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BOE in gridlock over school plans

Another design decision for the future Jonesborough K-8 School is still undecided.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The Washington County Board of Education voted on four motions concerning the Jonesborough K-8 School project, but a design plan decision, however, still wasn’t reached.

Plans for the upcoming Jonesborough K-8 school were once again considered, after months of heading back to the drawing board to consider different plans and after a town hall meeting last month allowed parents and citizens to voice their concerns about the potential designs.

For school board member Mary Beth Dellinger, opting for design plan “Scheme 2” — which involves tearing down the round portion of the current Jonesborough Elementary School building — is still her goal. But instead of once again making a motion for Scheme 2, at the Feb. 8 meeting, Dellinger made a motion for the reduced version, “Scheme 2A”.

She also suggested the board consider using $700,000 of school system fund balance dollars in addition to a year’s worth of built-up tax dollars and money from the possible sale of Boones Creek Middle School for the project. She said that combination could get the Jonesborough project in line with what the larger Scheme 2 plan entails.

“In the scheme of things, what they have already given, $20,750,000, if we apply that (fund balance) money, that gets us down to under $3 million,” Dellinger said. “Some of the commissioners I’ve talked to said that possibly is doable.

“I still don’t want to lose my vision of the whole Scheme 2. That can be added later, but we really need to get something underway.”

However, the school system’s finance director, Brad Hale, said $500,000 of that $700,000 fund balance total is now part of the federal fund rather than the general fund. Hale said the state comptroller required that the county department of education keep $500,000 in the federal fund after an overdraft occurred before the county was reimbursed for a purchase, which was listed in the most recent audit report.

“That $500,000 will always be there, but it can’t be used for anything,” Hale said. “It has to set there and function as working capital so that we don’t ever go negative again from the time we incur expenses until the time we get reimbursed for those.”

Hale also said the remaining portion of the $700,000 total was left to cover an estimated health insurance overage of around $200,000.

Dellinger withdrew her motion and made another to opt for Scheme 2A, but this time, without mentioning the $700,000. The second version of that motion failed 6-3. Dellinger and Phillip McLain were in favor. Clarence Mabe, Mike Masters, Todd Ganger, Annette Buchanan, Keith Ervin and Jack Leonard were opposed.

The board previously opted for “Scheme 2” in December, but the design plan was voted down by the Washington County Health Education and Welfare Committee before it could be considered by the county’s budget committee. The HEW committee cited financial restraints as the hold back on Scheme 2, which is $6,052,000 over the county’s allowed budget for the project. Meanwhile, Scheme 2A is $3,621,000 over budget.

Scheme 3 would involve renovations and additions at the current Jonesborough Middle School building.

But “Scheme 2” wasn’t the only design plan discussed; at the meeting, school board member Todd Ganger asked Tony Street to present a design of what the Scheme 3 plan would look like. The Scheme 3 plan is $20,719,000 — $31,000 under the county’s allowed budget for the project.

That plan would involve renovating and adding onto the current Jonesborough Middle School building. Though certain board members were still concerned with the middle school building’s plumbing, Street said the entire school would get a new water and sewer line in the Scheme 3 plan. However, some were still not in favor of the design plan.

Ganger made the motion for Scheme 3, but it failed 5-4. Then Buchanan, who voted against Dellinger’s second motion for Scheme 2A, made the motion to reconsider Scheme 2A once more. That motion also failed 5-4.

“I don’t like Scheme 3. That’s my comment,” McLain said. “I don’t like the way it lays on the property. I don’t like the way it crowds the football field. Beautiful building, Tony (Street). Absolutely gorgeous. I just don’t like the whole picture of it. I really don’t.”

The gym floor at Jonesborough Middle was also discussed. Street said Scheme 3 wouldn’t involve a new gym floor, but that it would be refinished. But for some, like Mabe, the gym floor wasn’t a hangup.

“We’ve always had problems with those (gym floors) and we’ve always addressed them,” Mabe said. “I don’t think that should be one thing that holds us from the decision because we’ll replace the gym floors.”