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Commission approves next step in Washington Way plan


Staff Writer

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“Caroline I thought had a good comment,” Commissioner and Finance Director Mitch Meredith said at the Washington County Commission meeting on Monday, May 22 referring to one of the multiple 4-H essay contest winners who read their pieces to the commission. “She was talking about setting a plan in place, and over a period of time, you will start to see results.

“Well, this commission started two years ago putting a plan in place. In a few years, we will see some results in the Washington Way. That is what we’re here for; trying to, instead of just sitting around and talking about it, we’re finally going to move forward and do something.”

The commission voted to approve six resolutions regarding capital to be used for Washington County Schools. From school buses to funding for facility projects as part of the Washington Way, the resolutions circled around bonds and interest rates to fund projects such as the Boones Creek School project (projected at approximately $26.8 million) and the Jonesborough School and academic magnet projects (projected at approximately $20.8 million).

“You all have done the hard work. You’ve developed a funding plan and a strategy to make this happen,” Meredith said. “What we’re doing now is starting to dot ‘i’s’ and cross ‘t’s.’ We’re going to our banker and saying, ‘Hey, we’re ready to go forward. We’re going to need some dollars.’ ”

The agenda items came with concerns, however; Commissioner Phil Carriger also considered Johnson City, who will be shouldering an approximately $30-million shared debt with the county for the Boones Creek School and Jonesborough School projects.

“This weekend I’ve received a number of phone calls, people on the street bumping into me and emails concerning school funding. There are a number of county tax payers that are concerned about the equity between the city and the county,” Carriger said. “I bring that up because one of the worst things is for us to have a squabble that ruins our reputation for recruiting business, ruins our reputation for education.

“I’m going to vote for these resolutions because I believe strongly in education. But I think we need to be aware of the fact that there are some people that have voiced their concerns.”

During the May 22 meeting, Commissioner Robbie Tester also asked if any commissioners there thought that the 20-year debt-payback plan was a good idea, considering the commission’s bonds from 2007 and that the first three years of three of the resolutions’ plans include interest-only payments.

Meredith said there are requirements such as the county’s debt policy which requires a certain amount of principle to be repaid that will keep the commission from financial trouble.

At the Washington County Board of Education’s most recent meeting on May 18, Washington County Board of Education Chariman Jack Leonard said each school member received an email stating that the land has been officially purchased and the deeds have been recorded for the county’s school project. The Boones Creek School will break ground in July so long as the commission authorizes construction funding at their June meeting. A following project update will be discussed at an upcoming BOE meeting, for which the date is yet to be determined.