District discusses bus driver shortage

The Wilson County school board discussed the district’s bus driver shortage Monday during its monthly board meeting.
Board member Tom Sottek said there is desperate need to get more bus drivers to make sure all routes are covered in the district.

“I know this is an issue all across the state,” Sottek said.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said bus driver shortage is a national issue shaped by the uptick in the nation’s economy.

“They have choices to make, and their choices being full-time work at higher rate, truck driving and anything that requires that CDL,” she said.

Wright said the situation is intensified when you add factors that surround bus drivers daily.

“It is a hard job. We have parents and children who are disrespectful to bus drivers. We deal with that quite a bit. We can change behavior in kids, but seldom can we change behavior in adults,” said Wright, who said some parents make condescending remarks against bus drivers, which has caused some drivers to quit.

“Busing is privilege, not a right, so we can suspend those people from the buses,” said board member Wayne McNeese.

The district has attempted to address the driver shortage for several years, especially with the return of transportation director Jerry Partlow last year.

Partlow, upon his return, said the system would likely need to increase a few routes due to growth in ridership in the county. Wright said the district has enough funding and buses, but it just doesn’t have enough people willing to get behind the wheel.

“We’re addressing it, but one of the things we’ve found out is we can increase pay, but that’s not the satisfier, and we’ve got to figure out what we can do,” she said.

Wright said current bus drivers make every attempt to make sure students are picked up and delivered, which often means doubling routes and picking up for one another.

“We are making every effort to do the best we can, and I cannot thank the bus drivers enough,” Wright said.

Wilson County Schools Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said he would work with Partlow to make a report for next month’s meeting to look at possible solutions and alternatives.

“Jerry and I have been talking about some ways to do that, so we’ll formalize it into a report for you all,” Hall said.

“We understand parents’ frustrations,” Wright said.

By Xavier Smith


Did You Know? What’s up with that?

Do you regularly see things that make you say, “What’s up with that?

I know I sure do. For example, what’s up with all these pillows on our beds these days? When I was a child, I had one and maybe two pillows max on the bed. Now we have like 10 or so. As a result of all these pillows, it now takes me what feels like nearly an hour combined to remove all the pillows from the bed at night and then strategically place them in their spots in the mornings. As a result, I’m thinking about just sleeping in the floor just so I don’t have to mess with them at all.

And what’s up with what all this trash I see all over the place? Apparently some folks don’t know what a trashcan looks like. If you are one who doesn’t know what a trash can is, let me explain. A trashcan is where you put trash, and they can be found pretty much everywhere. A trashcan is not opening your car door and sitting your trash – whatever it may be – on the ground.

A trashcan is not the bed of your truck so it blows out going down the road, and a trash can is certainly not rolling down your window and throwing it out so it ends up along our streets and in other people’s yards and property just so you don’t have to mess with it. And a trashcan is definitely not finding a place to dump your trash along a roadside or on someone’s property simply because you are too lazy to drive to a landfill or one of our convenience centers.

Sorry to sound harsh, but someone has to pick up your mess, and in the end, it costs us all a lot of money. We live in a wonderful country and can do much better than this, so if you are one of the ones that think littering isn’t a big deal it is. Not only is it lazy to litter, but it’s also very disrespectful and costly.

What’s up with driving on a parkway and parking in a driveway? What’s up with calling a pair of pants a pair when it’s only one? Why does a dentist talk to you when you can’t talk back in the dentist chair? Why do we call them chicken fingers when chickens don’t have fingers? Why do businesses charge $99.99 or $1.99? They must think it makes us feel better than $200 or $2.

And lastly, Why does lemonade have imitation flavoring, but furniture polish contains real lemon juice? Just a few of the things that make me say, “What’s up with that?”

Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.

Longtime economic development board director resigns

One of the founding members of the Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board officially resigned Tuesday after more than 25 years on the board.

Nelson Steed was among the original group of local community and business leaders that created the board in 1989 with a focus for economic and community development throughout Wilson County.

Steed informed the Wilson County JECDB executive committee earlier this month that he did not intend to seek re-election for the three positions he held – executive committee representative, board chairman and position No. 17 on the board.

“I’m going to the farm for good. I’ve been here, I don’t know – 26, 27 years – most of my life,” Steed said.

“I appreciate you for your service and starting this organization. You have laid a great foundation. I appreciate your leadership,” Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said.

G.C. Hixson, JECDB executive director, also praised Steed’s service in a letter to the “dedicated leader.”

“Your term and chairmanship of the board has provided leadership, structure, strength and, when always necessary, a true dose of common sense. For that, the community should and is forever appreciative. Your work has resulted in creation of jobs, growth in revenue and quality of life advances. Most importantly, however, you’ve changed the lives of individuals and their families,” Hixson said.

