Study spurs talk on future of athletic complex

School board member and athletic facility task force co-chairman Clarence Mabe (left) talks over options at the task force’s last meeting as Commissioner Bryan Davenport looks on. Now, the Boones Creek sports complex could be mapped out in the next few weeks.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Questions about the athletic facility complex slated to be built next to the upcoming Boones Creek School could soon be answered.

On Monday, July 23, the Washington County Commission will consider a resolution to enlist CHA Design/Construction Solutions to develop two concept plans for the athletic facility complex on Boones Creek Road. If passed, the study would cost the county $49,800 from the capital projects fund unassigned fund balance.

Johnson City City Manager Pete Peterson sent an email to Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge on May 21 suggesting the county consider the study to be conducted by CHA, a group the city has enlisted for other projects. In that letter he also cited the county as the “approving and funding party” for the complex. Should the county pass the proposal, the design plans from CHA would include the layout, grading and utilities plans and it would show a floor plan for the restroom/concessions/press box building and the maintenance building.

But for Eldridge, the most important areas of the study would include what size athletic facilities could fit on the property and just how much it would cost.

“I think this is a necessary step because the study accomplishes two things; this study will give the county commission an idea of what can realistically be developed there because the original plan that the school board’s architect developed is apparently just not doable,” Eldridge said. “And it’s going to give the county commission a a good estimation of what it’s actually going to cost.”

The commission has $3 million earmarked for the athletic facilities complex, which was the  amount estimated by the school system’s architect, Eldridge said. But the dollar amount isn’t what the city cited as their main hold up.

During the last meeting held by the athletic facilities task force, which is comprised of city and county officials, city officials said their planning and design firm indicated that the complex wouldn’t fill Johnson City’s need for four 300-foot baseball and softball fields. However, the group mentioned potentially having a study done in the future.

As far as the details of which entity would be responsible for which aspect of the complex goes, that is yet to be decided. Eldridge said those decisions would be the next steps, should the study be conducted.

“Johnson City has put together a list of questions pertaining to everything from the cost of operations and who pays for what to scheduling. It was several pages of questions,” Eldridge said. “And I think that determining the feasibility of the project is the first step and then working out those operational questions will be a natural next phase of developing an agreement.”

“What I’m hoping is, if this is going to be a project that the county commission chooses to go forward with, I really hope they go forward and partner with Johnson City.”

Eldridge also said a partnership with the city could dramatically reduce the county’s capital investment in the project. He also cited the city’s experience and staffing ability in running successful facilities such as the sports complex as an asset to the project.

Washington County Board of Education member Clarence Mabe, who is also the athletic facilities task force co-chairman, said he felt the potential partnership offers success for both parties as compared to any other athletic facilities either entity could plan and construct.

“If we do it (without the city), it’s going to be average at best, like what we have at Ridgeview and Grandview,” Mabe said. “If the city does one, they can do average at best, like Ridgeview and Grandview and their facility up there at Winged Deer Park. But if we do it together, it’s a win-win. They will come in and add to what we’re going to put into it and the city could come in and put bigger fields with longer fences so it will be a better fit for them.”

Mabe also mentioned putting an Astroturf field at the complex, which he said could bring in about $5 million taxable dollars a year.

“How does a school system get their money? They get it through tax money and sales tax,” Mabe said. “If we can bring $5 million a year more into the county, the county becomes wealthier and so do our students. And Johnson City can use it during the summertime and we can use it during the school year. Everybody wins.”

But in order for both parties to “win”, Eldridge said it all hinges on two things; what the project will cost and whether or not Johnson City is a partner in the project. Should one or both of those factors not work in the counties favor, Eldridge said financial concerns could put the project on hold.

“We have some very tight funding constraints within the capital projects plan,” Eldridge said. “I’m just speaking hypothetically here — to take this from the $3 million that has been earmarked for this facility to, say, an $8 million project, quite honestly, it doesn’t matter if the county commission wants to do it or not, funding’s just not available for it. That’s why I say it’s really got to be a function of both of those factors being favorable, the cost of it and Johnson City’s willingness to partner on it.”

The county commission will vote on the athletic facilities complex study at their next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, July 23 at 6 p.m. at the Justice Center, located at 108 W Jackson Blvd. #1210, Jonesborough.

BOE considers 2 more plans

Above, Board of Education members look at “Scheme 6” in the latest progression of school design ideas for Jonesborough.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Numerous design plans for the Jonesborough School project have been brought before the Washington County Board of Education throughout the past year and a half. But the Monday, July 9, meeting offered two more options.

The board opted to put off a decision on the school’s design until next month in a split 5-4 vote after the project’s architect, Tony Street, presented two plans within the $20,750,000 budget allotted by the Washington County Commission.

Scheme 5 includes tearing down the round and holding off on two wings. The plan would also include redistricting.

The first presented plan, Scheme 5, includes additions and renovations to the current Jonesborough Elementary School building and would involve demolishing the round portion of the building. The total cost would be $17,451,000. However, the two wings drawn in place of the round part of the building in previous design plans would be left out in Scheme 5, which cuts costs, but also reduces the size of the school.

Interim Director of Schools Bill Flanary said Jonesborough Elementary School has an enrollment of 540 kids and Jonesborough Middle School has 400, leaving a Jonesborough K-8 school at 940 kids. Scheme 5’s capacity sets at 675 kids.

That means, as the board and Street pointed out, around 265 kids would have to be redistricted according to this plan.

“One of the keys to this … there would have to be eight to 10 classrooms relocated into other existing spaces in the county,” Street said. “There’s some space, I think, at South Central, some at West View and Lamar.

“This is an effort where something’s got to give. We’ve either got to reduce quality or we have to reduce quantity and this is an example of making the school smaller, yet maintaining it as a K-8 and utilizing the existent space you already have (at other schools) and isn’t being used.”

Street added that there was available space to build future classrooms in Scheme 5 and could be added on when funds became available.

Then there was Scheme 6, which involves additions and renovations to the current Jonesborough Middle School building.

