Economic group talks Superspeedway

The Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board executive committee discussed the future of the Nashville Superspeedway during Thursday’s monthly meeting.

G.C. Hixson, Wilson County JECDB director, said he and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto continue to hold meetings with Panattoni Development representatives about the property.

Hixson also highlighted Project Runway, which involves a Nashville developer that submitted a proposal for a project that would require a minimum of 150 acres. The project would serve clients expanding southeastern ground markets.

Hixson said other options have surfaced for the former NASCAR venue, and he expects something to happen for the property.

“It appears to be moving forward, and I think that’s a good move,” Hixson said.

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 gave an update on the group’s stakeholder survey, which he said is still in development. 

Hixson said the goal of the survey, which will be 20-35 or more questions, is to foster an open communication among the governing bodies in the county concerned with economic development.

The group will create the survey, which addresses present operations, programs and the agency’s purpose. Hixson said the survey would be distributed to municipalities and county leaders, along with other economic development stakeholders.

The group will then organize survey results and general comments into a working document it will share with the various groups during work sessions. The results from the survey will be combined with feedback during work sessions to create a summary document that could serve as a blueprint for an updated strategic plan for the group.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Local dance company wins national title

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Members of Testimony, a group of nine Mt. Juliet teens with Diamond Academy of Dance, accept an 8-foot trophy and prize money after they are named national grad champion at the July 2 Rainbow Dance Competition in Panama City, Fla.

Mt. Juliet dance studio, Diamond Academy of Dance, returned home with the “National Grand Champion” title from the July 2 Rainbow Dance Competition in Panama City, Fla.

Hip-hop dancer and academy instructor Justin Jenkins choreographed the award-winning routine.

“Our girls worked countless hours to perfect this performance, and their hard work paid off as their name was called on the stage as the winner,” said Diamond Academy of Dance owner Taylor Corlew Jenkins. “It’s so rewarding, as a coach, to see their dreams become a reality.”

Out of the 45 teams in the competition, the group of nine Mt. Juliet teens, called “Testimony,” took the highest honor, receiving an 8-foot-tall trophy and cash prize. The Diamond Academy team took home several other high-point awards, but this one was the icing on the cake.

Diamond Academy of Dance began its seventh season Aug. 7 and will soon begin training for a new competitive season. The local community voted the academy “Best Dance Studio” for three consecutive years and again in 2017.

For information on classes or registration information, contact diamondacademyofdance@gmail.com, visit diamondacademydance.com or find it on Facebook and Instagram @DiamondAcademyofDance.

Staff Reports

Detectives seek credit card fraud suspect

Photo courtesy of Mt. Juliet police
Mt. Juliet detectives hope someone will recognize a suspect who fraudulently used stolen credit card information.

Mt. Juliet detectives hope someone will recognize a suspect who fraudulently used stolen credit card information.

On May 24, the victim noticed fraudulent activity on his credit card statement, and it was apparent the card information was fraudulently used at Publix at 11207 Lebanon Road to buy more than $2,000 worth of items the previous day.

Detectives tracked when the credit card was used and were able to get surveillance video of a suspected man who used the card.

If anyone has a feeling they possibly know the suspect responsible for the crime, they are encouraged to call Mt. Juliet police at 615-754-2550. Information may also be given anonymously by calling 615-754-8477 or at mjpd.org.

Staff Reports

‘Vision Source’ glasses recalled from local eye care center

Precision Eye Care in Mt. Juliet has issued a recall for eclipse glasses sold from the shop, the group announced on social media.

The business said the recall only applies to the Vision Source eclipse glasses sold last week. Precision staff contacted patients who bought the glasses and said a few glasses purchased by non-patients are still unaccounted.

“If you have this kind only from our office, please return them to us for a full refund and a free replacement from American Paper Optics,” the Facebook post said.

NASA officials and the American Astronomical Society verified five manufacturers making solar eclipse glasses that meet all glasses standards – American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium – AstroSolar Silver and Gold film only, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17.

NASA outlined four guidelines for any solar eclipse glasses. They must:

• have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard.

• have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product.

• not to be used if they are older than three years or have scratched or wrinkled lenses.

