Board proposes county buy Boones Creek Middle School property to finance project

Jessica Fuller • Updated Mar 2, 2018 at 6:48 PM

After another meeting without choosing a design for the future Jonesborough K-8 school, the Washington County Board of Education is looking at new avenues to get additional funding for the project.

Board member David Hammond approached the board with an idea to enter into a contract with the County Commission to sell the deed to the current Boones Creek Middle School property and allocate those funds to the Jonesborough school property.

In the past, county officials have pointed out that the board would have to have the money in-hand to legally allocate the funds toward a certain project, but Hammond made reference to a contract that the board's attorney, Scott Bennett, referenced in which the board could enter to sell the deed to the commission.

Hammond's motion came after two failed attempts to select a design for the Jonesborough project. Philip McLain made the first motion to choose Scheme 2A, which is $3.6 million over budget, with the deletion of even more classrooms to bring the project down $3.6 million more to fit within the budget, and proposed using portable classrooms and possibly redistributing students temporarily until funds come available to finish the projects.

Several board members were uncertain about the idea, including Todd Ganger, who said that he didn't want to set the precedent that the board can sell a property to the commission every time they need to get something done. He also pointed out the department had been trying to get away from using portable classrooms for good.

"We also have to pay for portables, and how much is that going to cost us?" he asked, adding that the board didn't even know how many portables this project would require.

The motion failed in a 6-3 vote with Ganger, Mike Masters, Keith Ervin, David Hammond, Clarence Mabe and Chairman Jack Leonard voting against the motion, but not without discussion turning back to Scheme 3 during discussion.

Leonard made a push for Scheme 3, which would renovate and add on to the Jonesborough Middle School building, during the discussion for McLain's motion, saying that he thinks it's time to get the ball rolling with the Jonesborough project.

"We are the ones that are responsible for this mess because we can't make a decision," he said. "Taxpayers have already paid for having it done, it's because some people and other people on the board want it another way.

"It's a good building and a brand new building, Mr. Street showed us a picture of what it'd look like outside and it is beautiful. What is wrong with that?"

After McLain's motion failed, Mabe made a motion for Scheme 3, saying that he would rather have a new school than take a gamble with waiting for additional funding. Earlier in the meeting, Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton reported that in the budget committee report at the commission meeting earlier this week, Commissioner Joe Grandy raised the possibility of taking funding away from the Jonesborough school projects and giving it back to the taxpayers.

"It won't be a gamble that we may get the money, we may get the land," Mabe said. "It will be a nice facility."

Mabe's motion for scheme 3 failed in another 5-4 vote with Ervin, Masters, Buchanan, McLain and Dellinger voting against it.

After the two failed motions, Hammond made his motion to approach the commission with an agreement to sell the deed to the current Boones Creek Middle School property for additional funding, adding that he had spoken with Bennett about the possibility. Masters said he wasn't comfortable with the idea of turning over a deed until he knows what the board will get in return, and Ganger said that he didn't want to involve Bennett until he knows the commission would be open to the idea.

The motion passed 5-4 with Mabe, Masters, Ganger and Leonard voting against it, and will be headed to the county budget committee for consideration.

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