By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Commission didn’t come up with a clear direction at its April 1 workshop to discuss the Jonesborough School project funding options, but the group ended the night with an approved plan to re-roof Jonesborough Elementary School for $1.1 million.
The commission voted 10-3 to re-roof the elementary school after tabling the motion at its last regularly scheduled meeting on March 25. Commissioners Kent Harris, Danny Edens and Mike Ford were opposed. Bryan Davenport was absent and Robbie Tester abstained from the vote.
“The roof that is on the building now has actually outlived its usefulness,” The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, explained at the meeting. “We’re adding patches to patches. We are actually putting patches on top of a patch. The last patch we put on was two or three weeks ago and it 20-feet-by-20-feet.”
For some commissioners, the future of the round portion of the elementary school was a concern following talk of the school board potentially “tearing down the round” at the commission’s meeting last month.
“If that building is going to be utilized, we need to maintain that building,” Edens said. “We need to do whatever else we need to do to it if it’s going to be utilized … But also from that meeting I left with a lot of uncertainty on where the board actually stood on utilizing that building or not utilizing it at all.”
The school board’s chairman, Keith Ervin, told commissioners he wouldn’t vote to tear down a building if the roof was replaced.
While a decision was made regarding the school’s roof, the workshop offered the Jonesborough School project — which has been stuck in limbo between school board meetings and county committee meetings for the past two years — a presentation on potential funding timelines.
The county’s director of finance and administration, Mitch Meredith, said moving forward with the “Scheme 6” design plan to renovate and add on to Jonesborough Middle School to create a k-8 school would take the county’s outstanding debt to over $214 million by June 2019. He also said the potential debt would “put it somewhere in the top 10” of Tennessee counties with the most debt per capita.
He also said the soonest the county could build a Jonesborough School without borrowing funds would be 2028.
“It bothers me that we are talking 2028,” Commissioner Suzy Williams said. “This is 2019 going into 2020 and what we decide ought to fit the terms of the school board and the commission because we can’t determine what the next group of officials are going to do.”
Meanwhile, Chairman Greg Matherly suggested the county utilize pennies collected from the 2016 tax increase for the Boones Creek School once that project is complete along with some pennies for school maintenance needs.
“There is wiggle room in there but it would be what the school board would be willing to give up on their priority list,” Matherly said. “There are 19 cents really available. It’s just how you prioritize whether it’s a school, whether it’s a roof — it’s your priority list.”
Matherly also voiced his concern for unforeseeable maintenance needs should those pennies in the capital projects fund be moved over to debt service.
“We have to remember when we take that capital money and commit that to the debt service in borrowing, those pennies are never coming back to the capital fund,” Matherly said. “So then in a year or two when someone needs a roof, how are we going to pay for that roof or an HVAC system? We’ve gotten into that situation before.”
The county’s budget committee will consider the “Scheme 6” design plan at its next meeting on Wednesday, April 10. That meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in the first floor conference room of the courthouse in Jonesborough.