New chef gets cookin’

Chef Neal Smith fires things up at Boone Street Market.

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Chef Neal Smith has only been at Boones Street Market for a few short weeks, but he just can’t stop talking about the food.

“There is no reason to go anywhere else. It’s phenomenal,” Smith said. “The quality of the meat is unreal. There are probably Japanese  chefs that are mad at the quality of waygu meat I’m getting. It’s ridiculous.”

It’s the kind of “ridiculous” on which Smith thrives.

A native of Stoney Creek, Tennessee — “the Hunter community,” he said — Smith traveled a number of miles to end up back here, close to his roots and in a situation of which he had only dreamed.

“At the risk of sounding trite, because everybody  is doing it, I miss what my grandmother made,” he explained. “My grandmother was an amazing cook. My mom was and is an amazing cook. And I miss, like when I was a little kid, going out in the garden with my grandfather, and coming back home and canning with my nanny. I miss that taste…”

Neal Smith shows off some of the market’s offerings.

Yet in the beginning, Smith admits he had no idea that recreating that experience for others would become his passion and his career.

He was first bitten by the culinary bug as a teenager at the local Waffle House.

“My first cooking job was I was a night shift lead at the old Waffle House on Roan Street,” Smith said. “This was the summer before I was a senior and the summer after.

“I really liked it though. The guy I worked for over there, his first name was Ed, he was the manager…He was really cool and he had all these pictures of him in the toque blanche, the tall white hat, of him cooking on cruise ships and such in the little Waffle House manager’s office.

“I guess he just got burned out and came home.”

The gentleman was a great teacher, however, Smith said, helping to lay a groundwork that this chef would rely on his entire life.

“Honestly, I will say this,” Smith added. “if you can work at a night shift at a busy Waffle House, you can work at any commercial kitchen. You might have to learn technique. You might have to learn a lot of other stuff, but as far as speed, you’re set.”

For example, in a Waffle House, they don’t use a ticket system. “It’s all call and heard. They call and there is never a ticket for you to look at. So no matter how busy a Waffle House gets, you have to memorize what’s coming in.

“So hats off to the guys that work at the Waffle House.”

Of course it’s been many years since Smith was in a Waffle House kitchen. After training and a guide for river rafting, Smith established a pattern of working as a guide in the summer and sometimes acting as cook as well, then getting a cooking job in the winter months.

Smith attended some college and some culinary school, but got much of his training working under what he considers some of cooking’s great master chefs.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “I thought ‘this is what I’ve been missing.’ ”

Smith went on to work at several executive chef positions, mostly in Ohio, until he and his wife decided to return home to Stoney Creek to be close to Smith’s family.

Someone told him about the opening at Boones Street, and he was immediately interested.

“Cooks and chefs usually have a one- to two- year span in a restaurant. They just get burnt out,” Smith explained. “It ain’t the kitchen stuff you see on TV.  You’re going to work six days a week. You’re going to work 70 hours a week.

“ You’ve got to love it to live it.”

At Boones Street Market, he was offered the chance to work with real farm-to-table ingredients, all while getting to meet the farmers and have creative control.

His response?

“Yes please.. I don’t know a better way to put it than that.”

Now, Smith is part of a project that still has its challenges, but offers so much promise.

“We’re still in development in the kitchen itself,” he said with a shake of his head. “You know what a camel is, right? A horse made by committee. That’s our kitchen right now.”

He also likes what Jonesborough Locally Grown executive director Shelley Crowe says.

“What Shelley and I are doing — with the help and support of a lot of people — is we’re building the airplane while we’re trying to fly it.”

But he believes it is all worth it. It simply comes back to the food, and the chance to bring back some of his grandma’s cooking, with a bit of a modern twist.

“A lot of times when you get something from the grocery store, the flavor’s not there,” Smith said. “It doesn’t taste like what it is. .

“Here, it tastes like spinach is supposed to taste like and it looks like spinach in a picture book. The same thing for the beef and the lamb.

After all, he concludes, “where else can you go where you call a guy and he’s going to pull something out of the ground and bring it to you?

“Everything I have here is like that.”

Boones Street Market will be featuring Chef Smith’s dishes at hot lunches and weekend brunches. Set hours are still in progress. Visit  Boone Street Market’s Facebook page for continued updates.

Jonesborough spreads St. Paddy’s spirit

Joel Van Eaton, Van Eaton, Carol Huie enjoy the St. Paddy’s Day fun.

From STAFF REPORTS

Hundreds of locals and visitors took part in Jonesborough’s St. Paddy’s Celebration that was held on Saturday, March 16.

The day was filled with kids’ activities, live music, a fun run, Irish foods, green beer and lasting memories.

Malachi Peek and McKinley Honeycutt show off their first place costumes.

During the day, families enjoyed the Leprechaun Trail which led them places like the Christopher Taylor House where visitors could make-their-own Victorian St. Patrick’s Day card, visit the Chester Inn Museum parlor to hear an Irish fairytale from playwright and author Anne G’Fellers-Mason, stop by Bewitched Boutique to get a free green Oreo ball, visit Tennessee Hills for a free green koozie and sweet treat, step into Noelle for some St. Paddy’s goodies,  enjoy Downtown Sweet ‘s shamrock cookies, learn skills at Mill Spring Makers Market for rock painting, and relax at Main Street for live music from the Celtic Dulcimer Trio.

The Jonesborough Gold Hunt, a mobile-friendly QR code scavenger hunt, took patrons throughout downtown all weekend long.

The hunt included almost 20 locations incorporating Jonesborough’s unique history and architecture.

At 4p.m., the Paddy’s Dash: Brew Fun Run began at the International Storytelling Center with the two-mile loop making a pit stop at Depot Street Brewery, then back to the International Storytelling Center for Shamrockin’ on the Plaza.

Shamrockin’ on the Plaza incorporated live music from ETSU’s Celtic Band, Roaring Jelly, Bangers and Mash, Irish stew and Depot Street Beer all provided by Main Street Café and Catering as well as a St. Paddy’s Costume Contest.

First-place winner for the costume contest was Malachi Peek and McKinley Honeycutt and the second-place winner was Carol Huie and her puppy Tucker.

MOTS to get ready for 21st season with kick-off gala

Listeners gather at a Music on the Square concert.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

For area music lovers, Music on the Square’s spring gala has become almost as much a sign of the season as crocuses in bloom.

But for organizer Steve Cook —  currently getting ready for the March 22 gala, to be held once again at the historic McKinney Center — it’s still all about bringing the tunes to downtown Jonesborough.

Music lovers gather at the 2018 gala.

“We’re 21 now,” Cook said, adding with an impish grin, “we’re legal.”

From May 3 until Sept. 27, MOTS has and will continue to offer top-of-the-line talents each Friday to residents and visitors alike — all at no cost for the listeners, other than what they choose to toss into the entertainment hat that goes around each performance.

But while Cook remains committed to continuing to offer this family friendly event to all who come to listen, he soon recognized there was a cost to be met.

That’s how Music on the Square’s  springtime gala and fundraiser was born. Cook decided it was the perfect way to provide the community with a fun event, showcasing some of what MOTS has to offer, all while raising needed money to continue the tradition.

This year, the Friday event, which begins at 6 p.m., will feature music, a live auction, heavy hors d’oevres and drinks, much like past galas.

But 2019 is boasting a few differences.

For one thing, while Cook promises the food will be every bit as good as in previous years, he is hoping it will be a bit more Jonesborough focused, partly out of  necessity.

“Last year, the Noli Truck provided all the food, free of charge,” Cook explained. “This year, however, with a new Erwin restaurant on the horizon for Noli, MOTS needed to look elsewhere

“I thought what better way than to feature our own restaurants,” Cook said. “So Dawn Heaton (of Barrell House) is in charge of organizing the food.”

Cook added that they will be meeting this week to fine tune the details, but ideally, diners will be able to sample everything from brisket and burritos to pizza and more.

Auction items will also be paired down a bit to feature more of the best-of-the-best.

And music — always a necessity at a MOTS event — will this year be provided by Blue Foxx.

“Sol Driven Train was not available,” Cook explained. “Blue Foxx is a great oldies band. They do Santana, the Beatles, the Allman Brothers. . . “

Of course, in all that fun, ticket-buyers will also have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make MOTS available for all. And for Cook, that makes this one of the best causes to participate in.

“I love music,” he said simply. “I’d rather be playing music than presenting, but you can’t play all the time.”

Tickets for Music on the Square’s 21st Anniversary Gala are $50 per person and can be purchased by calling the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 753-1010 or by visiting jonesborough.com/tickets.

Sponsorships are also still available throughout the season. Contact Cook at jboart@comcast.net for more information.

Market returns: Boone Street opens to reveal brighter, more spacious look

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

After a short break beginning in January to undergo renovations, Jonesborough’s year-round, locally produced market reopened its doors Saturday.

“People need their milk, eggs and bread,” explained Jonesborough Locally Grown President Shelley Crowe. 

While Crowe was quick to point out that the market is still adding finishing touches, she joined in her customers’ excitement at the newly renovated space.

“We now have an inside door to the bathroom,” Crowe said with a big grin. “With the expansion, we got the bathroom access in the inside and we also have an office space out here.”

The new market office, complete with a small window to allow a clear view of market space, is large enough to have two to three people working at one time without being moved from the main floor, she said.

More importantly, it has freed up valuable space for the market’s kitchen. And more space, Crowe said, means more products and more classes, events and tastings.

