New school remains hot topic as BOE discusses details

Attorney Scott Bennett explains the details of the school plan’s lease and inter-local agreement with the school board.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The Town of Jonesborough’s inter-local and lease agreement with the Washington County Commission and the Washington County Board of Education to build a Jonesborough K-8 school has been approved by all three entities, but it seems the three are continuing to work through the plan’s details.

At the school board’s monthly meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, Scott Bennett, the board’s attorney, said the lease agreement has been set for 40 years rather than the 20 that was previously included in the town’s original proposal.

“You’re probably (still) going to be in it in about 40 years from now,” Bennett said. “You’re right, that’s a long time. But in the life of a school building, whether its a 10-year, a 20-year or a 40-year contract, it doesn’t really make much of a difference as far as this board is concerned.”

At the county commission’s Sept. 23 and Oct. 28 meetings, commissioners considered lengthening the amount of years on the school building lease with the town in order to potentially offer funds to the Johnson City School system. At the Oct. 28 meeting, the commission not only passed the town’s lease-purchase arrangement and inter-local agreement; It also passed a resolution allowing the county mayor to investigate and negotiate with the City of Johnson City and the Local Education Agency “to identify terms that would resolve dispute over the interpretation of the Jonesborough Proposal.”

As for the county school board and the Jonesborough School project, Bennett said the next step is to sign the agreement.

“The town and the county have been very good partners and have been taking care of our legal interests so that I do not see a problem (in the lease and inter-local agreement),” Bennett said. “As we get a final version of the document they want you to sign, I believe your executive committee can sign on behalf of the board and you’re good to go. I think your work is done.

“But there’s always one more version.”

Bennett also mentioned that the Town of Jonesborough will control the construction process to control costs of the project.

“That was some concern of some of the board members over time because obviously there are some ways you can cut corners but increase long-term expenses,” Bennett said. “What we worked out is a compromise where there would be a review committee to look at the final design. You have a voice on the design committee. The town then gets the designs, puts together a final construction plan, they come back to the full board, the BMA and then the commission and each body decides what they think about it and they can provide written input back to the town.”

Bennett also mentioned a few changes that have been made to the agreement, which include the town covering maintenance at the Jonesborough School and Boones Creek School.

“You aren’t going to have any burden to maintain it,” Bennett said. “The big piece from my perspective is you don’t have to maintain the security of (the athletic fields at Jonesborough)  during the day. That’s going to be on the other governmental entities and it should benefit the community as a whole.”

BOE Chairman Keith Ervin said he had concerns regarding the security of the school with the community athletic and recreational facilities next door.

“My personal feelings is the ballfields and all that needs its own entrance and the school needs its own entrance,” Ervin said. “I think its a security issue.”

Bennett said the town seems to recognize the concern and is already working on that detail of the project. He also said the plan will allow board members “ample opportunity” to voice their concerns.

In addition to the update on the school plan, the BOE also unanimously accepted a letter from architectural firm Beeson, Lusk & Street Inc. to end the Jonesborough school architectural contract.

Over the past three years, BLS created over seven designs for the Jonesborough School long before the town’s proposal to build and lease a K-8 school.

Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said BLS has been paid in-full by the county. He also said the school system can opt to use BLS for any project in the future, but that the board will be invoiced for the work.”

Daniel Boone Marine Corps Junior ROTC students seek excellence

From STAFF REPORTS

The Daniel Boone High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC unit took first place overall in the ninth annual Drill Meet at South Iredell High School in Statesville, North Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 2. The drill team took first place in eight events, and third place in one event. Commanders were Sarah Stevens, Justin Dubin, Gage Reno, Courtney Turner, Joseph Channell, Chris Litteral, Hiram Hensley, and Olivia Lusk.

The following cadets also brought home individual awards: Jaylee Hamilton, Jacob Seymer, Tabitha Storey, Madyson Jupin, Samantha Crum, Sarah Stevens, Anna Stinnett, Ashley Spark, Destiny Breeding, Cameron Gaitor, Courtney Turner, Gage Reno, Hiram Hensley, Sierra Osborne, Olivia Lusk.

East Tennessee History Center to offer veterans free admission

From STAFF REPORTS

KNOXVILLE –The East Tennessee Historical Society is inviting all veterans, active duty military, and their families to visit the Museum of East Tennessee History as special guests on Monday, Nov. 11, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., prior to and following the downtown Knoxville Veterans Day Parade.

“Tennesseans have a proud tradition of stepping to the fore in defense of our nation and earning the state the nickname, the ‘Volunteer State,’” said ETHS Director Cherel Henderson. “We are pleased to honor the contributions of our military, past and present, by inviting them to visit the museum as our special guests on this day.”

The signature exhibition Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee explores three centuries of life in our region. Visitors will find stories and artifacts from the French and Indian War to the War of 1812, and the Civil War to World War I and World War II. Also, guests will find “Betsy,” the first rifle of David Crockett, key participant at the Alamo. Additional exhibitions include the feature exhibition “It’ll Tickle Yore Innards!”: A (Hillbilly) History of Mountain Dew, where guests can explore the drink’s storied history that began here in the hills of Appalachia, and the East Tennessee Streetscape and Corner Drug Store. The Museum of East Tennessee History is located at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street, Knoxville. For more information on programs, exhibitions, or museum hours, call(865) 215-8824 or visit the website at www.EastTNHistory.org.     

Made Around Here Market to return

An array of jewelry, soaps and handmade gifts will be available at this year’s Made Around Here Market.

From STAFF REPORTS 

Each year thousands flock to Jonesborough to browse through the various vendors’ booths, explore hundreds of skillfully handcrafted items and enjoy this one-of-a-kind craft show.

Now in its 38th year and one of Jonesborough’s oldest craft shows, Made Around Here Market has grown to be a tradition for many in creating a unique shopping experience.

Outdoor vendors will also be part of the market.

At Made Around Here Market, you’ll discover pieces from local and regional artisans and crafters, as well as residents from surrounding states.

All items are handmade, some examples include, pottery, paintings and varied mediums, photographs, seasonal décor, holiday gifts, woodcarvings, and more.

Made Around Here Market will be held on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. inside the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, as well as an additional marketplace located outside in the main parking lot area and grassy area.

Admission is free but donations will be accepted for Jonesborough’s free children’s event in December.

For more information visit Historic Jonesborough on Facebook or call (423) 753-1010.

