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Johnson wins Washington County's District 4 County Commission seat

Gary B. Gray • Updated Feb 28, 2017 at 10:28 AM

Retired 1st Judicial District Chancellor Richard Johnson became the Washington County Commission’s 25th member Monday, besting three other nominees. 

“I have 20 years experience in trial law, and 25 years experience sitting on the Chancery Court bench,” Johnson said after being sworn in. “My experience demonstrates I’m a good listener and a good deliberator. There are so many issues.”

Johnson filled the 4th Commission District seat left vacant by former commissioner and now-Johnson City Mayor David Tomita. He will share representation of that district with Commissioners Katie Baker and Lee Chase.

Johnson, former Washington County Commissioner Phil McPeak, Johnson City Cardinals General Manager Tyler Parsons and East Tennessee State University Department of Family Medicine Associate Professor Jodi Jones were nominated.

Baker, who nominated Jones, was the only commissioner to vote for the former Southside Neighborhood Organization president in the first of three rounds of voting. Baker abstained from voting in the next two rounds.

Each nominee received three minutes at the podium prior to the votes, and a handful of audience members spoke in Jones’ favor. No one spoke in favor of the other nominees.

Tomita’s successor had to gain the seat with a simple majority, or 13 votes. Three tallies were taken with the lowest vote-getter eliminated. The first tally was Johnson,11, Parsons, eight, McPeak, three and Jones one.

With three left in the race, Johnson received 12 votes, Parsons nine and McPeak one. The final tally was 15 to 7 in favor of Johnson.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to rezone about 67 acres in Jonesborough, clearing the way for Northeast Tennessee’s first public utility solar venture.

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch Corporation requested the rezoning of property between Old State Route 34 and Miller Road on which they will partner with the Johnson City Power Board in the operation of a 40- to 50-acre solar farm.

The land was rezoned from general agriculture residential to agriculture business district. The Tennessee Valley Authority last year selected the Power Board to participate in its Distributed Solar Solution program.

The Power Board will fund a portion of the farm’s construction and receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the generated electricity to the TVA, according to Jeff Dykes, Power Board CEO.

Dykes said the money from the sale of the electricity will be used to help balance customer rates, but he also hopes the utility can offer special rates to customers who wish to offset their consumption by supporting the renewable energy.

A construction timeline has not been set.

Commissioners also agreed to provide an additional $500,000 to Beeson, Lusk & Street to see the county through 80 percent of the Boones Creek K-8 design and engineering. The additional amount brings to $1.1 million earmarked for design. The money will come from the county’s capital projects fund. That amount would be reimbursed with future bond proceeds.

The County Commission also approved a resolution to pay Burleson Construction $207,500 to manage construction/renovations of the new Jonesborough K-8 and magnet school. Payment will be made in the same manner as Beeson, Lusk & Street.

A $29,000 a bid from Tysinger, Hampton & Partners to develop a countywide water line improvement plan also was approved. The company will perform a feasibility study in which the extension of water lines would be prioritized and construction costs projected.

The study includes identification of state and federal assistance within a five-year plan that would place between $5 million and $10 million worth of extensions.

Email Gary Gray at [email protected]. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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