BMA approves new garage plan, downtown park

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a new city garage plan Monday night, a plan which also paves the way to turn what has long been viewed as a community eyesore into a new Lincoln Avenue Park.

“This is the best deal you could ever imagine for our future garage facility,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said during the Jan. 15 meeting.

The key part of the plan — which was approved by a unanimous vote by aldermen Terry Countermine, Chuck Vest and David Sell with Jerome Fitzgerald not present for the meeting —  would involve moving the city garage from its current location on Lincoln Avenue to a new site off of Old State Route 34.

The current site is “an industrial use going on in the middle of a neighborhood”— and that needs to be changed,” Wolfe said.

Also important in the decision, however, is the efficiency of town services, the mayor stressed. He said the garage has grown from a facility that served 10 vehicles to one that services 236, as well as providing a base for various other town departments, and can no longer efficiently meet town needs.

Fleet Manager Gary Lykins agrees.

“Obviously, it’s about productivity,” Lykins said. “We do an awful lot. Keeping that equipment running is important and that (work) creeps its way through every operation in town.”

The full facility plan actually involves building three structures, and should help improve efficiency within a number of Jonesborough Departments, town officials said.

“One structure would be within the confines of the current sewer plant and that would be a sewer maintenance facility for the pump truck, pipe storage and more,” Wolfe said.

The existing recycling building will be turned into the new home for the town’s street department, which already has a new roof.

Across the creek on the east end of the town’s Rosenbaum property, will hold the new Fleet Maintenance facility, or new city garage, a 250-by-70-foot building which will house the vehicle repair shop, water distribution department and meter department.

“We have a proposal here tonight that will allow us to go ahead and upgrade in a very, very much needed fashion,” Wolfe said.

Alderman Vest agreed. “To me the most important thing we can do up here is take care of the infrastructure of our town. . . This is a decision today that can impact the town for the next 30 to 40 years. We won’t be here to see that.

“This is something we definitely need to do.”

Total cost for the project is estimated at $750,000, and with a major debt roll-off anticipated in 2020, which should free up a large portion of Jonesborough funds.

“The dividend of good fiscal responsibility by this board and your town staff (is) we can do this new municipal garage and have it completely debt free in about four years,” Wolfe said. “That’s pretty awesome and that is an excellent way of doing business.”

The decision on the municipal garage paved the way for the approval of a matching $500,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Conservation to place a downtown community park and additional parking in the old city garage space.

Because matching funds can come in the form of land value and staff labor, Town Administrator Bob Browning said, the cost of the park would be greatly reduced to the town.

The board voted to accept the matching grant and move ahead with plans for the park. Sell, who often cites a desire to strive for one project at a time, tendered his vote “with reservations.”

“One of the big issues was the time frame and getting it done,” Sell said, citing the Jackson Theatre project, in addition to the city garage and park.  “Operations Manager Craig Ford answered that for me.”

Sell said he worried that the ongoing projects might be putting too much pressure on town staff, but Ford was able to reassure him that the plan was workable.

Jonesborough group gathers to walk for Dr. King

Buffalo soldier Paul Braxton shares stories at the MLK Peace Walk.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the McKinney Center held a “Peace Walk” Monday, Jan. 15, tracing the route late Jonesborough resident Alfred Greenlee walked  each morning and ending at the site of the early 19th-century abolitionist newspaper, The Emancipator.

“What we are doing here today is a service project honoring not only Dr. Martin Luther King, but also the people who bring service to this community,” said Jules Corriere with the McKinney Center. 

The Buffalo Soldier site in Jonesborough was part of the walk on Jan. 15.

A crowd of local residents braved the cold and were treated to a number of stories about Greenlee as well as a tribute to former Buffalo Soldier Alfred Martin Rhea.

Former Jonesborough alderman Adam Dickson began the event by quoting the “Drum Major Instinct” speech by Dr. King.  “In this sermon he reminded all of us of what it really means to lead. It isn’t about being seen, it’s about leading” Dickson said.

One of the stops on the route was the former home of Rhea, where Paul Braxton appeared in the uniform worn by the men in the famed unit.  He then told the crowd about the life of Rhea and the service he provided to his country.

Walk participants decorated a fence on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Other destinations on the trip were The Eureka Inn and the site of The Emancipator, the nation’s first abolitionist newspaper begun in 1820.  The walk ended back at the Depot Street Park where the crowd was invited to participate in a community art project of decorating the park’s fence.  After adorning the fence with colored ribbons, hot coffee and hot chocolate was served to thaw out all the artists.

Jeremy Reeves, a local student, said that he felt “The spirit of Alfred was walking with us.”

New class offers weekly English training at local senior center

 

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

If you are looking to improve your English language skills, Learn English TriCities, held weekly at the Jonesborough Senior Center, may be the class for you.

“The class is open to any adult who is interested in becoming more proficient in using English as a second language,” said Beth Anderson, a volunteer teacher for Learn English Tri-Cities.

The conversational class, which welcomes all levels of learners, takes place on Tuesday nights from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The atmosphere of the class is designed to be non-threatening and safe, according to Anderson.

“Participants can talk freely or not,” Anderson said. “Most are eager to practice their English skills. We try to get a feel for the comfort level of our students and draw them into the conversation without pressure.”

Anderson has a degree in Elementary Education from East Tennessee State University, and she has been teaching English as a second language for a little over year.

The classes are structured to include reading, writing, and communication, usually based around a relative theme, she said.

“In asking the students what they feel would help them, overwhelmingly they express the need to feel more confident in speaking the language,” Anderson said. “Therefore, we spend a lot of time talking among the students.”

Students are not required to purchase a workbook or textbook for the free class. Any materials necessary for participation are provided.

However, some students did choose to purchase workbooks to use on their own, she said.

“My students actually asked for practice work in grammar and basic sentence structure,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, the class has drawn interest from students with a variety of backgrounds.

“In addition to students from Spanish-speaking countries, we have also had students from Russia, Ukraine, China and Vietnam,” she said.

Anderson said she has enjoyed meeting students from the growing community of international people who have settled in the area.

“Some of the students have been here for many years while others have been here only a short time. In the short time the class has been in existence, new friendships have developed,” she said. “There seems to be a feeling of community as the students help each other and are extremely inclusive.”

Anderson said she would love to have more volunteers to help with the class so she could offer more individualized instruction.