“In addition to the café space (at the front), which was a major part of this renovation, was the additional produce space,” she said. This will allow the market to better support its local farms and producers.

Hot meals — and the space to enjoy them — are also part of this new Boones Creek Market.

“We now have full-time kitchen manager and chef, Neil Smith,” Crowe said. “He comes with a very extensive back ground. And he is excited about farm to table, the café and helping us grow.”

Still ahead are finishing touches on the windows and interiors, as well as planning menu schedules and product availability. “We still have some work to do,” she said. “We’ll have a big grand opening in April.” Still, Crowe said, organizers and volunteers remain pleased at this restart. And Saturday’s crowd appeared to agree.

“I think it’s very nice. I think it’s also an example of how Jonesborough has grown,” said 14-year-old Sean Clare from Kingsport, who was visiting the market with grandfather and mother.

According to Sean’s grandfather, Jim Price, “We came for coffee, crepes and a haircut and this was on our list.”

“We come here once a month,” chimed in Lisa Clare, Sean’s mother.

Stephanie Saxsma, originally from Illinois but recently having settled in Gray, was another shopper who thought the opening was worth the drive.

“We just moved her six months ago,” Saxsma explained. “But we’ve been visiting here for several years. The jellies are good. The fresh herbs are very nice. We love sourdough bread.”

For Cynthia Burnley, however, it was all about the cheese.

“What I buy all the time is the cheese,” Burnley said. “It’s Ashe County cheese, and then I buy the pimiento cheese… and then the breads and the vegetables.”

A resident of Jonesborough for 40 years, she sees the market as not only a great place to shop, but also a strong draw for the town itself.

“People are excited to come here to the Boone Street Market and they come here for the Farmers Market,” Burnley said. “The Farmers Market and this one, a-year round market,  I think it’s attracting people to Jonesborough.”

Presidents’ Day

Jonesborough Elementary School’s kindergarten class (ages 5 and 6) celebrated Presidents’ Day this year by dressing up as former (and current)  U.S. leaders. According to teacher Ann Conner, “It all came about last year when we were working on our kindergarten social studies standards. One of our state requirements is learning about presidents and thus, the annual President Dress-Up Day began.” Students took home an information sheet and signed up for their top three choices to dress like and give a small speech on. The speech consisted of their president’s name,  the numerical order of the president, and an interesting fact about the president. “President Dress-Up Day is one of my favorite kindergarten days” Conner said.”It is filled with parent involvement, creative design of costumes, and fun  memorabilia learning!”

Jonesborough’s “Wild Women” help out

The “Wild Women of Jonesborough” are quick to help others as they did during the recent government shutdown.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

Many folks across the region watched the recent government shutdown crawl on and on, wondering when the rift would heal enough to at least restart the services left in the dark. 

Nancy Kavanaugh wondered if there was a way she and her “associates” could help any locally employed government employees working through the shutdown for no pay.

 “We came up on this government shutdown and I kept thinking, ‘There have to be people in this area who are affected, who are working without pay.’ And then it came to me — the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration workers (at the Tri-Cities airport) might be in that category.”

Her group, the “Wild Women of Jonesborough”, raised over $1,100 to help the airport workers who manned their posts throughout the shutdown.

Kavanaugh, who founded the group of mysterious Jonesborough residents known as the “Wild Women of Jonesborough”, has been the driving force for the group’s charitable efforts in the time since its founding last October, as well as the ringleader.

After numerous phone calls, the “Wild Women” ringleader said she eventually tracked down a Department of Homeland Security manager that could help.

“She told me they had 35 TSA employees and 22 FAA employees. Then she told me all the limitations on giving any kind of gift to government employees. One was that a gift could not be more than $20 and they could only accept it once a year. 

“It was pretty unpleasant that all we could do was give them each $20. So I thought ‘Well, that’s better than nothing. (The manager) recommended that we buy gift cards from Walmart, Ingles or Food City because all three of those places have gas stations.”

Kavanaugh said she began to call her “close associates” in the group for donations and that while the amounts were different, everyone was willing to help. 

“So I raised money to buy 57 or 58 gift cards for these employees. And people were very generous and happy to help. I never got anything negative from people.

“I see it as Jonesborough is a great town, and a great community of people, generous people who want to help other people…It wasn’t about me, it’s how people with small amounts of money can put money together and make a big impact.” 

The origin of the “Wild Women of Jonesborough” began when Kavanaugh, who is a board member for the Jonesborough Repertory Theater, was at home ironing linen napkins and thinking about an upcoming JRT performance. 

“This idea flew past me that there was a play that was going to be produced here called “The Wild Women of Winedale”. And it was a world premiere and they were going to present it here for the first time. And I had this idea, well what about “The Wild Women of Jonesborough” being sponsors of this show? And it went from there.”

According to Kavanaugh, she made phone call after phone call asking who would help sponsor the show, finally ending with around $4,000. 

“We would not reveal who we were. So we had an ad in the playbill that ran for the shows and just said, “Wild Women of Jonesborough” So that’s how the “Wild Women of Jonesborough” came to be.”

Kavanaugh and some members of the “Wild Women” met recently to chat about their charitable work so far and possible future ideas.

Requesting anonymity, the members said that some of them did not know the other members, but everyone was friends with Kavanaugh, and they were all fans of the JRT.

“The significance of it is what one woman can do who has a lot of credibility, because Nancy (Kavanaugh) has so much credibility and does so much good. And we trusted her judgment. We knew if she said there was a need, we’d be part of it. 

“The JRT is a very reputable organization, we all support it, we all attend, so Nancy and the idea to support the play was natural,” one member said.

Kavanaugh, who said she envisions the group eventually having collective leadership, added that she believes the future is exciting because the blueprint has yet to be drawn up.

“That’s the beauty of this. No one did this for publicity. No one wanted their name in the paper. It is below the radar, people who have similar values and interests,” another “Wild Woman” added, “The group is below the radar, non-faith based, and non-political. Involved women who want to help.”

Chocolate Fest hits all-time high

Graham Carriger, left, and Thomas Petretta enjoy Saturday’s Chocolate fun.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

While the mild winds may have kept the hot air balloon from soaring above the Jonesborough Library,  they certainly didn’t keep much else away as Jonesborough welcomed its fourth annual Chocolate Fest.

The balloon didn’t get off the ground due to wind, but chocolate was plentiful on Saturday and crowds seemed satisfied.

Last Saturday’s Chocolate Fest 2019 event featured more tickets sold, more attendees waltzing up and down Main Street and more delectables — enough of everything to keep everybody happy.

“It was a huge success. We were up 30 percent over last year. That’s big. That brought a lot of people into town. We sold over 19,000 tickets,” said Dona Lewis with the Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association at Monday evening’s Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting.

Lewis continued. “We had 38merchants handing out candy, all the way up to the Pancake House and all the way over to the Chuckey Depot and everything in between. And I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everybody that helped.”

Smiles reign at Saturday’s fest.

The JAMSA-sponsored event was held throughout downtown Jonesborough in various businesses, while some 11E-based businesses participated by setting up in the Historic Jonesborough Visitor’s Center.

In order to draw crowds towards the northern part of downtown, a hot air balloon was brought in to offer tethered rides for $10 per person in the library parking lot, provided the weather cooperated.

According to The Lollipop Shop owner Jeff Gurley, who led the “balloon effort”, the maximum allowable wind for the inflatable was six miles per hour.

However the winds were not in a cooperative frame of mind, said local downtown merchant and JAMSA member Melinda Copp.

“(The balloon) never actually got up because of the wind. It was right around seven miles per hour wind, so they stuck around to see if it might die down but no, they never got to fly the balloon, sadly.”

Although no one was able to float over the town, the amount of chocolates available may have kept any disappointment at bay, while also offering a chance to escape the winter doldrums and get out of the house.

Rows and rows of chocolate bites wait for another happy customer.

“Who doesn’t love chocolate? And I think it’s so close to Valentine’s Day a lot of people do it as a day date or they’ll do it as a day date for the whole family,” Copp explained. “It’s far enough after Christmas that people are ready to get out and do something after kind of being inside for the winter. So I think it’s a good draw to get people downtown.”

Another new addition to Chocolate Fest this year was the contest for the best treat.

“We had where you could vote on your favorite chocolate on the guides we handed out. The people returned that to the Storytelling Center if they wanted to vote and the ‘Old Town Dairy Bar’ actually won. They had a hot fudge cake and it won. You can’t go wrong with hot fudge cake,” Copp said.

While those with a sweet tooth had the opportunity to indulge last Saturday, Alderman Terry Countermine offered some advice to 2020 Chocolate Fest attendees at Monday’s BMA meeting, “You gotta follow that with an exercise Saturday.”

The Tool Box: ’Equipment’ tops school lunch needs

Allicia Osborne at Lamar is ready for whatever is thrown at her.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

When Donna Mauk, the satellite kitchen manager at Lamar Elementary, makes her way through the school’s kitchen, she passes the dishwasher, double oven and rows of stainless steal equipment. It’s all used on a daily basis (save the deep fryer that’s yet to be removed and hasn’t been used since before stricter food regulations were put in place). But should a piece of that equipment go out, the entire kitchen’s routine can be thrown off-kilter.

Lamar was built in the ‘90s and thus contains equipment that is still in relatively good shape according to Mauk. But that’s not the case at every school. While one school’s dishwasher might be out, another’s oven isn’t cooking evenly. These equipment needs, as mentioned in previous school board meetings, are the biggest struggle for the food service department according to Director of Schools Bill Flanary. What are the needs of the Washington County School System’s kitchens? And what action is being taken to combat those needs?

