Jonesborough board set to OK agreement on WCEDC’s role

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 11, 2014 at 8:59 PM

The town of Jonesborough appears ready to endorse the much-discussed intergovernmental agreement that will designate the Washington County Economic Development Council as the county’s sole joint economic and community development board.

While the agreement has recently been approved by the governing commissions of both Johnson City and Washington County, Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen deferred a vote in early December in order to allow time for its review by the town’s attorney.

As he did in advance of Jonesborough’s initial consideration of the agreement Dec. 9, Town Administrator Bob Browning has recommended the aldermen approve the agreement at its monthly meeting Monday, with a repeat of his initial observations on stipulations of the agreement that appear to diminish Jonesborough’s role on the council.

In written agenda presentations on the agreement prepared in advance of the board’s December meeting and again Monday, Browning specifically addresses the agreement’s exclusion of Jonesborough on the council’s newly created Executive Committee and the town’s inability to withdraw from the council and discontinue its $7,000 annual contribution to its operations without the consent of all council members.

“There has been a good deal of discussion about the proposed agreement since the last meeting and ... I am not aware of any changes to the agreement,” Browning said in his recommendation for the agreement’s approval Monday.

“As I pointed out in last month’s agenda presentation, the agreement specifically states that Jonesborough will contribute $7,000 in support of the council. Once passed, the agreement cannot be amended without approval in writing by all parties.

“The bottom line is that the Economic Development Council deserves $7,000 in support from Jonesborough whether we are on the executive board or not, and even if we are locked in to that amount.”

Browning’s recommendation also notes that the council’s immediate past and current CEOs respectively, have been “very supportive” when the town has requested the council’s assistance and that Mitch Miller, the current CEO, was “very helpful” in providing information on the county industrial park needed for the town’s application for federal Economic Development Administration funding for its wastewater treatment plant expansion.

“Again, we need to support the EDC and the $7,000 has been budgeted the last couple of years,” Browning said.

The agreement has been placed on the board’s consent agenda for Monday’s meeting with other items of routine business that are typically approved by the board without discussion.

While most voting members of the council make a minimum annual contribution of $25,000, Jonesborough’s contribution has been set at discounted rate of $7,000 since the council’s inception.

Johnson City and Washington County both contribute about $171,000 annually to the council. Other voting members include representatives of Johnson City’s Public Building Authority, the local Chamber of Commerce, the Johnson City Power Board and an unlimited number of private investors who often partner to share a $25,000 membership with a single vote on the commission.

At the council’s last meeting Dec. 19, members discussed the town’s request for inclusion on its executive committee with a recommendation that its annual contribution to the council be increased.

Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said at that time the town is unlikely to increase its funding for the council.

“We already have a budget in place for the year, and we’re a municipality of just 5,200 people. I can’t speak for the entire board, but I simply don’t see us at this point being able to contribute more,” Wolfe said at that time.

With Jonesborough’s approval of the agreement, the council will become the sole state-recognized economic development body for the county with access to state grant funding for economic development.

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