The Wilson County school board approved plans relative to leftover funds from a Carroll Oakland School projects and an ongoing Mt. Juliet liquor-by-the-drink lawsuit during a special called meeting Friday at the central office.
The Wilson County Commission approved funds for renovations at Carroll-Oakland School in 2014, which resulted in $335,483.51 remaining once the project was finished.
Last month, the commission rejected a resolution that would have authorized using $64,683.51 from remaining proceeds for a West Wilson field house and $270,800 for the Gladeville-area middle school construction.
Another $270,800 would have been amended as a part of the Gladeville-area middle school construction resolution, approved in December, to complete track renovations at Wilson Central High School.
However, during the January commission meeting, Commissioner Kenny Reich spoke on behalf of some Carroll-Oakland parents and argued the money should be used for a Carroll-Oakland project – baseball and softball field restrooms – instead of use at another school.
The group agreed earlier this month to halt discussion on the appropriate action for the funds until more information was available about the cost of adding a restroom facility Carroll-Oakland.
The board voted Friday, 5-2, to appropriate $35,000 to the Carroll-Oakland restroom project and return the remaining $300,000 to the commission to use for future school projects.
Carroll-Oakland principal Carol Ferrell presented information from the school’s booster club, which included one bid for the project. Ferrell said the bid was the only one received from 10 companies.
The bid estimated the project to cost around $100,000, but Ferrell said that would include restrooms, a concession stand and a covered hitting-pitching area. Board member Larry Inman made the motion, while Wayne McNeese and Linda Armistead, who joined the meeting via FaceTime, voted against the move.
Board chairman Larry Tomlinson said he voted for the measure because he felt the $35,000 would cover the initial request from Carroll-Oakland parents – restrooms.
“I would hope that they would got some more bids on this. I would also think with restrooms being the main priority that they could build a building that would be easy to attach to if they ever wanted to build their hitting facility or their concession stand. The main thing I was told on the front end is they needed restrooms up there,” Tomlinson said.
Wendell Marlowe, West Wilson Middle School principal and county commissioner, also brought plans for the field house at the school, which he said would be used for all sports.
Marlowe’s presentation prompted McNeese and Inman to explain their stances.
“I don’t have a problem with the Carroll-Oakland project. I think if we’re going to do this, I thought we should have spent the $100,800 and also the $64,000 to help [Marlowe], which would give us $165,480 and turn in that back to the commission,” said McNeese, who said he felt the biggest reason for the commission’s rejection was the perception that money was being yanked from Carroll-Oakland.
“I want to finish this Carroll-Oakland project and help [Marlowe] out with some of the money.”
“My motion was to let Carroll Oakland know we’re trying to deal in good faith with them. I also made it to let the commissioners know we’re trying to deal in good faith with them, as well. We’re trying to what they asked us to do and trying to help [Carroll-Oakland] with what they’re trying to do,” Inman said.
Wilson County attorney Mike Jennings said the action would not be a part of this month’s commission agenda. Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said the Wilson Central track renovation project would move forward as previously planned and should be completed by the start of school in August.
The school board also agreed to a potential agreement with the city of Mt. Juliet regarding an ongoing liquor-by-the-drink tax lawsuit.
The school board agreed to present the city the proposed terms earlier this month. In the agreement, the city would agree to waive any and all future fees that are within its authority up to $380,000 that are related to building, renovation and development of new and existing schools in Mt. Juliet.
The city leaders differed on their feelings about the potential settlement.
“I’m not supportive. If it had the three acres of land involved like we had before, I’d be willing to consider it,” said Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty. “This basically says that we lose.”
Commissioner Ray Justice said 3 acres at the future site of a Mt. Juliet high school on North Green Hill Road could potentially be a part of the settlement, depending on future talks with school officials. The land was not a part of Friday’s approved language.
Hagerty and Justice heavily debated the agreement, with Hagerty citing past waived fees as reason for objection.
“We’re paying what we’re supposed to pay,” Justice said.
“We’re not supposed to pay it because we did a ton of waived fees that we’ve gotten zero credit for,” Hagerty said. “How many millions did we do in waived fees?”
Mt. Juliet city attorney Gino Marchetti said the figure on waived fees was closer to $950,000.
“We’re talking about a wash, basically, on that amount of money,” Justice said.
In 2013, it was revealed many municipalities in Tennessee were not paying their portion of their liquor-by-the-drink tax to public schools systems in which those cities operated due to an oversight. Wilson County Schools and the Lebanon Special School District were among the school districts in Tennessee that were owed back tax money by cities.
The Wilson County Board of Education filed the lawsuit in Wilson County chancery court in 2014 after failing to reach an agreement with the city about paying liquor-by-the-drink back taxes collected until 2013. Mt. Juliet owes an estimated $372,000, according to Hall.
By Xavier Smith