“We need volunteers who will come and work with the students,” Anderson said. “You do not have to speak a foreign language — in fact, I am told it is an advantage that I only speak English!”

Volunteering with Learn English Tri-Cities is a great way to learn about other cultures, she said, and it is great way for seniors to stay active.

“As a senior, I am excited to use my skills to continue to help people who have an expressed need to learn English,” she said.

For more information on becoming a student or volunteering, visit the Learn English Tri-Cities Facebook page, email learnenglishtricities@gmail.com or call Beth Anderson at (423) 360-1378.

Winter’s chill hits region with some record-setting January temperatures

By LINDSEY KING

H&T Correspondent

The new year was off to a cold start last week. Jan. 2 saw snow and a record low temperature of 3 degrees, shattering the previous record of 9 degrees that had been set in 1979.

“This cold weather is definitely not normal for us,” said meteorologist George Mathews at the National Weather Service in Morristown. “We had temperatures well below normal for at least a week or so, stretching back to around Christmas, I believe.”

This unusually cold weather was the result of forces from far beyond the Northeast Tennessee region.

“We’ve had really strong high pressure out of the western United States,” said Mathews. “That has allowed the cold air to come down into the eastern U.S. and kind of be locked in. That pattern gave us the colder than normal temperatures.”

Colder than normal temperatures extended to Sunday, Jan. 6, when the region matched the 2014 record low of 2 degrees.

Because of the cold and the limited snowfall it brought, students in Washington County received an extended winter break. Hazardous road conditions meant county schools could not resume classes on Jan. 2 as they had scheduled, and schedule changes continued into early this week.

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said that he did not believe there had been a remarkable increase in the number of vehicle crashes related to the cold weather.

Instead, officers received more calls relating to the elderly and isolated relatives.

“When the weather is this cold, we get calls to check on elderly citizens and other people whose relatives haven’t been able to get ahold of them,” Graybeal said. “We try to get out there and make contact with them and let them know to call their relatives. We make sure the older people are doing fine and that their heat is working.”

The NWS estimates that about 20 percent of cold-related deaths happen inside the person’s home, and those over 65 are more susceptible.

When performing these checks, officers don’t just note the temperature of the house — sometimes they search for those who don’t have relatives to rely on.

“Especially when we’re contacting someone who hasn’t had anything to eat, we try to connect them with people around the county who can help them,” he said. “Some of my officers work in the city; they look for the homeless who may be under the bridges to check on them and to see if they need anything or need to try to get to a shelter.”

In temperatures similar to those the region experienced during the first two days of the year, it takes only 30 minutes of exposure for frostbite to set in.

Forecasts show that Monday’s freezing rain could be the tail end of the winter weather for this week. Temperatures are expected to warm and reach the low 60s by Thursday and Friday, but don’t make plans to be outside; rain showers are predicted for both days.

Temperatures will trend downward again through the weekend. Expect the cold to return with Sunday’s high falling below 30. Monday’s high will be slightly warmer, near 36.

Meeting between public officials stirs Sunshine Law concerns

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The upcoming Jonesborough K-8 school project has been the topic of conversation for the Washington County Board of Education lately. But Jonesborough Middle School has also been the site of a meeting between Washington County commissioners and board of education members.

At a joint meeting between the school board and the county’s Health Education and Welfare Committee, school board member Jack Leonard addressed a recent meeting that took place at the middle school. The meeting involved Tommy Burleson and Wayne Woods of Burleson Construction Company Inc., two board members (Mary Beth Dellinger and Phillip McLain) and Commissioner Joe Grandy.

McLain said that Commissioner Tom Krieger was also present. He also said that Grandy called to invite him to the meeting at Jonesborough Middle School.

“It was my understanding that Mr. Grandy wanted to be sure that we all knew what Tony Street explained here as to what the changes would be to the middle school,” McLain said. “That’s simply put.”

The Jonesborough Middle School building is a site option for the upcoming Jonesborough K-8 school project. This design plan includes renovating existing portions of the school as well as adding onto the building. Other design options include renovating and adding onto the adjacent Jonesborough Elementary School building or renovating, tearing down the round portion and adding onto the elementary school.

“For me personally, I just wanted to have an understanding of what the scope of the project was for the remodel,” Grandy said at the board’s joint HEW committee meeting. “That’s all.”

At the joint meeting, Leonard said he and some other board members were not invited to the middle school meeting and asked Grandy if he thought the meeting had broken Tennessee’s Sunshine Law, which are in place to keep meetings between governing or “deliberative bodies” public. Leonard asked Grandy if the press was notified of the meeting. Grandy said there was no business discussed.

Board member Todd Ganger said he was invited to the meeting but did not attend because he felt it would break the Sunshine Law. Ganger also said he felt there was no need to walk through the middle school after the board had opted to renovate and tear down the round portion at Jonesborough Elementary School rather than renovate Jonesborough Middle.

“Why were you walking through the middle school when we voted on a scheme two to tear down the round?,” Ganger said. “The middle schools’s not even an issue now. The board voted to tear down the round and build new there. For me it was a simple solution; we don’t need to go through the middle school. The board’s already voted.”

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger said she got in touch with the school board attorney on the matter and that the group did not discuss or deliberate any decision that hadn’t already been voted on by the board.

“I was asked by a county commissioner to come and I am going to reach out to anybody,” Dellinger said. “I am that passionate about getting this school built.”

Board member Annette Buchanan asked if the director of schools knew about the meeting. Director Kimber Halliburton said she was aware of the meeting, but did not attend. She said she also suggested that Grandy invite all board members.

“Whenever two or more board members are meeting somewhere, as I was taught in my training, you let the press know that you are going to be there in case there is deliberation,” Leonard said at the board’s joint meeting. “That covers you and that covers everybody.”

“I do feel like, as Chairman of the board, Mr. Grandy, that I should have been notified of this meeting and all board members should have been invited to go through the walk through. Then proper procedures would have been done, the press would have been notified and people would have known we were walking through. Possibly the meeting wouldn’t have even occurred if we had been aware of it.”

Washington County audit lists 25 findings

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Washington County received its audit report for 2017 from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury and it includes 25 findings — the highest number the county has received in the last 10 years.

This was the first time in recent years that the audit was conducted by the state rather than local accounting firm Blackburn, Childers and Steagall. Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the county has used the local auditors for about 50 years before the state required the audit be completed by the comptroller’s office for 2017.