Hixson said Steed serviced the county not for his own personal reward, but for the love of Wilson County.

“I’ll still be around. I’m just going to sit on the front porch of my store in a rocking chair and watch them pick strawberries or whatever, but I’ll be around,” Steed said.

Don Chambers will fill Steed’s position on the executive committee, while Caleb Thorne will serve as board chairman and John Bryan will step into position No. 17 on the board.

The board also approved its 2017-2018 fiscal year budget, which takes effect June 1. The overall budget is about $16,000 more than the 2016-2017 budget.

The budget includes a 3 percent raise for staff, and JECDB treasurer Phil Smartt said the body looked at employee increases in Wilson County and cities before making a decision.

Smartt also said the increase includes an increase in rent that the group will incur when it moves its office to the future Lebanon Airport terminal building.

By Xavier Smith


State Farm agents donate to Pickett Chapel restoration

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News State Farm agents Clark Boyd, Kay Maynard and Wayne Lokey, of Lebanon, and Jeff Gannon, Darian Horne, Corky Cross and Charlie Brooks of Mt. Juliet, donate $2,500 to Mary Harris, president of the Wilson County Black History Committee, for the Pickett Chapel restoration project. Pictured with the group are other members of the committee.

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
State Farm agents Clark Boyd, Kay Maynard and Wayne Lokey, of Lebanon, and Jeff Gannon, Darian Horne, Corky Cross and Charlie Brooks of Mt. Juliet, donate $2,500 to Mary Harris, president of the Wilson County Black History Committee, for the Pickett Chapel restoration project. Pictured with the group are other members of the committee.

Several insurance agents took the company motto to heart Tuesday as they joined together to give to an ongoing historic preservation project.

State Farm agents from Lebanon and Mt. Juliet banded together to give $2,500 to the Wilson County Black History Committee for the ongoing Pickett Chapel restoration project.

State Farm agents included: Jeff Gannon, Clark Boyd, Kay Maynard and Wayne Lokey, of Lebanon, and Darian Horne, Corky Cross and Charlie Brooks, of Mt. Juliet.

“Like a good neighbor is more than just a slogan and this is an example of the rubber meeting the road,” said Kipp Diggs, State Farm public affair specialist.

The $2,500 donation will go toward the ongoing restoration project of the oldest church building and oldest surviving red brick building in the county. Slaves and freed blacks who were skilled laborers built the church and congregated, in separate sections, with white members.

Wilson County and City of Lebanon leaders have discussed the renovation project and potential future of the building.

The building lacks about $422,000 needed to complete the renovation project, which consists of about 56 remaining work items. Phillip Hodge, Wilson County Black History Committee member, said the group did not know about 25 of the items required to bring the building to code when the group presented to the Wilson County Budget Committee last year.

“This could be a tourism destination for us,” Commissioner Sue Vanatta said during the same meeting.

By Xavier Smith


Nashville chef to give seminar at Batch & Bushel

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News Nashville chef Trey Cioccia adds some garnish to a dish. Cioccia, a chef at the Farm House, will lead a seminar Jan. 20-21 at the Batch & Bushel Showcase at the Wilson County Expo Center.

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Nashville chef Trey Cioccia adds some garnish to a dish. Cioccia, a chef at the Farm House, will lead a seminar Jan. 20-21 at the Batch & Bushel Showcase at the Wilson County Expo Center.

Among the many offerings of the inaugural Batch & Bushel Showcase will be a seminar by Trey Cioccia, chef at the Farm House in Nashville.

Cioccia will present a seminar on farm-to-table cooking.

The Batch & Bushel Showcase, presented by the Wilson County Exposition Center and Lebanon Publishing Co. on Jan 20-21 at the expo center, celebrates the self-sustaining lifestyle, with a variety of options for agricultural hobbyists or small landowners who are interested in that lifestyle.

Cioccia, who is presented by Batch & Bushel platinum sponsor State Farm agent Charlie Brooks, is a native of Wilson County. At the Farm House, he strives to combine seasonally fresh food with great service.

Cioccia works with several local farmers. Brooks said Cioccia will pass on some of his knowledge from his time with the Farm House.

“I’m looking forward to having a Wilson County native share his stories and ideas,” Brooks said.

“I want to share the flavors and cultures I grew up with,” Cioccia said, “and that’s exactly what our guests will experience when they dine with us at the Farm House.” 

Brooks said he was excited to get on board with the Batch & Bushel Showcase as soon as event organizers told him what it was all about.

“I’ve lived in Wilson County my entire life, so I know how important agriculture is to our county, and how important it has always been since the foundation of our county,” Brooks said.

