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County Commission locks down school projects


Staff Writer

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Part of the Washington Way dream has been made official.

The Washington County Commission passed three top priorities from the Board of Education’s Washington Way plan Monday night. The resolutions amending the budget for 2016-2017 included a purchase agreement for the 15-acre site of a new Jonesborough K-8 school, the initial design and engineering of the new Jonesborough school, and the project management fee for the new Boones Creek K-8 project.

The proposed cost for the new Boones Creek school is around $26.8 million while the Jonesborough and academic magnet school are estimated at $20.8 million. And as talk of a sports complex as part of the Washington Way school projects was weighed, Chairman Greg Matherly brought the 40 percent tax increase that was levied in Washington County last year onto the table.

“I supported  that 40-cent vote and I told my constituents that’s what we were gonna have,” Matherly said. “I made a commitment to them. And I’m gonna hold you accountable for every commitment I make. And this commission I hope holds every one of us accountable for this money. I voted for the schools and I still have a list of what I voted for — what we all voted for. And that’s what I’m gonna make sure happens.”

When that 40-cent increase was voted upon, 14 cents was set aside for the Boones Creek school while five cents was set aside for the Jonesborough school. Commissioner Bryan Davenport thought back on the tax increase as well, but spoke in favor of putting a financial cap on the projects.

“I voted for the same things (as Matherly),” Davenport said. “We need to make a commitment, but I think it’s okay to adjust the plan as long as we’re not exceeding what we said we were going to spend.”

The commission also discussed who would operate the sports complex — the schools or a body like parks and recreation. Davenport spoke on the possibility of coming together with the complex.

“I also think this (sports complex) is a great opportunity. How many times have we heard the word ‘collaboration?’” Davenport asked. “This is another way of doing it with the county and city. The two governments come in together and work something out that will be beneficial to everyone. Boones Creek deserves to have a new school and they deserve to have that kind of complex. I think this is a good way of doing that.”

Among talk of pennies and ball fields, Commissioner Todd Hensley offered a perspective on the commission’s decisions in past and present meetings regarding school projects.

“Something that also changed between the time the original plan was put together that all came before us and we all voted on was we got a new director of schools,” Hensley said. “So all we’ve done here is adjust our mechanism of funding to meet the vision that she and her board has. We’re not changing the dollars and we’re not giving up anything. In fact we’re gaining a third school, a magnet school.”