BMA reaffirms proposal for new school

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


Staff Writer

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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


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



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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.


Staff Writer

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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.


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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


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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.”

Adam Dickson chosen as new Langston Centre supervisor

Adam Dickson has been selected as the first Langston Centre supervisor.


The Johnson City Parks and Recreation Department has selected Adam Dickson to become the first Langston Centre supervisor. Dickson’s first day will be Monday, July 22.

“We are very excited to have Adam join our team to oversee the new Langston Centre,” said James Ellis, Parks and Recreation director. “Adam’s past experience with volunteer groups and nonprofits as well as his knowledge and involvement of the Langston project and the community made him our candidate of choice.” 

He currently serves as vice mayor on the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and formerly served as Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union regional community development coordinator.

Dickson holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Carson-Newman University and a master’s degree in public administration from East Tennessee State University. He has been an adjunct political science instructor at ETSU for more than 14 years, lecturing on issues related to American politics and teaching a course designed to expose students to a variety of political philosophies.

“I know and understand the desire of LEAD to see the Langston Centre properly memorialize their alma mater while also set a tone of inclusion and community for Johnson City and the Tri-Cities region,” Dickson said. “Volunteers will be essential in the early days of the Langston Centre. I believe that I have the interpersonal communications skills to interact with a variety of groups and organizations.”

LEAD is an acronym for Langston Education and Arts Development Inc., an organization founded by alumni of Langston High School to preserve the integrity, legacy and historical value of the property, which served as the City’s African-American public high school from 1893 until 1965 when Johnson City Schools were completely integrated. The City of Johnson City began extensive renovation of the building in October 2018, turning the school’s gymnasium and former shop area into the Langston Centre.

Located at 315 Elm St., Langston Centre is slated to open this fall with the central goal of providing cultural arts and education to the public. The two-story, nearly 13,000 square-foot facility will host events and programming in the arts, music and a wide array of educational classes and assistance for youth, including job preparation.

County mayor vetoes athletic facilities project change order


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The Washington County Commission is ready to see the county athletic facility project at Boones Creek in its next phase, but now, that won’t happen until bids are received for the project.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy vetoed a resolution to authorize a change order for BurWil Construction Co. to do preliminary work on the athletic facility site for no more than $800,000 after it was passed by the Washington County Commission at its Monday, June 24 meeting.

“When we got to looking at the construction documents to find out where to go to reference the change order,” Grandy told the Herald & Tribune, “it turns out there really wasn’t anything in there that allowed a change order like that to take place. So what I did was veto the resolution that was passed by the commission so that it wasn’t enacted.”

Now a new resolution, which was passed by the county’s budget committee on Wednesday, July 10, calls for an open bid process. The new resolution will be considered by the commission at the upcoming Monday, July 22 meeting.

“It talks about the same amount of money, a $800,000 maximum. it talks about phase one being the site work,” Grandy said, “the grading of the dirt to make it level for the fields and putting in the underground utility and seeding and that sort of thing. But it does include a bid process. That was probably the biggest piece of the change. We couldn’t make the change order through the original contractor, BurWil.”

Sending the next phase of the project out to bid will likely set the project back, Grandy said, with bids expected to go out in late July or early August.

“It’ll slow (the project) down a little, but the reality is the track wasn’t going to be ready and the fields weren’t going to be ready at the beginning of school anyway because of the amount of time it took the committee to sort of get to where they were,” Grandy said. “So unfortunately, we had to put it on pause for a few weeks.

“But when you think about it, that (Commerce, Industry and Agriculture) committee’s been wrestling around with this thing since November, so to get it right and do it the right way, we just have to take the extra time.”

The CIA Committee took over the discussion of the athletic complex after a joint task force between Johnson City and Washington County officials was dissolved and the city opted out of partnering with the county on a potential sports complex at the site. Since then, the committee has discussed plans for the athletic facilities project as well as getting the site at least partially complete by the time school starts on Aug. 5.

“We’re trying make sure the children have something other than piles of dirt this fall,” CIA Chairman Phil Carriger said at the June meeting. “We’ve looked at a this thing. We’ve talked about it. It’s time to do something for the children.”

At the June meeting, multiple commissioners were also concerned that the resolution didn’t involve receiving bids for the next phase of the project.

