Jonesborough confident school plan will be ready for vote Friday

Jonathan Roberts • Oct 14, 2019 at 9:58 PM

Though there’s a few “little pieces” still being discussed, Jonesborough appears confident they’re in the final stages of finalizing the town’s K-8 school plan.

“It’s a lot of back and forth to get things finalized, and we’re down to maybe 10 little pieces that we’re still discussing,” said town attorney Jim Wheeler. “We have a meeting (Tuesday) at 9:30, and hopefully we’ll hammer the rest of those out.

“We’re getting close,” Wheeler said, also saying that the plan will “absolutely” be ready for Washington County to vote on Thursday, when the county commission is expected to vote on the proposal.

The plan, which calls for the town of Jonesborough to construct a $28-32 million K-8 school and enter into a lease-to-own agreement with the county, will be up for a vote in front of Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Friday morning if approved Thursday.

During Monday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said the town has “worked hard” on ironing out the lease agreement, and that he feels the town will “have a successful vote with the great county commissioners we have.”

“I think (Thursday) is going to be a very good day for Washington County, for Jonesborough and, I think in the short term, probably for Johnson City as well,” Vest said after the meeting, also saying that “at this point, I think the commission can be trusted to address Johnson City’s issues,” in regard to school funding.

According to state law, any county bonds issued for schools would necessitate the county share 47.76% of that money with Johnson City students. As the proposal is currently constructed, with the county making annual lease payments of over $2 million to Jonesborough, city schools would not receive that funding.

In September, Johnson City manager Pete Peterson told the Press that while the city has not been “harming or delaying” Jonesborough’s school plan, but city schools have needs too, and they’re looking to “continue a dialogue with the county that we can live with.”

“We need to strive for a win-win solution, not a lose-lose,” he said.

Following Monday’s meeting, Vest said he feels the relationship between the two municipalities is “very strong,” and that Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock and Peterson have been “very positive toward the town of Jonesborough.”

“We strive to have our kids in Jonesborough educated in facilities as well as what they have up there,” Vest said. “We’re more than pleased with Johnson City.”

Other Business:

The town approved a special event permit to turn this Thursday’s “Third Thursday” event in Jonesborough into a fundraiser to benefit Susan G. Komen of East Tennessee, with 75% of funds raised going to services in the region, and 25% going toward breast cancer research.

The event will feature food, music, cocktails and a Halloween costume contest at the Parson’s Table parking lot from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17. Distillery owner Stephen Callahan, who’s also a Jonesborough alderman, said they’re hoping to raise $2,000 for the organization.

“The distillery has always been able to get groups together,” Callahan said. “My mother was recently diagnosed with cancer, and for them to come and ask me to raise money for cancer patients in East Tennessee, it’s a true honor.”

Town employee David Gillenwater was named employee of the month.