Mt. Juliet chamber celebrates during banquet

Rima Austin

Special to the News

Will Snyder, of Under Armour, jokes with the audience while thanking the chamber for the Large Business of the Year Award on Thursday night at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce Chamber Choice Awards Banquet held at Tucker’s Gap Event Center as newly sworn in chamber board chair Galelynn Wilson laughs.

Members of the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce were recognized with awards Thursday night at the Chamber Choice Awards Banquet held at Tucker’s Gap Event Center. Board members from 2019 welcomed in the new 2020 board and Galelynn Wilson was sworn in as the 2020 chair.

Wilson told the audience she was born and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida. She said she attended the University of Florida where she acquired a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in education.

“I am the only daughter of a race car driver and a career businesswoman,” said Wilson. “And yes, I am a Gator.”

That drew some good natured boos from the room full of University of Tennessee fans.

“I would like to thank my mom Gloria Wilson or better known as grandma on deck. All that I have earned, all that I have and all that I am she has given me,” said Wilson. “She gave me the spirit of giving in volunteering, taking care of others, hard work, the never give up attitude, serving and leading when asked and the constant seeking of knowledge and betterment.”

Several businesses and individuals were honored during the banquet.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Peter Schulert, CEO of ESC Lab Sciences at Pace Analytical Laboratories, said he was honored to receive his award and praised the community of Mt. Juliet.

“It couldn’t have happened better for us — from location to all the Mt. Juliet support,” said Schulert. “Mt. Juliet was a perfect place for us to grow our company.”

Other honorees were

Ambassador of the Year — Tina Hutsenpiller

Volunteer of the Year — Tyler Allen

Wilsonian of the Year — Tucker’s Gap Event Center

Business Man of the Year — Gerard Bullock, a realtor.

Business Woman of the Year — Julie Ruesewald, owner of Merit Insurance of Tennessee.

Small Business of the Year — Dunn Commercial Group

Large Business of the Year — Under Armour

The chamber’s top award, the Paul Bauman Award of Excellence, went to Ken Powers, owner of developer Commercial Realty Services. Powers was not at the banquet and could not be reached Friday.

Also recognized was retiring board member Samuel Short and past board chair Kevin Sanders.

Unity march honors MLK’s life, legacy

Ethan Steinquest

Special to the News

Community members gather for brunch at Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church on Saturday as part of the Wilson County Black History Committee’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

Neither wind nor rain could stop Wilson County’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, as dozens took to the streets by motorcade for a unity march on Saturday.

Participants traveled a short route through the city ending at the historic Pickett Chapel, and joined together for brunch and a program at Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church.

“I grew up in this community … I’ll never forget everything that went on during that time,” Raymond Burns, the program speaker and pastor of Baird’s Grove Missionary Baptist Church, said. “I came in at the very end of the racial injustice that was going on, and I thank God for my parents who raised us to honor and respect every race and nationality.”

Burns recalled high school summer programs that helped build relationships between students in the wake of integration, and the impact of Market Street as a hub for the black community. However, he added that the segregationist attitudes of the 1960s should not be viewed as a thing of the past.

“No matter what anyone says, don’t be fooled, because our young people need to know,” he said. “Even though we’re supposed to be in a better place, Martin Luther King did it in a way to involve change with peace. Well, if that is the case, then why when Colin Kaepernick did a peaceful protest, did it cause so much hell? It caused so much hell because we’re not as far as we think we are.”

Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash, one of multiple elected officials who spoke during the program, said he was struck in adulthood by how his upbringing differed from children living in the city’s black community.

Students from Scholar Drum Academy perform at Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church on Saturday during the Wilson County Black History Committee’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

“I realized there was a separate part of Lebanon that I didn’t grow up in,” he said. “I grew up in a school that had plenty of books and plenty of teachers. Other children in the same town weren’t so lucky. They had great teachers, they had great parents, but they didn’t have the finest of buildings and books and material. They grew up with what was leftover from the other side of town.”

Ash was 16 years old when King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech, and began learning more about the impact of racial discrimination while attending university.

“When I was going to Cumberland University, I took a psychology class and the teacher told us about another professor — a black woman with a doctorate in psychiatry, who taught at Cumberland,” he said. “She could not go into the department store downtown and try on a dress. Her small children could not go into a public restroom and relieve themselves.”

Ash said that although society has progressed since the days of segregation, there is still work to be done in achieving King’s vision of equality.

That sentiment carried throughout the program, which the Wilson County Black History Committee has organized alongside the march for the past eight years.

“What we’ve done is to really try and keep this focused as a community celebration of Dr. King,” Wilson County Black History Committee President Mary Harris said. “Putting it together is about communicating with everybody, and it’s a team effort.”

This year’s community partners included Neuble Monument Funeral Home, Lebanon Special School District, Lebanon Fire Department, the governments of Wilson County and Lebanon, WCOR/WANT Gospel Show, Cedars of Lebanon Baptist Church, Lebanon Sanitation Department, Scholar Drum Academy, Amazon, Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church and the Lebanon Police Department.

“Each member of the community is responsible for different parts of the event,” Harris said. “I’d like for us to get back to having a youth day as well, where kids from all the different churches can come in and have a celebration of their own.”

Program speaker Raymond Burns, the pastor of Baird’s Grove Missionary Baptist Church, discusses the importance of youth education in combatting racism and its influence on society.

Although the Wilson County Black History Committee has led the event for several years, it has roots in the MLK Task Force established by Elder Brewer Hall, the former pastor at Cedars of Lebanon Baptist Church, in 1986.

“Seeing so many people here means a lot to me,” Hall said. “This didn’t catch on when we first started, but it grew to where we didn’t have room for the meal in our church. We used to give out scholarships every year, and later on we added the march.”

The march has become a fixture of the event, and Compassionate Hands Executive Director John Grant recalls taking part for the last decade.

“I got involved through the local ministry group,” he said. “The churches in this community are very connected, and you see that here. It’s a way for us to come together and honor the legacy of a great man who fought for peace.”

The event remains the county’s only large-scale celebration of King’s life and legacy, and although Harris hopes to see more of them develop she appreciates the community’s involvement.

“I’m really grateful to see everyone here,” she said. “It’s a blessing to have this many people come out on a day like today and support this.”

Mt. Juliet artist’s work on display at Nashville International Airport

Jeff Brockett works on a piece at his Mt. Juliet studio.

Cedric Dent Jr.

Special to the News

Woodturning artist Jeff Brockett spent decades becoming an expert on his craft, and his latest milestone positions 13 of his basket illusions on display at the Flying Solo Artist exhibit in the Nashville International Airport.

Beyond the security checkpoints but on the way to baggage claim, some of those leaving but especially those arriving in Nashville last month, this month or next month will notice an array of what might appear from a distance to be shallow bowls or plates embellished with eye-catching designs. These are, in fact, wooden pieces of art, deceptively turned on a lathe and burned with painstakingly precise designs.

Since 1996, the airport has held a quarterly, juried exhibition series in the most visible part of its secure terminal for some of Tennessee’s most captivating art, dubbing it the Flying Solo Exhibition Series. Brockett’s platters are the latest pieces to showcase in the series after having been judged against many other works by a panel of arbiters who opted to draw from Tennessee’s uniquely deep pool of woodturning artists.

