By Scott Robertson
By a vote of 14-9 Monday night the Washington County Commission accepted the districting map that delineates the 15 districts the commission will have beginning after the 2018 elections. The commission had already agreed to shrink from 25 members to 15 and to have only one commissioner per district at that time, but the creation of the map had taken months to complete.
The Reapportionment Committee, chaired by Commissioner Joe Grandy and comprised of one member from each of the 10 existing districts, put together its first draft around a year ago, asking the rest of the commissioners for input. The committee then spent several months fine tuning the map under the guidance of the state comptroller’s office.
The map significantly shrinks the difference between the largest and smallest districts. The difference in population between those two districts right now is around 10 percent. The new map shrinks that differential to 2.39 percent.
The next steps in the reapportionment process involve reworking the election precincts for the new district map. The Washington County Election Commission is in charge of that process.
The county commission also approved the expenditure of $600,000 for preliminary planning of a new Boones Creek K-8 school. The school board has yet to pick a site for the new school. “They have narrowed it down to three sites,” said Health Education and Welfare Committee Chair Katie Baker. “They are actively working on the details.”
Commissioner Robbie McGuire asked Baker where the $30-plus million to fund construction would come from. Baker referred McGuire to the budget committee, but then said, “I’m not denying it will take a property tax increase, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about.”
In other action, the commission approved County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s proposal to remove himself and Commissioner Joe Wise from the Budget Committee, which the mayor traditionally chairs. Eldridge proposed replacing himself and Wise on the committee with commissioners Mark Larkey and Paul Stanton. Eldridge designated Commissioner Joe Grandy as the new chair of the committee. Stanton’s appointment to the Health Education and Welfare Committee was also affirmed.
The commission approved authorizing the Johnson City Development Authority to utilize the net proceeds of three tax increment financing projects, one at 71 Wilson Ave., in Johnson City; one at 126 Buffalo Street; and one at 113 Cherry Street.
The commission also approved an investment policy to guide trustees in the use of idle funds. Commissioner David Tomita, chair of the Investment Committee assured commissioners of the minimal risk involved with the options listed in the policy. “It’s not like we’re doing day-trading or investing in orange juice futures or anything like that.”