The Johnson City Commission unanimously approved Johnson City’s “extremely large” fiscal year budget of $302 million on first reading Thursday. Out of that $302 million, there’s probably $40-50 million worth of one-time expenditures, $100 million going to day-to-day operations of city government, and about $7.6 million to buy new capital equipment, such as trucks for the fire department, 17 grant-funded patrol vehicles for the police department and $908,000 to replace aging equipment in the public works department.
Additionally, the general fund includes $1.35 million for a 4% pay plan adjustment for employees, which will be their fourth consecutive raise. About $8.5 million in general obligation bonds are also budgeted in the general fund for the first year of improvements to West Walnut Street.
After the city opened bids for the West Walnut Street rehab, the project price increased from the engineer’s estimate of $17 million to $27 million. Aiming to avoid an extra $10 million expense, staff asked the City Commission to instead issue an additional $5 million in debt for the project, bringing the price to $22 million.
Commissioners also opted to issue $13 million in debt to build five new diamond ball fields at Winged Deer Park - about $6 million would be spent in fiscal year 2022 on that construction project with the remaining $7 million to be budgeted in fiscal year 2023.
Washington County Schools cut the ribbon on a state-of-the-art electric school bus on Thursday. It’s the first all-electric school bus in Tennessee.
The all-electric school bus, which was built by Lion Electric, will reduce carbon emissions and save the school system money in fuel and maintenance costs. The electric bus is also significantly quieter than diesel buses — so much so, it plays a warning sound when traveling at a low rate of speed to alert pedestrians and cyclists to its presence.
The electric bus was purchased through a $219,250 grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The TVA and BrightRidge assisted in additional funding, as well as installing and powering the bus charging station, which will be at the Washington County Schools bus garage.
Deputies arrested Misty Magic James on Tuesday and charged her with especially aggravated burglary and felony murder in connection with the Memorial Day shooting death of 60-year-old Trina Jones of Bluff City. The shooting took place at Jones’ home in Bluff City on Monday morning, and police were notified by a confidential informant during their investigation about a 19-minute video of James describing Jones’ slaying in detail.
The investigation remains ongoing at this time. James is housed in the Sullivan County Jail under a $100,000 bond.
If you’re planning on getting out this weekend, there’s plenty to do, as baseball has returned in the form of the new Appy League, First Friday events in Johnson City and Elizabethton, the Carter County Omnium on Saturday, and the premiere of “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Amphitheater next to Fort Watauga in the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. There’s also plenty of live music throughout the region as well - so get out and enjoy some entertainment or take in some of the beautiful natural wonders our area has to offer.