“To see it kind of reinvented in a different way, and showcase the ways that agriculture still plays a big part today, I think that makes this a very exciting event. As soon as they told me about it, I thought about Trey, and how he would be a perfect fit.”

Batch & Bushel Showcase will also feature many more prominent local agriculture-related people and programs. Southern Bank will present a special southern-related portion of the Batch & Bushel Showcase.

“Southern Bank of Tennessee is excited to be sponsoring the Southern Market that will include a section of local vendors featuring southern home goods, crafts, and style,” said Justin Cary, senior vice president with Southern Bank.

“Southern Bank is all about supporting local small business and being involved in the community. We are grateful for being a part of the event that will showcase anything from decorations for your home to clothing all made by local small businesses. Southern Bank employees will be handing out refreshments and we will have a drawing for two Cracker Barrel rocking chairs.”

The cost to attend the Batch & Bushel Showcase is $5 per person, and children under 12 get in free. The event is from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Jan 20-21.

More details about the Batch & Bushel Showcase will be revealed on “Talk of the Town” on News Channel 5 on Jan. 19 at 11 a.m. For more information about the event, call 615-444-3952.

By Jake Old


Residents and developers clash again

Once again, residents pushed back against allowing developers to add high-density housing in Mt. Juliet’s core citing already suffering streets and schools they say are becoming overcrowded.

On Jan. 9, commissioners voted unanimously to not allow the Villas at Tuscan Gardens to be built by denying the developers a switch in zoning to high-density housing for roughly 50 acres near Park Glen Drive and Park Knoll Lane to accommodate 313 townhouses.

The Villas at Tuscan Gardens came before the commission with a negative recommendation from the city’s planning department. According to Mt. Juliet Planning Department staff notes, the project would be the third multi-family development proposal on the north side of Mt. Juliet in recent years.

Still, members of the community around the project showed up to voice opposition mostly because they believe Mt. Juliet is growing at such a fast pace. Concerns are that the project will add to congestion on Lebanon Road and Golden Bear Gateway and the cut-through traffic through neighborhoods contiguous to the project would worsen.

Briana Bays, who has spoken on behalf of a group called the “Northtown Mt. Juliet Says No Group,” came again to oppose the development.

“Our infrastructure cannot hand the increase volume of traffic,” Bays said. “Our schools cannot handle the increase in student enrollment. I do realize that is a county issue and not a city issue, but I feel it must be mentioned.”

Bays said the traffic backs up in Park Glen, Tuscan Gardens, Woodlawn Place, Stone Hollow and Timber Trails “daily” because the roads throughout those developments were already crowded.

“The traffic volume associated with townhouses will be much higher than it would be with single family homes … Any green space or other improvements offered by the developer will benefit a select few, most likely those purchasing the townhouses,” she said.

Bays’ husband, Jeffrey Bays, came to the podium and gave an emotional speech about the job and life he left behind in New York for what he considered would be an increase in the family’s quality of life in Tennessee.

“I sold my wife on picking up my family and moving down here,” Jeffrey Bays said. “It was based on good education, close to schools,” he said. “What do you know, nine months into it we are rezoned out of our elementary school literally three or four minutes from my house … the amount I have sacrificed for my family to have a stable lifestyle is thrown out the window because some builder says, ‘Yea, I can get an extra couple of hundred thousand dollars.’”

Danny Wamble with Wamble and Associates, the Nashville-based civil firm engineering the project, told the commission the plans were to build a community that would not impact the area negatively.

“The majority of the opposition comments to engineering that I have heard have centered around drainage and traffic. The project would be designed according to the city’s floodplain management requirement,” said Wamble. “We have done a traffic study already. This traffic study states that with the installation of the traffic light on Lebanon Road at Park Glen Drive, there are no other improvements required.”

Wamble asked commissioner to approve rezoning but also to give the engineering firm advice on a redesign if they could not.

Jennifer Brannan, managing member of developers Camco Investments, said residents were not taking into consideration that the development would raise property values because townhome owners pay a homeowners association fee to keep the exteriors in good condition, as opposed to single-family homes.

“First, we would like for you to put out of your mind what you normally think of when you think of a townhome development or townhome community,” Brannan told the commission. “What we are proposing is to build in The Villas of Tuscan Gardens is not anything quite like what you are familiar with. What we propose is a truly unique product that will provide benefits to every homeowner that aren’t found in a typical townhome development and certainly aren’t found anywhere else in Mt. Juliet.”

Brannan said later she was concerned the process did not allow for the development to be discussed because the project was pulled from the planning commission’s September meeting where the public was allowed to tell their views on the townhomes, but the project’s developers were not.

“We wanted to present our plan then, and we were not allowed to do so. Residents were able to give their comments, but we were not,” Brannan said. “We were under the assumption that we would be able to present, but we were not given the opportunity to show the community or the planning commission the benefits of our proposed plan.”