The tools to do the work

No matter if the power goes out or the freezer temperature start to rise in Lamar’s kitchen, Mauk and her staff can still anticipate a group of kindergarten-through-eighth graders lined up in the cafeteria as the sun comes up.

Pictured above is the equipment in Lamar Elementary’s kitchen.

“We figure it out,” Mauk said, standing in the cafeteria kitchen after the last group of students have cleared out of the cafeteria. “You have to come up with ways to figure things out. Whether we’re ready or not, at 7:45 they’re going to be here to eat breakfast. And at 10:45 they’re going to start back for lunch. So it just depends on the day, what you’re cooking and just the challenge of making sure that you have everything done in a timely manner.”

Mauk said she and her staff have been pretty lucky with the equipment at Lamar, but that currently, the dishwasher hasn’t been holding temperature, which will mean the school system’s maintenance department will have to pay a visit to try to repair the machine.

Each of Washington County’s schools comes with its own set of struggles, but for some schools, some struggles will remain until money can be put towards equipment replacements. And that’s what makes equipment the top struggle for the school system’s kitchens, Flanary explained.

“At Boone we have some original equipment (still being used) and that school opened in ’71,” Flanary said. “Some of it is sitting there and hasn’t been used in years because it’s broken. Phillip Patrick, our maintenance supervisor, will have a man take a part somewhere and they’ll say, ‘What is this? Is it an antique? This doesn’t exist anymore. We can’t get this.’”

So why aren’t these outdated pieces of equipment replaced? Flanary said it’s because many of those items aren’t as costly as the school system’s other capital improvement needs.

“The items that food service needs are not so costly that we would go to the county commission and ask for capital improvement money,” Flanary said.”They are $2,000 and $3,000 items where we need a $300,000 roof somewhere. We’re not going to go ask for an oven that costs $3,000.”

Meanwhile, Washington County Schools Food Service Director Caitlin Shew feels that having an equipment replacement schedule could help with aging equipment.

“Just like with the buses, you’ve got to have plans in place to replace (equipment) pretty often and that is the same with school lunch equipment,” Shew said. “We don’t have (requirements from the state on when equipment has to be replaced). That is something I think needs to be implemented.”

Others feel it’s a sign that times have changed.

In the school board’s Jan. 24 called meeting to discuss 2018’s audit, Phillip McLain said he felt there’s been a change in the amount of revenue the school system’s food service department has earned in recent years.

“Years ago food service bought all their own vehicles to transport food in. They had tons of money back in those days. But with all the things we went through the last few years, it just ate up all the profit that was there,” McLain said. “I think it’s just increased food costs (that have taken a toll on food service revenue). We always hate to increase costs to the students so a lot of times we just sort of absorbed it and it got out of balance, which is why we spent some money to get some of this equipment here recently.”

In November, the board voted to take almost $80,000 in fund balance reserve dollars to put towards food service equipment needs. At that meeting, Shew came before the Washington County Board of Education with a lengthy list of needs. Shew’s list came in at $152,979.62 (her second option list came in at $158,038.88) and included items such as three ovens, a heated pass-thru cabinet, an ice machine, a reach-in refrigerator, a reach-in freezer, and multiple hot wells among other food service items.

“When the money was there for these types of replacements, the need wasn’t there,” Shew explained. “And then food costs went up, the prices of the school lunches increased, labor was still high — all those factors kept expenses high and revenue not being high enough dwindled that excess money that could have been used to make those purchases. And when we needed to replace equipment, the money wasn’t there. So it was just that evolution.”

The story of aging school facilities in the Washington County School System has also played into the operations of the schools’ food service.

The impact

While the cafeteria at Boones Creek Elementary and Middle won’t replace some of its older equipment due to the new Boones Creek K-8 school that is scheduled to open in August of 2019, the same can’t be said for Jonesborough Elementary and Jonesborough Middle schools.

When asked what the main concern was for the entire food service department, Shew and Flanary both agreed it would be the need for a freezer at Jonesborough Middle School.

Currently, the Jonesborough Middle School freezer is not operating, thus, the school is storing its food in the central freezer located near the bus garage in Jonesborough. However, that freezer is outdated, Flanary said, and has its own set of problems.

“It leaks cold air, it’s inefficient and it’s time to do something with it,” Flanary said. “These freezers and refrigerators don’t last forever, as much as we’d like them to. They get old and worn out, they’re inefficient and they’re wasting energy.”

Shew said she felt the freezer is the most crucial need for Washington County’s food service due to the amount of money that goes into the food being held in such freezers.

“A freezer holding a couple thousand dollars worth of food to me is a lot bigger than a hot well not working in a service line,” Shew said. “That (freezer) is housing everything, all your money. Until that food goes into a student’s belly, that’s money. It’s very important to keep it at the right temperature.”

The decreased storage space also serves as a hold back when it comes to food shipment orders. When the county school system needs more of an item, such as chicken, Shew explained, it typically comes in a pallet shipment from a food source like Sysco in Knoxville. That requires the school system to have storage space available for those large shipments. Flanary said, for now, the system is making due until they can house all its food locally.

“It’s a little known fact that we actually rent freezer space in Knoxville,” Flanary said. “We don’t have enough capacity here locally. When we need a large shipment of something, (Sysco will) pallet it up and bring truck loads of it up. But we’d like to get away from that. We’d like to not have our food stored 100 miles from here. We’d like to have it here handy. So that’s a big challenge — storage.”

While it wouldn’t be cost effective to put a new freezer at Jonesborough Middle School should the building not be utilized for a yet-to-be-approved Jonesborough K-8 school project, the school system still needs a new freezer. To combat that problem, Flanary is hoping to see two freezers placed at the upcoming Boones Creek School.

“There are some big purchases (that have to be made at the new school), I think crushed rock for a roadbed out there is one of them. They don’t know how much that will entail so (the architect) won’t commit the funding for that yet, but we’re hoping that we’ll have about $150,000 to put a central freezer there. It’ll handle every school in the school system.”

While the school system awaits recently purchased items such as a heated pass-thru cabinet and conventional ovens, they’re also waiting for an answer on where to place those two new freezers. In the meantime, Shew said the schools’ food service is not focusing on the needs of the school system and instead is remaining dedicated to serving Washington County students — with or without improved equipment.

“I like to say you can help us make this thing better and help make things easier for our staff,” Shew said, “but every day these women are going to get out of their beds, they’re going to come to that school and they’re going to serve kids whether you help us with that freezer or not. We’re going to make sure kids are fed. I don’t want people to lose sight of that.

“Our focus is not the equipment. Our focus is not any of that stuff. Whether we’re getting up and making them peanut butter jellies or ham and cheeses, we’re going to make sure they’re fed and that they know they care about them.”

For local kitchen managers such as Mauk at Lamar and Brenda Cicirello at Boones Creek Elementary, no matter what surprises, malfunctions or issues arise, they’re going to be in a Washington County kitchen looking for an opportunity to make a difference in a student’s day.

“I just love my job. I love what I do,” Cicirello said. “I can’t imagine not being able to do what I do. If I had to go back to the floor, I’d go back because I can do what I love to do on the floor. I would. I try because we can make a difference here. We really can.”

Footing the bill: BOE incurs debt to keep lunches served

How unpaid lunches are covered is a concern for the school board. Pictured, Boones Creek kitchen staff member Marilyn Odom assists two students in their lunch purchases.

Editor’s Note: The Herald & Tribune will publish a three-part series on school lunch.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

We know there was a time when the food prepared in Washington County’s kitchens was made from scratch. Long before that, it was up to parents and the community to gather and donate food from local gardens for a noon-time meal for rural area school kids. Nowadays, that’s not the case.

Food restrictions and requirements have definitely changed school lunches and the role of the lunch lady. But where does that food come from? How is it paid for? And how do schools navigate a student’s financial holdbacks when it comes to school lunches?

Getting the goods

At the start of each school year, the federal government gives an amount of funds called commodity money to the state’s school systems. Those funds are based on the number of students recorded from the school year prior. From there, the food choices are made.

Washington County’s Food Service Director Caitlin Shew explained that the school system then chooses to purchase items such as Tyson chicken or Land O’ Lakes cheese. They can also choose to have food processed and sent to the county school system, which is something she said the district has done frequently in the past.

Shew explained that the school can order an item such as chicken nuggets to be made by Sysco and have it housed in a freezer in Knoxville. But rather than stick to mostly processed foods, this year the school system changed it up a bit.

Washington County opted to put more of their commodity money into The United States Department of Agriculture Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which allows school systems to purchase fresh produce grown in the U.S.

“We put a large amount of money in (the program) to offer our students more fresh fruits and vegetables,” Shew said. “We rolled out salad bars this year, we’ve had strawberries, we’ve had watermelon, we’ve had cantaloupe — we’ve just really upped our game with our fresh fruits and vegetables. We really value that program.”

Shew added that the school system also uses Rhinehart Food Service in Johnson City and a co-op called SAM’S CO-OP (Southern Appalachian Mountain Food Co-Operative), which is based out of Virginia and is comprised of 15-16 food service groups from Tennessee and Virginia. Shew said the group joined forces to “gain buying power” and place orders for everything from paper products to food products.

Purchasing the food isn’t the only financial concern for the school system’s food service; while most guests at any other place you might purchase food like a grocery store or a restaurant are expected to always have funds available, that’s not always the case in a school cafeteria. So what happens when a student can’t afford a lunch?

So who’s paying?

