The decision came after an hour of discussion about how important all the recreational and cultural activities are to Tennessee’s oldest town. Not only is there the water park, ball fields and downtown events and activities, but on the cultural side, there is the McKinney Center, the Jonesborough Repertory Theater and the Chucky Depot.
In addition to that, there’s a new dog park in the works. According to the town’s website, the parks and recreation director oversees “parks; open spaces and trails; athletics; Jonesborough Arts; seasonal special events; Wetlands Water Park; and Persimmon Ridge Campground.”
Rachel Conger had been the director for 12 years, but recently went to part-time status because of other obligations. Conger directed a full-time staff of eight and part-time and seasonal staff of approximately 75.
In an attempt to equitably divide the duties Conger had, Town Administrator Bob Browning recommended the Board of Mayor and Aldermen create two assistant recreation director positions. One would be over parks and athletics while the other would oversee the cultural and arts part of the department.
Matt Townsend, one of Conger’s employees, was recommended and approved for the parks and athletics job and the other would be advertised for a new hire.
After a lengthy discussion, the board tied a vote that Mayor Chuck Vest broke to approve Townsend be named as the recreational director with duties only pertaining to parks and athletics, but that the other position be frozen for at least three months to see if the cultural side of the department — McKinney Center, the Jonesborough Repertory Theater and the Chucky Depot — could sustain their viability.
Aldermen Steven Callahan and Virginia Causey voted yes on that motion while Aldermen Terry Countermine and Adam Dixon voted no. Vest broke the tie with a yes vote. His concern with the recommendations as presented by Browning was that it would cost the town more money in salaries for the two assistant positions.
McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons expressed concern about not having the support of Conger’s expertise and about taking on the full responsibility of the center and one proposal to take on events at the Chuckey Depot.
Conger told the board that the depot has rotating exhibits and participates in conjunction with town events to draw in more visitors. She reminded the board how much value the town had placed on the depot and how important its success was to the town. Without full-time oversight, the depot could begin to lag in the ability to keep up with expectations previously discussed.
In the end, however, the board voted to approve the assistant recreation director for the arts and special projects but not fill it at this time.
Conger will remain with the town part time as the recreation capital project planner. She will take a leadership role in planning and implementing projects such as parks, landscaping and long-range recreation planning and revenue generation.
In other business, the board:
- Recognized Police Officer Jeff White’s promotion to sergeant. White had been filling in as a platoon leader, and according to Chief Ron Street “has done an outstanding job.” The board approved White’s promotion retroactive to Sept. 20, 2018, when he took on the extra duties.
- approved second and final reading on two rezoning projects. On was rezoning property along East Main Street from low-density residential to a planned residential development, and the other was rezoning of property on Cherokee Street from low- density residential to a planned residential development.
- recognized Fire Lt. Chason Freeman and Firefighter Corey Tittle for obtaining their Fire Inspector 1 status with the state.
- approved an agreement with Music On the Square director Steve Cook on standards of behavior for any contractual employee of the town to maintain the same level of decorum and appropriate behavior as any regular employee of the town.