City votes on road, land measures

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Mt. Juliet City Commission met in a special session Friday night to discuss annexation of property at 430 Clemmons Road into the city.

The commissioners had little discussion about the rezoning, which was done because the city previously made an offer for the property in question. If the city buys the property, the land will house a public works annex, which will allow for a variety of public works vehicles and utility structures, according to city public works director Jessica Gore. Among the structures will be sheds to house salt to be used on roads during winter months.

“Several years ago, we built some salt sheds on Industrial Drive, and those will be going away real soon,” said City Manager Kenny Martin. “Those serve our public works department with salt and other equipment. We’re making an offer on a piece of property, and time is of the essence. We moved it to today. We didn’t want to take a risk of not having a quorum on Monday and having to bump that out would actually mess me up with our planning commission.”

The measure was approved unanimously on first reading.

The commission also voted to annex 2.370 linear feet of Clemmons Road, and the right-of-way along the road. The annexation brought the land, which was an island in the county, into the city. The land was on the city’s urban growth boundary. The measure was approved unanimously on first reading.

Commissioner Ray Justice asked if all of Clemmons Road was included in the annexation.

Gore said it was not but would allow the city to “clean up from the city’s property back to Division [Street]. It keeps us from going in the city, out of the city, in the city, out of the city. This will also help with emergency services.”

Also, land, which is known as the Shevel property at 9846 Lebanon Road, was annexed into the city and rezoned from highway commercial to commercial town center. This will allow the property owner to open a real estate office on the property. A single structure will exist on the property. This rezoning was unanimously approved on first reading.

Commissioners voted to annex and create a plan of services for part of South Rutland Road and its right-of-way near 487 South Rutland Road into the city. They also voted to annex and create a plan of services for the intersection of Lebanon Road and North Green Hill Road, along with its right-of-way, into the city. The roads are both in the city’s urban growth boundary, and the measures both passed unanimously on final reading.

In addition, the commission voted to amend the current budget to increase paving costs. This will allow the city to built speed tables in various subdivisions, where speeding is a problem. Asphalt plants open this month, and the extra funding will allow the city to begin to install the speed tables in the current fiscal year, Martin said.

“This is another thing that we felt like was important,” Martin said. “Another reason for having a special meeting tonight. We’ve been meeting with [Gore] and [Andy Barlow, city engineer] about safety concerns. A lot of people are speeding motorists or folks going through people’s subdivisions. We decided to move up our timetable for installing what you’d call speed tables. Speed tables are elongated speed bumps.”

He said instead of stop signs, the city would install the speed tables to calm the traffic in the communities.

“We’re trying to expedite the process, which would have come in July. We’d be doing them at a much later time,” Martin said. “If we get those done sooner, we get ready for spring and summer. Those things are already in place and makes things safer for our community.”

Mt. Juliet breaks ground on new greenway

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

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.

Motion filed in city’s liquor tax lawsuit

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County Schools attorney Mike Jennings told the school board last Monday night he filed a motion to set a hearing regarding the liquor tax money the city of Mt. Juliet owes the school system.

The school board and a court ruling say Mt. Juliet has to pay a portion of the back-tax revenue to Wilson County Schools.

According to court filings from 2014, Wilson County Schools said it should receive the back funds and would then pay a portion of that money to Lebanon Special School District. The amount paid to both school systems is based on the daily average attendance, as recognized by the Tennessee Board of Education, according to court records.

When the school board sued Mt. Juliet in 2014 for the back taxes, Mt. Juliet cited state court rulings that went back to 1883 that said cities didn’t have to pay the taxes to county schools. Mt. Juliet attorneys argued the school board had no authority to sue the city, but the Wilson County Commission, which is the governing body in the county, could sue for the funds.

The filing paperwork said the city is required by state law to collect 15 percent of all liquor-by-the-drink revenues. The money is supposed to be divided by 50 percent, according to suit paperwork. Fifty percent goes to the city and the other half goes to the schools.

Lebanon also didn’t pay its fair share to Wilson County Schools but eventually agreed to pay the back taxes during a 10-year period, according to court records.

The school board discovered the lack of payments in 2013, court records said. Mt. Juliet paid part of what it owed, nearly $31,000, but still owed Wilson County Schools nearly $450,000, court records said.

The payment amount was determined by the daily average attendance percentage of tax revenue collected, and the court said Mt. Juliet should pay the amount, from the inception of the liquor-by-the-drink tax until June 30, 2013.

In a filing from 2014, Mt. Juliet attorneys said the county was not eligible to collect a portion of the tax revenues because liquor-by-the-drink statutes were not passed in the county, but rather only in the cities. They said the liquor-by-the-drink were not passed in the unincorporated county areas, therefore the school board was not entitled to a portion of the tax revenue.

Mt. Juliet filed a motion to dismiss in 2015, but it was denied. In the motion, the city offered other lawsuits in the state it considered precedent that found in defendants’ favor.

A 2018 judgment by Chancellor C.K. Smith denied Mt. Juliet’s motion for summary judgment, and Wilson County Schools was eligible to receive the money.

The amount of unremitted revenue was to be determined in a future evidentiary hearing, the order said.

In October, the Mt. Juliet City Commission voted to offer a $325,000 settlement to the school board. The school board denied the offer at its November meeting.

Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin said the city is currently paying the necessary liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue to the school systems.

Unless a date is named or an agreement reached before the hearing, the issue will be discussed March 27 at 9 a.m. in Wilson County chancery court.

Planners talk plats, annexations

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission met in 15-minute meeting Feb. 21 that touched on a number of projects, including work on a main roadway brought up by plans reviewer Neal Hall.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will soon begin a “safety project” on Old Lebanon Dirt Road between the Davidson-Wilson counties line and Mt. Juliet Road, said Hall. The project will include striping, signage and guardrail, and TDOT will completely fund and complete it.

The planning commission passed a consent agenda unanimously. It included two letters of credit to be reduced and six letters of credit to be released. Also, the consent agenda included the final plat review for Phase 18 of Tuscan Gardens on Pisano Street; Phase 3 of Heritage Hills on Oak Leaf Drive; Phase 5A of Kelsey Glen on Oxford Drive, and Phase 2A of Baird Farms on Providence Trail.

The planners also unanimously recommended to the Mt. Juliet City Commission an annexation of land known as the Shevel property at 9468 Lebanon Road; an approval of a plan of services for the property and a rezoning of the land from neighborhood commercial to commercial town center.

“This [property] is an island, located on Lebanon Road, near West Elementary [School],” said planning director Jennifer Hamblen. “The land use for this property is neighborhood commercial, and the request for rezoning is CTC, commercial town center, which falls within that land-use category. The applicant wishes to open a real estate office on that property.”

The planning commissioners also unanimously recommended to the city commission an annexation of land known as the Woodfuff property at 225 Clemmons Road; an approval of a plan of services for the property and a rezoning of the land to agriculture-residential district city zoning from Wilson County zoning, which is industrial zoning.

The city made an offer to buy the property, but there is another contract on the land, as well, Hamblen said.

“There is a condition listed within the actual ordinance that would make this annexation and rezone null and void should we not acquire the property,” she said. “So, I’m not sure if, after tonight, it will ever be heard again. But we wanted to keep it on the agenda, just in case the other contract backs out. I’m hoping we can acquire this property, because the intended use for the other contract is for mini-storage. Hopefully, we will acquire this piece of property and move our salt sheds over there.”

School board discusses how it follows policies

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Mt. Juliet parent Kristi Dunn accused the Wilson County Board of Education of not following its policies and procedures at its January meeting Thursday night.