Charging for school lunches isn’t a local issue. It’s one that has plagued school systems across the country.

While some school systems take away student trays when they aren’t able to pay and some substitute a hot lunch for a cold lunch (which would include food such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich), Washington County takes a different approach.

The Washington County Board of Education’s policy on charging meals states that in the event a student does not have adequate funds, the student is allowed to charge the meal. Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said the nine-member school board has made it clear they want to make sure all county students are offered food during the school day.

“There’s been an emphasis from the board on if a kid is hungry, we’re going to feed them,” Flanary said. “Somehow or someway, we’re going to find something for a child to eat if they’re hungry. A hungry child is just not going to learn. It’s just scholastically unsound for us to let a child be hungry. If there’s anything we can do about it, we do something.”

The government offers its free and reduced meal program for families that meet the criteria according to their annual income. Shew said that part of the struggle for food service each year is getting families to sign up for the program, which could help pay for student meals.

“If they’re come through the line every day without money for lunch, they need to be in those programs,” Shew said. “That needs to be paid by the federal government if those kids qualify for that.

“What I think is happening in a small amount of cases is that parents don’t want to either be labeled in that manner or don’t want to take the time to fill it out, whatever is the reason. Then the board of education is pulling from their pocket to pay when that money, in my opinion, should be going to better their education.”

For now, the board won’t have to cover any huge costs. Though the school lunch debt can accumulate into the thousands, a donation last month covered Washington County’s debt, which was almost $11,000.

“Right now we’re not in the red. We had a donation of $1,000 (two weeks ago) from a church here in Jonesborough that just said, ‘Take care of these kids. We don’t want anyone hungry.’ It really pulls at the heartstrings to know that people out there care whether or not children have something to eat.”

While the board’s policy also says the director has the power to turn lunch debt over to collections. Flanary said he’s yet to have to do so, but he’s hoping the benevolence of the community allows him to refrain from doing so.

But there are times that neither a student, the board, or generous community members foot the bill; here and there, that comes from lunch ladies who are also ready to help a kid out on any given day.

“Our ladies usually keep money in their pockets,” said Brenda Cicirello. kitchen manager at Boones Creek Elementary and a “lunch lady” for 11 years now. “That’s just something that we do. If that child got their food and they’re still hungry and they’re a free child and they don’t keep money in there, we will be more than happy to get that child something else to eat out of our own pockets. We know the kids (that do that) because it’s usually the same ones every day. They’re just hungry. They’re just hungry.With fourth graders, you know, they’re growing. And some of them don’t get what they need at home.”

Look for part three of the school lunch series in next week’s Herald & Tribune.

The challenge: Lunch ladies tackle school menu

Brenda Cicirello continues to ensure good lunches for the students she serves. Cicirello has been working in school food services for 11 years.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

You might not know their names, but you definitely remember their faces — just as they remember yours.

In any school system, those same friendly faces known as lunch ladies — serving up lunches in school cafeterias throughout your childhood — become somewhat of a fixture. But the lunch lady has changed in recent years — as has the whole of school cafeterias and the food it provides.

In an effort to take a closer look at the story of today’s school lunch in Washington County, the Herald & Tribune turned to school officials and local food service professionals. How do the schools get their food? What is the perspective of today’s “lunch lady”? What are the school system’s challenges in this changed area of the educational system?

And what better place to start a story than those who have dedicated their lives’ work to the county’s foods, kitchens and kids — the local lunch lady.

The changes

For 11 years, Brenda Cicirello has served Washington County students as they filed into lines for lunch.

Boones Creek “lunch ladies” get ready for another day. Pictured are Brenda Cicirello, Tim Trick, Marilyn Odom, Martha Wallace, Felicia Greer, Penny Fowler, and Karen Jennings.

From her days behind the deep fryer at David Crockett High School to her current role as the prep kitchen manager at Boones Creek Elementary School, Cicirello has seen the school cafeteria’s metamorphosis throughout recent years. The one thing that hasn’t changed for her, however, is the joy she’s filled with as her cafeteria grows with chatter, laughter and hungry students.

“This is the best part of my day,” Cicirello said as a line of anxious students formed behind her. “There is no greater joy than to be able to feed a child (when) that child is hungry and you get to be an inspiration to that child. He can start his day off and no matter what has come around that day, you can make a difference in a child.”

But the the 3,459 lunches served in the Washington County system have changed. And those changes all started at the top when the American school lunch system saw a shift in food restrictions.

Under the Obama Administration, the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed. The school lunch regulations gave the United Stated Department of Agriculture the authority to set new standards for food sold in schools (including that found in vending machines). The new regulations included emphasis on whole-grains (products had to be at least 50 percent whole-grain); a minimum of fruits and vegetable servings; restrictions on sodium, sugar, and fat content in food; and limitations requiring nonfat flavored milk or 1 percent white milk.

In Cicirello’s time in Washington County’s school cafeterias, she said those restrictions warranted the biggest change she has yet to see in the school system’s food operations — a decrease in the amount of kids still eating school lunches.

“I think it was about seven or eight years ago that we went to the whole-grain switch,” Cicirello recalled. “We saw a tremendous decline in our participation. We were getting prepared for this and we knew that our numbers would decline. Everyone said, ‘Give it a couple of years. The kids will come back.’ But it was a big decline and they still just haven’t come back.”

As America tried to lessen obesity rates through new school lunch regulations, Washington County has since had to change its ways as well.

Anyone who grew up in the Washington County School system long before 2010’s changes might recall the days of meals made from scratch by a lunch lady with a knack for producing home-cooked dishes and what Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said many considered a fond memory — the days when two lunch ladies were tasked with only making desserts each day for county students. But now, restrictions make preparing food a bit more tedious.

“I think they’re trying to get back to where we prepare a lot of things from recipes,” Flanary said. “It’s not just a dash of this and a cup of that. When they do prepare something from a recipe, they have to weigh everything (due to the restrictions).

“It’s a constant challenge to put something in front of kids that’s both healthy and palatable. No one wants to see a kid hungry because they just don’t see anything they like to eat. We can’t put fried pies in front of them though.”

Down to a science

Though Flanary said the school’s food service staff is working to get back to recipes, figuring what food makes its way to students in local cafeterias is more of a science than ever before.

One young student takes a closer look at the offerings. Providing nutritious meals that children will eat is the constant challenge for school lunch personnel.

School food services have to offer certain amounts of meats/meat alternatives, grains, fruits, vegetables and fluid milk and those amounts vary according to a student’s grade level. While grades K-5 and 6-8 must be offered 2 1/2 cups of fruit a week, grades 9-12 must have a minimum of 5 cups offered a week.

Not only are they required to provide certain amounts of each of those five groups, but schools have to offer specific vegetables in different subcategories. These include weekly offerings of dark green vegetables (such as broccoli, collard greens and kale), red/orange vegetables (like sweet potatoes, acorn squash, and carrots), starchy vegetables (such as potatoes, or green peas), legumes (such as black beans or black-eyes peas), and other vegetables (such as artichokes, asparagus or celery).

Washington County’s Food Service Director Caitlin Shew said choosing what goes on school lunch trays in the county requires a weighing of numerous factors including funds and what students want on their trays.

“You can’t just throw out any vegetables that you want,” Shew said. “You have to meet these minimums. With the federal reimbursement rates and the participation and all those kinds of factors that play into the funds that we actually get, you might choose carrots over a red pepper because of the financials. Carrots are typically a cheaper vegetable to purchase.

“When we’re looking at these things we’re also looking not to just provide the minimums regarding these, but what’s going to give us the most bang for our buck and what do the kids want.”

With so much attention on meeting dietary minimums, affordability and keeping kids wanting what is offered to them in the cafeteria, lunch ladies are required to pay more attention than ever before.

“People just don’t know. They just think you’re putting out some food. They don’t realize how much work went into that one meal,” said Shew, who served as a lunch lady earlier in her career. “I think lunch ladies get this stigma that they’re just putting food on trays and they don’t care.

“Those women out in those schools care so much about those kids. They’re the first people there in the morning. They’ve got a deep relationship with these kids. They’re just the best people. I want people to know that they’re doing their best. They’re caring for these kids.”

Look for part two of the school lunch series in next week’s Herald & Tribune.

Local eco-activist prepares for next chapter

Frances Lamberts’ vision and commitment are credited with creating Jonesborough Ardinna Woods Arboretum.

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

Seated at a desk at the Ardinna Arboretum in Jonesborough, Frances Lamberts, for many years a columnist at the Herald & Tribune, quoted the Roman philosopher Cicero: “Sic hortum et bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit.”

That means, she explained, “if you have a garden and library, nothing will be wanting for happiness and satisfaction.”

Despite plans to return to her native Germany, Lamberts continues to work on her beloved local green spaces.

Lamberts recalled this same phrase being used in 955 A.D. by the German emperor Otto the Great. After decades of strife, war and suffering by the people of Saxony and the east Germanic tribes, Otto had felt that his subjects would see the philosopher’s wisdom, demand peace and be happy, if given the essential goods of gardens and books.

He made good on this notion, bringing monks from the western part of the empire to make transcriptions toward “libraries,” teach horticultural skills and develop gardens and farmland around the city of Magdeburg, his residential capitol.

One might well see gardens and books as a motif in Lamberts’ life. She spoke somewhat wistfully about all of  this, as she looks toward her planned retirement and return to Germany later this year.

Lamberts grew up in a village in the Eifel, close to Germany’s border with Belgium, where the forested landscape and deeply eroded mountains and river valleys supported many small farming communities.  She recalls the self-sufficiency of her parents’ farm, as well as memories of the war’s danger and oppressive atmosphere at the end of World War II. 

