Cedars of Lebanon pool to be removed, splash pad planned

By Matt Masters


The swimming pool at Cedars of Lebanon State Park will be replaced with a splash pad, a summer attraction that will feature multiple lines of spraying water.

Construction is expected to start in the fall.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy communications director Kimberly Schofinski said the deteriorating condition and cost required to repair and maintain the pool are significant factors in the decision to replace it with a splash pad.

“The state has determined that the swimming pool at Cedars of Lebanon State Park has effectively reached the end of its lifespan from a safety, cost and long-term maintenance standpoint,” Schofinski said. “Following an inspection this month, the Tennessee Department of Health found that the pool does not currently meet public health and safety standards. In order to open to the public, a series of costly and time-intensive repairs would need to be made.

“The decision to install a splash pad was made to provide a safe water-based recreational activity while responsibly managing park resources. Tennessee state parks has a duty to the taxpaying public to provide recreational facilities in the most fiscally responsible manner that also meet hospitality expectations and provide a safe experience. The splash pad will be able to accommodate a large number of visitors for an extended season at about half the operating cost.”

Schofinski said the project is currently in the design phase with construction expected to begin in the fall. But some citizens who see the pool as a staple of summers in Wilson County do not like the plan.

Brandy Warden started a change.org petition that has gathered more than 700 signatures with the goal to persuade the state to keep the existing pool. Warden said the pool is a community landmark, something she said is needed to give teenagers a place to stay out of trouble and a place for family gatherings.

“I really believe that people would be OK with paying a little more,” Warden said. “We won’t go if the pool is gone. We have played Frisbee golf once and used to play softball, but they took the field out, as well, so no, we wouldn’t use it. This is a landmark. I started going to this pool 30 years ago as a teenager. Then, I took my children, and now, I take my grandchildren.”

Schofinski did not respond to questions about the petition, but she said the state looks forward to the new summer addition.

“While we are saddened to say goodbye to what has been a special part of summer fun at Cedars of Lebanon for many years, we are excited for visitors to enjoy a new water feature for the years to come,” Schofinski said.

10th-annual Chocolate Affair set for April

By Matt Masters


The 10th-annual Chocolate Affair will take place April 6 at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon to raise money for the 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center.

Entertainment will be provided by Audience of One Productions, which will perform “One Enchanted Evening.” Two Fat Men Catering will provide the food.

Silent and live auctions will take place, along with a variety of chocolate desserts at the chocolate buffet, including a chocolate fountain. The festivities will be from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Individual tickets are $50 with tables that seat eight for $500. Tickets must be bought by March 30. Tickets may be bought at cac15.org or call 615-449-7975.

Sponsors include Systems Integrations, Vance Law, Bank of Tennessee, Signature Behaviors, Vanderbilt University and Wilson Bank & Trust.

The 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center is an organization that aims to reduce the trauma of child abuse and help with the healing process. The Child Advocacy Center’s work and interviews are often used by law enforcement in criminal cases against abusers.

The Child Advocacy Center serves Wilson, Smith, Macon, Jackson and Trousdale counties. Funds raised will help the Child Advocacy Center with its expanding operations and staff.

For more information about the Child Advocacy Center, visit cac15.org.

Mt. Juliet native, ‘The Good Doctor’ writer visits Cumberland

By Matt Masters


Lloyd Gilyard Jr., a writer on ABC’s “The Good Doctor,” addressed a crowd of about 70 people Thursday evening in Cumberland University’s Heydel Fine Arts Center.

Gilyard, a 2000 Mt. Juliet High School graduate who currently lives and works in Los Angeles, spoke about his journey through the entertainment business.

“It’s always nice to help grow the next crop of writers to at least give them hope that this is something that you can actually do and is actually attainable,” Gilyard said. And it’s a lot of fun.

Gilyard said one of the lessons he’s learned in the first decade of his career is patience and work ethic are key.

“It just takes time. That was the key. When you’re young, you want everything to happen now, now, now, and then you realize that everything that you have done, and I’ve had a decent career in entertainment that’s coming up on 13 years. You realize that things take longer than you would have liked them to when you were younger, but you’ll get there as long as you keep doing it. You have to keep going after it,” Gilyard said.

Cumberland University English instructor Summer Vertrees led the discussion, which was made possible by a Bell Family Grant. Gilyard touched on the need for writers to give characters agency through the script and the need to be able to collaborate throughout the process of pre-production and production.

“Everyone has ideas that are different from yours,” Gilyard told the crowd. “And people have ways of like expounding those ideas. They see the story in a different way, but you’re all working together for a common good. And what happened in this scene is I had written it to just so you know, a normal scene, but the director caught me off guard in that moment when Bobby hears the news and he does something super subtle. It’s called a push in on the camera, and that little camera move adds so much depth to the emotion that the character within that moment. And that is something that, as a new writer, that was something that kind of blew my mind. The fact that you can have someone else there who understands your vision but will add something new to it and make it even greater.”

Gilyard worked earlier in the day with screenwriting students, something associate professor of English and creative writing Michael Rex said helped open their eyes to the realities and possibilities of a career in screenwriting.

“It was very good for them, because there are six of them, and they are all primarily fiction writers, so this was really the first time that they’ve actually had to write screenplays or stage plays. And what’s different about this aspect of creative writing versus writing poetry or fiction is exactly what he said about collaboration – you have to give it to someone else. It’s one thing to hear that from me. It’s a totally different thing to hear it from somebody who was just like them, who graduated from the same areas as they are and has gone out and is doing this for a living,” Rex said.

Mt. Juliet breaks ground on new greenway

By Matt Masters


Mt. Juliet city and community leaders gathered Monday at Eagle Park to break ground on the Town Center Trail, Mt. Juliet’s new greenway project that will eventually connect Fourth Avenue to South Greenhill Road.

Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin said the project was a high priority for both the city and its citizens. It’s something Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty said will work as a transportation network between subdivisions.

“What we’re excited about is the citizens,” Martin said. “We’ve been listening to our citizens and what we’ve learned is they want things like this, they want places to teach their kids how to ride a bike, so we appreciate people for being patient with us and the hope is that eventually these greenways will connect not only throughout our city but also with Nashville and our surrounding cities like Lebanon and the county.”

The project is expected to be complete in summer 2020 and will feature a 1.67-mile-long trail from Fourth Avenue to South Greenhill Road. The 10-foot-wide asphalt and concrete trail will also have a new parking lot built near South Greenhill Road.

The project began in 2012 and will cost about $2.2 million. It will be funded, in part, through a grant with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which included some federal aid.

District 3 Commissioner Art Giles said resident have asked for a project like this for several years, and city officials are excited to be able to fulfill those wishes.

“From the first time that I took office, this has been one of the projects that people have asked me about continuously, and I get emails about, and we’ve done the best we could to help it come to fruition,” Giles said. “It’s a very exciting day when you think about what the future holds for people in Mt. Juliet, for kids and my grandkids, and it’s just real exciting to be able to get on a greenway and to go the way south and, hopefully, eventually, it will connect to the Cedar Creek Greenway, and people can go from Charlie Daniels Park all the way down here. It’s very, very exciting.”

Also in attendance were Mt. Juliet public works employees, who will lead the project, representatives from Adam’s Contracting, who will build the greenway, and members of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Mt. Juliet orchestra director wins award

Staff Reports

NASHVILLE – The Country Music Association Foundation announced Tuesday that Mt. Juliet High School Band of Gold and orchestra director Sherie Grossman received a Music Teacher of Excellence award.

The CMA Foundation, a national music education nonprofit and the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, will hold its fourth-annual Music Teachers of Excellence Awards on April 30 in Nashville, and three-time CMA award winner winner Dierks Bentley will serve as host.

The invite-only event will honor Grossman and nine other music educators from districts across Tennessee, 10 from Metro-Nashville Public Schools and 10 from across the United States. Award recipients are selected because of their dedication to bring a high-quality music program to their students and the impact they’ve had on their school community through music.

Grossman applied for the award, which works much like a grant, in December. She described the application process as “extensive.”

“I’m very excited. [Mt. Juliet High School principal] Mrs. [Leigh Anne] Rainey came in to make the announcement, and they had to film the whole thing,” Grossman said. “I was waiting to hear, and when I saw them walk in, I said, ‘yes.’”

Grossman was selected in December as Tennessee’s representative on the School Band and Orchestra magazine’s national list of “50 Directors Who Make a Difference.” The list annually spotlights one outstanding music educator from each state. Honored directors were nominated by students, colleagues, band parents, administrators, friends and sometimes even the spouse of a director who’s witnessed their ongoing dedication on a regular basis. The magazine pored more than 880 nominations before it arrived at its latest final 50.

Grossman also founded and conducts the Cedar Creek Community Band, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year and includes more than 60 musicians who range in age from 15-60 and older.

Grossman received her bachelor’s degree in clarinet performance from the University of California Irvine in 1996 and later a teaching certificate from California State University in Fullerton, California and taught band and orchestra at the middle school level for seven years. During that time, she earned a master’s degree in conducting from Southern Oregon University’s American Band College. She moved to Mt. Juliet in 2005 and currently serves as assistant band director, orchestra director and assistant choir director at Mt. Juliet High School. Grossman is a 20-year veteran educator, and the orchestra program she started at Mt. Juliet has grown to more than 75 students enrolled each year.

To date, the CMA Foundation has invested more than $575,000 to ensure music teachers have the support and funding needed to create a thriving program within their school and community.

“These teachers have gone above and beyond in their classrooms to really bring music to life, and their commitment and determination has not gone unnoticed,” said Bentley. “As a parent, I have seen first-hand the importance of music in my children’s lives and its importance in school programs. Every child deserves the chance to feel the power of music and it’s not possible without supporting these teachers.”

Along with a night of celebration, the CMA Foundation will invest $2,500 into each teacher’s music program to help drive their commitment to high-quality music for all children forward. Additionally, each winner will receive a $2,500 gift to use however they’d like, and past winners used their award earnings for down payments, continuing education, to record their own music and more.

“For my program, I have some needs for some instrument upgrades, as well as some equipment. We want to replace and upgrade some things in our band room,” Grossman said. “For me, I play clarinet, and I want to get some new parts for that. I may travel some, but I will likely spend the money on my children.”

The CMA Foundation created its Music Teachers of Excellence program in 2016 to recognize those who have the greatest impact on their students, using music as a vehicle for change.

“Music education has proven to be an effective and invaluable tool for academic achievement and social development, yet we consistently hear that programs are not properly supported,” said Tiffany Kerns, CMA Foundation executive director. “Each year, when we recognize the tremendous group of music educators through our Music Teachers of Excellence program, it allows us to give back to those who have dedicated their lives to serving our next generation. These educators, who spend countless hours in the classroom, are helping to shape creative, collaborative, future leaders through the power of music.”

Bentley has more than 8.6 billion overall digital streams. He co-wrote 10 of the 13 tracks on his current album The Mountain , including his new single, “Living,” which follows two back-to-back No. 1s, “Woman, Amen” and “Burning Man.” The Mountain earned Bentley the highest debut sales of his career and became his seventh chart-topping album. He has amassed 18 career No. 1s, countless awards and more while also earning 14 Grammy nominations.

In addition to Grossman, the 2019 Music Teachers of Excellence Tennessee award recipients include: 

• Bryant Adler with Alcoa Intermediate School.

• Kathryn Affainie with Granbery Elementary School in Brentwood.

• Josephine Cappelletti with Coulter Grove Intermediate School in Maryville.

• Benjamin Easley with Nolensville High School.

