By MARINA WATERS
Just when the Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee decided to bob, the county’s board of education opted to weave.
Both groups made decisions regarding the Jonesborough School on Thursday, Feb. 7, during their respective meetings. In a 4-1 vote, the HEW Committee passed two resolutions to send the “Scheme 6” design plan onto the budget committee as well as a resolution to purchase the McCoy property. Meanwhile, the school board, in a 6-3 vote, approved a plan to reroof the current Jonesborough Elementary School building.
The HEW Committee’s motions were passed onto the county’s budget committee without a recommendation or advocacy from any of the five committee members.
“We’re not making a decision to accept Scheme 6 or the McCoy property by sending it forward,” HEW Committee Chairman Danny Edens said. “I feel like we’re doing an injustice to everybody by not allowing it to go through the process. So I’d like to see it go through that process, and if it gets to the commission floor and we approve it, then you’ve got your plan. If we don’t approve it, then it will give our board and (the school board) direction to start over and find a new plan. I think that’s productive for everybody.”
But the question as of late has centered around funding for the Jonesborough School project.
In October, the county’s financial director/budget advisor and BOE member, Mitch Meredith, told county and school officials that the funds for the Jonesborough School project would have to be borrowed. He also said the full project would cost the county $40 million, with half of that going to Johnson City. But at the HEW meeting, Meredith said Washington County would have to borrow $56,247,000 for the Jonesborough project, which also includes the Johnson City School System’s share. Meredith told the Herald & Tribune the $56.2 million figure would also cover all of the country school system’s capital project needs listed on its five-year priority list.
“The $40 million would be for the school project by itself,” Meredith said. “The reason it’s at $57 million is there are other school needs that are going to have to be borrowed for. Scheme 6 is going to mothball the Jonesborough Elementary School, but that building needs a roof on it.
“HVAC systems and controls (need to be replaced) out at Boone, other roofs (need to be repaired) — some of those things are going to happen within the next year which is going to require actually borrowed funds to do that. The $57 million borrowing is to do all the schools’ currently anticipated needs over the next four years.”
While the Jonesborough School design decision has been in gridlock over the past two years, the need for a new roof at Jonesborough Elementary School has been growing, according to school officials.
At the BOE’s regularly scheduled Thursday, Feb. 7 meeting, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said he first brought the roofing needs to the board’s attention three years ago and now, he said, the maintenance department is prepared to place a 20-foot patch over the round portion of the school’s roof.
“The plies are coming apart it’s so old and deteriorating,” Patrick said. “When we put a patch on that roof, it’s not like someone punched a hole in it and we put a patch on it like you would a bicycle tire. It’s delaminated so badly we have to put a 20-by-20 foot square on it.”
Though Patrick said the roof repairs have been a growing need, the board voted not to discuss the possibility of re-roofing the elementary school at the board’s called meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22. At that meeting, Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, Keith Ervin, David Hammond and Philip McLain voted to not discuss re-roofing Jonesborough Elementary. But at the Feb. 7 meeting, Buchanan joined board members Jason Day, Chad Fleenor, Todd Ganger (who made the motion to re-roof), and Meredith in voting to discuss the motion. Buchanan, Day, Fleenor, Ganger, Hammond and Meredith voted in favor of re-roofing the school. Dellinger, Ervin and McLain remained opposed.
“Reality says that nothing is happening in Jonesborough,” Ganger said. “If (the commission) told us today we could build Scheme 6, you’re still looking at two more years.
“This is an open and closed lawsuit if something happens. Check with your attorney on that. If something happens, and this has been voted down after it’s been brought before this board repeatedly, we’ve lost. Plain and simple.”
Some board members, however, said they felt a vote to re-roof the school could cause the commission pull back on the current Jonesborough School design plan.
“If we do put a roof on it,” Hammond said after voting in favor of the motion, “I don’t want the message to be conveyed to the county commission or the community that we’re giving up on a new building or renovation for Jonesborough.”
Meanwhile, Dellinger said she wished to see Jonesborough’s “round” school torn down to allow more space for the potential K-8 school. Scheme 6 does not include any plans to tear down the round portion of the elementary school.
Meredith and Buchanan said they felt that no matter what happens in regards to the current design plans for the Jonesborough School, the school system still owns the building and would need to replace the roof.
“We still have an asset so we need a roof on it,” Meredith said. “You don’t want the roof leaking on an asset even if it’s not being used. It will ruin your value. We need to move forward and put a roof on this thing.”
Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary added that the BOE has requested the school project’s architect, Tony Street, draw up a Scheme 6 plan that did not include usage of the McCoy property. Flanary said that plan should be complete by this week.