• not made using homemade filters or be substituted for with ordinary sunglasses – not even very dark ones – because they are not safe for looking directly at the sun.

Wilson County will be the center of the national craze Aug. 21 as many parts of the county fall within a few seconds of the maximum amount of totality, or darkness during the solar eclipse. Totality is expected to start around 1:28 p.m.

For more information, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety. 

By Xavier Smith 

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Eye doctor offers safest ways to view eclipse

Ming Wang

Dr. Ming Wang, owner of the Nashville-based Wang Vision Cataract and LASIK Center, offered information recently on how to protect eyes as millions witness the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

Wang said there is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, and that’s through special-purpose “solar filters,” which are called solar eclipse glasses.

According to Wang, there are four companies in the U.S. that make and sell solar eclipse glasses that meet the international safety standard ISO 12312-2. Wang has a supply of the proper solar eclipse glasses and will give a free pair to each attendee at a special solar eclipse educational seminar Aug. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at his office.

At the seminar, Wang will explain and demonstrate the proper way to use the glasses. Additionally, he will answer all attendee questions about safe solar eclipse viewing and how to prevent eye injuries, which could lead to loss of sight. Viewing the eclipse without proper eye protection can be very harmful. He will answer all seminar attendee questions about the safe solar eclipse viewing to prevent eye injuries and possible sight loss. 

Wang will offer answers to questions such as:

Q. Can I use my cellphone to take a photo or a video of the eclipse, or can I use a telescope?

A. “Yes, but only if you do it in the right way. First of all, cameras and telescopes actually concentrate, focus and amplify light intensity.  Therefore, looking through these devices with naked eyes is, in fact, more dangerous than looking with only the naked eyes themselves.

“The proper way of doing this is to put the proper solar eclipse glasses in front of the camera or telescope where the solar eclipse glasses are closer to the sun. Do not put the solar eclipse glasses directly on your face and then look through your cellphone or telescope.”

Q. What will be symptoms of solar eye damage and when will this typically happen?

A. “Symptoms typically happen within a few minutes or hours. The symptoms are watery and sore eyes, light sensitivity, a blind spot in the center, things appear usually colored, things appear to be distorted and blurry and inability to see details.”

Q. What should I do if this happens?

A. “See an ophthalmologist or optometrist right away as you may have suffered solar eye damage.”

Many of the special glasses are currently on back order and since total solar eclipse is so rare, once in a lifetime, people are buying them like crazy. Wang has an adequate supply of the proper safest glasses for distribution at his special Aug. 17 public solar eclipse educational seminar.

There will be limited seating at the seminar, so anyone interested in attending and receiving a free pair of the recommended solar eclipse glasses can get additional information or register by calling Wang Vision Institute at 615-321-8881.

The seminar will be at Wang Vision Institute at 1801 W. End Ave., Suite 1150, in Nashville.

Wang is the CEO of Aier-USA and director of Wang Vision 3D Cataract and LASIK Center. He may be reached at drwang@wangvisioninstitute.com or by visiting wangcataractlasik.com.

Staff Reports

Unemployment rate rises in all counties

Unemployment rates increased in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties in June after every county saw unemployment rate shrinkage in May, according to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“We’ve seen this type of increase in the June county unemployment rates every years since the state started keeping records in 1976,” said TDLWD Commissioner Burns Phillips.

Phillips said June is typically the month when recent high school and college graduates enter the workforce and have yet to find employment, adding to the jobless count across the state.

Wilson County’s unemployment rate in June was 3.3 percent, up from 2.2 in May and 2.9 percent in April. In June 2016, the county’s unemployment rate was 4.1 percent.

Wilson County had the third-lowest unemployment rate behind Davidson and Williamson counties with 3.1 and 3.2 percent unemployment rates, respectively. Sumner, Cheatham and Rutherford counties followed with a 3.4 unemployment rate.

Wilson County’s rate in June represented 2,300 unemployed workers compared to a 69,330-person workforce and does not include those who did not file with the labor department or no longer receive benefits.

Lebanon’s rate for June rose to 3.9 percent from 3.3 percent in May. The city’s rate represented 560 unemployed workers compared to a 14,490-person labor force. 