“Per the [Tennessee School Board Association] website, policies are guidelines adopted by the board to chart a course of action,” she said in a prepared statement. “They indicate what the board expects and may include why and how much. School board policies are official and legally binding only when approved in an official meeting of the board and written on the minutes.”

She gave the local school board examples of how she believed the board didn’t follow its own policies.

“On Oct. 23, 2018, we had a special-called board meeting requested by our high school principals to solidify a class ranking system and to adopt a grading system to put us in compliance with the state, according to Monty Wilson per The Lebanon Democrat,” she said. “This was not published on our school website in its usual place per board policy 1.402.

“It has come to my attention and others that the exam exemption policy was stricken from the record at the meeting. It also violated policy 1.402 in which the purpose of all special-called board meetings are to be stated. No longer is the exam exemption policy in the written student agenda, handbook or board policy 4.6 that we can find, or central office staff can find. It doesn’t exist.

“In the past few months, we have also ignored policy 1.8 pertaining to the school calendar. The board is to appoint a calendar committee, policy 3.210 the naming of a school. The board is to vote on the name of a school and did not vote on the name of the new middle school. Policy 1.108 ethics: We have an ethics committee that has yet to meet or name a chair or secretary.”

Concerning the exam exemption policy, Dunn said, “We say we are honoring the exam exemption policy, but with these policies having been ignored and no written record, how are parents to trust the board or the district? It is the job of the board to set policy and enforce policies, and if there is a policy you don’t like, then you vote to change it. You don’t ignore it or just don’t follow it or let others ignore it or not follow it. You have your students and parents sign a contract in the handbook at the beginning of the year that we will abide by your policies you have created. But, yet, you yourself don’t. Shouldn’t we expect the same from you?”

According to the Tennessee School Board Association, “When a policy is violated, the board must insist on consequences for the violator. The board can never turn its head and allow its policy to be violated. Certainly, the board must never violate its own policy. It may change or abolish the policy, but never violate it.”

It continues, “Like the law, it is mandatory, not optional that the school board policy be followed. Also like the law, school board policy does not enforce itself. It is imperative that the school board insist that the policies be followed and failure to follow policy results in consequences.”

Wilson County Schools is a member of the TSBA, according to Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson Currently, 126 of 141 school districts in Tennessee are members of the TSBA.

Board member Wayne McNeese brought up the issue at the end of the meeting.

He said the board has never appointed a school calendar committee to make up the official calendar for the 2019-2020 school year. However, a calendar for that year was presented to and approved by the board. In addition, the board also approved a calendar for the 2020-2021 school year, which McNeese said was against board policy.

“There are several things that we should have done on that policy that we did not,” he said, adding the calendar committee members are recommended by the director. “The first line says that, ‘no later than the end of each school year.’ That means we have to do this every year. We cannot, by board policy, do a two-year, three-year or four-year [calendar] in advance, as we have in the past.”

He said the board, “ought to go by policy or we do not, because we did not follow this policy, as far as a calendar committee. Some of the other things that we should have done in here, I want to make a motion that we abolish our current calendar for the 2019-2020 year, because we did not do it per board policy.”

The motion failed 5-2. Board members Linda Armistead, Chad Karl, Tom Sottek, Bill Robinson and Larry Tomlinson voted against it, and Kimberly McGee and McNeese voted for it.

Sottek said the ethics committee should meet to appoint a chair, vice chair and secretary. After discussion, the board decided to meet Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. before the next board meeting. He asked county attorney Mike Jennings what would constitute an ethics complaint that the board would discuss.

“The ethics committee is for someone who has committed an unethical act,” Jennings said, [such as], accepting a gift that is improper.”

Sottek said he wondered about how to examine the board not following policy.

“I guess I’m confused as the purpose of an ethics committee,” Sottek said, asking about following board policy. “I’m wondering if not following policy is something that we should discuss and then bring before the school board.

Jennings said, “You have no choice. You have to follow board policy. But that’s not typically what [is discussed by the ethics committee]. Typically, you think of something illegal or immoral. A difference of opinion is not something that you’ll discuss. It’s not something you use as a political tool.”

McNeese said he agreed with part of that.

“A difference of opinion has nothing to do with this,” McNeese said. “It’s pretty black and white as far as the calendar committee.”

Director of Schools Donna Wright admitted there was no calendar committee, but she said, “We had input from different [people] and had a public information meeting that was not well attended.”

Board chairman Larry Tomlinson said in the past, people on the calendar committee were asked why there is a committee “when [board members] don’t follow it anyway. I’ve always said, ‘I’m going to vote for the calendar the committee recommended,’ and I’ve always done it.

“If it says in the policy that it needs to be a one-year [policy], then that’s what we need to do. If we need to go back and change some policies, then that’s what we need to do.”

Jennings said as far as policy, “It’s got to be followed, and it’s up to the board members to call that out if the board is not following policy.”

McNeese agreed.

“That is correct, and I think it’s time we follow board policy,” he said. “I don’t mean to bring this before the ethics committee. If somebody stole some money, that’s what the ethics committee is for.”

He said he brought up the fact that the board didn’t follow policy when positions were filled.

“It’s up to the board to create positions,” McNeese said. “There is a financial implication to that.  We did nothing when I brought it up before, and I think it’s time that we abide by board policy or make a motion that we do away with all of these policies and start from scratch – one or the other. We’ve got to abide by board policy.”

Lynn named state House finance chair

NASHVILLE – Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada named state Rep. Susan Lynn chair of the House Finance Committee. 

Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, is the first woman in Tennessee history to lead the powerful committee comprised of 19 House members.

The committee is tasked with all measures that deal with the appropriation of state funds; the general appropriations bill; the deposit of public money; all measures that relate to taxes and the raising of revenue, bonds and bonding revenue, the issuance, payment or retirement of bonds, the evidences of indebtedness; congressional relations; and assessment and collection of property taxes.   

“Rep. Lynn is an incredibly talented legislator within our General Assembly, and I am grateful to her for her willingness to serve in this important leadership capacity,” said Casada, R-Thompson’s Station. “I believe her knowledge and experience will benefit the House Finance Committee and our entire legislative body.”

In her new role, Lynn also becomes a member of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, Council on Pensions and Insurance and the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission. Additionally, Gov. Bill Haslam appointed her to the boards of Launch Tennessee and the state Workforce Development Board, and her peers appointed her to the Greater Nashville Regional Council. In December, then-House Speaker Beth Harwell also appointed Lynn to the Information Systems Council.

“I am incredibly honored that Speaker Casada has appointed me to serve as chairman of the distinguished House Finance Committee and has placed his faith in me in this way,” said Lynn. “Tennessee has been a national model for fiscal responsibility under conservative leadership. Because of our strategic investments and thoughtful financial decisions, cities and towns across our state are thriving. Together, we are committed to ensuring these successful trends in Tennessee continue.”

Lynn previously served as chair of the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee during the 110th General Assembly. She lives in Mt. Juliet and represents most of Wilson County in the state House.

Community Calendar and The People’s Agenda

POLICY: Items for the Community Calendar may be submitted via email at editor@lebanondemocrat.com, in person at The Democrat’s office at 402 N. Cumberland St., by mail at The Lebanon Democrat, 402 N. Cumberland St., Lebanon, TN 37087 or via fax at 615-444-0899. Items must be received by 4 p.m. for the next day’s edition. The calendar is a free listing of nonprofit events, community club and government meetings. The Democrat reserves the right to reject or edit material. Notices run on an as space is available basis and cannot be taken over the phone. Include a name and phone number in case of questions.

Dec. 11

Lebanon Retirees meeting

9 a.m.

