Election Commission asking for $1.3 million for new offices

Robert Houk • Jun 13, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Washington County budget officials have asked for more details on a $1.32 million request from county’s Election Commission to relocate its courthouse offices to a former Jonesborough hardware store building that it hopes to buy and renovate.

The Budget Committee voted Wednesday to ask county Mayor Joe Grandy to look into the terms of a purchase agreement and funding options for the building, at 220 North 2nd Avenue, as well as identify the property’s square footage and appraised value.

Several members said they also wanted to know if state funding or a grant might be available for some of the cost of the project.

“I think moving is a great idea, but we need more information,” County Commissioner Jim Wheeler said.

Election officials are asking for $975,000 to buy the building, which sits across U.S. Highway 11E from the George P. Jaynes Justice Center. Another $345,000 would be needed for renovations to the building that formerly housed Olde Towne Hardware.

Election Commissioner Jon Ruetz said he and his colleagues on the board have been searching for “an alternative” to their cramped offices in the Washington County Courthouse for nearly two years. He said the Election Commission has been hoping to “find a place to conduct the people’s business.” He said early voting has increased from 42% in 2010 to 61% in the 2016 presidential election.

He said the proposed new location, which is owned by the family of Franklin Sell, would provide “wide-open space” with ample parking that includes 50 designated spots. Election officials hope to be able to move into the building in the fall.

“With your approval, this is something that would help us is so many ways,” Ruetz told Budget Committee members.

He also noted the Election Commission has been negotiating with former Jonesborough Alderman David Sell and his family on the project, and the asking price of the property is “well within” that for other parcels in the area.

“This is an excellent opportunity that has come to us,” Ruetz said.

Grandy said it would be helpful to the Budget Committee to have the details of the property’s purchase and renovations “locked in.”

Johnson City Press Videos