Black joins race for governor

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., formally announced her decision Wednesday morning to run for Tennessee governor in 2018.

Black has represented Tennessee’s Sixth District, which includes Wilson County, since 2011. Black announced her intentions with a campaign video.

“So what do you think the No. 1 job for our next governor should be? It’s simple: fight for what’s right. Most people in politics say the right things but they never fight for the right things. They’re too meek, or maybe even too weak. I’m Diane Black and I don’t back down,” Black said.

“In Tennessee, we’re conservative and we do things the right way, no matter what Hollywood or Washington thinks about it. We believe in absolute truths: right is right, wrong is wrong, truth is truth, God is God and a life is a life, and we don’t back down from any of it. That’s exactly the kind of governor I will be,” she said.

Black said she has shown the ability to stand up to fellow Republicans when necessary and touted her political background.

“You made me the first woman in history to chair the budget committee for the entire nation. I fought to stop the state income tax. I fought to pass Tennessee’s most important pro-life law ever, and I fought to cut wasteful spending,” she said.

Black said she believes in secure borders, spending cuts and “beating the liberals instead of caving in to them.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Beavers wins straw poll at Rural Tennessee Speaks forum

Gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Mae Beavers won a straw poll at Saturday’s gubernatorial candidates forum held by the Rural Tennessee Speaks political action committee. 

“Our grassroots focus is already bearing fruit across the state, and my message of returning the Republican Party to governing by principle is resonating because of my record,” Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, said in a statement. “I’m the only candidate who’s been fighting the establishment for over 20 years and effectively advancing conservative policies in Nashville. The bottom line is that conservatives can’t be bought by the moderate millionaires, and there’s more than enough of us to win statewide for the first time in Tennessee’s history.”

Beavers won 66 votes, businessman Bill Lee came in second with 62 and the other candidates tallied 19 votes, combined.

The event was held at the Stewart County Visitors Center in Dover. Each dinner ticket included an entry into a drawing for a Ruger AR-556 rifle.

For more information on Rural Tennessee Speaks, visit ruraltnspeaks.com.

Staff Reports

Kenny Martin: Be visible while cycling, running, walking

Kenny Martin
City Manager
Mt. Juliet

Out of serious care and concern for our citizens, I felt compelled to remind everyone of the importance of visibility when walking, biking, jogging or running along our city and state streets and roads.

While driving at night recently, I nearly struck two pedestrians walking along the side of the road.

There was another car travelling the other direction, and with the glare of the lights and the fact that the two walkers were wearing dark clothes, I simply didn’t see them until the last second or so. Quite honestly, it scared me immensely, and thankfully, I was driving the speed limit and was able to see them just in time.

With that said, if you decide to use the streets and roads for walking, jogging, running or biking, please dress accordingly with all proper safety gear and appropriate clothing that can be seen both during the day and at night.

Most of us saw on the news recently where a cyclist was struck by an automobile in the middle of a sunny day. Thankfully that cyclist is going to be OK, but unfortunately many pedestrians and cyclist are seriously injured or killed every day as a result of pedestrian versus vehicle incidents all across our great country.

With Mt. Juliet’s rapid growth comes an even greater need for all citizens to use various safety measures while traveling and utilizing our roadways. For example, with the increasing Mt. Juliet population, there will definitely be an increase in vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic and an even greater need to share the roadways safely.

Daily complaints are received about both vehicular and pedestrian safety and the need for more citizen awareness. Many citizens have reported concerns about pedestrians walking, jogging or riding bikes along the roadways and streets and have asked if a law could be passed that would require or mandate that all walkers, runners, joggers and/or bike riders be required to wear reflective clothing at night and highly visible clothing during the daytime hours. Citizens have also suggested these individuals be required to use lights and flashlights at night for proper illumination and visibility.

I have advised all that I would spread the word and assist in educating as many citizens as possible about both pedestrian and bicycle safety and the need to be highly visible at all times when in or near the roadways.

Therefore, I would like to urge any citizen using the roadways for walking, jogging, running or riding bikes to please wear proper safety equipment when in or near the roadways.

Here are just a few tips to keep you and your family safe and visible when walking, jogging, running or bicycling:

• Walkers, joggers and runners are encouraged to use flashlights and wear highly       reflective and visible clothing at all times.

• Bicyclists are encouraged to wear proper safety equipment as well, including helmet, gloves, eye protection and highly reflective and visible materials on both the clothing and bicycle.

• If walking, jogging or running with your pets don’t forget to include them in your safety plan, as well. They won’t need a helmet, but they will need to have highly visible and reflective markings. Note: most pet stores carry reflective collars and vests for pets.

• If you have a cellphone, carry it in case of an emergency.

• Other safety materials include reflective armbands, vests and ankle straps, just to name a few.

As you can imagine, these are only a few safety measures that you can use to make yourself safe while walking, jogging or riding a bike in or near the roadway. Our roadways are becoming busier everyday and we must do all that we can to make sure that we are safe and visible at all times. The sooner a motorist spots you while driving down the roadway the sooner that motorist can process the needed information in order to make a safe maneuver around you.

Far too many pedestrians are struck and either seriously injured or killed because a motorist didn’t see them until it was too late. We must do all that we can to prepare and protect ourselves. So please be safe and visible out there. We care about you and want to keep you safe.

Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.

Committee OKs school budget

Wilson County district’s needs assessment also discussed

The Wilson County Budget Committee approved the Wilson County Schools 2017-2018 budget last Tuesday and discussed the district’s needs assessment list without taking any action.

The committee approved the $141-million budget after the Wilson County school board approved the budget Monday night during a special called meeting. Wilson County Schools deputy director Mickey Hall said most expenses in the budget were relative to new staff, the opening of Springdale Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, teacher pay, infrastructure and more.

Commissioner Wendell Marlowe initiated conversation about the needs assessment list before the meeting adjourned, implying the issue was too urgent to delay discussion.

Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and a 4 percent raise for teachers.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

Wilson County Finance director Aaron Maynard said it would cost 12-18 cents on the tax rate to fund the Mt. Juliet high school, dependent upon how the debt payment is structured. Maynard also reiterated his statements following last year’s tax increase, noting the county would be strapped for funds for future school construction projects until 2025, based on projections, noting any project would likely require a tax increase. 

“I just know that we’re going to have to have a place for these kids and just turning a blind eye to the building program is just – I think it’s a fool way to run a business. You’re going to have to have a place to put the students, and if you wait, it’s going to cost more,” Marlowe said.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto rejected Marlowe’s “blind eye” remark and said the county has financed several building projects in recent years, including a new middle school in Gladeville and several renovation projects.

“I don’t know that we’ve turned a blind eye to our building program. We, finally, don’t have any portables. I think we’ve worked hard,” Hutto said. “I think everybody knows we’re just trying to balance it right now. It’s a tough call.”