The city of Lebanon Retirees group will meet Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 9 a.m. at Shoney’s Restaurant at 814 S. Cumberland St. in Lebanon. The group is comprised of and limited to people who have retired from the city of Lebanon municipal government. The group meets each second Tuesday of the month from September through May.

Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281 meeting

6:30 p.m.

The Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281 will meet Tuesday, Dec. 11 and the second Tuesday of each month at Rutland Place at 435 N.W. Rutland Road in Mt. Juliet. Social time begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the meeting at 7 p.m. All veterans are invited to attend. An American Legion Auxiliary Unit is also part of the post. New members are welcome to join. Former members or transfers from other posts are also invited to join. For more information, contact Pat Unger, commander, at 615-210-6156.

Dec. 13

Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber Lunch and Learn

11:30 a.m.

The Lebanon-Wilson Count Chamber of Commerce will hold a lunch and learn Thursday, Dec. 13 at 11:30 a.m. at Five Oaks Golf and Country Club at 621 Five Oaks Blvd. in Lebanon. The guest speaker will be Angela Hubbard, director of economic and community development for the Greater Nashville Regional Council. Tickets are $20 per person. To RSVP, call 615-444-5503 or email tonya@lebanonwilsonchamber.com.

Wilson County Schools Teacher Meet and Greet

3:30 p.m.

Wilson County Schools will hold a teacher meet and greet for December teacher graduates and newly licensed Tennessee teachers Thursday, Dec. 13 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon. Participants are encouraged to come professionally dressed and bring copies of their resume. To RSVP, visit wcschools.com/hr.

Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon Stroke Support Group meeting

6 p.m.

The Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon Stroke Support Group will meet Thursday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Tennova Rehab Center at McFarland at 500 Park Ave. in Lebanon in the McFarland conference room on the ground floor. The group promotes optimism, resilience, determination and independence. Members share experiences, exchange resources, socialize, gain knowledge, problem solve, give mutual support and empower. Light refreshments will be served. To reserve a spot, visit tennova.com and look under the events tab.

Bert Coble Singers Christmas Dinner Show

7 p.m.

The 31st-annual Bert Coble Singers Christmas Dinner Show will be Thursday, Dec. 13, Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. in Baird Chapel at Cumberland University. Tickets are $40 per person. For more information, visit bertcoblesingers.com.

Celebrate Recovery

7 p.m.

Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step recovery support group for overcoming hurts, hang-ups and habits, meets each Thursday from 7-9:30 p.m. at Fairview Church at 1660 Leeville Pike in Lebanon. For more information, call ministry leader Tony Jones at 615-972-6151.

Dec. 14

Beer and Carols

6 p.m.

Beer and Carols will be Friday, Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon. For tickets, visit capitoltheatretn.com.

Bert Coble Singers Christmas Dinner Show

7 p.m.

The 31st-annual Bert Coble Singers Christmas Dinner Show will be Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. in Baird Chapel at Cumberland University. Tickets are $40 per person. For more information, visit bertcoblesingers.com.

Journey to Bethlehem

7 p.m.

Journey to Bethlehem, a drive-through live nativity scene, will be Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 15 from 7-9 p.m. at Lebanon Cumberland Presbyterian Church at the corner of Leeville Pike and Castle Heights Ave. For more information, call 615-444-7453.

Encore Theatre Co. presents “A Nice Family Christmas”

7:30 p.m.

Encore Theatre Co. will present the comedy, “A Nice Family Christmas,” on Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m. at the theater at 6978 Lebanon Road, just west of State Route 109, in Holmes Crossing. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors 60 and older and are available at encore-theatre-company.org, ticketsnashville.com or call 615-598-8950 for reservations.

Dec. 15

Carroll-Oakland Eagles Nest Booster Club Pancake Breakfast with Santa

7 a.m.

The Carroll-Oakland Booster Club will hold a pancake-and-sausage breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus on Saturday, Dec. 15 from 7-11 a.m. in the school cafeteria. It’s a fundraiser for Carroll-Oakland School sports. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children at the door. Advance tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and may be purchased by emailing coeaglesbooster@gmail.com.

Watertown Christmas parade

2 p.m.

The Watertown Christmas parade will be Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. on Main Street in Watertown. The parade will begin at Round Lick Baptist Church and continue to the end of East Main Street.

Bert Coble Singers Christmas Dinner Show

7 p.m.

The 31st-annual Bert Coble Singers Christmas Dinner Show will be Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. in Baird Chapel at Cumberland University. Tickets are $40 per person. For more information, visit bertcoblesingers.com.

 

The People’s Agenda

POLICY: Items for the Government Calendar may be submitted via email at editor@lebanondemocrat.com, in person at The Democrat’s office at 402 N. Cumberland St., by mail at The Lebanon Democrat, 402 N. Cumberland St., Lebanon, TN 37087 or via fax at 615-444-0899. Items must be received by 4 p.m. for the next day’s edition. The calendar is a free listing of government meetings and government-related events. The Democrat reserves the right to reject or edit material. Notices run on an as space is available basis and cannot be taken over the phone. Include a name and phone number in case of questions.

Dec. 17

Wilson County Law Enforcement Committee and Public Works Committee joint meeting

5:45 p.m.

The Wilson County Law Enforcement Committee and Public Works Committee will meet jointly Monday, Dec. 17 at 5:45 p.m. in conference room 1 at the Wilson County Courthouse.

Wilson County Commission meeting

7 p.m.

The Wilson County Commission will meet Monday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. in commission chambers at the Wilson County Courthouse.

Dec. 20

Mt. Juliet Planning Commission meeting

6:30 p.m.

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission will meet Thursday, Dec. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall at 2425 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

Jan. 10

Lebanon City Council work session

6 p.m.

The Lebanon City Council will meet in a work session Thursday, Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Town Meeting Hall at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave.

– Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet hires planner to help with workload

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Mt. Juliet recently hired Jon Baughman to fill current planning director Jennifer Hamblen’s old deputy planner position.

“I kept the duties of the zoning administrator; therefore we needed to fill the deputy planner position,” Hamblen said.

Because of growth, there is enough work for two people, she said.

“We are growing so quickly, and get new plans in nearly every day. It is an extremely tough job to do alone. Right now, we are splitting plan reviews and taking the team approach on everything else. I am sure that will change in time when we both become more acclimated to our new roles.”

Baughman said, “I decided to apply because I like the vision the elected officials and staff have for the city. I think my skills and experience can help the city realize its goals.”

Baughman started work Oct. 8. He said his duties are “primarily, to review planning commission applications [such as site plans, subdivisions, rezoning and annexations], attend meetings as staff support to the planning commission and board of commissioners, research and write resolutions and ordinances and whatever else may arise.”

He said he enjoys the job.

“The first two months have been great, very comfortable,” Baughman said. “The most positive experiences so far have included interaction with the people who work for the city. Everybody has been great, and I like the good attitude and team mentality at the city.”

Baughman attended Cleveland State University in Cleveland, where he graduated with a master’s degree in planning in 2011. Previously, he worked for the Trumbull County Planning Commission in northeast Ohio and with the city of Spring Hill.

Hamblen said she is pleased Baughman joined the staff.

“Jon is a tremendous asset to have here at the city,” she said. “It has been a blessing to have him here, and he has taken the jump-right-in approach. He is doing such a good job, and I couldn’t be more proud to have him be part of our team.”

Mt. Juliet general store, museum officially opens

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The Corley & Sons General Store and Mt. Juliet Museum officially opened Thursday with a ribbon cutting celebration.

The 24-hour museum is not easily missed as it features a bright red Texaco gas pump and telephone booth in front, next to City Hall on North Mt. Juliet Road. Inside, it features dozens of collectible items and memorabilia from days of yesteryear.

