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Washington County joint committee comes unraveled

By COLLIN BROOKS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Members of the Washington County Joint Capital Projects Finance Committee had their first meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18, and that just might have been their last.

Leaving that meeting — which consisted of four Washington County Board of Education members and four Washington County Commissioners — it was agreed that the memorandum of understanding needed to be approved by both represented bodies.

According to committee chairwoman Annette Buchanan, who was unanimously appointed during their first meeting, the BOE has been advised by the Tennessee School Board Association legal staff not to go forward with the memorandum of understanding.

“TSBA does not recommend that we go under contract with that memorandum of understanding,” Buchanan said.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge called this move a “giant step backwards.”

“This certainly slows the process (of building the school) down,” Eldridge said.

A meeting for the group was set for Oct. 31, but has been moved to Nov. 14, however, Buchanan said that she would recommend to her board that the group be terminated.

She said that comments from Monday night’s commission meeting make her and other members of the board believe that the commission doesn’t want this committee to exist.

“I just don’t think the county commission wishes to have this committee,” she said. “And I think working peacefully with them, we just need to forgo (this committee) and use the Health, Education and Welfare committee as the communicative body (to the commission).”

Washington County Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said that was probably best, since the origin of the committee did not start with the full commission, which was a topic of the meeting on Monday night.

“I had some questions asked of me this week (about) what kind of a committee was this and who appointed the members?” Matherly said. “It was hard to answer their questions because I didn’t really know what kind of committee it was.”

Matherly said that it was his understanding that the school board created the committee, which is not the protocol that is required for a committee which includes commissioners.

“The county commission has to appoint members on a committee,” Matherly said. “The Mayor can appoint members to a board, but they have to be confirmed by the county commission.”

Budget Chairman Joe Grandy, who is also a member of the Joint Capital Projects Finance Committee, said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the committee never meets again, but he thinks each group needs to be going in the same direction.

“I think the intent of this joint committee was to get the maximum utilization of tax dollars into the projects that would be possible,” Grandy said. “Since the funding is already in place, it seems incumbent upon us to share with the school board the information about essentially how much money they had to spend as they go into the projects.”

Eldridge said that the budget committee, which is a mandated committee by T.C.A., was only being responsible in forming what he called a “sub-committee” in order to have an open line of communication with the school board.

“They have taken a very responsible in ensuring that the objectives of the school board are accomplished in the most physically responsible way,” he said. “They are doing their job and the county commission has just ridiculed them.”

If the committee is absolved, the Health, Education and Welfare committee will hear the school’s capital projects, like they have previously, and they will decide whether to send them on to the Budget Committee.