said. “Right now, we find ourselves in the debate of renovations, tear downs, new facilities. We see letters to the editor — the same kind of back and forth … I think we need a fixed, focused, objective.”

“I think it’s high time we had this kind of study done.”

In the proposal, Jesse Register, the director of the Center for the Improvement of Educational Systems at Belmont University, was to conduct a study on items such as facility conditions, capacity, student enrollment and zoning.

The proposal stated the study results were to be presented to the school board and in turn would result in a 10-year plan the school board and in turn would result in a 10-year plan with “recommendations for renovation, modernization, replacement and new construction needs” for the Washington County School District.

Commissioner Pat Wolfe commented on a misconception he felt members of the community had gathered from news of the proposed study; after the HEW committee discussed the plan at previous meetings, communities were concerned the study could result in the closing of some Washington County Schools.

“The main thing is this is not a study to recommend closing schools,” Wolfe said. “This is a study to study what’s happening in education and give us some direction.”

Other commissioners were concerned this was a request that didn’t come from the Washington County Board of Education. Director of Schools for Washington County Kimber Halliburton confirmed at the commission meeting that the school board had discussed and voted on the study.

However, school board member Phillip McLain addressed the commission from the audience with the school system’s other projects in mind.

“There’s a lot of issues on the table that came from our last plan that hadn’t been finished. My second thought is that this is a lot of money to spend right now,” McLain said. “We’re in the middle of construction, we’ve got other capital project things that need to be funded and I think this process could wait a year or two — till we’ve got some other things behind us that we’re already working on.”

McLain also said he remembered former commissioner and HEW chairwoman Katie Baker telling Krieger in a joint meeting with the school board that the request for the study “should be coming from the school board to us, not from us to them.”

At the commission meeting, Krieger also mentioned a former study conducted by planning and design-engineering consultant Kimley-Horn for the county before the design plan for the new Boones Creek School was decided. Commissioner Mitch Meredith cited the previous study’s miscalculations as a reason he felt the county should invest in the Belmont study.

“If you look at the population of the school growth trends, (the study) was off by almost 20 percent,” Meredith said. “Instead of seeing a growth in school enrollment, we’ve seen a significant drop off. So I think using an outdated demographic study to make decisions on spending millions of taxpayer dollars would be the wrong approach.”

Commissioner Suzy Williams, who is also a member of the HEW committee, pointed out that Register’s work came without a cost to the county. The fee, which was not to exceed $60,000, was to come from contracted professionals who would help complete specific portions of the study.

However, the time line of the county’s current capital projects was an aspect to consider for Commissioner Bryan Davenport..

“I understand that we need updated information. But we are in the middle of a capital project. I think we need to finish that,” Davenport said. “We don’t need to make decisions off of old data that may change. But, from what I’m hearing from the school board, at this time, they have a full plate. I don’t know how quickly they could look at this information, this study, and start making decisions going forward.

“We’re not in the situation, I don’t believe, of going forward and spending millions of more dollars. Before we do that, we need to study that. I’m just not sure now is the time for that study.”

School board votes to ‘tear down the round’

The Washington County School Board voted to ‘tear down the round’ at the current Jonesborough Elementary School in the plans for the upcoming Jonesborough School.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The board of education officially decided on a design plan for the upcoming Jonesborough K-8, but that didn’t keep them from once again going in circles — and this time, against the clock.

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger made a motion for the board to adopt a plan which includes tearing down the round portion of the current Jonesborough Elementary building, renovating the existing rectangular portions and adding new construction to the school as well.

In a 5-4 vote, board members Dellinger, Annette Buchanan, Phillip McLain, Keith Ervin and David Hammond voted in favor of the “scheme two” plan. Board members Mike Masters, Todd Ganger, Clarence Mabe and Jack Leonard were opposed.

“I’ve talked to parents at Jonesborough and I make a motion to send scheme two to the county commission and appeal to their sense of fairness,” Dellinger said. “It might come back to us, but at least that’s what (Jonesborough parents) want.”

