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Town chooses site for senior center

The Town of Jonesborough will pursue building a new senior center off East Main Street following the approval of the site by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its Nov. 14 meeting.
The BMA voted in favor of the East Main Street site following debate as to whether it or a site on Persimmon Ridge Road was better suited for the new facility.
“The East Main Street site has more potential to develop or redevelop around it, bring up property values,” said Todd Wood, the engineer hired by the Town of Jonesborough to do a comparison of the two potential sites. “To me, that just fits more ‘Jonesborough.’ It’d be just sticking it out at Persimmon Ridge Park – all it would ever be is a senior center.”
Town Administrator Bob Browning agreed, noting that the East Main Street site has more potential for expansion and creating a multi-use complex that serves all residents of Jonesborough.
The site is one block from the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School, located near the Longview Avenue neighborhood. Most of the land – minus three parcels – is already owned by the town, which currently houses its city garage there.
The old bus garage at the site as well as the town’s old water tank would be demolished to accommodate the senior center.
The biggest cost factor in recommending the East Main Street site, Wood said, is the large amount of blasting that would have to be done to remove a significant amount of rock from the Persimmon Ridge site in order to construct a center there.
Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe, a home builder, agreed with Wood’s assessment.
“As a builder, when I see that much rock, a red flag goes up,” Wolfe said. “I’m just not sold on the fact that’s going to be the best building site. We’re taking a very big gamble if we go and build a senior center on top of a rock pile.”
Alderman Mary Gearhart, who last year campaigned on making the senior center her top priority, gave her vote to the East Main Street site, saying it would benefit more than just the seniors to have it as part of downtown Jonesborough.
“Put it right downtown where the life of the town is,” Gearhart said. “I think it’s the best thing we could do for the town.”
Alderman Chuck Vest, a proponent of building the senior center at Persimmon Ridge Park, changed his mind after hearing Wood’s assessment of the two sites.
“Being down there a lot, I know there’s rock issues,” Vest said. “I was not a fan at first of East Main Street, but I’m coming around to it now. I think it’s the best place for it.”
Alderman Jerome Fitzgerald voted in favor of the Persimmon Ridge site, saying he preferred it because the property is already owned by the town and, unlike the East Main Street site, does not require the acquisition of private property. Fitzgerald also expressed his displeasure with the idea of relocating the town garage.
With Fitzgerald casting the only dissenting vote, the BMA passed a motion to approve the East Main Street for the senior center site pending a successful soil sampling to determine what, if any, rock exists at that location.
Alderman Terry Countermine was absent from the meeting.
Town leaders now will move forward with design plans for the facility at the East Main Street location.