Budget committee approves re-roofing, tables design decision

Commissioner Larry England, Mayor Joe Grandy, and Commissioner Jim Wheeler consider school decisions at the latest budget committee meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Washington County’s Budget Committee approved a resolution not to exceed $1.1 million to re-roof the Jonesborough Elementary School building, but held off on a design decision for the Jonesborough K-8 School project.

Washington County Schools’ Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Patrick said the school system hopes to start the project, which includes removing and replacing the existing roof, as soon as school is out. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy asked during the Wednesday, March 13, meeting if the committee could hold off on the roofing decision until the county could hold a workshop with the Washington County Board of Education to discuss the Jonesborough K-8 School design plan, “Scheme 6”, to renovate and add on to the current Jonesborough Middle School building.

However, Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary told the committee that the process, which includes sending out and approving bids, is lengthy and holding off would put it all behind schedule.

“It’s a long process to get to the part where they can start construction,” Flanary said. “If it was September, I’d say no problem. We are in roofing season.”

County director of finance and administration and school board member Mitch Meredith added that the plan to re-roof the school had been on the school’s capital projects priority list for a while.

Meanwhile, Grandy mentioned that the cost for the re-roofing, which he said at one point was $700,000, had grown since then. Patrick said the cost of materials and labor had increased throughout the waiting period for a decision on the Jonesborough School project.

He also said the school board has no current plan to tear down the round portion of the elementary school, which leaves it as a county asset with or without student utilization.

“The school board has not made a decision to demolish the round building (at Jonesborough Elementary School), Patrick said, “which puts me in the position that I need to keep the building up. That’s where we are.”

Committee member Freddie Malone asked if the re-roofing project would take the capital projects fund to under $200,000. Meredith said it would, though that figure is the projected budgeted amount, meaning the funds for those projects are allocated, but are yet to be spent.

The committee didn’t discuss the Jonesborough School project design plan, which was tabled during last month’s budget committee meeting after the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee passed the design plan onto the budget committee. The committee plans to hold a workshop with commissioners and the school board to discuss the project on either Friday, March 29 or Monday, April 1. County officials said that meeting would be set for whichever date worked for the majority of commissioners.

The next county commission meeting — which will include the resolution to re-roof the elementary school as well as a resolution to purchase furniture for the new Boones Creek School for no more than $600,000 — will be held on Monday, March 25 at 6 p.m. at the George Jaynes Justice Center, located at 108 W Jackson Blvd., Jonesborough. To view the county’s current agenda packets and meeting calendar, go to http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/.

Board sends Boone baseball project to bid

Board members discuss the Boone baseball building project during the March 7 meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education might not have the money in hand for the Daniel Boone High School baseball building project, but the nine-member board passed a motion to begin the bid process anyhow.

Board member Chad Fleenor made the motion at the board’s regularly scheduled Thursday, March 7, meeting to bid out the Boone baseball building project in a 6-3 vote. The motion also included going ahead with the bid process only if it is legal to do so without the full amount for the project in-hand.

“I would like to send this out for bid pending they raise the extra money, which is legal. I checked on that,” Fleenor said. “This does not tie our hands to do anything other than we see how much it’s going to cost to do it.”

The project is estimated to cost $65,000. Fleenor said the baseball team had already raised $30,000 and that Boone’s athletic director planned to use $15,000 from the school’s athletic fund, leaving the project $20,000 short. The school system’s finance director, Brad Hale, said when the board sends out the bid, it would need to include that the bid is pending that the remainder of the funds are raised.

However, some board members had issues with the motion.

Board member Phillip McLain cited Tennessee Code Annotated 49-2-203 as his greatest holdback, which states that a construction project on school grounds must be performed by a qualified construction management service.

“I, for one, don’t want to see us break any laws that could ever put any of our children in harm’s way,” McLain said. “I get calls every week from people at Crockett saying, ‘If you do that over there at Boone, what are you going to do for us over here at this building?’ There’s no end to it.

“They’ve got someone chomping at the bit (at Crockett) to pour a concrete floor (for a multipurpose building). I can’t vote for that either because it doesn’t fit the TCA for what we’re allowed to do on a campus.”

Following McLain’s remarks, Fleenor attempted to amend the motion to take $20,000 from the school system’s fund balance to put towards Boone’s baseball building project. The motion for the amendment failed in a 3-6 vote. Fleenor, David Hammond, and Mitch Meredith were in favor. Annette Buchanan, Jason Day, Mary Beth Dellinger, Keith Ervin, Todd Ganger and Phillip McLain were opposed.

Ganger asked Hale if Boone would have enough left in its athletic fund to cover the rest of the school year’s athletic expenses if $15,000 of it is used for the baseball building. Hale said he thought so. Ganger also added that he felt putting $20,000 in reserve funds towards the project set the wrong precedent.

“They haven’t even come and asked for it. They were going to do fundraisers for it,” Ganger said. “We’re setting a terrible precedent for this stuff. You have to look beyond what’s going on now. You give money to one organization and you have three more coming behind them. They were willing to fundraise and do it and you sat here tonight and said they’d probably have the money by next month. Now you’re making a motion for us to pay for it.”

While some had concerns for the project and the bid process without the full amount for the project in-hand, Hammond said he was ready to see the process started for the project.

“I understand everyone’s concerns, but we keep kicking this can down the road and it’s a legitimate need,” Hammond said. “There have been sports organizations come to us before that raised funds and we’ve matched those funds. I think we have to take it as a case-by-case basis and see where we are fund-wise at that time. Let’s move this along and at least get the bids out there and see where they stand.”

Some felt the fund balance dollars could be better spent on in the classroom.

“When we start just dropping $20,000 here and there, can we not just drop $20,000 on some tablets for some kids that need them and some of those things if we have money like that?,” Day said. “Is it the same money? If it is, I say let’s put it in some classrooms.”

The board can use the fund balance reserves to its discretion, but must keep around $2 million in reserve funds. The most recent audit report lists the school system’s general fund balance at $6,129,043.

Fleenor mentioned that back in November, the board voted to put purchase lights for the softball field at Crockett for $150,000, which came from the fund balance. Fleenor and Ervin both voted in opposition to that motion in November.

“I’m not saying they didn’t need it, but we didn’t turn around and say, ‘$150,000 goes to Daniel Boone to do whatever they want.’ I’m just saying let’s get this project going, the bids will come in back and then you can okay it then. Why do we keep railroading something when Coach Hoover has worked to raise $30,000 for that project?”

Ganger and McLain both added that the softball lights had been an issue for at least 10 years. Meanwhile, board members also voiced a desire to step away from the Crockett or Boone mentality. 

“I really wish we could get away from that and just look at each project and remember we’re Washington County,” Hammond said. “All nine of us represent all of Washington County. Every board member up here cares about every student in this county whether they’re at Boone or they’re at Crockett. So we need to leave that off the table.”

School officials push to re-roof Jonesborough

The Jonesborough Elementary School building could soon receive a new roof.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

For the new Boones Creek School, it’ll be furniture. For Jonesborough Elementary, it’ll be a new roof.

At its monthly meeting on Thursday, March 7, Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee unanimously approved a motion to allocate $600,000 for furniture for the new Boones Creek School as well as a motion to reroof Jonesborough Elementary School for $1,100,000. Those resolutions will go on to the county’s next budget meeting set for Wednesday, March 13 at 9 a.m.

County Attorney Tom Seeley said the furniture amount for the new K-8 school is not a part of the cost for the Boones Creek School project and is yet to be approved by the county commission.

“The $600,000 has not been appropriated by the county commission so it has not been appropriated before,” Seeley said. “This is new money that was not previously appropriated by the county commission. This is in addition to (the money appropriated for the the BCS project.)”