The juried exhibit requires all artists to formally apply in order for their works to be considered, and the panel picks a single artist for the exhibit. For Brockett, a minimum of 10 pieces were needed to fill the exhibit, and he contributed 13 in total, about eight of which are for sale — the other five having already been sold prior to display. The price of a piece depends on size and design complexity, ranging anywhere from $100 to $800.

Brockett’s artwork is on display at Nashville International Airport.

Brockett’s pieces have been seen at the TEDx Studio, also called Studio 208, in downtown Nashville as well as several other juried exhibits whose processes were similar to the Flying Solo Exhibition Series. Among them were the Custom House’s Best of Tennessee Exhibit in Clarksville for which he won the Merit Award and Centennial Arts’s Best in Middle Tennessee Exhibit.

Brockett’s concentration as a woodturner is on basket illusions, a specific design pattern that woodturners sometimes employ to illustrate seemingly impossibly intricate designs. It’s based on Native American basket weaving, which involved exceptionally creative patterns. Lincoln Seltzer was the first known woodturner to imitate that creative process on wooden platters, so the history of these kinds of designs dates back hundreds of years even through Portuguese colonization.

The expertise of woodturning art is discerned based on the quality of the woodwork, the thematic imagery implied by the colors applied and how the platter feels in one’s hands. Mastery of the craft is also partly measured by the lack of errant marks and smudges, too, but Brockett further distinguishes his work a bit by deliberately endeavoring to make it as impossible as he can for even an astute observer to figure out how he the piece in question was lathed.

“I like to really look at the back of pieces,” Brockett said. “I want the person that picks that piece up to look at it and say, ‘How in the world did he put that on the lathe and turn it?’ I’ve gone from a satin finish to a gloss finish because I think gloss looks better on these pieces because they’re more art than functional.”

Woodturning is a craft that produces functional pieces with purpose like doorknobs or tool handles or lamps, but the art form associated with it is widely popular the world over. In the U.S., the American Association of Woodturners boasts of multiple

Woodturning is Brockett’s retirement hobby.

chapters in each state. In Tennessee alone, there are 12 official chapters, including the Tennessee Association of Woodturners and Duck River Woodturners, located in Brentwood and Columbia respectively. Brockett is member to both of them among other local woodturning organizations.

“There’s three or four of the top woodturners in the world that live within 15 minutes of here,” Brockett said, referring to his home in northern Mt. Juliet. “You’ve got John Jordan who lives down in Cane Ridge. If you’re going to say who’s the top 10 people in the world, he’s one of them. Then, Pat Matranga lives in Mt. Juliet not too far from here. John Lucas lives over in Baxter.”

For Brockett, woodturning art is a retirement hobby. He worked for Target most of his adult life, managing and even launching stores, and through woodturning, he channeled a natural affinity for art shared by his wife and daughter. His wife is a stained-glass artist, and his daughter teaches art at the collegiate level in Texas.

MJPD announces Guardian Shield program

Cedric Dent Jr.

Special to the News

The Mt. Juliet Police Department announced last week the institution of Guardian Shield, a new law enforcement program designed to protect the city from crime by using fixed-place automated license plate readers (ALPRs) to catch hot-listed vehicles attached to various crimes and suspects.

The Guardian Shield program has not yet been fully budgeted and could, therefore, require the mayor and city commissioners to amend the fiscal budget for a yet unknown amount. On the other hand, MJPD Capt. Tyler Chandler said the amount “would be minimal” due to the city having already budgeted $100,000 for the program.

The program will be operated by Rekor Systems Inc., a tech firm focused on the use of artificial intelligence applications for public safety solutions. The firm boasts of providing law enforcement and security solutions in more than 70 countries worldwide, and they were one of four firms whose technology was tested in the city — one of three to respond to MJPD’s request for proposals.

Mt. Juliet police worked with IT professionals during an extensive review of ALPRs from not only Rekor Systems but also Skycop, Vigilant and Flock. They concluded that Rekor’s system performed best, and the conclusion was partly based on the fact that Rekor’s product led MJPD to successfully apprehend a wanted shooter who had driven into the city from Franklin.

“Rekor’s Edge and Watchman vehicle recognition technology provided better results than its competition during our trial period,” according to Police Chief James Hambrick. “With higher accuracy than other providers, as well as the ability to affordably scale, Rekor’s solutions fit the needs of our department both now and for the future.”

The scale to which he referred starts with covering 37 undisclosed areas throughout the city with Rekor’s AI-assisted cameras, and these locations were selected in order to make for the most efficient coverage of the entire Mt. Juliet community.

MJPD has emphasized on more than one occasion that ALPRs are not for use in traffic law enforcement; rather, they’re purposed with recognizing vehicles that are either attached to a hotlist or to investigations in progress. Hotlists are made for vehicles connected to specific crimes like forcible rape, criminal homicide, kidnapping, motor vehicle theft, burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, general theft or certain drug offenses.

For $89,000 per year, Rekor Systems will support these ALPR units, assuming contract negotiations are successful. According to Chandler, this “means that if we provide a mounting surface, Rekor handles the installation and maintenance of the system. If it is damaged, they fix it. If it is having technical issues, they fix it. If they upgrade their technology, they replace it.”

The contract, however, is still being finalized, so elements remain subject to change. Once the contract is completed, it will be made available to the public, pending local government approval.

“It will also have two be approved by the Board of Commissioners,” Chandler added.

Transparency is a sticking point with ALPRs since multiple cities and states like Chicago, Virginia and Texas have been led to civil suits over apparent violations of privacy laws, gathering too much information on drivers and holding it for too long. Tennessee, and much more so Mt. Juliet, has made a conscious effort to obviate such possibilities from the equation with strict measures on data retention.

The state mandates that data collected via ALPRs can only be held for 90 days whereas the city shortens this even further to only 30 days. This data includes not only still images but videos of the vehicle, but in Mt. Juliet, the technology will not be used to track drivers or passengers. Furthermore, the system doesn’t access the state’s license plate database, which means personal data and vehicle ownership are not collected through these ALPRs.

MJPD expects Rekor’s units to be deployed in March or late February.

Lego fans hit the bricks at Expo Center

Ethan Steinquest

Special to the News

Children search for beloved characters like Mickey Mouse hiding throughout Douglas Johnson’s Lego kingdom during the BrickUniverse LEGO Fan Convention, held at the Wilson County Expo Center on Saturday and Sunday.

Any professional Lego artist will tell you the sky is the limit when it comes to what you can create, and those who came to town Saturday were looking to build passion for the craft among children.

The BrickUniverse LEGO Fan Convention hosted its second Nashville area event at the Wilson County Expo Center on Saturday and Sunday, and hundreds of visitors stopped by to take in the displays.

“This is definitely the ultimate Lego fan experience,” event organizer Grayson Beights said. “But it’s a little more than that. We’re inspiring creativity in the next generation of architects and engineers. Lego products can be used in many ways, but they’re also a medium to teach those concepts.”