“This is a considerable amount of money,” Commissioner Mike Ford said at the June meeting. “I just wonder, wouldn’t it be prudent to put this out for big? It’s a government project. If I’m wrong, someone tell me I’m wrong.”

The next county commission meeting will be held on Monday, July 24, at 6 p.m. at the George Jaynes Justice Center, located at 108 W Jackson Blvd. #1210, Jonesborough.

BOE approves tuition-based pre-K program


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Come Aug. 5, the new Boones Creek School will welcome K-8 students. But the building will welcome a locally funded, tuition-based pre-K program as well.

In a 6-3 vote, the Washington County Board of Education opted to make the pre-K program at Boones Creek a first-come-first-served, tuition-based program at the board’s Tuesday, July 9 meeting. To fund the program, the school board opted to use $150,000 from its fund balance reserves.

“Because of this new school and because of where it is and because of our desire to attract students to that location, the school board decided to use money out of its fund balance for this recurring expense to the tune of $150,000,” Director of Schools Bill Flanary told the Herald & Tribune. “So this is the first program that we’ll have that is entirely funded locally. That is why the school board decided to go on a tuition basis.”

The cost for the program is $125 a week or $4,500 for the year and will be lead by a certified teacher from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with extended hours offered for an extra cost. But for some board members, the cost of the program is a concern when considering students who couldn’t afford it.

“How many would love to come and can’t pay?” board member Jason Day asked at the meeting. “If we’re doing this to help the kids, I don’t know why you couldn’t (take kids who couldn’t pay). Life ain’t fair, but it ain’t fair to the kids that don’t get to come either.

“I just thought we were in the business to help kids.”

Boones Creek will host the only tuition-based, pre-K program in the county. The school system also offers pre-K programs at Grandview Elementary, Gray Elementary, Lamar Elementary and Ridgeview Elementary.

Grandview, Gray and Lamar offer a voluntary lottery pre-K program that accepts economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, students identified as English Language Learners, students in state custody, students who are at-risk for failure due to circumstances of abuse or neglect and any other students who meet the age requirement. Grandview and Ridgeview also offer a special education pre-K program. Those pre-K programs do not require a fee.

Board member David Hammond said that he also felt there are families in the Boones Creek area who could utilize the program but couldn’t afford it.

“Where is the next closest pre-k? Because if you have one who can’t afford it — and there is a need in certain areas in the Boones Creek district where they just can’t afford it,” Hammond said. “I always thought this program was intended to give a leg up to students to help them succeed in kindergarten on up. I always thought we had the pre-Ks not based solely on room (in the school), but on the need of the county.”

Flanary said that because the program is supported through fund balance dollars, the board is hoping the program will be able to financially support its self in the future.

“With the Boones Creek program being completely funded locally, we can do about what we want to,” Flanary said. “I am sensitive to David Hammond’s desire to have a program for economically disadvantaged families, but this one has kind of got to pay for its self because we’re using the fund balance. It’s one-time money going into a recurring program. That teacher has to be paid every year. It needs to generate a little income.”

Flanary added that the program goes beyond childcare; it’s designed to offer an educational opportunity for students to get ahead before entering kindergarten.

“We and the board feels like it’s just a good investment for the community, the school and, most importantly, those 4-year-olds,” Flanary said. “It gives them a real leg up on being literate as they go into kindergarten.”

“We added the teacher to payroll just this week. She’s a veteran and I talked with her and she’s going to be a dandy. She really is tuned in to that pre-K mindset.”

Washington County Director of Elementary Education Karla Kyte said 13 parents had submitted an application for the program. She also said the state has approved the program and that one teacher can work with 10 pre-k students at a time and once the program hits 11, an instructional assistant must be added. Flanary said the goal is to enroll 20 children in the program.

If the 20-student goal is not reached, Flanary said the school system could also spark interest at its ribbon cutting event set to celebrate the new Boones Creek School on Saturday, July 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“If we’re still marketing the program, we will mention that (at the event) and will hopefully have a whole bunch of families to market that to,” Flanary said. “With any luck, we will have already hit our 20 and maybe are beyond that.”

County moves ahead with plans for athletic facility


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Update: Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy vetoed the resolution that was approved by the commission at the Monday, June 24 meeting. On Wednesday, July 10, the Washington County Budget Committee discussed and approved sending a resolution to the commission to receive bids for preliminary electrical and underground work for the the county athletic facilities project in Boones Creek.