Mt. Juliet’s rate for May landed at 3.2 percent, a 1 percent decrease from April. The rate represented 550 unemployed workers compared to a 17,270-person work force.

The Nashville-Murfreesboro metropolitan area, which includes Wilson County, came in at 3.3 percent. The rate represented 33,340 unemployed workers compared to a just more than one million-person workforce.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate for June landed at 3.6 percent. The statewide rate represented 114,400 jobless workers compared to a 3.16-million-person workforce.

The national unemployment rate for June was 4.4 percent, a 0.1 percent increase from May. The national rate represents more than 6.9 million unemployed workers compared to a workforce of about 160 million people.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Beware of counterfeit solar eclipse glasses

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
NASA officials warned people against companies that seek to profit from counterfeit solar eclipse glasses as sales begin to rise before next month’s solar total eclipse.

NASA officials warned people against companies that seek to profit from counterfeit solar eclipse glasses as sales begin to rise before next month’s solar total eclipse.

Wilson County will be the center of the national craze Aug. 21 as many parts of the county fall within a few seconds of the maximum amount of totality, or darkness during the solar eclipse. Totality is expected to start around 1:28 p.m.

The rare total solar eclipse – first in Tennessee since 1869 – has created a rush to find solar eclipse glasses designed to protect viewer’s eyes during the event.

NASA ambassador Theo Wellington addressed the solar eclipse with the Wilson County Commission earlier this year and said just because viewers can look at the sun during the solar eclipse and not experience any physical pain, doesn’t mean damage won’t happen.

Wellington told the story of a teenager in India who rejected instructions and chose to stare at the eclipse.

“The doctor told him he had a cute little crescent-shaped scar on the back of his retina. Your retina does not have any pain receptors. You don’t know when you’re doing it damage. That will be the subject of many safety talks,” she said.

In response to the call for safety, many went to several outlets, including Walmart and Amazon, to find suitable solar eclipse glasses, which NASA said isn’t as easy at it appears.

NASA outlined four guidelines for any solar eclipse glasses. They must:

• have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard.

• have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product.

• not to be used if they are older than three years or have scratched or wrinkled lenses.

• not made using homemade filters or be substituted for with ordinary sunglasses – not even very dark ones – because they are not safe for looking directly at the sun.

NASA and the American Astronomical Society verified five manufacturers making solar eclipse glasses that meet all standards – American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium – AstroSolar Silver and Gold film only, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17.

For more information, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Beavers, Democrats trade jabs

State senator responds to claims she broke law on Twitter

Gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Mae Beavers traded barbs last weekend with the Davidson County Democratic Party that centered on Beavers’ blocking people from her Twitter feed and same-sex marriage.

Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, released her own press release Saturday afternoon in response to a press release from the Davidson County Democratic Party that alleged she could be breaking federal law and violating the First Amendment by blocking some Twitter users.

The press release in question could be, in fact, a link to a story from slate.com posted by Davidson County Democrats on Twitter regarding a recent federal court decision on Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in which U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris ruled the elected official violated the First Amendment by blocking the plaintiff in the case.

“If blocking hateful trolls who tweet profanity and obscene images constitutes viewpoint discrimination,” Beavers said in her release, “then I’d be more than happy to slug it out in federal court.

“Sharing opinions is a cherished constitutional right, but posting borderline pornography on someone else’s account is clearly not.”    

Beavers then continued to defend her conservative stance on social issues, particularly same-sex marriage. On June 24, the Davidson County Democratic Party tweeted a photograph that featured a drag queen attempting to impersonate Beavers during “Nashville Pride.”

The tweet was captioned, “What an honor to have gubernatorial candidate Mae Beavers and her private security guards at #NashvillePride today!”

Beavers also said her head on a spike in the photograph is “a lot like what Kathy Griffin did to Trump.”

The Davidson County Democratic Party tweeted a copy of Beavers’ press release Saturday, which garnered dozens of responses from people, many of whom used the hashtag #BlockedbyMae. Beavers was previously greeted by about a dozen Wilson County Democratic Party protesters when she announced her campaign in May at Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet.

Davidson County Democrats also responded on Twitter to Beavers’ “head on a spike” comment.

