JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Renovations to the historic Ashe Street Courthouse building are on hold for the moment. But, Johnson City and Washington County officials are confident progress can resume in the near future.
“We’re really just dotting “I’s” and crossing “T’s” – making sure that we haven’t left the project open to some future snag or trip-up,” Johnson City Mayor Joe Wise said. “We’re paying attention to the details.”
The delay in the project comes as the two sides amend an interlocal agreement pertaining to the courthouse. However, Washington County Commissioner and county liaison for the project, Jodi Jones, believes a few of the contending points were resolved in Tuesday’s County-Owned Property meeting.
“We added some things that we thought would fit with what the city was looking for and even what our own commission would feel better about,” she said.
Among those amendments to the agreement were a paragraph outlining the building’s future use, such as it aligns with city’s previous pitch to Governor Bill Lee. The County-Owned Property committee also added a clause containing a plan for the county to eventually turn the property over to the city.
“We talked about the importance of conveying the property expeditiously because we really understand that that’s an interest of the county’s, as well as of the city,” Jones said.
The current language allows time and room for further discussion about how the property will be transferred from the county to the city.
“Should it be a lease? Should it be a deed? How does that happen,” Jones said. “And we agreed we could probably do that by the end of March.”
The tweaked agreement will need full approval at the Washington County Commissioners meeting on Monday in order for the project to move forward. Both sides remain optimistic.
“I think that county commissioners were eager to see there was a plan for the long-term use of the building,” Jones said. “An operation of the building. This does kind of resolve that unease.”
“If they do act on it in that meeting, it could be on our agenda for the first meeting of December,” Wise said. “This part of the project could be resolved in a matter of a couple weeks.”
Both sides believe the quicker, the better, as the $5 million granted to this project by the state must be utilized before June 30, 2022.
“We all want to see that go to good use,” Jones said.
“This funding and these votes that are coming before the commission are really important to the West Walnut Street Corridor coming to fruition in the way everybody has hoped,” Wise said.