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Grandy says he is nearing school funding deal with Johnson City

Robert Houk • Jan 16, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said Wednesday negotiations between the county and Johnson City to address school capital needs are nearing fruition.

Grandy told members of the county’s Budget Committee he expects to have an inter-local agreement before them in time for their meeting in February. 

“We are really close,” Grandy said of his talks with City Manager Pete Peterson. “We are trying to put this issue in the rear mirror.”

He noted that those discussions are continuing, and involves a “unique structure” with a time frame that will stretch across several decades.

“It’s important that we get this right,” Grandy said.

Before agreeing to enter into a lease/purchase deal with the town of Jonesborough in October to build a new K-8 school and sports complex, Washington County commissioners approved a resolution authorizing Grandy to negotiate “with the city of Johnson City and the local education agency operating within that municipality to identify the terms that would resolve dispute over the interpretation of the Jonesborough proposal.”

County Attorney Allyson Wilkinson said that while “nothing has been finalized,” communication between the two parties is still open. She told committee members the final agreement would need the County Commission’s approval before it is signed.

Commissioner Jim Wheeler said it has been his and his colleagues’ intention not to weigh in on the agreement until all the details are hammered out. 

“The County Commission has not commented on what the agreement contains because we asked the mayor to take the lead,” Wheeler said.

Commissioner Freddie Malone agreed, adding the county and Johnson City have negotiated in good faith to reach a deal.

“Nobody is dragging their feet,” he said.

In a related matter, the Budget Committee voted to earmark $1 million in the current fiscal year to deal with preliminary costs for the $32.75 million Jonesborough school project.

“The bills have to be paid,” Grandy said, adding that the newly appointed design committee for the project is ready to begin its work.

Mitch Meredith, the county’s director of finance and administration, said the county’s bills for the project is close to $280,000. He said $500,000 to cover those expenditures would come from the fund balance, while the remaining amount would come from a line item designated for the Daniel Boone High School re-roofing project.

That estimated $2.6 million roofing work is expected to be discussed by commissioners next month.

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