As the new Boones Creek School nears completion, the Washington County Commission has also made it a goal to see that at least a portion of the county athletic facilities behind the school are complete as well.

At the June 24 meeting, the commission approved a resolution for a concept plan and a plan of work not to exceed $800,000. The resolution passed 8-5. Commissioners Steve Light, Kent Harris, Jerome Fitzgerald, Danny Edens and Mike Ford were opposed. Commissioner Robbie Tester abstained from the vote and Jodi Jones was absent.

This step in the project includes basic preliminary work set to be done before the equipment currently on the site is moved. Tommy Burleson of Burleson Construction Co. said it would cost about $100,000 if the equipment had to be brought back to the site and if the dirt currently on the site had to be hauled back in, which Commissioner and Commerce Industry and Agriculture Committee Chairman Phil Carriger said he felt would only slow the process.

“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to come up with a resolution that allows the project to proceed with moving dirt, installing drainage, underground utilities, shaping fields and installing grass while the contractors are at the site,” Carriger said. “Then later on your CIA can take a look at what additional things we want to do out there.”

However, some commissioners were concerned with the $800,000 price tag.

Commissioner Kent Harris said he felt $800,000 was a lot to take out of the $3.2 million budgeted for the Boones Creek athletic facilities.

“What I hate for us to do is spend this kind of money,” Harris said. “I think it’s going to hurt what we really wanna do out there. I think we can do this for a lot less. I think it’s just an outrageous number.

“I think it’s obvious someone else doesn’t have our same goal of keeping the price down on this project.”

Burleson added that $227,000 of the $800,000 for the preliminary work was for the design portion of the project.

Meanwhile, commissioners were also concerned about bidding the project.

“This is a considerable amount of money,” Commissioner Mike Ford said. “I just wonder, wouldn’t it be prudent to put this out for bid? It’s a government project. If I’m wrong, someone tell me I’m wrong.”

In June of 2017, the commission approved the contract with BurWil and a plan to grade and provide “other site development work related to the construction of a county athletic facility and park.” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy reminded the commission that there are two contracts, one contract for the school and another for the athletic site, which is a county project and not that of the school system’s.

He also said the contract for the county athletic facilities at Boones Creek included leaving the site “finished”, but that changes would be needed for future developments if the work on the land is not complete.

“I think the suggestion was to bring the change order with BurWil to have the shape of the county’s field facility shaped the way of the site plan,” Grandy said. “The way the site plan is currently designed, from the school to Highland Church Road, there is about a 10-foot gradual slope towards the road. The track and the football field area, there’s an elevation change in one corner of the field to the other.

“So if it is finished the way the plans currently call for, the track area will be out of level, the soccer field and football field area would also have the same slope and the softball and baseball field areas would have to be reshaped.”

Carriger said with school starting on Aug. 5, one of the CIA Committee’s goals was to make sure the Boones Creek School students had grass and at least a portion of the county athletic facility site ready for use.

“I think we would like to have this presentable for the kids to go to school in August,” Carriger said. “I think we felt like we had the construction equipment already there. Our thought was that it was prudent to proceed to get the dirt moved, get it sloped the right way, get the grass seed on so we could look at it in the future … there is a lot that we discussed, but we felt like time was of the essence and that with the August opening date, we needed to do something.”

Boiler rises to top of school priority list


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The Washington County School System recently placed a new maintenance need at the top of its list.

At Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Thursday, July 3, commissioners unanimously approved a plan to replace the boiler at David Crockett High School for $196,000.

The boiler replacement is a maintenance need the school system’s director of schools, Bill Flanary, and maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said was not currently on the school district’s list of maintenance improvement needs, but has quickly risen to the top.

“On our large list of priorities, this boiler was not on that list,” Patrick said to the HEW Committee. “But it’s a situation where you do your maintenance, one day it finally goes and you have to replace it. That’s where this falls. That boiler’s probably outlived itself by about 10 years.”

Patrick said the boiler, which school officials said was at least 30 years old, went out in the spring, but it was able to be patched in order to make it through the remainder of the school year. Now, the plan is to replace the boiler with a three-boiler system that is expected to be more efficient.

“What we’re going to have is three Lockinvar condensing boilers,” Patrick said. “They’re smaller boilers, but they’ll have some redundancy. We lose one, we’ll have some time to replace it and, quite possibly, get one at a cheaper price because we wouldn’t have to do an emergency purchase for the replacement. The efficiency should be good enough to offset some of the natural gas costs.”