Rocco Buttliere, a Chicago native and one of the convention’s featured artists, knows that well. His love for Legos and architecture go hand-in-hand, and his collection of scale models of landmarks is a popular booth.

“My work is all on the same scale, so for example you can see Dubai and Shanghai right next to each other and look at how they stack up,” he said. “Back in 2008 I got into architecture, and I started my collection with Chicago’s Willis Tower because it’s a Lego-friendly, boxy shape.”

Today, Buttliere’s collection has grown to include more than 50 models of structures from around the world. It takes him roughly eight hours to set up the display and four to take it down when attending conventions.

“That’s part of the fun,” he said. “And it’s always really welcoming to be at BrickUniverse, and be able to talk to people who have never seen things like this before. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it.”

The Tennessee Valley Lego Club partnered with BrickUniverse to fill the convention with local artists as well. TNVLC Knoxville’s Patrick Durham saw a steady flow of traffic at his Star Wars-themed display, which includes scenes from ice planet Vandor-1 on one side and volcanic planet Mustafar on the other.

“I started this by building the scene from ‘Solo’ on Vandor-1, and I had a black wall on the back to support it,” he said. “So I realized that I could build something dark on the other side and started working on Mustafar.”

Durham created an original story to go with his piece, which he enjoyed sharing with attendees over the weekend. He plans to continue building on both scenes and eventually separate them into their own structures.

“I raised my son and grandson on Lego bricks, and when the kids grew up we kept them,” he said. “I’m exclusively Star Wars, and now I own over 600 sets.”

TNVLC Nashville’s Douglas Johnson created another display that drew crowds throughout the weekend — an elaborate kingdom built from more than 200,000 bricks.

“I do this mostly for the kids,” he said. “It’s fun to see them point and find all the characters I’ve put in there. It took about a year and a half to build, and five hours to set up.”

Like most Lego enthusiasts, Johnson picked up the hobby as a child and never looked back.

“As an adult, we have more money to spend so we can build some really complex things,” he said. “Over the years I’ve gotten ideas online, from other builders at places like this and from my own imagination.”

As the convention continues finding success in the Expo Center, it may also be where the next professional Lego artist finds their spark. Building stations and competitions were set up throughout the venue to make sure those children could start bringing their visions to life before heading home.

“Last year was amazing,” Beights said. “We had such good feedback, so we made sure to come back, and we actually moved it up from March to January so it would be our first event of the year. We wanted to start strong, and these artists are the pinnacle of what you can do.”

MJ BPAC hosts its 5th annual Christmas light walk

By Cedric Dent Jr.

Special to the News

On Dec. 23, Willoughby Station hosted Mt. Juliet’s fifth annual Christmas Light Walk as a means to unite the community.

About 75 people took advantage of great weather on the Monday before Christmas to participate in the Christmas Light Walk, organized each year by the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The purpose of the walk is not only to fitness and community but also the enjoyment of the decorations in the neighborhood.

Willoughby Station is a subdivision known for its Christmas lights in part because of annual contests that award houses that showcase the best decorations. The neighborhood boasts of a particularly high density of houses that decorate, which is why it’s been the site of each Christmas Light Walk so far, according to BPAC member Steve Armstrong.

“So much work goes into creating these beautiful displays,” said BPAC Chairman and City Commissioner Art Giles. “We have all seen Christmas lights from our cars but this is a unique opportunity to see the lights from a different perspective, up close and personal. I can’t think of anything that will get you in the holiday spirit more than looking at Christmas lights and mixing that with a little exercise and Christmas cheer.”

Participants gathered at City Hall for coffee first at 6 p.m., also enjoying cookies and hot chocolate. Thereafter, everyone drove to Willoughby Station where they and others met at the neighborhood clubhouse. The walk both began and ended there, lasting close to two hours after departure from the clubhouse.

Participants were also accompanied by a police escort as well as a vehicle from the Parks Department, which was equipped with a sound system they used to play Christmas music for all walkers to enjoy as they perused the neighborhood.

“The Christmas Lights Walking Tour provides an opportunity to get a few steps in and view some of the best light displays in Mt. Juliet from a different perspective,” according to Armstrong. “It really is a fun time and it is perfect for all ages.”

The event was also enjoyable for its weather, having been rescheduled from its original date on Dec. 16, which fulfilled its forecast of heavy rain. Committee members, law enforcement and everyday citizens from both inside and outside Willoughby Station participated in the walk as a means of fitness and getting to know others in their own community while appreciating festive decorations.

In the broader sense, this is the general idea behind not just the Christmas Light Walk but all events organized by the BPAC according to Armstrong. The same committee organized, for example, a more greenway-centric walk for Independence Day this past summer as well, albeit with a smaller turnout.

“The BPAC encourages activities that promote physical activity and our mission is to help secure funding for walking, running and biking infrastructure in Mt. Juliet,” Armstrong said.

The Christmas Light Walk, however, is considered one of the BPAC’s more successful events based on attendance and longevity. Having been established five years ago, the event accrues more and more people as it gets older, so it continues to be the primary lure to the BPAC’s many other events year-round.

License plate reader nabs wanted man

Cedric Dent Jr.

Special to the News

Mt. Juliet’s use of automated license plate readers has already led to an arrest even before they could be deployed citywide, and the arrest serves as a proof-of-concept for the city.

One of the test units deployed to demonstrate how automated license plate readers can and will be used in Mt. Juliet tagged a vehicle in connection with a warrant for the arrest of an alleged shooter from Franklin. This led police to pursue and apprehend the suspect while he was in Mt. Juliet.

The 35-year-old suspect, Gabriel Jordan, was considered armed and dangerous after allegedly shooting at his estranged wife in the Cool Springs area on Dec. 21. He fled east in a black, 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander, which Franklin police promptly announced with an offering for a cash reward. He entered Mt. Juliet, and his license plate was recognized by one of the test license plate readers.

The readers are essentially high-speed cameras assisted by artificial intelligence designed for pattern recognition. The AI recognizes license plates in particular — tagging plates that have certain state logos, letters and numbers in specific combinations.

“The vehicle [Jordan] was driving was the suspect vehicle associated with his wanted entry,” MJPD Capt. Tyler Chandler said. “When the tag passes under a camera, the only information we receive is that it is in a hotlist for a certain category. In this case: ‘Wanted Person.’”

A hotlist is a catalog of license plates that are all associated with either wanted persons or ongoing criminal investigations. According to Chandler, once Jordan’s plate was recognized, it was up to dispatch and officers to cross-reference Jordan’s license plate with a database in order to get personal data and other details that correlated with the vehicle.

“No personal data is transmitted or received through the system,” Chandler said. “It simply reads the public tag and checks if it is on a hotlist.”

While this confirms the efficacy of such technology to apprehend criminals, the readers have become a point of controversy in other states and cities on the basis of transparency. For that very reason, an ordinance appeared before the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners for its first reading in late August to pass both readings within the next month regarding how long law enforcement can retain information on vehicles connected to hotlists.

At the time, Vice Mayor James Maness expressed concerns about 16 different states, including Texas, that were already seeing use and arguably abuse of this technology to keep information on innocent civilians and for extended periods sometimes measured in years. Commissioners were eager to see to it that Mt. Juliet had no similar issues.