The plan is similar to the Scheme 3 plan involving the middle school, but places the new area of the school on the left side of the current building rather than farther back on the property towards the football field, which was a previous concern for some board members. Street also said the Scheme 6 plan includes two entrances, one for buses and one for cars in an effort to keep away from Highway traffic on 11-E.

When asked what renovations would be done in the Scheme 6 plan, Street said the project would include “heavy renovations” throughout the school.

“When you start tearing doors and frames out and start tearing lockers out, redoing floors, ceilings and the lighting and totally redoing the heating and air conditioning and reproofing the building, that’s a heavy renovation.”

According to Street’s figures, the Scheme 6 plan would include 26,000 square feet more than the Scheme 5 plan. But even then, some board members had space concerns when it came to Scheme 6’s cafeteria space.

“My concern is we’re going to go from feeding 400 students to feeding 540,” board member Phillip McLain said. “These are K-8 students we’re talking about. I think we need to know what a reasonable lunch schedule would be without enlarging the cafeteria any more than 500 square feet and with (adding) more than double the number of students who go through there. I don’t think  you can do it unless you’ve got a lot more space. I hate to be the devil’s advocate on this, but that concerns me.”

Street said the cafeteria would be enlarged by 500 feet and would claim the space in which the current entrance is located with the new entrance on the opposite side of the school.

Other board members felt the cafeteria — which Street reminded the board was originally designed for high school students — would be an adequate size.

“They’re feeding the high schools just fine and those cafeterias are not that big,” School board member Todd Ganger said. “It’s no different from if we had to redistrict; now you’re loading up those schools, Lamar and Grandview, and it’s going to cause the same problem there in the cafeteria. So this can be done.”

McLain asked that Flanary meet with food services to see if Scheme 6’s cafeteria would be feasible for the number of students. In the meantime, some board members said they wanted more time to look over the plans and get feedback from community members.

“Just getting this tonight and looking at it,” board member Mary Beth Dellinger said. “I’d really like to have a little bit more time before we vote. I’d like to at least give it a month to gage people in the community and see what they think.”

The next board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education’s Central Office located at 405 W College Street, Jonesborough.

Next month’s meeting will also serve as the school board’s final meeting before those who are reelected or elected to the District 1 and District 3 spots take their place as a part of the board.

Town celebrates Fourth of July

The Independence Day fireworks at Jonesborough Days dazzled downtown/

 

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

Downtown Jonesborough was scorching this past weekend, and that wasn’t limited to just the temperatures. While processions of vendors lined Main Street, crowds flocked to the parade and the fireworks display.

From fireworks to music to a parade, Jonesborough turned out to honor our 1776 independence.

“With the fireworks and the parade and everything, we had really good turnout. And the Johnny Cash show definitely had a very large attendance,” Main Street Jonesborough Director Melinda Copp said, while adding that the attendance for the weekend was close to 20,000 people.

“(The heat) kept a little bit of the people away.”

Copp believed the highlights of the weekend included the Johnny Cash NOW concert as well as the Johnny Cash look-a-like contest, the big tribute bands each night and the “I Made It Market”.

According to Copp, the “I Made It Market”, in its first year at Jonesborough Days “was a hit, it was a lot of fun. We want to try to grow that each year, for sure.”

The young entrepreneurs set up shop in the courtyard of the International Storytelling Center, offering a number of homemade items for sale.

One group of mini-merchants, 13-year-old Gage Bass of Kingsport, his 8-year-old brother Cale and their 10-year-old friend Braelynn Ferrell had an eclectic group of items.

“Soap from goat’s milk and bath bombs, made out of essential oils,” Gage Bass said. “We also have paintings right here.”

Asked about the paintings, he said, “I just thought it’d be cool to make abstract art, to make it colorful.”

Although the heat was oppressive, the youngsters came out of the event with some financial lessons and a few more dollars.

And for anyone who missed the Johnny Cash NOW concert to avoid the steamy weather, the commemorative t-shirts honoring Cash’s 1973 performance in Jonesborough are still available at the Visitor’s Center.

Altogether, this year’s Jonesborough Days proved memorable, and Copp hopes whoever experienced the festivities will not forget them. “We were very pleased with everything. We hope everyone enjoyed it and it was a lot of fun.”

In honor of service: Veteran receives keys to new home

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Hall, with wife MaKayla and son Liam, pays tribute to his flag before entering their new home.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

On Saturday, June 23, retired U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Hall received two things; a newly built home for his family in his hometown and a start at a new life.

Retired Brigadier General Tom Landwermeyer (right) joins retired U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Hall and family in the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday.

Hall, along with his wife, MaKayla, and young son, Liam, finally got the chance to open the door of their brand new house to friends, family and supporters during the key ceremony in their new Jonesborough neighborhood.

“It’s mind-blowing,” Hall said. “This just means a lot. I didn’t really know until yesterday how much went into coordinating all of this. You can’t really put it into words. I don’t even know how it’s going to be (in the new house), but I know that I am grateful and I’m sure I’ll be more grateful every day that goes by.”

Hall didn’t get just any kind of house; the non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops, built the Hall family a one-story, specialized home with over 40 special adaptations, which they build for post Sept. 11 veterans who have been severely wounded.

Hall takes a moment to share his story and thankfulness for his new home as his family, friends and supporters watch on.

Hall retired from the Army after suffering a serious injury during his second tour in Afghanistan in 2012. There, he was part of the 82nd Airborne Division and was conducting a damage assessment after a firefight when his left heel triggered an improvised explosive device. The blast sent him 30 feet in the air and left him without his left leg and with severe damage to his right leg. He also suffered a broken pelvis, a fractured sacrum and several fractured vertebrae.

“I’d like to say that literally dying made me have this great epiphany and I never took another day for granted, but I didn’t,” Hall said. “But now, I’m glad that I lost my leg. I’m glad that I hurt all the time, I’m glad that I have to deal with every one of these challenges and can’t wait to face more of them because God has used that to finally teach me to rely on Him for everything, to be joyful and grateful no matter what.”

And his joy and gratefulness didn’t end in his driveway.