Road gets rocky as school vote nears

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

[email protected]

Jonesborough’s school plan may have hit a snag.

A new version of the proposed Jonesborough school lease agreement posted Oct. 21 has some stipulations and language that the town was not privy to, according to Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest.

“We’re a little discouraged coming out of the meeting last Thursday,” Vest admitted early Tuesday, referring to the Oct. 18 Washington County Commission called meeting last week where town officials had hoped to see a lease signed that could result in a new school for Jonesborough.

What they found instead was one more delay in a quest begun in August to finalize an agreement with the county to build a new Jonesborough school and recreational facilities, with the Town of Jonesborough securing the financing.

At Thursday’s meeting, commissioners chose to postpone the decision on the lease until the regular Oct. 28 meeting to allow more time to peruse the documents, but also for officials to have an opportunity to set total monetary commitment from the County at either $32 or $34 million. It was, according to Culver Schmid, an attorney with Baker and Donelson and representing the county, the one issue that needed to be resolved in order to move forward.

That cap is important, Grandy said, to help the county in controlling project costs.

“The language that drove this project went from $32 million to $32 million plus capitalized interest,” Grandy explained. “That  ($32 million) was the basis for all the financial calculations. When you start changing the base model, it throws everything off.”

The issue for the town, Vest said, is that there was no attempt to meet to work through the discrepancy before Monday’s posting.

“We were under the assumption that Mayor Grandy would talk with us to resolve that one remaining issue that he had,” Vest said. “Unfortunately they chose not to talk to us over the weekend and Mayor Grandy and his legal team presented their own lease with changes that we hadn’t agreed to or even seen. Some of those things can jeopardize this entire project.”

There were also items that were added to the Oct. 21 lease that are not acceptable to the Town of Jonesborough, Vest added.

He noted that language surrounding a call for a cap in architect and design fees, for example, stipulates that “any cost over that dollar  amount would be paid for by the town of Jonesborough. Of course, Jonesborough is not able to pay some of those costs. . . To try to pass some of those additional costs to the Town of Jonesborough is just not acceptable.”

Vest was also disappointed to see the town’s recent agreement to take on Boones Creek’s recreational facility maintenance and care, as well as Jonesborough’s, nowhere in the new lease.

“We felt like we could do more,” he said.

Despite Vest’s disapproval, county mayor Grandy does not agree that the new lease is that substantially different from the one presented on Oct. 18, but views it instead as an attempt to capture the concerns of the commissioners.

“The agreement that we published yesterday is sort of a compilation of information that was taken from commissioners comments and concerns and issues around that last meeting,” he explained. “It’s basically the same agreement that the commissioners saw at that meeting except for a few small tweaks.”

Grandy acknowledged that there had been no additional meetings with Jonesborough after Oct. 18, but explained that time had become an issue, prompting the quick posting. There needed to be time, he said, for the commissioners to consider the document as a whole.

Grandy added that the lease could be amended at the Oct, 28 meeting.

He also stressed that “All financial responsibility in this project is on the county. Jonesborough bears no responsibility for anything  financial. What we are trying to do is work with them in controlling costs.”

Despite the dispute, both mayors seem to be committed to making the new Jonesborough school a reality.

“I believe it will happen,” Grandy said. “There are probably a few things to work out. Really, this is sort of our best option forward right now.”

For Vest, the goal is also to move forward. The Town of Jonesborough has announced a called meeting for Monday, Oct. 28, at 4 p.m., prior to the commission’s 6 p.m. meeting, to discuss the issue. Vest has said they will consider signing a lease during that meeting.

“To put it frankly, I believe the lease (that was presented at the Oct. 18 meeting) actually could be passed and everyone could be happy,” he said. But he is not ready to quit.

“Don’t give up hope,” Vest said, addressing Jonesborough’s families, many of whom attended the Oct 18 meeting to share their support for a new school. “We’re going to push forward.”

Weighing risks: County to consider school lease

Update: The Washington County Commission has received the lease agreement from the Town of Jonesborough. A called meeting for the county commission to consider the lease will be held on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m. at the justice center in Jonesborough.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

This week, the Washington County Commission will have a lease agreement from the Town of Jonesborough, ready for a signature and approval for the next step towards a new Jonesborough K-8 school.

The county was slated to receive the proposed lease agreement from the town on Tuesday. The agreement includes two leases, one for the school building and the other for the athletic and recreational facilities. As of press time for the Herald & Tribune, the town and its legal counsel were still working on the details of the lease.

“I do feel good that the lease that we’re going to put before (the county) will be something that the commissioners are going to like,” Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said. “It might (include the same annual lease payment amount) we’re talking about or it might have some savings in there. We’ve just got to see how that turns out.”

Vest said the town is aiming to lock in the lower interest rate, which has now been set to three percent as of Oct. 1, but is subject to change by the first of the year.

“We need to take advantage of (the lower rate) because what goes down can go up,” Vest said. “The sooner we can get our application in and lock that rate down, the more we’re able to capture those savings we’re talking about.”

First, the commission has to approve of the lease.

The county commission held a workshop on Monday, Oct. 1, to hear from CPA and audit partner, Melissa Steagall-Jones with Blackburn, Childers and Steagall as well as the county’s legal counsel for the project, Culver Schmid of Baker Donelson.

The county, according to Tennessee Code Annotated 49-3-315(a), is required to share tax funds for operation and maintenance purposes with the city school system. But because the school project would be financed by the town, which has no such requirement, the plan does not include shelling out shared funds to the city school system.

Schmid told the commission there is a risk that the county could be sued over the project, but that a case within the past five years in the Tennessee Court of Appeals provided a guideline for this type of issue.

“The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled on the statute and created some pretty good guidelines as to how to comply with the obligations related to apportionment,” Schmid said. “Every case is different and supreme courts change, but from a legal standpoint, that’s pretty good guidance on what you can do as it relates to that issue.”

Schmid also said as long as the county’s lease payment dollars are used for capital improvement needs and not for operation and maintenance purposes, the county should be able to legally move forward with the plan.

“The apportionment of tax levies required by law can be avoided so long as the county’s rent is used to directly or indirectly pay only for the cost of the school capital improvements, such as the purchase of the land or the construction of the building,” Schmid said. “In working on this lease, we have tried to very clearly state that rent coming from the county is going towards capital improvements. There still may be some parts in the facilities lease that won’t be all capital improvements. Those monies would be subject to apportionment if they go to operation of maintenance.”

