Washington County Board of Education Chairman Keith Ervin explains to the board why he wants to hold off on a vote regarding the Jonesborough School at the Dec. 13 meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It’s been a year and a half since the Jonesborough School design plans were first discussed. And the project’s future won’t be decided before 2019 either.

At the Washington County Commission’s Dec. 17 meeting, county officials voted to extend the option to purchase the property setting next to the current Jonesborough Elementary School building for the seventh time. The approved extension will last through March of 2019.

The Washington County Board of Education plans to build a road on the property that would lead to the Jonesborough K-8 school as part of the board’s most recent design plan, “Scheme 6.” But building restrictions on the property held by neighboring business Lowe’s Home Improvement are yet to be lifted after a meeting earlier this month between Lowe’s and the property owner, Joe McCoy.

Commissioner and Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Danny Edens said that by extending the option, the restrictions could be discussed between now and March.

“Without the restrictions lifted, we can’t do what the school board intended to do,” Edens said. “As long as the terms are still being negotiated, if there’s any chance at all, we’d want to extend the property option. If we don’t extend it that price could change.”

The commission also voted to have the county’s and Jonesborough’s mayors send a letter to Lowe’s board of directors, asking them to lift the restrictions.

“I still think it might be worthwhile to send a letter asking them to lift the restrictions as a public service, not looking at it as strictly commercial,” Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who made the motion, said. “They’ve been a good corporate partner and I think we could appeal to them in that way.”

But would the school board want to wait three months for a decision on the school project?

Edens asked Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary if the board would want to wait three months for an answer on the McCoy property restrictions or if the board wanted to put money into replacing the roofs at the current Jonesborough Middle School and Elementary School buildings instead.

“If they’re going to move forward and its detrimental to us buying this property, I wouldn’t want to extend (the option for the property),” Edens said. “This is something we really have to work together on. Will the board still be on board with this plan if you get a three month extension?”

Flanary said he felt the board would want to stay with its Scheme 6 design plan, but that the roof leaks at the two schools weren’t getting any better.

However, the school board did consider reroofing the schools at its monthly Dec. 13 meeting.

The motion to reroof both schools was made by board member Todd Ganger, but was later tabled by David Hammond and approved by Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, Chad Fleenor, Keith Ervin and Phillip McLain. Jason Day, Mitch Meredith and Ganger were opposed.

“This roof should have been done two years ago,” Ganger said.

The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the cost would be an estimated $925,000 to reroof the elementary school and more than $510,000 to reroof the middle school.

Still, some board members felt like asking for funds to reroof the schools would end the possibility of a K-8 school for Jonesborough.

“This is pretty much going to sentence them for 10, 15 more years without anything,” Dellinger said. “That is sentencing them in the eyes of the commission. That’s a horrible idea.”

Ervin, who is the board chairman, said he felt deciding to reroof the two schools would send the wrong message to the commission and could end an opportunity for the Scheme 6 plan.

“I want us to meet with the he architect and talk about the roofs, talk about Scheme 6,” Ervin said. “I don’t want to tie our hands. if we are voting for this roof, they might think we gave up on Scheme 6.”

Meredith, however, said he felt deciding to reroof the school would be a step towards moving forward in regards to the project that has been left in limbo. Ganger remained that the roofs needed attention as the project and property decision is yet again set to be discussed well into the new year.

“Let me remind you, we have held off on this roof for three years now,” Ganger said. “We’ll continue to kick the can down the road. That’s all we do.