For example, seeing the city of Cologne burning again during an Allied bombing raid, Lamberts remembers her father urging the family not to talk about the sighting.  Merely expressing what was deemed a “defeatist” attitude toward the war for the “fatherland” was known as sufficient reason to get one executed by the Nazi government.

Her mother kept three gardens close to the home.  Fields and pastures grew grains and other crops the family and its many animals lived on. What was not needed at the farm was sold.  A mill on the village creek ground their flour.

All the children – Lamberts had seven siblings – helped on the farm, clearing weeds and rocks from the fields, spreading molehills in the meadows before spring mowing, guarding the cattle, stacking hay in the summer and foddering the animals.  This work and the parents’ example gave Lamberts a lasting awareness of gardens’ and nature’s sustaining gifts and ever-renewed beauty.

During the winter months her father worked for the regional forest service. With his horse team, he pulled the logs of trees, individually marked by the forester and cut and trimmed by local forest workers, out of the forest.

Lamberts came to Washington, D.C. in 1962 with a wish, she said, to “spend some time in an English-speaking country.” A nearly nine-year stint of secretarial and abstracting work there, for a bibliography being developed at the Center for Applied Linguistics, saw her attend night school at the University of Maryland, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  She vividly remembers seeing President John F. Kennedy, as well as her enjoyment of many of the city’s cultural events, museums and monuments and the National Arboretum.  She also became aware of the work of the League of Women Voters at that time.

In many ways, however, it was the lure of America’s wide-open landscape and great natural beauty, as seen in Shenandoah National Park nearby and the Blue Ridge Parkway, that caused her to seek and adopt U.S. citizenship.

Lamberts settled in Jonesborough in 1979 for teaching in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Human Development and Learning, following masters and doctoral studies in special education and educational psychology.  Receiving psychologist licensure for Tennessee after several years at ETSU, she worked and became the psychology director at the Greene Valley Developmental Center, until retirement in the late 1990s.

Small gardens had given Lamberts leisure enjoyment and fresh food during graduate study days (Penn State and Northern Illinois universities) but in Jonesborough, space for a much larger garden allowed many native trees and wild flowers to support a Monarch Waystation, as well as give all kinds of vegetables and work satisfaction.

She joined the League of Women Voters here, adopting its natural-resources portfolio as her area of responsibility and serving for 25 years. The League’s position on the management of air, water and other natural resources “is so common sense,” she said, reflective of most citizens’ desire that they be preserved for the children.  Its advocacy for citizen’s ability to participate in the government’s decisions about them inspired Lamberts’ long conservation-related public work.  It also made her accept an invitation by the Herald  & Tribune publisher, 15 years ago,  to write regularly on conservation issues – as she did in her “Eye on the Environment” column.

Soon after her retirement, Lamberts began the volunteer work toward Jonesborough’s Ardinna Woods Arboretum. With encouragement from Mayor Tobie Bledsoe and town officials, planning assistance from landscape designer Ken Soergel and continuous help from other volunteers, this task also was accomplished.  The roughly 3-acre space at the town’s Environmental Services site – badly infested with invasive weeds before – became certified as a TN native-plants arboretum in 2011, and again in 2016.  Containing more than 70 species of trees of the Southern Appalachian – Ohio Valley region, and numerous native shrubs, wild flowers and other plantings, it now serves as an attractive, new park for the Town.

For Frances Lamberts, gardening and care of nature, and a “library” containing favorite writers like Aldo

Leopold and Henry Thoreau, Wilma Dykman and Teddy Roosevelt, Wendell Berry, Rachel Carson and many others have been values in life that leave “nothing wanting,” just as the medieval emperor surmised. She hopes to continue them in her remaining years in Germany.

Boone Street store to reopen in February

The image above gives an idea of the future renovations. Note the “brick walls” illustrating where the expansion will be.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

Folks driving in downtown Jonesborough in the past week may have noticed some construction at the Boone Street Market.

The work underway is an expansion of the market to accommodate more local products as well as the addition of café seating to allow in-house meals to be served there.

The market as it looks right now, closed but getting ready for a grand reopening.

According to Jonesborough Locally Grown Executive Director Shelley Crowe, these additions will benefit local farmers and producers in the area.

“Our priority is to give (our farmers and producers) a place to sell and to promote those products, through events and through our kitchen,” Crowe said.

“That’s the main reason for our kitchen. To promote, to educate people on how to use those products and to be able to enjoy some meals based off the local products.”

Jonesborough Locally Grown is a non-profit organization that manages the Jonesborough Farmers Market and the Boones Street Market.

“Our mission,” Crowe added, “is to connect the farmers, food and the community using the Farmers Market, and the Boones Street Market, which is really considered to be a farmers market, a year-round market where local farmers and producers can sell.”

Final plans for the expansion were brought before the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman during the November meeting.

At that time, Alderman Adam Dickson commented, “Mayor, I do want to say that it’s real exciting on a Saturday to drive through downtown Jonesborough and just to see the bustling activity there on the corner (at Boones Street Market). It’s become a hub, a hub of activity, really good to see. So I’m grateful that we have a relationship with Jonesborough Locally Grown.”

The other members of the BMA agreed, and approval of the plans was given, setting the project in motion.

Half of the funding necessary for the expansion came from a $50,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture while the other half came from private donations.

“We have been very pleased with the support from donors, our members and the community helping to make up the difference,” Crowe said. “So between the TDA and private donations we’ll be able to cover the cost of the expansion.”

Plans for the expansion call for a 10-foot addition to the front of the existing building towards Boone Street. Crowe said the addition will add 30 percent more floor space and that, once finished, the storefront should look similar to the existing front.

“The whole project is estimated to be about four to six weeks, depending on the weather, which would put us into early to mid February when we should be back open.”

Once the construction is completed, more local products and new services will be available.

“(We will) provide more products, display and sale space. We’ll have more prepared meals, in addition to our to-go meals that we’ve done in the past. We won’t be what you think of as a traditional restaurant, but yes, we’ll have some seating so people can come in and have a sandwich or some soup or a daily special and eat there at the store.

“We do have special events with the store, we do fundraisers as special events, but we’ll also have special meals, dinners or special things there at the store.”

Crowe added that some topics were still in discussion and have yet to be finalized.

The store opening times would remain the same Monday through Saturday, but business hours for the dining side had yet to be decided.

And while the store had beer available for retail purchase, the market does not have a license to allow on-premise beer consumption. Crowe said that would need to be worked out.

Although all the details haven’t been decided, Crowe said she believes the expansion of the market will help them in their goal.

“Making sure that we are a source, a place for farmers and local producers to connect to those consumers who want to buy from and support local farms. That’s the most important reason why we’re doing all this. The expansion is also to help the market be sustainable, too. We are a non-profit but we definitely want to make a profit and be sustainable so we can be there for our farmers.”

History is hiding right in front of us

The Sesquicentennial Fountain in downtown Jonesborough was originally located right in front of the courthouse. The monument is inscribed with significant dates in the history of Washington County and the town of Jonesborough.

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

On the far wall of the History Museum at the Jonesborough Visitors Center a large informational placard reads, “COURTHOUSE SQUARE MONUMENTS.”  The information is situated behind a large World War I mortar, the subject of one of the three monument descriptions.

An introduction to the display includes a poster stating, “FIGHT OR BUY BONDS THIRD LIBERTY LOAN.” A Liberty bond (or liberty loan) was a war bond that was sold in the United States to support the allied cause in World War I. Subscribing to the bonds became a symbol of patriotic duty and introduced the idea of financial securities to many citizens for the first time. The Act of Congress which authorized the Liberty Bonds is still used today as the authority under which all U. S. Treasury bonds are issued.  The Third Liberty Loan mentioned in the poster was issued April 5, 1918 and offered citizens the opportunity to purchase a portion of $4.1 billion in bonds at 4.15 percent.

A paragraph under the words “COURTHOUSE SQUARE MONUMENTS” reads, “Jonesborough is recognized as the Oldest Town in the State of Tennessee. As part of that heritage, monuments have been erected through the years to honor the town and Washington County’s past.  Today there are two different monuments on Courthouse square, the Sesquicentennial Fountain and the Boone Trail Highway Marker.  These monuments were both placed as part of the 150th Anniversary Celebration of the town on July 4th, 1930.  Thousands of people from over 25 states, including many descendants of early town leaders, reportedly attended the festivities which involved the unveiling of two monuments, speakers, songs, and a parade complete with a birthday cake.”

THE SESQUICENTENNIAL FOUNTAIN

The first monument to be described at the History Museum is the fountain where many residents and visitors have taken a drink on a hot summer day.  The description states: “The Sesquicentennial Fountain was originally located in front of the courthouse.  Constructed of five separate pieces of Crab Orchard, TN Marble, the monument is inscribed with significant dates in the history of Washington County and the town of Jonesborough.  It was gifted by the State of Tennessee and Washington County and received by former Tennessee Governor Alf Taylor during the opening ceremony of the day.  The fountain not only marked the history of the town, but also its progress as the public water system had just been completed the preceding year.  This is why the celebration was held in 1930 instead of 1929, the actual 150th anniversary.  When Courthouse Square was redesigned in 2013, the fountain was moved to the west side of the building to open up the front step area for special events.”