Commissioners Suzy Williams and Larry England asked if there was a way to extend the amount of years in the county’s lease agreement with the town, as England explained, “to share some of (those dollars) with the city.”  The 20-year lease, when proposed by the town, was set at $2,362,000 a year, but Stegall-Jones said if the lease is extended out to 25 or 30 years at the current rate, there could be more available dollars.

Town and county officials have maintained that the plan would not include a tax increase, but Commissioner Kent Harris asked if that could change in order to aid Johnson City Schools in their school project needs.

“It’s been said we can fund this without a tax increase if we move forward on what Jonesborough has presented. That’s been one of the points for me,” Harris said. “There’s no way we can (give Johnson City money for a school project) without a tax increase. What I’m trying to do is look at what’s best for the taxpayers. I don’t like the idea of tying these (projects) together. Can we come up with a figure without a tax increase?”

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said a tax increase is one possible risk.

“You’ve listened to almost an hour of potential risks in the project. The first of which is if we wind up sharing money, essentially $30 million for Johnson City Schools, which is roughly the same amount of money we intend to pay with this Jonesborough School. If you wanted to put that in the form of tax revenue, it would create a tax increase of about seven cents, roughly, in order to furnish that money to the city of Johnson City — whether or not it’s upfront and we just do it or whether or not it’s deemed required by the courts.

“If we double the money, it’s going to have to come from some place and it’s not within our budgetary means to do that.”

The county is planning to schedule a called meeting on or before Oct. 17 to decide on the lease. That meeting is yet to be set.

Meanwhile, the county school board, which also had a meeting on Monday, Oct. 1, voiced its concerns about not seeing the lease again before it could be approved by the commission.

In the lease agreement, the town gets the final say on the total cost of the project and the design, which will be created by a committee comprised of members from all three bodies. Vest said he wanted to ensure all three entities that those voices are crucial in the process.

“We really want to make sure the school board and the county commission, especially the school board, realize this needs to be a true partnership” Vest said. “We want to make sure the school that gets built that they’re 100 percent comfortable with it. I want them to know we want them to be included in that decision of how well that school’s built.

“We think it’s going to end up being a good process. We talked about there needing to be some trust between the school board and the county. I think once it’s all said and done, they’ll realize the trust that we gave each other has been worth it.”

WiFi, charging station added to downtown

From STAFF REPORTS

Tennessee’s Oldest Town has added two new amenities just in time for the National Storytelling Festival, partnering with BrightRidge and Washington County to offer free downtown WiFi along Main Street and the Courthouse Square while the town’s first electric vehicle charging station is also now online this week.

Under the cooperative WiFi agreement, BrightRidge provided the network engineering, installed fiber optic service and wireless access points, and will monitor and maintain the network remotely. The Town of Jonesborough and Washington County jointly purchased all equipment and software, with the Town covering the cost of monthly service.

“Our talented staff work every day to provide the best possible amenities to our downtown Jonesborough visitors,” Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said Tuesday. “Through partnering with BrightRidge, visitors to the 2019 Storytelling Festival will find high-capacity WiFi access available free of charge and they can even top off their vehicle while enjoying the Festival at the new electric vehicle charging station located in the Post Office lot next to the Visitors’ Center.”

Under the agreement, BrightRidge is providing a symmetrical 250 Mb/250Mb service available free for public use only, although bandwidth is limited per user and in duration. Accommodations are also being provided for street vendors during special events and large gatherings. The network can be accessed by selecting JBO_WiFi from available options on a device settings menu.

“We are pleased to continue partnering with our customers and local governments to provide the best possible service to our visitors and residents alike,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said. “Along with the region’s only electric vehicle charging network, we work daily to provide leading edge electric and connectivity services that are second to none.”

The BrightRidge EV Charging Network consists of 240-volt Level 2 chargers, with charging capacity sufficient to provide a minimum of 25 miles or more of range per hour of charging, depending on the vehicle type and onboard charging equipment.

BrightRidge charging stations are located at the Hands On/Gray Fossil site, downtown Jonesborough, and in downtown Johnson City at King Commons near the Johnson City Public Library. Additional locations are coming to the Farmer’s Market in Johnson City as well as the BrightRidge corporate office at 2600 Boone’s Creek Road. Both the Gray Fossil Site and BrightRidge corporate locations are offered to customers free of charge at launch.

Charging stations in Jonesborough and Johnson City are available at a rate of $2 for the first hour, $1 per hour thereafter. After five hours of charging, the rate goes back to $2 per hour to promote sharing and discourage monopolization of charging stations.

Motorists should note it is considered poor etiquette to park a standard gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle at a designated EV charging station.

Riding the rails: Exhibit showcases Clinchfield Railroad history

Orlis Francis shared artifacts with the Depot for the Clinchfield Exhibit;

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

[email protected]

“I worked for the Clinchfield Railroad for 42 years,” said Orlis Francis as he walked around the Chuckey Depot Museum at the August opening of a special exhibit about “The Costliest Railroad in America.”

Francis pointed out a number of artifacts he supplied for the display that traces the history of the Clinchfield, the railroad that traversed 277 miles in five states while passing through four mountain ranges.

“I rebuilt locomotives,” Francis continued. “This was during the time the railroad was phasing out passenger cars.” Born and reared in Jonesborough, he worked at the Erwin rail yards where he observed, “The Pullman shop as it was phased out.” Pointing out a train engine in the display known as Model 200, he explained, “It was the only engine that could pull a passenger train. It had a generator that could distribute heat to the passenger cars.”

Francis was one of three former Clinchfield employees who contributed artifacts for the exhibit. As he walked in front of the museum’s display cases, he pointed out “an original Clinchfield ink blotter, a 1947 Time Table, a grease gun and an oil can off Engine No. 1, a steam engine that he helped rebuild. He then stood in front of an engine headlight when requested to pose for a photograph.

This Clinchfield Model Train is owned by Rick Chinouth, chairman of the exhibit subcommittee.

“The Costliest” designation was given to the Clinchfield by the magazine Scientific American in 1909 because it cost $30 million to build (approximately $850 million in 2019). The railroad ran between Elkhorn, Kentucky and Spartanburg, South Carolina. It included 55 tunnels and 80 bridges.