Hall expressed gratitude throughout the new home, which is complete with widened doorways for wheelchair access and holds over 40 special adaptations such as a roll-in shower and special kitchen amenities. It’s all thanks to HFOT who, after completing Hall’s home, has built 256 homes for injured veterans throughout the U.S.

For the Massachusetts-based group, projects such as this aren’t just about giving back to veterans who have made sacrifices to secure our nation’s freedom — it’s also about acting on their tagline “building homes and rebuilding lives”.

HFOT President and retired Brigadier General Tom Landwermeyer said the home not only offers a safe environment in which a wounded veteran can more easily move around and safely conduct every day activities such as cooking or taking a shower, but it also offers a new lease on life found through being able to do more activities in these homes.

The Halls show visitors their specially adapted kitchen in their new home.

“It rolls into freedom and independence. All these folks, just like all of us, are fiercely independent. You don’t want to have to rely on anyone else to help you do every thing on a daily basis. But a lot of times, these severely injured veterans end up like that because of the situation,” Landwermeyer said.

“It’s tremendous for the spouses and caregivers and a lot of people don’t think about that. The home should be the place you rest. It should be where you go to relax. And this is where this family should be able to go to relax too.”

Hall said he felt the house would offer him an easier lifestyle than the one he’s been living since his injury.

“Rehab has been a long and never-ending process and everywhere I’ve lived since then has each had a unique set of challenges,” Hall said. “I’ve had to deal with several flights of stairs, rails breaking off of stairs, hopping and falling in the shower, not being able to take off my leg because I can’t get the wheelchair through a narrow door and get my kid in the middle of the night.”

He also said he feels differently about his struggles than he did in the past. Now, he sees them as another obstacle to over come rather than a potential roadblock.

The Josh and MaKayla Hall told the Herald & Tribune that this home will offer the start of a less stressful life.

“I used to wish that after I moved out of the handicapped accessible environment of Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) that I moved straight into this house and didn’t have to deal with the challenges that all the different apartments and rental houses presented. I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Now that Hall is back in his hometown with his wife and son in their new home, Landwermeyer mentioned that Hall is considering becoming a police officer.

For now, Hall said he’s ready to discover just what it means to live and enjoy life in a house that is less of an obstacle and more of a home.

“This house allows me to train and exercise harder, work harder, play with my son more,” Hall said. “I can do more with my wife, spend more time with my family and not leave anything in the tank because I have to put my leg on to go to the bathroom, to get a drink of water or get Liam something to eat and put him to bed. It allows me to make my wife breakfast, even if I’m sore or in pain.

“It allows me to live my life in ways I’m sure I’m yet to discover.”

 

Quilter discovers peace among bits of fabric

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

When Linda Crouch-McCreadie took a quilting class for fun while working as a lawyer in Memphis, she probably never imagined it would lead to this.

Fast-forward to the current period where she has a large store carrying every possible tool and ingredient needed to make every possible quilt.

Linda Crouch-McCreadie, on right with Brenda Crouch, is a part of this year’s Quilt Trail.

Crouch-McCreadie and her sister-in-law Brenda Crouch own Tennessee Quilts, located across from the visitors center near downtown Jonesborough.

She also recently participated in the 4th Annual Quilt Turning for the Quilt Trail of Northeast Tennessee event held at the McKinney Center.

“Families who have these quilt blocks on their barns and have the quilt that those blocks came from will bring those old antique quilts, and we’ll have a place where we can lay these out,” Crouch-McCreadie explained. “Then the family member explains the history of the quilt, who made it, where it came from, something about the farm that is represented by the family. So each year there are about four or five different people who bring their quilts and talk about them.”

A quilt block is the pattern which, when sewed together, makes up the quilt.

“The Quilt Trail started, the theory was, to promote agri-business. It was a way to get people out onto the farms to see what farmers had,” Crouch-McCreadie said. “The family would have an old antique quilt that would be made out of various blocks or all one block and they would take one of those blocks from the family quilt … paint it and put it on the barn.”

Crouch-McCreadie’s family is also part of the NE Tennessee Quilt Trail.

“We have a farm out there (in Boones Creek) that is on the Quilt Trail. We have a barn that was built in 1830 and it has a block, one of the painted quilt blocks on it.”

The Quilt Trail is not unique to Northeast Tennessee. According to the Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development, there are currently 45 states with Quilt Trails, but the original was located in Ohio. Each trail is independent from the others.

The most recent Quilt Turning event was sponsored by the Tennessee Quilts shop.

Crouch-McCreadie first encountered her hobby when she would stay with her grandmother while her mother went to work.

“I had to stay with her on Saturdays because my mother worked at Parks-Belk. So she would keep me busy to keep me out of her hair,” Crouch-McCreadie reminisced. “She taught me how to embroider. I did all my aunt’s pillowcases, anything you could embroider, I did for years. I also took four years of Home Economics at Boones Creek and learned how to sew and did a lot of garment sewing when that used to be the thing, when you made your own clothes.”

As she grew up, she added cross-stitching, knitting and crocheting to the skills she learned while growing up.

“So when I went to quilting class, I had already done some needlework. Holding a needle in my hand was not foreign … I started quilting in 1988. I lived in Memphis and was practicing law and took a quilting class just for fun and got hooked,” Crouch-McCreadie continued, “I jumped in with both feet. As a lawyer, it was kind of a stress relief from practicing law. And I enjoyed it. It was something calming. It was something I was in control of.”

Crouch-McCreadie spent 13 years in Memphis when her firm merged with a firm that had offices in Johnson City, so she took the opportunity to return home, where she spent another 15 years practicing law.

Crouch-McCreadie and her sister-in-law have kept the Tennessee Quilt store up and running and offer an extensive range of materials. With over 8,000 bolts of fabric in their store, finding a pattern or fabric they don’t carry would be a tall order. The store also offers lessons and the ability to shop online at their website, tennesseequilts.com.

While Crouch-McCreadie has been able to run a business involving her hobby, it means much more than that to her.

“It’s patience and enjoyment. We’re not manufacturing quilts. I see it as creating art, really.”