• Carole Smith Grooms with Freedom Middle School in Franklin.

• John Hazlett with McGavock High School in Nashville.

• Michael Holland with Nolensville High School. 

• Trey Jacobs with Nashville School of the Arts.

• Kevin Jankowski with W.H. Oliver Middle School in Nashville.

• Robbin Johnston with Clarksville High School.

• Spencer Nesvick with Houston Middle School in Germantown.

• Denise Rives with Barksdale Elementary School in Clarksville.

• Matthew Taylor with Meigs Academic Magnet Middle School in Nashville.

• Alice Asako Walle with Waverly Belmont Elementary School in Nashville.

• Susan Waters with W.H. Oliver Middle School in Nashville.

• Anna Laura Williams with Siegel Middle School in Murfreesboro.

• Franklin Willis with Andrew Jackson Elementary School in Old Hickory.

• Frank Zimmerer with Antioch High School.

• Ben Zolkower with Hillwood High School in Nashville. 

The 2019 Music Teachers of Excellence national award recipients include: 

• Kevin Brawley with Torrence Creek Elementary School in Huntersville, North Carolina.

• Sheldon Frazier with North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

• Robyn Starks Holcomb with Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

• Jeff Horenstein with Meadowdale High School in Lynwood, Washington.

• Theresa Kennedy with Jamestown Middle School in Jamestown, North Carolina.

• Chris Maunu with Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colorado.

• Henry Miller with Sierra Vista Middle School in Irvine, California.

• Amy Rangel with Glendale High School in Glendale, California.

• Ashleigh Spatz with Burgess-Peterson Academy in Atlanta.

• Brianne Turgeon with Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta.

Proceeds from CMA Fest, the four-day music festival held annually in Nashville, are used to power the CMA Foundation’s social impact and unique model of giving.  

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy to present ‘Guys and Dolls’

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy theatre will present the Broadway classic musical, “Guys and Dolls,” on April 12-14 at the school at 735 N. Mt. Juliet Road in Mt. Juliet.

The Broadway musical premiered in 1950. It ran for 1,200 performances and won a Tony Award for best musical. There were numerous revivals, and the musical was made into a film in 1955. The film starred Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.

Kimberly Overstreet, theatre teacher and show director, said, “I picked ‘Guys and Dolls’ because it is an American musical theater classic. It’s a theater favorite for audience members and students.”

She said the play is called the “perfect theater musical, because it works as well today with today’s audiences as it did in 1950 when it premiered on Broadway. [The audience will relate to] the basic theme and the characters. The characters are extremely relatable and it’s good, clean, classic fun.”

Her job as director is to “trust the material and present it faithfully, with the innocence, romanticism and the whole largess that transcends realism,” she said. “Audiences can expect to laugh at the hilarious dialogue, be carried away by the romance, transported by the glorious [Frank] Loesser score and excited by the choreography that is dynamic and character driven.”

There are differences between the musical and the movie, she said, especially with some of the main characters.

Abigail Wilson, who plays Miss Adelaide, said the role “is different than any other role I’ve played. She’s very wild in a sense and likes to have a good time. The characters that I usually play are more refined and laid back.”

Abe Gibson plays Sky Masterson.

“Sky Masterson is a very complex character,” he said, “in the sense that he’s trying to be manipulative and gets what he wants, but at the same time, he finds himself falling in love with Sarah Brown. He has all these complex physical and emotional strains together just eating on him throughout the show.”

He said Masterson has some “amazing solo and ensemble songs” such as “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” and “My Time of Day.”

Anna Wise plays Sister Sarah Brown and said she wanted the role because, “Sarah reminds me of myself. She’s very reserved and has something set in her mind that she doesn’t want to change. I thought it would be cool to dig in deeper to that.”

Christian Link plays Nathan Detroit.

“Nathan and I are eerily similar,” Link said. “He cares a lot for everybody around him. He’s still a little big selfish. He wants to do something that he’s passionate about, but he still loves somebody.”

“Guys and Dolls will run April 12-13 at 7 p.m. and April 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and will be available at the door.

Wilson 911 co-location loses Mt. Juliet

By Matt Masters


The Wilson County 911 Board met Monday to continue discussion on the pending decision on co-location and left with plans up in the air after Mt. Juliet police withdrew from the plan.

That left the Lebanon police and fire, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office and Wilson Emergency Management Agency with questions as where to go from here to bring 911 call takers and emergency services dispatchers together under one roof.

Sheriff Robert Bryan said regardless of the status or success of co-location, his department and WEMA would work together to operate in one facility for the benefit of the county.

“For two years, we’ve sat here and talked about this co-location, and we’ve had involvement from across the agencies the whole time, and I respect the decision of Mt. Juliet – the decision that they’re not coming,” Bryan said. “In saying that, it’s going to [create] a hindrance on the sheriff’s office and WEMA as it relates to what are we going to do?

“We went into this thing thinking that all of the agencies were going to be involved, and now that’s changed, and me and [WEMA director] Joey [Cooper] have had discussions as county agencies, and we’re going to figure out what we need to do. Have we made a decision? I know that me and Joey are going to stay together wherever we’re at. I cannot say that it’s going to be here, but the whole point of moving down here was all agencies were going to be in here.”

While all of the agencies were under the impression costs for each agency would rise if parties dropped out, Wilson County 911 Board chairman David Hale and 911 director Karen Moore said they don’t see a large increase in costs to individual agencies even with Mt. Juliet’s absence as the cost of equipment and other operating costs would be reduced with one less agency.

Cooper voiced concern over the lack of policies to address employee pay, chains of command and other policy and personnel issues that could arise as employees from different agencies will operate under the same roof and effectively fill similar roles with different standards.

“Funding is not the total picture here. Funding is one of the many things I feel that makes up the decision. Policy to go along with that, how the different employees that are coming down here, how they’ll actually fit into the system and the equipment all weigh a portion into that decision, and I think policy is a lot of it,” Cooper said

He reinforced Bryan’s sentiments that negotiations would continue between WEMA, the sheriff’s office and the county mayor’s office.