The items, which include vintage cameras, an antique Pepsi machine, Texaco signs and varieties of coffees, tobaccos and other products, are kept behind large display windows cases on either side. The outside is modeled after an old general store.

The museum is the work of longtime Mt. Juliet resident Fred Corley and Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin.

Corley has collected antiques and memorabilia for years, and in preparation for a move to Clarksville, he and his family decided their collection of history would best be used to welcome new Mt. Juliet residents and educate them on the history of the city with a look at the goods and wares that made up many small Southern towns.

Martin said the welcome center will tie generations of Mt. Juliet residents and visitors together through the history of the town.

“To know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you came from,” Martin said. “We’ve got to hang onto our history and our past instead of just forgetting about it, and Mt. Juliet and Wilson County in general is quickly growing. So this is just a way of bringing back [things] for those of us old enough to remember this like this and even the younger folks to learn how far technology has come.”

Corley said the new attraction gives his beloved collectables a new secure and climate-controlled home that will serve as a place to welcome new residents into a community that has both a history to remember and a future to forge with each new member.

“What I wanted to do was to keep the remainder of my collection in tact, so I contacted Kenny Martin, and I said, ‘If you will build a welcome and information center for the city somewhere, I will let you take my collection and use it for decoration,’” Corley said.

“What I want this museum to do is just to be an attraction for new people coming to Mt. Juliet, to be able to come to one place and find out, how do I get my car registered, who’s my city commissioner, what’s the current events, get a history of the city and the county and to see basically how they can be involved in Mt. Juliet. So this is just an attraction to invite newcomers, guests and people who are curious about Mt Juliet [and have] an avenue to stop by and find out and learn a little bit about our city and our county.”

I-40 exit planned for Central Pike

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Mt. Juliet is on the list for a new interchange to be built by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The interchange will be built at Central Pike and will help divert traffic off the closest interchange, which is at Mt. Juliet Road.

To get the interchange, city leaders had to petition with the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group of leaders from counties in and around Davidson County. After consideration of the facts, the NAMPO sent a project recommendation to TDOT to build the interchange.

At its meeting Nov. 26, the Mt. Juliet City Commission voted on a resolution between the city and TDOT to support construction of the new interchange. The state conducts a study to see if the interchange is justified for construction, according to city engineer Andy Barlow.

“Currently the city is helping the project move along by committing funds for engineering and environmental work on the project,” Barlow said. “Projects that have some level of funding currently committed are one of the considerations for project selection by TDOT. There is no way of telling what the total amount will be right now. We have $2 million currently budgeted, but that number is just a guess on the city’s needs for contributions at this point.”

The city currently has 17 total city transportation projects in some stage of development currently, according to Barlow. Five are slated to begin construction in 2019. Six are pure roadway widening and improvement projects.

Among those are the Central Pike interchange and widening, an interchange connector roadway to Central Pike from Providence, Interstate 40 bridge widening, the widening of Highway 70 from Park Glen to Golden Bear Gateway, Golden Bear Gateway widening from Cedar Creek to Lebanon Road and Old Lebanon Dirt Road widening and realignment.

All together, the total cost will be about $150 million, Barlow said. The road projects are funded a variety of ways, including taking money from the city’s general fund, state grants, loans and bonds or a mixture of the funding measures, said City manager Kenny Martin.

It will take an average of five years for the interchange to be built, but it could take longer, Martin said. To be considered for an interchange, Martin said the state and federal government have to approve the project.

Martin said the city is keeping up with the growth, “but like all quickly growing cities, we’d like to do even better.”

Barlow said three of the primary roads that are used in the city are state-maintained highways, Mt. Juliet Road, Lebanon Road and Central Pike. 

“The city of Mt. Juliet has had a great history of putting skin in the game for projects on state routes by paying for most or all of the preliminary costs on projects,” he said. “While we don’t technically own the roads, they are all integral to the success of the city. We see the cooperation of working with the state as beneficial to both parties due to timing and costs.

The widening of South Mt. Juliet Road over I-40 “will make a tremendous difference,” Martin said. The current plan for bid letting, or making the project available for companies to bid on the project, will take place in March and will depend on right-of-way acquisitions, Barlow said. He said work should start 60 days later.

“[The city] currently has $2.5 million [in the bank], but this may vary depending on bids,” Barlow said.

The city received just more than $2.3 million in grant money.

In addition to the bridge widening, traffic signals will also be coordinated from Central Pike to Division Street to allow improved traffic to flow, Martin said. The project is funded only by a grant, he said.

Abston re-elected to Mt. Juliet commission

Voters re-elected Brian Abston Jr. to the Mt. Juliet City Commission in District 4 in the Nov. 6 federal, state and municipal elections.

Abston secured 2,158 or 57.44 percent of the vote and defeated challenger Jim Bradshaw, who earned 41.92 percent of the vote or 1,575.

Abston has served in as commissioner since 2014 after he defeated Bradshaw that year, while Bradshaw has served multiple terms on the Mt. Juliet City Commission in the past.

“I’m just proud of the victory, and I’m looking forward to serving my constituents another four years in District 4.

Bradshaw could not be reached for comment.

In a non-contested Mt. Juliet commission race, incumbent James Maness will serve another term on the commission in District 2.

Planners discuss mailboxes, sidewalks

By Angie Mayes

Special to The Democrat

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission discussed two different issues in two subdivisions as its main topics discussed Thursday night at its meeting.

The first issue, which was on the consent agenda, concerned a cluster mailboxes the city currently requires of new developments, which will eliminate postal boxes at individual homes.

The development, known as Harrington Property on Central Pike, will have 140 mailboxes near the community’s amenity center. The mailboxes would be covered and located next to a small parking lot to be used for parking to get mail.

The Postal Service regulates the type of mailboxes, which can be used in the type of clusters discussed.

“This is our first forte into the mailbox kiosks,” said Commissioner Chuck Turner. “The city will be moving forward with mailbox kiosks, and I want to make sure we get this first one right. What I think we need to discuss as commissioners is how we want this thing to be configured. Will it be easier for the citizens to drive up and have a parking place where they can get out in inclement weather and get their mail? Will they have to get an umbrella to get their mail?”

He said although the kiosk is covered, residents would still have to park and get out of their cars to get the mail.

“I’m just wondering if there are other designs that would be favorable to the developer and the planning commission,” Turner said.

Joe Haddox with Civil Site Design Group represented the developer. He said he is amiable to work with the planning commission and admitted the mailboxes would be better if placed on the north side of the parking area, which is on the opposite side of the amenity center.

He said with the configuration, the mailbox kiosks would be better to connect to the main road, known as Road A. There are no driveways along Road A, he said.

There will be 115 homes in the subdivision and 140 mail slots, Haddox said.

At one point, Postal Service officials spoke to the planners and said they could also split the number of boxes into multiple kiosks throughout the property.

“Some developers can spread them out or have one separate location,” said planner Jennifer Hamblen.

Commissioner Art Giles said he was concerned about residents getting to the mailboxes.

“If you go to the [Mt. Juliet Post Office] you can’t even find a place [to park],” he said. “Think about in a subdivision with everyone trying to get their mail. You don’t want them queueing up to get their mail.”

Hamblen said no matter what the commission regulates, the post office has the final say on the type of mailboxes in the community.

The item was a part of the consent agenda, a cluster of developments or projects, which were discussed in the past and could be voted on with one vote. The commission unanimously voted to approve the consent agenda.

The second issue concerned sidewalks in Stonehaven, which is in Wilson County, but partially within Mt. Juliet’s urban growth boundary.

The developers said they wished to not have to build sidewalks on the property for two reasons, the topography of the property would make it hard to build, and because of the hills, it would not be popular among pedestrians.

