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Downtown Centre declared ‘surplus’ at County Commission meeting

After many months of deliberation, the Washington County Commission finally voted to declare the Downtown Centre in Johnson City “surplus property,” which allows it to be officially put up for sale.
At last month’s meeting, commissioners tabled the motion to declare the property surplus until Mayor George Jaynes, who was absent from the meeting, returned to town.
Commissioner Ron England, who made the motion in the previous meeting, made the motion again on Monday. All the commissioners voted for it, except Janice White.
“Now, the county should develop a plan to maximize the advertising and get bidders,” said County Attorney John Rambo.
Jaynes said he has spoken with Johnson City officials who are interested in moving the Juvenile Courts and offices to the building.
“We’re in the talking stage,” he said. “They said they’d have to take it to the (city) commissioners.”
The building has been appraised at $2 million, $4 million and $6 million, depending on its usage, Jaynes said.
The next move is now in the hands of the county-owned property committee. Officials said they would try to have a plan of action by the commission’s May meeting.
On Thursday, a City-County Liaison Committee meeting is scheduled, where the Downtown Centre will be the topic, according to Commissioner C.B. Kinch.
Also on Thursday, the public safety committee will meet soon at the Justice Center to discuss issues related to security cameras in officials’ offices. Apparently some officials have taken down cameras or taped over them for privacy issues, but the sheriff’s department says it is a safety issue and needs to be discussed further.
Also at the meeting, the commission voted to keep county insurance through Humana for another year.
The CIA committee decided not to re-bid the county’s insurance plan this year, and instead voted to approve a bid from Humana with a 9.5 percent price increase.
“They’ve done a good job,” Bolus said. “We felt no one would come in near that bid.”
The commissioners approved – with some discussion – the Sheriff’s Department request to transfer $120,000 from the county’s undesignated fund balance to help pay for pre-trial inmate health care.
Sheriff Ed Graybeal told the budget committee last week that one inmate awaiting trial in the Washington County Detention Center has cost the county nearly $90,000 in medical costs in one year.
Poncho Juan Delgado, who has been in jail for nearly four years on a murder charge, has since been moved to a state facility thanks to a recent order from a judge.
In 2008, Delgado was tried for the May 2006 murder of 41-year-old Robert Curtis, however Judge Robert Lincoln ruled it a mistrial after becoming sick midway through and having to be hospitalized. Since then, Delgado’s attorneys have filed requests to get the case dismissed. In the meantime, Delgado remained behind bars at the Washington County Detention Center.
Because of that cost, which is almost half of the total $180,000 budgeted annually for all inmate health care expenses, Graybeal came before the county budget committee to request the additional money.
“Until they are tried and convicted, the delays in trials cost the county money,” County Attorney John Rambo said. “We’d have this bill no matter who we paid.”
Commissioner C.B. Kinch asked Rambo to meet with the county judges and “let them know they are costing the taxpayers money,” he said. “It’s ridiculous to me to see the money wasted.”
Director of Schools Ron Dykes told the commission that Washington County will receive a little more than $1.5 million over the next four years from Race to the Top funds. The funds must be used to develop unfunded mandated programs that will increase effectiveness of teachers, and implement some new data systems.
Commissioners heard an update on the county health department move into the new building on Princeton Road.
Officials said the move’s completion was only about a month away and the process is going very well. The commission was also told that health officials have seen a large rise in primary care usage, and that is expected to rise with the opening of the new building.