Commissioner Ray Justice, who was opposed to the development in the past, said he had received calls throughout the day, including one from developer Brent Campbell, from people who wanted feedback on the project.

“I told him that there were not going to be 313 townhomes built over there, and so I don’t know what part of that he didn’t understand … Unless he wants to come here with the zoning he has currently, then there is just really no need for it to be discussed,” Justice said.

By Colleen Creamer

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Clement visits Mt. Juliet Breakfast Rotary Club

Former Congressman Bob Clement was the featured speaker at the Mt. Juliet Breakfast Rotary Club meeting recently and spoke to the group about his many career experiences. 

Clement shared stories of growing up in the governor’s mansion in Tennessee when his father, Frank G. Clement, served as governor. Some of the visitors to the governor’s residence at that time included Harry Truman, Billy Graham and Elvis Presley, he said.

Clement has also served as president of Cumberland University and said it was the toughest job he ever held.

Clement has chronicled his experiences in a recently published book, “Presidents, Kings and Convicts.” The club donated an autographed copy of the book to the Mt. Juliet Public Library. Following the meeting, Clement signed copies of the book for club members.

Staff Reports

MJ4Hope adds to groundswell of hope for Vickers family


The third annual MJ4Hope fundraising event is scheduled to take place Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. at Rutland Elementary School.

The mission of the three-year-old nonprofit is to give back to Mt. Juliet High School alumni, as well as members of the community who need extra financial and emotional support during times of medical crises.

This year, multiple families will benefit, including the Vickers family. Randy Vickers and Ashley Young Vickers both graduated from Mt. Juliet High School in 2001. Ashley Vickers was diagnosed more than two years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is also commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Travel and medical expenses are fast adding up as the family seeks out different treatments to slow the disease’s progression. There is no known cure for ALS, and few medications are approved by the FDA to treat ALS.

Randy Vickers said the diagnosis was certainly not on the young family’s busy schedule, but they are dealing with it.

“Life has thrown us a curve ball, and we are just trying to do the best we can,” Vickers said.

However, according to Vickers, “she is still able to text.”

Randy Vickers said Ashley’s symptoms appeared after the birth of the couple’s fourth child. They have four children 14, 8, 7 and 2 years old. Symptoms began with a weakening of her arms, and later began to affect the rest of her body, making day-to-day functions such as walking and speaking nearly impossible.

ALS has certain characterizations such as stiff muscles, muscle twitching and chronic worsening that results in weakness due to the muscles decreasing in size, which then results in difficulty in speaking, swallowing and eventually breathing.

The family is looking forward to getting a power chair and a ramp built for the house to make life a little more manageable while they continue to look for medicines that will help Ashley remain a vital part of her children’s lives.

Randy Vickers expressed his gratitude for the family and friends who were willing to help with the care of the children.

Ashley Vickers, a nurse and event planner, has experimented with multiple different drugs, and the costs add up. Their journey has taken them to a number of states and clinics in the United States and as far away as Russia for stem-cell treatment.

The Hoops4Hope 2017 event will take place at Rutland Elementary School at 4 p.m.

An alumni basketball game, three-point shooting contest, barbecue dinner and silent auction will also take place. All of the money raised will go to families, including the Vickers.

To reserve a spot on an alumni basketball or cheer team, to buy tickets for the three-point contest for high school and under or to sponsor, visit mj4hope.org. For more updates and information regarding the event, visit the nonprofit’s Facebook page.

By Colleen Creamer

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Did You Know? Learn some fire safety tips

Did you know that during 2015, there were more than 1.3 million fires reported in the United States, which resulted in 3,280 deaths, 15,700 injuries and caused $14.3 billion in property damage?  This means a fire department somewhere in the U.S. responded to a fire every 23 seconds. An outside fire happened every 52 seconds.

The No. 1 cause of house fires is cooking or cooking equipment. The second cause of a home fire is heating or heating equipment. Since we have a need, sometimes, for augmenting our heat during the winter and we cook more during winter months than summer, these two main causes of home fires would make sense.

Have you ever worried about how you would get out of your home in case of a fire? Who is most at risk for being able to get out of the house when it’s on fire? These questions and more can be answered at mtjuliet-tn.gov.

Once you’re at the Mt. Juliet website, go to the tab that says “Citizen Services” and a drop-down box will show up. Roll your mouse over to “Fire Prevention” in that drop box.  A page will come up full of links for you to browse. There are even safety tip sheets from the National Fire Prevention Association, which can be downloaded and printed to learn even more information.

As you scroll down the NFPA page, you will see a list on causes of home fires, planning your escape from a home fire, fire and safety equipment, household equipment to keep an eye on, seasonal items such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter freezes and storms and how to prepare and be safe for them.