“There have been a lot of discussion about this project before the meeting,” Hamblen said.

Tom White, who represented the developers on the property, said he preferred not to have to build the sidewalks.

He said, “The motion should be to approve this development without the sidewalks. The property is in the county. It’s a half-mile or so from the city limits. It’s in all likelihood never going to be annexed by the city.”

He said considering the topography of the land, the county requires greenways be constructed on the property, rather than a sidewalk.

“Sidewalks required by this committee would be duplicative,” White said. “The topo on the site would be difficult and would be expensive. With respect to the sidewalks, there’s nothing they would connect to. This is a classic case of sidewalks to nowhere.”

According to city regulations, the commission had the authority to allow only “alternative pedestrian” walkways, White said.

Planning commissioner Luke Winchester said the development is near a key intersection with Benders Ferry Road, and he has seen no traffic improvements the city would deal with if the development were to eventually be annexed into the city.

“If you put them off on Cooks Road, the road has terrible ingress and egress, as well as site distance, challenges,” Winchester said.

He also said that the development is designed to connect to other developments within the city’s Urban Growth Boundaries.

“You have various stubs on your plat that says, ‘we’re going to go west; we’re going to go east, and we’re putting numerous houses on a continuous cul-de-sac,’” Winchester said. “So, when someone has a wreck at the end, you’re not going to get people in and out. To me, the whole subdivision is a massive safety concern from the standpoint of getting safety services in there. And you top it off with another continuous cul-de-sac right at the entrance.”

Even though those issues were brought up during the discussion, the only motion was to vote on the sidewalk construction.

In the end, the commission voted unanimously to require the developer to build sidewalks throughout the community.

State legislature incumbents win elections

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Three Wilson County incumbents won their respective elections Nov. 6 in the state legislature.

In the race for state Senate District 17, incumbent Republican Mark Pody defeated Democrat Mary Alice Carfi, 35,868 to 16,099.

After his win was announced, Pody said, “We are very blessed with results we see coming in. Right now, we need to give the glory and honor to God. I want to thank all of the people who helped on my campaign. Mary Alice did a good job. We focused on the issues and tried not to do negative stuff. People were trying to put negative stuff in the race, but we focused on our personalities.”

Carfi said, “I want to thank everyone who supported me, helped me and guided me through this process, my family, friends and people who would become friends. I worked hard through this campaign. The voters made their decision on who would represent them. I am proud. I stood up and tried to make a difference for my family and friends.”

Incumbent Republican Rep. Susan Lynn defeated Democrat challenger Jordan Cole, 22,858 to 10,611 in a race for state House District 57.

“I am very grateful to the voters of Wilson County for giving me another term, and I’ll always do the absolute best for them,” Lynn said. “I encourage them to call if they ever need help because it is my pleasure to help them.”

Cole said, “I trust Susan will serve the constituents of District 57 dutifully. I thank those who believed in me. God bless Wilson County.”

In the state House District 46 race, incumbent Republican Rep. Clark Boyd defeated Democrat challenger Mark Cagle. Boyd won the race 13,321 to 5,011.

“We are very excited and pleased with our win,” Boyd said. “We got a much larger margin of victory than we expected. I’m humbled of the support of voters in our district. It’s an absolute privilege to be their state representative, and I look forward to the next two years.”

Cagle said he was surprised by the results.

“It’s a little bit surprising, but Clark is a very nice gentleman, and he ran a respectful campaign,” Cagle said after the votes were counted. “I was looking forward to it and thought I was up for the challenge, but apparently not enough. But Clark is a very nice gentleman.”

AT&T viewers receive Wilson County Television

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Viewers can currently find Wilson County Television’s education and government channel on AT&T channel 99.

“We will also be streaming live on the county’s website [by the end of the week],” said Wilson County Television manager Tressa Bush. “Our main focus is for our folks in Wilson County to know as much as possible about what’s going on.

The channel will broadcast live county commission meetings and will play recorded education committee and budget committee meetings.

“Later on, down the road, we hope to work with the city of Mt. Juliet, which already broadcasts their meetings live, and the city of Lebanon, which broadcasts their meetings live, to get to play them live or recorded,” Bush said. “We also hope to work with the Wilson County Board of Education and possibly the Lebanon Special School District Board of Education and get recordings of their meetings.”

She said the “main thing is to get the meetings and let the public know what’s going on, because a lot of folks can’t come to those meetings because of their schedule, they’re immobile or whatever the case might be.”

In addition to meetings, the channel plans to produce local programs, including one called “Talking with Tatum,” with Judge Barry Tatum. It will be a sit-down talk show with a variety of guests, Bush said.

“We’re also going to be working with our tourism director, Amy Nichols,” Bush said. “She’s doing a web series that we’re going to put on the channel called ‘WilCo on the Go.’ It recently won an award from the Greater Nashville Regional Council for tourism initiatives.”

Bush said she also plans to air a program called, “’Walking through Wilson,’ where we will have a variety of hosts to talk about interesting places that you can see here in Wilson County. [Also,] Valerie’s Kitchen, a lady named Valerie Edwards has a kitchen at her home, so we’re going to do some cooking and canning shows with her.”

When original programming isn’t shown, other public education and government programming that people have uploaded across the U.S. will be included on the channel, Bush said.

“I think our viewers will enjoy some of that,” she said. “There will videos about boating, fishing, cooking travel and things like that. We’re also going to be working with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. They are going to be giving us some of their programming. We want it to be educational, as well as informational, because that is our main focus, to keep folks informed of what’s going on in Wilson County.”

Wilson County Television will also show short videos that feature former Wilson County resident Chuck Denney, who currently works with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Institute in Knoxville. Viewers will recognize him from Saturday morning programming on WTVF, NewsChannel 5, in Nashville.

As part of his job, he works with the University of Tennessee agricultural Extension agents across the state. Bush said he was excited when she asked him to be a part of Wilson County Television.

“He’s going to be a guest on ‘Talking with Tatum’ very soon,” she said.

Bush said not everyone across the county will get Wilson County Television at this time. Since the county offices are in Lebanon, the cable companies in Lebanon will service it. There are two, she said, AT&T and Charter.

They do not have a signed contract to broadcast on Charter, but Bush said she’s in talks about the issue. Those with AT&T across the county will get Wilson County Television on channel 99.

“We’re going to do it like an on-demand channel,” she said. “When you go to channel 99, you’re going to see a screen come up, and you’ll get to pick which public education and government channel you want, so we know we’ll get a good amount of people [who want to view the programs].”

She said with Charter, “we are hoping to take over the city of Lebanon’s Charter channel 198. There are still some papers that have to be worked out, but they have agreed in principal, as have we, to make that transfer. They will still do theirs live. It will be live with us. Nothing will change, except we’ll have more programming.”

She said Lebanon hasn’t been able to fill its channel with programming, because it doesn’t have the dedicated personnel to do it.

High school students also work with Bush to film the various meetings. Bush said she met Wilson Central High School student Kyle Pulley while they were both in a play in Wilson County. They started to talk about videos, and he invited her to see the TV production work the students at Wilson Central were doing. She currently has nine paid student interns. Six are from Wilson Central, and three are from Mt. Juliet High School.

“We will also welcome and look for more as we go, because the seniors will graduate,” she said. “They’ve been a very integral part of this channel, and they will always be.”

Wilson County Television is only available on cable, not satellite companies such as DirecTV and Dish.

“Unfortunately [satellite viewers] will not be able to get the channel,” she said “However, we’re going to take care of those people, because it will be available streaming live on the wilsoncountytn.gov website. So, they will be able to see it that way.”