“Our plan has always been for the dispatchers that are here to continue to work for and answer to the agency that they are dispatching for,” Hale said.

Policy and procedure concerns, especially chain of command and consistency of pay between dispatchers across different agencies, were echoed by Lebanon police Chief Mike Justice and Mt. Juliet police Capt. Tyler Chandler, who cited the issues as one of the deciding factors in Mt. Juliet’s decision to step back from the table.

Justice said he was under the impression each agency would have its own call takers who would work with an agency’s own dispatchers, but the reality would be a 911 call taker who then transfers the call to a particular agency’s dispatcher in the same building. He said he didn’t think the plan was one the Lebanon City Council would be willing to spend money or other resources. Two Lebanon councilors, Ward 1 Councilor Joey Carmack and Ward 3 Councilor Camille Burdine, attended the meeting.

“For me to go to my city council on Thursday night, and I say that I want to spend about $350,000 on personnel and equipment to do the same thing that we’re doing now, doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Justice said. “I’m going to present the pros and cons. I think there is a pro to this just by us being in the same room – there is a pro to that – is it $350,000 worth of pro? I’m not sure.”

Moore said there were other issues such as 85 percent of 911 calls that come from cellphones that require calls to be taken then transferred to the appropriate agencies regardless of whether everyone was in the same building versus directly routing all calls from a particular area.

Justice also said he thought from the beginning the plan was a consolidated 911 system. Hale said it’s something the board said from the beginning was planned as a co-location and not a consolidation. The difference is to have all agencies work in the same location versus essentially combining all of the agencies on a dispatch level, which would then require more in-depth change in structure, operations and policies.

Justice also said that so far, the co-location process has no operational plan as to how operations would be handled. Hale said operations were originally planned to be decided once a bid was accepted.

An example of policy issues of concern to Justice were civilian and law enforcement dispatchers wouldn’t be allowed to see the exact same types of information, which causes concern the city may enter into an agreement in the co-location. It would then have policy issues where two or more parties couldn’t agree to solutions. Hale disagreed and said the board could address any issues and come up with policies that would fit the needs of the co-location process.

“We’re asking you, formally, today, until we get this co-location worked out or until we get some kind of plan worked out, we’re asking you formally today that if that call originates in the city of Lebanon, that you transfer that call without delay to the communications center in Lebanon. They will determine what kind of emergency it is, whether it’s fire, police or medical,” Justice said.

Justice he has received complaints about instances where WEMA received calls to respond to scenes within Lebanon city limits, which caused delays in communications to Lebanon police and also Lebanon fire.

Moore pushed back against the claims. She said she has not received complaints about the issues until Justice brought them up at Monday’s meeting.

County attorney Mike Jennings said the concerns raised by Justice in regard to what is actually going to be asked of the agencies, both financially and with personnel, were addressed repeatedly in the two years of meetings and discussions about co-location.

“We’re not trying to take control of anybody else’s employees, but we have to operate this building, and I don’t think the money that we were asking you all to pay was construction costs. We were asking you to help pay some of the increased additional operating expenses,” Jennings said.

“The rest of the story is that every city entity that I went out to talk to told me, ‘Tell me how much the building is going to cost and then we can talk about it.’ Well, we spent a lot of money getting plans drawn that everybody, I thought, put their input in and agreed to. We had a meeting with every agency and put up different options and floor plans, and everyone picked what they thought was the best so that we could establish a cost and be able to go out to everybody’s funding entitles and say, ‘This is the price for it,’ and that’s where we are today, and I will accept full responsibility that it has not met the expectations of the agencies that are involved,” Hale said.

He said the board and the agencies still involved in the process should move forward with the best decision they could make for the residents of Wilson County.

All of the parties involved stressed their disagreements, and differing views were discussed with the best interests of the county in mind. All agreed each agency and municipality was a respected and valuable part of the community, which keeps the door open for continued discussions as the April 24 deadline nears for a decision on the co-location bid.

“I want to say something. First off, 911 is doing a great job,” Bryan said. “And I want so say this. I’m sitting in a different position that these cities are, me and Joey, both are sitting in a different position. We’ve got to do what’s best for the entire county, and we went into this thinking that it was going to come together. OK, at some point we need to realize it doesn’t sound like it’s coming together, people. I can tell you one thing, and you can shake your head if you want, we are working together to make it work countywide, but some people have to make some decisions.”

Chandler said there were several issues that led to Mt. Juliet’s decision to step back from co-location. He said many of them had to do with the culture and sense of community within Mt. Juliet police, in addition to policy, administrative and financial issues.

“Ultimately when it came down to it, and our elected officials were invited for the meeting, and they learned about the project at it’s final stage, they were updated throughout the whole process, as well. We got together with our risks and our opportunities and looked at those, and we still determined that right now, how it stands, we have to stay at our current facility,” Chandler said. “It wouldn’t be advantageous for us to come here. Part of the things why it is the way it is, and things could always change, but the way it is right now is because pay is not equal amongst all the staff.

“Could you imagine that you’re working for Mt. Juliet sitting in here? Lebanon may or may not make more, just as an example, or a county dispatcher. So what happens when they have an opening? Who are they hiring from? The lowest paid agency, right, because they’re just walking over and sitting in a different seat, so that’s an issue. The operational policies are an issue. The distance that we as a city would have to travel out here is an issue.”

Chandler stressed Mt. Juliet’s decision to step back from co-location didn’t mean the city or the department won’t work with Wilson County 911 in the future. He said it has an interest to continue its relationship and help bring the best services to the residents of Mt. Juliet.

The board recessed the meeting until March 25 at 4 p.m., at which point it would make a decision on a bid from the architect. In the next two weeks, all of the agencies involved plan to continue discussions and negotiations that surround the issues and challenges of co-location.

