By Collin Brooks
Members from the Washington County Board of Education voiced their displeasure with the redistricting of the school board map during the Washington County Commission meeting on Monday night.
But that didn’t stop the county commission from approving the new districting maps with a 17-4 vote. The vote also redistricted the constable map.
Before the vote, Washington County Board of Education Chairman Jack Leonard addressed the commission, asking for the group to consider the school boards feelings before they voted.
“We came to you to ask you not to vote to redistrict our school board districts; we feel like they are well represented the way that they are,” Leonard said.
Leonard was joined by other school board members, including Phillip McLain, Annette Buchanan and Mary Beth Dellinger, who all agreed with his objection to the redistricting. The lone member who agreed with the redistricting was Clarence Mabe. Four other members of the BOE were not present.
Leonard said that he felt like the new districts would make the map “top heavy” with six people representing the northern part of the county, compared to three from the southern county of the district.
Dellinger — who was voted onto the board in August — also took time to address the commission and she said she was concerned about the new map.
“I don’t feel like there is a fair representation from District 2 in Johnson City, there is only one small portion from Johnson City,” she said. “The rest of it goes through Jonesborough, Sulphur Springs and Fall Branch.”
Mabe, the lone representative present from the BOE in favor of the redistricting, said that he appreciated the new maps.
“I think what you have done is a pretty good job because of the deviation,” Mabe said referencing the change in deviation between the districts from close to 8 percent to .03 percent.
Commissioner Danny Edens was one of the commissioners to vote against the resolution, saying that, “it is my opinion that there is an opportunity for the city in the north end to receive more representation, a majority of the representation than the south end.”
He said he felt the same way about the county commission maps.
However, commissioner Todd Hensley felt another way.
“Forever since I can remember there has been this perceived battle, sometimes a real battle, between the north side, and the south side, David Crockett,” he said. “And it is pretty evident to me that that battle seems to have made its way into our management thinking, instead of being left on the athletic fields.
“And it is unfortunate that there is a motion that the elected members of the governing body do not represent all of the schools in Washington County, instead of just the north side or the south side.”
The Model Mill project passed another hurdle as a resolution was passed during the Washington County Commission to allow a tax increment financing loan in an amount not to exceed $1.2 million for Phase 1 of the property that is under contract by R&G Ventures.
The property, located on West Walnut Street, is set to become the headquarters of Summers-Taylor Inc. which is currently located in Elizabethton.
The resolution was supported heavily by county commissioners with a 16-4 vote, with one commissioner abstaining from voting.
“This is the type of project that this (TIF) was written for,” Washington County and Johnson City commissioner David Tomita said. “And that was a really important move tonight because that is an eye sore that will soon be a model, again.”
The TIF project must now be approved by the Johnson City Commission, which Tomita said shouldn’t be a problem.
Washington County commissioner Robbie Tester held strong on his stance that providing tax breaks to already wealthy companies doesn’t seem fair to him.
The Model Mill TIF will extend seven years passed the date that the commission voted on for the TIF district to end. That was set for Jan. 1, 2030.
“After that, all property taxes will be paid in full to the county,” Washington County Commissioner Joe Grandy explained.
TIF projects can still be looked at on a project-by-project basis and can be approved by the needed parties if they deem necessary.