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Property restrictions hold up debate on Jonesborough school

Robert Houk • Updated Nov 30, 2018 at 4:47 PM

Action on a new K-8 school in Jonesborough was delayed once again by Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee on Thursday while the county awaits word on the removal of property restrictions on a land purchase that school officials say is crucial to the project.

In the meantime, the committee agreed to recommend a purchase option on the Joe McCoy property be extended by another 90 days while officials deal with the the legal restrictions placed on the sale. County commissioners voted 20-3 in June to extend the purchase agreement for a sixth time.

That purchase option expires at the end of December.

Washington County Attorney Thomas J. Seeley III said a meeting will be held Dec. 6 between representatives for McCoy and the nearby Lowe’s Home Improvement store to discuss the removal of restrictions Lowe’s asked to be attached to purchase of the remaining tract when it bought its land from McCoy several years ago.

Seeley said under those restrictions, Lowe’s has the right to pre-approve any construction — be it for a building or a road — on the tract. No such plan could be reviewed by Lowe’s until the county Board of Education finally voted in early October to approve Scheme 6, which calls for renovating the current Jonesborough Middle School and adding about 64,000 square feet to the building. 

In January 2017, the commission authorized the county mayor to buy the property for $777,900. The property was initially needed to build the first proposed Jonesborough school scheme, which called for expanding the existing elementary school into a K-8.

Now, school officials say the property is key to Scheme 6 because it will be used to create a new road for a bus loading and unloading zone with access to Main Street in Jonesborough.

HEW Chairman Danny Edens urged the committee Thursday to table action on Scheme 6, as well as consideration of the school system’s capital spending priorities until restrictions are removed from the purchase of the McCoy property. The committee had also deferred action on the Jonesborough school earlier this month after commissioners said they wanted to hear more details on its financing.

Edens said those issues could be taken up by the committee in a special meeting after next week’s session between McCoy and Lowe’s.

“All or nothing depends on the answer from Lowe’s,” he said.

Even so, Jonesborough parent Kerrie Aistrop told the committee she was disappointed by the delay.

“As a taxpayer,” Aistrop told the committee, she wanted to know what figure the Board of Education should be prepared to work with in planning for the new school.

“This has been pushed back so many times,” she said.

County Mayor Joe Grandy told Aistrop and HEW Committee members that “virtually anything we do in Jonesborough will be with borrowed money.”

Editor’s note: This story has been been corrected from an earlier version that referred to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee as the CIA Committee.

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