Library board names its 29th Roast honoree

By Matt Masters


The Wilson County Library Board will roast Eric Thompson, retired chief executive officer of Prospect, at its 29th-annual Roast fundraiser.

The Roast will be March 26 at 7 p.m. at Castle Heights Elementary School in Lebanon in the school’s cafeteria.

Wilson County Library System director Alesia Burnley said the fundraiser roast is always a popular event full of laughter.

“This is our main fundraiser for the Wilson County Libraries in Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown,” Burnley said. “It’s a lot of fun, you never know what kind of stories you’ll hear and it’s always very exciting.”

Thompson said the night will be fun, regardless of the fact that he’ll be the punchline to all the jokes.

“I’ve been to many of the roasts, and I never thought that I would do it, but Stratton Bone approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked me to do it, so I said OK,” Thompson said. “We’re going to do it. I’ve got some roasters, and I’m hoping there’s a good crowd, because we want to raise some money for the library, and I hope they go easy on me.”

Tickets are $35 each or $250 for a table sponsorship. Tickets may be bought from Thompson, a library board member or at any of the Wilson County public libraries in Lebanon, Mt. Juliet or Watertown.   

Jordan’s will cater the event. Funds raised from the event are used to support the public libraries in Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown.

Wilson County Veterans Services opens its doors

By Quinten Brashear

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Wilson County Veterans Services office held an open house recently to give local veterans the chance to tour the facility and see what services are offered.

The event also included tours of the Wilson County Veterans Museum, and veterans got the chance to meet the office staff and learn about veterans’ benefits.

The outreach event helped veterans and their families receive the benefits they deserve, as well as help bring normalcy to their everyday lives. From VA enrollment to suicide prevention, the services provided are all dedicated to fulfill their needs.

“The whole thing is a comprehensive approach to the VA health care system,” said Michael McPherson, director of Wilson County Veterans Services.

McPherson, a 21-year Army veteran, has worked for the Veteran’s Service office for two years.

“We’ve got to have a voice for these veterans, and this office does it,” said McPherson.

McPherson worked closely with Witt Cook with the Nashville Vet Center to bring the many veteran services under one roof.

“Bringing resources to the community is a wonderful thing,” said Cook, who served in the U.S. Navy for eight years.

Some of the vendors included a caregiver support program for veterans’ spouses and family members, women’s health program, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, community care providers that include foster homes for veterans and the Tennessee Valley Whole Health Initiative that wants to curb the opioid crisis with alternate pain relief such as acupuncture and massage therapy.

When veterans come to the service office, they fill out an assessment that lets the office know what their needs are, and the office stays true to its mission to serve them with dignity and compassion.

“Depending on what they present during that needs assessment…we’ve got the right people here who can meet those needs,” said Cook. “And it’s really wonderful, because it keeps them from having to go ‘over there’ to see ‘that guy’ or ‘over there’ to see ‘that guy.’ Everyone is in one place.”

“We really strive to help veterans transition back into public life,” said McPherson. “Some of these people have been serving half their life. They get out and, all of the sudden, things have changed. You haven’t done a resume in 20 years. There’s a lot of things you have to be prepared for, but for us, it’s bringing normalcy to the veterans who are transitioning out and need assistance, and they come here for that.”

Peggy Bloechl spoke about the significance of the Veterans Crisis Hotline. She said about 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

The Wilson County Veterans Museum includes artifacts from every major military event in American history. In addition, there’s a Huey helicopter that was flown in Vietnam by Wilson County veterans.

“All those artifacts in there come from Wilsonians,” McPherson said. “That brick and mortar is built on stories and tales from moms and dads who were veterans. Everything you see in there is somehow someway tied to a Wilson County vet.”

Cook agreed with McPherson about the museum’s significance.

“It really shows people who are not veterans that our neighbors – this wasn’t something just seen on the news – people from Wilson County occupied those uniforms and wore those medals,” Cook said.

Golden Bears shine on TV with 16th straight win

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet showed its wares on MyTV30 Friday night and dominated Station Camp 17-1 for the Golden Bears’ 16th straight win.

The Bears led 22-10 following the first quarter, 38-21 at halftime and 56-34 through three periods as they improved to 17-1 for the season and 6-0 in District 9-AAA.

Will Pruitt poured in three 3-pointers to lead Mt. Juliet with 19 points while Gage Wells added 11. J.C. Crawford notched nine points and Gavin wilson eight as each sank a pair of threes. Bryan Aiken scored six points while Taj Mason finished with five, Riggs Abner four, Ryan McIntosh and Jacob Burge two apiece and Isaac Thomson a free throw.

Kavon Blankenship sank all six of his free throws as he totaled 22 points for the Bison, who fell to 14-5, 4-2.

Mt. Juliet played host to rival Wilson Central on Tuesday night and will travel to Lebanon to open the second half of the district round robin at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Local economic projects good start for 2019 development

By Matt Masters


The Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County’s executive committee met Thursday to discuss new projects and businesses coming to Wilson County and what it sees as a good first quarter outlook for development.

The meeting’s most significant agenda item was the consideration of expanded investment by an existing manufacturer, identified as Project Commerce.

The project expansion has an additional investment of $17 million in real and $17.5 million in personal property. The project is projected to require between 25-50 additional jobs with a projected average wage of $21 per hour. All new positions would be full time, and the employees would be covered under the company’s benefits programs. Currently, the company totals 175 employees and committed to 90 new positions in the 2018 payment in lieu of taxes incentive program.

According to a memo provided by the JECDB, the new project was evaluated using a minimum of 25 new positions and the $17.5 million in personal property value, which was the same format of the approved PILOT. The additional personal property investment would result in a projected abatement of $357,054 and a payment to the county of $58,187 during a proposed five-year term. Additionally, under the proposal, the company would be responsible for the payment of all real property taxes during the term, which was estimated at $856,426. The motion to approve the expansion was passed unanimously.