“As a side note, we’re guessing Mae’s not a huge fan of @CollegeGameDay either? #BlockedByMae #ItsCalledASign #SpendMoreTimeWithNormalPeople,” the tweet said.

“Marriage is a biblical issue,” Beavers said in her release, “that should be handled in the church, not the courts and certainly not at the federal level.

“The Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which violates 31 state constitutions, as the late Justice [Antonin] Scalia noted at the time, lacked ‘even a thin veneer of law’ and took the court’s ‘reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis’ to the level of ‘the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.’”

On Jan. 16, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court consolidated four same-sex marriage cases challenging state laws that prohibited same-sex marriage, including Tanco v. Haslam in Tennessee. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5–4 decision that the 14th Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. The White House was illuminated in rainbow colors on the evening of the ruling.

According to the Court’s opinion analysis on the case, prior to Obergefell, 36 states, the District of Columbia and Guam already issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

American Legion seeks World War I pictures

Wilson County’s two branches of the American Legion seek pictures to use during this year’s Wilson County Fair.

American Legion Post 15 in Lebanon and American Legion 281 in Mt. Juliet seek pictures of World War I veterans in uniform for their booth at the Wilson County Fair. This year’s theme of the booth will be focused on commemorating World War I, also known as the Great War.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I on April 6, 1917.

If anyone has pictures pertaining to World War 1 of servicemen in uniform, contact Glen Beard of American Legion Post 15 at 615-604-5353, or Lewis Hightower of American Legion Post 281 at 615-418-6433.

Pictures will be copied and originals returned to their owners.

The Wilson County Fair will be Aug. 18-26 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

Staff Reports

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

County schools unveils renovations, break ground

Xavier Smith • Lebanon Democrat
Visitors, teachers and Wilson County Schools personnel tour Gladeville Middle School on Monday during the school’s ribbon cutting and open house. The school, along with Tuckers Crossroads School, welcomed guests to view renovations following a groundbreaking ceremony for a future Gladeville middle school earlier in the day.

Parents, students, teachers and other visitors got their first look Monday at two of four major Wilson County Schools renovation projects as the district held open house and ribbon cutting ceremonies at Gladeville Elementary School and Tuckers Crossroads School.

Gladeville Elementary School received a six-classroom addition in back of the school, along with renovations to the school’s gym and main foyer.

“I can remember when I first came, I walked into this building and there were people here who had attended school as a child and they were grandparents. They wanted to make sure I knew how significant this school was and continues to be to this community,” said Donna Wright, Wilson County Schools director.

Wright also highlighted the importance of preserving the history of the school for community members.

“Everyone that lived and grew up in Gladeville knew about ‘the tree.’ There was also grieving when the tree had to come down. I can’t think of anything better than to have that piece that still symbolizes it and says, ‘1833 Gladeville School,’” she said. “It’s more than just an addition. It’s a transformation, testimony and a moment in history that will continue the quality of what takes place in this building and the love and support this community provides for this school.”

Tuckers Crossroads renovations included a two-story wing addition, which covered seven classrooms, two computer labs, a science lab and renovated gym.

Wilson County school board chairman Larry Tomlinson, native to the area, discussed the school’s importance.

“There’s just a lot of history and tradition in this community and this school has been a focal point of this community for many, many years. I’ll be 71 on Aug. 8. I can remember when we lived in the Centerville community that people in that community always talked about what was going on at Tuckers Crossroads. It’s always been important,” Tomlinson said.

The district kicked off the day with a groundbreaking ceremony for a future Gladeville middle school, located at 8275 Stewarts Ferry Pike.

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said the school would house sixth- through eighth-grade students with a capacity of about 1,500. He said the school would be a combination of several schools, but would resemble the new high schools, but on a smaller scale. 