“I just know when we built Lebanon High School, we went around and around and around for about two years. Before we spend $110 million, I’d like to see us go around at least once,” committee chairman Mike Justice said.

Wilson County Schools director Donna Wright noted the district has about 515 more students than when schools closed in May, noting six additional students joined Mt. Juliet last Tuesday.

“We’re going to hit some diminish in returns at Mt. Juliet High School at a certain point. What will happen is the courses that make it very unique – especially when you look at advanced placement and honors courses – you’re going to have to hit those core requirements at the expense of those other sections. You’re going to have to move west to east. But, the thing is we have two other high schools that are popping [2,000 students],” Wright said.

“At the current rate we’re going now, a year from now, you’re looking at Mt. Juliet having close to 2,500 kids. They’re above 2,200 right now. Lebanon and Wilson Central are both knocking on that 2,000 door. Watertown is growing every day. We don’t have room around those schools to put anymore portables,” Wilson County school board chairman Larry Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson said the board would “step up and meet that challenge” if construction of a new high school is delayed.

“We don’t have any other choice. If we don’t have a school, then when we go to rezoning, it’s going to come from the west toward the east, then we’re going to have some real serious issues when we think about what we have to do with them then,” Tomlinson said.

The group also lightly discussed other options for funding school building projects aside from property taxes. Tomlinson and Justice agreed it would take several meetings between the groups to determine a suitable, feasible plan.

Maynard said the current school administration and commission could be in their situation due to former members of each body.

“There’s not been a year that I’ve been here that we have not had schools under construction, three, four or five renovations – there’s not been a single year,” said Maynard, who highlighted Justice’s comments about time spent debating Lebanon High and other projects.

“I don’t know how many years that fight went on. That was before I got here. But, we spent so much time fighting over building schools – or the then-administration and commission – spent so much time fighting over schools that we didn’t actually build any. Now, we’re playing catch up for the fact that, historically, people sat on their hands and didn’t want to raise property taxes and we didn’t get the schools built when we needed,” Maynard said.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

School board approves budget

Decision comes following talks about increase in pay for substitute teachers

The Wilson County school board approved its 2017-2018 fiscal year budget Monday after some conversation on an increase in funds for substitute teachers. 

The board approved the $141-million budget on a 6-1 vote. Wayne McNeese casted the lone vote against the budget after he questioned the increase to fund substitute teachers.

“We started contracting our subs out. Looks like to me that last year we spent $689,000. This year, we got budgeted $900,000. That’s a heck of a difference in something that’s supposed to be a wash,” McNeese said.

The group tapped Education Service Solutions last year to handle the district’s substitute teacher procedures. Former deputy director Mary Ann Sparks said the move was necessary for the district to meet the need to free up a person in the human resources department, among other things.

Deputy director Mickey Hall said the move would not “adversely” effect the district’s budget or require the district to ask for any more money from the county commission if the number of needed substitutes was similar to previous years. 

Hall said the cost increase is due to the additional number of teachers in the district and the company’s requirement of maintaining a 95 percent rate for substitutes.

Hall said most expenses in the budget were relative to new staff, the opening of Springdale Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, teacher pay, infrastructure and more.

The Wilson County Budget Committee will discuss the budget and needs assessment list Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Wilson County Courthouse. Last week, budget committee chairman Mike Justice said he preferred to wait to discuss the district’s needs assessment list until after Monday’s school board meeting.

The Wilson County Education Committee tasked the budget committee earlier this month to examine the district’s needs assessment list and create a plan that would implement as many items on the list as possible without a property tax increase for citizens, if possible.

Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and a 4 percent raise for teachers.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

A 4-percent salary raise for county teachers also appeared on the needs list, which would cost about $3.2 million, along with a recommendation from Wilson County Schools transportation director Jerry Partlow, who suggested a $2 raise for bus drivers, at about $708,000, which includes benefits, in an attempt to combat the district’s bus driver shortage.

A three-year digital transformation plan is also included in the needs assessment. The plan totals $15 million, and Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said the district’s last textbook adoption for math cost around $2 million alone.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

State representatives encourage local residents to shop during sales tax holiday

With the beginning of a new school year Aug. 1 in Wilson County, state Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory, and state Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, encouraged families to shop during the state’s annual sales tax holiday to save on items such as clothing, school and art supplies, as well as computers.

“Our annual sales tax holiday is another way we are helping the industrious men and women of our community to meet their family’s needs and also save more of their hard-earned money,” said Lynn. “This event also supports our local businesses and sparks the economy right here in Wilson County.”

The state’s annual tax-free weekend is set for July 28-30. The Tennessee General Assembly established the holiday in 2006 and was held every year since. Tax-free purchases include clothing valued at $100 or less, school supplies $100 or less and computers priced at $1,500 or less.

“I have worked very closely with state Rep. Lynn and Rep. Pody during their time as a member of the Tennessee General Assembly to lower taxes for our hardworking Tennesseans,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. “We encourage the citizens of our state to utilize this holiday weekend to make purchases that will not only prepare their children to go back to school but also save them money.”

In the last several years, the Republican-led House reduced state tax rates by several hundred million dollars, including cuts to the tax on groceries, reducing taxes on Tennessee’s manufacturers to promote economic growth, reductions to the Hall Tax that disproportionally affects seniors living on a fixed income, as well as repealing the state gift tax and death tax. During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers also fought to decrease the amount of property tax owed by veterans, the disabled and the elderly.

“The cost of school supplies can truly restrict a family’s budget,” Pody said. “It is my hope that this opportunity will give our families a little more financial flexibility moving forward.”

For more information about the state’s tax-free holiday, visit tn.gov/revenue/article/sales-tax-holiday.

Lynn serves as a member of the House Consumer and Human Committee, Finance Ways and Means Committee, Fiscal Review Committee, and she serves as chairman of the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee. She represents House District 57, which includes part of Wilson County.

Pody serves as vice chairman of the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee. He is also a member of the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee and House Insurance and Banking Committee. He represents House District 46, which includes all of Cannon and part of Wilson and DeKalb counties.

Staff Reports

County mayor talks sports tourism

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto discussed the potential future of sports tourism in the county Wednesday during his State of County Address to the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce.

Hutto said conversations surrounding the need for additional sports facilities and complexes took for the last few years, with the county now in position to be able to explore options.

“We know that many of you parents get in the car on the weekend and travel somewhere else to play ball. We want to create that atmosphere here. We had to let the [Wilson County Expo Center] show a profit, we felt like, before we invested some more money in that, but it’s on the horizon,” Hutto said.

Hutto said one possibility includes a turf-surfaced outdoor facility suitable for tournament play.

In 2015, county municipalities started discussions on a potential partnership, spearheaded by former Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, aimed at increasing tourism in the area through recreation.

