A party is scheduled for the Jonesborough K-8

Robert Houk • Updated Nov 19, 2019 at 5:36 PM

Just a little more than three months from the day Jonesborough town leaders first pitched their proposal to build a K-8 school and sports complex to Washington County commissioners and school board members, representatives of the three boards got together Tuesday to officially sign the contracts for the lease-purchase deal.

“We’re not through yet,” William Flanary, Washington County’s director of schools, said after putting his signature on the inter-local agreement. Flanary noted the next task would be completing the crucial design phase of the $32.75 million K-8 school project.

Jonesborough is slated to buy a 48-acre tract of pasture land — located off North Cherokee Street behind the George P. Jaynes Justice Center — to build the 900-student Jonesborough school and athletic complex with a gymnasium and playing fields.

Flanary joined Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest, the county‘s school board chairman Keith Ervin and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy in signing the project documents at the Washington County Courthouse. Posing behind the signers for a ceremonial photograph were several county commissioners and school board members.

One was Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who also serves as the town’s attorney and who was instrumental in negotiating the 38-year lease-purchase deal with the county. He said he had “no idea of how much work” all the parties would eventually put into the making the deal a reality when the proposal was unveiled at a community meeting at Jonesborough’s McKinney Center on Aug. 15.

“We knew with a project like this that our best shot for shepherding it through was to do as much work as we could on the front end,” Wheeler said.

Vest said he was always “comfortable that we could get this done,” adding the project is something that has “never been done before” and “will benefit all of Washington County.”

The Jonesborough mayor said Tuesday the town will host a party for the project at the McKinney Center on Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. He said parents, teachers and the “entire community” are invited to join town leaders and officials from the county and school board in a celebration of the new school.

Vest said he hopes the design phase for the project can be wrapped up before the middle of next year. Construction of the school and sports complex is expected to take between 18 and 24 months.

Grandy said Tuesday he was pleased to see the documents for the project have finally been signed, but noted “we’ve still got plenty to do.” He said it  “is important that we serve all the needs to students in Washington County.”

The county mayor said he is currently in talks with City Manager Pete Peterson to reach an inter-local agreement for the county “to help Johnson City schools move some of its projects forward.”