For every two house fires, there is one outdoor fire. Tip sheets on those include information on how to be safe with campfires, fireworks, grilling, lightning, transportation and unintentional injuries such as scalding.

Under the “Populations” tab, there are sheets relating to babysitting safety, hoarding and fire, pet fire safety, people with disabilities, Shabbat fire safety and young fire starters. What child isn’t fascinated with fire?

All these can be downloaded easily in order for every family to be prepared this winter and throughout the year.

At the top of the page, there are also links to winter safety tips on heating the home with fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and kerosene heaters. There is also a link for Smokey the Bear and being responsible in the outdoors and national parks. Another good link is for “Safe Kids,” a way to help keep our children safe.

With winter squarely upon us, would it not be wise to peruse these articles and make ourselves aware of potential problems and how to keep them from being a problem? Knowing how to escape a home fire would be mandatory, even if a fire never happens. Where to meet once the family is out of the home. In reading that our elders and children under 6 have the hardest time getting out of a burning house, plans are needed to be able to safely get everyone out of the home.

Please check it out. With one house fire every 23 seconds, now would be the time to get prepared.

Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.

No injuries reported in house fire

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos Mt. Juliet firefighters battled a house fire Saturday afternoon on Parrish Hill.

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos
Mt. Juliet firefighters battled a house fire Saturday afternoon on Parrish Hill.

No injuries were reported in a house fire on Parrish Hill in Mt. Juliet on Saturday afternoon.

According to Mt. Juliet Fire Chief Jamie Luffman, firefighters did not determine how the fire started. When crews arrived, the saw that the home’s garage was heavily involved.

“There were containers with flammable liquids,” in the garage, Luffman said.

Firefighters arrived on the scene within minutes of getting the call. Luffman said he was on his way to Kroger on his day off when the call came through, and he immediately headed to the scene.

The house was salvageable, though the fire came through the roof, Luffman said.

“When you see that, it’s never a good sign,” he said.

As firefighters were working the fire, they saw a cat escaped the home, Luffman said.

“We’re proud to report that,” Luffman said.

Luffman said he recommends people do proper annual inspections on their heating and air conditioning units and make sure they pay attention to any space heaters used in the winter months.

By Jake Old


Wilson County Black History Committee to celebrate life, legacy of Martin Luther King

The Wilson County Black History Committee will hold the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March and Brunch on Jan. 14.

The march will start at Cedars of Lebanon Baptist Church at 201 Beard Ave., where Elder Gregory Milford is pastor. Marchers will gather at 9 a.m. for registration and prayer, and the march will start at 9:45 a.m.

There will be a stop at historic Pickett Chapel for a short presentation and a walk through the chapel afterwards. The march will continue to Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church at 633 Glover St., where the Rev. Michael Ruttlen is pastor.

Brunch and a short program to recognize clergy, sanitation workers, elected officials, civil rights activist and educators will follow the march.

Children younger than 12 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call 615-444-9487 or 615-568-1877.

Staff Reports

Uninsured motorists identified by new insurance verification system

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Revenue plans to launch a new insurance verification system in early 2017 to promote compliance with the state’s financial responsibility law.

Ahead of the program’s launch next month, the Department of Revenue encourages motorists to ensure that proper insurance coverage or other financial responsibility is in effect for their vehicles. In particular, motorists should make sure that their vehicle identification number is correct on registration and insurance documents.

“Tennessee already has a financial responsibility law that applies to Tennessee drivers,” said Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano. “The goal of this new system is to efficiently and effectively check compliance in order to reduce the number of motorists who lack insurance or another form of financial responsibility.”

The James Lee Atwood, Jr. Law was passed during the 2015 legislative session in order to help reduce the overall number of uninsured drivers on Tennessee roadways. As part of the law, the Tennessee Department of Revenue developed an insurance verification program, which will be implemented in January.

Under the program, all insurance carriers registered to write personal automobile liability policies in Tennessee must register with the department and provide required policy information. The state’s new insurance verification system will check the policies provided by the insurance companies against all currently registered VINs in Tennessee.

Rather than checking for insurance coverage at the time of registration renewal, the system will verify insurance coverage on a continual basis throughout the year.

If the system is unable to confirm insurance coverage for a vehicle, a notice will be sent to that owner directing him or her to a website where he or she can provide proof of minimum liability insurance or other means of financial responsibility. If a customer does not respond to the initial notice, subsequent notices will follow. Failure to comply with the notices could result in fines and eventual vehicle registration suspension.

For more information about the department’s new program, visit driveinsuredtn.com.