Other major projects discussed were Project Clover, a consultant-led project that seeks 50-70 to build a 430,000-530,000-square-feet expandable manufacturing facility with up to 200 jobs in the first phase. A decision date was set for the first quarter of 2019 with full production expected to take place by the first quarter of 2021.

Project Mockingbird is a Nashville real estate firm that represents a client that seeks a 100-acre interstate-exposed site to build a 1 million to 1.5 million square feet e-commerce and logistics center. The project will also have an onsite sales and showroom component. The company president visited the site Dec. 4.

Project Grayfield is a tier one supplier in the aeronautics industry. It is a consultant-led project that requires between 200-250 acres with rail service. The three-phase project could total up to 1,200 employees and have a total investment of more than $1 billion.  The Department of Economic and Community Development project manager toured the Sparta Pike site Dec. 19.

Project Upper is a project with Volunteer State Community College, which seeks to build a minimum of 12,000-15,000 square feet of training and classroom space for a new center. The project manager said a site was identified and submitted to the state for comments and consideration and has a site approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Project Slim is a project that involves Dykes Industries that closed on 25 acres off Maddox Road at Couchville Pike and Interstate 840. The company would build a 120,000-square-feet facility, which would provide final finishes and assembly services for doors and windows. T.W. Frierson is the firm responsible to build the facility with expected completion in 2019.

Project Runway is a Nashville real estate firm that has a client who wants to buy a new 400,000-square-foot facility in Park 840 in Lebanon. The project aims to consolidate two Tennessee locations and total 450 positions. The company expects to hire a minimum of 150 people locally. The JECDB executive committee approved the PILOT request.

Poverty simulation aims to make people understand

By Matt Masters


The Wilson County Poverty Simulation took place last Monday at Mt. Juliet Elementary School and offered Wilson County teachers the chance to gain a unique understanding of the challenges and realities of poverty that faces students and families throughout the county.

The community-awareness simulation took place in the school’s gym with chairs set in circles and a packet of information placed at each group. The packets contained a description of a fictional family’s size, lifestyle, home life, jobs, education, financial means and other descriptive information.

Tables were set up with volunteers, and each table represented a different service or interaction that will impact each family’s time, money or other resources – the supermarket, work, utilities and a mortgage payment were some of the steps in the process. Teachers filled the seats and got a firsthand glimpse of the chaos, stress and challenge to make ends meet in a state of poverty.

About 40 educators gathered to take part in the simulation, which was led by University of Tennessee Extension family consumer sciences agent Shelly Barnes. Barnes said the program that started in 2007 has helped dozens of educators and volunteers get a better understanding of the realities of poverty.

“This is not the upper or lower end of poverty, it’s kind of right in the middle, but it does give the participants a glimpse of what it’s like to live in poverty and how hard it is,” Barnes said. “Usually, with groups like this, if they didn’t grow up in poverty or haven’t had many stressors growing up as a child, they don’t even know where to begin. They don’t know what resources that we have in the county or in this community. So we do talk to them about that, but we give them very little guidance because we want them to figure it out on their own.”

Judy Throneberry, a former volunteer, said the experience showed her the lack of inequality in the community and how those can lead to a lack of opportunities.

“I think it really opens your eyes to the disadvantages that the lower-economic part of society faces, especially with transportation – getting to and from school, jobs, health care, groceries,” Throneberry said.

Julie Harrison, an English as a second language coordinator for the school district, said the simulation taught the teachers how to find unique educational solutions through compassion and support.

“We strive really hard in education to remove barriers that students encounter that might prohibit them from getting the education that they need. So that’s why we do training with teachers, so that they know how to recognize those barriers,” Harrison said. “The poverty simulation is great, because it allows teachers to kind of live it and see how it feels because most of us grew up middle class. We’ve never been in poverty, so we don’t always know so this helps us to understand the frustrations that these families encounter on a day-to-day basis – trying to get to work and trying to get your bills paid and trying to get the service that you need.

“It helps them to realize those things that may be going on at home, so that may be a very valid reason why they don’t have their homework the next day. So if teachers have a good understand of that, then they can help the child get what they need at school instead of penalizing them for something they don’t have.”

Harrison also said schools have a process to identify those who may need help to ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed.

“Whenever students register every school year, the parents fill out a student-residency form, and there’s some questions on that form about the living situation. So that form lets us know if the family is doubled up with another family, or if they’re living in a shelter, or if they’re house by themselves, or whatever situation they’re in. So that lets us know who we need to talk to and kind of ask them if this would be helpful to them. What we run into sometimes is that when we register them in August, things may be fine. But in October or November or December, something happens where a family might lose a home. It might be a natural disaster, loss of income, medical, many things can happen. So families need to let us know if those things change, and we train our staff to look for warning signs.”

Mt. Juliet police sergeant helps Boy Scout troop that had equipment trailer stolen

When local Boy Scouts Troop 1204 had its equipment trailer stolen in November, it was left without camping supplies.

Police said the white enclosed cargo trailer was taken sometime between Nov. 9-13 from the parking lot at St. Stephen Catholic Community at 14544 Lebanon Road.

The trailer contained camping supplies such as tents and lanterns and has an estimated value of about $5,000. The trailer has “Boy Scouts of America Troop 1204, Hermitage, TN, Unit 1” printed on both sides of the trailer.

Mt. Juliet police Sgt. Cory Cook heard about the theft and began to think of ways the department could help the troop replace its trailer and camping equipment. So, he contacted Boy Scout Troop 911 to organize a service project at the department’s firearms training facility, and the scouts were able to collect more than 2,200 pounds of brass ammunition shells.

The shells were swapped for cash, and it brought in $2,800 for Troop 911, which donated the proceeds to Troop 1204 to help cover the loss of the trailer.