A tribute to dad: Alderman recalls early days in Jonesborough

Adam Dickson sits between his mother and father in this early family photo.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

When he was 4 or 5  years old, Jonesborough Alderman Adam Dickson may not have known what he wanted to be when he grew up; but it seems his father had an idea.

“The earliest memory that I have being a little boy, (my father) had an old, beat up Chevrolet truck, a black Chevy truck and he would look at me and say, ‘Son, you’re going to be a senator one of these days and when you run, we’re going to start in Memphis and we’ll work our way all the way back to Mountain City,” Dickson said recently.

Adam Dickson

“And so he saw something in me then that I didn’t even know existed. That’s my earliest memory of my father.”

Dickson’s father, Fred Venable Dickson, was born and raised in Jonesborough, and remained here to start and raise his own family.

“He had a number of jobs, but at one period he worked for an organization called the Organization of Equal Opportunity (OEO),” Dickson said. “When he passed away, he had retired from the state. He was a sign-maker for the State Department of Transportation. I guess in the ‘80s and ‘90s he would make all the signs that you would see maybe on state highways. And for Greeneville eastwards, he made the signs that you might see on the interstate. The official title was ‘Sign Technician’.”

When asked what he remembered most about his father, Dickson replied, “Supporter. Very supportive. He was very supportive of me and my activities. Anytime we had to go anywhere for say, 4-H or a Public Speaking contest or some kind of school related activity, he had no problem at all driving to Greeneville, driving to Knoxville, driving wherever. He was always supportive of my activities.”

Dickson paused a moment and added, “The typical boy is in baseball, football and basketball. I’ve always been the atypical child. I was in public speaking and 4-H and things like this. But I never felt any judgment or anything from my father.”

Just as Fred Dickson was born and raised in Jonesborough, Alderman Dickson was also Jonesborough born and bred and has seen his fair share of changes over the years.

“For me, I think what is most noticeable is that the community, and I guess particularly the black community that was here. . .  people have just passed away. At one time here on Spring Street there used to be a number of black households on Spring Street. And, you know, now those people have passed on, new people have moved in. Spring Street and the farther out you go used to be was called ‘Buzzard Roost.’ That used to be the area of town that black folks lived. Like I said, folks have now passed away and Jonesborough has just changed.”

While the changes are noticeable to Dickson, he also believes the future is bright for Jonesborough.

“For a town our size, yes, there’s a lot of positive activity going on. I think that’s what makes us attractive to folks who want to move here and stay here.

“What we’re doing here, it’s very focused, it’s very niche, very targeted. You’re seeing a lot of optimism and a lot of hope. All the townscaping, for example. It took time; there was a lot of frustration but it’s reaping dividends when we see a typical Saturday and you see a lot of people walking the street, enjoying the street.”

While Dickson has himself seen how Jonesborough has changed and grown over the years, he still carries some valuable lessons from his father.

“I was about 12 at that time. We lived in the New Victory community. That’s where I grew up,” he recalled. “There’s a store down there, Pioneer Market, it was, and still is; kind of a hangout of sorts. My father used to work for Hartman Hardware and Coalyard. He drove the coal truck for Mr. (Charles) Hartman for years. So that’s where he knew a lot of the people in Telford.

“So on this particular night, we were there to get a Coke or something and there was a bunch of fellas there who knew my father. ‘Fred, what’s going on?’

Everyone would gather around him and what not, and there was this gentleman who knew my father for years. And he came up behind him and kicked him in the behind, and said, ‘What do you say, Freddie?’

And my father turned around and called him by name, and again my father had some colorful language and said, ‘What in the hell is wrong with you?’

“’What do you mean, Fred?’

“’Kicking me like that, what’s wrong with you?’

And my dad looked at him and said, ‘. . . don’t you ever kick me again. I’m an old man. Don’t you ever kick me again.’

Now my father was one that could get along with (this) wall. If you were willing to talk to Fred, Fred would talk to you.

What I saw that night was a sense of character and a sense of dignity. That meant something; it’s always meant something to me as I’ve grown to be a man. You certainly want to be inclusive, but you do have your character. You do have your dignity.”

BOE questions transparency

The Washington County Board of Education discussed conversations leading up to the director’s resignation.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The news of Kimber Halliburton’s resignation as the Washington County Director of Schools shook the community last month, but the Washington County Board of Education’s called meeting to discuss the budget, accept her resignation and name an interim director only proved to be an aftershock of tense conversation.

And it all started with questions from board members about conversations leading up to the public meeting.

After Board member Phillip McLain nominated the school system’s director of secondary education, Bill Flanary, for the interim spot, the BOE unanimously voted to name Flanary to the temporary position. School board member Mike Masters asked Flanary if he had been approached by any board members regarding the interim position. Flanary said a board member asked him a few weeks prior to the meeting if the interim position were to come available, would he accept it. Board member Todd Ganger pointed out that, according to that time frame, that conversation came before Halliburton had resigned.

After Ganger asked which board member approached Flanary, board member Phillip McLain admitted to the conversation.

“The reason I did it was Mrs. Halliburton had told us about the job opportunity in Alabama,” McLain said. “My question to him was in an iffy situation, anticipating her doing exactly what she did. That’s all I have to say.”

Halliburton was announced as a finalist for a position as the Alabama State Superintendent of Education in April. Then on May 23, the day she tendered her resignation in Washington County, Halliburton accepted the director of schools position in Madison County, Mississippi.

Before Halliburton’s departure, she faced the suspension and eventual firing of Gerald Sensabaugh as the David Crockett High School football coach which ended in a pending lawsuit. Multiple bus accidents and the firing of the school system’s transportation supervisor and a split BOE that, after a year of discussions, is currently still in gridlock over a Jonesborough School project design were other controversial events that she faced during her tenure with the school system.

But what concerned some board members in the wake of Halliburton’s resignation was board member transparency and a lack of public discussion on matters such as the director’s position.