The Clinchfield was developed by George Lafayette Carter who purchased the Ohio River and Charleston Railroad in 1902 and renamed it the Clinchfield Railroad. Carter organized a gigantic construction program with high standards.

With original headquarters in Johnson City, Carter moved the operation to Erwin where he could obtain land for shops and classification yards.

The railroad operated coal, freight and passenger trains during the dates of its operation from 1902 until 1983.

However, most of their traffic was coal trains. For this reason as part of the exhibit, Rick Chinouth, chairman of the Depot’s Exhibit Subcommittee and a Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society member, included his model train set with a string of coal cars. The background for the G-scale train is a photograph of an actual twin-tunnel that was part of the Clinchfield line.

The train in the exhibit appears to be coming out of the tunnel with the engine pulling the coal cars.

“G-scale trains (using a 1.75 inch fixed track gauge) are often purchased by hobbyists for outdoor use. They run off batteries and can be operated by remote control,” Chinouth said. He has owned the model included in the exhibit for 18 years, during which time he has acquired 20 coal and 15 box cars that can be pulled by the scale-model engine.

Chinouth’s Clinchfield model was custom made. It is not possible to purchase a G- scale model with the “Clinchfield” logo. He purchased the engine and cars and then added the appropriate railroad system markings.

The exhibit was put together by the five member Exhibit Subcommittee utilizing artifacts from multiple donors.

One of the subcommittee members was Jacob Simpson of the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. This exhibit was Simpson’s last project before leaving the Alliance to relocate in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mike Tilley, President of the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum, expressed his excitement at the exhibit which will run through January 2020.

Tilley said the organization is currently at work on the restoration of former Clinchfield business car No. 100. They hope to complete the project this year by the end of September.

The Clinchfield Railroad ceased functioning as a separate operating company effective January 1, 1983 when it was merged into the Seaboard System Railroad. The line is now owned and operated by CSX Transportation as their Blue Ridge Subdivision (Spartanburg, South Carolina to Erwin) and Kingsport Subdivision (Erwin to Elkhorn City, Kentucky).

For visitors wishing to view the exhibit, The Chuckey Depot Museum’s regular hours are Monday, Thursday-Friday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, telephone (423) 753-1010. The Chuckey Depot Museum is located at 110 2nd Avenue in Jonesborough.

County continues to weigh legality of school plan

Joe Grandy feels it's important to "keep the process going" on the school project.

Joe Grandy feels it’s important to “keep the process going” on the school project.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The Town of Jonesborough’s proposal to finance and build a new Jonesborough School is a lot like a football game and county officials are saying it’s down to the second half. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said at Wednesday’s meeting when the budget committee approved the plan that the game might go into overtime, but now’s also the time to “keep the process going.”

“We are working through the process because it is a process,” Grandy said at the budget meeting. “There’s no way you can put a final stamp on documents that aren’t complete. So what we want to do is keep the process moving forward. From my perspective, we need to move this forward with a spirit of support.”

Commissioner Freddie Malone made the motion that the county authorize the mayor to investigate and negotiate the terms of the interlocal agreement between Washington County, the county school board and the town. The motion also included putting $250,000 from capital funds toward the project design.

The town’s plan includes two leases between the county and the town for the proposed school building and the athletic facilities all on a 48-acre tract on North Cherokee Street in Jonesborough. The building payment for the county would be $2,362,000 a year, which the county’s finance director, Mitch Meredith, said is “a doable plan.” At the end of that lease, the school board would own the building. The athletic facilities, however would continue to be maintained and owned by the town.

The proposal also includes that the town of Jonesborough will get final authorization of the agreements and the building design. But in the meantime, the county plants to continue working on the agreement and the leases.

“One of the things we did learn from our initial legal review is that whether or not this concept meets the smell test in legalities is based primarily in the way the lease is structured,” Grandy said. “We don’t know exactly (how long it will take) until it’s been vetted.”

Grandy said the county has enlisted Baker Donelson, the firm that completed the county’s initial review of the plan and will continue to work on the proposal. Meanwhile, Jim Wheeler — who recused himself from voting as a county commissioner and instead represented the town as its attorney —  said the town has already put in a lot of legal work on the project.

“I think it’s important to state that the town has spent a considerable amount to have three legal teams working on this. We’ve discussed it with two different bond counsels to make sure we cleaned this up,” Wheeler said. “Same thing with the structure of the lease. I just wanted to point that out. I don’t want it to appear to anyone — I know there are parents here — that there hasn’t been any work on that lease. There’s been a lot of work done on the legal aspect, it’s just been on the side of the town at this point. Now we’re ready to move into getting our fourth opinion.”

The question of legality has been a lingering topic of discussion following the announcement of the school building proposal. Because the county, by state law, is required to share funds from bonds for education capital projects with the city, the project, which would be financed by the town, would not include shelling out shared funds to the city school system.

Due to those funding concerns, Wilkinson said Baker Donelson was brought in as an outside firm to vet the legality of the plan.

“The mayor actually immediately charged the legal department with vetting the big picture of it from the county’s perspective and to reach out to lawyers who carried a case on a specific issue of sharing which Jonesborough’s counsel has already vetted,” Wilkinson said. “It was so important to the citizens and the taxpayers of Washington County that those interests were reviewed independently. I think that’s good news to the people of Washington County that Baker Donelson believes, based on their independent research, that the county is able to enter a lease-purchase agreement to build the school in the way it’s been structured.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Freddie Malone and Larry England, who are both Johnson City residents, addressed the legal concerns as multiple Johnson City officials watched on at the budget meeting.

“I am not an enemy of the city,” Malone said. “When most of my neighbors hear this is the only way to make this (school building project) work, they basically say, ‘Get those kids a new school and don’t raise my taxes.’ There’s been a lot of talk about legality and certainly we have to make sure that what is done is legal, but I really think it’s more of a financial thing. This is the only option.”

The full commission will vote on the plan at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m. at the George Jaynes Justice Center, 108 W Jackson Blvd., Jonesborough.

BOE rejects softball lighting project bids

DCHS softball light updates look to be delayed once again.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The softball lighting replacement project at David Crockett High School has been put on hold.

The Washington County Board of Education unanimously rejected the two bids it received for the project at its Sept. 5 meeting after setting aside $150,000 from the school system’s fund balance for the light replacement in November. The two bids for the project came in around $100,000 over the available amount.