“We would like to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation for Sgt. Cook’s initiative and community involvement that truly benefitted many people,” said Boy Scout mom Rachel Underwood. “Because of Sgt. Cook’s ideas and actions, embodied the Scout Law and Oath, he was awarded a plaque from the BSA Hermitage District on behalf of troops 911, 1204, and 263 at the leader’s roundtable meeting.”

The Boy Scout troops recognized Cook this week for his efforts to assist the troop in replacing its equipment trailer and camping supplies.

Anyone with information about the crime is encouraged to contact Mt. Juliet police at 615-754-2550. Information may also be given anonymously by calling 615-754-8477 or at mjpd.org.

Gladeville barn destroyed by fire

Wilson Emergency Management Agency firefighters battled a barn fire Thursday evening at 7281 Stewarts Ferry Pike in Gladeville after a tossed lit cigarette set the barn ablaze.

The barn was filled with hay gathered to feed about 80 head of cattle. The fire burned the hay and destroyed the barn.

According to WEMA director Joey Cooper, no people, firefighters or livestock were injured in the fire.

Wilson County sheriff’s deputies and Rehab 23 volunteers also responded to the barn fire.

Man pleads to animal cruelty after dogs starve

By Matt Masters


A Mt. Juliet man pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges Wednesday in Wilson County criminal court.

James Elwain Williams Jr., 58, pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty and two counts of criminal information as part of a plea deal.

Wilson County criminal court Judge Brody Kane sentenced Williams to nearly four years of supervised probation. Williams was originally charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, a Class E felony, that stemmed from a 2017 incident at his home on Corrinth Road in Mt. Juliet.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Swink outlined the state’s case against Williams. Swink said on April 15, 2017, a Wilson County sheriff’s deputy responded to the home Williams owned but didn’t live in after a neighbor discovered two dead and decaying pit bulls chained in the backyard after the neighbor smelled something dead.

Williams told the deputy he knew the dogs were dead, but the dogs belonged to a woman who used to rent the home from him and never returned to get them after she moved.

Williams said he had no way to contact the owner, and the dogs were not his responsibility. Williams told Kane he did fed the dogs for a while, but he went to work a construction job in Gatlinburg and returned April 14 and found the dogs dead.

Williams told the deputy animal control had never been to the home, but animal control went to the home and got the bodies of the two dogs. They performed a necropsy on the dogs and determined they died from malnourishment.

The nearly four-year probation sentence was a result of four 11-month and 29-day sentences to be served consecutively.

Friendship Christian School basketball homecoming court

Friendship Christian School will celebrate basketball homecoming Friday. The ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. prior to the games with Davidson Academy.

The homecoming queen is Bayley West, daughter of Bill Bob and Kimberly West, of Lebanon. The homecoming king is Jake Blair, son of Rick and Kristen Blair, of Mt. Juliet. The senior attendant is Cameron Burton, daughter of Terry and Renee Burton, of Lebanon. The senior escort is Landon Crecelius, son of Stephen and Renee Crecelius, of Lebanon. The junior attendant is Mallory Dean, daughter of Jennifer and Charley Dean, of Lebanon. The junior escort is Jaheim Robinson, son of Adam and Kimberly Tune, of Lebanon.

The sophomore attendant is Khia Nicole Young, daughter of Kera Dye and Jerry Young, of Lebanon. The sophomore escort is Cole Cottrell, son of Renn and Nancy Cottrell, of Lebanon. The freshman attendant is Nishika Shah, daughter of Vick and Mona Shah, of Lebanon. The freshman escort is D.J. Rogers son of Amy Flippin, of Gallatin. Pictured (back row, from left) are Rogers, Robinson, Blair, Crecelius, Cottrell, (front row, from left) Shah, Dean, West, Burton and Young.

Lifeway gives gift of music to Cumberland

Cumberland University officials announced one of the most generous gifts ever received by the university is now in place in historic Baird Chapel.

The gift is a magnificent pipe organ donated by Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, formerly the Baptist Sunday School Board.

 For more than 50 years the custom-built 23-rank Wicks two-manual pipe organ with more than 1,200 pipes, provided music in the Van Ness auditorium of the Lifeway Christian Resource Center in downtown Nashville. When Lifeway made the decision to raze their building and move their center to a new location, leadership decided to gift the organ to the university.

The agreement to give the organ was signed in summer 2017. The instrument was removed from its previous location, and Milnar Organ Co. in Eagleville completely refurbished, modernized and updated it. An important part of the process involved “revoicing” the organ appropriately for its new home in Baird Chapel. The installation began in early October and was completed mid-December.

To the delight of almost 600 attendees, the organ was played for the first time in its new home as part of the Bert Coble Singers’ annual Christmas Dinner Show on Dec. 13-15. Bert Coble was a longtime faculty member at Cumberland who began the tradition of the Bert Coble Singers and its annual Christmas show. Because of his significant contributions to the Cumberland music program and the countless lives of students he influenced during his career, the university named the organ the Bert Coble Memorial Organ.

University president Paul C. Stumb expressed his gratitude to Lifeway during the Bert Coble Singers’ annual Christmas Dinner Show.

“We are so thrilled and appreciative to receive this remarkable gift from Lifeway Christian Resources,” said Stumb. “The organ will add immeasurably to the historic nature of Baird Chapel and will keep music alive for future generations of Cumberland students and thousands of guests who attend events in the chapel each year.”

A public concert to formally dedicate the new organ is planned for early 2019.

For more than 177 years, Cumberland University has advanced its long tradition of excellence to rise, endure, prosper and illuminate the world. Recognized as one of the fastest-growing liberal arts universities in Tennessee, Cumberland continues to evolve to meet the needs of a diverse and expanding community while it provides a transformational higher education experience through more than 100 fully accredited academic programs of study in three distinct schools.