Staff Reports 

Middle Tennessee Electric donates to SCAN

Photo courtesy of Facebook Officials from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office’s Senior Citizens Awareness Network program and representatives from the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp. stand next to the many items donated by MTEMC in its recent donation drive to benefit the nonprofit program, which aids local seniors who are in need.

Photo courtesy of Facebook
Officials from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office’s Senior Citizens Awareness Network program and representatives from the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp. stand next to the many items donated by MTEMC in its recent donation drive to benefit the nonprofit program, which aids local seniors who are in need.

The Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp. completed its annual drive to benefit the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office’s Senior Citizens Awareness Network program.

In total, about 2,100 items and 1,500 pounds of food were donated by MTEMC. This year marks the second year of such a drive by MTEMC. The drive began Nov. 1 and ran through Dec. 9. MTEMC asked for donations of various items each week.

The SCAN program benefits numerous seniors in the community. The sheriff’s office posted on Facebook last week about its appreciation for the effort.

“It comes just in time for SCAN volunteers to deliver Christmas baskets to its senior citizen participants,” the Facebook post said.

MTEMC’s Becky Smith told SCAN Director Debbie Paré and Sgt. Don Witherspoon that the company is happy to help.

“I know I can email you [about a senior with needs] and someone [with SCAN] will be checking on that person,” she said. “We really appreciate it.”

For more information about SCAN services or to become a volunteer, call the sheriff’s office at 615-444-1412, ext. 499.

Staff Reports

Resident offers solution to light display traffic

Former Wilson County school board candidate Chad Karl recently introduced a possible solution to traffic woes created by a popular Wilson County Christmas light exhibit.

“Every year, the residents along [State Route 109] dread the impending traffic created by Chad’s Winter Wonderland at 791 Old Laguardo Road E. They know that this is going to be a problem and every year are frustrated by the terrible traffic gridlock that occurs on peak nights, mostly Friday and Saturday nights between Thanksgiving and New Year’s,” said Karl, who said he hasn’t seen the issue addressed.

“Once the car line to get into see the lights fills up Old Laguardo, then 109 completely stops and becomes the line to get in to see the lights. This is not simply nuisance traffic. This completely shuts down the major road connecting the northern part of the county,” he said.

Karl said the traffic creates 30-45-minute delays for some drivers and, seemingly, makes it impossible for emergency personnel to pass the area without delay. Karl said the issue becomes more complicated since it involves a state road, county residence and Lebanon city property.

However, Karl said the issue could possibly be resolved by changing the traffic flow to use the Northern Road access to Old Laguardo Road as the entrance to Chad’s Winter Wonderland.

“This simple change would allow a much larger number of cars to back up before 109 would be completely blocked,” said Karl, who said he shared the information with owner and Wilson County Commissioner Chad Barnard. “I have heard people say that when 109 is widened it will help, but that is most likely four to five years away from being complete. Until that time, there needs to be some other solution.”

Karl said the traffic is not due to a one-time event or an unforeseeable set of circumstances, which means proper changes should be taken.

“It seems unfair that one person can cause an event that disrupts traffic to this degree with no ramifications or responsibility. This literally affects thousands of people who just want to be able to get home,” he said.

By Xavier Smith


Retirement ends Ricketts’ alternative fuels era at MTSU

Submitted to The Democrat Recently retired Middle Tennessee State University professor and alternative fuels researcher Cliff Ricketts, of Mt. Juliet, takes a break from his recent research drive using a combination of a wood gasification unit and gasoline.

Submitted to The Democrat
Recently retired Middle Tennessee State University professor and alternative fuels researcher Cliff Ricketts, of Mt. Juliet, takes a break from his recent research drive using a combination of a wood gasification unit and gasoline.

MURFREESBORO – The Cliff Ricketts era of alternative fuels research at Middle Tennessee State University ended recently with one final attempt to successfully drive U.S. 231 in Tennessee between the Kentucky and Alabama state lines using a wood gasification process.

Recently retired after a 40-year career as an MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience professor and agriculture education teacher, Ricketts, of Mt. Juliet, completed the 131-mile trip Dec. 13 from near Scottsville, Ky., to near Hazel Green, Ala.

However, he and his team – which included MTSU senior Colton Huckabee, of Columbia, – needed to use part wood and part gasoline to make it work. 

Ricketts, 68, has crisscrossed the U.S. for five decades, researching ways to use fuel other than gas to make vehicles go. His alternative methods have included waste animal chicken fat or “Southern fried fuel” as it was called; hydrogen from water separated by the sun; corn, methane from cow manure, soybean oil and others.

“This is part of the research process and we ran out of time before we could make [wood gasification] work,” said Ricketts, who overcame a number of failed attempts in the past. “We did our research on wood gasification. The attempt did not meet our expectations. It didn’t work as well as we had hoped. I know we could have made it work if we had had more time.”

