By MARINA WATERS
Commissioner Jodi Jones’s schedule just got a bit busier.
At the Washington County Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Nov. 25, the commission unanimously voted to appoint Jones to the design committee for the new Jonesborough School project. Gary McAllister made the nomination and motion. Danny Edens, Kent Harris and Robbie Tester were absent.
“I would like to nominate Commissioner Jodi Jones,” McAllister said. “We’ve seen how she works with all of us. She brought us together which shocked me when we had our retreat and we almost had 100 percent attendance. I think she can come together and bring this under budget and work with all three (entities) with the school board and the Town of Jonesborough.”
The commission approved the Town of Jonesborough’s school plan on Oct. 28, which includes constructing and then leasing to the county a new Jonesborough K-8 school building, as well as athletic facilities to be located on a 48-acre tract on North Cherokee Street in Jonesborough.
Jones accepted the nomination, but said she would need to back away from her responsibilities with the Johnson City Development Authority in order to have time to serve on the design committee.
The design committee — along with Jones and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy who will represent the county — will include Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest, Town Administrator Bob Browning, Mary Beth Dellinger, Todd Ganger and Phillip McLain from the school board, an administrator or teacher from either Jonesborough Middle or Jonesborough Elementary, a representative of the school system’s facilities maintenance staff and two citizens of Jonesborough (one of which with a child who is a current student at one of the Jonesborough schools).
Jones also introduced to the commission a resolution “supporting the investigation” of funding a grant writer position at United Way of Washington County. The plan includes that Washington County and Johnson City would split the cost of the position at $40,000 each. The commission approved the resolution to look into the plan with a 8-4 vote.
The nonprofit support specialist would write grants to secure funding for Washington County’s nonprofits. Jones, who also serves on the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee, said the commission spent about $60,000 in nonprofit funding last year and has been looking for a way to decrease spending.
“That (number) is down from previous years, but it’s not zero,” Jones said. “The question was raised again, ‘Okay we funded this amount — do we continue to fund nonprofits?’”
“A grant writer could teach people to fish instead of just giving handouts, we’ll have someone actually empower nonprofits in our county to write grants and they would even be writing grants for them in some cases. I think this is a great idea. Really for the same amount of money or less we could, I’m guessing, bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofits in the county. It could be a multiplier.”
Commissioners Phil Carriger and Mike Ford both said they felt putting $40,000 towards a grant writer was not in the best interest of the taxpayers.
“I have a hard time spending the taxpayers’ money on this,” Carriger said. “I know I sound like the Grinch at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I guess the way I look at this is if this is such a good idea it looks like the United Way ought to fund it, not the taxpayers.”
Many commissioners also saw the plan as the right path to potentially resolve an issue that has plagued the commission throughout the past several years.
“It’s like we were picking losers and winners (with nonprofit funding). All of our nonprofits are important,” Commissioner Bryan Davenport said. “This is a much better plan. Is it the right plan? I’m not sure. One question I have if we decide to go this route is three years enough to see if it’s going to work or not? I would not be interested in investing and then be one year short of seeing if this would be the right plan or not.
“This is courageous leadership in my opinion. Four to six years ago I think it was more than $75,000 (that was spent in nonprofit funding) and I think everyone is deserving. We need to look at this and find a way to help our nonprofits be successful without being taxpayer funded.”