“The (facilities) committee looked at bids for the softball lighting,” board member and facilities committee chairman Todd Ganger said. “We had two bids. They came in $100,000 over what we allotted and the other was just under $100,000 of what we had allotted. The committee approved rejecting those bids.”

The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the project was fully engineered by Beeson, Lusk and Street, but after soil borings, a technique used to survey soil by taking several shallow cores out of the sediment, the architect discovered the soil was not conducive to simply setting new poles in the ground.

“They found some unsuitable soil,” Patrick said. “So instead of drilling the holes, setting posts and tapping them in, there must be what we call a floating form or an (area) that is actually 8-by-8-by-4 feet deep. Then they bolt the pole to it so that the poles do not fall over. That’s where the expense came from.”

Patrick said from here he plans to explore options on BuyBoard, a site that provides products and services to local governments across the country. Patrick reminded the board that BLS would have to be paid for their engineering work as well.

The Pioneer softball field is currently lit by six poles with mercury vapor lamps, which are outdated and make it hard to find replacement fixtures, Patrick said at a previous meeting. He also said the poles were placed by the Jonesborough Little League over 20 years ago.

At previous meetings, school officials have said the lights created a safety hazard and were outdated, especially in comparison to the neighboring baseball field lights.

“What they have right now is unsafe,” Ganger said at the November meeting when the board set aside the funds for the project. “We need to fix it. The board needs to be proactive. They’re having trouble finding bulbs for them when the lights do go out. Even if it’s the end of the next softball season, we need to get that done. It’s been long overdue. It’s an embarrassment for those girls.”

“The current lights are just not sufficient,” Director of Schools Bill Flanary said to the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee last year. “More importantly, the boys baseball field is well-lit.”

County officials have also said the lights, if not fixed, could be in violation of Title IX, the civil rights law that requires both male and females are given equitable opportunities to participate in sports.

At the board’s facilities meeting on Sept. 3, board member Chad Fleenor asked about improving the accessibility to the Daniel Boone and David Crockett’s softball fields. Patrick said a plan is in process to make the sidewalks more accessible, though Boone’s walkway would take more in-depth work.

Budget Committee to consider new school plan

UPDATE: The Washington County Budget Committee approved a motion to send the interlocal agreement between the county, the Washington County Board of Education and the Town of Jonesborough for a Jonesborough K-8 School. The committee also approved putting $250,000 from the county’s capital fund toward the design of the project.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee has approved the Town of Jonesborough’s proposal to build a Jonesborough K-8 school. Now, the county’s budget committee will get a chance to talk over the plan at it’s meeting set for Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse.

The Health, Education and Welfare Committee approved the plan on Thursday, Sept. 5, after the Washington County Board of Education unanimously passed the proposal with a few changes at a called meeting on Aug. 29.

The plan, which includes a dual-lease agreement — one for the school building and another for the athletic fields and recreational facilities — all on a 48-acre site on North Cherokee Street in Jonesborough, saw a few changes from the school board, which will be up for discussion for the county. Those changes include:

• Three BOE members on the design committee (along with a Jonesborough administrator/teacher)

• Money from the sale of the school’s properties will go into a dedicated education fund and will first pay for the new school’s furniture, then will be put towards the school system’s five-year maintenance plan

• The BOE will select the furniture

• After the school is built, the board will have four years to sell the front half of the Jonesborough Elementary School property, Jonesborough Middle School (minus the track, which will become a town park), and the Midway building

• The BOE does not include Asbury in the list of properties it agrees to sell

• The Jonesborough school district includes the Town of Jonesborough, but leaves flexibility for the board to change boundary lines as needed in the future

• Meetings regarding the school (design, costs, etc.) will be kept public

• The BOE attorney will have input in the development of a contract with the architect

If the budget committee approves the plan, the commission will discuss the proposal at its Sept. 23 meeting at 6 p.m. at the George Jaynes Justice Center in Jonesborough. To see the county’s meeting agendas and calendar, go to http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/.

Town approves property tax change

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

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As of Monday night, it is official. The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Sept. 9 to approve the town’s 2019/2020 budget which includes a property tax rate at $1.20 per $100 of assessed value and a 3 percent raise for town employees.

The property tax change, from $1.13 set by the state to $1.20, had been approved at the Sept. 5 called BMA meeting as a way to compensate for revenue loss due to the recent state adjustment on local property value assessments and the subsequent challenges from property owners. Estimated revenue loss for the town earlier in the month was set at more than $23,000 and was expected to rise.

Last year’s property tax rate was $1.305.

“We can’t take a financial loss because of reappraisal” Mayor Chuck Vest explained at the time. After Monday’s vote, Vest stressed that the new rate was intended to help the town maintain its lean budget and prepare for any further, not pick up additional revenue.

Still, the newly approved budget nearly hit another delay when Alderwoman Virginia Causey raised questions about the town’s already approved compensation plan, which held two position changes that she believed warranted further discussion.

“I have no problem with the 3 percent,” she said. But she believed any other changes should be made at one time to ensure fairness to all employees.”

Vest promised that the board would continue to look closely at any future employee changes, but was concerned that a further delay on the 2019/2020 budget, which is supposed to be in place by June 30, 2019, would be too much of a hardship for the town.

“I didn’t want to see the entire budget delayed another month,” he said.

Water and Sewer rates will stay the same for 2019/2020, and while garbage pickup rates will also remain at their current rate, the board did approve an increase to the one-time garbage signup fee of $40 to $50.

In other business, the BMA passed on second reading a Weeds, Overgrown and Dirty Lots amendment that would allow the town to more efficiently deal with unsightly neighborhood areas of contention, especially those under the ownership of out-of-town companies and individuals. The new amendment .

“Our biggest problem is repeat offenders,” according to Town Administrator Bob Browning. “And that is where we get the most criticism.” The town will begin posting the violation in the yard of the non-compliant property owner, Browning said, so that the public will be aware that action is being taken. The town will also now have the option of hiring a contractor to clean up the property and be able to add the new assessment onto that year’s property tax.

BOE approves town’s school proposal

Supporters of the Jonesborough proposal await the school board’s decision.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

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Tears and cheers filled the downstairs meeting room in Jonesborough as the Washington County Board of Education unanimously approved the town’s proposal to build a new Jonesborough K-8 School with community recreational facilities.