GOP questions sales tax referendum

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

A letter that was signed Wilson County Republican Party and sent by Wilson County Republican Party Executive Committee member Terri Nicholson to Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, county commissioners and The Lebanon Democrat claimed the funding of a mailer is illegal, according to a state attorney general’s opinion, along with other inaccuracies regarding the proposed sales tax increase currently on the Nov. 6 ballot.

County officials said the mailer was designed to “educate” the public about the sales tax referendum. There’s also some confusion within the Republican Party as to how and why the letter was sent in the first place.

In its entirety, the letter said, “Our county commission voted to have a sales tax referendum put on the November ballot with an understanding that an estimated $5.2 million would go into the special purpose fund for school construction. This did not occur as planned.

“The sales tax increase, 9.25 percent to 9.75 percent, will now go into the special purpose fund, debt service and the general-purpose school fund. The county attorney [Mike Jennings] has a conflict of interest, should he protect the school board or the county. The commission vote was complete, and he failed to mention the original intent of the sales tax would not come to fruition. The school board has since passed a resolution, which was written by our county attorney, to accept the funds and will be allowed to spend at their discretion. Currently, the tax is dispersed as general purpose 59 percent, debt service 6 percent and special purpose 34 percent.

“We are threatened with a property tax increase if we do not approve the sales tax increase. The choice before us is obvious. Property tax bills under $10,000 are deductible from federal income tax. Sales taxes are no longer deductible from federal income taxes. There is no clarification to the public, which discusses the 1-3-year school budget presented at $345.8 million with a possible deduction of $110 million for Green Hill High School. Given the finances presented thus far, a $245.8 million bond with a sales tax increase of $5.2 million cannot be financed without extra revenue such as a property tax increase, unless you are not making principle payments.

“Our finance director [Aaron Maynard] informed us that the county should be solvent, and there would not be a property tax increase in the near future.  However, there is not a release of any data to support any type of forecasting.

“In researching surrounding counties, we discovered that Williamson County’s attorney assisted their mayor with a state statute and was able to have their board of education forego any operating expenses and allowed the funds to be allocated directly to school construction. The Franklin Special School District also agreed and assisted along with them and all the cities except Fairview gave up the added revenue for the county’s capitol need for three years. It is our understanding that we need six.

“To further complicate the matter, our county commission and school board have approved $70,000 to lobby in favor of the sales tax referendum, which will be spearheaded by Mayor Hutto and the Director of Schools Donna Wright. As we understand, these approvals are illegal [because of an opinion by the state attorney general]. We request immediate rescission of these illegal approvals and insist that the illegal activities cease.”

In an explanation as to how the additional revenue would be spent, Jennings referred to the wording on the ballot, which said “all funds from the total increase to be deposited into the special purpose tax fund for school construction, debt service and other educational expenditures. He said to clarify, other educational expenditures include those related to construction costs such as bond issuer fees, underwriter fees, closing costs, different types of testing from engineers, professionals, design fees, architect fees, etc.

Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard also disputed the claims.

“None of the monies is going into the general fund or the debt service fund. All of it, 100 percent, is going to the special purpose tax fund,” Maynard said.

First, Maynard clarified the tax law.

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “Under the new tax law, everybody’s standard deduction is going to double. You’ll have to have a lot of mortgage interest, charitable donations and things like that to meet the new $24,000 family deduction. There will be fewer people itemizing their taxes.

“I would deny that we threatened a property tax. We have said it was an alternative if we don’t get the sales tax. When the next project is undertaken, we have two options. We will look for an increase in the adequate facilities tax or a property tax. But, we have not threatened in any way.”

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said the information regarding the “1-3-year school budget” wasn’t a budget at all but came from Wilson County Schools’ capital outlay plan, and the amounts referenced weren’t budgeted money, rather they are costs involved to either build new or renovate existing schools.

Maynard said if the sales tax referendum doesn’t pass, the county has other options, put a wheel tax referendum on the ballot or raise the property tax or adequate facilities tax or a combination of the three.

“The bottom line is the county commissioners have to make choices of what is left. If the sales tax fails, I doubt they will put the wheel tax on a referendum anytime soon,” Maynard said.

“I have not said to people that if the sales tax issue doesn’t pass then we’ll have a property tax increase in X number of years. I’m not going to be put on the spot. I don’t know how long it will be, and I will not promise there will not be a property tax increase. If the referendum does pass, then that would minimize any potential property tax increase in the future. But I can’t tell you how many years down the road that would be. I can’t see three years into the future.”

The attorney general’s opinion said, “No state statute specifically authorizes the use of funds for this purpose. Absent such specific authorization, neither a county commission nor a county mayor may use county funds to pay for communications that advocate for or against adoption of a measure in a local referendum.”

Maynard said the key word in the opinion is “advocate.”

“We cannot use county funds to advocate,” he said. “But there’s nothing to say we can’t use funds to educate. Nothing on our materials says to vote yes. Our materials give an explanation in terms of population growth and school growth, and the fact that’s why there is a referendum. Nothing says go vote, ‘yes.’ That would be against the law and lobbying. I deny completely and vehemently that there is any lobbying whatsoever. When I do my talks about the referendum, I always open with, ‘I’m not here to sell you on a sales tax or advocate for one. I only want you to go in the booth and make an informed decision.’”

Jennings said, “[State law] allows counties to contract ‘for legal services, fiscal agent, financial advisor or advisory services, educational consultant services and similar services by professional persons or groups of high ethical standards’ and they ‘shall not be based upon competitive solicitations but shall be awarded on the basis of recognized competence and integrity.’ If the group providing this assistance to Wilson County meets the definition of ‘similar services’ [usually on a case-by-case basis], then competitive solicitation is not required.

“With regard to the AG opinion, while the AG finds no statute on point, please note [that the AG’s analysis of the issue refers to] the 1989 Florida case, which the AG who authored this opinion says stands for the proposition that ‘a county can only use tax dollars to fairly educate the public on a referendum, and cannot use such funds to pick up the gauntlet and enter the fray.’

“I have heard both the mayor and finance director say the purpose of this money being spent is to ‘educate the public.’ While a Florida decision is not binding authority in Tennessee, it is persuasive authority. And, it seems to be the only case law specifically addressing this issue. However, I have not yet read the case, nor have I done any independent research on the AG opinion. I relied on the language of that AG opinion.”

Jennings also said, “Tennessee law does not currently explicitly authorize a county commission or a county mayor to use county funds to pay for communications that advocate for or against adoption of a measure in a local referendum. If we are not advocating for or against the referendum, then this AG’s opinion does not directly answer the issue raised.”

Nicholson said she and GOP Executive Committee member Tom Hoffman were asked to write the letter by the leaders of the local party.

“This isn’t something we came up with on our own,” Nicholson said. “I listened to the county commission and heard what they were saying.”

Wilson County Republican Party chairman Alex Stillwell said the local GOP didn’t authorize the letter.

“The letter was not authorized or an official release from the Republican Party,” Stillwell said. “This subject had been discussed in several circles within the party, including the executive committee. The Republican Party didn’t authorize it.” 

Nicholson also said she received the 1-3-year capital outlay plan from Hall, but Hall said he had not spoken to Nicholson.

“None of our information in the letter was false,” Nicholson said. “It came directly from the director of finance. The reason it’s going around now is that they are focusing on the party and what we have done and are forgetting the serious issues with the sales tax. This has nothing to do with who said what. This is an effort to inform the public on an issue that impacts every person in the county.”

Despite Stillwell’s denouncement of the letter, he maintained the Wilson County Republican Party’s stance against the proposed sales tax increase.