Ricketts said his biggest accomplishment was “coming up with the process to make America energy independent in a time of a national crisis.” He said his primary duty, teaching agriculture students to educate others, impacted “350 to 400 certified teachers, so my work will end up affecting thousands of lives.”

MTSU will replace Ricketts by next fall, but he does not anticipate any colleague or a new hire to follow his path with alternative fuels.

“It was something I invented – a side passion,” he said. “There is little or none [alternative fuel research] in agriculture. It’s in engineering.”

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet says no to apartments

At a packed meeting of the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission on Thursday, city residents showed up in force to block the commission’s approval to rezone two large tracts of land to high-density housing, effectively stopping both Northtown Village and the Villas at Tuscan Gardens from gaining further traction.

The 280-unit complex called Northtown Village was slated for a tract of land southeast of North Mt. Juliet Road and Lebanon Road. City officials previously asked Cumberland Advisors, the developers, to add a traffic light, which they had agreed to do.

Many residents also showed up to oppose the Villas at Tuscan Gardens request to change to high-density housing for roughly 50 acres near Park Glen Drive and Park Knoll Lane, also citing traffic, but also flooding concerns. The site is directly affected by Cedar Creek as the creek forms the southern and western border of the site.

Briana Bays, who spoke on behalf of a group that had spilled into the hallway of the meeting, said Northtown Village is too dense for the area.

“We will continue to show up and speak out at these meetings until this request is formally denied both here and at the [city] commission,” said Bays. “The infrastructure cannot handle the traffic. Our schools cannot handle the increase in student enrollment.”

Bays said currently the middle school bus now has to pick up high school students, adding she bought her home based on the distance of her home to all three schools she believed her children would attend.

“That is no longer the case,” she said.

“Daily the traffic backs up…These roads cannot be expanded as they are within developed neighborhoods,” Bays said. “Our children’s safety will be compromised if the zoning is approved…Any improvements that may be offered by the developer will not solve the traffic flow in our neighborhoods.”

Freddie Weston, general manager for West Wilson Utility District, which is next door to the proposed townhouses, said West Wilson was not opposed to the development but did say the business operated day and night and that there would be noise coming from troubleshooting during the night.

“We are not opposed,” Weston said. “The only thing we are worried about is we have to run at all hours of the night, and there’s going to be noise issues coming from our property.”

Northtown Village was presented by developer Cumberland Advisors as two- and three-bedroom units that would be priced in the $1,000-$2,000-per-month range. Twelve buildings were proposed as well three 3 acres of the 20 acres for future commercial development.

Mt. Juliet High School student Madeline Smith, who lives in nearby Park Glen, took to the podium and said students now attending Mt. Juliet High School had to “sit on the floor” of the bus due to bus capacity.

“We are already overcrowded,” Smith said. “I am opposed to the rezoning to high-density housing.”

Commissioner Ray Justice, who represents the district in which the townhouses would be built, said he’s been in discussions with residents and could not back the development.

“This project cannot go through,” Justice said. “I have talked to several people, but I have not had the opportunity to talk to you guys just yet. But 313 town homes puts enough traffic in the internal parts of that subdivision that it would be gridlock getting in and out, so it would go from gridlock to gridlock, so it’s a lose-lose.”

By Colleen Creamer

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Firefighters respond to 8 weekend brush fires

Wilson Emergency Management Agency firefighters responded to eight grass and brush fires, as well as a structure fire, from Friday through Sunday, and officials reminded residents not to burn outside without a permit despite a recent burn ban lift.

WEMA director Joey Cooper said relative humidity levels dropped to 27 percent during the weekend, which caused grass and leaves to further dry out despite wet soil.

The structure fire broke out Friday in a detached garage at a home at 10601 Central Pike. Firefighters put the chimney fire out from a wood burning stove with some overhaul of the area around the flue. Firefighters arrived to find the homeowner trying to put the fire out with a garden hose. Cooper said minimal damage was done to the garage.

Firefighters fought four grass and brush fires Saturday and as many on Sunday. The first was a medium-size outside rubbish fire at 390 Bethlehem Road. The second was at 586 Old Hunters Point Pike that burned ¼ acre and took 600 gallons of water to put it out.

The third was an outside rubbish fire at 4812 Wayside Drive. The homeowner was burning a small pile of leaves without a burn permit when it got out of control.

The fourth was a field fire at 1720 Walnut Grove Road. An acre and a half burned, which firefighters believed was caused from a fire pit used the night before.

On Sunday, firefighters took on a grass fire at 3152 Hunters Point Pike that burned a 50-square-feet area. A fire pit caused the fire.