The boiler replacement will most likely also be part of the energy savings plan the Washington County Board of Education will be evaluating. Energy Savings Group, a Johnson City-based company that helps improve an organization or business’s energy efficiency.

At the school board’s June meeting, ESG Business Development Manager Russ Nelson said the boilers are certain to be part of the comprehensive energy saving plan for the school system, which the board of education will consider. The board of education later discussed the ESG plans on Monday, June 17, but no action was taken.

“We have a phenomenal project depending on what you choose to include in it,” Nelson said to the board during the boiler discussion. “It will definitely pay for itself from energy and maintenance (cost reductions). We’ve got over 2,000 hours of engineering into this now. We’ve really learned a lot about your buildings. We don’t have any question these boilers are gonna make the project. And if you chose to not do some of the heavy HVAC replacement work, that’s the really slow payback stuff. That’s just work you need to do. I don’t see any reason (not to). This is a win-win for the schools and the county.”

Family still searching for lost Chihuahua

“Spudz” was last seen on Route 34.


If you’re out and about near Davy Crockett Road, keep watch for a dog that has recently gone missing in the area.

“Spudz” or “Spudderz” is a 1-year-old female Chihuahua that was last seen on Old State Route 34 on June 25. She is brindle and has a white stripe down her nose.

“She’s a bit shy,” owner Trinity Nance said. “She does bark, but she isn’t mean or aggressive. So if someone picked her up, she’s really calm and collected. She’s cautious but friendly.”

Nance also said the dog will respond to certain words if found.

“Certain things that you say, she’ll respond to like her name or if you say ‘puppy pops’,” Nance said, “because thats what we say when we give them treats and they get excited.

“What we’re hoping for is that someone picked her up. We miss her so much.”

In the meantime, fliers have been posted throughout town in hopes that what they feel like is a missing part of their family will be found.

“It’s a family dog,” Nance said. “It definitely feels like we’ve lost a member of the family.”

If found, please call (423) 552-7741 or (423) 552-0296.

County takes another look at autopsy budget


Staff Writer

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Washington County approved its budget for the upcoming fiscal year Monday, but not before commissioners discussed the county’s medical examiner budget that the commission cut by $217,000.

In a 13-1 vote, the county commission approved a motion from Commissioner Mike Ford to reduce the county medical examiner line item to $63,000. Ford also requested the county’s safety committee take up the discussion in future meetings. Commissioner Larry England was opposed to the motion and Jodi Jones was absent.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Washington County Constable John Daniel said that Washington County changed medical examiners in 2011 and currently has a contract with East Tennessee State University. Because the ETSU department works under the state health commission, he said, the number of autopsies has risen.

“We took ETSU as our medical examiner,” Daniel said. “They are actually working for the state health commissioner so that means that they have to follow those rules. That’s how our autopsies went from 40 to now they’re doing over 672 autopsies a year.

“If you were a local medical examiner, you were appointed by your county commission. You did not have to go by those rules. Those rules were only meant for the people who worked for the state.”

An interim medical examiner was appointed by the former county mayor, Dan Eldridge, to finish out the former examiner’s term in June of 2018, which was approved by the commission in a 24-0 vote. However, the contract with ETSU expired on September 30, 2018 and was extended, Washington County Attorney Allyson Wilkinson said.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy also said the examiner’s term expires in September of 2019, meaning the contract and the examiner’s term aren’t aligned.

“You had a five-year appointment for a medical examiner and a four-year contract,” Grandy said. “They’re still out of sync and I’m not sure how you rectify it. The statute requires that the term is for five years. There may be a way around it. That seems like a CTAS (County Technical Assistance Service) question.”

However, some commissioners felt the commission was left out of the process.

According to Tennessee Code Annotated 38-7-104, “A county medical examiner shall be appointed by the county mayor, subject to confirmation by the county legislative body, based on a recommendation from a convention of physicians resident in the county.” Though the interim examiner was approved in June of 2018, some commissioners were just learning of the extended contract with ETSU.

“I’m finding a lot of this out tonight,” Commissioner Danny Edens said. “I’m having a real problem finding out how we got to this point to start with, how the legislative body was completely left out of this process. That’s how it feels to me that the legislative body was completely passed over and left out of this process. How do we get to the point where this legislative body was left out of the process altogether?”