As for Jonesborough Elementary, it’s all about keeping what — and who — is already in the school dry.

The $1,100,000 reroofing project would cover the entirety of the elementary school building. It does not include roof repairs or replacements at the Jonesborough Middle School building.

Commissioner Greg Matherly asked if the school system had already patched all they could on the elementary school building’s roof. The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said that has been done for the past few years.

“I’ve been patching (JES) for over three years,” Patrick said. “An indication of how we are patching now: the last patch was 20-feet-by-20-feet. That’s substantial. So the board has decided it’s become an important issue.”

Commissioner and Committee Chairman Danny Edens asked how the reroofing would play into the “Scheme 6” design plan to renovate and add on to the current Jonesborough Middle School building to create a K-8 school. That plan is yet to be approved by the county’s budget committee.

Director of Schools Bill Flanary said the re-reroofing is separate from the design plan. Patrick added that no matter what happens with the design plan, the elementary school building would experience more damage without a roof replacement.

“We’ve got 80,000 square feet of that building and it will not be a good building if we don’t keep it dry regardless of what we use it for,” Patrick said. “We have to keep it dry. That is regardless of what happens with Scheme 6.”

The county’s budget committee will meet on Wednesday, March 13, at 9 a.m. in the first floor conference room at the courthouse located at 100 E Main St., Jonesborough.

Getting technical: Could Boones Creek Elementary become a new TCAT site?

The Boones Creek Elementary School building could be a new site for a Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The new Boones Creek School is slated to open its doors in 2019, but new life might be restored in the soon-to-be vacated Boones Creek Elementary School site.

At it’s Wednesday, Feb. 27 meeting, the Washington County Board of Education unanimously voted to offer the elementary school site and property to the state to develop a Tennessee Center for Applied Technology. The motion also stated the sale of the property will be subject to the execution of a formal agreement that is yet to be discussed.

TCATs offer post-secondary education and technical job training. The site, should it come to fruition in Washington County, would act as a satellite location to the TCAT in Elizabethton.

“What they have planned at the Boones Creek Elementary site would be for very close area labor market needs,” Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said at the BOE meeting. “I see it as a job creator.”

Though school and county officials say a new technical training facility could be beneficial in the county, a TCAT at the round school building on Christian Church Road has not officially been decided.

“We are in a process to hope that this becomes a reality. I don’t want to get too far out in front of where we are,” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said. “The board of education took the first step in terms of hurdle clearing in making what will soon be known as the former Boones Creek Elementary School site offered to the state to be used for this TCAT.”

Grandy said the site wouldn’t completely duplicate what’s offered at the Elizabethton site but would supplement it, adding that it would be more convenient to Washington County students.

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger asked during the BOE meeting if Washington County students would have preferential treatment in terms of admission into the technical school. Flanary said he didn’t expect them to.

Though the board unanimously voted to turn the property into a TCAT site, board member Jason Day said he felt the board should “protect” the property while working with the state on the project.

“I think working with them would be great,” Day said. “But I don’t think we ought to give our building away and then our kids won’t have first right. It won’t be just Washington County students.

“I just think we need to protect our property at the end of the day. Work with them any way we can, but protect our property.”

Flanary added that the Tennessee Higher Education Commission indicated it had no interest in leasing the property and aimed for ownership. The director of schools also said as long as the building is used for education, the state would own it, but if it is no longer used or used for anything other than a school, the property goes back to the school board.

Flanary added that the old Green Valley Developmental Center site in Greene County was also being considered as a TCAT location.

Apart from adding workforce eduction opportunities to the area, county and school officials are also hoping to see the “economic engine,” as Flanary called it, in Tennessee’s oldest county.

“(The TCAT would be) a real economic engine. I keep saying that,” Flanary said. “We talked about how stagnant Washington County’s economy has been for so long.

“This is a way you could create tax dollars.”

A meeting to discuss the potential project was held between Flanary, Grandy, TCAT, and  Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Tuesday, March 5 after press time for the Herald & Tribune.

The county’s Health Education and Welfare Committee is also slated to discuss the potential project at its Thursday, March 7 meeting at 1 p.m. at 100 E Main St., Jonesborough.

The school board will also hold its regularly scheduled meeting on March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.

Local business warns against scams

A recent scam has prompted a local Jonesborough business to warn its customers.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

A common feeling for folks every year around April 15, Tax Day, is one of stress.

But along with the stress of filing taxes comes the relief or perhaps joy of receiving a nice refund.

While tax season is prime time for these types of technological criminal acts, the rise of social media has turned any time of the year into a potential windfall for the criminal.

Gail Stallard at the Packet-N-Post has seen her share of folks convinced of the legitimacy of these fake social media personalities and other similar types of scams. In the time the shipping store has been in business, over a year and a half, she said there had been at least 10 attempts to send funds to fraudulent online acquaintances.

One experience she shared recently demonstrated the potentially severe nature of such scams.

A local woman received a friend request through Facebook from a gentleman in Nigeria claiming to be a shipping executive for Exxon, Stallard said. Over time the overseas huckster, by utilizing his “mother” to also contact the resident on Facebook, was able to convince her that he was a legitimate suitor who needed money from her in order to travel to meet her.

When the victim decided to send money, Stallard said, she tried to talk her out of the situation.

“He had her convinced that he’s a big-timer at Exxon and all his money is tied up and he needs that money to get to her; she’s 85 years old!” Stallard said.

The Packet-N-Post employee was able to contact a family member who told Stallard that the relative had already sent a large sum of money to the gentleman.

Eventually the victim recognized her predicament and stopped payments, but Stallard added that she believes some folks caught in similar situations continue paying in order to avoid embarrassment.

While many have become aware of the “Nigerian Prince” type of scam, some folks not well versed in current technology can also fall victim to online criminals.

“Technology made scams easier to conduct,” Jonesborough Chief of Police Ron Street said recently, “because you’re not dealing face to face with people as much.”

As tax season approaches, the specter of refund checks filling pockets with cash is a tempting opportunity for criminals to scam the innocent.

“There’s all kinds of scams going on now. The big one in this area now is Internal Revenue Service (scams),” Street said.  “And it’s usually someone with a Nigerian or Indian accent saying that you owe money and you have to send it, they want a certain type of credit card or they want you to get money cards and send it to them.

“The IRS doesn’t work that way. They’re going to communicate with you in writing and setup a meeting in person to deal with. But so many people are vulnerable and they fall for these things.”

Street added that anybody soliciting money in the name of the IRS or any other entity or corporation is most likely trying to pull a scam.

Those who are unfamiliar with technology tend to be easier targets as they may feel that their computer, laptop or network is secure or they may not be aware of the security settings that make that technology secure.

“One is that something is wrong with your computer and you’ve sent them notice that something is wrong and they will fix it if you give them access to the computer,” Street said.

Once the access to your computer has been established, all the personal information or contacts are wiped from the computer and potentially used to empty your bank accounts or perhaps create false identities, among the many possibilities.

Both Street and Stallard said that being extremely cautious of what you share online may be the best, or possibly the only, way to avoid such situations.

“It’s going on everywhere. I mean it’s huge. The scamming world is huge,” Stallard added, “But the main thing is to make people aware.”

County votes ‘no” on city TIF, John Sevier building proposal

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

After discussing the topic for several months, the Washington County Commission finally came to a vote regarding the Johnson City Development Authority’s redevelopment and urban renewal plan for downtown Johnson City and the John Sevier Center.

