Washington County Commissioners approve Second Amendment resolution

Robert Houk • Jan 27, 2020 at 9:53 PM

Washington County commissioners voted 12-2 Monday to approve a resolution expressing the county’s support of the Second Amendment.

Commissioners Jodi Jones and Larry England voted “no” on the measure, with Commissioner Mike Ford absent from the meeting. The vote came without debate after a lengthy public comment period earlier in the meeting during which a number of residents address the resolution.

“I’m really impressed and appreciative of everyone who spoke,” Jones told her colleagues. “Everyone was really respectful.” 

Jones made a motion at the beginning of the meeting to table action on the resolution. She told her colleagues the resolution does not conform with the commission’s own rules, and only creates “an illusion that we are doing something important” while distracting commissioners from important issues like workforce development, water needs and school funding. 

“The resolution has no direct impact on our local laws or the way we conduct business here in Washington County,” Jones said. “In addition, the broad statement in this resolution seeks to address a threat that doesn’t exist.”

The tabling motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Gary McAllister, failed by a 6-8 vote. Joining Jones and McAllister in voting in favor of the motion were Commissioners England, Bryan Davenport, Freddie Malone and Jim Wheeler.

County residents on both sides of the gun control spoke issue out on the Second Amendment resolution.

Among them were students from Science Hill High School, who voiced their opposition to passage of the resolution. One student told commissioners that she and her classmates are “literally the school-shooting generation.”

Myra Elder, Jonesborough, said Second Amendment rights are like “well-built property fences.” She told commissioners those fences in Tennessee are “among the strongest in the nation,” and said “well-informed Washington County citizens know there is no threat to the Second Amendment” on the local level.

Travis Tyson, however, said the commission’s passage of the Second Amendment resolution was important enough to him that he took off the day from his second shift job to appear in support of the measure.

“If you think Tennessee and Washington County are safe, just look at what’s happening in Virginia,” the said.

The Washington County resolution reads in part: “Whereas, legislation infringing upon the constitutional rights of Washington County citizens has been, and may continue to be, proposed in the United States Congress and the Tennessee General Assembly; and whereas, after much consideration and deliberation, this legislative body has determined that it is in the best interest of Washington County to publicly proclaim its support of a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, and request that the duly elected representatives of federal and state government continue to adhere to their respective promissory duties to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

In other business Monday:

• Commissioners appointed nine members to a task force studying the county’s infrastructure needs to supply public water. That task force will be headed by Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy.

• Commissioners approved a resolution to spend $464,560 from capital funds to buy propane-fueled school buses, with the understanding the county will receive a share of a $102,500 grant from the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition.

The school system is asking that $31,745 from the environmental grant go directly to Washington County, which had already agreed to fund replacement school buses for the school system from its capital reserves. 

The remaining amount would go to the school system to help it buy vans for athletic teams at the county’s two high schools.

• Commissioners authorized the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to seek a National Register of Historic Places designation for the old Ashe Street courthouse in Johnson City. Heritage Alliance officials said the designation will allow the county to qualify for grants to refurbish the building that opened as a post office in 1910.

• Commissioners voted 9-5 to approve a request from the Washington County Election Commission to lease the former Ace hardware store at 220 N. 2nd Ave., Jonesborough, as a voting site. Election officials are asking for $77,500 to cover the one-year lease of the 10,700 square-foot property.

Malone, who voted against the lease, told his colleagues it seemed to him to be “an expensive short-term solution” to fill the county’s needs.

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