Eldridge cites a software conversion throughout county offices as a factor in the number of findings.

“I think the things we’re seeing in this audit report, a lot of it can be attributed to the accumulation of difficult circumstances that we’ve been working under for the past year plus to an extent,” Eldridge said. “The issue with the state comptroller taking over our audit was just the timing of it. All of our accounting systems, payroll systems for the entire county was being converted for the first time in 35 years. That conversion was a remarkable stress on our system, on our processes, and particularly, on our people.”

The 25 findings include eight from the offices of the county mayor and director of accounts and budgets, seven from the office of the director of schools, six from the office of the trustee, two from the sheriff’s office, one in the office of clerk and master and one from the offices of the county mayor, highway superintendent and sheriff.

The office of the county mayor and director of accounts and budgets faces findings such as accounting deficiencies, as well as deficiencies in budget operations and the administration of payroll, and failure to maintain adequate controls over its capital assets records.

The report also says accounting records were not made available to auditors until Oct. 23, 2017. The records were to be closed and available for audit by Aug. 31, 2017. In the report, the state comptroller cites the system conversion as a contributing factor in the finding. Eldridge also told the Herald & Tribune that the county needed extra time to make sure the numbers in its financial statements agreed with the numbers from the trustee.

The office of the director of schools included audit findings such as a cash overdraft of $243,598 in the school federal projects fund, the purchase of used vehicles without competing bids and deficiencies in budget operations and maintenance of capital asset records.

However, Washington County Department of Education Finance Director Brad Hale said all of the findings had been corrected and the only item still being corrected is the formal documentation of internal controls.

“I’m staying in close contact with the auditors, both local and the state auditors. That way if we have questions, we’ll call them and be proactive if we’re unsure how to handle something to get direction ahead of time so we can minimize future audit findings,” Hale said. “Ultimately, we would love to be one of the very few systems that have no audit findings. That’s our goal.”

The full audit report, which also includes corrective action plans for each county office, is available at http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/repository/CA/2017/FY17WashingtonCAFR.pdf.

Tennessee recognizes Washington County health programs

Washington County Health Department was one of two teams honored.

From STAFF REPORTS

Tennessee Department of Health Deputy Commissioner for Population Health Michael Warren visited the Northeast Regional Health Office and the Washington County Health Department on Dec. 19 to confer Bright Spot Gold Level Awards for two outstanding community-based public health programs. The Dental Primary Prevention Team from the regional health office and the Washington County Health Department health education team received plaques and state-level recognition for implementing programs that can be replicated in communities throughout Tennessee.

The Dental Primary Prevention Team held 62 educational events during 2016-2017 throughout the region in schools, preschools, daycare centers and other community venues reaching almost 100,000 people. Children and adults learn the importance of healthy habits and lifestyles for good oral health.

“We want people to know brushing twice a day, flossing daily, omitting tobacco, limiting sugary drinks and snacks while increasing water consumption can help reduce tooth decay,” said Regional Dental Director Alisa Cade, DDS. “Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. It is five times more common than asthma and four times more common than childhood obesity.”

Superheroes Working Against Tobacco, or SWAT is the Bright Spot educational program brought into 4th-7th grade classrooms in local schools and youth programs by health educators from the Washington County Health Department.

The SWAT program incorporates fun activities while educating youth about the different types of tobacco products, marketing strategies of tobacco companies and the effects tobacco and smoke have on the body.

Over the past three years, more than 2,000 students have participated in the SWAT program.

“By the end of the four-session series students understand health hazards, second- and third-hand smoke exposure and how to resist peer pressure,” said Washington County Health Department Health Educator Becky McKinney. “We are proud of how well received this program has been!”

These community-based educational programs are part of the Tennessee Department of Health’s Primary Prevention Initiative, or PPI started in 2013.

“Every employee participates in PPI projects to eliminate risk factors for later health problems within their communities in hopes of reducing chronic disease brought on by behaviors such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and substance misuse,” said Washington County Health Director Christen Minnick.

For more information on these programs contact the Washington County Health Department at (423) 975-2200.

BOE hires Scott Bennett as new board attorney for county school system

The Washington County Board of Education’s new official attorney spoke with the board about his services at its October meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Not only did the board of education end its monthly meeting with a chosen design plan for the upcoming Jonesborough School, but it also ended with the decision to hire its own attorney.

The 5-4 decision to hire Chattanooga attorney Scott Bennett came after the nine-member board rescinded the decision made at the Nov. 9 meeting to hire Bennett to represent the board in an upcoming legal matter.

At the Dec. 7 meeting, board member and Chairman Jack Leonard said the board was going to address the decision because some board members voted at the November meeting thinking they were hiring Bennett as their official attorney rather than for one particular case.

“From talking to Unicoi County and other board members,” Board member David Hammond, who made the motion to hire Bennett, said, “I think it’s going to save us money — the tax payers.”

Bennett has been involved in school board law for 23 years and currently represents Bradley County, White County, DeKalb County, Hamilton County, Jefferson County, Polk County, Unicoi County and Fayetteville City school boards. Bennett also gave a presentation of his services at the board’s Oct. 5 meeting after Hammond suggested the board consider Bennett as its exclusive attorney.

The board opted for Bennett’s $195 per-hour rate at the Dec. 7 meeting. However, Washington County Department of Education’s Finance Director Brad Hale said in hiring an attorney, the board would have to get approval from the Washington County Commission to amend the board’s budget.

“If we do incur an additional, say it’s $50,000 or $200,000 in a year, it’s totally unbudgeted,” Hale said. “And we’re going to really risk going backwards in our fund balance significantly I’m afraid.”

Hale also said the board’s budget currently contains $13,000 for legal fees, but that he is expecting to need $8,000 to $10,000 of that amount to cover the investigations currently being conducted at David Crockett High School regarding multiple athletic program employees.

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley typically provides the school system with legal advice. Hale also said he frequently contacts Seeley with questions and asked if that would still be permitted. The board agreed that Seeley could still be contacted for questions or legal advice.

Meanwhile, for some board members, such as Clarence Mabe, money remained a concern.

“He has to call (Tom Seeley) and ask a simple question, it’s free — no money. You call the other guy, it costs you $250, plus you’ve gotta pay Johnson City $250,” Mabe said. “And if that’s using tax payers’ money to the wisest, we all ought to walk out the door and quit.”