With the pilot, each city would designate 150 acres as a tourism development district that would serve as a funding source for future recreational projects. The county could also designate 150 acres. The 150 acres allotted in each city could also be split into five different districts with no district less than 10 acres.

New growth money generated in the tourism development districts would be placed under the direction of each individual county-city development board.

The three municipalities would transfer 10 percent of the county’s share of revenue generated within the designated district on an annual basis, and the funds would be transferred to whichever fund the county deemed appropriate.

Generated funds would be designated for improvements within each municipality to support the development of projects, which would be designed to increase the tourism industry through additional hotel and motel stays, retail sales and restaurant support of the area.

The project fizzled after several Wilson County commissioners questioned the county’s ability to contribute to the project as it faced concerns about employee pay and rising insurance costs.

“I conveyed that the county has problems. We have insurance problems. The only problem we have is money. I conveyed to the mayor that I could not get behind this. We’re just not in position to do it,” Commissioner Mike Justice, Budget Committee chairman, said last year.

Hutto said he believes additional recreational facilities would benefit the county.

“It would really set us up to have parents come here with their children to play ball Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It increases our sales tax and hotel-motel tax. I don’t have to build schools, roads and jails [for them], because those folks will go home,” Hutto said.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Hutto touts Wilson County successes

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto highlighted the county’s success in several areas Wednesday during the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon.

Hutto highlighted successes in several areas, including education, public safety, quality of life, economic development, finances and transportation.

“We have a great director in Donna Wright. She does a tremendous job. She has to make some tough calls, but she has improved our school system tremendously,” said Hutto, who also praised the Wilson County Board of Education.

Hutto highlighted the district’s rising state and ACT scores, Wright’s recognition as superintendent of the year by the Professional Educators of Tennessee and Mt. Juliet principal Mel Brown’s recognition as principal of the year by the Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals.

“Those are things that don’t just happen by accident,” Hutto said.

“When you talk about public safety, I believe we’re the best here because we cross-train our people. They can ride an ambulance and ride a fire truck. To me, that saves us money, but it also saves lives, because they can react at either time,” Hutto said.

Hutto also highlighted the county’s emergency response agencies’ move toward co-location for dispatchers. The move will house all emergency and law enforcement agency dispatchers and call takers under one roof.

Hutto spoke about the recently opened Wilson County Emergency Management Agency fire station on Greenvale Road in Statesville and the WEMA station under construction on Cainsville Road in Watertown.

Hutto also discussed the area’s quality of life and attractions, which include the Music City Star, Wilson County James E. Ward Agricultural Center, Wilson County Fair, Wilson County Veterans Plaza and Museum, along with several greenways and parks throughout the county.

Hutto also noted discussions that took place regarding recreation in the area and the desire of many people to bring more multi-sport complexes to the area.

“It would really set us up to have parents come here with their children to play ball Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It increases our sales tax and hotel-motel tax. I don’t have to build schools, roads and jails because those folks will go home,” Hutto said.

The Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board and its work also received praise from Hutto, along with local legislators who worked to inform citizens about Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, which includes about $13.5 million for Wilson County in the next 15 years for project and local funding.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Mt. Juliet officials gear up for latest special census

Mt. Juliet will conduct a special census of city residents this year with the hope of increasing its share of Tennessee shared tax dollars.

State shared taxes are distributed to Tennessee cities based on population.

Mt. Juliet currently receives state shared tax dollars based on the population from the city’s special census in 2015, which revealed a population of 28,159, almost 4,000 more residents than the 2010 census.

Mt. Juliet leaders said the city has experienced tremendous growth since the 2015 census, and the next federal census is not scheduled until 2020. Leaders said additional income from the special census could help the city improve roads, parks, greenways, sidewalks, public safety, public works and recruit new business, industrial and retail.

Information needed to complete the census are address and the first and last name of everyone living in the household, including any person living away from the home, such as college students or military personnel.

Information collected will be kept confidential and only used by the city for the special census. Information will not be shared, sold, rented or given to any other entity or business.

Residents who complete their portion of online will qualify for a $50 gift certificate in a drawing to be held after the Nov. 15 online deadline.

Postage mail will be sent to residents who do not complete their portion online. Providing information online or by mailer before Nov. 15 will eliminate contact from a door-to-door special census representative.

Completed forms can also be returned to Mt. Juliet City Hall sewer billing department at 2425 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

For more information, email 2018specialcensus@mtjuliet-tn.gov or call 615-773-6298.

By Xavier Smith 

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Randall Hutto: Help with suicide is available

Randall Hutto
Mayor
Wilson County

As county mayor, I feel my primary purpose is to help the citizens of Wilson County in any way that I can. Whether it is through safer laws, employment opportunities or access to quality education, I strive to work on behalf of citizens from all walks of life to make Wilson County the best place to call home.

I am often made aware of problems that plague citizens throughout our county by community leaders that care enough to step forward and ask for help. Barbara Payne came into my office recently and discussed with me the devastating effects that suicide has on our society.

Suicide doesn’t discriminate between the wealthy and the poor, the young and the old, the healthy and the sick. It’s a unique pain that is often associated with depression or devastating circumstances. Suicide prevention isn’t just a national, state or county responsibility. It’s a human being responsibility.

It is my mission that Wilson County is the best place to call home in all of Tennessee. Part of that mission is ensuring that citizens are safe. Another part of that mission is ensuring that citizens have an opportunity to live a full life. Suicide robs individuals of life. It steals potential. It buries hope. It’s never the last option. It’s never the only way out. It is my hope that the information put together by Payne not only shines much-needed light on the subject of suicide, but also shines a light for someone battling with suicidal thoughts.

Wilson County cares. You are not alone. You always have hope.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness in today’s society. Darkness is prevalent in our home, jobs, schools, politics, etc.  Hope is the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burdens behind us,” said Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore.

Suicide doesn’t distinguish between the young and the old; the rich and the poor; male or female. Lives are never lived, among the youngest of suicide victims; and families are forever changed. Among the suicide victims for whom life has been lived; suicide is a sad close to productive lives.

The causes of suicide are many and complex.  Among the causes are depression, financial worries, bullying, social isolation, health issues, a perception of inferiority, fear, homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder and holidays that should be joyful trigger angst and sadness.

Do you know the warning signs?

• Threatening or talking about wanting to hurt or kill himself or herself.

• Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.

• Displaying hopelessness.

• Expressing rage or uncontrolled anger.

• Acting in a reckless manner; or engaging in risky activities.

• Feeling of being trapped with no way out.

• Exhibiting anxiety and/or agitation.

• Disturbances in sleep patterns.

• Dramatic mood changes.

• Giving away prized possessions.

• Having a history of previous suicide attempts.     

Take the time to observe and communicate with your family and friends; or, someone you trust. Unlike any other time in the history of our country, the use of technology has an impact on every phase of our lives. Be vigilant and be aware of trends and threats to our community through the internet. If you’re a novice with the internet, ask questions of those more experienced with navigating the internet.