The resolution for the plan failed in a 7-7 vote on the JCDA’s tax increment financing. The second JCDA resolution to use TIF to finance the acquisition of the John Sevier Center also failed in a 7-7 vote. Commissioners Larry England, Freddie Malone, Suzy Williams, Phil Carriger, Jodi Jones, Gary McAllister and Jim Wheeler were in favor. Commissioners Steven Light, Kent Harris, Jerome Fitzgerald, Danny Edens, Bryan Davenport, Robbie Tester and Mike Ford were opposed. Chairman Greg Matherly was absent.

The amendment to the JCDA redevelopment and urban renewal plan included taking the plan from an assessment-base model to a tax-base model and also raising the plan’s debt ceiling by $11 million. For Harris, the amount of debt was a primary concern.

“This is a large amount — millions of dollars more — that they are asking this commission to take on in that TIF area,” Harris said. “It’s actually going to be up to an amount that never ends because it’s based on a percentage of the value of the property in that TIF area that they can borrow on. I for one am against that.”

The resolution included that the JCDA would have to bring any project over $25,000 to the commission. JCDA board member Craig Torbett added that if commissioners were concerned about the debt climbing, they would have the opportunity to vote against the projects that would be presented to them as part of the plan.

“It does not in any way increase the debt on the books at any point,” Torbett said. “At any point that you feel the debt has reached a level you don’t want it to, you can simply disapprove that project.”

For some commissioners, the decision came down to growth for the area. Carriger asked commissioners if they were “for growth and jobs or for doing nothing” while McAllister said he felt the investment in downtown promoted the area as a whole to other businesses.

Meanwhile, numerous commissioners commented on the poor conditions in which the John Sevier Building residents live. The JCDA’s plan includes relocating those residents elsewhere before remodeling the historic building and placing it on the market.

Malone said he felt change would eventually be happening for those living in the John Sevier building one way or another and the commission should consider whether that will be change brought by a local or a national corporation.

“A lot of times people do not want change and they fear the change that might come in the future,” Malone said. “But things for those residents at the John Sevier Center are going to change. The question is do we address that change on the local basis or do we allow that to happen outside of our hands?”

Cantler said the property is currently for sale. Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership’s CEO Mitch Miller added that the JCDA planned to use TIF for the John Sevier project. He agreed with Tester that after the commission voted down the motion for the TIF amendment, the John Sevier project discussion was a “moot” discussion.

Jones said she felt the commission should discuss what possibilities there were for the JCDA and the John Sevier Building project in light of the failed TIF motion.

Carriger added that he felt the commission needed to vote on the John Sevier Building resolution in order to hold the commission accountable.

“Are we going to be a part of the solution or are we going to be a part of the problem?,” Carriger asked the commission. “We spent three (Commerce, Industry and Agriculture) meetings, we spent a tour of the John Sevier Center, we spent three hours and 20 minutes going over all this.

“I really feel for the people of the John Sevier Center. That is very, very poor conditions that they live in. I think it’s a shame their county commission evidently doesn’t care about them. I think this body needs to be on record and tax payers hold them accountable.”

Ridgeview parents, officials discuss overcrowding

Phillip McLain speaks at the town hall meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Washington County Schools’ bus routes were changed in the northern half of the county back in November, but overcrowding at Ridgeview Elementary School, however, is still not resolved.

The county school system held a town hall meeting at Ridgeview on Thursday, Feb. 21, to discuss the changed bus routes as well as the overcrowding situation at Ridgeview. The school system’s special projects manager, Jarrod Adams, said the changes were designed in a way to concentrate the schools’ transportation services.

“We wanted to make sure the bus routes we developed were the shortest, most direct route from Point A to Point B for our students,” Adams said. “By necessity, there are times when one bus will be going south passing another bus going north, going to two different schools. We looked at the map and did our best to make sure we didn’t have that double bus on the same road as much as possible.”

In November, the board unanimously voted to change the bus routes to bring more students to the new Boones Creek School and to relieve Ridgeview of its amount. Parents in the affected school zones — Ridgeview, Boones Creek, Gray, Fall Branch and Sulphur Springs — were sent letters after the decision was made, requesting that parents respond saying their student would either attend their assigned school or would return to the school in which the student is currently enrolled. In the latter situation, the parent would then have to provide transportation for the student and avoid chronic tardiness as part of a contract from the school system.

At the town hall meeting, Adams said approximately 190 students were effected by the change in bus zones. He said of that number, only 13 have elected to go to the school they were recently assigned.

“We knew going into this process we won’t fix the overcrowding issue at Ridgeview,” Adams said. “We understand, honestly, it’ll probably take seven or eight years to filter through the overcrowding issue at Ridgeview. But we have to start somewhere. We weren’t trying to fix this in one year. If we were, we would have said, ‘you have to go to the school you’re zoned with.’ And we’re not doing that.”

But that doesn’t solve Ridgeview parents’ immediate problem — the car line.

Ridgeview parent Mandy Smith said she felt changing the bus routes caused more students to have to go through the car line because they could no longer ride the bus if they were to attend the school for which they’re no longer zoned.

Ridgeview Principal Kelley Harrell said the school is currently planning to change its car line and that change will most likely happen in May. She said the plan is to load the buses in the back of the building and use the bus lane at the front for the car line. She added that the county’s highway department has already surveyed the property for the changes.

“Even if we lost those 180 kids, we’re still going to have a massive car line population because about 70 percent of our students are already car riders,” Harrell said. “But we are prepared, we have the space to stack cars and we’ll be able to stay off the road much better than we do now with the changes we are going to implement next year.

“We’ll make it work. That’s what I want all the Ridgeview parents that are here to know; no matter what happens to our car line next year, we’re gonna be fine because I’ll make sure we are. We’re going to be good.”

School board member Phillip McLain, who has been vocal during recent school board meetings regarding overcrowding at Ridgeview, said the board is also trying to look ahead. With a school at 122 percent capacity, reducing the number of Ridgeview students, even at a slow rate, he said, is a needed step.

“If a subdivision opens up within this district and 20 kids comes out of this subdivision, guess what, they’re in this district,” McLain said. “They’re coming to this school. So where does that take us to? That’s the part that I ask you to understand what we’re up against. We’ve got to try to keep space utilized as good as we can and not overcrowd our students. The more we overcrowd our schools, the more the classrooms are overcrowded.”

Meanwhile, one parent questioned the decision to push nearby roads out of the Ridgeview district in the bus route shuffle.

“I just want you to take into consideration one thing; the child who named this school lived on Ridgeview Drive,” Ridgeview parent Becky Sutton said. “Ridgeview Drive is now zoned for Gray. And it’s kind of a shame.”

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 27. The called meeting’s agenda includes discussion on topics such as the upcoming Boones Creek School’s furniture, the mascot decision, storage of trophies at the school as well as an appraisal on the Boones Creek Middle School property. The Jonesborough School project will also be discussed at the meeting. That meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at 405 W College Street, Jonesborough.

Langston building to serve the community once again

The old Langston High School building will become an art and education center.

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

“Enter to learn, depart to serve” rang out time-and-time again during the evening banquet in celebration of Langston High School at the storytelling Gala & Benefit held in Jonesborough’s International Storytelling Center Saturday night, Feb.16. This was the slogan of the high school in Johnson City that served the entire area of Washington County during a period of racial segregation from 1893-1965.

The nonprofit Langston Education & Arts Development (LEAD) and the City of Johnson City are collaborating in a public-private partnership to renovate and transform Langston High School into a new community-based, multicultural arts and education center.  The city has allocated $1.8 million toward the project, while LEAD is working to raise the remaining $500,000 to completely fund the renovation of the building that housed the county’s all-black school.