THE BOONE TRAIL HIGHWAY MARKER

The next monument appears as an arrowhead, with this explanation: “The Boone Trail Highway Marker was presented to the town by J. Hampton Rich of NC after the parade and followed by a torchlight processional and Daniel Boone memorial service.  This marker is one of many placed from 1913 to 1938 by Rich to ‘promote highway improvement, pioneer lore appreciation, patriotism, and education.’  The metal tablets in the markers were produced with metal salvaged from the USS Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana Harbor, Cuba in 1898, just prior to the start of the Spanish-American War.  Jonesborough’s marker was constructed locally of cement and includes several Native American stone tools.  It also once held an image of the Boone Tree near Boone’s Creek where Daniel Boone reportedly carved ‘D Boon cilled a bar on tree in the year 1760.’”

THE NEWTON 6-INCH MORTAR

The presence of the mortar in front of the History Museum placard is detailed as follows: “In addition to other markers, the Newton 6-inch Mortar once sat on Courthouse Square as a monument to Washington County’s involvement in World War I.  6-inch mortars came into use at the end of the war to replace the 2-inch Medium Mortar commonly used in trench warfare.  This particular example was manufactured by Hadfields of Sheffield, England, sometime during 1917. It was transported to the United States, but records as to how and when it ended up in Jonesborough have yet to be located.  The mortar was removed and given to the Museum by the Town of Jonesborough as part of the 2013 Courthouse Square Renovations.  This mortar, mounted on its original base, is only one of a few 6 inch Mortars still in existence worldwide.”

HISTORIC JONESBOROUGH, TENNESSEE

The most photographed artifact previously located in Courthouse Square is not mentioned in the History Museum’s COURTHOUSE SQUARE MONUMENTS.  However, it sits just outside the Visitors Center in front of the parking lot nearest the Washington County / Jonesborough Library. The artifact made of wood is a pillory.  Its use is mentioned in Miriam Fink Dulaney’s “History of Jonesborough.”  A dictionary definition provides: “A wooden framework on a post, with holes for the head and hands, in which offenders were formerly locked or exposed to public scorn as punishment.” Now, with the legend “HISTORIC JONESBOROUGH, TENNESSEE” written on the wooden frame, the town’s pillory is the occasion for a souvenir photograph visitors can show the “folks back home” when they talk about their vacation in Tennessee.

Farewell Mayor: Town gathers to say goodbye

Tobie Bledsoe

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Family, friends, neighbors and colleagues gathered Monday at the Jonesborough Senior Center to say farewell to former alderman and town mayor, Tobie Bledsoe.

Jimmy Neil Smith shares memories of Tobie Bledsoe (inset photo) to the crowd that gathered at the Jonesborough Senior Center for memorial.

“The town today is due in part to all the work Tobie had done since 1978,” said International Storytelling Center founder, Jimmy Neil Smith, who served as mayor when Bledsoe first became an alderman. “Everybody has benefitted. The town is a better place to live, to work and to raise your family (because of Tobie.)”

A surgical nurse at Northside for more than 25 years, Tobie, her husband Baxter (who passed away in 2017) and their four children moved to Jonesborough in 1974 — and the town was never the same.

According to Bob Browning, town administrator for Bledsoe as well as long-time friend, her love for people was one of her greatest strengths.

“She connected with people so easily,” he said, citing the number of times she would motion to him saying, “Come here, Bobby. I want you to meet my new best friend.”

“She was just an amazing person,” he said.

Bledsoe’s warmth and welcome were ever present, Alderman Terry Countermine agreed.

“She and I started at the same time,” Countermine said. “She became mayor my first year as alderman. We were big buddies. We always kidded that she was my favorite mayor and I was her favorite alderman.”

“In terms of relationships, she was so good because she didn’t have any pretenses,” Countermine continued. “She just was who she was.

She was welcoming. And she was good listener. She made like what you were saying was important. She may not agree, but she listened. And that is very important for a leader.”

Yet there was more than warmth in Bledsoe’s reign in public office, according to Browning. There was also grit.

“She was always heartfelt,” he said. “But she could also be fierce when the situation called for it.

“She loved the town and she loved public service,” Browning continued. “And I think it’s important for people to know what kind of impact she had from the very beginning.”

Her contributions were many, he said, not the least of which was the Jonesborough Senior Center that now bears her name. Long before the new center’s walls began to go up, Bledsoe had been advocating for and working toward such a center to benefit the town’s older citizens.

Bledsoe is also credited for roles in everything from the building of a new town hall and the visitors center, the development of Persimmon Ridge Park and Mill Spring Park, inroads into town flood prevention and the redevelopment of the town’s infrastructure.

Former town alderman Jimmy Rhein recalled the days that he served on the board along with fellow aldermen Countermine, Jerome Fitzgerald and Homer G’fellers.

“Homer and I were the bookends (at each side of the board seating) because we were both bald,” Rhein shared with a chuckle. “Homer always said that.”

He also remembers Bledsoe being one reason he joined the board.

“She was extremely good,” Rhein said. “I told her ‘I’m concerned about infrastructure.’  She said ‘I understand that. Why don’t you run? If you are so concerned about it, why don’t you just run?”

Rhein campaigned, and was elected.

“We had a common purpose,” he said. “We were making it all happen.”

The loss of husband Baxter in September of last year was difficult for Bledsoe. “She never got over the loss of Baxter,” Browning said. Ill health also kept this once gregarious mayor out of the spotlight over the past several years.

She never got to step inside the building that bears her name, Browning said, but he believes her legacy carries on. She was a brilliant nurse, a fearless mother, a loving friend and a determined advocate for a town she loved, Browning, friends, family and colleagues agreed. And she helped make Jonesborough what it is today, they said.

“She always had the town at heart in anything she did. And she stood firm,” echoed newly elected town alderman Virginia Causey, who worked in the town hall office while Bledsoe was mayor.

Smith summed it up this way:

“She gave all she could give,” he said. “She gave all she had to give.”

McKinney Center students show off their masterpieces

Caitie Morgan’s artwork was one piece on display at the show.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

The McKinney Center held a Student Art Show on Thursday, Dec. 6, to display the work produced by students attending art classes at the Center this semester.

From pottery to pen to paintings, the walls of the old Booker T. Washington school were covered with masterpiece upon masterpiece.

However, the most important accomplishment the arts program produced could not be found hanging on the wall, according to McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons.

“A lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to do those creative things at school. So we’re a place where, if you have a child that has an artistic flair or a passion for something specific, we might be able to fill that need for them.

“There are studies that prove that if you have a child in music, they’re going to do better in school. There are (studies) that have shown that kids with special needs or behavioral issues, when you get them into a creative outlet, those (issues) get better.”

The art show, a culmination of the lessons learned from the fall semester classes, rewarded the students by allowing them to have family and friends see their artwork neatly framed and hanging on the wall.

The genesis of the event began years ago with a teacher who worked in the building, at that time a school. Hammons said, “The whole idea behind the student show actually comes from the Booker T. Washington school. At the end of the year, in the spring, Mrs. Ethel Brown, who was a teacher here for many, many years, organized an end of the school year program.

“That was a time when, if you were a student here, maybe you read a poem on stage, or you did a dance or you sang. Some kind of talent. A lot of it was art-related. And it was a big deal.”

Hammons added that the popularity of the program led to families being bused from outlying areas to the school to watch their loved ones perform.

The director said that Mrs. Brown’s program was very influential to the current Student Art Show, along with the goal of having the program’s students experience the thrill of seeing their finished projects more as works of art in an exhibit.

“We wanted them to have that experience. So we thought (the art show) was the perfect thing. After every semester we honor that tradition of having an end of the year program.”

The end of the year show in the spring semester was named after Mrs. Brown, while the fall semester show is more holiday-themed.

In addition to paintings and pottery, a musical performance by the ukulele class at the McKinney Center added to the holiday spirit.

The class, taught by Terry Countermine, a Jonesborough alderman, plucked a few holiday classics for the attendees. The 12-week-long class contained students of all ages, the youngest being 4 years old.

Another student in the ukulele class was Caitie Morgan, who also volunteers at the center. A home-schooled ninth grader, Morgan also had artwork on display.

“I really feel like (the show) is to help get the students ready to do more. In this case it’s to show off what they’ve learned. But that means they can use it being put in the Student Art Show to eventually get their own gallery or something.”

Morgan felt that the evening was a success. “It went wonderful, I think. It’s a lot better that last year’s was. They always improve, it seems.”

While the center does have many younger students who use the classes as a creative outlet, Hammons said that many of the students are adults.

“We had a lot of adult students here that brought their families and friends and spouses to see the artwork they had done. And they really work hard.

“Half the students are 12th grade and under and half are out of school. Most of our adult students are retired. They’re from all walks of life. We have teachers. We have doctors. There is one who is a pediatric oncologist. We have farmers, you name it. They’re just looking for a creative outlet.”

But whether the students are 6 years old or 60, Hammons believes each one is valuable.

Or as she put it, “It’s worth celebrating and acknowledging all their hard work.”

Jonesborough School future remains in limbo

The “Scheme 6” design plan illustrates the road that would cross through the property currently owned by Joe McCoy.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The current situation for the Jonesborough K-8 School project and the option to purchase the property setting next to the current Jonesborough middle and elementary schools is a bit like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? And can one be decided without the other?

Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee doesn’t think so.

The HEW Committee held off on voting on the latest design plan “Scheme 6” for the Jonesborough School project at its Thursday, Nov. 29, meeting after tabling the decision at the committee’s last meeting on Nov. 1. The committee also unanimously approved the county attorney’s recommendation for a 90-day extension on the purchase option for the property setting adjacent to the two current Jonesborough schools.

