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County delays second vote on interlocal agreement with city

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

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The Washington County Commission is currently handling “essential business” through electronic means but a second vote on the interlocal agreement between Johnson City and the county regarding school funding will have to wait a little while longer.

Commission chairman Greg Matherly said  during the county’s monthly Monday, April 27, live-streamed meeting that one reason the interlocal agreement for the county to pay the city $12.5 million over a 25-year period, which was approved by the county on Feb. 24, came back to the commission for a second vote was to make sure there were no “procedural issues” regarding attachments to the agreement. The commission voted to delay action on the agreement in a 14-0-1 vote. Robbie Tester abstained from the vote.

“I would like the commission to have a little more opportunity to than what they’ve had to review it,” Matherly said. “That way we do have a few more days to review it and send it through the proper procedural ways we would send it.”

Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who is also the Town of Jonesborough’s attorney, said the United State Department of Agriculture, which the town is working with for the loan for the Jonesborough School project, had been called regarding the county’s plan with the town to build the new school. That prompted questions on the status of the city and county’s interlocal agreement.

“There have been some calls made by one Johnson City resident to USDA which has put it on their radar,” Wheeler said. “They just asked where we are on the interlocal agreement because that would certainly clear up any questions that this citizen was trying to raise. But (seeing the agreement again) doesn’t impact anything. I don’t think it will slow anything down (regarding the school project).”

The agreement says the county and city came up with the funding plan following the county’s interlocal agreement with the Town of Jonesborough to build a Jonesborough K-8 school with athletic and recreational facilities. Because the county — that by state law is required to share school construction project funds with city school systems on the same county  — is not borrowing funds for the project, the plan to build a Jonesborough School with the Town of Jonesborough did not include sharing funds with the Johnson City School System.

The latest version of the agreement includes that the county would fund an eight-classroom addition at Woodland Elementary School, a four-classroom wing addition at South Side Elementary School, and eight-classroom addition at Lake Ridge Elementary School and a new Town Acres Elementary School in the city.