“Superintendents come and they go. That’s a part of life,” school board member Clarence Mabe said. “But the way this was handled, I’m not satisfied with at all. Four or five board members called our lawyer, and without coming to the board or even talking to the chairman. I found out about it when one of the mayors told me what y’all were doing. And then y’all write a letter to the superintendent telling her she can resign when we don’t know a thing about it and it hasn’t been brought to us? Something is wrong with that picture men and ladies.”

The board’s attorney, Scott Bennett, who was hired in December of 2017 in a 5-4 vote from the board, said during the meeting that he drafted a letter that was sent to Halliburton before her resignation. He also said it wasn’t a letter calling for her resignation and did not contain an ultimatum.

“She indicated to me that she had an attorney and her primary concern was that transition being smooth. (Her attorney’s) suggestion to me was that I draft something that would make sense … It would be a simple way to explain how she got to where she is, why she was transitioning. It wasn’t a letter asking her to resign. Her lawyer asked me to put pen to paper.”

Ganger also asked Bennett if he had board members contacting him asking about dismissing Halliburton.

Bennett said each board member was entitled to know that information, but that he could not discuss the information during a public meeting. Ganger requested that they waive that privilege, but Bennett explained that once that privilege is waived, it’s off for any future topic and that there was no selective waiver.

“I did not have any conversations with board members where I was currying votes if that’s what you’re asking or suggesting. That’s not my job,” Bennett said. “What I want to make clear is that my role to assist you as a board member and your colleagues as board members is if you ask me a question about ‘what does the contract say?’ or ‘what does the law say?’, I’m going to answer your question because it helps you.

“At the point and time I think that it’s more than a board member or two asking me to interpret the contract, I’m going to pick up the phone and call the chairman, which is what I did.”

School board member and BOE Chairman Jack Leonard said Bennett called him and said he had “the fifth call.” Bennett said he recalled that conversation differently, saying he called the chairman to let him know the director’s contract appeared to be something board members wanted to put on the agenda. Later, board member Keith Ervin said he did in fact call Bennett about the director.

“Since everybody’s talking about me being the fifth vote, damn right I’m the fifth vote,” Ervin said. “And I’m going to tell you something, I’m tired of it. I am tired of it. I’ve had enough. That’s exactly what I told Scott Bennett. If the vote come out that I was going to move her or that she resigned, that’s fine. I’m done. I’m ready to do something.”

Though he said he didn’t talk to five board members regarding transferring Halliburton into another position within the school system, Bennett did say he interpreted the director’s contract which he found to allow a transfer in positions within the system.

“It’s an extremely common provision in a director’s contract to waive transfers,” Bennett said. “Your contract, for whatever reason, did not waive a transfer rights regarding Mrs. Halliburton.

“To answer your questions, I didn’t carry any water. As I’ve told people time and again, five people can make the front door the back door. And it’s up to you, the board, to decide what to do with the information I give.”

Some board members, however, felt differently.

“Don’t you think the right way was to discuss this with the board?,” Mabe said. “You don’t think they were using you to carry water? Why do you think they hired you six months ago? You carried a whole bucket of water.”

Bennett said there were no negotiations regarding the director’s departure. He did, however, mention what he called “the black out date” which, according to Tennessee Code Annotated 49-2-203-(a)(14)(A), states that no school board may either terminate a director without cause or enter into a contract with the superintendent 45 days before a general school board election or 30 days following the election.

“We’re getting into areas where I gave legal advice, but I can answer this; there’s a period of time in which sitting boards cannot make changes to a sitting director’s contract and I think every superintendent in the state of Tennessee knows what that date is,” Bennett said. “Everyone was aware that the deadline for notifying the public of any changes to the agenda regarding a change in the director was 15 days prior to your board meeting.”

Halliburton tendered her resignation 15 days before the next regularly scheduled school board meeting set for Thursday, June 7.

With an interim director sitting in the vacant seat come the meeting’s end and a search for a new director up ahead, multiple board members asked why the discussion wasn’t brought up in a public meeting, thus calling for more transparency from the board.

“When you have board members contacting you about removing our director from her position — I actually had to find out through the public,” Ganger said. “That’s the first I heard of it. I’ve got a problem with that. To me, it’s sneaking around. We’ve got board members going outside of their scope of duties and running around to try to get something done. It needs to be addressed. It needs to be fixed because we’ve got a lot of that going on.”

The next school board meeting will be held on Thursday, June 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education’s central office, located at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.

Halliburton resigns, BOE remains divided

Kimber Halliburton tendered her resignation on Wednesday, May 23 as the director of schools in Washington County.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It was two years ago that Washington County, for the first time ever, named a woman, Kimber Halliburton, as director of schools. But now, Halliburton has been named the superintendent of the Madison County School District in Mississippi as of Wednesday, May 23 — the day she signed her letter of resignation in Washington County.

“While this musing has not come easy, an exciting challenge has presented itself to me to serve as a superintendent in a new community,” Halliburton said in her letter of resignation to the Washington County Board of Education. “I have made the tough decision to leave Washington County to pursue this new challenge in my career.”

Halliburton took over as director in July of 2016 after Ron Dykes retired from the position in late June of 2016. In her letter of resignation, Halliburton cited the district’s accomplishments such as the increased graduation percentage, the county’s “Exemplary School District” nod from the state, and a top score for growth according to the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scores, among other accomplishments.

However, her resignation, which is slated to be accepted at the Wednesday, May 30, called school board meeting, might not have changed the divisiveness of the board, which has widely been divided in 5-4 votes throughout numerous discussions this year on topics such as the BOE’s hired attorney and the Jonesborough School project design plans.

For some board members, her departure leaves a mark of progress areas such as technology and professional development.

“To tell you the truth, she did a pretty daggum good job,” school board member Clarence Mabe said. “Our grades are up, she brought a lot of stuff to the classroom like the microphones so the teachers wouldn’t have to speak so loud. She brought the coaches for the teachers to help them with the technology and so forth. But their aim was to get rid of her.”

In light of the divisiveness, Mabe also said the way in which multiple board members operated leading up to the resignation, he feels, is a concern.