Tennessee already took steps to preempt perceived violations of privacy with license plate readers by legislating a maximum 90-day retention period for data captured by the readers, but Mt. Juliet went even further, alowwing retention for up to only 30 days.

Furthermore, “There is no data stored on any civilian,” Chandler said. He said that the system “only stores the tag and video of the traffic, which is accessed during a criminal investigation.”

Cumberland’s Phoenix Ball organizers announce sponsors

The Cumberland University Phoenix Ball organizers announced the sponsors of this year’s event.

The 2019 Phoenix Ball – Moonlight and Magnolias: A Night of Southern Elegance will be June 1 on the Cumberland University campus. The Pavilion Senior Living is the presenting sponsor of the Phoenix Ball.

Additional sponsors for the event include ESA, ICT, Hardaway Construction, Lee Co. as design and construction sponsors and ServPro as entertainment sponsor.

The Phoenix sponsors include Scott and Kirsten Harris and Parks Auction Co., Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon and Wilson Bank & Trust. The pre-ball reception sponsor is Novamet Specialty Products and patrons of the ball include ReMax Exceptional Properties-Eastland, Adam and Lori Tomlinson, CedarStone Bank, Chartwells, city of Lebanon, Home Instead Senior Care, Pat Bryant, ReMax, SE Motorsports, Sodexo, Southern Bank of Tennessee, Stewart Knowles, THW Insurance Services, Tim Leeper and Wilson County Motors.

Additional sponsors include Hunt Brothers Pizza as magnolia sponsor, Compass Auctions and Real Estate and Fleming Homes as auction sponsor, Hurdle Land & Realty and Amber Hurdle Consulting as bourbon and bubbles bar lounge sponsor, Chuck and Kathryn Daley as dessert sponsor, Neil and Susan Kirshner as floral sponsor, Square Market as lavatory sponsor, Beauty Boutique as photo booth sponsor, Wilson County Motors as safe ride home sponsor, Kevin’s Automotive as signature cocktail sponsor, Dr. E. Dwayne Lett as valet parking sponsor, Zaxby’s as late-night sponsor and Eddie and Brandi Lovin as wine sponsor.

The annual Phoenix Ball benefits scholarships for Cumberland University students and has contributed to hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for students in the past 36 years.

Tickets and additional information about the ball is available at phoenixball.com.

For more than 177 years, Cumberland University has advanced its long tradition of excellence to rise, endure, prosper and illuminate the world. Recognized as one of the fastest-growing liberal arts universities in Tennessee, Cumberland continues to evolve to meet the needs of a diverse and expanding community while it provides a transformational higher education experience through more than 100 fully accredited academic programs of study in three distinct schools.

Wilson County honors its oldest veteran

By Matt Masters

mma[email protected]

Wilson County’s oldest veteran, Max Anderson, a retired World War II U.S. Navy pilot, celebrated his 100th birthday on Memorial Day in Mt. Juliet with a police and motorcycle club escort Monday afternoon down Mt. Juliet Road.

State Sen. Mark Pody, state Rep. Susan Lynn, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash and Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty awarded Anderson with several proclamations and gifts.

All three mayors proclaimed May 27 as Max Anderson Day across Wilson County as a crowd of more than 100 people gathered for the event at the Mt. Juliet train station. The event coincided with the close of the “Honoring Our American Flag” display, a display of dozens of American flags, which was organized by the local Exchange Club and American Legion.

Lynn presented Anderson with an American flag and Tennessee flag, both of which flew above the state capitol and hand-delivered a birthday certificate on behalf of Gov. Bill Lee.

“Thank you all for coming out to my birthday,” Anderson said. “On this occasion, we are here to give thanks to those who gave our lives so that our country might see freedom again, and as an airplane pilot flying over the countryside, I’ve looked down to so many pretty things – Niagara Falls half froze up, Yosemite, San Francisco – so many places that Lord you have put here for us. Now, I thank every one of you for the greetings on my birthday, and I thank the Lord for 100 years living on Earth, this beautiful planet.”

The ceremony ended as Anderson cut an American flag birthday cake and a long line of grateful people awaited their turn to meet, congratulate and thank Anderson.

Fire chiefs respond to mayor’s remarks

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Mt. Juliet fire department leaders took exception to Mayor Ed Hagerty’s comments about the lack of response by the Fire Department of Mt. Juliet to a 911 call at his home earlier in May.

Fire Chief Jamie Luffman and Deputy Chief Chris Allen responded to his comments during the May 10 meeting.

During the meeting, Hagerty recounted how he called 911 to get help with a relative and only the Wilson Emergency Management Agency showed up to the call.

Hagerty is a longtime opponent to a proposed property tax increase that would earmark 39 cents to the fire department.

“I do want to comment further, because there’s been quite a bit of discussion about this,” Hagerty said. “Quite frankly, I’ve been a very vocal opponent against this. One primary reason that I have repeated often is we do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.”

Hagerty then spoke about the 911 call and response.

“The Fire Department of Mt. Juliet did not come when called,” Hagerty said. “They were not on another call. I checked. Given the ranker and emotion of this tax discussion, I don’t even want to speculate why the city of Mt. Juliet [fire department] did not come when called.”

Allen said Thursday he did not appreciate the implication and was upset “politics had been brought into that conversation.”

“For someone who has been in fire services for 33 years, it’s pretty disheartening and kind of a punch to the gut,” Allen said. “Politics aside, we go to someone who needs help.”

“Things shouldn’t go that low. To be accused of personally not responding to a call, it’s disgusting. It’s ironic, because the mayor’s been a frequent critic of ours for running medical calls to begin with.”

Allen said when the fire department first entered service six years ago, “We ran every medical call. Part of it was to learn the city. Part of it was due to dispatch in the county.”

All 911 calls go to the Wilson County dispatchers before they are transferred to a particular agency.

“Probably three years ago, we stopped running low-acuity medical calls,” he said. “Low acuity is a medical term for “not a serious medical call. General complaints of pain, sprained ankle or ‘I don’t feel good, I need to go to the hospital.’”

Luffman further explained the situation and why the fire department did not respond in an email to The Democrat.

“Initial investigation information was that a mistake was made at the Wilson County 911 Center on a recent medical call in Mt. Juliet,” Luffman said. “Upon further investigation, it was found that Wilson County 911 did not make a mistake. The issue found was one of protocol and logistics, which has been reviewed and adjusted to accommodate.
“WEMA and Mt. Juliet Fire Department share a low-acuity protocol that does not require the dispatch of a rescue fire engine. Lebanon Fire Department first responds to all calls for medical service. In this instance, the ambulance that was serving the zone for this call was already out on another call.”

There are two categories dispatchers have when those types of calls come in and an engine is automatically sent, Allen said. They are, car wrecks, anything trauma, heart attack chest pains or diabetic. The second list includes “if the complaint is this. We’re not going to send an engine unless WEMA asks us to,” he said.

Luffman said it prompted two things to happen by WEMA protocol. The next closest ambulance, WEMA Medic 4 in Lakeview, was dispatched for the medical call for service, and the WEMA Engine 3 that serves this zone, was dispatched for first response. Even though the call met the low-acuity criteria, WEMA’s policy is to have the rescue engine respond.

