By MARINA WATERS
It’s official; Johnson City no longer wants to play ball with Washington County on a sports complex. And in turn, the Washington County Commission changed the way in which recommendations related to the complex will be brought to the commission floor.
Last week, Johnson City Commissioner Todd Fowler emailed members of the athletic facilities task force to inform the joint group that city officials were opting out of entering a partnership on the athletic facilities complex slated to be built on Boones Creek Road, saying “a majority of commissioners did not want to spend money at the Boones Creek site.”
“I think now it will be a great opportunity to develop something that will be good for the students,” Clarence Mabe, the task force co-chairman, said about the future of the site at the last task force’s meeting. “I think it will be good for the teachers, the coaches and the community. I think we’ll have something very special. Let’s just go forward.”
In light of the city’s decision, the county commission opted to have its Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee make recommendations to Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy on any future decisions related to the sports complex. That motion, made by Commissioner Danny Edens, passed with a 11-4 vote from the 15-member commission. Commissioners Bryan Davenport, Larry England, Jodi Jones and Mike Ford were opposed.
The commission initially considered dissolving the athletic facilities task force when Commissioner Kent mentioned the task force.
“This board wanted that committee?,” Commissioner Kent Harris asked. “So this board can do away with that committee?”
“I would just personally like to dissolve that committee. When I read in the paper $11 million for a sports complex — where did we get the money to pay that? That’s really shocking. I had no idea it was that high. The tax payers can’t afford that.”
The task force, made up of county and city officials, was originally formed as a joint group to make one recommendation regarding the sports complex, Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said. But now that the city portion of the group dropped off, the sports complex plan, and potentially the task force, could take on a different look.
“The specific function of that committee was to work with Johnson City to develop a plan for Johnson City and Washington County to move forward in that,” Matherly said. “I think, moving forward, that committee’s really done what it’s going to do. You’re probably going to be looking at something a whole lot different than what that committee was designed to do.”
During the task force’s Tuesday, Sept. 19 meeting, the group came away with a unanimous recommendation that Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy consider who should be on the task force going forward.
However, at the commission’s Monday, Sept. 24 meeting, Edens said he felt a task force was not necessary and that school officials or any other involved parties could attend CIA meetings to discuss the project.
Commissioner Jodi Jones, who is a member of the county’s CIA Committee, asked why commissioners wanted to make a decision on the task force during the first meeting for the new commission. She also said she’d like more time before having to come to a decision regarding the sports complex.
“I have a hard time imagining that a week from tonight that I would be feeling any more ready to make moves on budgeting and grading those fields (at the CIA meeting). But I would be welcoming to people to come in and talk to me.”
Commissioners named to the CIA Committee are Larry England, Phil Carriger, Jodi Jones, Robbie Tester and Kent Harris.
The county’s CIA and other committee meetings are typically held the first Thursday of each month. However, the next set of committee meetings will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3. A complete list of committee information is available at http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/events.