Locally, Cumberland Mental Health Services serves the community for help to gain better mental health. Professionals are available with a mobile crisis unit to respond to adult suicide situations seven days a week and 24 hours a day. Call 877-567-6051.  Crisis services for children and adolescents are not part of VHHCS. Call 866-791-9221 for assistance.

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network is “saving lives in Tennessee.” TSPN is a national model for suicide prevention. TSPN offers a wide range of resources tools and training for suicide awareness and prevention and for survivors of suicide loss. 

QPR training is provided through TSPN. The QPR mission is to save lives and reduce suicidal behaviors by providing innovative, practical and proven suicide prevention training. Quality education empowers all people, regardless of their background to make a positive difference in the life of someone they know.

Our veterans have served and sacrificed for our Nation.  Veterans may have special needs, and there are resources for assistance through Vet Centers. Vet Centers provide readjustment services in an environment of understanding, compassion and confidentiality.  If you’re experiencing feelings of guilt, isolation, rage, depression, anxiety, lack of structure, relationship problems; or medical or financial hardship the Vet Center can help. Call 615-366-1220.

The hotline number is staffed by combat veterans and spouses with 24 hour a day and 365 days a year access.  In Middle Tennessee, the Vet Center is at Airpark Business Center I, 1420 Donelson Pike in Nashville.

“At the end of the day, remember to have hope, be strong, laugh loud, play hard, live in the moment, smile often and dream big,” Moore said. “Remember you are loved and never give up. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Randall Hutto is mayor of Wilson County.

Mt. Juliet chamber donates to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
The Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce presents a $1,000 check to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital from proceeds from the Music City Star’s participation in A Toast to Tennessee Wine Festival. Pictured (from left) are Eric Beyer with Regional Transportation Authority; Courtney McMahon with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Mark Hinesley, director of the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce; Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto; and Amanda Clelland with RTA.

A Toast to Tennessee Wine Festival made its way back to Wilson County for 2017 and helped out the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital along the way.

Festivalgoers from across the state made their way to the Wilson County Expo Center, many of them by way of the Music City Star. Sponsored by the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce, train tickets for the April 29 event were $12 and donated back to the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“We were thrilled to bring the festival back to Wilson County this year,” said Mark Hinesley, director of the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce. “Then, when we were given the opportunity to sponsor the Music City Star, we were even more excited. The icing on the cake was the opportunity to donate the train ticket sales back to St. Jude. Given our involvement in the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway, donating this money just made sense. I appreciate the hard work of the county mayor’s office and the folks at [Regional Transportation Authority] and St. Jude to make this train event possible. We are very excited for next year.”

The chamber made a $1,000 donation.

“Every year we look forward to the marathon train event,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. “We when learned the wine festival was coming back to Wilson County on the same day, we all jumped at the chance to do an additional train event and raise even more money for St. Jude. The teamwork and partnership of all the involved parties has just been tremendous, and we look forward to future events like this one. Thank you to Mark Hinesley and the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce for your hard work and willingness to give back to the kids of St. Jude, and thank you to St. Jude, RTA and [Nashville and Eastern Railroad Corp.] for all your hard work throughout this process.”

Staff Reports

Eastern Connector opens

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Attendees stand on the Eastern Connector’s bridge over East Division Street following Monday’s ribbon cutting ceremony. The road, just less than three miles, connects Lebanon Road to the Beckwith Road interchange at I-40.

City’s newest major roadway expected to reduce traffic issues

Mt. Juliet’s latest major roadway will fully open by the end of the week after city officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday for the roadway.

The Eastern Connector will connect the Beckwith Road interchange with Lebanon Road, which will hopefully reduce traffic issues on Mt. Juliet Road. The road, just less than three miles, connects Lebanon Road to the Beckwith Road interchange at Interstate 40.

“This project has been going on for about 10 years or so and there’s a lot of people who played a role in this – citizens, state, county and local government and our elected officials. There’s not enough we can say to show our true appreciation,” City Manager Kenny Martin said.

“This is such an exciting day. The city of Mt. Juliet was incorporated in 1972, so for 45 years, there has been one way in and one way out. As of today, we’re doubling the capacity of Mt. Juliet Road with this road right here,” Mt. Juliet Mayor ED Hagerty said.

The road features four lanes and a grassy median, along with a bridge to go over the Nashville Eastern railroad, which carries the Music City Star, and E. Division Street.

Crews have worked on the roadway since 2015. More than 283,000 cubic yards were excavated, 119,000 tons of base stone was placed, 3,227 cubic yards of concrete was used and more than 52,500 tons of asphalt was rolled.

Mt. Juliet split the cost of the project with the Federal Highway Administration, with oversight from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Andy Barlow, Mt. Juliet deputy public works director, said he believes the city will have other north-south connectors in the future, but none as big or impactful as the Eastern Connector.

The entire roadway is expected to open to the public Friday.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

County questions schools budget

County commissioners join together to ask residents to analyze needs list

Several Wilson County Commissioners joined together to ask residents to deeply analyze the Wilson County School’s proposed needs list.

Commissioners Joy Bishop, Cindy Brown, Frank Bush, Bobby Franklin, John Gentry, Jerry McFarland, Dan Walker and Diane Weathers submitted a joint letter of concern regarding the school system’s needs lists, which includes several items.

Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and four percent raise for teachers.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million, which was the focus of the group’s letter.

The group questioned the site, purchased last year, and its topography.

“Adding the $5,850,000 purchase price, the $115 million estimated final cost of this new high school will exceed the combined costs of the new Mt. Juliet and Lebanon High Schools, both of which were built in the last 10 years,” the letter read.

Wilson County Schools deputy director Mickey Hall discussed the figures relative to Lebanon High School’s $40-million construction earlier this month with the Wilson County Education Commission.

“Here’s what you have to understand – don’t get hung up on that because that was during the bottom of the economy. That’s when contractors were going out of business left and right and we got a bargain. I’m just telling you what schools are bidding today. They’re bidding at $200 per square foot. I’m giving you a hard number not a budget number,” Hall said, noting the construction of a new high school in Collierville.

The Collierville Schools Board of Education authorized about $100 million for a new high school, expected to be able to house 3,000-3,500 students, in 2015, according to board minutes. The 450,000-square-foot school is expected to open next year.

Hall noted the proposed new Mt. Juliet High School would be 395,000 square feet, mirroring Lebanon High School and slightly larger than Mt. Juliet High School.

The district chose the site on N. Green Hills last year after months of research, debate and community pushback on several locations.

The board has had heartburn over potential sites for a new high school since last year when the first round of responses of requests for proposals failed to appease a majority of the group. The district’s second RFPs failed to receive any additional responses.