“Since WEMA has a high medical involvement with transport, they will, in times of pulling transport from other zones to cover a call, will dispatch the fire engine for first response,” Luffman said. “The protocol for the Mt. Juliet Fire Department did not address this scenario since we do not control the dispatch locations of the WEMA ambulances and did not foresee this logistical setup, that facet has been added to our protocol. Mt. Juliet did receive the call from Wilson County 911; however, in the fact that the dispatch information received fell under a low-acuity criterion, no Mt. Juliet rescue engine was dispatched.”

Allen said, “We did not have to go on that call. What really hurts is the fire crew, the chiefs, we didn’t know about the call. When it was dispatched, the dispatchers made the decision. We had no knowledge of it.”

If given the chance, Allen said, “I wish we could keep it professional. We’ve been accused of having a ‘spending problem.’ What is frustrating is that our budgets have been approved each year by all five members of the board of commissioners. That includes the mayor. If there is a spending problem, then he’s approved it.

“We’ve not gone over budget. In fact, we’ve returned funds to emergency services every year. So, whether or not you agree that a tax increase [is needed] or not, there’s got to be some type of solution, because we desperately need a third staffed station.”

Last year, the department ran more than 2,670 calls, Allen said, with two stations. Because there is no department on the north end of the city, emergency calls often take 10 minutes when it should take five, he said.

The Lebanon Fire Department has 18 staff members working each shift, he said. Mt. Juliet has a higher population and six members split between two stations.

“They are an older city with some of the challenges that come with that,” he said. “So, we should be somewhere in between.”

Allen said Mt. Juliet encompasses 28.1 square miles, and there are 37,400 people in the city.

“There is a total of 22 full-time, two part-time and 17 volunteers within the department,” Allen said. “Their annual budget is $2.7 million. Compare that to Lebanon, which is 38.6 square miles and has a population of 32,200 people. Their department has 71 full-time and two part-time employees. Their annual budget is $6.8 million.”

Further comparisons included LaVergne, which is 25.1 square miles and has a population of 41,000. It has 46 full-time and 13 part-time employees, and its budget is $4 million.

Allen said he wished the conversation about the department and the potential tax increase, “would be kept professional. I just wish things wouldn’t have evolved to a personal level.”

PHOEBE Connections holds scholarship banquet

PHOEBE Connections held its annual scholarship banquet May 14 at First Baptist Church in Lebanon.

PHOEBE Connections is a nonprofit widows’ support group that raises money annually for children of widows in Wilson County. This year, the group awarded 13 scholarships worth $2,000 each. Former PHOEBE scholarship recipient Matthew Baines, of Lebanon, gave an inspiring keynote presentation.

Veronica Mixon, who will attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Tawny Ashworth, who will attend the University of Tennessee; Samantha Austin, who will attend Tennessee Tech University; Sabrina Austin who will attend Rhodes College; Jillian Austin, who will attend Rhodes College; Lee Gannaway, who will attend Cumberland University; Jourdin Parks-Bell, who will attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Damon Smith, who will attend the University of Tennessee; Cori Johnson, who will attend Cumberland University; Benjamin Yates, who will attend Lee University; Alexander Ayers, who will attend Cumberland University, Destiny Barnes, who will attend Cumberland University; and Zachary Scott, who will attend Tennessee Tech University, each received scholarships.

Since 2016, the group has awarded $51,000 in scholarships.

Mt. Juliet Christian wins Spotlight awards

NASHVILLE – Out of 28 participating high schools and more than 1,200 drama students, Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s performance of “Guys and Dolls” took home the top honor of outstanding musical last Saturday at the 2019 Spotlight Awards at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Mike Fernandez, dean of Lipscomb University’s George Shinn College of Entertainment and the Arts, created the Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards, or Spotlight Awards to recognize excellence in local high school theatre. Presented in partnership with Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the program evaluated musical productions from 28 Tennessee high schools.

With American Idol alum Piper Jones as host in TPAC’s Jackson Hall, the Tony Awards-style ceremony May 11 recognized individual and ensemble talent in 27 categories after students participated in all-day workshops on the Lipscomb campus.

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy also won Spotlight Awards for outstanding choreography and outstanding costume design.

“We are absolutely honored and grateful to have received the Spotlight Award for outstanding musical out of all the amazing high school theater talent in Tennessee,” said Kimberly Overstreet, theatre and choral director at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. “Participation in the Spotlight Awards has provided my students with many invaluable and wonderful experiences, and to be recognized for all their hard work in ‘Guys and Dolls’ was the highlight of their year.”

Seniors Markie Scott and Kenslea Rose were recognized as part of the 2019 all-star crew, and seniors Mason Tabor and Abigail Wilson were recognized as part of the 2019 all-star cast.

“As a teacher and theater director, I am constantly looking for new ways to challenge my students so they can grow and enhance their skills,” Overstreet said. “This production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ has done just that by challenging this incredible group of students to perform at a higher level than thought possible either onstage or behind the scenes. I am blessed with an amazing cast and crew and am incredibly proud of their dedication to the theater program. It is a pleasure to work with them every day.”

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s production of “Guys and Dolls” was nominated in the top five for seven school awards in the categories of outstanding choreography, outstanding ensemble, outstanding costume design, outstanding hair and makeup, outstanding design concept, outstanding technical elements and outstanding musical.

Mt. Juliet Christian theatre students were also nominated for four individual awards, including senior Abe Gibson for outstanding male soloist; senior Mason Tabor for outstanding comedic actor and outstanding lead actor; and senior Abigail Wilson for outstanding lead actress.

Lipscomb University’s George Shinn College of Entertainment and the Arts is the fastest-growing college in the university, with a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. The mission of the college is to be a Christ-centered, innovative, entrepreneurial arts community committed to rigorous artistic training, creative collaboration and professional growth that seeks to train the next generation of believer artists who seek to uplift, challenge and entertain. For more information, visit cea.lipscomb.edu.

Wilson Central choir closes out year at Carnegie Hall

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

The Wilson Central High School choir held its spring choral concert at the end of April, which marked the final school performance for 10 seniors.

Senior Christina Bailey, who was recognized as most dedicated, shared tears and hugs with her classmates after the performance. Bailey said her four-year commitment to the choir paid off in friendships and priceless memories to carry with her as she prepares for college.

“From day one, Mrs. Morin has been like a mom to me, somebody that I can always talk to, and the choir itself has always been a big dysfunctional family in a way,” Bailey said. “Without them, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to stand here tonight and feel as proud as I do.”

Wilson Central’s director of choral activities Lynn Morin said the group of choral students was especially important to her as they became more like family than simply students.

“Every year we finish our year in a traditional way. We sing traditional songs, and every time it just kind of signifies the end of four years for our kids but the other kids also connect with it because of the beauty of the text, the beauty of the music, and they’re very comfortable with it because they sing it every year,” Morin said. “This year’s senior class, as I said, was extremely special to me. I came into this job and didn’t know a soul moving to this area and these kids were literally my family from day one. They accepted me from day one, and they have stuck with me, and they just have my heart.”