Firefighters returned to 4812 Wayside Drive on Sunday after the homeowner was found burning a small pile of leaves. The resident was watching the fire, but still didn’t have a permit and was told to put the fire out with a garden hose.

Firefighters battled a grass fire at 504 Amber Drive that burned about an acre of land. The homeowner was burning papers, which caught leaves on fire. It’s uncertain whether the homeowner had a permit.

Firefighters also fought a grass fire at 3114 Palmer Place, where less than ¼ acre burned. It appeared to be started by an unattended burning pile of leaves.

Although Wilson County rescinded the open burn ban, Cooper said residents must still get a burn permit through the state Division of Forestry.

When burning, the fire must be attended throughout.

Cooper said residents shouldn’t burn on windy days because it can cause embers to travel.

If a burn permit is retained, the nearest fire department should be notified with the burn permit number, day of burn and contact information.

“Although we have had rain, we remain in a drought condition, and vegetation is still considered dry, which will fuel a fire,” Cooper said.

He said there are to requirements to get a burn permit. First, a permit can be found at burnsafetn.org. Second, make sure to notify the nearest fire department. For burning outside city limits, a permit can be done at docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScXK8TV-DrJJB3rf6b5-mjt8_z77xr1yhbWli7ZKhXUv6toxuQ/viewform. 

By Jared Felkins


Mt. Juliet continues toy, food drive

This year, as in years past, the city of Mt. Juliet teamed up with the Marine Corps. Reserves, Big Brothers, Toys for Tots, Kroger and Second Harvest Food Bank through Dec. 23 to provide drop-off points for toys and canned food at several locations in the city. 

Receptacles may be found at City Hall, the Mt. Juliet Community Center, Mt. Juliet Police Headquarters and Fire Department for the City of Mt. Juliet stations 1 and 3. 

During the Christmas season, city officials ask residents to take a little extra time and give a little extra kindness for those in the community in need. 

Staff Reports

Nominations open for Wilson’s top volunteers

Wilson County is accepting nominations for the 2016 Governor’s Volunteer Star Awards, and there’s an easy way to nominate a worthy local volunteer.

The annual award recognizes “outstanding volunteers from each of Tennessee’s 95 counties,” according to the Volunteer Tennessee website.

“We know the value of calling attention to someone’s service and sacrifice; the military does this extremely well, but even in the military, someone has to submit the proper paperwork in order to recognize that special someone,” said Wilson County committee member John McMillin. “Honestly, nominating someone for outstanding volunteer service isn’t a lot of work to reward someone’s dedication, hard work and creativity.”

Nominations for youth and adults may be made. Nominations for Wilson County honorees will be accepted through Dec. 16. At that time, a committee will go through the nominees and select one youth and one adult to send on to the state level.

“The deadline to get them into the state is Dec. 30,” he said.

McMillin, who is executive director of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland, said, “from my standpoint I’m thankful for a volunteer no matter what level.

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with volunteers in this county who are simply amazing. I’m happy to be working with the county mayor and our local Volunteer Stars award committee to search these people out and be able to give some recognition where it is truly deserved.”

Anyone can nominate a Volunteer Star. Nomination forms can be picked up and dropped off at various sites, including the United Way office, the county mayor’s office, the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce office, the Watertown Public Library and at The Lebanon Democrat office. Again this year, nominations may be made by downloading a form, filling it out and emailing it to jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com. Links can also be found at the lebanondemocrat.com homepage. 

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to nominate volunteers for this deserving honor in Wilson County,” McMillin said.

The Wilson County awards ceremony will be in January where all of the nominees will be honored.

Participating counties, including Wilson, will name one outstanding youth and one outstanding adult volunteer. Those named a 2016 Governor’s Volunteer Star will gather in Franklin in February to be honored and to celebrate volunteerism in Tennessee.

Staff Reports

No injuries in Friday house fire

Photo courtesy of WEMA No injuries were reported in this structure fire on South Rutland Road in which the house was deemed a total loss.

Photo courtesy of WEMA
No injuries were reported in this structure fire on South Rutland Road in which the house was deemed a total loss.

A residential structure fire at 285 S. Rutland Road reported Friday afternoon had no injuries, according to a report from the Wilson Emergency Management Agency.

WEMA crews were dispatched at about 1:02 p.m. Upon arrival, crews reported heavy black smoke with flames to the back of the residence coming through the roof.

The house was apparently vacant, but the occupants there at the time of the fire. All occupants were cleared of the residence upon arrival of responding emergency workers.

The residence was deemed a total loss. After the fire was first reported, South Rutland Road was temporarily closed, according to an alert from WEMA.

In addition to WEMA, officials from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office and the Mt. Juliet Fire Department responded to the scene for mutual aid.

The cause and origin of the fire is under investigation.

By Jake Old