Wilkinson said the last time the required convention of physicians was held to provide a medical examiner recommendation was 2014. Then, two more interims were appointed, including the current examiner.

“In the meantime, the contracts didn’t line up for timing purposes and the ETSU contract expired September 30, 2018,” Wilkinson explained. “It was extended and then the issue of the medical examiner was not raised. It wasn’t in our office to calendar anything to put in front of the body.”

Ford’s original motion regarding the medical examiner budget would have removed the funds for the line item. Instead, the commission opted to set the budget at $63,000 to make it through the next 90 days.

“If we cut this back to zero, where are our autopsies going tomorrow?,” Chairman Greg Matherly asked. “I’d rather take those 90 days than no option at all.”

Meanwhile, Ford remained that the commission was unaware of the medical examiner issue.

“We can’t build schools, we can’t do the things we’ve got to do and we’re talking about over a quarter of a million dollars in one year,” Ford said. “We need to know what’s going on. I feel like an ostrich with my head stuck in the sand sometimes. I’ve asked on several occasions, you have to admit I have, about this medical examiner thing for several months.

“$280,000 is a lot of money,” Grandy replied. “It’s just that we had this task of forensics. It was budgeted last year. It was in last year’s budget. So it’s not as if the money appropriation hasn’t come before the legislative body. It has. Here we are looking at it again.”

K-9s show off their skills at Paws in Blue

Officer Dustin Fleming and his K-9 partner, Loki, of the Jonesborough K-9 unit, wait for the events.


H&T Correspondent

Dog lovers and those who wished to support local law enforcement attended the second annual fundraiser for Paws in Blue on Saturday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Jonesborough Middle School’s football field. 

At last year’s fundraiser there were nine dogs who participated in the competition demonstration this year the number increased to 11.

“It’s called a competition demonstration because the dogs will be competing for some things, but then they will also go through an obstacle course that will demonstrate things they have to do on the job, such as jump through a window,” said Paws in Blue President Ruth Verhegge.

The K-9s that took part in the day’s events were from the Jonesborough Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson City Police Department, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department.

The purpose of the fundraiser was to raise money for the Jonesborough Police Department to add a fourth dog to their K-9 Unit and to have funds to take care of the dogs.

Verhegge said she wants to have a cushion balance, meaning the money set aside will finance things that the dogs and unit will need in the future. She used Loki, the senior dog of the unit, as an example of this.

Officer William Rhodes and Mali entertains crowd on the agility obstacle course.

“Most K-9s retire around age 10 and he’s eight years old, so we need to have money to replace him when he retires,” said Verhegge.

She also said that money is needed for vet bills and other things that the dogs need.

The money raised Saturday will be used to buy the fourth K-9 and provide money for the program.

Verhegge said the amount needed to support one dog is about $3,000.

The celebrity bagging event that took place Friday at Food City raised $1,500 for Paws in Blue. While final numbers for Saturday’s event are not yet complete, funds raised at both events are currently estimated to be about $4,000.

Major Jamie Aistrop, the emcee of the fundraiser, said that Paws in Blue has been beneficial to the Jonesborough police department because they did not always have the finances needed to keep their program going, such as when a dog retired, and a replacement was needed.

“It’s important for Jonesborough to have a K-9 unit first and foremost because it’s a good public relations tool and secondly, it acts as a crime determent,” Aistrop said.

He said that people are aware that Jonesborough has drug dogs and are not afraid to use them. He believes that this cuts down the amount of narcotics in the area.

Jonesborough is known for hosting events and the K-9 unit is used to protecting those who attend them. Cygan, one of the dogs in the unit, is certified in explosive detection and is used for such situations.

The first part of the fundraiser began with the article search. Each dog had to find six different items within three minutes.

Loki and his handler officer Dustin Fleming won the article search finding all the items within 35 seconds.

The second category of the competition was fastest dog. The dogs were unleashed and commanded to apprehend a decoy suspect. The dog that took the least amount of time to get from the starting point to the decoy won the category, which was Rudi from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Before the competition continued, several of the dogs and their handlers went through the agility course set up on the football field.

The first dog that went through was Mali from the Washington County Sheriff’s office. He made the crowd laugh when he, at first, refused to go up the ramp and instead went under and around. He even tried to go up the side before finally running up the ramp.

