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New school remains hot topic as BOE discusses details

Attorney Scott Bennett explains the details of the school plan’s lease and inter-local agreement with the school board.


Staff Writer

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The Town of Jonesborough’s inter-local and lease agreement with the Washington County Commission and the Washington County Board of Education to build a Jonesborough K-8 school has been approved by all three entities, but it seems the three are continuing to work through the plan’s details.

At the school board’s monthly meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, Scott Bennett, the board’s attorney, said the lease agreement has been set for 40 years rather than the 20 that was previously included in the town’s original proposal.

“You’re probably (still) going to be in it in about 40 years from now,” Bennett said. “You’re right, that’s a long time. But in the life of a school building, whether its a 10-year, a 20-year or a 40-year contract, it doesn’t really make much of a difference as far as this board is concerned.”

At the county commission’s Sept. 23 and Oct. 28 meetings, commissioners considered lengthening the amount of years on the school building lease with the town in order to potentially offer funds to the Johnson City School system. At the Oct. 28 meeting, the commission not only passed the town’s lease-purchase arrangement and inter-local agreement; It also passed a resolution allowing the county mayor to investigate and negotiate with the City of Johnson City and the Local Education Agency “to identify terms that would resolve dispute over the interpretation of the Jonesborough Proposal.”

As for the county school board and the Jonesborough School project, Bennett said the next step is to sign the agreement.

“The town and the county have been very good partners and have been taking care of our legal interests so that I do not see a problem (in the lease and inter-local agreement),” Bennett said. “As we get a final version of the document they want you to sign, I believe your executive committee can sign on behalf of the board and you’re good to go. I think your work is done.

“But there’s always one more version.”

Bennett also mentioned that the Town of Jonesborough will control the construction process to control costs of the project.

“That was some concern of some of the board members over time because obviously there are some ways you can cut corners but increase long-term expenses,” Bennett said. “What we worked out is a compromise where there would be a review committee to look at the final design. You have a voice on the design committee. The town then gets the designs, puts together a final construction plan, they come back to the full board, the BMA and then the commission and each body decides what they think about it and they can provide written input back to the town.”

Bennett also mentioned a few changes that have been made to the agreement, which include the town covering maintenance at the Jonesborough School and Boones Creek School.

“You aren’t going to have any burden to maintain it,” Bennett said. “The big piece from my perspective is you don’t have to maintain the security of (the athletic fields at Jonesborough)  during the day. That’s going to be on the other governmental entities and it should benefit the community as a whole.”

BOE Chairman Keith Ervin said he had concerns regarding the security of the school with the community athletic and recreational facilities next door.

“My personal feelings is the ballfields and all that needs its own entrance and the school needs its own entrance,” Ervin said. “I think its a security issue.”

Bennett said the town seems to recognize the concern and is already working on that detail of the project. He also said the plan will allow board members “ample opportunity” to voice their concerns.

In addition to the update on the school plan, the BOE also unanimously accepted a letter from architectural firm Beeson, Lusk & Street Inc. to end the Jonesborough school architectural contract.

Over the past three years, BLS created over seven designs for the Jonesborough School long before the town’s proposal to build and lease a K-8 school.

Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said BLS has been paid in-full by the county. He also said the school system can opt to use BLS for any project in the future, but that the board will be invoiced for the work.”