Leonard said he was also concerned about the billing aspect in regards to billing for phone conversations with Bennett.

“It could add up. He also stated he doesn’t necessarily have to share with any of us who’s calling him. And I think that is very inappropriate — especially when it’s dealing with our budget and money,” Leonard said. “Anybody could call him and he’s going to put that on the clock. If we’re used to calling TSBA (Tennessee School Board Association), we’ll be calling him. So I think that’ll add up and we won’t have any record until he presents us the bill.”

For board member Mike Masters, the decision to opt for a Jonesborough School design plan that is $3.8 million over the budget allocated by the county commission was another factor to keep in mind regarding the decision to hire a board attorney.

“I just want to keep everybody in mind too; we just voted for scheme two that we’re going to take to the HEW committee,” Masters said. “That, to me, is going to hold a lot of water if we’re trying to save money rather than spend money when we go to the HEW committee. We’re going to ask for $3 million more dollars.”

Board member Keith Ervin, however, said he understood it was a budget issue, but that tax payers are paying for an attorney whether it’s out of the county’s budget or the school system’s.

“If we put it in our budget, they’re still going to pay it,” Ervin said. “They’re paying it one way or the other way. This way, he is the school system’s attorney. Period.”

Suspect identified in Gray triple homicide

Derrick Benjamin Sells

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has a suspect in custody in connection to the triple homicide that occurred in Gray earlier this month.

At a press conference on Monday Dec. 18, Sheriff Ed Graybeal announced that a Washington County Grand Jury indicted Derrick Benjamin Sells, 33, of 400 Branch Road, Fall Branch as a suspect in connection to the murder of Robert and Kyanna Vaughn. The two were found dead along with their unborn child at their home at 616 Friendship Court, Gray on Dec. 3.

“Our guys, when this happened, they didn’t go home. They worked nights, days, some both, and did a fantastic job with coming up with the suspect,” Graybeal said on Monday. “It was a concerted effort from everybody.”

“They worked hard and we’re still working. We have some things we want to follow up on, some things that we want to see happen.”

Sells was charged with three counts of first degree murder, three counts of felony murder, unlawful possession of a weapon, aggravated robbery and aggravated child neglect, after two children were left alone for 24 hours in the home where the murders occurred.

Graybeal said that at this time, a motive has not been determined.

“We haven’t had a special grand jury here since I’ve been the DA,” District Attorney General for Washington County Tony Clark said at the press conference. “We thought with the seriousness and with it being a triple homicide, and with the probable cause and evidence we had, we wanted to get a grand jury here.”

Sells was first found and charged with violation of probation by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department. He was found to have a handgun under the driver’s seat of the vehicle in which he was stopped and was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and simple possession of marijuana.

Graybeal said phone records also showed that Sells was found to have been in contact with Robert Vaughn the day of the murders. According to the press release from WCSO, investigators also seized several items in relation to the homicide from Sells’ residence.

Graybeal said his team worked with Sullivan County, the Tenessee Bureau of Investigation, FBI, Kingsport Police Department and the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Sullivan County on the case. He also said his team is waiting for items from the search to come back from TBI labs in order to gather any further information.

“We wanted to try to give the family some peace and do what we can do before the Christmas holidays because, we don’t really know who all is involved, but everybody thought she was a good lady, good mom,” Graybeal said.

“(The teams) stayed together. We had one mind and that was giving this baby that was not born and the two in the house some justice.”

WCDE makes financial requests, implements new technology

Commissioners Paul Stanton, Lee Chase and Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge talk technology in the school system at the Nov. 30 health education and welfare committee meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Budget season isn’t for another four months, but the Washington County Department of Education came with funding requests at the ready at the Washington County Commission’s Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Nov. 30.

The committee approved all three funding requests from WCDE Finance Director Brad Hale, totaling $383,500. Of that was $166,000 for Clear Touch panels and stands.

WCDE Director of Technology Curtis Fullbright said Clear Touch and ViewSonic panels are currently in second and third grade classrooms. The requested $166,000 would provide the panels in first grade classrooms as well.

“I think our early usage of those indicates that they’re really doing a great job for us,” said Tom Krieger, commissioner and committee chairman. “I hope that carries through with being in all the first three grades. It can be very instrumental in what happens moving forward. It can get pretty expensive, but sometimes you’ve got to do that.”

The $166,000 request is separate from the projected $640,000 currently in the budget for school system technology. Hale explained the amount already set aside by the county will be used to provide each Washington County junior with a Chromebook.

The committee, however, had concerns regarding possible damages to the technology; Commissioner Suzy Williams asked if the school system would allow the Chromebooks to go home with students or if they would remain at the schools.

“There are a lot of pros and cons to it,” Fullbright said. “The mission is to use these devices in the way we all used textbooks when we were in school. These are something that can be taken home to be used for homework.”

Meanwhile, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said he’s hoping for more information on how implemented technology has and can improve student outcomes.

“I’ve been a big advocate of this. Anything that we can do to leverage technology and be more effective in the classroom, we’ve got to do,” Eldridge said. “But I would love for there to be some kind of measurable come out of this. We have just begun in this program and we have already spent millions.

“From my perspective, which only counts for nine more months, the way to perpetuate this technology in our school system is to be able to validate the improvement in results from it.”

Aside from technology, WCDE also requested $137,000 for resource libraries at each Washington County School.

WCDE Director of Elementary Education Karla Kyte said the libraries would serve as a place for teachers to check out a class set of books. She also said the centers could cut down on the number of books the school system would need to purchase.

“Instead of buying resources for every teacher for, say, second grade,” Kyte said, “you’d buy one set of certain social studies books or science books that the teachers then would go to the book room and check out — instead of having to have six different sets at Jonesborough Elementary School for second grade teachers for example.”

This isn’t the first time the county’s exercised the idea of adding book rooms to the school system; Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the proposal for the resource libraries made it to a previous budget committee meeting, but there was a “break down in the process” of getting one-time funding for it from the state and fitting it into the county’s budget.

The final portion of the school system’s requests was $80,000 for audit consultation fees.

Hale said additional expenses arose during the time of closing with auditors Blackburn, Childers & Steagall and as the county attorney has had to consult BCS since then. He also said their budget has an allotted $20,000 for such fees but that because it was the first year the county used state auditors, a “great decrease” in costs was expected.