Saturday night was one of those fund-raising efforts, but it was much more. Not only was the occasion a fitting celebration of Black History Month, the reunion of many Langston Alumni at the four-hour celebration demonstrated a devotion to a time when “It Was Ours.” This expression of “Langston High School Through Memory’s Eye” was emotionally expressed by Master Storyteller Shelia Arnold.  During 2018 at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, she brought audiences to tears, laughter, and silence with her powerful stories and songs.

The Langston banquet Saturday produced these same emotions, with themes that were even more powerful and personal. There were not many present who could not say they watched and participated in the evening’s activities without laughing and shedding some tears. 

The audience of 100 people heard Michael Young, Chairman of the LEAD Executive Board, begin the evening by stating, “Our goal with your help is to re-purpose Langston.  I realize the role Langston played in our education.  Our band was spectacular, our athletic teams excelled. Langston was so much more than reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s hard to convey the feeling of the school?”

Mayor Jenny Brock said “What a crowd” as she began her opening remarks.  She asked those present to remember former Mayor & Commissioner Dr. Ralph Van Brocklin who, beginning in 2015, started work to restore the Langston building. She noted his observation that the building’s deterioration “should have never been allowed to happen.” 

The mayor also recalled the seven girls who came to Science Hill High School in 1965 as desegregation of the city schools began. Several of those first black students were in the audience Saturday.  They included Patsy Cornick and Linda Kyle.

They remembered the federal court case in Greeneville when U.S. District Judge Charles Neese ordered all schools in the district be open to all students. The judge said, “The court is not in the school business. But the court must see the law is obeyed.”

  The ruling on Jan. 11, 1965 came nearly 11 years after the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a unanimous landmark ruling in Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, striking down the “separate but equal” doctrine allowing racially segregated schools.  Judge Neese said the complete desegregation of the Johnson City School system was to be completed in eight months.

Patsy and Linda were sisters (maiden names of Fields)  who had been approved by the Johnson City Schools  in 1964 as part of the initial seven to transfer from Langston High School to Science Hill because they wanted and could not get courses in Spanish, art, shorthand and some mathematics. In Greeneville, more than 100 black residents filed suit seeking full integration in all the city’s schools.  By the time the lawsuit was filed, Johnson City Schools were integrated up to fourth grade under the grade-a-year plan put in place under the leadership of Superintendent Howard McCorkle.  

When interviewed after the banquet program Saturday, both women said they encountered “no problems” in attending Science Hill.  They both went on to business careers, one at  Kingsport’s Quebecor and the other in the Southern Railroad office in Atlanta.  

Mayor Brock talked of the new multi-cultural concept for a renovated Langston, much as the McKinney Center in Jonesborough is used by the community.  She commented that “We have five new commissioners in Johnson City who all will be at the ribbon cutting.”  The Mayor continued,” Work [on the building]  is underway.  The city will have a full time staff person and one part-time. This will be the best ribbon cutting I have ever attended.”

Rachel Smith, a student ambassador at Science Hill, was introduced by the mayor.  The high school senior, who carries on the legacy of Langston, plans to major in environmental studies in college followed by the pursuit of a law degree after graduation. Also introduced was Evan Schmid, from the Science Hill Showstoppers. He delivered a prose piece by Langston Hughes titled “Thank You, Ma’am.” The school was named Langston Normal School for noted black leader John Mercer Langston, a Congressman from Virginia.

Storyteller Arnold’s presentation was both interactive and spellbinding.  She knew the names of teachers, incidents at the school through the years and songs. The school’s alma mater, sang at her urging, brought musical harmony recited from memory by alumni members. There were recollections of arts week,  the band marching through the neighborhood beginning at the school’s location at the corner of Myrtle Avenue & Elm Street, trips to Kingsport and Greeneville, going to restaurants and teen town.  Arnold weaved into her presentation the story of integration and then how Langston was relegated to a school maintenance building and finally how “they let the building go.” She echoed the theme, “This was ours – it needs to be ours again.”  

Arnold then recalled how “the people began to petition and to teach why the building was so  important.  Young people will walk up the stairs again. This time the doors will be open to all. We who walk by these doors will serve. I look forward to hearing those sounds.”

Audience participation began as Arnold talked to individuals who had “the legacy of Langston in your souls.  I am of Langston Blood” she said as one after another of the alumni present told of the major corporations they had worked for and opportunities for higher education they achieved.  Included was John Russaw, the first African American football player at East Tennessee State University, and William A.  Coleman, Jr.,who spent 27 years in the Navy becoming a Captain,  and later was on the Army ROTC faculty in the College of Business and Technology at ETSU.  Carla Forney, a long-time pro bono advocate for Legal Services of East Tennessee, and Debra Gray, the first black to attend University School, spoke of their experiences.  One-by-one each Langston alumni would stand up and say “I was the first black…” adding their  job description and other achievements.”  Finally, Michael Young commented, “I was the last Langston graduate.”

After the formal program and meal, a silent auction was completed.   LEAD has not totaled all the proceeds from the evening’s event and auction.

School design plan heads to the budget committee, BOE approves re-roofing

Mitch Meredith goes over numbers at the HEW meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Just when the Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee decided to bob, the county’s board of education opted to weave.

Both groups made decisions regarding the Jonesborough School on Thursday, Feb. 7, during their respective meetings. In a 4-1 vote, the HEW Committee passed two resolutions to send the “Scheme 6” design plan onto the budget committee as well as a resolution to purchase the McCoy property. Meanwhile, the school board, in a 6-3 vote, approved a plan to reroof the current Jonesborough Elementary School building.

The HEW Committee’s motions were passed onto the county’s budget committee without a recommendation or advocacy from any of the five committee members.

“We’re not making a decision to accept Scheme 6 or the McCoy property by sending it forward,” HEW Committee Chairman Danny Edens said. “I feel like we’re doing an injustice to everybody by not allowing it to go through the process. So I’d like to see it go through that process, and if it gets to the commission floor and we approve it, then you’ve got your plan. If we don’t approve it, then it will give our board and (the school board) direction to start over and find a new plan. I think that’s productive for everybody.”

But the question as of late has centered around funding for the Jonesborough School project.

In October, the county’s financial director/budget advisor and BOE member, Mitch Meredith, told county and school officials that the funds for the Jonesborough School project would have to be borrowed. He also said the full project would cost the county $40 million, with half of that going to Johnson City. But at the HEW meeting, Meredith said Washington County would have to borrow $56,247,000 for the Jonesborough project, which also includes the Johnson City School System’s share. Meredith told the Herald & Tribune the $56.2 million figure would also cover all of the country school system’s capital project needs listed on its five-year priority list.

“The $40 million would be for the school project by itself,” Meredith said. “The reason it’s at $57 million is there are other school needs that are going to have to be borrowed for. Scheme 6 is going to mothball the Jonesborough Elementary School, but that building needs a roof on it.

“HVAC systems and controls (need to be replaced) out at Boone, other roofs (need to be repaired) — some of those things are going to happen within the next year which is going to require actually borrowed funds to do that. The $57 million borrowing is to do all the schools’ currently anticipated needs over the next four years.”

While the Jonesborough School design decision has been in gridlock over the past two years, the need for a new roof at Jonesborough Elementary School has been growing, according to school officials.

At the BOE’s regularly scheduled Thursday, Feb. 7 meeting, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said he first brought the roofing needs to the board’s attention three years ago and now, he said, the maintenance department is prepared to place a 20-foot patch over the round portion of the school’s roof.

“The plies are coming apart it’s so old and deteriorating,” Patrick said. “When we put a patch on that roof, it’s not like someone punched a hole in it and we put a patch on it like you would a bicycle tire. It’s delaminated so badly we have to put a 20-by-20 foot square on it.”