“I’m not upset with firing a superintendent or hiring one. That is normal. You will hire a superintendent and fire them,” Mabe said. “I am upset with the five members of the board who went off on their own to talk to the lawyer and plan all this out of who they’re going to put in there. If you ask them, they say, ‘Oh no, we don’t know what’s going on.’ But how did those five members all call the lawyer at the same time with the same request? Is that the sunshine law being broken?”

When asked if and what issues board members had with the director, school board member David Hammond said he felt that management styles differed between the director and some board members.

“I can’t speak for the whole board,’ Hammond said, “but just management styles, management techniques (were the issues the board had with Halliburton), and listening to people in the community. It was more of a respect thing. Those were the differences — and backing the board after a decision was made and getting behind that decision.

“I wish her well and I think it’s a positive move for her and our system.”

Following the resignation, the board will now look to fill the position — but when?

Hammond said, in light of the upcoming August election for seats in District 1 and District 3, he feels there will be no rush to select the next director of schools.

“I’m running for election and I know I may not win, especially with redistricting being the way it is, but we know for a fact three new board members are coming on and I think it would be irresponsible for us to try to place a director,” Hammond said. “It’s such a lengthy process, it wouldn’t be accomplished properly and in the right way.”

Though the role of the director has seen its share of recent controversy with the ongoing Jonesborough School project debacle as well as bus accidents throughout the past couple of years,  Hammond said he felt the position is one that has not earned a negative reputation.

“No, I think the average length of a director staying in any one place is six to seven years,” Hammond said. “Any time there’s a breakdown in communication, it’s not just one person or one side. It’s two sided.

“People are going to look at our county and the people we have. We have a good system. We’ve seen good works.”

Before the BOE fills the position, the school board will also name an interim director of schools at the next called meeting. Though Mabe said he felt the majority of board members have decided who they would like to see as the interim, Hammond said that has not been discussed.

“We have a couple of board members stating that we already know who the director’s going to be. And that’s not so,” Hammond said. “I’ve thought personally of a few people. I’m sure it will be someone within our system I would think.

“I also read that it’s been said that we’ve already got it figured out who we’re going to put in place as principals and assistant principals. We don’t place the principals and assistant principals. The director does that. There’s been no mention of that whatsoever.”

Mabe said he feels that in the board’s upcoming interim decision, moving on for the sake of the school board’s future decisions is necessary.

“The five have that got the lawyer will pick the new director,” Mabe said. “I’m going to back whoever they pick because we have got to move forward. There are important decisions we’ve got to pick. Let’s just go forward.”

The BOE will meet for a called meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education’s central office located at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.

Meet Myra: Crockett welcomes new syndaver to enhance learning

Principals, teachers, instructors and even school board members meet Myra.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

There’s a new addition to David Crockett High School and, since her arrival, she’s been the talk of health science teacher Cheri Wolfe’s classroom. Her name is Myra, but she’s not an actual person — she’s a synthetic cadaver with some rather lifelike attributes.

Students get their first look at the new syndaver.

Crockett’s syndaver, Myra, is a replica of the human body, complete with a skeleton, organs and muscles all made from synthetic materials to simulate that of an actual person.

And now, she’s ready to help Crockett students learn all about the human body.

“It’s one of the best tools for postsecondary learning that you can have, and we have it in a high school setting. It’s amazing,” Wolfe said. “We’re one of eight schools to have it and the first in Tennessee. So we’re very excited and we’re very blessed.”

Wolfe said the syndaver will offer a real-life setting for her students to learn about the human body through technology that few colleges and no other high school program in Tennessee currently offers.

“You can see the heart, lungs, liver, gallbladder, uterus, all kinds of veins and arteries all the way down to the skeleton,” Wolfe said. “These all are things they learn from a book, of course, and there are videos as well, but nothing compares to getting the actual hands-on experience. This is one of the most lifelike tools. When we’re talking about the human body, you need to see it.”

Wolfe added the syndaver to her classroom through a state grant designed to provide equipment for career and technical education programs throughout Tennessee. After securing the $63,000 syndaver, a team from SynDaver Labs conducted training for students and teachers so that those handling the syndaver would be well equipped to properly care for the advanced medical technology.

“With the way it’s made, the skin is very sensitive and very fragile, very much like human skin,” Wolfe said. “It’s susceptible to different microbial growths so we have to be very careful about handling her. She’s in algaecide and chlorine and she gets a bath once a month and then we have to empty the tank.”

The syndaver is currently housed in a tank full of the necessary chemicals to maintain the synthetic body, but Wolfe is hoping to add a cadaver table in the future, which would make examining the syndaver much simpler.

“We’re asking for a grant to get a table because my students right now have to lift this 110 pound mannequin out. There are chemicals, so they have to gown up, so we’re asking for a cadaver table so that will help with moving her and transporting back and forth.”

Though the students aren’t working on a real human corpse as they would in medical school, Wolfe is hoping to educate students by giving them a look at what it’s like to examine a person — who had a name and everything.

“Just like in medical school, there’s a certain amount of dignity that comes with this work,” Wolfe said. “This was a human being. And though she’s not real, it gives that mindset and a real life learning experience that they need to be prepared for when they go into the medical field. You treat everyone with dignity and you know that person had a life. Although this is not the same and is simulated, it gives them that same type of respect opportunity.”

As for the students, Myra has been the topic of conversation and has surged excitement throughout Wolfe’s health science class.

“If you follow us on twitter, those kids are all over talking about it. They’re so excited and I love seeing it,” Wolfe said. “There’s something to be said about handling those organs and knowing the functions and knowing where they go as opposed to just seeing a picture of it and handling it.”

DAYS OF THE DULCIMER: Festival to continue through the weekend

Hugh Byrd (left) and Don Burger (right) spend time in downtown Jonesborough strumming on their dulcimers at the start of Dulcimer Days.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Hugh Byrd may be a maker of dulcimers, but he admits he doesn’t really know how to play them.

Thanks to this week’s Dulcimer Days in Jonesborough, however, that may be about to change.

“I’ve made seven of them,” Byrd said, sitting in front of the Eureka Inn in downtown Jonesborough with festival organizer Don Burger as they tried out the instruments. “I did a workshop in Kingsport about four or five years ago. But I don’t play. I’m trying to learn to play.”