“At one point we’ve got to trust that it’s going to work,” Mary Beth Dellinger said. “I support the new school because Jonesborough needs an update. I look forward to serving on the design committee with my perspective as a former educator.”

The proposal, which will now be considered by the county’s Health Education and Welfare Committee on Thursday, Sept. 5, was approved by the board minus Mitch Meredith who was absent due to a family emergency. The motion included removing the Asbury School building from the list of the school board’s properties it would sell in the agreement. The motion also requires that the board’s attorney, Scott Bennett, approve the the two lease agreements if it effects the board’s interests.

Before the crowd of parents, teachers and administrators could rejoice in their orange shirts while holding their “hear me roar” signs, the school board had numerous details to work through related to the agreement between the Town of Jonesborough, Washington County and the school board. For Phillip McLain, the proposal’s details required the greatest deal of attention.

“I want a new school for Jonesborough just like everyone else does,” McLain said. “I think everyone else up here does also. However, when I read through this — I’m a detail kind of guy. I think if you take care of the details, the big things take care of themselves. I’m for the school. I’m for Jonesborough getting a new school, but I have issues (with the proposal).”

The agreement originally included that the front half of the Jonesborough Elementary School property, the Jonesborough Middle School building and the Midway property would be sold by the school board and that those funds would go to the county’s capital improvement fund. The agreement given to the board on Thursday included the sale of Asbury Optional School which, like Midway, is still in use. However, the board removed Asbury from the agreement.

Bennett added that in the revised agreement, the board would have four years from the time the Jonesborough School is built to sell the included properties. Those funds, he said, would first go to the dedicated education fund to replenish the cost of purchasing the furnishings for the new school. Then the funds would be put towards the BOE’s five-year capital improvement plan.

“There’s been some discussion about how much those properties are worth and where does the money go,” Bennett said. “It was my concern that these are school properties. The revenue from the sale of school properties, I believe by law, need to go in the school board’s fund balance. I also believe that the large part of those funds be spent for education purposes.”

The revised plan includes three board members along with a teacher or administrator on the design committee. Originally it included one board member, the director of schools and a teacher or administrator from the Jonesborough schools. Thursday night’s motion included that the three board members who represent the Jonesborough district — Mary Beth Dellinger, Todd Ganger and Phillip McLain — would be on the committee.

As for BOE Chairman Keith Ervin, traffic at the new proposed school site was also a concern.

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said the changes the town is already working on would improve traffic patterns. He said a red light and a connector from Smith Lane to Tavern Hill Road is in progress. He also said Tavern Hill Road would be widened and the town plans to improve the Skyline Drive and Tavern Hill Road intersection.

“The way it’s drawn up now, I tell everyone you’ve got four ways in and four ways out of that facility,” Vest said. “You can have two exits onto 11-E going east and west. You’ll have a red light to exit out onto 11-E and you’ll also be able to go west by the justice center. Going out the rear of the property, you’ll be able to use Skyline to get to Jonesborough or go out by Hales Road. I think this will dissipate traffic much better than what we have now.”

Ervin also asked if there was a chance Johnson City would sue the county over the project.

The county is required by law to split education dollars with the county and the city. But in this situation, the town, which has no such requirement by the state, would finance the school. Therefore, the county would not have to borrow — or split — any funds.

“I can’t speak for what the Johnson City School Board might do, but I can say that the agreement that we have drafted for the board’s consideration is completely legal for this board to sign,” Bennett said in response to Ervin’s question. “That’s as far as I can go. I learned a long time ago practice law for your client, not someone else’s client. There’s no question that you all have the authority to enter into this agreement.”

The county’s HEW Committee will discuss the proposal on Thursday, Sept. 5, at 1 p.m. in the first floor conference room of the historic courthouse, 100 E Main St., Jonesborough.

BMA reaffirms proposal for new school

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest speaks to the crowd about the town’s school building proposal.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest just checked off the second “win” in his book regarding the town’s proposal to build a Jonesborough School.

On Thursday, Aug. 22, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to unanimously support the town’s proposal to build and lease a new Jonesborough K-8 School to Washington County. Now, Vest is anxiously waiting for the next step in the process.

“We get to send this now to our school board and it’s going to be in the hands of Dr. Flanary and Mr. Ervin,” Vest said, referring to Washington County’s director of schools and the school board’s chairman. “I think we’ve got some encouraging folks there on that school board. I couldn’t be more confident and hopefully we’ll have the third win come from that group.”

The vote came two weeks after the town proposed a plan to finance and build a new Jonesborough K-8 School, which would include a 20-year lease that would be paid by the county. The BMA’s called meeting to consider officially supporting the proposal also served as a chance for the five-member board to voice concerns, thoughts — and in the BMA’s case — complete support.

“This is a very exciting time for the town of Jonesborough,” Alderman Adam Dickson said. “I’m very excited to be part of a progressive, forward-thinking board. This is innovative and I hope we all see the great benefits of this project and move our community forward.”

“I went to school in Jonesborough so I definitely want a new school,” Alderman Virginia Causey said, “because where the elementary school is was a high school many years ago when I was there. So I know they definitely need something. I look forward to being part of getting our children a new school.”

The board was also joined by attorney Matt Grossman who Jim Wheeler, the town’s attorney who is also a county commissioner, said would be advising the BMA on the school proposal. The meeting was followed by executive session, which Alderman Terry Countermine assured the crowd would not include any decisions from the BMA and would allow the board to ask the lawyers questions.

“It is not violating any sunshine laws,” Countermine said. “This is an information gathering session for us.”

Vest also addressed concerns about the secrecy of the school proposal before the town unveiled the plan, along with a design plan, at the joint meeting on Aug. 15.

“I want to take some time to clarify some things,” Vest said. “I mentioned this during our rollout about how private this whole process was kept. There was a reason for that. It was never our intention to not be transparent with all parties and that includes residents and parents as well. We had no greater fear than getting the communities hopes up and then realizing our efforts wouldn’t work. The people of Jonesborough have suffered enough from that.

“The privacy was also important to prevent speculators and developers from complicating the success of this project. So we kept it pretty private on the property we were looking at and what our plans were. I think we were very successful on that.”

Vest also addressed traffic concerns on Thompson Meadow Lane, the Jonesborough road next to the potential school site.

