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County committee defers action on Jonesborough land buy

Robert Houk • Apr 6, 2018 at 12:00 AM

The Washington County Commission’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee gave a thumbs down Thursday to a request from the county Board of Education to sell the Boones Creek Middle School property and designate the proceeds to the Jonesborough school project.

County commissioners also voted to defer action on another request from the board to proceed with the purchase of 15 acres beside Jonesborough Elementary School.

In both cases, committee members said they were uncomfortable with granting the requests before the the Board of Education has decided on a plan of action for the Jonesborough Elementary School project. However, school board members Mary Beth Dellinger and Phillip McLain, who were in the audience, told commissioners such a plan might be approved before the end of a day.

Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said Thursday she had been directed by the Board of Education to request commissioners purchase property owned by Joe McCoy regardless of what is decided on the Jonesborough school project. Commissioners voted last year to give County Mayor Dan Eldridge the authority to close a deal on the McCoy property fronting Main Street behind the Jonesborough school. Commissioners agreed to pay as much as $750,000 to buy the property at the request of the Board of Education, which had originally eyed it as part of a possible expansion or remodeling of the elementary school.

Eldridge told the County Commission’s Budget Committee in February he was “not inclined to pull the trigger” on the deal unless school board members come to an agreement on a Jonesborough K-8 school. County officials have since been given a 90-day extension on the purchase option, which was set to expire at the end of March.

On Thursday, McLain told commissioners buying the property would enable the Board of Education to explore plans for a new playground, ball fields and even a new entrance to the school.

“There are 935 kids at the Jonesborough schools,” he said. “They need room to spread out.”

Even so, County Commissioner Lynn Hodge said he was not prepared to agree to purchasing the McCoy property until the board decides “on a direction” for the Jonesborough project.

Halliburton  said school board members were willing to “surrender the deed” to Boones Creek Middle School to the commission, with the understanding that the old building be sold and the proceeds applied to construct a new elementary school in Jonesborough. County Attorney Tom Seeley told HEW committee members the board’s request “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense” since it had the power to sell the the property on its own.

“There is no benefit to the county to do such a thing,” Commissioner Tom Krieger told his colleagues. “It doesn’t give us any more borrowing power.”

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