Though Patrick said the roof repairs have been a growing need, the board voted not to discuss the possibility of re-roofing the elementary school at the board’s called meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22. At that meeting, Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, Keith Ervin, David Hammond and Philip McLain voted to not discuss re-roofing Jonesborough Elementary. But at the Feb. 7 meeting, Buchanan joined board members Jason Day, Chad Fleenor, Todd Ganger (who made the motion to re-roof), and Meredith in voting to discuss the motion. Buchanan, Day, Fleenor, Ganger, Hammond and Meredith voted in favor of re-roofing the school. Dellinger, Ervin and McLain remained opposed.

“Reality says that nothing is happening in Jonesborough,” Ganger said. “If (the commission) told us today we could build Scheme 6, you’re still looking at two more years.

“This is an open and closed lawsuit if something happens. Check with your attorney on that. If something happens, and this has been voted down after it’s been brought before this board repeatedly, we’ve lost. Plain and simple.”

Some board members, however, said they felt a vote to re-roof the school could cause the commission pull back on the current Jonesborough School design plan.

“If we do put a roof on it,” Hammond said after voting in favor of the motion, “I don’t want the message to be conveyed to the county commission or the community that we’re giving up on a new building or renovation for Jonesborough.”

Meanwhile, Dellinger said she wished to see Jonesborough’s “round” school torn down to allow more space for the potential K-8 school. Scheme 6 does not include any plans to tear down the round portion of the elementary school.

Meredith and Buchanan said they felt that no matter what happens in regards to the current design plans for the Jonesborough School, the school system still owns the building and would need to replace the roof.

“We still have an asset so we need a roof on it,” Meredith said. “You don’t want the roof leaking on an asset even if it’s not being used. It will ruin your value. We need to move forward and put a roof on this thing.”

Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary added that the BOE has requested the school project’s architect, Tony Street, draw up a Scheme 6 plan that did not include usage of the McCoy property. Flanary said that plan should be complete by this week.

JAMSA gets town ready for 2019 Chocolate Fest

Chocolate will be the star attraction in Jonesborough on Saturday.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

On Saturday, chocolate lovers from across the region will be spilling into Jonesborough for this year’s annual Chocolate Fest.

And members of Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association — sponsors of what may be called Jonesborough’s most popular winter event — couldn’t be happier.

“This is our fourth year,” explained Dona Lewis, JAMSA treasurer. And more than 2,000 visitors are expected.

To JAMSA members, that number not only represents a lot of happy people, it is also a great way for merchants to showcase the town they love, especially during the sometimes dreary month of February.

“We want them to take away good memories of a good time in Jonesborough, then use that memory to bring them back,” explained Jennifer Wolfe, JAMSA treasurer.

The good memories are almost assured as Saturday’s fest is promising handmade chocolates in all forms and fashions.

Set to be held downtown from 11 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 9, the event will offer everything from “chocolate mice” made with Hershey’s Kisses and maraschino cherries, chocolate praline mousse layer cake, chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter pie to an assortment of truffles, chocolate covered strawberries and lot of items ready for chocolate dipping.

“We expect to sell about 14,000 tickets, with each ticket being a serving of chocolate,” Wolfe said. “We sell them in packs of 10 or 15.”

Before the event, 10-ticket packs are available for $11.50, while 15-ticket packs are $16.50. Visit JBOchocolatefest.com or call 753-1010.

On the day of the event, chocolate lovers can pick up limited packs of 10 tickets for $15 each.

According to both Wolfe and Lewis, this event isn’t just fun for participants, it’s also gotten to be a favorite activity for the merchants as well.

“All of the merchants are pleased with this event,” Lewis said. In fact, local businesses were signing up before she could even get out the door.

“This list filled up really quickly this year,” Lewis said. “We didn’t have to go after people.”

Wolfe agreed, saying that Chocolate Fest is definitely a fun day for all.

“It’s really set up as sort of a walking tour of downtown, you’re meeting the merchants . . .you’re eating chocolate and your happy,” she said.

Of course, Chocolate Fest isn’t the only event JAMSA will bring to Jonesborough in 2019. Also up ahead will be Strolling on Main in May, with its promise of art, tapas and wine; and the ever-popular Scoop Fest in August, with its assorted collection of favorite ice cream flavors.

Throughout the year, JAMSA will also continue to be involved in the service part of their name, donating a portion of their proceeds to the local food bank and stepping in to assist in a variety of other community-oriented town activities.

The most important role the group plays, however, is as a support for the men and women who choose to open their dreams in Jonesborough, whether downtown or along 11E.

“Our big other reason for existence is just to be a community. We all work together,” Wolfe said. “If this store does well, than this other one will as well. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

Commission considers redevelopment plans

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Commission didn’t take a vote related to a redevelopment and urban renewal plan, tax increment financing related to the John Sevier Building or the Mitch Cox PILOT project agreement.

But commissioners sure deliberated over them during a presentation to the commission.

The commission unanimously voted to remove the items from the agenda after Chairman Greg Matherly told the commission the Johnson City Development Authority asked that the commission to postpone the vote until next month’s meeting. Matherly added that the Mitch Cox PILOT agreement was requested to be removed from the meeting agenda and has not been rescheduled to be back on the commission’s agenda.

Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership’s CEO Mitch Miller spoke to the commission on TIFs and PILOTS as part of the county mayor’s report.

Miller told the commission that TIFs were created to better undesirable areas and create redevelopment opportunities and were used throughout the state. He added that PILOTs He also said that Knoxville currently has 47 TIF or PILOT projects in the works while Johnson City has about 10.

“When you’re not growing as a region,” Miller said, “We have to do everything we can to attract people to come here and build jobs.”

Alicia Summers, NETREP’s vice president of business development, explained that PILOT plans allow industrial development boards to discount, reduce or freeze property taxes for up to 20 years.

She also explained that each plan made with companies is different from another and thus requires a different amount of jobs created. When asked where some of those companies stood on jobs created, Summers said reports aren’t required from the groups until 2020. She added that she can gather that information to bring back to the commission.

Commissioner Kent Harris said he felt it was important to see that these companies produced what was promised.

“I think every job is important,” Harris said. “I don’t want to do anything to hurt any of these places. There are other people we aren’t giving breaks to. There’s a lot of talk of, ‘is it fair to give to one and not another?’ I know anyone can ask, but who decides? I think they need to live up to the bargain.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Robbie Tester said he felt transparency is important for the commission as well as the public relating to the PILOT and TIF plans.

“The issue is the terms of agreements being different and we don’t know the terms,” Tester said. “The public doesn’t and when we ask, there’s no public answer. It’s in the email. We represent the public. The transparency is the issue.”

Commissioner Jodi Jones added that she felt the commission wasn’t only interested in seeing success from those companies in Washington County; she said she felt it was important that the commission know how much these newly created jobs pay and what they’re offering.

“It’s not just that they’re successful,” Jones said, “it’s also that they give opportunities.”

Matherly suggested that the commission consider holding a future workshop with NETREP to go over the figures requested by commissioners.

County to consider live streaming

Commissioners Jim Wheeler, Larry England, and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy discuss the possibility of streaming future county commission meetings.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Washington County Commissioners might want to make sure to smile when they take a seat at the commission table since future meetings could be recorded and streamed on YouTube and Facebook starting in 2019.

The county’s budget committee unanimously approved a $1,200 resolution to pay The Video Guy for live streaming services of the commission meetings at $200 per month. Those dollars will come from the unassigned fund balance.

“I think anything we can do to enhance transparency from our government to our citizens is a good thing,” Mayor Joe Grandy told the Herald & Tribune. “I think it’s important from a transparency perspective. Our citizens can if they chose see what goes on in our county government and maybe come away with an understanding of it and how the process works.”