The commissioners said in the letter “they understand there is an increase in student population each year, but that population is growing overwhelmingly in our county’s southwest (Providence) area.”

Other potential sites for the board’s 2016 decision included 64 acres on Benders Ferry; 65 acres at W. Division Street near Devonshire Drive; 90 acres on S. Mt. Juliet Road; 284 acres on Double Log Cabin Road; and 78 acres at State Route 109 and Highway 70.

Commissioners also raised concerns about a potential property tax increase for residents for any item on the district’s needs assessment list.

Last year, the Wilson County Commission approved a property tax increase of 35.17 cents more than the state certified rate of 2.1672. The new rate of 2.5189 was lower than the previous rate of 2.5704, but with the rise in property values, most residents saw an increase in property tax payments. 

The increased was used to fund Wilson County employee pay adjustments (15 cents) ; Wilson County Emergency Management Agency (2.07 cents); county convenient centers (1 cent); Wilson County Schools teacher raises (8.1 cents) and Mt. Juliet area middle school (9 cents).

“Now, we are being asked to consider a budget for Wilson County Schools that, if funded as submitted, would result in another property tax increase of approximately 60 cents per $100 of property values assessed,” the letter read, pointing to all items on the needs assessment list.

Collierville residents experienced a 25-cent property tax increase to fund their new high school and a property tax increase is likely for Wilson County residents for any future school construction projects in the coming years.

Wilson County Finance director Aaron Maynard implied following last year’s tax increase, the county would be strapped for funds for future school construction projects until 2025, based on projections, noting any project would likely require a tax increase.

Hall said enrollment numbers earlier this month showed Mt. Juliet High School with about 2,200 students, Lebanon High School with about 1,960 students and Wilson Central with about 1,950 students.

“If you approve [the new high school] in the month of August, Mt. Juliet High School will be 2,500-2,600 students before it opens. The other two schools will be over 2,000 very easily,” Hall said.

“We got all these houses coming in here. What are we going to do? We need to come together as a group and figure it out,” said Commissioner Chad Barnard, who said a recent incident while working on a home opened his eyes to the magnitude of growth facing the county.

“He sends in the bill – he lives in California. I said, ‘You live in California?’ He said he came to Wilson County and bought four houses to rent for investments. He came here one time a few years ago to Nashville to visit friends and said he saw the area growing,” Barnard said. “What are we going to do? We can’t keep raising property taxes.”

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Community Calendar and the People’s Agenda

Community Calendar

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.

July 20
Blood Drive
12:30 p.m.
An American Red Cross blood drive will be Thursday, July 20 from 12:30-6 p.m. at Immanuel Baptist Church at 214 Castle Heights Ave. in Lebanon. To schedule an appointment to donate, use the blood donor app, visit redcrossblood.org or call 800-RED CROSS.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 meeting
6 p.m.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 in Lebanon will meet Thursday, July 20 at 6 p.m. and on the third Thursday of each month in the Veterans Building at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center. Any veteran who has been awarded a campaign medal or combat medal for any hostility is eligible for membership, verified by the veterans’ DD 214 Form. Presently, Post 5015 is having success in rebuilding its post and becoming active in district and local events. It is not a Lebanon post, but a countywide post. To learn more, contact Post Commander John Marshall at jtmarshall2@icloud.com; Senior Vice Commander Ken Kackley at hkenkjr@aol.com or Junior Vice Commander Harold W. Weist at grnmarine@tds.net.

Warriors and Royalty Vacation Bible School
7 p.m.
Warriors and Royalty vacation Bible school will be Thursday, July 20 through Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m. at Life Church at 3688 Hwy. 109 in Lebanon. It will feature giant inflatables, snacks, crafts, singing, dancing, games, prizes, teaching and more. To pre-register, visit lifechurchfamily.com/vbs.

Fiddlers Grove Model Train Club
7 p.m.
The Fiddlers Grove Model Train Club will meet Thursday, July 20 and each third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Fiddlers Grove Train Museum at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon. This is an all-scale model railroad club. During the meeting, everyone will share their knowledge and introduce the hobby to folks new to the interest. The Train Museum has an extensive O-gauge layout and a small HO-scale layout with plans to expand the HO track. The club is open to anyone interested in model train railroads. For more information, contact Ron Selliers at trainslayer53@gmail.com.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at the Capitol Theatre
7 p.m.
Audience of One Productions will present the Broadway musical, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” from Thursday, July 20 through Sunday, July 23, Tuesday, July 25 and from Thursday, July 27 through Saturday, July 29 at 7 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon. Tickets are $13 for 3-5 year olds and $20 for those 5 and older. For tickets and more information, visit capitoltheatretn.com.

July 21
ImportAlliance Summer Meet
8 a.m.
The ImportAlliance Summer Meet will be held Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23 at the Wilson County Expo Center, 945 East Baddour Parkway in Lebanon. This event features a showcase of cars and the ImportAlliance Battle of the Vendors, a competition for best booth and vehicle. Tickets are $30 at the entrance. Visit importalliance.ticketspice.com for more information and to purchase tickets.

Wine Loft Pop-Up Dinner
6:30 p.m.
The Mill at Lebanon will serve its first wine loft pop-up dinner Friday, July 21 at 6:30 p.m. upstairs at the Mill, 300 North Maple Street in Lebanon. The seven-course dinner will be presented by Chef Matthew DiPietro and will include wine pairings with each course. Tickets are $75 and may be purchased at themillatlebanon.com/events.

Warriors and Royalty Vacation Bible School
7 p.m.
Warriors and Royalty vacation Bible school will be Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m. at Life Church at 3688 Hwy. 109 in Lebanon. It will feature giant inflatables, snacks, crafts, singing, dancing, games, prizes, teaching and more. To pre-register, visit lifechurchfamily.com/vbs.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at the Capitol Theatre
7 p.m.
Audience of One Productions will present the Broadway musical, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” from Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23, Tuesday, July 25 and from Thursday, July 27 through Saturday, July 29 at 7 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon. Tickets are $13 for 3-5 year olds and $20 for those 5 and older. For tickets and more information, visit capitoltheatretn.com.

Centerstage Theatre Co.’s “Charlotte’s Web”
7 p.m.
Centerstage Theatre Co. will present “Charlotte’s Web,” directed by Shawna Rayford and Mitchell Vantrease, on Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 22 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., Friday, July 28 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 29 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Living Word Family Worship Center at 3633 Poplar Hill Road in Watertown. General admission tickets are $10 each. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com, Iddy and Oscar’s on the Lebanon square or by calling 615-917-5975.

July 22
We Love Lebanon back-to-school giveaway
10 a.m.
Generation Changers Church will hold its fourth annual We Love Lebanon Day event Saturday, July 22 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Don Fox Park. The event provides free haircuts, school supplies, backpacks, food, games, dental screenings. The event also offers a zip line, face painting and inflatables. Everything is free at this event. Don Fox Park is located at 955 West Baddour Parkway in Lebanon.

