By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Board of Education might not have a plan for a Jonesborough K-8 School after the county commission voted down the latest design for the project last month, but that hasn’t stopped the ongoing maintenance needs from popping up at Jonesborough Elementary and Jonesborough Middle.
In a 5-4 vote on Thursday, June 6, the board tabled a decision to replace the cooling tower at Jonesborough Elementary School for an estimated $225,000. The board also tabled a decision to replace HVAC controls at Jonesborough Middle School for an estimated $63,329. Board members Annette Buchanan, David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger, Chad Fleenor and Keith Ervin were in favor of tabling both decisions. Phillip McLain, Mitch Meredith, Todd Ganger and Jason Day were opposed.
Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Patrick said his team had to “do a little rigging” on the cooling tower to make it last through next fall, but that it would need to be replaced before next summer. He also explained that Jonesborough Middle was let out three days before the last official day of school this year due to a HVAC control malfunction that set the school to a default mode, turning the air off.
“After some long searches, we found enough parts and an old control board that could communicate with the old equipment we have,” Patrick said. “We kind of got that rigged in there to where it’s working. It’s not working perfectly. We can’t see part of the building, some of the rooms. But we can verify we do have cooling (at the middle school).”
Fleenor asked if these items were on the school system’s list of maintenance needs submitted to the county commission. Patrick said they were not due to the anticipated Jonesborough School project that instead has been stuck in limbo for over two years.
“About five years ago we started talking about renovating Jonesborough,” Patrick said. “They said, ‘Can you make (the equipment at the Jonesborough schools) last a couple of years, Mr. Patrick?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I believe I can.’ That was five years ago.”
Chairman Ervin made the motion to table the two recommendations from the facility committee until the board could meet for a called meeting to discuss the future of the Jonesborough School project.
The “Scheme 6” plan was voted down unanimously by the county commission at its May 20 meeting. This was the first design plan to make it to the commission floor after numerous designs were turned down by the Health Education and Welfare committees over the past two years. The Scheme 6 plan came to the commission with no recommendation from the HEW committee or the budget committee.
Because the Jonesborough School project boasts even more uncertainty following the commission’s recent disapproval of the plan, board members said they felt it is imperative to make maintenance improvements until a new plan is approved.
“You’re going to have kids in this school for three years,” Meredith said.
Before the board’s meeting on Thursday, the county’s HEW Committee unanimously voted to extend the McCoy property land option once again. The option has been extended more than seven times.
The property sets next to Jonesborough Elementary School and was part of the Scheme 6 plan. Despite numerous commissioners previously saying they felt the $777,900 price tag was too high for the property, commissioners and HEW committee members said they felt the county should extend the option regardless of the project’s current uncertainty.
“If we do nothing, it ends,” Commissioner Danny Edens said. “Then it’s just gone. If we don’t extend it, we’re going to lose our option on it.”
At the school board meeting, board members questioned if a meeting to discuss the Jonesborough School project is needed in the midst of the still unclear financial situation for the project.
“How can you schedule to make a decision on Jonesborough,” McLain said, “when we’ve voted for three different schemes and they’ve all been voted down — even after we were told what (money was available) to spend time and time again. Until (the commission) comes back and tells us what we have available to spend, how can we do anything?”
A meeting to discuss the project is yet to be scheduled. Thursday night, Ervin adjourned the meeting before a date could be set.
“Nope,” he said just before hitting the gavel. “I’m done.”