Byrd is exactly the type of visitor Burger is hoping to see at this seven-day music and craft festival that concludes Sunday.

Only in its third year, the Dulcimer Days has continued to grow each spring, this year emphasizing not only dulcimer experts and newbies, but also interested crafters.

“This is it,” Burger said with a big smile, motioning to the handful of folks who had gathererd around the music Monday afternoon. The first couple of years, he said, he would set up on Main Street and people would stop by on their way to something — lunch or an appointment

“This is the first time I’ve set up and they have come to me,” he said.

A resurgence of dulcimers definitely seems to

be at hand.  From more individuals picking up the Jonesborough Senior Center class on dulcimers taught by Burger — a class he encouraged Byrd to join — to a growing number of private lessons to the delight shown on the faces of passers by, dulcimers seem to be captivating more enthusiasts.

“There have been hundreds of people who have built them and not even played them,” Burger said with a shake of his head.“There is something about the shape. It’s hard for people to describe why they are drawn to them but they are.”

While this year’s  festival also features lots of hands-on crafting opportunities to add addtional flavor to downtown Jonesborough — and Burger encourages everyone to savor each opportunity provided —  there is no doubt what remains the star.

“There is something about this instrument,” Burger said. “And this is the opportunity for it to come out of the wordwork and become part of our everyday lives again.”

Below is a repeat of  the Dulcimer Days schedule through Sunday.

Wednesday, May 16

Noon – 1 p.m. Renaissance Strings of Kingsport, Storytelling Plaza

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Cloudland Dulcimer Circle of Roan Mountain

Hands On Drawing/Painting: Caroline Lowery, Mauk’s Corner, 101 West Main Street

7 – 8:30 p.m., Soothing Evening Dulcimers: Don Burger, Carol Cerniauskas, Eureka Inn, 127 W Main Street

Thursday, May 17

2-4 p.m. Make Your Own Pottery: Noriah Shaw, Stephanie Nichols, Boone Street Market , 101 Boone Street

2:30 – 4:30 p.m. Hands On Drawing/Painting: Tom Root, Root Studio, 139 1/2 East Main Street

2:30 – 4:30 p.m. Musical Appetizers: Don Burger, Downtown Sweet,  137 East Main Street

5 – 8 p.m. Tasty Guitar and Dulcimer Music: Phil Ling, Don Burger, Evening Market, Boone Street Market,  101 Boone Street

Friday, May 18

12:30 – 1:30 p.m., Needle Felting Demonstration: Deb Burger

1:30 – 2:30 Land of Waterfalls Dulcimer Players, Chuckey Depot Museum, 110 S 2nd Ave

7 p.m. Music On The Square, featuring: “Thistle Dew:” foot-stompin’, Celti-lachian Trio!

Tull Glazener: Dulcimer Master Extraordinaire!

  Main Street, in front of the Courthouse (Rain – out location: The Corner Cup)

Saturday, May 19

9 – 10:30 a.m. Experienced Dulcimer Players Clinic: Tull Glazener

10:30 – Noon,  Beginning Dulcimer: Tull & Area Instructors, bring a dulcimer, or borrow one of ours for the clinic

1:30 – 3 p.m. Experienced Players Clinic, Part 2: Tull Glazener , Mockingbird Music Room and Gallery, 210 Spring Street

4 – 6 p.m. Eureka Inn’s “Root Beer Garden Gala:” locally sourced sodas and other goodies

Dulcimer – infused music: Tull Glazener, Phil Ling, Don Burger & more!

Eureka Inn, 127 W Main Street, Courtyard

Sunday, May 20

11 a.m.  Jonesborough Presbyterian Church Service Worshipful Dulcimer Music, with Deb and Don Burger

     Jonesborough Presbyterian Church, 128  West Main Street

Picking up the pieces: Design plan fails, BOE split discussed

The plan for Scheme 4, while listed as a K-8 school, is actually a K-4, with future classroom wings to be added at an undetermined time, making it a K-8 building. New construction is indicated in yellow; renovated space is in blue.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

After a year of attempting to get a Jonesborough K-8 School design plan somewhat figured out, the Washington County Health, Education and Welfare Committee, once again, voted out Washington County Board of Education’s plans for the school.

A 3-2 vote denied the “Scheme 4” plan to tear down the round portion of the current Jonesborough Elementary School building along with other renovations and additions at a cost of $17,451,000.

However, the plan included building the school in phases; the $17.5 million would build a K-4 while the remaining area for grades 5-8 would be built when money would become available. Dan Jackson from Beeson, Lusk & Street Inc. said the two wings that would be built later in the plan would cost $8.2 million according to today’s construction costs. Commissioners Danny Edens and Suzy Williams voted in favor of the plan. Commissioners Lee Chase, Tom Krieger and Paul Stanton were opposed.

Edens, who made the motion to pass the design plan on to the county’s budget committee, said he felt it wasn’t the commission’s job to choose a school plan, but to serve as the funding body.

“I don’t feel like it’s up to this committee for the commission to decide what the school board does or how they do it. We can have an opinion and we can share that amongst ourselves, but I don’t think we can have a voice in that,” Edens said. “What we do have a voice in is money.”

“You want to build it in phases? We’ve done that in this county. We’ve built more than one school in phases in this county. It’s been proven that it can be done. It may not be an ideal situation, but it can be done. I would be willing to support this plan because it is a school board decision, not a county commission decision.”

Because grades 5-8 would remain at the middle school until the two wings could be built, facility maintenance of the middle school building was also discussed.

Williams asked what would become of the middle school building during and after construction in this plan. The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the Scheme 4 plan, which is $19,000 under the county’s allotted $20,750,000 for the project, would also include renovations of the dressing rooms at the middle school in order to alleviate the sewer smell issue, which has been discussed at numerous board meetings.

In regards to the middle school building, school board member Mary Beth Dellinger, who was in the audience at the meeting, said the board is looking at potentially selling Asbury and Midway and moving those students into the current middle school building.