“The story with this is that we didn’t anticipate quite the audit expense that we’ve incurred,” Hale said. “So that was therefore not considered in our original budget this year … It was a variety of items that caused this.”

The approved requests will next be discussed by the commission’s budget committee. The next budget committee meeting will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 9 a.m. in the conference room on the first floor of the Historic Courthouse located at 105 E Main St., Jonesborough.

Town hires new water treatment plant director

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

At the final meeting of the year on Monday night, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the hiring of Mark Brumback as Jonesborough’s new water treatment plant director.

Brumback has 35 years of experience in water treatment. For the last five years, he has worked at Watauga River Regional Water Authority in Elizabethton as the chief water plant operator/superintendent.

Before the vote, Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe stressed how fortunate the town is to have such an outstanding candidate for the position.

“I think he’ll do a great job,” Wolfe said. “He has worked in different types of plants in different states. He has a very, very wide range of experience.”

Brumback was recruited to his position with Watauga River Regional Water Authority from Florida, where he had spent many years working in the water treatment field.

“He is a sharp, sharp guy,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said he believes Brumback and as the new water treatment plant director, will help staff members to grow in their positions. 

“He is committed to getting an education for young water operators … and wants them all to grow in their jobs,” Wolfe said.

He also lauded Brumback’s attitude as a problem-solver. “He hasn’t met problems, he’s only found opportunities,” Wolfe said. “This guy is all about fixing things and being creative … in the solution.”  Brumback has his Grade 4 Water Treatment Plant Operators Certification, and he comes to Jonesborough with excellent references, he added.

Commission OKs money for Boone Lake Association

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Boone Lake might have lowered its water level, but the Washington County Commission upped it’s financial support by approving $20,220 for the Boone Lake Homeowners Association to assist with the clean-up of the lake for one year only.

The funds will come from the $561,000 Tennessee Valley Authority economic impact dollars rewarded to the county. The BLHA requested $20,200 from Washington County, $10,000 from Johnson City and $30,000 from Sullivan County.

“We felt like it would be the right thing to do to use the money TVA had given us,” Commissioner and Health, Education and Welfare Committee chairman Tom Krieger said.

However, Commissioner Mike Ford voiced his concern with taking on funding the BLHA’s request.

“I have a problem if they’re not willing to fund it like they’ve done for years and years and years,” Ford said. “I have a problem using taxpayers’ dollars for that to fund something for them. Maybe I’m not seeing the full picture or something.”

At the HEW committee’s Nov. 2 meeting, BLA board member Ron Siegfried said of the over 2,000 people who own property on the lake, the largest membership number the group ever had was 630 members. Krieger said that at one time, the property owners were contributing roughly $60,000 a year, but that with the lake being so low, that isn’t the case anymore.

“They have about 200 that are funding that right now,” Krieger said.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Skip Oldham mentioned that the TVA funds come from rate payers rather than tax payers.

“The citizens that pay taxes, that’s not where this money is coming from,” Oldham said. “It’s from people who are buying the power. That is where they got the money to give this to the cities and counties. As difficult as it is a pill to swallow, (BLHA) have certainly got good grounds to ask for it.”

Apart from the TVA impact dollars, Commissioner and Chairman Greg Matherly told the commission he and Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal discovered a state grant that could also come into play. Matherly said the grant is dated for January 31, 2018.

Of the county commission, 18 were in favor while Commissioners Sam Humphreys, Robbie McGuire and Pat Wolfe were opposed.

BrightRidge installs 5000th energy-saving load control device

From STAFF REPORTS

BrightRidge, the region’s largest publicly-owned power provider, has marked the installation of its 5,000th load control device.

Load control devices divert electric usage by shutting off a system, in this case water heaters, during periods of high demand. BrightRidge calls its program TALO (Take A Load Off), and it saved system customers $211,000 in 2017 by reducing usage in times of peak demand.

“You would prefer not to have a situation where everyone is taxing the system to its fullest while the entire Tennessee Valley Authority system is at peak usage,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said. “What we typically see is we will set a high peak and then have a rapid fall off in usage. That is not very efficient as there isn’t the volume of sales to offset the cost of the peak demand charge.”

Peak demand is critical for local power companies as they are billed an additional “demand” charge from energy generators such as TVA for the highest one hour of demand in any month. While this charge offsets the enormous costs of maintaining sufficient capacity to power the TVA grid no matter how great the demand, it represents as much as 30 percent of the wholesale power cost budget for BrightRidge.

TALO devices are installed on water heaters in multi-family and single-family residences, and activate infrequently for a two-hour duration during times of peak demand – usually very hot or very cold days.

TALO currently sheds up to 2.5 megawatts per diversion event. Typically, the BrightRidge system sets peak usage between 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

As part of the TALO program, residents who agree to install the device receive a $40 billing credit as well as free water heater maintenance for elements and thermostats as long as they continue to participate in the program.

Should a resident have need for more hot water than that stored inside the water heater during a diversion event, a participant can simply push an override button on the TALO unit.

As the electric industry adapts to high efficiency consumer products and distributed energy generation, reducing purchased power costs is vital to maintaining lowest rates possible.

“We are proud of our personnel who developed this program and the fact that installation and water heater maintenance are performed by existing in-house personnel,” Dykes said. “This is critical as we look to keep costs down for our customers.”

For more information on TALO and other BrightRidge programs, visit us online at www.brightridge.com, or call Energy Services and Marketing at (423) 952-5142.

Town moves to lighten things up

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted on several town improvements Monday night, including a proposal to make a change in the town’s street light system, replacing about 700 regular street lights with LED lighting.

The great thing about a program like this, Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said, is that you can save up to 50 percent on energy costs with LED lighting.

The cost of the switch-over is estimated at about $298,000, but with 35-50 percent less kilowatts used with LED lighting, the town projects savings of at least $5,000 annually.

“The savings we will realize on electricity will pay for this entire switch-over,” Wolfe said, “so it’s not going to come at an expense to the tax-payers of the town.”

According to the proposal, in addition to savings on energy costs, LED lighting for street lights is more effective and has less impact on adjoining properties.

At this time, about 360 decorative street lights will keep the old bulbs, Wolfe said, since the bulbs for those decorative lights aren’t currently available in an LED option.