While the school performance marked the end of the year for some, 18 students left on an airplane for a historic performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where they performed with Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was a focus of the chamber choir who has worked for months to prepare and perfect its performance and raise funds to travel for the April 28 performance.

Morin said it was possible because of the support for the arts throughout the community, Wilson County Schools and especially from the community and administration at Wilson Central.

“There are a lot of people here in Wilson County who love the arts, and it’s evident at all of our concerts, and I can just say thank you to those who do support the arts,” Morin said. “Sometimes these kids feel like they’re in the background, but on a night like tonight, they weren’t. They were in the spotlight.”

The Carnegie Hall performance is still almost unbelievable to some of the returning students who are more than aware of the unique opportunity in which they took part.

The buildup to the trip was described as nerve wracking and exciting by some of the students, but the tension soon melted away, said senior Audrey Darnell.

“As soon as he [Eric Whitacre] walked into the room, and we started, there was just this calm over everybody and we focused. As soon as we started to sing it was this unified, pure sound and all my worries were just out the door,” Darnell said. “Really he didn’t dwell on technical things because we had such a long amount of time to learn these pieces and kind of dig into them, and he really just being so knowledgeable about that stuff and expecting us to kind of rise to the occasion, he really just talked about the feeling of the music and the emotion that we wanted to convey and the picture in our minds, and that just delivers the song to another level,” Darnell said.

“For instance,” Junior Aelmira Esmaeilpour said, “one of the pieces is called, ‘I Carry Your Heart,’ and at first when we would sing it, no one was really as into it as much as he was hoping, so he just kind of started explaining things and saying how love should feel and just explaining what love is. That just hit a lot of people really deep and everyone got emotional, I cried when we re-sang it, and you could just tell that he could tell what a big difference it made from the beginning to after he explained everything. I think everyone realized that these songs aren’t just written to be sung, they’re written because they mean something.”

That professionalism and passion is something that stuck out to each performer and inspired some to consider involving music performance even deeper into their lives and plans post-graduation.

“It’s really cool to see someone who wrote the music conduct it, because I would watch him while he was conducting and at the end he would close his eyes, and it was almost like he was visualizing what he was saying with his writing. It’s all directly from him, you’re not getting it second hand or from a director who thinks they know what the composer wanted, you’re getting it from the composer who knows what he wants. It’s like his child almost,” sophomore Avery McClure said. “After this trip and seeing how Eric Whitacer was with his music, how it was like his child and seeing how excited he got when he heard what he wanted to hear, I’m considering going into composing or just joining a professional choir and totally threw my other plans out the window.”

In addition to their Carnegie Hall performance, the students visited many New York City landmarks like Central Park. When asked what the best thing besides the performance was, they all replied, “food,” in unison, Ellen’s Stardust Diner to be specific.

While the performance highlighted their hard work and talents, the students made sure to point out the leadership and support from Morin, someone who they all speak of as if she’s family, someone who’s helped them all become more connected.

“I think it just really highlights the caliber and the experience and the talent and the connections of our director. She’s the one who got us into this, she’s the one who lead us into this event and prepared us and I think that she’s just really helpful and amazing,” Darnell said. “She believed in us,” Esmaeilpour said. “She knew we would do it and she was right. This is why we love her.”

“She didn’t give up on us at all,” said junior Samantha Mored.

For Morin, this trip was an affirmation that she and her students had worked their hardest, never taking the opportunity to perform, whether it be in the walls of Wilson Central or Carnegie Hall for granted.

“Just as I had hoped, the first experience, the first rehearsal, the first time that they all sang together under Eric’s direction, it was just magical,” Morin said. “I knew from that point that everything was going to be fine, and I was specifically proud of their preparation. I worked them very hard, and the expectations were very high, and they completely rose to them. In rehearsal, they reaped the benefits of that. I know they realized that. They never reached for their binders of music not once, and that’s pretty cool. There were kids reaching for their binders from other schools, but my kids were just like, bring it. So I was very proud of them in that regard. I had some beautiful seats in Carnegie Hall right on the first tier, front box seats, and I got to see them come out, and it just made my heart swell that they had this experience, one that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. It may very well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of them.”

Former Wilson County Mayor Bob Dedman dies

Lifelong Lebanon resident and former Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman died Thursday at home. He was 85.

Dedman served as Wilson County mayor for 12 years, from 1998 until he retired and current Mayor Randall Hutto became mayor in 2012. Before he was sworn in as mayor, Dedman served on the Lebanon City Council and as property assessor for three terms.

Dedman’s accomplishments are many, and those in the community remember him fondly.

“When I think of Bob Dedman, I think of a true champion and leader, whether it be in sports, politics or in life. He was always someone who listened to the people and wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right. My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” former Wilson County Property Assessor Jack Pratt said.

Before Dedman was a politician, he was an athlete. He played on several championship football teams, including for Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Kentucky. When Dedman played for Lebanon High School from 1951-53, the Blue Devils football team was undefeated.

“Mayor Dedman was a great statesman in my mind in that he never lost an election. He really ran the county with ease. He got things done, not only as property assessor but also as county mayor for 12 years. He was a great man and a great mentor for me when I first thought about becoming a mayor,” said Hutto.

Statton Bone, who met Dedman at Lebanon High School in 1952, said he always made time for everyone. Dedman graduated from Lebanon in 1953.

“He did many, many good things for Lebanon and Wilson County over the years. He served in several different areas. He was very supportive of the Nashville Superspeedway back in its day and the development along I-840. He was a good public servant,” Bone said.

Dedman began his political career in 1972. He served as Lebanon’s first purchasing agent, worked for the secretary of state in 1978 and was then elected to the Lebanon City Council. During his time on the council, Pratt said he was influential to bring ward districts to Lebanon. He served as Senate sergeant-at-arms for the 100th Tennessee General Assembly.

“Bob was a great man. He was awfully good to me. I served as ag director when he was the county mayor. He was a good guy, a good leader. The county lost a good man. My sympathy goes out to his family,” Larry Tomlinson said.

Funeral services for Dedman were Monday at 1 p.m. at Sellars Funeral Home in Lebanon. Visitation was Sunday from 4-8 p.m. and Monday from 11 a.m. until the service at the funeral home. 

Antique tractor, antique truck, gas engine show upcoming

Wilson County Antique Power Association will hold its 28th-annual Antique Tractor, Truck and Gas Engine Show on Saturday at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 E. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon.                                         

Gates will open at 8 a.m.

The entrance to the show will be at the Fiddlers Grove entrance, which is about a quarter mile east of the main entrance between the main entrance and Peyton Road.

The show will feature exhibits of antique tractors, gas engines, antique trucks, farm implements, corn meal grinding and blacksmithing. Many activities for all ages are scheduled throughout the day. Children’s activities will include a needle in the haystack contest and a kiddie tractor pull for 8-12 year olds. There will also be a parade of power, which will allow owners to parade their equipment through the Fiddlers Grove area. A skillet-throw contest will be held for the ladies. 

The Wilson County Antique Power Association was organized in 1991 and is a nonprofit organization. The primary function is to promote the collection, restoration, improvement and display of antique agriculture equipment. Anyone with those interests is welcome to join the club.