Rudi went through the agility course with the least amount of difficulty.

The third category of the competition was recall, which means that the dog who responded to their handler’s command to stop before biting the decoy’s arm to apprehend would win.

Cygan won by stopping immediately when his handler officer Hannah Fleming called out the command.

Wanting to give the dogs a break from the heat and physical activity, the event organizers decided to take a break.

Several of the officers that took part in the day’s events participated in the donut eating contest.

The fourth and final category of the competition was hardest bite, which was won by Rudi.

At the end of the competition demonstration, winners of each category were named and given a trophy.

Rudi and his handler officer, Roger Antone, were named the Regional Top Dog because Rudi did well in the four-category point system shown above.

More than 100 people attended the fundraiser, and several brought their dogs to enjoy the sun and activities.

Those with dogs were asked to stay up near the bleachers so that the K-9s would not get distracted from their task.

One couple, the Malcolms from Bristol, Virginia, said they saw Verhegge on the news and decided to come out and see the K-9s. They brought their two-year-old rescued German shepherd out because it’s a good way to socialize her.

“We really enjoyed it, especially the recall, and appreciate them putting it on,” said Mrs. Malcolm.

Lisa Larrick and her daughter Sharon, residences of Jonesborough, attended the fundraisers because they love dogs and wanted to show their support for the police department.

Both the dogs and law enforcement are very important to them because six months ago their dog Daisy was stolen, and Lisa is grateful for the work that officers are putting in to bring Daisy back home.

The Larricks wanted to show their gratitude and support for all that the Jonesborough police do by attending the fundraiser.

Aside from the competition, the fundraiser also had vendors and booths set up for local organizations.

The vendors were Young Living, Duke and Fox custom per embroidery, Krispy Kreme, Chick-Fil-A, Lowe’s and Sticky Paws Bakery.

Civitan presents check for dog park


The Town of Jonesborough received a $25,000 sponsorship for its new dog park from the Jonesborough Civitan Club at Monday night’s Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.

This is the second funding source that the Town has received for the new park, the first being a $25,000 grant from the Randy Boyd Foundation. The Civitan Club will receive naming rights for the park as part of their donation. The new park is set to be named “Jonesborough Civitan Dog Park”.

The new park will be Jonesborough’s first dog park, and an amenity that has been in high demand. Community members have voiced the need for an exclusive park for furry friends at community input meetings over a number of years. The hope is to serve town residents and surrounding community with a space for owners to bring their dogs to run and play.

Jonesborough Civitan Dog Park will be located off of State Route 34, adjacent to the new municipal garage facility. It will be outfitted with a fence enclosure so that dogs can safely run off-leash in a wide-open space.  In addition, the park will contain shade trees, beautiful landscaping, benches for seating and dog waste stations. 

Succeeding phases of development for the dog park include an interactive water feature for the dogs as well as pavilions and walking trails.

Additional funding is still being sought by the town for the dog park.  Recreation Capital Projects Planner Rachel Conger says that she is actively seeking donations from the community and area businesses. 

“Many of us love and treat our furry friends like they are one of our own children — we take them for rides in the car and everywhere we take our families. We are excited to be able to provide a park exclusively for our dogs. In addition, children and adults alike will be able to come and play with their furry friends here. It’s not just a space for dogs, but also for humans to be able to play and interact with their pets.” 

Conger said any inquiries related to the dog park or potential donations can be directed to her at (423) 791-3869.         

New StoryTown Brigade members receive certification

Photo features left to right, Guerry McConnell, Beverly Harrison, Tom Hitchcock, Catherine Shealy, Wallace Shealy and Jules Corriere. (Not pictured are Pam Gosnell, Stephen Goodman, and Mary Noel)


As the Jonesborough StoryTown Initiative gains momentum, having produced four plays and a radio show series, as well as collecting dozens of community stories, the new training program has been busy training StoryTown Brigade members in order to meet the demands of all the new programming.

This spring, a class of eight new story collectors met to learn best practices in story collecting. Their training included learning about the art of framing questions, the importance of active listening, and other interview techniques, as well as where to look for potential storytellers in their own community. Through class training and hands-on field experience, the group learned about conducting story circles and one-on-one interviews, and even touched briefly on indexing, archiving, and identifying keywords in collected stories.

