By MARINA WATERS
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.