Admission is free; however, a donation will be accepted. There will be no fee charged for exhibitors.

For more information about the show, call 615-444-6944 or 615-449-5002. 

Mt. Juliet students excel in German

Mt. Juliet High School students Nicole Saul, Albert Hylmar and Addison Reiter were awarded gold medals and special recognition on the presidential honor roll for outstanding performance on the 2019 National German Exam for High School Students.

Saul and Hylmar received the award they scored in the 94th percentile on the level 1 National German Exam sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of German. Reiter received the award after scoring in the 90th percentile on the level 1 National German Exam. 

Nearly 24,900 students participated in the exam this year nationwide. In Tennessee, 173 students competed on the level 1 exam, and 141 students competed on the level 2 exam. The National German Exam, in its 59th year, rewards students through an extensive prize program and provide a means of comparing students in all regions of the United States.

“The outstanding performance of these German students in our national competition brings honor to their school, their district and their German program,” said Susanne Rinner, associate professor of German at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and AATG president. “The AATG salutes their tremendous accomplishment and the great work their teachers do.”

Saul, Hylmar and Reiter are students in Janine Zahuczky’s German class at Mt. Juliet High School. Five other students were awarded certificates in the category of achievement, which signified a score of 50 percent in the nation or higher. Jude DeWald at 70 percent, Avery Clarkston at 61 percent, Rosemary Meads at 57 percent, Savannah Lowery at 55 percent and John Zimmerman at 50 percent outperformed half of the students in the U.S. in reading and listening comprehension. They also demonstrated mastery in identifying main ideas, supporting details and German vocabulary.

In addition, 11 Mt. Juliet High School students were inducted into the National German Honor Society recently. The students were Emily Austin, Collin Clark, DeWald, Brianna Hamilton, Hylmar, Jaxon Latta, Lowery, Matthew Niven, Reiter, Saul and Zimmerman. 

Students also participated in the Tennessee German Competition at Vanderbilt University, promoted German at the Mt. Juliet Elementary School multicultural night, spoke to eighth-grade students at Mt. Juliet High School’s parent night to encourage middle school students to take German. 

Teacher Janine Zahuczky said she was proud of all her students’ efforts to study world languages and broaden their horizons in different cultures.

Founded in 1926, the AATG represents German teachers at all levels of instruction. The AATG is dedicated to the advancement and improvement of the teaching of language, literature and culture of the German-speaking countries.

Wilson school board honors retirees

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Thirty-seven Wilson County Schools employees who plan to retire were honored with a reception and presentation last Monday night prior to the Wilson County Board of Education meeting.

Among them was Esther Hockett, who worked for the district for 58 years and will retire at the end of the school year as a library media specialist at Mt. Juliet High School.

From 1963-69, Hockett was a teacher and librarian and a guidance counselor at Wilson County High School. At the time, she taught civics, 10th-grade English, health to girls, science, world history and government to seniors.

She said when she retires, she plans to “read, write, complete Bible studies, missionary projects, love and take care of my family, visit loved ones and see more of the world.”

She plans to continue to live in Mt. Juliet. 

Hockett said she decided to retire when she began “receiving answers to prayers. I have been praying to God for several years, and it’s time. Fifty years has seemed just like a very few days on this beautiful journey. Knowing that, I have been truly blessed and loved down through the years.”

She said she “will miss all of our current darling teachers, administrators, staff members and those who are not here, as well. Many of our current teachers are former students. I am so thankful to see them doing an excellent job. It has been a joy to work with each. God truly blesses.”

David Wright retired after 50 years as a bus driver. He was named state bus driver of the Year in 2017. Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said, “When it comes to Lebanon High School, he is always willing to drive.”

Transportation director Jerry Barlow said, “[David Wright’s] blood does run blue.”

David Wright did retire in November due to health conditions, he said.

“I was sick and had to retire,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to give up, but I had to.”

Linda Highers and Patti Smith also plan to retire. Highers said she retired in December and was with the system for 31-and-a-half years.

“I was hired to teach third grade, but then taught kindergarten to third grade,” said Highers, who taught at Watertown Elementary School. “I loved teaching and was a math teacher, as well as an art teacher.”

Smith also taught at Watertown Elementary School and said she has worked for the school system for 30 years. She was hired as a fifth-grade teacher, but then taught third through sixth grades. Smith taught language, reading and social studies.

Janet Spruill and Cindy Willis also plan to retire.

Spruill, who taught at Southside Elementary School, will retire after 41-and-a-half years. She taught first grade and said she will miss teaching.

“I enjoy working with the children,” she said.

Willis, who is a librarian at Lakeview Elementary School, will retire after 29 years with the school system. Twenty of those years were at Lakeview, she said.

“I will miss the kids, but I won’t set my alarm [after she retires],” Willis said. “I will also go at a slower pace.”

Bus driver Charles Lanius plans to retire after 12 years. He said he loved working as a driver.

Math and STEM teacher David Haines plans to retire after 19 years with the school system as 24 years as a teacher. He taught at Mt. Juliet High School.

“I will miss the kids,” he said, echoing many of his fellow retirees.

Others who plan to retire this year are Robert Agee, Tony Batey, Margie Blair, Charles Bowman, Steven Carter, Anita Christian, Cindy Climer, Barbara Coffee, Walter Crawley, Susan Davis, Kelly Eagar, Violet Elliots, Tracy Fialkowski, Samuel Figgins, Kathy Gallager, Cynthia Givens-Harris, Rebecca Ann Laveck, Bridgete Lewis, Barbara Marks, Debra Martin, Robin Morthel, Ann Nored,, Joan Priebel, Donna Robertson, Lorii Sharp, Rick Sink, Linda Gayle Smith, Mary Wheeler and Jerry Williams.

Central Tennessee Soccer seeks new place to play

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

The Central Tennessee Soccer league seeks for new fields, so league play cannot be interrupted when it starts in August.

Its last game of the season will be Saturday on its current fields at 700 Sullivan Bend Road in Mt. Juliet. As soon as the games are done, team members and leaders will pack their items and take them to storage.

The league was at the Sullivan Bend property for eight years, according to Johnny Davis, director of coaches for Central Tennessee Soccer.

“We always knew [the property] was going to be sold at some point, but just didn’t know when,” Davis said. “We were notified right before Easter that we had 30 days to vacate the property.”

About 700 players are in the league each year, which has two seasons, one in the spring and one in the fall. The one in the spring runs March through May, and the fall league runs from August through October. There are about 350 players during each season, Davis said. Currently, there are 30 teams in the league. Players range from 4-18 years old.

“We would love to stay in Mt. Juliet, but we also want to keep our league alive, so we would be open to other options,” he said. “Most of us live in Mt. Juliet and most of our kids live in Mt. Juliet.

“I’m confident we will find land, even though it might not be as much as we would like. We have asked our current families to reach out to everyone they know. We have done some door knocking. We have posted on Facebook. We did a news story on [a Nashville television station] last week. I personally met with Kenny Martin, the Mt. Juliet city manager, and he is trying to help me find some options for fields. 