“As conservatives, many Republicans have issues with raising the sales tax or any tax, Stillwell said. “The sales tax referendum outlined in the taxpayer paid-for advertising suggests that if the voters approve the sales tax increase, property taxes will not be increased. This claim should be verified.

“The supporting analysis of the sales tax increase contains some apparent fuzzy math regarding where the incremental collected tax will be spent, what type and amount of debt service will the proceeds be used for, and last but not least, there are no provisions requiring more prudent reduced spending on school expansion and other areas.

“The Republican Party of Wilson County urges voters from all parties to do your homework and research the ramifications of passing the sales tax referendum. Please do not rely on just the county’s flyers.”

Editor Jared Felkins contributed to this report.

City planners question turn lane

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

A question about ingress and egress into a new mixed-use community in Mt. Juliet caused Mt. Juliet planning commissioners to discuss the final master development plan and site plan of Vintage Station North at their recent meeting.

The development will be on North Mt. Juliet Road on 6.94 acres.

Proposed for the land is 16,088 square feet of commercial space, 192 multi-family units and 28 townhomes that would be broken up into two phases, said Jennifer Hamblen, city planning director. There would be 312 parking spaces, more than the required 289 spaces, she said.

The Mt. Juliet City Commission approved the development in June, Hamblen said, recommending approval.

Commissioner Art Giles had concerns about the lack of a right-turn lane into the property.

Plans reviewer and project manager Neal Hall, who sat in place of assistant public works director Andy Barlow, said the original agreement was to provide a northbound right-turn lane on North Mt. Juliet Road.

“The existing access at Sellars Funeral Home – as we were looking at that – the condition was that if right-of-way was available for the right turn lane, and it is not available, when we reviewed it, we realized that it would have a negative effect on the existing access,” Hall said. “In lieu of that, we’re asking the developer to work with staff and bring a plan in that would improve the intersection and add a westbound turn lane at the intersection of East Division and North Mt. Juliet Road. They would have to bring that through staff and satisfy any comments we might have.”

The measure would then have to be sent through the city commission, he said.

Hall said the development has two other entrances, one off Industrial Drive and one off Fiberglass Drive.

“Industrial has access off North Mt. Juliet Road,” Hamblen said. “Fiberglass comes off East Division. Or you could loop around and come to North Mt. Juliet Road, if you wanted to. I feel like they would rather drive through the site, rather than go around.”

She said the developers have done everything the city as asked, “without kicking or screaming. It was really nice of them to do that.”

Giles asked if the other entrances off North Mt. Juliet Road would be “easier to get use for the residents and also the commercial development?”

“The existing roadways right now,” Hall said. “Fiberglass Drive will dead end into this development. Industrial will have an existing entrance and exit on North Mt. Juliet Road.”

Giles said the planners “should have known that upfront that they couldn’t. Of course, you know I voted, no on this project, so it’s nothing new. But there again, it may have swayed someone else’s vote and giving them information if they had known. So, you’re telling us that there will be a lane on Division?”

Hall said in lieu of a northbound turn lane on North Mt. Juliet Road, there would be a westbound turn lane on Division.

“That helps people coming down Division, but it doesn’t help anybody going north or south on Mt. Juliet Road,” Giles said. “[People] who travel Mt. Juliet Road every day, that has nothing to do with these apartments. When you cross the railroad tracks, it is traffic calming a bit because most people slow down at the tracks. You’ve got all these people slowing down, and you have all of these people trying to turn into an apartment complex without a turn lane. It’s absurd.

“I’ve walked that. I see what happens to the traffic. It’s not just during the day. It’s in the middle of the night. And, so here we are going to let apartments come in there. We should have been told this a long time ago. And, couldn’t they buy right-of-way from the railroad?”

Matt Gardner with Image1co Development said moving the development further into the land is not the point.

“It’s not that we don’t have enough room on the property,” he said. “It’s just that the site is not wide enough parallel to North Mt. Juliet Road to get enough egress.”

Kimley Horn engineer Zac Dufour said, “Essentially, there is not enough room to slow down to get into the intersection.”

The measure slimly passed 4-3-1. Commissioners Luke Winchester, Lori Thompson, Chuck Turner and Ted Floyd voted yes. Commissioners Larry Searcy, Bobby Franklin and Giles voted no. Commissioner Kelly Morgan abstained.

Mt. Juliet honors state Veterans Affairs commissioner

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder was awarded a plaque for her service in the recognition of Gold Star Mothers in Tennessee on Monday at Mt. Juliet City Hall.

Grinder, a retired colonel in the Army, will retire from her position as Gov. Bill Haslam’s final term comes to an end. Haslam appointed Grinder as commissioner in 2011.

“I was honored to be able to serve our country for over 35 years and to be able to set aside my personal life in order to serve my country,” Grinder said. “Some people may think of it as a sacrifice, but I always felt that it was an honor. I was very proud of my military service and glad that I was able to do so. My husband, Ernie, served 30 years. Our son is serving; his wife was killed in Iraq shortly after I came back from Afghanistan.

“Part of what I loved in the military was taking care of my soldiers. When I had the opportunity to serve over half a million veterans in the state of Tennessee, I felt this would give me that kind of rewarding service to be able to take care of our veterans, so while I’m no longer in uniform, I feel that I’m in a way still taking care of my soldiers.”

Lucricia Cole, former president of the local Lake Forest Acres Garden Club, presented the plaque to Grinder and said she was proud of the work and support from Grinder and the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs to remember Gold and Blue Star families in Mt. Juliet and Wilson County.

“This means everything, because our military doesn’t get the justice that they need, and being able to remember families and mothers who have lost their child is very important,” Cole said.

Grinder said civilians can help support service members and veterans through remembrance and acknowledgement of the sacrifices of others every day.

“Saying ‘Thank you for your service’ is nice, but what’s even better are actions. So being able to show thanks and honor for our veterans is important, and sometimes that’s in the form of community events that honor veterans, but even more than that, I think that every day should be Veterans Day in Tennessee. Understanding the value that veterans bring to the work force and hiring these veterans that can bring great leadership, reliability, being able to work under pressure,” Grinder said. “I think that for the most part it’s just remembering – remembering that freedom is not free. When you see the Gold Star and Blue Star markers outside of City Hall, those are nice reminders that as we’re living our life of freedoms – the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and all of the freedoms we have – they are because of those who willing to serve.”

Others in attendance included Terry Yates, the Tennessee president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, state Sen. Mark Pody, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty, City Manager Kenny Martin and District 3 Commissioner Art Giles.

County receives its new bond rating

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County’s bond rating remains at a strong AA+, Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard told the newly seated Wilson County Commission on Sept. 17 at its meeting. 

Standard and Poor’s looked at the county when they began the recent bond sale and determined they are “very strong,” in relationship to their debt service and general fund, Maynard said.

There are only six counties in Tennessee with AA+ bond ratings. That is the second highest rating possible, Maynard said. Only two counties – Williamson and Hamilton – have a higher rating at AAA+.

“We’ve taken great strides to remain AA+,” Maynard said. “When I first came here, we have an ending general fund balance of $100,000. Now it’s at $10 million and is stable. We pay off our debit on time and have strong reserves. Standard and Poor’s recognized that and reaffirmed our bond rating.”

The only voting business the commission had Monday was when it passed a resolution to request unclaimed funds from the state. The funds are then put into the general debt fund, according to Maynard.

Maynard told the commission he was tasked by Hutto to prepare a Powerpoint presentation to detail the need for, and benefits of, a countywide sales tax increase referendum. The referendum would be on the Nov. 6 ballot and would, if passed, increase the county’s sales tax from 9.25 percent to the state maximum of 9.75 percent. The funding would strictly be used for education purposes such as education debt services or new schools.

