By LISA WHALEY
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.