Rescued animals spend Christmas with volunteers

By Matt Masters


Lebanon’s Animal Rescue Corps shelter houses more than 100 rescued animals, and the organization’s volunteers spent Christmas caring and loving for their furry family members.

The animals, all of which were rescued in Carroll County as part of Operation Noah’s Ark, have called a warehouse in Lebanon home since April, as the criminal case against the animal owners continues.

The cats, dogs, rabbits, chinchillas and ferrets have received nutrition, shelter, medical treatment, exercise and most importantly love due to the work of the staff and volunteers of Animal Rescue Corps, a national animal rescue nonprofit that facilitates animal care in large-scale abuse cases.

Like any other day, the animals were in need of care on Christmas, a day where volunteers wanted to be with the animals to give the care that everyone – regardless of how many legs they stand on – deserves.

“We had over 20 people here on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” said Animal Rescue Corps public information officer Michael Cunningham. “We have two shifts a day. We have a 9 to 1 and a 1 to 5, and we had people who came and stayed all day. We cleared off all the desks and set up big tables and all sat down and had a meal together. We serve vegan meals or vegetarian meals here. We never serve meat in the building, and people brought food. We bought food; we made food; we barbequed and had a great time together.

“I was expecting that we would have a real light crew over the holidays, because people want to spend it with their families, but we were literally telling people that we were full, which is just amazing. This is a place that people want to be. We have fun.”

The ongoing rescue operation is done free of charge with the help of volunteers and donations. Everything from cat litter, dog food, toys and animal bedding comes in daily through donations on the rescue’s Amazon wish list.

“There are thousands of rescue groups that can take on five animals, seven animals, 10 animals. What there isn’t is a resource for law enforcement to address situations of large-scale animal cruelty,” Cunningham said

He said ARC actually collects the evidence for prosecution.

“We build the case. We collect all the evidence, all the forensics and everything – dead bodies, every nail we trim, every tick we pull off these animals, all of that is maintained as evidence and turned over to law enforcement for the criminal case,” Cunningham said.

“It’s not that the sheriff doesn’t know that something is going on in their town. It’s that they don’t have a really good option when it comes to it. They could euthanize all the animals in the shelter to make room for new animals if there’s enough room. They could euthanize all the animals on the property, because there is no place to put them, or they could do nothing, and that’s what they do. They do nothing, because the other two options are so terrible that they just don’t have that resource to address it. So that’s what we are.

“We are a free resource for law enforcement, and we will come in and handle all the animals. We will do all of the extractions. We will emergency house them. We will get them medically sound, and then we will move them onto our placement partners, and they will find the homes for them once they have full legal custody.”

Cunningham started ARC with his husband, Tim Woodward, who serves as ARC’s chief operations officer, eight years ago and completed their first rescue in McMinville. Cunningham and Woodward both have a Silicon Valley background where they founded and sold startups, a far cry from the large-scale animal rescue operations they do currently, but something they both wouldn’t have any other way.

Cunningham said while the job can be emotionally taxing, it’s worth it just to change the lives of even one animal, many of which have serious medical conditions due to abuse and neglect such as ammonia poisoning, eye ulcers and internal parasites.

“‘No more bad days’ – that’s what I say. When we show up, I say, ‘There’s no more bad days, guys,’ and they’re gone from that,” Cunningham said.

Mary Biggers, a volunteer with ARC said the connection made with the animals is special, something she and many of the volunteers think about each day when they go home.

“We just fall in love with them, because we’re their only family right now,” Biggers said.

Director of operations Amy Haverstick said the best thing the public can do to help animals is to know if they are capable of caring for an animal, something that is a long-term relationship with another living being.

“You have to be financially capable of owning an animal, of being that pet’s guardian, and if you don’t have that in your budget, you shouldn’t get an animal for that animal’s sake,” Haverstick said. “It’s a lifetime commitment.”

ARC is always in need of volunteers and donations. Volunteers may contact ARC by email at volunteer@animalrescuecorps.org. Cases may be reported at reportcruelty@animalrescuecorps.org, and general information may be found at info@animalrescuecorps.org or at animalrescuecorps.org.

4 armed teens charged in standoff

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet police officers charged four armed teens after an early morning standoff on Boxcroft Circle on Christmas Eve in the Cottages of Providence neighborhood.

Police initially responded to a suspicious car stopped in the middle of the road at about 6 a.m. on the 4600 block of Boxcroft Circle.

The call took an unexpected turn when officers determined the car was reported stolen in Nashville. Officers found four teens in the car all between 15 and 17 years old who appeared to be unconscious and armed with a pistol and an AR-15-style rifle outfitted with a silencer.

The four teens either did not respond to or refused to comply with officers’ commands in the standoff that lasted for about 90 minutes and shut down the residential neighborhood. The incident prompted residents to shelter in place while others were evacuated to a nearby hotel.

The Mt. Juliet police special response team also assisted in the negotiations. The teens eventually surrendered to police without any injuries or shots fired.

The teens, ages 15, 16 and two 17-year-olds were taken to an undisclosed youth detention center. Their names were not released due to their ages.

Police also recovered two 3-pound steel hammers, along with the two loaded guns, which were reported stolen Thursday in Davidson County. The four-door hatchback car was reported stolen Sunday.

The investigation remained open with Metro-Nashville police.

Mt. Juliet church gives winter coats to police

By Matt Masters


Joy Church International last Wednesday gave each Mt. Juliet police officer a new winter coat.

The gift of 75 coats embossed with the Mt. Juliet police patch each included a $50 gift certificate just in time to keep officers on their beats warm and comfortable during the cold winter months.

Police Chief James Hambrick expressed his appreciation and gratitude for the gifts in a Facebook video.

“We want to say God bless you and a big thank you for your generosity and the gift that you’ve given our men and women here at the Mt. Juliet Police Department,” Hambrick said. “Your commitment to community and to our police department and this city is just outstanding.”