She also said in this design plan, the future area to be constructed for grades 5-8 could reflect the drop in student enrollment, which the county has been battling in recent years.

“One of the advantages in building it in phases would be that we could see exactly what we needed,” Dellinger said. “If enrollment drops like you all have mentioned, we would see the enrollment as we look at building the wings. We may not need that whole area that have been projected. That way, unlike we did with Boones Creek, we could see exactly what we need.”

However, Krieger, who is also the HEW Committee chairman, said the money was still a hold up for him, as was the timeline for the plan.

“My concern is spending almost a full budgeted amount for a school for 600-and-some students.,” Krieger said. “It’s going to cost us another $8 million or more to get to the original plan the school board wanted.

“And I don’t see a time table. I don’t really see a whole plan. I see fragments. I’m just really concerned. I could not support this.”

Meanwhile, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge voiced his financial concerns for the plan that he said would only “change the shape” of the school.

“You’re at $20,750,000 to build a K-4. When you add in this additional $8 million in today’s dollars to finish this project, we’ve now got a $29 million project to build a K-8 when we’re spending $25.3 million in Boones Creek to do the same thing,” Eldridge said. “I’m missing something here, obviously. Why would we spend this to change the shape at Jonesborough Elementary? Because that’s what we’re doing, effectively, changing the shape.”

Though the committee weighed enrollment numbers and costs involved with the plan, the growing split between the BOE was also a concern for commissioners in considering the plan.

Williams said she wanted to know how divided the board was on the decision to bring the Scheme 4 plan to the committee. The BOE approved the plan in a 5-4 vote at their latest meeting.

School board member Clarence Mabe, who voted in opposition of the design plan at the last BOE meeting and was also in the crowd during the HEW meeting, said he felt another plan, which was also under budget, in his opinion, was a better option.

“The board voted to do it, and I’m a part of the board,” Mabe said, “but I disagreed with it because we had one proposal there that was in budget and fit all the students at one time. If we wait much longer, (due to increasing interest and construction costs) it’s going to be up another $3 million to $6 million.”

At the meetings’ end, Eldridge also voiced concerns regarding the divided BOE. The county mayor said he felt the majority of the board was not concerned with “improving the educational opportunity” for Washington County students.

“I believe educational attainment is the foundation for the future economic prosperity of this county and it is the school board’s responsibility to establish that foundation. Therefore, I have encouraged and supported this commission’s efforts to increase operational funding and provide for the longterm capital needs,” Eldridge said. “And this county commission has responded in a big way by investing in (Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton’s) vision and plans to improve outcomes and has also provided long-term funding for facility replacements and upgrades in this school system. As a result, Director Halliburton has had the resources to do exactly what she promised to do when she came here two years ago.

“The fact that Director Halliburton’s plans are improving our school system makes the school board’s actions over the last several months look, at the very least, obstructionist. So you can put me in the category with those who don’t believe the majority of this school board is serious about improving the educational opportunity for our children … which I believe is evidenced by this latest request that would spend $20 million just to change the shape of the building.”

Pizza and Books? New ‘Little Libraries’ prove books welcome just about anywhere

Left to right, Cheyenne Rasnick, Alizah Gunn and Alexis Shogren add colorful touches to the next Little Free Library.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

If you happen to see a brightly colored, well-built bookcase filled with books in a local restaurant or merchant in the near future, feel free to pick out one of the books, enjoy reading it, and return it to any of the other stations.

According to Washington County Library Director Richard Griffin,  these little libraries “are really becoming more and more popular. The concept is you take a book and you leave a book. So if you take whatever book you like, hopefully you leave another book, so it’s kind of a self-populating thing. There’ll always be something there.”

One of Crockett’s Free Little Libraries is placed at the Jonesborough Pizza Parlor.

Adding an even more local flavor to the project is the knowledge that students from David Crockett High School built and painted five of the stations. Although they are built similarly, each has a different and unique paint scheme.

Crockett students Brandon Greenway, Samantha DeBenedictis and Dorian Woods, who are in teacher Mark Good’s Construction Core class, constructed them.

Crockett art teacher Kay Groggs’ class painted them with students Autumn Payne, Kara Aloisio, Reagan Miller, Seth Bible, Cheyenne Rasnick, Alizah Gunn, Alexis Shogren, Tava Woodard and Emma Mosley.

“We were kind of going for the rugged look on the way they’re made because we want them to look like older libraries. We’re going to put tin roofing on them,” DeBenedictis said.

Greenway added, “We coated it with a light stain of polyurethane, a very light, clear stain.”

While the students pointed out that they could have finished each station within a few days, they had so many other projects that the libraries had to be spaced out.

While the Crockett students made five libraries, Griffin said there were two built and given to the Jonesborough Library by the local Elks Club.

The five libraries built at Crockett were a Jonesborough Community Chest project, and were funded by $500 from the Jonesborough Civitan Club.

Alderman and Jonesborough Community Chest leader Adam Dickson said he believed that the whole idea was to help increase literacy and the love for reading.

Civitan Club President Jimmy Rhein added, “The idea behind the Little Library is books of all types in there but particularly for kids so that at family locations like the Pizza Parlor and different restaurants and different places where families go and children go they’ve got a place where they can pick up a book and read it.”

While each station is unique, at least one is tailored for the location that has been chosen. Jonesborough Pizza Parlor was selected and the paint job on the Little Library surely reflects that. Pizza slices decorate the sides, and painted on one side are the words “ALL YOU NEED … BOOKS AND PIZZA.”

One factor that Griffin did not have to worry about was how to stock each library. “The books are free. I am very, very lucky in this county to have a fair number of books donated to us.”

He also pointed out that not only will the program help kids with their reading skills, it will get them to think about reading instead or watching TV or playing video games.

All the hard work put in by everyone involved certainly will be appreciated by those who utilize these Little Free Library stations, and Griffin certainly appreciates the work the Crockett students put in.

“It’s a combined effort … I’m glad the kids get to use their skills in making these so they have a little bit of ownership and they get a little pride looking at these in the future. I hope people will take advantage of these.”

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?”