“The technologies continue to advance at a … rapid clip. They’re going to have a bulb, I guarantee you, in the next three or four years, that’s going to fit in those fixtures,” Wolfe said, “and we’ll be able to change the bulbs and save half of our electricity costs on those lights at that time.”

As the town makes the switch to LED lighting, BrightRidge will begin allowing municipalities to mandate LED lighting in new residential developments, Wolfe said.

“Therefore, when a developer or builder buys those lights and installs them as part of the development process, the town will automatically begin saving 50 percent of the electricity cost with no upfront investment on the town’s part,” Wolfe said.

The BMA voted to move forward with the proposal.

The Board also voted to continue the water line replacement project on West Main Street. The first phase of the project, which is part of an effort to reduce water loss in the town, is complete and the old cast iron water lines from 2nd Ave. to Oak Grove Ave. have been replaced with new ductile iron lines.

Now, with funds remaining, Wolfe said, the town can continue the project, replacing the water lines from Oak Grove Ave. to 3rd Ave.

“We certainly appreciate… the water crews efficiently replacing the line, and we had money left over, so we can do a little bit more work,” Wolfe said.

Jonesborough School design plans see reduction

Architect Tony Street presents the initial design plan at the Washington County Board of Education’s previous called meeting on Oct. 19.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The drawing board seems to be all too familiar to the Washington County Board of Education and its chosen Jonesborough School architect, Tony Street.

At the Monday, Nov. 20 called meeting to discuss costs and designs for the upcoming Jonesborough K-8 school project, Street, from Beeson, Lusk and Street Inc. presented the modifications made to his two design plans he presented at the board’s last called meeting.

One of the previous plans was $8.7 million over the Washington County Commission’s $20,750,000 budget approved for the Jonesborough School and magnet school projects. The other original plan was $10.9 million over.

“There are basically two ways you can reduce cost; you can either reduce quality, or you can reduce size, or scope, as we call it often times,” Street said. “Other than that, there’s just not a whole lot you can do. And we’ve done some of both.”

The original first design option included the round portion, rectangular portion as well as add-ons. Street’s modified version of the plan saw a decrease in size.

The original first design, which was set at $8.7 million over budget, came in at $3.4 million over even after seeing a reduction in size.

In the modified version of the first plan, the 47 classrooms were reduced to 41, the total square footage was reduced by 15,343 square feet, student capacity was reduced from 1,105 to 955 students, the gym’s seating was reduced to seat 955 students, the four computer rooms were reduced to one room and the school’s stage was removed from the plan.

That plan still included renovating the round portion of the Jonesborough School, which has been an issue for the community; at the Nov. 9 meeting, three Jonesborough Elementary School parents addressed the board with concerns regarding the round portion of the school. Complaints such as asbestos, water damage in the school’s ceilings, and plumbing issues such as backed up sewage and brown water were mentioned.

Street addressed the list of issues, saying a renovation of the round portion of the current Jonesborough Elementary School would include replacing all water lines, removing all asbestos in the school, removing or replacing the ceiling and adding a new roof on the entire building, jet flushing the existing sewer lines, adding a new air conditioning and heating systems and replacing most if not all electrical systems.

He also said there would be two emergency exits at the end of the school’s enclosed middle portion (between the round building and the new portion of the school.) l

The gym floor, which contained mercury, was removed 10 years ago, according to Street.

As for the second design option, which includes tearing down the round portion and was originally set at $10.9 million over the project’s budget, comes in at $5.5 million over the budget and includes the same reductions as the first modified option. However, the total square footage was reduced by 18,000 square feet in this modified version of the second option.

At the meeting, board member Mary Beth Dellinger was concerned the size wouldn’t be adequate for the future growth she believes the school could see.

“I talked to parents at Jonesborough and I know now there are a lot who are home schooled because of the conditions at Jonesborough Elementary specifically,” Dellinger said. “I don’t want to cut back too much. We’re already, after we build it, going to be needing more because I think they’ll come back once they have a nice new school.”

Size wasn’t the only factor at the called meeting; Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge and Washington County Commissioner and Director of Finance and Administration Mitch Meredith joined the school board to discuss the project’s financial aspects.

Meredith said the county could borrow around $77 million in addition to what the county has already borrowed. He also said borrowing that money would create a debt the county was aiming to diminish within the next 20 years.

“If we borrow money, we have to service that debt. Those pennies are going to move from the capital project fund,” Meredith said. “So in 2020 when we have to start paying on this $76 million debt, there’s no more pennies going into the capital projects fund. There’s a little bit of revenue here, but it’s a fraction of a penny. The plan that we started a year or so ago to be able to fund our capital needs with cash, that’s out the window.

“The whole objective for the county, the county taxpayers and everybody else, was to minimize the amount that was borrowed.”

Dellinger suggested cutting out the academic magnet school. Meredith said if the project didn’t include the magnet school, the budget would be around $25 million. However, the commission approved the $20,750,000 million amount for the Jonesborough K-8 and magnet school together.

“We don’t have the money. It’s the commission that has the money,” BOE chairman Jack Leonard said. “They’ve already approved $20,750,000. We’d have to turn around and go back and make the presentation to increase that. It’d be up to the commission whether or not they want to borrow that money.”

Though the commission approved the budget for the project, board member Keith Ervin asked if the board would be able to approve the construction for the magnet school.

“If you say, ‘I’m not going to do the magnet for two years and I’m spending $20,750,000 on a K-8.’,” Meredith said, “I don’t know if that flies.”

The BOE’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education Central office located at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.

Boone Lake Association challenges use of funds

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The upcoming Tri-Cities aerospace park is a bit closer to reality after the Washington County Commission opted to set aside a portion of the county’s economic impact dollars for the project. But representatives from the Boone Lake Association are still hoping for a portion of those dollars.

The commission’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee approved sending a recommendation to the county’s budget committee to honor the BLA’s request for $20,200 out of the county’s impact money to assist the lake group’s operations.

But the decision didn’t come without lengthy discussion.

The Tennessee Valley Authority awarded the county $561,000 worth of impact dollars. And at the county commission’s Oct. 23 meeting, the group agreed to use the impact money to fund Washington County’s portion of the aerospace project. The total cost for the project will be split with Sullivan County, Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol.

