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Mayor to move, commission meetings stay put

Commissioners finally approved Mayor Dan Eldridge’s request to move his offices to the Washington County Courthouse in downtown Jonesborough, but refused to give up the old courtroom there where they will continue to meet.
Despite the unanimous decision during April to move commission meetings to the George P. Jaynes Justice Center, commissioners returned in May with a resolution that allows the mayor to move, but keeps the courtroom as is by forcing Eldridge’s offices to be separated among three different floors.
When Eldridge asked why the decision to move the meetings was changed, Commissioner Doyle Cloyd, chair of the County-Owned Property Committee, avoided answering by requesting the county attorney read the resolution identifying the allowable space.
Several months ago, Eldridge offered the 5,000-square-foot county-owned building at 103 W. Main St. as a site for the county archive, contingent on his being allowed to move to the courthouse.
The mayor requested permission to move his offices, the offices of the Director of Accounts and Budgets, and the offices of the Purchasing Agent to the remainder of the second floor of the Washington County Courthouse not presently occupied by the Election Commission.
Commissioners approved the office building as a site for the archive and agreed to move the monthly commission meetings to the Justice Center, but hesitated to approve the mayor’s move.
Commissioner Mark Ferguson later led members of the County-Owned Property Committee on a tour of the courthouse to point out the “move-in-ready” space on the third floor, also known as the attic, that would not require renovation of the courtroom.
The approved resolution offers the mayor the entire third floor, the two judges’ chambers behind the courtroom on the second floor, and the former office of the county attorney located on the ground floor of the building.
“At the end of the day, this is about the archive. We are doing little to nothing to protect the county’s historic documents,” Eldridge said.
“At the same time, we have a business to run. Separating the departments will be inefficient and extremely inconvenient,” he added. “Putting employees in the attic is never a good idea, and I don’t know how the mayor’s office will physically fit into two rooms.”
Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn encouraged the commissioners to reconsider the office space on the third floor.
“There are no windows in the offices, which could be a safety concern if employees are working late,” she said. “You need to think about those things before you put people up there.”
Guinn also asked commissioners why they didn’t want to move to the space approved in the Justice Center.
“Because it’s a courtroom,” Commissioner Joe Corso said.
“So is this,” Guinn responded. “This was a courtroom for years and years.”
In an amendment to the motion, the west jury room on the second floor was included in the space allocated for the mayor’s offices.
Commissioner Joe Grandy asked if the addition of the west jury room would provide enough space.
“It’s not the best plan, it’s not efficient, but we’ll make it work,” Eldridge said.