Wilson County Republican Party Summer Picnic
3 p.m.
The Wilson County Republican Party will have a summer picnic Saturday, July 22 from 3-7 p.m. at Ken Nelson Jr.’s home at 801 Horn Springs Road in Lebanon. It will feature smoked barbecue, a pond for fishing, creek for wading and kayaking, cornhole, music and a Civil War cannon firing. State Sen. Mae Beavers and businessman Bill Lee, both candidates for governor, are confirmed to speak. Tickets are $35 per person or $50 per couple and includes party membership. Tickets are available from executive committee members.

Centerstage Theatre Co.’s “Charlotte’s Web”
7 p.m.
Centerstage Theatre Co. will present “Charlotte’s Web,” directed by Shawna Rayford and Mitchell Vantrease, on Saturday, July 22 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., Friday, July 28 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 29 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Living Word Family Worship Center at 3633 Poplar Hill Road in Watertown. General admission tickets are $10 each. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com, Iddy and Oscar’s on the Lebanon square or by calling 615-917-5975.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at the Capitol Theatre
7 p.m.
Audience of One Productions will present the Broadway musical, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” from Saturday, July 22 through Sunday, July 23, Tuesday, July 25 and from Thursday, July 27 through Saturday, July 29 at 7 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon. Tickets are $13 for 3-5 year olds and $20 for those 5 and older. For tickets and more information, visit capitoltheatretn.com.

Wilson County Democratic Party Summer Pool Party and Cookout
7:30 p.m.
The Wilson County Democratic Party Summer Pool Party and Cookout will be Saturday, July 22 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Jimmy Floyd Family Center in Lebanon. The entire outdoor pool at the Jimmy Floyd Center will be reserved, which includes lifeguards for up to 100 swimmers. For those who do not wish to swim, there will be a splash-free area with food, music and fellowship. Families with children are encouraged to attend. Tickets are $10 for pool access, $5 without pool access, and children 5 and younger will be admitted free. Tickets may be purchased from a party officer, executive committee member or at wilsoncountydemocrats.org/donate.

July 23
Open auditions for Encore Theater comedy
6:30 p.m.
Encore Theatre Co. will hold open auditions for the September performances of the comedy, “The Kitchen Witches,” by Carolyn Smith on Sunday, July 23 and Monday, July 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Encore Theatre at 6978 Lebanon Road, just west of Highway 109, in Mt. Juliet. James Bealor will direct the play. The auditions will be cold readings from the script. A resume with headshots will be helpful but not required. Performance dates will be Sept. 8-10 and Sept. 15-17.
– Staff Reports

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.

July 24
Wilson County Budget Committee meeting
6 p.m.
The Wilson County Budget Committee will meet Monday, July 24 at 6 p.m. in conference room 1 at the Wilson County Courthouse. This is a rescheduled meeting was from July 18.

Mt. Juliet City Commission meeting
6:30 p.m.
The Mt. Juliet City Commission will meet Monday, July 24 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall at 2425 N. Mt. Juliet Road. A public hearing will be at 6:15 p.m.

July 25
Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County meeting
7:30 a.m.
The Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County will meet Tuesday, July 25 at 7:30 a.m. at the new Lebanon airport terminal building, second-floor conference room at 1050 Franklin Road.

Wilson County Place To Be Committee meeting
9:30 a.m.
The Wilson County Place To Be Committee will meet Tuesday, July 25 at 9:30 a.m. at the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce office at 149 Public Square in Lebanon.

Lebanon Public Works and Transportation Committee meeting
3:30 p.m.
The Lebanon Public Works and Transportation Committee will meet Tuesday, July 25 at 3:30 p.m. at the Town Meeting Hall at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave.
– Staff Reports

911 board discusses building expansion

The Wilson County Emergency Communications 911 Board discussed the next steps in a possible building expansion of 911 headquarters at 1611 W. Main St. in Lebanon, during a meeting last Wednesday.
The proposed expansion would allow co-location of all call-takers and dispatchers of county and municipal emergency and law enforcement agencies.
Civil Site Design submitted preliminary findings from a site study, and determined the building could be expanded by about 6,300 square feet, according to 911 Director Karen Moore.
The building addition could allow for as many as 16-20 additional personnel in the building, as well as five added parking spots.
Members of the board urged their attorney Mike Jennings to contact adjacent property owners with issues regarding property boundary in order to have the problems resolved as soon as possible.
One issue, according to several board members, is they believe the animal hospital next door to the 911 building is using part of the 911 property at the edge of the animal hospital’s parking lot.
Terry Ashe said he wants the renovated 911 building to have a fence surrounding it, and the fence would go in at the property line.
The fence would allow additional safety at the 911 building. According to Moore, security cameras at the 911 building captured footage of a person parking at the animal hospital early Monday morning and trying to break into cars parked in the 911 parking lot. Moore said it’s the fourth time security cameras have captured footage of a person trying to break into vehicles at the building.
Board members previously agreed to move forward with co-location of local agencies. While the current plan is to construct an addition to the existing 911 building, the plan has not yet been finalized, and funds have not yet been committed to the project.
Board members also elected new officers during Monday’s meeting. Chairman Ken Davis and treasurer Lounita Howard both said they did not want to be considered for their respective positions, but both would continue to serve on the 911 board.
Davis made a motion to nominate David Hale as the new chairman for 2017-2018, and it was unanimously approved. Larry Stone made a motion to nominate Terry Ashe as vice chairman, and it was also unanimously approved.
Lounita Howard made a motion to nominate Jerry Taylor, the newest member of the board and a certified public accountant, as the board’s treasurer. That motion was also unanimously approved.
“I appreciate everything this board has done, and I intend to see this thing through — this co-location project,” Davis said.
“Ken has done a great job, and there were some tumultuous times, but he weathered the storm,” Hale said. “I’m very glad he and Lounita plan to stick around.”

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Schools budget talks begin

Education committee approves two resolutions

The Wilson County Education Committee approved two resolutions Thursday regarding the Wilson County Schools’ proposed 2017-2018 budget and needs assessment list.

The first resolution would keep the tax rate for the general purpose school fund the same as last year, which would require Wilson County Schools to utilize growth money, estimated to be around $1.4 million, and other estimated revenues to cover increases in the proposed budget.

Mickey Hall, Wilson County Schools deputy director, said increases in the budget were due to new staff, the opening of Springdale Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, teacher pay, infrastructure and more. 

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Wilson County Commissioner Chad Barnard makes remarks during Thursday’s Wilson County Education Committee meeting regarding the county’s growing population. Barnard said the county would have to create a plan sooner or later to address the growth’s strain on Wilson County Schools.