“I’m the last one to want to slow this project down,” Commissioner and HEW Committee Chairman Danny Edens said at the meeting. “But what I’m being told is if we don’t do it this way, we’re putting the cart before the horse. We’re not going to accomplish much.”

The committee approved the extension on the property, which is currently owned by Joe McCoy, after the Washington County Attorney’s office recommended the extension. Staff Attorney Allyson Wilkinson told commissioners the attorney who reviewed the contract was concerned with restrictions set on the property. Those restrictions came from neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement, located beside the McCoy property. Wilkinson also said the property owner and Lowe’s will meet on Dec. 6 to discuss lifting those restrictions.

“The most concerning to (the attorney who reviewed the contract) was a limitation that allowed Lowe’s to review the architectural plans prior to construction and then as built,” Wilkinson said. “There was a concern that that would be a limitation on the use of the property.

Commissioner Jodi Jones asked if the design plan for the Jonesborough School project could even be approved without an answer on the McCoy property.

The design plan, which was chosen by the Washington County Board of Education on Oct. 2, includes renovations and additions to the current middle school building for a $17,560,000 total cost. The plan also includes a road that cuts through the property currently owned by McCoy. That road would bring buses to the school from Main Street rather than Jackson Boulevard.

However, Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley said McCoy has not been able to request that restrictions be released until he had a design plan.

“The restrictions do affect the building of the road. (McCoy) could not go and finalize getting the restrictions released until we had the plan. When (the director of schools) came to this committee with a proposed Scheme 6, (the county attorney paralegal) immediately sent that to Mr. McCoy so he could set up this meeting.”

Though the restrictions on the land are to be discussed this month, another question loomed in the courthouse conference room during the HEW meeting: How much money is available for the Jonesborough school project?

County finance director and current school board member Mitch Meredith reiterated that five pennies from the 2016 tax increase would support a $10 million project in Jonesborough. He added that the commission could consider borrowing and utilizing pennies in the capital projects fund to assist in funding the project.

“You have essentially 26 pennies that we’re utilizing for school capital projects,” Meredith said. “Those are the resources you have at your use in addition to choosing to borrow money.”

As part of the school board’s newly drafted capital improvement list of priorities, Director of Schools Bill Flanary asked on behalf of the board that the commission either consider Scheme 6 or allocate funds to re-roof the elementary and middle school buildings in Jonesborough.

“If Scheme 6 is fully funded, those two (re-roofing items are not necessary,” Flanary said. “If the money can’t be found, we need roofs.”

The meeting didn’t produce an answer for the future of the Jonesborough School project, but Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy proposed a question regarding funds for the school project.

“We can go over these numbers again if you want to, but the reality is it’s not different than it was a month or six weeks ago,” Grandy said. “It’s really not so much ‘is there a magic number for Jonesborough?’, it’s a matter of where the trade-offs are. What are you willing to sacrifice to do this much, or this much, or this much in Jonesborough?”

The committee discussed holding a called HEW meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19, following McCoy and Lowe’s Dec. 6 meeting. The called meeting has yet to be set on the county’s calendar as of press time, but commissioners said the called meeting would focus on the McCoy property status, Scheme 6 and funding options provided by Meredith.

The Dec. 19 meeting would be held at 5 p.m. in the first floor conference room of the Historic Courthouse at 5 p.m. To view the county’s calendar, go to http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/events.

Fall Branch School digs into history

Fall Branch Principal Mark Merriman, former principal Susan Kiernan, and students Alyssa Sears and Aidan Monette revealed the items buried in the time capsule in 1993 at Monday’s event at the school.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

In the summer of 1993, Bill Clinton was the president, Janet Jackson had a hit song on the radio, cell phones were nearly the size of your face and a time capsule was buried in the ground at Fall Branch Elementary School.

photo of Susan Kiernan, the principal at Fall Branch in 1993, was just one of the treasures uncovered.

And on Monday, Nov. 26 — 25 years later — that time capsule was uncovered.

“We had a great time pulling it all together,” recalled Susan Kiernan, the principal of Fall Branch in 1993. “But we had a better time looking at it this morning.”

The time capsule — opened by current Fall Branch Principal Mark Merriman, Kiernan and two Fall Branch students during Monday’s event at the school — contained items such as newspapers from 1993, a copy of the deed to the school, a laminated history of the school and Fall Branch community, picture albums and a video tape from 1993.

In addition to the items found in the 25-year-old capsule, the former principal read her remarks from 1993 to alumni, community members, and the current students of Fall Branch.

“Never give up on the dream of always having a school in our precious community,” Kiernan read. “May we all be alive in 25 years to witness the opening of this capsule by those who come after us. May they value our mission of quality education and may they have a tradition that carries on to another day. See you in 2018.”

For some, however, the capsule held more than just ‘90s memorabilia.

Alumni, students and community members gather around the time capsule items.

After the time capsule had been carefully unearthed and unpacked, alumni and community members were invited to look through the items and step back in time to relive history.

For former Fall Branch students, Kaylan Ferguson and Kensey Brown, the event served as a chance to look back on those memories and to go back to the place they once called home.

“We haven’t been back in town since we moved. We haven’t been in this area since then so we wanted to come back and visit the school and everything,” Ferguson said, standing in the school she once attended. “It’s just awesome to come back and have all these memories come flooding in. The community hasn’t changed. There are a few things that have changed, but it’s almost all the same. It makes you feel like home I guess.”

Now, history will continue on.

Fall Branch will now replace the 1993 time capsule with a 2018 one, filled with newspapers, Pokemon cards, Fall Branch memorabilia, a jump drive downloaded with pictures, school event programs, the student newspaper and a 2018 yearbook.

But the time capsules provide more than just an exciting event, Merriman said. He also said he felt the time capsules are a great way to preserve history and create an interest in the past and future.

“It’s important because it creates a flashback on what it looked like 25 years ago,” Merriman said. “It also creates a conversation for students and they’re going to get a chance to look at things like a VHS tape or the deed to the school or the newspapers back then.

“They’re also going to get to put their own stuff into the time capsule to really show what we’re about now in 2018. So it’s a really cool moment to try to look in the past but also look to the future when these guys are hopefully here in 2043.”

Though it will be another 25 years before the newest time capsule is dug up in Fall Branch, there could be another time capsule unveiling in at the school before then, as multiple alumni said they remembered another time capsule being buried on the school’s campus.

“I remember us (burying a time capsule) later on,” Ferguson said. “There’s another one they buried, but I think it was like in 1999. I remember it more vividly than this one. So they’ll do that one again in about five years.”

For now, Kiernan’s advice to the newest generation of time capsule students focused on making the years count rather than counting the years, which she said have a tendency to fly by.

“I am amazed at how quickly 25 years passed,” Kiernan said after the time capsule had been presented. “Some of my best memories were in this school building first as a student, but during the rest of my school years here at Fall Branch … I have great memories of Fall Branch.

“Twenty five years passes very quickly. Enjoy every minute of every day of every week of every year. Don’t let it slip by you.”

Pioneers historic season ends in Knoxville

 

David Crockett’s Ronquille Joyner runs for a first down in the first half. (Photo by the Johnson City Press)

By TREY WILLIAMS

H&T Correspondent

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

KNOXVILLE – The David Crockett football program’s most successful season in its 48-year history came to an end against a red-hot opponent in below-freezing temperatures Friday at Knox Central.

Crockett’s unprecedented 12-0 record under first-year coach Hayden Chandley finally absorbed a blemish as the Bobcats clinched their third straight 5A semifinal appearance with a hard-fought 23-12 victory.

The underdog Pioneers made it a 48-minute battle. Junior quarterback Cade Larkins’ 10-yard touchdown pass to senior Micah Robinson cut Central’s lead to 14-12 with 1:53 left in the third quarter. But a draw play to Prince Kollie for the ensuing two-point conversion failed, and Central responded two minutes later with a 32-yard TD pass from Dakota Fawver to Demetrien Johnson.

Bobcats fans finally exhaled when Jarred Swislosky made a 21-yard field goal with 4:28 remaining to make it a two-score lead and conclude the game’s scoring.

“Up until they kicked the field goal – I think with about four or five minutes to go – that game was anybody’s game,” Chandley said. “I’m just so proud of our kids and the way that they battled all season long and never giving up. It’s hard now for them to realize it, but this doesn’t define our entire season.

“We’ve done so much for the community and our East Tennessee area. This little blemish isn’t gonna take that away. What we were able to accomplish this year is just second to none and it’s something that these kids and this community will never forget. I just love our kids to death and I hate it for them, because they fought, man, they played hard. But the breaks just didn’t go our way.”

Larkins, a Mr. Football finalist, passed for 251 yards and two TDs. But the speedy ‘Cats grabbed four interceptions against Larkins thanks, in part, to the Pioneers’ lack of a threat with the ground game.

The Pioneers finished with minus four yards rushing for the game.

“Speed kills,” Chandley said. “And we’ve got some speed, but man, they’ve got it everywhere. … It was definitely the best (defense) we’ve faced. In the back end they’ve got speed like we hadn’t seen all year.”

Fawver and Johnson connected for a 30-yard TD on the game’s opening drive. The Pioneers answered when Kollie caught a 19-yard TD pass from Larkins on a fourth-and-nine with 4:54 remaining in the first quarter.

Larkins ended the season 222-of-376 passing for 3,979 yards 42 TDs and a 11 interceptions. Fellow junior Donta Hackler had four catches for 89 yards and a 38-yard kickoff return. Hackler, a junior, finished the season with a team-high 71 receptions for 1,294 yards and 15 TDs.

