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Jonesborough BMA to consider combining urban forester, athletic coordinator duties

BEN INGRAM • Feb 10, 2007 at 9:27 AM

JONESBOROUGH - The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen will face an aggressive agenda Monday that includes a recommendation to combine the primary duties of the urban forester with those of the athletic coordinator.

Also on the agenda is a recommendation to transfer ownership and upkeep of the Christopher Taylor House to the state and approval of Ken Ross as the architect of a new Senior Citizens Center project.

Members of the town's Tree and Townscape Board recommended Wednesday that the BMA combine the primary responsibilities of the forester and athletic coordinator. The panel also suggested that the position be offered to Urban Forester Patrick McCammon.

Board member Terry Countermine, who also is an alderman, said that while the Tree and Townscape Board was disappointed to lose the athletic coordinator post as a full-time supervisory position, in the spirit of cooperation the board accepted Town Administrator Bob Browning's decision to combine positions.

While many felt the town would be losing out on a lot of the projects that fall under the urban forester's realm of knowledge, all agreed this was the only way for both departments to benefit.

"The only way we're going to keep an urban forester is if we offer this job to Patrick," board member Willis Jones said. "This is the logical thing for us to do."

In December, the BMA unanimously approved, in concept, a proposal to transfer ownership and maintenance responsibility for the Christopher Taylor House to the Tennessee Historic Commission.

Board members now will be asked to approve the actual transfer of the house, which was built around 1777 and is believed to be the first home of President Andrew Jackson. It is the oldest log structure in the state open to the public.

"The Board of Mayor and Aldermen needs to make a commitment on this," Browning said.

According to the board, neither the town nor the Heritage Alliance have the funds to properly take care of the house - estimated to need around $70,000 in maintenance work.

"The problem with maintaining it is beyond our capabilities," Browning said in December.

Others were concerned about the use of the property if it is transferred to the state.

"Is this what we did with the Chester Inn?" Alderman Mary Gearhart asked. "If it's going to result in the house not being available for the town like the Chester Inn, then I'm not interested in (letting the state restore it)."

According to Browning, eventually the house will need to be encapsulated like the state has done with other important log structures. This would mean that a larger building would be designed and built over the Christopher Taylor House so the structure is not exposed to the elements. The new building would be designed to be compatible with the historic district, but could also include interpretation and museum space.

Browning will also ask that the board approve Ken Ross as the architect for a potential Senior Citizens Center expansion project.

"If the board is to aggressively pursue a new facility, this is the first step," he said.

Browning, as well as Carol Clifford with the center, recently toured a cohousing community for the elderly in Abingdon, Va., called Elderspirit.

"This community contained 29 units on about 3 1/2 acres of property," Browning said. "We're looking at obtaining a larger tract of land than that, but that was one of the closest of the types of facilities we are looking at."

Browning said that the decision to build a new center has been "pretty much made by the town."

"There are so many limitations to the existing property," Browning said of the current site.

"Everyone feels we'd be much better off if we went to a new facility specifically designed to be a seniors center."

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