In recent years, numerous government entities have started streaming public meetings. In 2018, for example, the Washington County Board of Education began streaming and recording monthly board meetings. A view of the nine-member board and the crowd are streamed on Facebook, Youtube and at www.wcde.org and are available for viewing after the meeting is over.

Grandy added that the resolution, which will be considered by the full commission at the January meeting, will also pay for the three months in 2018 that The Video Guy streamed the commission meetings.

Grandy added that the county will also be making an effort to post meeting agendas the Wednesday before the monthly meetings rather than the Friday before.

“The goal of the group has been to get it out Friday afternoon or Monday,” Grandy said. “From my experience in it, not many people pick those up the first part of the week anyway. Our new commitment, if you all are comfortable with this, will be Wednesday before the commission meetings after the packet is posted and available.”

The commission’s next meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. at the George Jaynes Justice Center, located at 108 W Jackson Blvd., Jonesborough. To view the county’s calendar of events and to view the upcoming agenda, go to www.washingtoncountytn.org.

Longtime town employee steps down as director

Rachel Conger

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

Outgoing Jonesborough Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Conger probably never gave much thought to how many different areas she would need to master at her job.  Monday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting might have clued her in.

Conger, who oversaw the entire department during her 12-year tenure, has shifted to a part-time position which was approved at the meeting.

The BMA also debated and ultimately approved the merits of dividing the position into two areas of responsibility.

Jonesborough Operations Manager Craig Ford said, “With what we have going on, at least certainly what we’ll have going on in the future, there are very distinct differences between what goes on in the Arts as opposed to what’s going on with, as an example, the little league athletic programs, the water park and the green spaces. So they are very different. And typically you have very different personalities doing those jobs.”

The loss of a director involved in so many facets of the department, the addition of so many green spaces over the years and the contrasting areas of the department prompted a recommendation to the BMA that the Parks and Rec Director’s job be split into an Assistant Recreation Director for Parks and Athletics Department, which would be filled by the former Assistant Director under Conger, Matt Townsend, and an Assistant Recreation Director for Arts and Special Projects, which would be advertised.

Alderman Virginia Causey began the discussion with the suggestion to fill the Parks and Athletics position and hold off on the Arts and Special Projects position.

“I think the Assistant Recreation Director that was recommended for the Arts and Special Projects should not be done. I think it should be that the McKinney Center staff and group will be the arts side and let’s re-evaluate in July … Let the staff that we have now, see what they can do. If they’re not doing what they need to do then we’ll look at hiring again in three to six months.”

At issue was the cost to fill Conger’s position, and whether the economic development of the arts required a director.

“From an economic development standpoint, the arts activities and a lot of the downtown activities have been very positive. The arts are already developing and I think we need to cultivate that and build on that,” Alderman Adam Dickson said. “If we embrace this idea of arts as economic development, then it seems like to have a person in place to make the plan work would be a good strategy. So I think that having a director that would cover all of the arts programming would be wise.”

After further discussion, a motion by Causey to approve the position description for the Recreation Director for Parks and Athletics, and fill the position with Matt Townsend was made and passed unanimously.

Another motion was made to approve the position description for Assistant Recreation Director for Arts and Special Projects but to wait three to six months to advertise in order to gauge how the town’s cultural and artistic venues, such as the McKinney Center and the Jonesborough Repertory Theater, could manage themselves.

Aldermen Terry Countermine and Dickson voted “nay” while Aldermen Causey, Stephen Callahan and Mayor Chuck Vest voted “aye” to approve the motion.

The final recommendation was the creation of a part-time position for Conger.

The board approved the position of Recreation Capital Project Planner.

The job would utilize the skills and knowledge she attained during her time as the Parks and Rec Director.

The Agenda Presentation from the meeting stated, “We are undertaking some capital projects, and it would be extremely helpful to have someone responsible for working with the architect, engineer, etc. to detail out every aspect of these capital projects.

“(Conger) has obtained very valuable insight on on-going capital projects because she helped develop them … The other area Conger can continue to be helpful with is revenue generation. We really need to focus on revenue producing activities, and obtaining sponsorships for a lot of our programming.”

County audit shows budget, purchasing deficiencies

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The 2018 audit for Washington County is complete and includes six findings from the year.

Three of those findings were from the county mayor and director of accounts and budgets, one was from the clerk and master, one was from the director of schools and one was from the sheriff’s office.

Though the county tallied multiple findings, the number of audit findings decreased from 25 to six between last year’s audit and the most recent from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, with last year being the first time the state had completed the county’s audit. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said there was still a bit of a learning curve one year after using state auditors but that he felt the financial state of the county is in the right place.

“I think it’s really good. Really some of the things that were on there this year have already been addressed and resolved,” Grandy said. “It’s not perfect but I feel like we’re definitely making progress and trying to understand some of the different interpretations that the auditors have that vary from the auditing firm that had done the audit for the county for 50 years.”

Three of 2018’s findings occurred in the office of the county mayor. The audit lists accounting records that failed to match the chart of accounts, a lack of authorization of budget operations and purchasing deficiencies as the three findings for the mayor’s office. Mostly, the audit seemed to circle around issues that carried over from the 2017 audit to the 2018 audit.

The audit reported that the per record estimated beginning fund balance reflected in the general capital projects fund was $8,077,362 less than that of the estimated beginning fund balance. The county mayor’s office response to the finding as listed in the audit said the mismatched figures “were recorded because the county completed a bond issue in June of 2017 but did not record the obligation for education debt sharing with Johnson City,” which was paid in fiscal year 2018.

The deficiencies in budget operations included $3,420,000 that was set aside for the excavation work for the athletic fields at Boones Creek. The funds were included in the original budget approved by the county commission, but the appropriation was not posted to accounting records since it was “reportedly an amount that had been included in the prior year’s budget,” the audit said.

“We just didn’t want to end up showing $3.4 million appropriated twice, once in 2017, once in 2018,” the county’s director of finance and administration, Mitch Meredith, told the Herald & Tribune. “That’s why we did not post that although it was in the budget.”

As for the county’s purchasing deficiencies, $369,638 from the general capital projects fund for education projects tops the list as the largest amount. Meredith said the amount, which is for architectural fees for the Jonesborough School project’s architect, was not booked because the commission had planned to pay it in phases as the commission approved those next steps in the project.

“Our position was that we weren’t going to extend those dollars until the commission authorized that next step,” Meredith said. “We didn’t book the whole architectural contract. We were going to book it in phases, but the comptroller thinks that it needs to be encumbered in total.”

So far the commission has paid 15 percent of the fees. Meredith added that should the Washington County Board of Education want to continue the next phases for the project, the board would have to bring that before the county commission.

“If the board of education moves to phase two of the architectural services contract,” Meredith said, “they don’t have any money for it until they come back to the commission and say ‘we want to go to the next step.’ And that’s the way it was intended from day one. Once they decide where to go, then the commission’s going to have to come up with and appropriate some dollars to finish out that architectural services contract.”

Come next year, Meredith said he believes it’s likely that the county could have zero audit findings and that the findings listed in the report have been or are currently being addressed.

“The county’s finances are being well manage, well handled, there’s not any errors or irregularities. I think that’s important to point out.”

To view the county’s full audit report, go to https://apps.cot.tn.gov/repository/CA/2018/FY18WashingtonAFR.pdf.

Boone Baseball to see drawings for building renovation

From left to right, Todd Ganger, Chad Fleenor and Jason Day consider the motion to pay for architectural drawings for the baseball building renovation at Boone.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Daniel Boone High School’s baseball program is a step closer to renovating one of the team’s buildings.

In a 7-1 vote, the board chose to put $2,500 towards architectural drawings to renovate a current baseball building. School board member Phillip McLain voted against the motion while school board member Annette Buchanan was absent.