The group was certified on May 28, and will now join the growing team of StoryTown Brigade members, who are contributing to the larger effort to collect stories from community members in Washington County and the region. These stories will be used in interpretive pieces, such as at the Chuckey Depot, as well as in creative pieces, such as the annual community plays at the McKinney Center and the Senior Center. The original stories and transcripts will be archived at the Heritage Alliance, and available to the public, as part of the StoryTown’s initativie to capture the stories of the rich culture and heritage of the region.

More importantly, the StoryTown Initiative is especially seeking stories to fill in the gaps of missing history, including stories from the African American community and from among local veterans.

During this training, led by the McKinney Center’s Jules Corriere, the class also had the experience of learning about the history of the storytelling movement by Jimmy Neil Smith, founder of the National Storytelling Festival. Smith provides valuable insight into the growing field of storytelling, and how it has helped the Town of Jonesborough prosper.

Members of this newly certified class are: Pam Gosnell, Stephen Goodman, Beverly Harrison, Tom Hitchcock, Mary Noel, Guerry McConnell, Catherine Shealy, and Wallace Shealy. They will soon be seen throughout the region, collecting stories for these important projects.

Those interested in joining the fall training, or in sharing a story should contact the McKinney Center at (423) 753-0562. The next training will take place beginning in August. There will also be a special class for Home School students in story collecting, also starting at the end of August, during the fall semester at the McKinney Center.

New historical marker designates home’s importance

The Keebler-Keefauver House, located on Hales Chapel Road in Gray, now boasts a new historical marker in its front yard.


On Friday, May 31st, the Keebler-Keefauver House at 632 Hales Chapel Road, Gray, received the 57th Tennessee Historical Marker placed within Washington County’s bounds, in a ceremony held by Johnson City officials who currently own the historic structure.

This marker stands proudly in the front yard of the home in the Keebler’s Crossroads community. Constructed in the 1850s – while some historical writings suggest construction as early as 1842 and others show completion as late as 1860 — the Keebler-Keefauver House is a grand example of federal-style brick homes that dot the county’s landscape. James Keebler (1789-1859) of Berkeley County, Virginia, had the four-room structure built of hand-made brick and hand-blown glass windows, which was possibly constructed by slaves owned by Keebler, as well as an outdoor kitchen, which was later used as a smokehouse.

In 1923, the large kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and two porches were added, and some additional additions made at later dates.

James Keebler first married Mary Rector and had seven children: Rector, Malinda, Oziah, Sally, Mary, James Jr., and Enoch. After Mary’s death, he married Sarah Haws (1795-1888) in 1827, with whom he had seven children: Catharine, Volentine, John A., Benjamine, and Sarah. Joseph and Sarah are buried on the property in the Keebler Cemetery, established circa 1850s. According to the WCCL – a survey performed by the WPA in the 1930s, four Keebler family members’ graves were found in this cemetery along with graves of slaves.

In the 1940s, the cemetery was cleaned off with permission of the Keebler family, yet James and Sarah’s markers survived and are housed on the property today.

In 1950, Weldon Faw and Malinda B. Keefauver purchased the farm from Joseph G. “Joe” Keefauver, which began the legacy of the Keeland Dairy Farm. With the purchase of the farm, the Keefauver’s began purchasing registered Holstein cattle, which they showed in many fairs all across the region winning many ribbons and awards.

In 1963, the farm was sold to their son and his wife, William “Billy Joe” J. and Jean Leonard Keefauver. In 1987, the dairy herd was sold, while some Holstein heifers and beef cattle remained.

In 2009, the City of Johnson City purchased the farm to create a new city park, which never has come to fruition due to new annexation laws that have been passed since the purchase.

Nearly a decade later, city officials continue to debate ideas for use of the old farm that include: a city park, a history museum, a new subdivision, and/or an agricultural education center.

German company opts for local industrial park

Local officials and EDM-Papst representatives pose in front of the new sign.


Staff Writer

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German air conditioning component company, EBM-Papst, has officially made its decision on the location for its newest manufacturing site. Now, it will call Washington County home.

The electric motor and fan manufacturer plans to bring 200 jobs and a $37 million investment to the county. But at the announcement event for the new employer on Thursday, May 16, at the Washington County Industrial Park, local, state and EBM-Papst officials were focusing on the community minded aspect.