The school will be built to alleviate overcrowding at Mt. Juliet and West Wilson middle schools, which had 1,606 and 1,245 students, respectively, at the end of the last school year.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

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

Shop tax free in Tennessee during last weekend in July

NASHVILLE – Tennessee retailers will not collect sales tax on more than 150 different items during the 12th annual sales tax holiday.
From July 28-30, shoppers can save nearly 10 percent on clothing, school supplies and computers, as students prepare for the back-to-school season. State and local taxes will not be collected on clothing, school and art supplies that cost $100 or less per item and computers that cost $1,500 or less.
State Department of Revenue officials remind people the weekend of savings is not exclusive to students or Tennesseans. Anyone who wants to shop in Tennessee during the last weekend of July will be eligible to save on sales tax.
“The sales tax holiday for back-to-school items is another way to put more money back in the pockets of Tennesseans. We encourage Tennesseans to take advantage of this tax break as they prepare their children for the upcoming school year,” said Gov. Bill Haslam.
Legislators passed a new law in 2016 that moved the sales tax holiday a weekend earlier than it was in the past. The sales tax holiday is now the last weekend in July, instead of the first weekend in August. This year, the sales tax holiday begins July 28 at 12:01 a.m. and ends July 30 at 11:59 p.m.
“We want to remind Tennesseans about this important opportunity for savings. It’s available to everyone and only happens one weekend a year,” said Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano.
For more information about the sales tax holiday, including a complete list of tax-exempt items and frequently asked questions, visit tntaxholiday.com.
The Department of Revenue is responsible for administering state tax laws, motor vehicle title and registration laws and the collection of taxes and fees associated with those laws. The department collects about 87 percent of total state revenue. During the 2016 fiscal year, it collected $13.5 billion in state taxes and fees and more than $2.6 billion in taxes and fees for local governments. To learn more about the department, visit tn.gov/revenue.

Staff Reports

Lawsuits filed against Wilson County Schools

Wilson County Schools is the subject of two lawsuits, although one was voluntarily dismissed this week.
Attorney Michael Braun filed the lawsuits on behalf of two siblings at Rutland Elementary School in Mt. Juliet and a Tuckers Crossroads School student due to denial into the district’s Kids Club, a childcare service offered to district parents.
Braun filed a dismissal this week of the lawsuit regarding the Rutland Elementary siblings, which stated they were denied enrollment to Kids Club for reasons associated with their disability, which included toilet training, sensitive hearing, risk to run away and more.
The active lawsuit states an autistic Tuckers Crossroads student was denied enrollment into Kids Club because she is not fully toilet trained due to her autism. The lawsuit claims Wilson County discriminated against the student and violated Title II of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, which states public entities must make services, programs or activities accessible to individuals with disabilities.
However, public entities are not required to take any action that would “result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program, or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens.”
Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said the district currently has disabled students enrolled in Kids Club and does not discriminate.
The district’s Kids Club policy states, “Kids Club cannot provide service to children who require one-on-one supervision or assistance on a routine basis.”
“This policy would apply to anything that might require individualized supervision,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the policy is needed for cost and affordability for parents.
“Contrary to the statement that has been made repeatedly in this lawsuit, Kids Club does not receive any federal funding. As a matter of fact, there’s no local or state funding either,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Kids Club parents pay a weekly fee for enrolled children and the money generated by the fees pay for the program’s operating costs.
“If we were to start hiring teachers to provide individualized care, the operating costs would go up exponentially, rates would have to be increased for all parents and, eventually, the program would no longer be financially self-sustaining,” she said.
Johnson said the policy was added in wake of a 2012 complaint against Wilson County Schools at the direction of the Office of Civil Rights.
In 2012, the Office of Civil Rights found the district’s denial of an autistic child into the Kids Club program did not comply with federal law. Consequently, the district entered into a resolution agreement with the Office of Civil Rights, which allowed the office to monitor the implementation of changes to the district’s policy and procedures relative to Kids Club.
“Not only have they seen our policy, but they had to sign off on it and give their approval before it was ever added,” Johnson said.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Local woman inaugural winner of scholarship from Chattanooga Symphony and Opera

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet High School graduate Arianna ‘Katie’ Shea was named the first recipient of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s Kayoko Dan Conducting Scholarship.

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera announced Arianna “Katie” Shea as the recipient of its first Kayoko Dan Conducting Scholarship.

The first of its kind for the 85-year-old organization, the scholarship will offer Shea a unique opportunity to work directly with the CSO’s music director Kayoko Dan during the 2017-2018 season.