The league can make 8 acres “work, but would prefer around 15 acres,” Davis said. “On 15 acres, we could put about 12 different size soccer fields. With 8 acres, we would be able to do around six to eight fields.”  

In 2018, the league started what they called the Foundation Program, which allows all the kids in U6 and U8 to play for free or for a donation. 

“We did this, because we wanted every child to have the chance to be introduced to the great game of soccer without having to worry about financial obligations that might limit them from playing,” he said. “For a lot of us involved with the league, these kids have become like family. For me, my son is almost 8 and has been playing in the league for four years now. I have several kids who have played with me for three-plus years. We have several people who have been volunteering with our league for years without having kids involved in the league anymore, because they love these kids and the game of soccer.

“After Saturday’s games, we will start at 2 p.m., packing up the goals to transport them to a storage location. Any help with that would be appreciated.”

To contact Davis, call him at 615-354-3957.

Justice offers city funding options

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Mt. Juliet Commissioner Ray Justice gave an optional city funding presentation to a proposed property tax increase Friday at a Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Justice told the crowd of various options to fund the fire department and help fund infrastructure needs.

The original proposal from city staff was a property tax increase to a total of 59 cents, which would be broken down to 39 cents specifically given to fire department needs and 20 cents directed to infrastructure projects.

“In 2011, Wilson County passed a resolution that stated Wilson County would not cover the fire services for the city of Mt. Juliet above what they were currently providing,” Justice said in his presentation. “Any enhancement to the city of Mt. Juliet’s fire coverage by the city itself would result in the city having to take over all fire services. The funding of this project would fall to the city taxpayers to fund. Our taxpayers had to have fire service. It had to be funded.”

He said the tax rate for the city of Mt. Juliet was not lowered, although the service was no longer provided.

It was lowered from 20 cents to 16 cents in the past due to reappraisal of properties, according to Mayor Bill Hagerty in a Mt. Juliet City Commission meeting a few months ago.

“The current property tax funds the Mt. Juliet Fire Department,” Justice said in the presentation. “[We have the] lowest city property tax rate in Wilson County. [The] proposed city property tax rate increases to 59 cents or 39 cents would still be lowest city tax in Wilson County.”

The current property tax on a $150,000 home is $62 per year. On a $300,000 home, it is $125. On a $500,000 home, it is $208.

“The current budget deficit for [the fire department for] fiscal year 2018-2019 is $450,000,” he said. “[For the] 2019-2020 projected [fire department] budget deficit at the .1664-cent property tax rate is $565,000. [The] majority of property tax revenue is received between December and February. Depleting reserves creates cash flow problems from July to November. [The] current plan for construction and operational cost of additional fire station is why we are having these discussions.”

To build a proposed fire hall on the north side of the city near the new Green Hill High School, the cost is estimated to be $4.138 million, while operating costs would be just less than $2 million.

Justice said there are additional needs for the fire department. An increase of funding would help the department “close existing budget deficit [of $565,000], add staffing for at least one ladder company [at 12 personnel with four per shift]; critical need based on increasing number of multi-story facilities, including assisted living complexes; staffing could be phased in over time.”

Also, the city would need to replace self-contained breathing apparatus and turnout gear, replace the Center City fire station behind city hall and replace squad 103 and engine 104 in 2023. The need to add staffing for a dedicated shift commander of three personnel with one per shift, and replace compressor and radios, Justice said in the presentation.

Justice said under the first option, which was previously proposed, the city would raise taxes. To fully fund the current operation, it would levy a 23.5-cent tax increase. To fund the operations of the north station, the cost would be an additional 11 cents. To cover the additional needs for the north station, and then the City Center station would cost 4.25 cents, for a total of 39 cents.

The increase for a $150,000 home would be $84, which would bring the total to $146. For a 300,000 home, the cost would be an additional $168, which would bring the total to $293 and for a $500,000 home, the increase would be an additional $280 to $488.

A second option would be to increase the tax rate to 59 cents. That would increase the tax rate for $150,000 from $159 to $221. For a $300,000 home, the increase would be $318 to $443. For a $500,000 home, the increase would be $530 to $738.

Other options include a sales tax increase from 9.25 percent to 9.75 percent, which would generate an estimated $555,000 annually. That would require a public referendum to pass or fail the measure. Last year, Wilson County proposed an increase by referendum, but voters rejected it by about 2,000 votes.

There could be general fund transfers to cover deficit. The general fund supports all other city departments and includes current transfers to state street aid fund, debt service fund, and capital projects fund, Justice said.

Impact fees are also an option, Justice said.

“Impact fees for infrastructure are very common for cities and counties,” he said. “Justification studies are underway to determine actual cost of growth. [We can use] per-capita costs of growth. Williamson County recently was allowed to implement and take advantage of [an] impact fee by the courts.”

The newest option is to use half of the hotel-motel tax that guests pay in their bill and is collected by the hotel or motel. The funds were originally dedicated to parks capital improvements, Justice said.

“[It is] now bringing in about $800,000 per year,” Justice said in his presentation. “A cap of $400,000 would continue to be dedicated to capital parks projects. The remaining $400,000 would be directed to the fire department to help offset the current deficit.”

Fees for infrastructure are about $1.8 million.

“TDOT has announced four projects being placed in the three-year plan for Mt. Juliet-west Wilson County, all as a result of the IMPROVE Act,” he said.

That includes an interchange at Central Pike, right-of-way acquisition on Lebanon Road and right-of-way acquisition on South Mt. Juliet Road, from Central Pike to Providence Drive, according to the presentation.

“The total cost for road and greenway projects between 2020 and 2024 is estimated to be $37,841,438,” Justice said.

The city projects nearly $17.1 million would come from state and federal grants, the presentation said. City funds for the projects are estimated to be nearly $19 million that would be spent in the next four years, according to the presentation.

For a project, the estimated costs, which would affect road projects are $75,000 for turn lanes, $180,000 for a red-light addition, $300,000 for a road widening and $70,000 for sidewalks along peripheral roadways, for a total of $625,000, Justice said. The per-home impact fee would be $2,500 and with the increase, would be used to help pay for infrastructure projects.

Wilson County recognizes May as ALS Awareness Month

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto signed a proclamation last Wednesday that designated May as ALS Awareness Month in Wilson County.

Several citizens, community leaders and family members who were affected by ALS, including Bryan Galentine and Ashley Vickers, joined Hutto at a ceremonial proclamation signing at the Wilson County Courthouse.

The proclamation calls for county residents to help raise awareness about ALS, raise funds for research and reach out to those suffering. Blue is the ALS awareness color, and residents are encouraged to wear blue throughout the month to show their support.

“If we don’t recognize it, and if we don’t continue to raise funds to defeat it, then we’re going backwards. So that is our motive here today, to do this and to get other people involved. I had a chance to be a part of the ice bucket challenge back during the summer [to help the Vickers family raise money for ALS awareness], and we want to do more of these things to kind of help support and to also raise funds to find a cure for this disease,” said Hutto, before he ended the event with a group prayer.

ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and affects at least 16,000 people in the United States at any time, with about 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to the ALS Association. More information about ALS, its symptoms and research for a cure may be found at alsa.org.