Perseverance, insight and a dash of coincidence.
A bit of each of these enabled the Washington County Commission’s Budget Committee to pass a single resolution Thursday that lends financial support to both the Jonesborough Senior Citizens Center and the Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter.
The resolution, if passed by the County Commission later this month, would move $350,000 from a defunct insurance liability reserve to the center. The county established the reserve to pay claims when it was self insured, but that is no longer the case.
To allocate $350,000 to the animal shelter, the county would use funds from its reserves, with $250,000 in cash and $100,000 in paving favors — a process that has not managed to pass the County Commission sniff test.
“Anybody have an interest in that?” County Mayor Dan Eldridge asked an audience mostly comprised of people hoping to hear some good news on both projects. “It may seem strange that both requests are on the same resolution. As we have gone through the process of these two issues, they became competing requests, when in reality, there is no relation between the two.”
Eldridge told committee members that “we’ve found a creative way” to provide funds to the senior center by using money held in a liability fund that no longer must be maintained.
On Monday, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman voted to borrow $210,000 to purchase four acres on East Main Street for construction of the new senior center. The $2.3 million project includes plans for a 29,000-square-foot, two-level building adjacent to former Booker T. Washington School, which the town is renovating for use as a performing arts center.
Commissioner Pete Speropulos abstained from voting on the resolution, citing a conflict of interest.
The County Commission could not come to a compromise at last month’s meeting to match Johnson City’s $350,000 contribution to the animal shelter, though it voted on three variations. The matter was sent back to the Budget Committee, which now is sending it back in its original form.
“The animal shelter is an obligation of the county as the result of a private act in 1986,” Eldridge said. “From what I have seen, this is probably as good a joint program as I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard from folks that maybe Washington County should no longer be a partner. I’ve also heard city commissioners say that.
“To divide this effort would require a high ramp-up for service and our need for animal control would increase. The senior center is certainly not an obligation. It needs to be looked at for what it is. It is worthwhile and worthy of supporting. And in this case, Washington County is not in jeopardy of losing any services.”