Before the decision was made, board member Keith Ervin’s motion to table a decision for the future school was voted down 5-4 in order for the nine-member board to discuss their options — and to see how much time they had left.

Because of the possibility of facing increased interest and construction rates, time was of the essence to finally come to a decision after months of looking over multiple design plans, according to the board.

“I don’t want to wait. I want to get things going as fast as we can because of the threat of increased interest rates and an increase in construction costs that we could be facing,” Hammond said about the Jonesborough school project. “But again, I want to do it right.”

Time wasn’t the only concern; architect Tony Street said the grand total for the plan would be $23,773,780. The Washington County Commission allocated $20,750,000 for a Jonesborough School project as well as an academic magnet — the latter was not part of the design plan chosen by the majority of the school board.

In order for the plan to become a reality for the K-8, the commission will have to rescind its previously approved plan for two renovation and construction projects rather than just one before the commission votes on scheme two.

The design options weren’t as simple as a plan with or without the round portion of the elementary school, however. Street presented a final option at the Dec. 7 meeting that involved renovating and adding onto Jonesborough Middle School rather than Jonesborough Elementary.

That plan, “scheme three”, included enlarging the current classrooms and the cafeteria, building a new entrance and renovating the gymnasium and locker rooms. The total for the plan was $31,000 under budget, the only design plan not over the amount allotted for the project.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said at the board’s finance meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6 that he felt scheme three was a good way to leave the round, 1970s open-classroom portion of the elementary school in the past.

“Here’s the issue — and I’m sure you all share the exact same concern; we’ve got a scenario at Jonesborough Elementary that, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s been allowed to exist for 45 years,” Eldridge said. “I mean there is no doubt in my mind that is impacting the educational achievement of those kids. And if for no other reason than to deal with that issue and to put that behind us once and for all, I think this (scheme three) is a good way forward.”

At the finance meeting, Eldridge also said the county did not have a scenario to be able to fund scheme two.

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But for board members such as Dellinger, who has been an advocate for ‘tearing down the round’ at recent meetings, renovating and adding onto the middle school doesn’t provide equity for the Jonesborough School as compared to the Boones Creek School currently under construction on Boones Creek Road.

“I just don’t think the two buildings are equitable. I just don’t,” Dellinger said. “Boones Creek seems to be where all the focus is and this one is just an afterthought. I just can’t get very excited about it to think, the first one was going to be a redo of the round building and this one is going to be a redo of a 75-year-old building. I don’t know, I just don’t think either one are that acceptable.

“I thought 10 years ago whoever designed Grandview and Ridgeview did a good job of making them equal. And this is not equal. This is sad, a sad attempt.”

After the board bounced ideas around such as combining Asbury and Midway schools and selling the schools’ current properties, Chairman Jack Leonard voiced his concern regarding the project’s budget — and the funding body that would have to approve the plan.

“We were given a budget and was told that was all the money we were going to have,” Leonard said. “We don’t make money. We don’t tax. They raised 40 cents tax — I don’t think the county commission’s going to go back and raise the taxes again. We can’t approve something without being able to pay for it.

“We have to be prepared for push back if we’re going to move forward with this. They’re the ones who are going to have to pay for it.”

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton, who has been an advocate for the academic magnet, said she would do her best to convince the commission to delay the magnet. She also called for support in facing the commission’s committees with the board’s design plan decision.

“I need school board members at committee meetings to help me, to support me,” Halliburton said. “It’s easy to bring these things up and rally the troops, but they ask some difficult questions — and I can answer those questions — but it just appears like I have no one behind me.

“If this is important to this board, show up at committee meetings and be ready to answer their tough questions. I have board members that have never been to a committee meeting, but they’ll rally the parents. I just need support.”

Scheme two will have to go through the county commission’s monthly health education and welfare committee and the budget committee meetings in January before it can be voted on by the full commission.