Next steps for the new Jonesborough school and sports complex

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Leaders are shifting their focus to the many steps ahead after Washington County, Tennessee Commissioners passed a resolution Monday approving a lease agreement with the Town of Jonesborough to build a new K-8 school and sports complex.

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest told News Channel 11 Tuesday “the most important thing” is beginning the rural development loan process with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We need to lock in that good interest rate that we have as fast as possible,” he said. “It’s going to take some yeoman’s work to get that done before that rate changes the first of the year.”

Vest said a Design Committee will be created in the next several weeks. He said it’ll be made up of four nominees from Jonesborough, two from Washington County and four from the school board.

He said the committee will work alongside an architect to approve a design before putting the construction project out for bid.

He said the Town of Jonesborough will have the final say on where the school is built.

Vest said the land they had in mind, off North Cherokee Street and Thomas Meadow Lane, will not be purchased until a design is approved and bids are returned.

“Hopefully, they’ll come back quite a bit less than the $32.75 million that we agreed on,” he said. “We think in the long run that location will save the project millions just in the excavation costs.”

Vest said the town plans to widen roads and add sidewalks from highway 11E to the school site to make the area more traffic friendly.

“The town has plenty of time,” he said.

Vest said the earliest completion date for the construction of the school and sports complex is December 2021.

“It might fall in 2022, most projects will take at the quickest two years–up to three years,” he said.

Washington County School Board Chairman Keith Ervin said he’s concerned the focus on the new school will deter infrastructure investments in other buildings.

Ervin said plans are still in place to fix the roof at Jonesborough Elementary.

“It [the building] is going to be still part of the school system,” Ervin said. “We don’t know yet what we’re going to do with it.”

Ervin also took issue with the commission’s decision to pay the Town of Jonesborough tens of thousands monthly to upkeep the new school’s sports fields.

He said the commission has repeatedly turned down requests to provide additional funding to maintain facilities at other schools.

“Honeslty I feel like the school system can maintain them cheaper than what the Town of Jonesborough is wanting to charge,” Ervin said.

Vest said a Facilities Committee will also be created come January.

After initial threats of a lawsuit against the county, Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said Monday she’s pleased commissioners voted to negotiate a fund-sharing agreement with the city.

MORE: Why Johnson City may sue Washington County over new Jonesborough school funding plan

In other words, Johnson City stands to get a portion of bond proceeds for its own capital projects.

“That’s important because everyone who lives in Washington County, whether you live in the city or out in the unincorporated areas, pay county property taxes and a portion of those county property taxes go toward education,” she said.

Brock said she hopes negotiations will wrap up and a dollar amount will be determined before the commission’s next meeting.

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