County to hear from Johnson City school leaders

Robert Houk • Aug 25, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Washington County commissioners will hear from leaders of the Johnson City School System at their regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said Steve Barnett, the city’s superintendent of schools, is scheduled to speak on his school system’s many capital needs. His presentation comes more than a week after Jonesborough leaders unveiled their proposal to build a $28 million K-8 school and recreational complex in the town.

The Washington County Board of Education will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday to consider the town’s 20-year plan for the county to lease-to-own the new school. Officials with city schools have expressed concern about how that plan will address Johnson City’s own $30 million in school capital needs.

Matherly said he and his colleagues are waiting “to hear some direction” from the county school board before proceeding with debate on Jonesborough’s school plan.

Meanwhile, commissioners will consider a number of tax increment financing proposals for downtown Johnson City and funding requests to replace parts of the environmental systems at Jonesborough’s elementary and middle schools.

The county’s Budget Committee has recommended approval of $220,000 from TIF funds for the Legacy Sesquicentennial Project at King Commons in downtown Johnson City.

Work on the Legacy Plaza, which will include a history circle, is expected to be completed in late November. The Nature Adventure Area at King Commons will be ready in the spring.

Commissioners will also vote on $195,915 in TIF funds for MMM Enterprises to renovate a building at 142 W. Walnut St., Johnson City. The 2,500-square-foot building, which was formerly Overmountain Sports, will be redeveloped to house the Watauga Brewery on the first floor, a restaurant on the second floor and rooftop event space.

Development officials believe the work is likely to spur other rehabilitation projects near the corner of West Market and Boone streets.

The commission will also consider a request to spend as much as $225,000 to replace a cooling tower at Jonesborough Elementary School, with $49,000 coming from the county’s capital improvement fund. The county school system is also asking for $69,000 to replace the heating/cooling controls at Jonesborough Elementary School.

Phillip Patrick, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, has told commissioners that both items are immediate needs regardless of what happens with a new K-8 school.

Commissioners will also honor Nes Levotch at their meeting Monday. Levotch, who retired in July after serving 20 years as director of the Washington County Emergency Management Agency, is credited with establishing “the first true emergency operations center for Washington County,” as well as writing and implementing a key grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $400,000.

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