By Collin Brooks
Boones Creek will be getting a new school.
On a night when the Washington County Commission approved their final budget — which included a two percent salary increase for most county employees — the final approval of a resolution that allowed the funding of the $25 million project means that a new K-8 school will be located on the corner of Highland Church Road and Boones Creek Road..
The commission approved the resolution 22-2, with Lee Chase and Steve Light voting against the resolution that approved the maximum payment of $25.3 million to Burwil Construction for the construction of the school.
The vote was met with smiles from the audience which featured a school contingency that included Director Kimber Halliburton, Washington County School Board members Clarence Made and Chairman Jack Leonard, along with Boones Creek Middle School Principal Mike Edmonds.
“We’re excited,” Halliburton said after the meeting. “What I think about is the current facilities, both the Boones Creek sites, that our students go to everyday and our teachers, and I’m just excited for our students, I’m excited for our teachers. I’m excited for our parents. They really deserve it.
“And when you walk into those facilities everyday, you really get it. But even a visitor walks through those facilities, and fully understands what we are up against. So it’s an exciting time.”
While there was minimal conversation from the commission about the funding of the school, concerns were raised on a separate resolution which allowed the funding for $3.42 million for the grading of the athletic complex.
Commissioners Robbie McGuire, Chase and Light voted no to the resolution that was approved 20-3, with McGuire questioning who would maintain the facilities if they were built? Washington County Commissioner Joe Grandy said they had yet to get to that piece and the funding would only allow the land to be leveled for the proposed facility, that could be shared with Johnson City and/or Jonesborough.
A joint committee, that will consist of members from the Washington County Commission, Washington County Board of Education and Johnson City officials — and possibly Jonesborough officials —will meet to explore the options of a joint facility.
“We’re looking forward to selecting a committee that can spend some time with the architect and it’s going to take time, because there are a lot of questions,” Washington County Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said. “We have a general answer, but we don’t have a solid answer.”
Questions then arose whether if the county was writing a “blank check” for a project, by getting the ball rolling without knowing what the final project may cost. But Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge told the commission that preliminary estimates from the architect are about $2 million.
The proposed athletic complex is set to consume 37 of the 57 acres of the new school site with the athletic complex set to open a year after the school’s opening in 2019.
That money will allow the construction crew to grade that piece of property, taking the highland that is set to be a part of the athletic field and pushing it to lowland that the school will sit on.
The commission also passed the county’s 2018 fiscal year budget, which Grandy highlighted by mentioning a two percent raise for county employees. The raise does not include the Washington County Sheriff’s Department who established their own system last year which received funding from the county commission. The budget also incorporated a significant increase in health care cost and was balanced with no use of the reserve fund.
The property tax rate will also remain unchanged, after it’s $0.40 increase last year. The property tax rate will stay at $2.3798 per $100 of taxable property.
The county commission also approved right of way purchase for projects worth $23,000 on Highland Church Road that will allow for the needed improvements with the extra traffic that will come with the new school. Just over $112,000 was approved for the design and engineering of the same project.
Commissioner Robbie Tester objected to the resolutions, saying they hadn’t been brought to the commission through the proper channels — skipping the Public Works Committee before budget. Tester’s concern was agreed on by some commissioners, but the vote still passed 20-4.
County looking to add paid Firefighters
Close to $500,000 worth of funding was not included in the budget for a request for recurring funding for paid firefighters in Embreeville, Fall Branch, Gray, Limestone, Nolichuckey and Sulphur Springs Volunteer Fire Departments to provide fire protection coverage during daytime hours.
The Public Safety Committee recommended approval for the request during their June 1 meeting.
A group is being formed to find the correct funding method for the recurring costs, according to Eldridge.
“We are still very much on this,” Eldridge said. “I don’t think we’ll have an answer next month, but over the next two or three months I think that we will have a plan for recurring revenue that is designated for this purpose.”
Baker resigns from 4th District
Matherly opened the meeting by saying that Washington County Commissioner Katie Baker resigned from her 4th commission seat, effective immediately. Baker recently lost her father.
“She felt like she could not give 100 percent to her time as commissioner,” said Washington County Chairman Greg Matherly, who summarized her resignation later. “We will definitely miss her.”
The vacancy could be filled as soon as the July meeting when nominees will be accepted. The vacant seat comes out of the same district that replaced David Tomita in February when he resigned to concentrate on his duties as Johnson City Mayor. Nominees included Tyler Parsons, Dr. Jodi Polaha Jones and Phil McPeak. Parsons serves as vice president and general manager of the Johnson City Cardinals and due to the beginning of the baseball season, he told the News & Neighbor he would not be interested in filling the vacancy.