“It’s about a local partnership. And at the end of the day, it’s the company that falls in love with the local community and that works vice versa,” Bob Rolfe, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner, said. “This is a company that has searched the U.S. in a very competitive process, looked at multiple states, multiple sites in Tennessee and at the end of the day they picked your community. We’re very excited about this.”

EBM-Papst was deciding between another site in Tennessee and one in Texas. However, the company’s president, Mark Shiring, said numerous factors led the group to Tennessee’s oldest county.

“We selected Johnson City for several reasons. The location has a good proximity to our customer base providing good access for transportation,” Shiring said. “The community was very welcoming to our team and the interest was high in our project. There’s an active (economic development board) and we see the preservation revitalization of the downtown and surrounding area.”

Shiring also noted East Tennessee State University and the local Tennessee College of Applied Technology centers would provide the company a job pool and educational opportunities for potential employees.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said at the event that he feels EBM-Papst will be “a great fit” for many reasons. But the top of his list is the company’s focus on the local community.

“One of the things that encouraged me the most about these folks is they made site visits to our community that we didn’t even know about,” Grandy said. “(They were) interfacing with our people here, doing a little shopping, doing a little dining … They saw growth, they saw things that made them want to be a part of our community. And that’s the kind of people we want to have be part of our community. It’s really been a nice combination.”

BOE struggles with budget revisions for upcoming year


Staff Writer

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It was back to the drawing board for the Washington County Board of Education to revise its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The board’s budget revision was spurred after the county’s budget committee requested the board rework its budget and reduce the $1.8 million out-of-balance amount.

During the Wednesday, May 15, meeting to revise the budget, the board opted to keep a two percent raise for all employees, but managed to cut its out-of-balance amount by $800,000. The new budget passed in a 4-3 vote. Board members Keith Ervin, Phillip McLain, Todd Ganger and Annette Buchanan were in favor. Mary Beth Dellinger, Chad Fleenor and Jason Day were opposed. Mitch Meredith was absent.

“The commission asked us ‘to work on it’,” Director of Washington County Schools Bill Flanary said. “There was no mandate to balance a budget. That’s where we are with the county commission.”

Washington County Schools Finance Director Brad Hale said part of the board’s budget challenge has been an increase in expenses and a decrease in revenue. Part of that revenue has been lost, he said, due to declining student enrollment in the Washington County School System.

Between fiscal year 2017 and 2018, the district lost 100 students. At the high end of the spectrum, David Crockett High School lost 54 students, West View Elementary School lost 40 and Jonesborough Elementary loss 33. Meanwhile, Ridgeview Elementary School gained 42, Boones Creek Middle School gained 16, University School gained 12 and Jonesborough Middle School gained 12. The total estimated negative funding impact through the decline in enrollment was $473,142.

“That’s the crunch,” Hale said to the board after presenting enrollment figures. “That’s the big reason we’re getting into situations where our expenses are going up more than our revenue each year. It’s a big part of it. If we had another $473,000, our gap would be a lot smaller than where it is right now. That’s a full one percent raise.”

To combat the loss of revenue, the board opted to cut out most of its “wish list” items such as vans, system vehicle needs, coaching supplements, and a third-party substitute teacher scheduling program among other items.

In addition to must-have items such as step increases, retirement contribution increases and University School revenue sharing, the board voted to keep half of the cost of text books ($250,000), and a technology tech ($50,000). The board also kept one assistant principal at Jonesborough’s elementary and middle schools and a career and technical education position, both of which were budget neutral.

The board also approved a pay scale adjustment for food service employees.

Food Service Director Caitlin Shew requested a 10 percent pay scale adjustment. The board opted to fund a five percent pay scale adjustment with in a 6-2 vote. Ganger, Hammond, Dellinger, Buchanan, McLain and Day were in favor. Fleenor and Ervin were opposed.

“We’ve cut our costs in many different ways and we want to invest this money back into our employees,” Shew said. “So that’s what we’re asking you all to let us do.”

The employees also fall under the two percent raise umbrella included in the board’s current budget. However, Shew and some board members said they felt the five percent pay scale increase was less of a raise and more of an adjustment.

“It’s not, in my opinion, a raise,” Shew said. “We’ve adjusted pay scales to get in line with competing systems. That’s what we’re asking for, not necessarily a raise, but to get our pay scale in more of a competing fashion.”

The board asked that Shew return to request another five percent adjustment during next year’s budget season.