The second resolution would forward the district’s needs assessment list to the Wilson County Budget Committee in hopes of creating a plan that would implement as many items on the list as possible without a property tax increase for citizens.

Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and four percent raise for teachers.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

“Right now, based on the bids we’re hearing out on the market are roughly $200 (per square feet) in pure construction costs,” said Hall, who said early plans call for a 395,000-square-foot school, mirroring Lebanon High School.

Hall noted Collierville built its latest school, which fits 2,000 students, for about the same price after it underestimated its cost. He also noted the price would likely increase in future years.

Hall said enrollment numbers two weeks ago showed Mt. Juliet High School with about 2,200 students, Lebanon High School with about 1,960 students and Wilson Central with about 1,950 students.

“If you approve [the new high school] in the month of August, Mt. Juliet High School will be 2,500-2,600 students before it opens. The other two schools will be over 2,000 very easily,” Hall said.

“We got all these houses coming in here. What are we going to do? We need to come together as a group and figure it out,” said Commissioner Chad Barnard, who said a recent incident while working on a home opened his eyes to the magnitude of growth facing the county.

“He sends in the bill – he lives in California. I said, ‘You live in California?’ He said he came to Wilson County and bought four houses to rent for investments. He came here one time a few years ago to Nashville to visit friends and said he saw the area growing,” Barnard said. “What are we going to do? We can’t keep raising property taxes.”

A four percent salary raise for county teachers also appeared on the needs list, which would cost about $3.2 million, along with a recommendation from Wilson County Schools transportation director Jerry Partlow, who suggested a $2 raise for bus drivers, approximately $708,000, which includes benefits, in an attempt to combat the district’s bus driver shortage.

A three-year digital transformation plan is also included in the needs assessment. The plan totals $15 million and Wilson County Schools Director Donna Wright noted the district’s last textbook adoption for math cost around $2 million.

Trump budget proposal could hurt Wilson County schools

President Donald Trump’s proposed education budget could jeopardize Wilson County Schools’ teacher training and the recent success of county students.

The proposed budget cuts all Title II funding – $2.4 billion – designated for teacher support and training across the states. If Congress approves the budget, Tennessee stands to lose about $35 million in Title II funds.

“These are the only federal funds focused on teacher improvement and growth, and it is absolutely critical these are protected,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. “Our students have shown incredible growth over the last few years, and we will not continue to see that same success unless we fully support our educators.”

McQueen sent a letter June 13 urging U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reconsider eliminating Title II funds, saying they are critical to students’ success. Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright shared similar sentiments.

“Title II funds play a critical role in our ability to provide professional development for our teachers and principals. Without them, we won’t be able to provide the focused teacher training that’s necessary to meet the needs of all students. Without the funding, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for most districts in our state to subsidize the loss of those dollars,” Wright said.

In the letter to DeVos, McQueen said teachers are the No. 1 in-school factor in improving student achievement. She wrote, “supporting our teachers and leaders from educator preparation programs, to the classroom, and through their careers is the only way to achieve success for all students.”

Tennessee’s 146 school districts use Title II funding to augment salaries for teachers in leadership roles, recruit quality teachers, provide training and support for educators and hire academic coaches, among other things.

Monty Wilson, Wilson County Schools deputy director of academics, said professional development training tied to Title II funds include Advanced Placement training, as well as training sessions in all content areas, such as math, reading, writing and more.

Wilson said the funds are also used to help offset the cost of hiring substitute teachers to fill-in for teachers who are attending professional development activities.

“Many districts would likely be forced to eliminate some certified positions. For example, we currently use these funds to pay for two full-time academic coaches [one for math and one for reading language arts]. These jobs would either have to be eliminated all together, or the county would have to find a way to fund the positions using local dollars,” Wilson said.

The district’s budget includes $250,000 from Title II funds.

McQueen said rural districts, which typically don’t have a tax base or private money to turn to when federal dollars are lost, could be crippled.

“It is imperative that rural districts are successful in developing their local talent, because it is more challenging for them to recruit teachers from outside their community,” McQueen wrote.

Jason Bell, an executive board member of the Tennessee Rural Education Association, said the consequences of funding cuts for rural districts are often overlooked.

“Rural districts are already doing so much with so little,” he said. “ Anytime there is a cut, rural districts’ budgets are so small, it’s really significant.”

 Though it’s one of the single- largest line items cut, Title II funding isn’t the only thing on the chopping block this year. Overall, Trump’s budget proposes to cut education funding by about $9 billion – 13.5 percent.

Other cuts include college assistance for low-income students, mental health services in schools, art programs, language studies and anti-bullying activities.

The administration hopes to use some of the savings to boost school choice – its top priority – by about $400 million. Another $1 billion would be set aside to push public schools across the country to adopt choice-friendly policies.

But the education department’s largest expenditures in K-12 education – special education and Title I funds that support poor children – are unchanged from the first half of fiscal 2017. However, schools educating large shares of poor students are likely to receive less money because of a new law that allows states to take a percentage of Title I money for school improvement initiatives before distributing the funds to districts.

The administration’s budget proposal is far from finalized, and resistance is expected from Capitol Hill. Some lawmakers, fierce opponents of DeVos, are opposed to vouchers and want to protect their states’ education funding.

Tennessee has increased support of teachers by $100 million this year and by $300 million since 2015, and McQueen said the state absolutely believes these are the right investments.

“But we all have to come to the table to support our schools financially, and that is why the federal proposal is so concerning to us, particularly in the cuts it makes to Title II,” she said.

Kendi A. Rainwater with the Chattanooga Times Free Press contributed to this report.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Economic group talks new projects

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
The Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board executive committee reflected on a busy June and discussed the status of several projects during last Thursday’s monthly meeting.

The Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board executive committee received an update last Thursday on the group’s activities and new and current projects in the county.

G.C. Hixson, Wilson County JECDB executive director, said the group had a busy June with several meetings, appointments and events, including RECon, the annual global conference sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers.  

The group used the four-day event to attract retailers, shopping center owners and developers to Wilson County. Each city leaders also held meetings to attract retail to their respective cities.

Hixson and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto also met with Panattonni Development representatives last month to discuss potential assistance and incentives for the Nashville Superspeedway property.

Panattoni, an international commercial real estate development company that specializes in industrial, office and build-to-suit projects, bought the Superspeedway last year from Dover Motorsports for $27.5 million.

Panattoni has not announced its plans for the land or Superspeedway, which opened in 2001 and held four major races a year during its peak, including two NASCAR Nationwide Series races and two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races. 

Hixson also highlighted several new and current projects in the area.

New projects were codenamed Renaissance, Blue Wave and Palm.

Project Renaissance features an Asian-based solar corporation that desires a location to build a 450,000-square-foot “solar cell” manufacturing operation. The group prefers 25-40 acres on rail, but would consider other alternatives.

