Finance chief: Divided board has few options

Jessica Fuller • Updated Mar 2, 2018 at 11:39 PM

Another series of split votes are keeping the Jonesborough K-8 project from moving forward, and some board members say they’re tired of watching months go by without any progress being made.

Votes of 5-4 have haunted the board’s progress in choosing one of the four schemes presented by project architect Tony Street. County Finance Director Mitch Meredith attended the meeting Thursday night in which the board failed again to choose a plan for the future school.

He told board members that the way he sees it, they only have three options moving forward: Choose Scheme 3, the plan that would renovate and add on to Jonesborough Middle School and the only scheme within the allotted budget; choose Scheme 1, the original scheme, which would renovate the saucer-shaped Jonesborough Elementary School building and the center of the “tear down the round” campaign run by community members; or do nothing.

Halliburton warned board members at the beginning of the meeting that Commissioner Joe Grandy had raised the possibility of allocating taxes back to taxpayers if the school board continues to fail to choose a plan for the school, but that didn’t stop some board members from wanting to hold off on the school in hopes that more funding will be available a few years down the road.

Clarence Mabe, who made the motion for Scheme 3 at Thursday night’s meeting that eventually failed in another 5-4 vote, said he is uncomfortable with the idea of “gambling” $20 million, as the funding isn’t guaranteed a few years down the road with a different mayor and a different commission.

“We’re gutting that whole building, all we’re using is the frame, and at the same time we’re going into it with the money we’ve got,” Mabe said on Friday. “It’s going to be a really awesome school. Even with Scheme 2 or 2A you’re still getting it rebuilt — they keep saying it’s a new school, but it’s not.”

Board members Keith Ervin, Annette Buchanan, Philip McLain, Mary Beth Dellinger and David Hammond voted down Mabe’s motion to choose Scheme 3. Instead, David Hammond made a motion to propose selling the deed to the current Boones Creek Middle School property back to the county — a move that has since garnered confused reactions from county officials.

Mabe was among the four that voted against the motion, noting that he didn’t think it was a great idea either, since he didn’t see the county going for it.

“If we turn it over to them we don’t know what we’re going to get, it might be worth $3 million, it might be $6 million,” he said, adding, “Why are we delaying another 30 or 60 days to do something that they already said they won’t do?”

After making his motion, Hammond told the board he didn’t want to “have a knee-jerk reaction” when taking decisions like this into consideration.

“I think we need to look past today,” he said at Thursday’s meeting. “We’re serving and representing students and parents and teachers and taxpayers 10, 20, 30 years down the road ... when you’re looking at a project of this magnitude, you have to look under every stone and every avenue.”

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