“We probably could have done a better job talking to the five homes on that lane, but it’s such a win for our community and for anyone living on Thompson Meadow Lane. I talked to a gentleman about the traffic that might be on Thompson Lane and there should be zero bus traffic and car traffic off Thompson Lane. I explained we might have emergency vehicle access off of Thompson Lane, but that would be the only reason you’d see any traffic there.

“We looked at the site plan and talked about where we might do buffering and trees. Rest assured, this will be a quality-looking project going forward once we put this design committee together.”

As for the cost of the project, Vest said he believes the town should be able to reduce the price. He also said the school proposal won’t increase taxes and will not “affect the town financially”

“One of the most important things was to make sure this did not affect the town of Jonesborough negatively, financially or our bond rating,” Vest said. “I said last week that if anything this is going to enhance our financial strength. That’s a good thing that the citizens should be assured of. There definitely shouldn’t be a tax increase caused by this or anything.”

Now, it’s up to the school board to consider the proposal. The board has scheduled a called meeting for Thursday, Aug. 29 at 5 pm. to discuss the town’s proposal. That meeting will be held at 405 W. College St., Jonesborough.

MOTS to host Thursday event

The Polyphony Marimba will perform Thursday.

From Staff Reports

The Polyphony Marimba, a nationally recognized marimba band, will be bringing their Zimbabwean style music to Tennessee’s Oldest Town on Thursday, Aug. 22. The band will perform a special show for Music on the Square, Jonesborough’s weekly Friday evening concert series.

The performance will take place in front of the courthouse at 7 p.m. in historic downtown Jonesborough. This event is in addition to Music on the Square, which will still continue on Friday, Aug. 23.

Polyphony Marimba was founded in 2010 with a mission to get an acoustic ensemble of nine players together who wanted to make a life out of the roots of southern Africa, while contributing their own creative expression to that tradition. Polyphony brings a big acoustic dance sound with intricate vocal harmonizing on spiritual themes. Over the past eight years, the band has played over 300 concerts around North America and has sold over 5,000 copies of its three albums.

Over the last five years, completely self-operated, Polyphony has established a steady circuit of gigs, particularly in the eastern United States. Peter Swing, founder of the group, has been teaching the music of Zimbabwe for over 30 years and actively builds Zimbabwean style marimbas which are sold all across the country. Swing learned that the music grows in power and artistry, the more the players put their lives into it, and the larger the audience is that appreciates it. Expanding the cathartic and joyful energy inherent in this music is what Polyphony Marimba is about.

Polyphony Marimba’s special performance will be free and open to the public. For more information regarding the event, please contact the Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010. 

Town issues advisory ahead of paving project on Jackson Boulevard

ADVISORY FROM THE TOWN OF JONESBOROUGH:

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will begin its paving project on Jackson Boulevard (Highway 11-E) on Monday, Aug. 19. The working hours for construction will be Sunday through Thursday from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. The resurfacing project will begin on the west end of the town of Jonesborough, near Persimmon Ridge Road, and progress all the way to W. Market Street.

This project will require construction crews to shut down one lane of traffic. Therefore, traffic delays are to be expected. Due to the nature of the milling process, there will be a lot of dust and small loose gravel, as well as grooved pavement. Please use caution and be alert to the construction crews as they work to improve the road. The project is expected to last a few weeks, but could continue until early November.

For additional information, call the Tennessee Department of Transportation at (423)928-6957 or Jonesborough Town Hall at (423)753-1031.

Town earns 99 percent rating for its water system

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

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Jonesborough’s water system has come a long way in the last 40 years, earning a score this year of 99 out of 100.

“When I came to the town, our rating at the water plant was 47,” said Town Administrator Bob Browning. “That was in 1978. It’s 100 times more complex than it was in 1978.”

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation conducts water plant evaluations every two years, according to Browning. The process takes about a week and involves TDEC representatives going over every detail of a municipality’s records, results and procedures used in providing its community with clean water.

“They look at all your records,” Browning said, both in water treatment and water distribution. “You have to document everything. You have to be able to show you have done everything (you are supposed to).”

That means making sure not only the water itself and products used to enhance it fall well within all safety guidelines, but also any byproducts from the purifying process itself.

The town must also show evidence of regular testing in not just the system as a whole, but also in slower moving lines with the potential problems.

“We’ve had some documentation points we’ve lost before,” Browning acknowledged.

Still for years “we’ve been in the neighborhood of 97 or 98.”

This year, however, the town came much closer to hitting the ball out of the park. It has been about 10 years since the town received a 99, he said, so town officials were very pleased when they received the latest results.

“We got zero points taken off for water distribution,” Browning said proudly of the department headed by Mike McCracken.

The town still lost a few points in water treatment, but those were all minor and fixable, he added.

Overall, the staff has done a tremendous job, Browning said. But nobody is resting on the win.

“Our intent is to be 100. If we are obligated to do something a certain way, we want to do it that way, to follow things by the book.

“We have a lot to be proud of. We have a great system and good quality water.”

Jonesborough to bring possible solution to school project meeting

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said the town plans to bring a possible solution to the joint meeting to discuss the Jonesborough School project with the Washington County Commission and the Washington County Board of Education.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

When the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen comes face to face with the Washington County Commission and the Washington County Board of Education next week, they won’t just be there to talk.

Instead, they plan to arrive with a possible solution to the Jonesborough School project fiasco.

“We’re not going to make a presentation next week to talk,” Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said about the upcoming meeting. “We’re going to make a presentation that we hope brings a solution to the forefront and we can get moving on Jonesborough.”

The three entities plan to meet at the McKinney Center at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15, to come up with a solution for the Jonesborough School project dilemma that has plagued the commission and school board for over two years.

The project has seen numerous design plans, split votes from the school board, disapproval on design plans from county committees, unending questions on a funding plan for the project and meeting after meeting filled with frustration for school and county officials as well as parents and community members.

So why is the town getting involved?

Vest said the town has an economic interest in a Jonesborough K-8 School. He also said he felt the school is a large part of the Jonesborough community.

“A quality school is important to the town,” Vest said. “Economically it definitely has an impact on people to move to our area. It’s also a big part of our community. We almost all went to school there ourselves and we feel like there’s somewhat of an impasse between the county commission and the school board. We’re thinking our voice could help all the parties come to a better solution.”

Vest refused to comment on the specifics of what will be presented at the meeting, but said he and the BMA hopes to bring a suggestion to get the project moving.

