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TIF funds could be used to get Northeast State into Downtown Centre

Washington County remains in talks with Northeast State Community College to get a satellite campus of the facility at the county-owned Downtown Centre in Johnson City.
The Herald & Tribune broke the news of the possible venture back in November when County Mayor Dan Eldridge said he had toured the facility earlier that month with Dr. Janice Gilliam, Northeast State Community College president.
The county has been looking to offload the Downtown Centre since the opening of the George P. Jaynes Justice Center in late 2009, when all courts moved out of the Johnson City facility and into Jonesborough.
Now it appears money from the tax increment financing program could lend a hand in making the deal a reality.
“Northeast State says they aren’t going to be able to buy a building,” said Commissioner Pete Speropulos. “We are looking at letting the (Johnson City Development Authority), through TIF funds, pay Washington County $500,000 at $70,000 a year. That would offset moving the offices out of the Downtown Center.”
Currently, Washington County’s Clerk and Trustee offices remain at the facility. However, the county has been actively looking for another space to house those offices.
And once again, it seems TIF funding could play an active role in where they end up.
“The JCDA would like the two county offices to stay downtown, but that is not a deal breaker,” Speropulos said.
But, if the offices remain in downtown, an area that is a part of the TIF district, it is possible TIF funds could be used to help pay the cost of leasing space for the offices, Speropulos explained.
TIF money would also likely be used to fund $1 million in renovations to the Downtown Centre that Northeast State would need to do to make it a viable college setting.
“Realistically, if they can get all the state approval they need and everything, they would like to offer classes there for the spring semester, beginning in January of next year,” Eldridge said. “So we are about a year off.”
According to Eldridge, the Washington County/Johnson City area is the largest in the state without a community college presence.
Should TIF funding be used in the Northeast State project, all other TIF projects currently under consideration would be put on the back burner, including plans to revitalize the historic train depot in Johnson City.
“(The Northeast State project) is the one that our (JCDA) board has determined has the most impact on taxpayers,” said Commissioner David Tomita, also a member of the JCDA. “All other projects will be put on hold.”