School board member Chad Fleenor, who made the motion, said the press box is difficult to reach and that the bottom half of the building has a history of flooding.

“They can’t find a use for it and it has an upstairs press box that’s hard to get to if you have anybody with disabilities,” Fleenor said, “They’ve decided they’d like to replace that building and they have asked for permission to do that and we have kicked it around a couple of times and we asked them for an architectural drawing.”

Fleenor added that the team has raised money for the project, but architectural drawings are also needed. School board member Jason Day said he felt it would be fair for the team to foot the architect’s bill if the drawings are approved by the board and if they aren’t, he said, the board could pay.

McLain asked what happens if the project cost is projected outside of the funds the team has raised for the building, in which case board members said the BOE could vote the drawings down. Director of Schools Bill Flanary added that if a project exceeds $10,000 it must be bid out.

“At some point it leaves the baseball team and it comes in here,” Flanary said. “The bid will be accepted by you.”

School board member Mitch Meredith asked where the $2,500 would come from. Finance Director Brad Hale said there were a few line items the cost could fall under, but that with a new budget season up ahead, now is the time to start figuring where it fits in the school system’s financials.

“There are funds right now because we have a few items in the budget (available) for things like this,” Hale said. “As we get closer to the end of our budget year, these budget line items that are for things like this will dry up. Right now I can still handle $2,500. Keep in mind as we keep going, it will get tighter as we get to the end of the year.”

Boone’s baseball team isn’t the only one looking for a repurposed space; at the board’s last meeting for 2018, the BOE unanimously approved a motion to allow alternative use of the agriculture building at David Crockett High School for other school-related programs such as athletics.

McLain said Crockett’s baseball coaches asked for permission to utilize the space. The approved motion came after Flanary received permission from the state’s commissioner of agriculture for the school to use the space for other school and athletic programs.

In considering the future use of the building, BOE Chairman Keith Ervin suggested that the board consider adding a gym floor, bathrooms, or other upgrades to the building. But like Boone’s press box building, school officials said they would want to get an architect involved in any changes and renovations.

“It was the baseball team coaches that came forward requesting to be able to do something with it,” McLain said. “They kind of wanted to, as I understood it, piecemeal put it together, but it can’t be done that way. We have to get an architect involved, it has to be done by a reputable company so that we don’t have any liability issues when it’s finished. But it’s my desire for it to be that multipurpose so that it can be for their needs and others.”

McCoy property restrictions could be lifted

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

“Since the last time this body met, a whole lot has happened but nothing has changed,” Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said in regards to the Jonesborough School project and adjacent property at the county’s first Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting of 2019.

The HEW Committee meeting was a reflection of that statement as no official decisions were made by the five-member committee. However, the committee discussed the status of the property which is vital to the Jonesborough School’s construction plan.

The property, owned by Joe McCoy, has been held up by restrictions from neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement throughout the past year. But Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley said Lowe’s has most recently expressed willingness to lift the restrictions on the property.

“We kind of had a couple flip flops in this initially,” Seeley said. “It sounded like they weren’t going to be willing to release (the restrictions) and then there was some change of heart. The last (response) seemed more positive. They’re working on the language on the release and will get that to the county and Mr. McCoy.”

So where does this leave the “Scheme 6” design plan that was chosen by the school board for the Jonesborough School?Commissioner and HEW Committee Chairman Danny Edens said the McCoy property is a critical part of the design plan decision that awaits the commission. Until restrictions are officially lifted it seems inaction will be the only action.

“I think we need to hear from Lowe’s (before deciding on the design plan),” Edens said. “We need to know that they are releasing those restrictions to the county. Once we know that, I would be happy for this committee to meet for a special called meeting. But right now, I think we have to wait on Lowe’s.”

The county’s option to purchase the property runs out at the end of March, but commissioners said they’re hoping it’s sooner rather than later that a Jonesborough plan is considered.

“When I ran for office, I went to the town hall meeting that was held at Jonesborough School,” Commissioner Jodi Jones said at the HEW Committee meeting. “There were so many parents, teachers and administrators who had been dealing with this decision process for several years. Every time I sit in this chair, I also try to put myself in the shoes of people who are waiting on this decision. And I realize how frustrating it has been and is continuing to be.

“Some of these things feel quite outside of our control. Lowe’s making a decision on something is not something we can do anything about. I think all of us are really committed to putting in the extra time to make the decision making go quicker, but it is a really challenging decision.”

The project also effects the school system’s capital project priority list, which was redrafted by the school board in 2018.

In regards to the school’s priority list, the county’s accounts and budgets director, Mitch Meredith, sent a memo to Edens listing the county’s revenue dollars as well as the funds already used or committed. Meredith listed a negative amount of $2,092,227 — leaving $0 of actual education funds available in the capital projects fund.

“I don’t want to speak for (Meredith), but he left me with the impression that any capital projects that we vote to send on to budget to fund will have to be based on borrowing capacity,” Edens said. “There are no funds available other than borrowing, if I understood him correctly.”

While the memo was discussed, the priority list has yet to see action from the committee. In consideration of impending school needs, and other needs throughout the county, Jones said she felt the commission will have to consider the importance of its upcoming projects, mainly the Jonesborough School project.

“From everything I’ve heard, the cost of Scheme 6 takes us pretty close to our debt ceiling,” Jones said. “As we meet as commissioners and consider what our priorities are county-wide, this would have to be right at the top of the list because we won’t be able to address other priorities we have as a county if we take on that project. I’m not saying we shouldn’t.

“We’ll just have to be able to say this one school trumps a lot of other things that might be important. We’ll have that conversation when we have it. And we need to have them in a time sensitive way because our constituents are waiting for an answer.”

Report of prehistoric peccaries at Gray site

Evidence of peccaries have been found in Gray.

From STAFF REPORTS

East Tennessee was once home to a stunning diversity of remarkable animals, including rhinos, tapirs, mastodons, alligators and more.  Scientists know all of this thanks to the fossil-rich clays of the Gray Fossil Site, which preserve an ancient ecosystem that dates back around 5 million years.  At that time, the site was a large pond surrounded by a lush forest.  Now, East Tennessee State University scientists have found another animal to add to the picture of this ancient ecosystem: peccaries.

Peccaries may look like pigs, but they are not.  True pigs, members of the family Suidae, are native to Europe, Asia and Africa, while peccaries belong to the family Tayassuidae and live in the Americas.  In some places, they are also known as javelinas. Like pigs, they are medium-sized omnivorous animals with small tusks. 

Crew members at the Gray Fossil Site have been pulling up peccary bones for many years, but a new study has revealed that these fossils belong to two different extinct species of peccary that roamed the ancient forests of Tennessee: Mylohyus elmorei and Prosthennops serus.  These peccaries were identified by well-preserved remains of their skulls, including nearly complete lower jaws of both species.  They would have been about the size of a German shepherd, which is a bit larger than modern-day peccaries.

These findings are particularly exciting since neither of these species has ever been found in this part of the country before, according to Dr. Chris Widga, head

McCoy property restrictions set project into 2019

Washington County Board of Education Chairman Keith Ervin explains to the board why he wants to hold off on a vote regarding the Jonesborough School at the Dec. 13 meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It’s been a year and a half since the Jonesborough School design plans were first discussed. And the project’s future won’t be decided before 2019 either.

At the Washington County Commission’s Dec. 17 meeting, county officials voted to extend the option to purchase the property setting next to the current Jonesborough Elementary School building for the seventh time. The approved extension will last through March of 2019.

The Washington County Board of Education plans to build a road on the property that would lead to the Jonesborough K-8 school as part of the board’s most recent design plan, “Scheme 6.” But building restrictions on the property held by neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement are yet to be lifted after a meeting earlier this month between Lowe’s and the property owner, Joe McCoy.

