3 failed votes leave Washington County school board at square one

Jessica Fuller • Updated Feb 9, 2018 at 11:58 PM

Washington County Board of Education members tried three times to choose a scheme for the future Jonesborough K-8 school, but left Thursday night’s meeting without a decision.

Now some board members are wondering if pumping the brakes on the project is the way to go.

Mary Beth Dellinger brought scheme 2A back to the table for a vote.

That plan would give Jonesborough students a brand new building with some omissions from the original scheme to bring the project closer to budget. With the deletion of the magnet school and six classrooms from the original scheme 2 plan, scheme “2A” is still more than $3 million over the allotted budget.

Philip McLain seconded Dellinger’s motion, but the vote to approve the plan failed in a 6-3 vote with Clarence Mabe, Annette Buchanan, Todd Ganger, Keith Ervin, Mike Masters and Chairman Jack Leonard voting against. Member David Hammond was the third vote in favor.

During the discussion for that motion, architect Tony Street presented scheme 3, which would renovate and add on to the current middle school building. It is the only proposed plan to be under the allotted $20 million budget. Street assured board members that the scheme would replace all of the plumbing under the building, a concern brought forth by parents who said the school suffers from plumbing issues.

After Dellinger’s failed motion, Ganger moved to approve scheme 3, with a second from Masters, but it also failed, this time in a 5-4 vote with Dellinger, Ervin, McLain, Buchanan and David Hammond voting against it.

“I don’t like scheme 3,” McLain said before the vote. “I don’t like the way it lays on the property, I don’t like the way it crowds the football field. It’s a beautiful building, but I just don’t like the picture of it.”

Street repeated the ever-looming deadline of choosing a plan to open the school by 2020, but Ervin said he would rather wait a few years when more money could be available for the project, echoing desires from parents in past meetings who have said they’d rather wait and have a new school than have a refurbished school sooner.

The problem with that, Dellinger reminded him, is that waiting means a different mayor and commission, and that doesn’t ensure the school board will get any more funding in the future.

“You borrow it, you’ve got to pay it back,” Mabe added. “If we wait too long, interest rates are going to go up. If they go up 1 percent, that’s a $6 million payback, so we’ve got to think about that too.”

Buchanan, who voted against the first motion for scheme 2A, made a motion to reconsider approving the site plan, which McLain seconded with the suggestion that the board go back to the commission for support in the plan for a new Jonesborough school.

“We need to prepare those schools for the next 40 or 50 years, and I think doing scheme 2A is a huge start in that direction,” Buchanan said. “I strongly advocate for that, let’s ask the commission to please work with us.”

The second motion to pass scheme 2A failed in a 5-4 vote, with Masters, Ganger, Ervin, Mabe and Leonard voting against it, leaving the board back at square one with no plan going forward.

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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