“I have had many mentors who guided me as a young conductor. It is not possible to pay them back, so I have decided to ‘pay it forward’ by mentoring a younger generation of conductors. I am looking forward to the opportunity to connect with the next generation of leaders of the symphonic world,” said Dan, who will celebrate her seventh year as the CSO’s music director and conductor in September.

Shea was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and grew up in Mt. Juliet, where she began her musical studies at 12 years old when she joined her school’s choir and began taking violin lessons. In high school, Shea played violin in the Mt. Juliet High School Orchestra, “Strings of Gold,” as well as the school’s smaller ensemble, Chamber Strings.

Upon graduation, she attended Lee University where she completed a bachelor of arts degree in music with a vocal emphasis. While at Lee, she studied voice with Lenena Brezna and Dale Thomas and conducted with Jonathan Rodgers. In addition, she was a member of Choral Union and the Ladies of Lee, as well as the Lambda Eta chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota.

Currently, Shea is a graduate student at Lee University, where she is pursuing a master’s of music degree in choral conducting.

For more information about the Kayoko Dan Conducting Scholarship, visit chattanoogasymphony.org/conducting-scholarship.

Staff Reports

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.

Developer discusses Mt. Juliet Road project

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Michael Murphy with Cumberland Advisors discusses the potential 21-acre Northtown Village development on North Mt. Juliet Road during a recent open house at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce office.

Mt. Juliet residents got their first look at revised plans for a North Mt. Juliet Road development recently during an open house at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce office.

Michael Murphy, of Cumberland Advisors, along with Mt. Juliet Commissioner Ray Justice met with residents regarding revised plans for the proposed Northtown Village, a planned development of 274 apartment units and about 10,000 square feet of mixed retail and commercial space on N. Mt. Juliet Road and Lebanon Road, adjacent to the West Wilson Utility District building.

Plans for the project were deferred in January after the planning commission failed to approve a land use amendment associated with the project in December.

“Primarily, the difference relates to the architecture. This plan has one mixed-use building that we anticipate having one to two restaurants that will be open to the general public. That promotes interaction with the community,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the group also made improvements to the façade and accessibility within the buildings, along with traffic improvements requested by city staff.

One major traffic improvement includes a proposed traffic signal on Lebanon Road, along with one on N. Mt. Juliet Road, which Murphy said would alleviate traffic in the N. Mt. Juliet Road and Lebanon Road intersection.

“We’ve incorporated every change and everything the city has wanted us to do. We’re trying to meet the city and be a member of the community and looking forward to participating in the community,” Murphy said.

Other plans include one-, two- and three-bedroom units, along with vast greenway space for connectivity to Charlie Daniels Park and other city trails.

“The changes have made it even better than it was before. I am more in favor of the concept of the project and I’ll let the planning staff and planning commission work through the actual project itself, making it functional,” Justice said.

Justice said he would rather the proposed development than the other option, which could be a storage area for the West Wilson Utility District.

“What I have seen there since I was a kid is a big open field. We’re going to take an open field that produces very little property tax or anything to the community now and the project itself will start building in that area and turn it into what I’m looking at as sort of a village concept,” Justice said.

Murphy and Justice said, based on traffic studies, the development would produce less traffic than a big-box retail, such as Lowe’s, or a fast-food restaurant.

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

Smoke detectors, sprinklers help stop fire

Photo courtesy of Facebook
Smoke detectors and sprinklers prevented a fire from causing too much damage at a Mt. Juliet apartment early complex Sunday morning.

Unattended cooking deemed cause of blaze

An early morning fire Sunday at a Mt. Juliet apartment complex was quickly controlled, thanks to smoke detectors and sprinklers, according to Mt. Juliet fire officials.

At about 3:20 a.m., smoke detectors alerted residents of 18-unit apartment building at the Lifestyles Community complex.

Unattended cooking caused the fire. Two heads from the sprinkler system quickly controlled the fire. No injuries were reported in the incident.

According to officials with the Mt. Juliet Fire Department, if not for the smoke detectors and sprinklers, the fire could have been tragic.

In addition to the fire department, officials from the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency and Mt. Juliet Police Department also responded to the scene.

Occupants in 15 of the 18 apartments were able to return to their homes within two hours.

Staff Reports