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Washington County Commission approves one-time funding for Boone Lake clean-up

Zach Vance • Updated Nov 27, 2017 at 9:04 PM

Compelled by the Boone Lake Association’s request for funding to continue its lake clean-up program, Washington County commissioners voted Monday night to allocate $20,220 in one-time funding to keep the three-man crew employed. 

But not all commissioners supported financing the efforts of what some have called a “homeowner’s association.”

Commissioners Pat Wolfe, Robbie McGuire and Sam Humphreys all voted no against the measure, and Commissioner Mike Ford also expressed concern about using “taxpayer dollars” to fund the crew when the association’s membership fees paid the salaries in previous years. 

“If they're not willing to fund it like they've done for years and years and years, I have a problem using taxpayers’ dollars for that. Maybe I’m not seeing the full picture here,” Ford said. 

Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Tom Krieger said the money being appropriated will come from the $863,000 TVA Impact Fee. 

The TVA Impact Fee is given to municipalities and cities where TVA is conducting significant construction projects or activity that places additional burdens on local infrastructure. 

“We discussed that and I think all of us were opposed to using taxpayer money. This is money that was given to us by TVA because of having to drop the lake for the economic benefit of the county,” Krieger said. 

Commissioner Skip Oldham said he thought the Boone Lake Association had a legitimate reason to ask for the funding. 

When the resolution made its way through the Budget Committee earlier this month, Mayor Dan Eldridge was adamant this funding could only be granted for one year, but Chairman Greg Matherly proposed a long-term solution, which the commission also voted to approve Monday night. 

By a unanimous vote, commissioners authorized the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to apply for a Tennessee Department of Transportation litter grant that could be used by the association for its clean-up crew. 

Grant recipients will be awarded a two-year contract worth between $20,000 and $200,000, and it does not require a local match. Eligible projects include multi-jurisdictional collaborations, such as the Boone Lake clean-up, and the deadline is Jan. 31. 

“The grant submission date is Jan. 31, 2018. There’s quite a bit to do to get that grant ready. I talked to Mayor (Richard) Venable today in Sullivan County and he’s very willing to participate but also to assist us in getting (the application) together. Johnson City has also expressed a willingness. I spoke to Mayor (David) Tomita, about preparing a resolution in support,” Matherly said. 

In September, Boone Lake Association Vice President Tom McKee requested funding from Washington County, Johnson City and Sullivan County.

A month later, Johnson City commissioners unanimously voted to allocate $9,780 toward the association’s clean-up efforts. The Sullivan County Commission has yet to act on the association’s $34,000 request. 

As the lake levels declined due to dam construction, so has the association’s membership. McKee has estimated the association’s has shrunk from 650 members in 2013 to just 220 this year. 

Created in the 1980s, the Boone Lake Association has employed one of the lake’s only clean-up crews that works year-round removing environmental and safety hazards. 

In news related to the Jonesborough school project, Eldridge said architect Tony Street is still trying to fit the initial renovation concept within budget. 

“My understanding is he is just taking another look at the project and seeing if he can refashion his plans in a way to work within the money that the County Commission has already allotted,” Eldridge said. 

At a workshop last week, Street said the Jonesborough renovation and magnet school project is over budget by about $3.4 million.

Meanwhile, Jonesborough parents and some Board of Education members are still pressing for the old circular facility to be torn down and a new facility built in its place. That plan, according to Street, was about $5.55 million over budget. 

Both plans will be discussed further during the Board of Education’s Dec. 7 meeting. 

Tensions rose a little during Monday’s meeting when Board of Education member Keith Ervin approached the podium and directly asked Eldridge why the county hasn’t already closed on purchasing the McCoy land directly beside Jonesborough Elementary.

In January, commissioners voted to enter a $777,900 purchase agreement on the 15.6-acre tract. Eldridge said the county is still performing due diligence functions on the land, such as environmental testing and soil borings. 

The county has until Dec. 31 to either close on the land, walk away or extend its purchase agreement. 

 

 

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