Commissioner and Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Danny Edens said that by extending the option, the restrictions could be discussed between now and March.

“Without the restrictions lifted, we can’t do what the school board intended to do,” Edens said. “As long as the terms are still being negotiated, if there’s any chance at all, we’d want to extend the property option. If we don’t extend it that price could change.”

The commission also voted to have the county’s and Jonesborough’s mayors send a letter to Lowe’s board of directors, asking them to lift the restrictions.

“I still think it might be worthwhile to send a letter asking them to lift the restrictions as a public service, not looking at it as strictly commercial,” Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who made the motion, said. “They’ve been a good corporate partner and I think we could appeal to them in that way.”

But would the school board want to wait three months for a decision on the school project?

Edens asked Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary if the board would want to wait three months for an answer on the McCoy property restrictions or if the board wanted to put money into replacing the roofs at the current Jonesborough Middle School and Elementary School buildings instead.

“If they’re going to move forward and its detrimental to us buying this property, I wouldn’t want to extend (the option for the property),” Edens said. “This is something we really have to work together on. Will the board still be on board with this plan if you get a three month extension?”

Flanary said he felt the board would want to stay with its Scheme 6 design plan, but that the roof leaks at the two schools weren’t getting any better.

However, the school board did consider reroofing the schools at its monthly Dec. 13 meeting.

The motion to reroof both schools was made by board member Todd Ganger, but was later tabled by David Hammond and approved by Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, Chad Fleenor, Keith Ervin and Phillip McLain. Jason Day, Mitch Meredith and Ganger were opposed.

“This roof should have been done two years ago,” Ganger said.

The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the cost would be an estimated $925,000 to reroof the elementary school and more than $510,000 to reroof the middle school.

Still, some board members felt like asking for funds to reroof the schools would end the possibility of a K-8 school for Jonesborough.

“This is pretty much going to sentence them for 10, 15 more years without anything,” Dellinger said. “That is sentencing them in the eyes of the commission. That’s a horrible idea.”

Ervin, who is the board chairman, said he felt deciding to reroof the two schools would send the wrong message to the commission and could end an opportunity for the Scheme 6 plan.

“I want us to meet with the he architect and talk about the roofs, talk about Scheme 6,” Ervin said. “I don’t want to tie our hands. if we are voting for this roof, they might think we gave up on Scheme 6.”

Meredith, however, said he felt deciding to reroof the school would be a step towards moving forward in regards to the project that has been left in limbo. Ganger remained that the roofs needed attention as the project and property decision is yet again set to be discussed well into the new year.

“Let me remind you, we have held off on this roof for three years now,” Ganger said. “We’ll continue to kick the can down the road. That’s all we do.

BMA swears in new members

Judge John Rambo administers the oath of office for newly elected Mayor Chuck Vest.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen met last Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Town Hall for the first meeting featuring newly elected aldermen Stephen Callahan, Virginia Causey and ayor Chuck Vest. Causey and Vest were previously appointed to the board, but this was their first election.

Following the swearing in ceremony that preceded the meeting, Vest said, “We’re always going to give our best to the town of Jonesborough. That’s why we’re all here.”

Vest was elected to a two-year term. Callahan and Causey were elected to four-year terms.

BMA members must be citizens of the State of Tennessee, qualified voters and residents of Jonesborough for a minimum of one year.

The board typically meets on the second Monday of each month, barring exceptions, in the Board Room at Town Hall, 123 Boone Street. The town website features past agendas and minutes.

December’s meeting includes setting dates for 2019’s BMA meetings. The dates for next year are Jan. 14, Feb. 11, March 11, April 8, May 13, June 10, July 15, Aug. 12, Sept. 9, Oct. 14, November 11 and Dec. 9.

All meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are held in the Board Room of Town Hall.

Other subjects of note from the meeting included:

• Bryan Barnett was appointed to the Town of Jonesborough’s Planning Commission

• Two separate people nominated Glen Woodfin as December’s Employee of the Month. Woodfin is an employee with the town’s Street Department One nomination by Water Distribution chief Mike McCracken said of Woodfin, “He is always early for work and usually leaving late. Glen always has a positive attitude and is very knowledgeable of the everyday tasks that he faces each day. He is very dependable and well respected by the staff.”

• During “Aldermen Communications,” Alderman Adam Dickson said he had spoken with residents of the condominiums across from new Fleet Maintenance Building currently under construction and they “are saying very good things about the new construction. And I’ve heard so far, I believe two or three individuals that live in that development, just being pleased with the investments that this board made and that we didn’t just throw something together but that it was thought out and processed.”

• Also during “Aldermen Communications”, Vest asked Callahan, “Do you have anything you’d like to say on your first day on the job?” drawing from Callahan the response, “Just happy to be here,” eliciting laughter from the meeting attendees.

• During the “Town Attorney Comments,” Town Attorney Jim Wheeler told the Board there was a possibility of starting next year with a new occurrence for him. “It’s been quiet on the litigation front. This month we’ve resolved a couple cases on appeal and we’ve got a deadline that’s been set by the court of appeals in another case. The reason I mention it is if all those resolve this month, January I hope to be able to report to you will be the first month in the 20 years I’ve been doing this that we will not have any TML claims or cases against the town. I think it speaks that the folks that you have working for you do a great job at keeping things taken care of.”

Commission looks at new EMS station, improved communications

Plans for a new EMS building in Limestone is being considered by Washington County.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Coverage could soon be improving when it comes to first responders in Washington County.

The Washington County Budget Committee approved a resolution to put $15,000 towards architectural fees for a potential EMS building, EMS Station 5, to be built on Stockyard Road. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said the architectural fees are estimated to cost $30,000 and that EMS already has $15,000 and asked the county to match the amount.

EMS Director Dan Wheeley’s letter to commissioners requesting the remaining funds for the architectural phase said the building would serve as a new EMS station and a fire training site. He also said the new building could benefit the county, offering improved coverage to the far corner of Washington County.

“The relocation of the Limestone Fire unit will decrease the response time for an engine to that end of LVFD’s response area as firefighters who live nearby can respond from Limestone.”

Grandy said he felt putting $15,000 towards the architectural fees would help the county get an idea of how much the new station would cost.

“We really don’t know if we can afford it,” Grandy said. “It’s not budgeted, it’s not scheduled anywhere yet, but we don’t really have much of an idea of how we would move forward until we could get a complete set of drawings and get some estimates for it.”

Communications between first responders could also be improving with Amaeteur Radio Emergency Services equipment for each of the seven local fire stations at $1,200 per station. The $8,400 proposal was unanimously approved by the budget committee.

The equipment would ensure backup communication between 911 dispatch and the fire stations during times of disaster. Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who is also the chairman of the public safety committee, said that during recent tornadoes and the snow storm in 1993, communications went down. With the proposed equipment, communication wouldn’t be lost as it has been in past outages.

“When I first looked at this I thought we were talking about problems we had never dealt with before but we’ve actually had two situations in the fairly recent past where we would have utilized this,” Wheeler said. “Communications were out in part of the county because of the weight of that snow and then when the tornadoes hit we were in another situation where communication was out. Had we had this system, they would have been able to communicate.”

While it would improve communications between dispatchers and fire stations, Wheeley also said it is a system that is mandated by the state for hospitals.

“It really is a state-wide system,” Wheeley said. “We’d still be able to talk to the hospitals through the system.”

Grandy said he felt the equipment would help better serve the area and take services to new heights in the county.

“This puts us at a whole new level.”

These items will be decided upon by the full commission at its next meeting on Monday, Dec.1, at 6 p.m. at the justice center in Jonesborough.