Robinson finished the season with 56 catches for team-highs in yards (1,337) and touchdown catches (16).

“They’re extremely athletic,” Central coach Bryson Rosser said. “They can find the holes in the zone. If you play zone against ‘em the quarterback can throw it in the right hole. He makes the right reads. … He’s a Mr. Football finalist.

“And it’s hard to defend the pass every single time. They’ve got some playmakers out there.”

The Pioneers held Central’s offense to 295 yards thanks to the likes of senior linebackers Mark Seidler and John Kollie.

“We anticipated this type game,” Rosser said. “We thought it’d be back and forth. We knew they had a good offense and we have one, too. But both coaches have done a really good job scheming against one another.”

Crockett was held to 246 yards of offense.

“Coach Rosser is one of the most underrated coaches in the state,” Chandley said.

John Kollie finished the season with 42 receptions for 605 yards and five TDs. He also had 113 tackles, which was second on the team despite missing a game. Seidler led the Pioneers with 131 tackles.

Adrian Boles and fellow senior Nathaniel McClanahan led the team with four sacks apiece.

The 25-year-old Chandley spoke with pride and compassion while discussing a senior class that helped generate a historic season despite playing for its third head coach in as many seasons.

“When you talk about Mark (Seidler), Micah, John (Kollie), Adrian (Boles), Doc (Coffey) – we lost J.R. (Giles) earlier in the season – I’ve never been around a group of seniors that were able to carry us like they were, just bringing it every single day,” Chandley said. “They’ve set a standard now. The old Crockett standard was play 10 games and go on to basketball season. That’s not the case anymore. Our goal was to have to practice on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there, but they set a standard that’s gonna be carried from now on out.

“We believed the whole week. And until late in the game it was a one-score game. … We had a great season and we’re not gonna let this affect us. We’re gonna hold our heads high.”

Schools to begin testing for lead in water fountains

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County School System is about to become much more familiar with the water quality found in 220 of its water fountains.

Due to a new state mandate that requires all Tennessee school districts to test for lead in drinking fountains, the Washington County Board of Education unanimously agreed to enlist Wingfield Environmental to perform the tests for an estimate of $9,000 total.

“We want to be in compliance,” School board member and facilities committee chairman Todd Ganger told the Herald & Tribune. “We want no lead in our drinking water, of course. That’s the sole purpose of it, to make sure the drinking water is safe for the kids.”

The state requires that every school built before 1998 be tested within the next two years. Therefore, Washington County schools like Sulphur Springs Elementary, West View Elementary and Fall Branch — which are among some of the district’s oldest buildings — will be tested.

The only schools excluded from that list are the county’s newest schools, Grandview Elementary and Ridgeview Elementary.

The state mandate also says that should a school find 20 parts per billion or more of lead in any fountain’s water, the school system must notify the commissioner of environment and conservation, the commissioner of health, the local department of health, the local governing body and the department of education within 24 hours. Parents and guardians of the students enrolled at the affected school must also be notified within five days of the test result.

“Of course, if we have some concerned parents and folks out there it will sure set their minds at ease,” the school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said about the upcoming tests. “Do I think we’re going to find some lead in some of our water? I don’t think so. But that’s just something I couldn’t answer for sure until we get the test results back.”

Patrick said the tests will be non-intrusive and will entail drawing a sample from each fountain, which will then be tested in Wingfield’s lab. He also said testing for lead isn’t typically conducted within the school system, but that tests are performed in the schools upon complaints or concerns.

“If we have a suspicion or someone says they heard we had lead, of course we would surely go ahead and check,” Patrick said. “It’s just like we aren’t mandated to test for mold, but if we have a problem in a school or teachers or students are complaining, we will test that area. We just haven’t had a suspicion raised or anything like that to warrant a full-on, system-wide test (for water).”

Patrick also said that the district could test the water themselves, but felt entering a contract with Wingfield Environmental out of Blountville would be the best fit.

“We could take the samples ourselves if we wanted to,” Patrick said, “But I’m thinking to have full disclosure, stay on the up-and-up and not have anyone scrutinize the way we’ve done our testing, I chose to have a third party do everything.”

In preparing for the state-mandated water testing, Patrick said he’s been asked about water used in another area of the schools, but that for now, the state is focusing on water fountains.

“I’ve been getting a lot of questions about, ‘Are you checking the water in the cafeterias?’ And some of my colleagues, other maintenance directors and supervisors in our area here, they’ve talked to legislators,” Patrick said. “I have not talked to any of my legislators. The bill was written mainly for drinking water sources. That’s what we’re testing. We don’t have those type of lead pipes in our kitchens or anything like that.”

The testing is yet to be scheduled, but will conclude with a final report from Winfield, which will include results for each school, spreadsheets of all data and the actual lab data from the tests.

School project design plan held up by finances

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Questions on the money available — or not available — for the Jonesborough K-8 School have left county and school officials grappling on what the next steps will be for the school project.

At Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Thursday, Nov. 1, commissioners opted to defer action on the latest design plan, “Scheme 6”, to make additions and renovations to the current Jonesborough Middle School site. Committee member and Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said he wanted the full financial picture before moving ahead with the latest Jonesborough School design plan.

“There was a lot of discussion the other night about how we would pay for Scheme 6,” Matherly said, referring to a joint commission and school board meeting that took place the week prior. “I’m just going to tell you upfront, before I vote on this project, I want to see all the options on how to pay for it. I just don’t feel like I’m ready to vote on Scheme 6 right at this moment.

“I want to see where we’re going and where we’re headed. We can sit here and recommend it to budget, but I don’t think this committee wants to do that. I think we’d like to see all the options before we move forward.”

Brad Hale, the schools’s finance director, and Director Bill Flanary listen to the discussion on the Jonesborough School’s latest design plan during the HEW Committee meeting.

School board member and county finance and administration director Mitch Meredith painted that financial picture at the joint meeting on Monday, Oct. 29, where he said there are no funds in the current year to spend on a Jonesborough School project without borrowing the money. He also told the group the county paid part of Boones Creek’s total cost with pennies from the Jonesborough School project.

Meredith told the Herald & Tribune the 32 pennies set aside for school capital project improvements — which were collected from the 2016 tax increase — were not allocated specifically for each project.

“Nowhere in official action by the commission are there any pennies allocated to anything,” Meredith said. “The commission had to determine how much we need for our ongoing capital needs. Those were not pennies that were being set aside for any individual project. That was just an amount to determine how much revenue the county could generate to assist in funding those projects.”

For the county school board, however, the current outlook for the Jonesborough project is disappointing, school board member Phillip McLain said.

“After a 40-cent tax hike and being told that 5 cents of that 40 cents would be for Jonesborough,” McLain said, “I cannot begin to describe to you the disappointment that I have in this system and where it is at this moment. I think disappointment is probably the best word I can use at this point.”

From the 32 cents allocated for the school system, 14 pennies were budgeted for the Boones Creek project, five for Jonesborough renovations, three for other school capital items, two for school technology and two for school bus replacements. And in January of 2017, the commission set a budget limit of $25 million for the Boones Creek School, $20,750,000 for the Jonesborough School and $1,815,000 in “contingency for other needs associated with or related to the projects”. However, at that time, the Jonesborough project figure still included renovating the elementary school into a K-8 and renovating the middle school into an academic magnet.

The commission’s resolution also said the figures were “intended to assist the board of education for the purposes of planning, architectural and engineering design and project management, but do not constitute an authorization for expenditure nor a commitment to the funding amounts listed by the board of county commissioners.” It also said “the funding for the projects will be provided through anticipated borrowing.”

Meredith said the tax increase was created back in 2016 with a $10 million renovation in mind for the elementary school and the middle school. Those two renovations, he said, were planned to be supported by 5 pennies for the Jonesborough schools.

Now, he said, the county could either delay the project and let the money build as more pennies are freed up, (Boones Creek will be paid off in 2022 and nine pennies would be available by 2023), or the commission could opt to borrow $40 million for a $20 million project in Jonesborough (half of the $20 million, by law, would have to be shared with Johnson City). He said that last option, however, would come with financial constraints.

“(The commission) would either be out of the borrowing business for a long time or they would have to raise their debt limit restriction (if $40 million was borrowed for a $20 million project in Jonesborough). I guess anything’s possible, but is it fiscally responsible to do that?”, Meredith said. “I don’t know if (the commission) would see that as a fiscally responsible move to do that. From my perspective, it’s pushing it to the limit.”

As for the school board, who is also considering roof replacements at the elementary and middle schools in Jonesborough while the K-8 school plan remains in limbo, the financial outlook is strapped with uncertainty regarding what happens next with the project.

The school board currently has three Jonesborough School design plans that were approved by the county school system in the past year and a half. McLain said the board plans to rescind two of those previous plans, which were both said to be out of budget by the county commission. He also said they plan to keep the latest plan, Scheme 6, on the books for commission consideration. As for the future of the project, McLain said it’s now in the hands of the county commission.

“What’s going to happen with the Jonesborough project is a good question. I don’t know,” McLain said. “Obviously you have to remember it’s the school board’s job to decide what the school needs and it’s the commission’s job to fund it or not. The next step is actually up to the commission and what they decide to do.”

The BOE will meet on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the school system’s central office. The HEW committee is set to revisit the Jonesborough School design plan and the potential purchase of the school’s adjacent property at its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. in the first floor conference room of the Historic Courthouse in Jonesborough.