“The best thing that ever happened to you all and Sullivan County and Johnson City is when that dam sprung a leak,” BLA First Vice President Tom McKee said. “If that dam had not sprung a leak, you wouldn’t be having these impact payments. These impact payments don’t come from taxpayers, this is money TVA collects from rate payers.”

McKee said in July the BLA discussed the group’s possible inability to be able to employee its staff to clean the lake after December. McKee also said the BLA told TVA the group wouldn’t have enough people to complete the clean up TVA requested.

“You all have basically said you’re dedicating all this impact money to this aerospace project, and I certainly don’t have any objections to that, but I’m saying to this committee, who’s charged with the environment, that you’re going to have an environmental disaster if we don’t get this $60,000. I think we’ve pretty well proven that to you.”

McKee also said TVA suggested the BLA request a certain percentage of funds from Johnson City, Sullivan County and Washington County. Washington County was requested to pay $20,200 and approximately $10,000 was requested from Johnson City and approximately $30,000 from Sullivan County.

Commissioner Paul Stanton said the impact dollars were designed for this sort of request, but he also took the lake’s property owners into account.

“I voted for the airport project too, but I think that impact money is there for things like this,” Stanton said. “But I am deeply bothered by the fact that some of the property owners aren’t putting in the money to help on this situation. If I were a homeowner on the lake, I’d be giving money upfront right now.”

BLA board member Ron Siegfried said over 2,000 people own property on the lake and that the most the group ever had in members was 630.

He also said when the BLA put letters in surrounding mailboxes, eight to 10 people responded.

“Does that tell you what the position is with these people on the lake? They’re just angry,” Siegfried said. “They’re not going to put any money into the BLA until the lake is back and that’s what they’ve told me.”

Committee chairman Tom Krieger suggested splitting the total request population rather than by what TVA suggested. In this case, Washington County and Johnson City would each pay $13,388 and Sullivan county would pay $33,204.

“Since the city of Johnson City has a population of 66,677 residents as of 2015, which is more than half of the 126,000 in the entire county, the case could be made for the county and Johnson City to each pay the same amount of the $30,000 requested from the BLA.”

The future of the lake’s progress and the county commission election which is slated for August 2018 also played a role in the committee’s decision.

“I suggest we settle on an amount we are willing to recommend for one year and one year only in as much as there are no guarantees the lake will be lowered in 2022. We all think it will, but we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“The current commission could sit here and make a five-year commitment,” Commissioner Rick Storey said. “But next year when the new commission comes in, they could come in and stop it right then.”

The next budget meeting is scheduled for Wednesday Nov. 15 at 9 a.m. in the first floor conference room in the historic courthouse at 100 E. Main St., Jonesborough.

Three county schools receive improvement recognition

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The state recently named the Washington County School District an exemplary school system. But the district also gained good news for a few Washington County Schools in particular.

West View Elementary was named a 2017 reward school for progress by the state along with 85 other schools in Tennessee.

For Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton, the recognition proves the strides the school has made in terms of growth.

“Historically, West View has been our lowest achieving school in terms of achievement and growth,” Halliburton said. “Last year, Mr. Gamble and I really started having dialogue about how West View can’t continue to be the lowest in growth and the lowest in achievement. I applaud him and the staff. We had some pretty critical conversations centered around that.”

According to Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, which measures student growth over a year, West View went from scoring a one for the 2014 to 2015 school year in it’s overall composite score (the lowest possible) to earning a five for the 2016 to 2017 school year (the highest possible). The school also received all fives in literacy, numeracy, literacy and numeracy combined and science last school year after scoring ones and twos in the 2014 to 2015 school year.

West View wasn’t the only school rewarded for improving student performance; Gray Elementary and Jonesborough Middle School were both recognized as focus exit schools.

The state’s focus school list includes the 10 percent of schools in the state with the largest achievement gaps between groups of students. Gray and Jonesborough Middle were two of 15 schools to have exited this focus list in 2017.

“Gray and Jonesborough Middle were both focus schools in that they were not meeting their state targets in the percentage of kids at that time who were scoring in proficient or advanced,” Halliburton said. “They have now been labeled ‘focus exit.’ They’re off that list so we have a lot to be proud of.”

Washington County’s K-8 schools saw increased TVAAS scores this year. Jonesborough Middle, Gray and West View all received increased scores in student growth along with the district.

Gray and Jonesborough Middle also received improved scores according to TVAAS results. Gray received all fives for the 2016 to 2017 school year after receiving all twos and threes for the 2014 to 2016 school year. Jonesborough Middle received fours and fives after receiving threes, fours and fives.

Though the state recognized these three specific Washington County Schools for improving its scores, the director said each school is a contributing factor in the school system’s exemplary district status.

“To get the exemplary results we’ve gotten as a district, regardless of whether you’re a reward school or not, your school played a huge part in the achievement levels and the growth levels that we’ve gotten,” Halliburton said. “Very proud of our reward schools because they’re going above and beyond, but proud of all of our schools because you don’t get these kinds of results unless every school is progressing and closing the gaps between those student groups.”

Haunts brave the weather for annual town event

Families put on costumes, bundled up and headed out despite the weather.

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

Trick-or-treaters donned rain jackets and carried umbrellas on Saturday, Oct. 28, braving persistent rain to attend Halloween Haunts & Happenings, which began at 2 p.m. in downtown Jonesborough.

A rainy downtown street didn’t stop folks from heading to Jonesborough.

The annual event, which was advertised as rain or shine, drew crowds despite the soggy weather. Attendees trick-or-treated at downtown businesses and played games, which were set up at various locations along Main Street, as the rain fell.

“We had a good turnout considering the weather,” Melinda Copp, director of Main Street Jonesborough, said. “It definitely put a damper on things.” 

Thanks to the Spooky Pooch Palooza, a new addition to the event, a multitude of furry friends were in attendance with their owners. Dressed in canine costumes, the pups enjoyed doggie-safe Halloween treats, and got a peek into the future courtesy of The Great Fortune Smeller Henry Howldini, who was available for “paw readings.”

The canines also competed in two groups, small dogs and large dogs, for best doggie costume. The dogs were awarded prizes in categories ranging from funniest costume to best dog/owner costume combo.

Bella, a Husky/Chow mix who competed with the group of large dogs, won scariest costume with her Jack O’ Lantern outfit, and her owner, Jonesborough resident Jessica Robinson, was thrilled.

“This was her first time winning,” Robinson said after collecting Bella’s prize.