The alternative to the sales tax referendum is a property tax increase, Maynard said. That does not have to be approved by the public’s vote. 

Maynard and Hutto said they would be available for presentations to various groups, businesses and other interested parties. The county may also send out mailers and hire an independent public relations firm to help spread the word about the need for the half-cent sales tax increase.

New commissioners, who met for the first time since the Aug. 2 election, took no time to elect committee members.

Hutto was elected the commission’s chairperson, and Commissioner Wendell Marlowe was chosen as commission chairperson pro-tem.

Four members were elected to the Budget Committee. Annette Stafford, Gary Keith, William Glover and Marlowe were chosen by paper ballot. Also chosen by paper ballot were members of the Finance Committee. Diane Weathers, Bobby Franklin, John Gentry and Dan Walker were elected.

Sue Vanatta, Terry Ashe, Gary Keith, John Gentry and Jerry McFarland were chosen by commissioners to serve on the Insurance Committee. Hutto appointed residents Nancy Andrews and Chris McAteer, along with Marlowe, Sonja Robinson and McFarland, to serve on the Animal Control Committee.

The Ethics Committee will consist of Terry Ashe, Cyndi Bannach, Chris Dowell, Mike Kurtz and citizen Earl Ray. Diane Weathers was appointed to the Planning Commission.

The road commissioner for Zone 2 will be Chad Barnard, and Robinson will be the road commissioner for Zone 4.

Don Chambers was reappointed to the Water and Wastewater Board, while John Lavender was reappointed as a parks and recreation advisory board member.

Twenty-five commissioners and their families will help build a Habitat for Humanity home Oct. 13 in Wilson County. Their work will take place during the one day, Hutto said.

‘True greenway’ suggested for subdivision

By Angie Mayes

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet Planning Commission members meet Thursday night to discuss several plans for new developments in the city.

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Lynwood Station, connected greenway from Charlie Daniels Park to a new subdivision in Mt. Juliet, was a key point at the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission meeting Thursday night.

Commissioner Art Giles said while he appreciates a trail going through the subdivision and eventually ending at the Music City Star train station, he would like to see a greenway more aligned with a true greenway other than a path.

“I’d like to see the [10-foot] path turned in to a true greenway,” Giles said. “We need the connected paths or greenways, but we need to come up with a solution to put an actual, true greenway in the project.”

He suggested moving the border fence on the project to the property line and putting a true greenway path between the fence and the buffer made of the existing trees, which are mostly cedar trees. That way, a 10-foot greenway and a 10-foot buffer of the trees could be included, Giles said.

“If we look at coming up with another idea, which includes bringing a greenway near Clemmons Road, we can have a 6-foot sidewalk on the other side,” Giles said. “My vision is that the greenway be run all the way up Clemmons to the Woodridge subdivision bridge. If a sidewalk is built in Woodridge to the bridge, then residents of both subdivisions will be able to utilize the greenway.”

He said a true greenway would help the city with multi-modal grants in the future.

“But, if the greenway is put in by the developer,” it will be faster than getting a grant,” Giles said.

The property at 325 Clemons Road, will consist of single-family homes and townhouses. The plan came before the commission in April and May, and the commission asked for a reduction in the number of structures.

Commission chair Luke Winchester said he would be concerned for the safety of the residents since the greenway plans do not include lighting or patrols by police.

Giles said Charlie Daniels Park and the greenways in the city close at 10 p.m., but there are a number of people who are on the paths at midnight.

“I wouldn’t do it,” he said.

Winchester was concerned about getting to people in case of an emergency.

“Because the greenway would be between the fence and the trees, the emergency services personnel could not get to it easily,” Winchester said. “There needs to be some sort of entrance to the trail [throughout the greenway].” 

The commissioners will require traffic-calming measures throughout the subdivision, Winchester said. 

The commission voted to give the project a favorable recommendation to the Mt. Juliet City Commission. 

Also, on the agenda, the commission approved a renovation at Chick-fil-A on Mt. Juliet Road, which plans to add a second drive-thru lane at the restaurant.

Sales tax increase placed on November ballot

By Angie Mayes

Special to the Democrat

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Thirty-five-year military officer Rita Wilson, a Wilson County resident, explains what the Pledge of Allegiance means. She broke down the words and explained what each section meant for Wilson County commissioners Monday night at their meeting.

To raise funds for educational projects, Wilson County placed a sales tax increase in the form of a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. 

It will be on the ballot for voters to decide instead of the Wilson County Commission’s consideration of a property tax increase, according to county finance director Aaron Maynard.

If voters approve it, the sales tax would increase from 9.25 percent to the state maximum of 9.75 percent. The .50 percent equals a half-cent increase, Maynard said.

“On $100, the increase would be 50 cents,” Maynard said. “By law, the sales tax increase has to go on a referendum. Half of the amount raised in sales tax has to go to education. It depends on where the sale took place. The state gets 7.50 percent of the money. The cities and the counties get 2.25 percent, depending on where the sale takes place.”

For example, if the sale is in Mt. Juliet, the city gets the money. If the sale is in the county, Wilson County gets the sales tax money.

In most recent statistics available, Lebanon received $11 million in sales tax revenues per month, while Mt. Juliet had $10.3 million in sales tax revenues, Maynard said.

In addition to Wilson County Schools, Lebanon Special School District gets money from the sales tax referendum, as well, he said. 

“It is based on the average daily attendance,” Maynard said. “This year, they received $886,000 that didn’t come to the county.”

The county received $5.2 million from the sales tax coffers during the previous fiscal year.

Maynard said the “driving force behind the sales tax referendum is infrastructure. We can manage operating co

sts through growth. That could be hiring teachers, deputies and paramedics. It’s hard to manage through population.”

In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were 113,993 people in Wilson County. In 2017, the estimate was 136,442. That’s the approximate number of people the census bureau had originally estimated would be in the county in 2019.

“Over the past seven years, we added 22,449 people,” Maynard said. “We’re expected to add 21,389 in the next six years. In 2023, we are expected to have 157,930 people. The census bureau does come in on the low side, so we could have more.”

Maynard said the only option other than a sales tax increase, is to raise the property tax, which will hurt homeowners and businesses.

“The sales tax option affects everyone who spends money in Wilson County,” Maynard said. “It will be spent by residents who shop here, tourists or even people who just drive through and stop.”

Maynard said 49 of the 95 counties in Tennessee already have their sales tax rate at 9.75 percent and 11 counties are at 9.5 percent. 

“That means that more than 63 percent of the counties in Tennessee have a rate of 9.5 percent or higher,” he said. “Williamson County just raised theirs to 9.75 percent. Rutherford County is at 9.75 percent. Montgomery County is at 9.5 percent, and Sumner County is at 9.25 percent.”

Maynard said the county supports school renovations and construction. In the past few years, Wilson County Schools expanded Carroll-Oakland School, Gladeville Elementary School, Rutland Elementary School, Southside School, Tuckers Crossroads School, Watertown Elementary School, West Elementary School and West Wilson Middle School. Lebanon High School and Watertown High School were built within the past seven years. Gladeville Middle School is scheduled to open next fall. The new Green Hill High School is expected to be ready to open in two years.

Maynard said a property tax hike does not go before the citizens. The state allows a county to raise its rate by commission vote.

He admitted there were three referendums to increase the sales tax since 1994, and all three failed. He hopes it will be different this year.

“We’ve been asked by property owners why we increase the property tax,” Maynard said. “We don’t want to penalize the property owners, but that’s what we will have to do if this doesn’t pass. This is our bottom line. Hopefully people will turn out to vote for this. This is an opportunity for people to choose what kind of tax they want.”