“I don’t think we’re that far off (from a solution) just from talking to some of the county commissioners and school board members,” Vest said. “I know there are a lot of members on those boards who want something good for Jonesborough and also for the smaller schools in the county. The interest is there from everybody. I think it’s just maybe changing up the way it’s been discussed. We can come to a solution.”

Vest said he felt getting the Jonesborough School project off the ground would not only help the community, but that it will allow a focus to be shifted to other schools throughout the county.

“In my eyes, if we can get Jonesborough’s school situation resolved, it will also help these other smaller schools like West View and Sulphur Springs,” Vest said, “because the sooner we can move our focus from Jonesborough, we can put our attention towards those other schools in the county that need help as well.”

Not only is the BMA hoping to offer a solution to the commission and school board, but the Jonesborough mayor said the town is hoping to change the perception around the Jonesborough School discussion.

“I went to those same schools that they’re talking about,” Vest said. “I’ve got a personal interest in that as well. My daughter goes to the Jonesborough schools and I’ve got family that goes there. So when you see that discussion out there, it kind of pains you a little bit to see Jonesborough talked about in somewhat of a negative light.

“Even though we’ve got wonderful teachers there, there’s a perception from the outside by visitors is not as strong as it should be. It’s to the town’s benefit to help come up with a solution to our school situation.”

County looks at former Ace Hardware building as possible clinic site

The Jackson Boulevard building could be used for election business or as a clinic facility.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The old Ace Hardware building on Jackson Boulevard could soon become a space for county business.

On Thursday, Aug. 1, the county’s Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee will consider the site for the county employee health and wellness clinic after the county commission opted to defer a resolution agreeing to renew a three-year lease for the clinic’s current building located on Cherokee Street in Jonesborough.

Commissioners said the old hardware building could be an ideal location for the election commission office, but some also felt it could be an option for the employee health and wellness clinic.

“I think it would make an excellent space for the election office if we come to that decision,” Commissioner Kent Harris said at the July commission meeting. “But with all that space, I would think that we could very well put our employee health clinic in our own building which would save us (money). I know we’re speculating, but I hate to see us go into a three-year lease with the possibility of buying this building that’s going to have so much additional space that we could utilize for (the clinic) or other county needs.”

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said the owner, David Sell, is getting an appraisal on the Ace Hardware building, which closed earlier this year.

However, when it comes to making the building on Jackson Boulevard into the new clinic location, privacy is a concern for some.

“When we opened the clinic three years ago, people were very hesitant. They felt like someone in the county was going to get their health information, someone was going to see them going in there,” Washington County Benefits Coordinator Michelle Stewart said. “With it being off-site — and yes, there is an expense to that — it gives the employees peace of mind. They’re going in there to get treatment and no one sees them come and go.

“I’m not advocating either space. We can make something else work, but the difficulty may be the renovations and moving the clinic over there and then just the fall back of the employees’ (privacy concerns). That would be a concern that I feel people would have.”

But would moving the location of the clinic save money?

The lease agreement with Wolfe Development for the current clinic building says renewal years cost $1,200 per month rather than the $1,100 for the first three years. After three more years, the cost will be $1,300 per month.

Though commissioners said they felt the old hardware building would be large enough to move the clinic there as well, Commissioner Suzy Williams added that the site on Cherokee Street was built to fit the needs of the clinic, which Stewart said was part of the proposal specifications for a clinic site.

“When the space was bid, we put in the specifications for the room sizes and what we needed sink-wise, counter-wise, cabinet-wise, that sort of thing,” Stewart said. “So it was customized for what we asked for.”

If the hardware building were to become an election site and the location of the clinic, that might create even more privacy concerns; Commissioner Jodi Jones, who is also a member of the CIA Committee, said Washington County Health Department Director Christen Minnick has requested at committee meetings that the health department on Princeton Road no longer be a location for early voting due to privacy concerns.

“Her number one reason for asking the election commission to move early voting out of the health department was she had concerns about people coming in for health care and feeling like their privacy was not protected,” Jones said.

The CIA Committee will meet on Thursday, Aug. 1, at 9 a.m. in the first floor conference room in the Historic Courthouse located at 100 E. Main Street, Jonesborough.

Lead found in more county schools

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The list of Washington County Schools with an excess amount of lead in the water supply has grown.

Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary told the Herald & Tribune that an overage of lead has been detected in the cafeterias at Daniel Boone High School, David Crockett High School, Fall Branch Elementary School, Jonesborough Middle School, South Central Elementary School and Lamar Elementary School. Boone had two water sources with an excess amount while the other schools had one each, totaling seven overages.

“The fixture at every source has been removed and capped off,” Flanary said. “The plan is to replace each fixture with modern devices that were manufactured without lead, then re-test. Only after re-testing is complete and the sites are certified ‘acceptable’ will the water be used again.”

According to state law, if a school drinking fountain contains over 15 parts per billion in its water, the school system must conduct lead level tests on an annual basis until a test confirms that the level is less than 15 parts per billion. The source must also be removed if over 20 parts per billion. Other drinking sources in the school are allowed to stay in use. The two sources at Boone contained 40.2 and 40.8 parts per billion. Meanwhile Crockett’s had 25.3, Fall Branch’s had 17.4, Jonesborough Middle School had 16.3, South Central had 15 and Lamar had 33.1.

“Washington County Schools has now tested every water source required by state law, and we did it in six months,” Flanary said. “The law allowed two years. As we start this school year, we can state for the record that every source of water available to children, be it a water fountain or in a school kitchen, has been independently tested and is within safe limits for contaminants.”

In April, an excess amount of lead was found in drinking fountains at Asbury Optional High School, Boones Creek Elementary School, Gray Elementary School, and West View Elementary School and have since been removed. (Testing at Grandview Elementary and Ridgeview Elementary was not required because the schools were built after 1998.)

“What we’ve done with the drinking fountains is simply remove them forever,” Flanary said. “There are plenty of other places at all our schools to obtain water, so we just capped off the water supply at the contaminated sites. Problem solved.”

Though the school system has replaced the contaminated sources, re-testing will have to be done to ensure the amounts are not above the state limit.

“All the sites that are required under the statute have been tested, but we have to go back and re-test seven of the sites after we replace the fixtures,” Flanary said. “Essentially, though, we’ve tested everything that has to be tested and we can say with certainty that students do not have access to contaminated water.”