The project has a $180 million investment estimate and employment demand of 1,100 positions.

Project Blue Wave would be a $30 million investment on a 325-person consumer products manufacturing facility that requires 25-50 acres. A critical component for the project is accessibility of subsurface water to be purified by the company and then used in the manufacturing process.

Project Palm features a Japanese client that seeks to build an additional tier-one manufacturing facility. The company requires maximum “industrial setting” of 30 acres with “shovel-ready” sites preferred. Phase one of Project Palm would include construction of a 150,000-square-foot facility.

Representatives for Project Instrument will revisit three Wilson County sites next week. Project Instrument features an international music company that seeks to build a 100,000-120,000-square-foot center that would serve as its U.S. headquarters, showroom, customer service center and distribution facility.

The JECDB is also finalizing PILOT documents for Project Source.

The project features a global manufacturer and distributor of medical products and devices. A site in Beckwith Farms Development off Interstate 40 in Mt. Juliet is under final consideration.

The company would build a 260,000-square-feet specialized e-commerce and distribution service center. 

The project would require an investment of $18.5 million in real and $1.5 million in personal property values. The first phase of employment would require 30 employees with pay that would average more than $32,603 per year. 

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Haslam highlights grocery tax cut at Mt. Juliet business

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Chris Houston, owner of Houston’s Meat and Produce in Mt. Juliet, welcomes Gov. Bill Haslam, Rep. Susan Lynn and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, as well as others to the store last Thursday. Haslam visited Houston’s to highlight the 20-percent reduction in the state’s grocery tax that took effect July 1.

Governor, other leaders visit Houston’s Meat and Produce

Gov. Bill Haslam visited Houston’s Meat and Produce in Mt. Juliet last Thursday to tout the state’s grocery tax reduction, which took effect July 1 as a part of the IMPROVE Act.

The IMPROVE Act created the largest tax cut in state history while delivering a safe, reliable and debt-free transportation network, according to Haslam. The IMPROVE Act cuts $125 million in sales tax on groceries by reducing the tax rate from 5 to 4 percent and is a net tax savings for average Tennessee families – a fact confirmed by the Americans for Tax Reform, an organization that opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.

“We live in a very conservative state, and there was no way we were just going to go and raise a tax like the gas tax – no matter how badly it was needed – without addressing the other side,” Haslam said.

The state’s gas tax increased by 4 cents for every gallon Saturday as a part of the IMPROVE Act, which prioritizes 962 road and bridge projects across all of Tennessee’s 95 counties, addressing a $10.5 billion backlog in repairs and updates.

“We’ve reduced the cost of government, and we’re returning those dollars in tax cuts. The sales tax on food is a tax that all Tennesseans pay, and the IMPROVE Act is a conservative and responsible plan that puts dollars back into the pockets of all Tennesseans by cutting the grocery tax and directly addresses how we fund our roads and bridges for the first time in 30 years,” Haslam said.

Under the IMPROVE Act, a total of 962 projects throughout the state are set to start within the next eight years, including 10 Wilson County road projects. 

Among the Wilson County projects are two highly debated roadways in State Route 109 and South Mt. Juliet Road. The State Route 109 project is designated for the roadway from Highway 70 and north to the county line at Dry Fork Creek. The 7.5 miles of work is estimated to cost $18.5 million. The South Mt. Juliet Road project is estimated to cost $25.4 million to address the area between Central Pike and Providence Way. 

The IMPROVE Act also cuts business taxes for manufacturers by $113 million and has already helped attract manufacturing jobs to the state. In May, Nokian Tyres cited the IMPROVE Act as a major factor in its decision to invest $360 million in a new tire manufacturing facility in Dayton that is expected to create 400 new jobs, according to Haslam.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Tattoo shop battles city zoning

City calls tattoo shops adult entertainment, areas limited to ink

Owners of a family owned tattoo parlor raised issues with the city of Mt. Juliet’s classification for their business after they said the city would not issue them a business license.

Michael Lanning, owner of Division Street Tattoo Co., addressed the Mt. Juliet Commission on Monday after he said the city refused to give him a business license for his shop at 2176 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

“Come to find out, the tattoo industry in this town is considered the adult entertainment industry,” said Lanning, who said he has tattooed professionally since 2002.

Under the Mt. Juliet zoning regulation, tattoo parlors and body piercing establishments are classified as adult entertainment businesses, such as adult bookstores, adult motion picture theaters and adult stores.

“Never in my tattooing career have any of those things ever been in conjunction with the tattoo industry,” Lanning said. “A vast majority of our community has some type of tattoo. Tattoos are no longer associated with thugs, gangsters and bikers. The tattoo community is respectable. The art community is even more respectable.”

Mt. Juliet zoning administrator Jennifer Stewart said based on Mt. Juliet Planning Commission documents, city commissioners requested a change in zoning related to tattoo parlors in 2013 after the group received several complaints about tattoo parlors within the city.

“Therefore, they had asked staff to revise the classification and change activity type,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure exactly why it was moved under adult entertainment.”

“There’s nobody up here that thinks a tattoo shop is associated with sex per say,” Commissioner Brian Abston said during Monday’s meeting. “We have zoning in the city of Mt. Juliet where that’s allowed. You are perfectly able to put your business in that area. You just can’t put it in the area, I guess, that you’re wanting to.”

Stewart said the adult entertainment business activity type is only permitted in the industrial general zoning as an overlay district. She said there are some parcels along Industrial Drive and near the future Golden Bear Gateway that are zoned industrial general.

“We’re trying to change the image of the tattoo industry and yet, you guys are going to shove us off back here on Industrial [Drive]. The only shopping complex out there that’s super nice we’re not even zoned for because we’re under this ordinance and how you guys are classifying us,” Lanning said.

Stewart said despite the work Lanning has done on his desired shop on North Mt. Juliet Road, the city only learned about the business late last week when Lanning applied for the business license.

“There have been no approvals given by the city for this business. No permits were ever pulled for the new sign they installed, nor were building permits were ever pulled to cover the remodel of the existing space,” Stewart said. “Had they followed proper procedures by pulling the appropriate permits, or at least contacting the zoning department, they would have been informed sooner that the use was not allowed in their current zoning district.”

Stewart said the process to remove tattoo and body piercing establishments from the classification would take about eight weeks. She said the property owner would have to make a request to the city planning commission for a recommendation of change to the Mt. Juliet City Commission.

The commission would have to approve the change on two readings.

“I’m not sure about the image everyone has of a tattoo shop, especially with what’s been in Mt. Juliet. We’re a family business,” said Lanning’s wife, Hannah. “There’s so much more that we do besides put ink on people. I really hope that you guys will forget any tension and please keep that in mind. This is our livelihood. This is what we do. They allow them everywhere else except for here. It’s such a large city. You have so many people who want this here.”

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com