Bella took part in another costume contest earlier this year, Robinson said, during the 4th of July celebration in Jonesborough, but she wasn’t so lucky in that competition.

“She was a cheerleader,” she said. “She didn’t get to win then, but she won this time.”

Later in the day, both children and adults got the opportunity to show off their costumes on the Food City stage in front of the courthouse. Prizes and gift certificates were awarded to the first, secnd and third place winners in each age group. There was also a category for group costumes.

While attendance was good for how bad the weather was, it was nothing like years past, Copp said, and due to decreasing temperatures in the late afternoon and the continued rain, some scheduled events didn’t take place.

The Flashlight Haunted Egg Hunt, which was meant to start at 7 p.m. at Mill Spring Park, was cancelled, and the showing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which were scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., were cancelled as well.

“We’re hoping to have a bigger turnout next year,” Copp said.

The weather was disappointing, she said, after all the work that went into the event.

Two historic holiday favorites to merge

The Green-Florence House was a favorite on last year’s tour.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

The Town of Jonesborough and Heritage Alliance are joining forces this Christmas.

And the results promise to be nothing short of miraculous.

“The Progressive Dinner has been the ultimate Christmas event for the region for nearly 40 years,” said Deborah Montanti, executive director for the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennesee and Southwest Virginia.

But as well as it had been working, “it’s time to change it up a little bit,” she said.

That change, she said, involves the merger of the beloved Progressive Dinner, now in its 40th year, with another Christmas favorite, the town’s Holiday Tour of Homes.

Now titled “The Colors of Christmas,” this year’s event will continue to celebrate and help to fund preservation efforts in and around Jonesborough, all while expanding both the homes to be visited and the number of guests to be welcomed.

“We realized by melding these two events, we would do exactly what we wanted to do,” Montanti said, adding that both events actually got their beginnings through the Jonesborough Civic Trust and want to continue on with that legacy.

Colors of Christmas will feature eight historic structures, each decorated in holiday finery, and filled with storytellers and various locations throughout the evening.

The Colors of Christmas will also include two seatings of “An Elegant Repast,” a delectable four-course meal set in another of Jonesborough’s historic buildings, the town’s McKinney Center for the Arts.

While this year’s dinner won’t be progressive, organizers promise it will be every bit as delicious, and will include entertainment to fill the space between courses, including several historic vignettes to capture the season.

Guests will have the option of going on the self-guided tour alone, with a ticket price of $15, or combine it with the dinner for a cost of $90 each. Those who prefer the dinner alone can purchase separate tickets for $80 each. Ticket prices will increase after Nov. 15.

Proceeds from the event will continue to support local restoration efforts.

That effort will be especially apparent during the tour, which will provide the opportunity to focus on a restoration which does more than repair old walls and ceilings.

In the past, Montanti said, locations for both the home tour and dinner had to fit a particular criteria that ruled out smaller historic treasures. This year, that all will change.

Colors of Christmas will be held on Dec. 2. The tour will be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and your choice of dinner at 4 p.m. or 7 p.m.

While more tickets will be available this year, space is still limited, and Montanti encourages making your reservations early.

For more information, call (423) 753-1010.

BOE goes round and round on JES design

Architect Tony Street from Beeson, Lusk and Street Inc. presents one of two design plans for the Jonesborough School at the Washington County Board of Education’s called Oct. 19 meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education might have gone in circles discussing possible Jonesborough School site plans and renovations Thursday night, but no official decision was made regarding the future look of the school.

Tony Street, the school’s architect from Beeson, Lusk and Street Inc., presented two design options at the Oct. 19 meeting; The first still contains the round portion of the school. That plan leaves the county $8,737,000 short. The other design plan, which would include tearing down the round part of the school, leaves the county $10,986,000 short.

If the board opts to keep the round section, Street said the team would “gut” the 41,600 square feet and would rewire, replace the heating and cooling system, add new wall finishes and lights and possibly lower the ceiling.

“We have an opportunity to give this school a new appearance because the new construction will be in front of it,” Street said. “So it will pretty much minimize the exposure of the existing structure. We think it brings the central pieces of the school in good proximity to the classrooms.

Taking into account the geometries we are having to work with here, I think it lays out pretty well.”

It’s the round portion of the school that caused the most discussion.

The first design plan contains the round portion of the current Jonesborough Elementary School building.

The circular part was built in 1971 with an open-classroom concept. Closed classrooms were added onto the building in 1982 and 1999.

On Thursday night, many attended the meeting in hopes the board would vote to “tear down the round.”

Though some are concerned with the amount of audible distractions in the round portion of the school, school board member Mary Beth Dellinger and Phillip McLain said they have both received phone calls about asbestos and an odor in the school.

Street said many buildings his firm works with have asbestos and there was no friable asbestos that could become airborne at the school.

“What people truly have a problem with is the open-classroom concept,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said. “Within the shape of the building, we’re going to build walls. It eliminates that argument. It’s just a circle that is structurally sound. There will be no more odor to it.”

The board also discussed the academic magnet school in regards to the Jonesborough School.

The magnet is planned to be worked on simultaneously with the Jonesborough School and will be housed in the current Jonesborough Middle School building. Dellinger suggested delaying the magnet school in order to free up funds.

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said she wants to offer the academic magnet before another system does. She felt it would help with the decline in student enrollment in the county.

“What this magnet school will mean for this county school system will be unprecedented. We are getting unbelievable achievement and growth results this county has never seen before,” Halliburton said. “The magnet will simply add to that.

“We’re in a situation where it’s a drain. We’re continuously losing students; we used to receive aboout $8,900 per student in BEP (basic education program) funding and now we’re down to $8,500 per student because our enrollment continues to decline. We have to offer some specialized programs in order to draw students in.”

McLain voiced his support for the academic magnet while also keeping Jonesborough in mind.

“I’m for the magnet school. I see the benefits of the magnet school,” McLain said. “I also see that with current tax payer dollars that we’re spending, we owe a good school to our students who are our students today. Not just those that we plan to pull to the magnet school.”

Washington County Commissioner Mitch Meredith, who was amongst the crowd at the meeting, said delaying the school by a few years could possibly free up some funds.

Chairman Jack Leonard said the board would be scheduling a joint meeting with the county mayor and members of the county commission’s finance committee to finalize some figures for the Jonesborough School.