10 Wilson County schools named Reward schools

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

The state Department of Education named 10 local schools, seven in Wilson County Schools and three Lebanon Special School District schools, as Reward schools, which is the highest honor given annually to individual schools.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Friday the 2018 Reward and Priority schools, which are two key designations under Tennessee’s school accountability system. It was the first year Tennessee implemented its new school accountability model, which was developed with educators and stakeholders across the state and which looks at multiple measures of success.

Wilson County schools named Reward schools were Mt. Juliet High School, Watertown High School, West Wilson Middle School, Elzie D. Patton Elementary School, Stoner Creek Elementary School, West Elementary School and W.A. Wright Elementary School. No Wilson County schools were named priority schools.

“By any standard, the start of this school year has been exceptional,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “Last month, we learned that the district has now achieved a Level 5 status for the academic growth of our students. Nine of our schools – almost half – received the highest ranking possible. Today, we’ve learned that seven of our schools have also achieved Reward School status. I can’t say enough about the hard work and dedication that’s been exerted by our students, teachers and administrators.”

For the second year in a row, the Lebanon Special School District earned exemplary status, which indicated the district exceeded state growth expectations in all indicators. Half of Lebanon schools achieved Reward status. Byars Dowdy Elementary School, Sam Houston Elementary School and Walter J. Baird Middle School were named Reward schools. No Lebanon schools were named Priority schools.

“Our administrators, teachers and students across the system work so hard,” said Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson. “It is a major accomplishment to have half of the schools in the system recognized by the Tennessee Department of Education as Reward schools and for the system overall to be classified as exemplary for the second year in a row. We were celebrating our Level 5 status when the additional accolades were announced. I am extremely proud of everyone involved. We will continue to focus on areas of improvement and, at the same time, celebrate success with our students and teachers.”

Reward schools improved overall student academic achievement and student growth for all students and for student groups, and they are identified annually. In 2018, 318 schools in 85 school districts – about 20 percent of schools in the state – earned Reward status.

Priority schools are identified at least every three years, and they are schools most in need of support and improvement. Priority schools fall into the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state test scores in the past three years and have low graduation rates. Following legislation passed last spring, 2017-18 TNReady data was not used to identify Priority schools. The 2018 Priority list included 82 schools across eight districts, and these schools will be eligible for additional funding and will be supported by the department, in coordination with their districts, to develop a plan to improve.

“In this first year with our new system, it is incredibly encouraging to see more than 300 of our schools are earning Reward status for how they are supporting our students’ academic achievement and growth,” McQueen said. “At the same time, we see a number of places where we need to improve. Our new school improvement model takes a student-focused, evidence-based approach to tailor interventions for our Priority schools, and we will be working closely with these schools and their districts over the coming year to improve academic outcomes and strengthen whole-child services that support student success.”

Tennessee’s new school accountability system was developed through a 16-month process of gathering feedback and hearing input from students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. Tennessee has designated Reward and Priority schools since 2012, but this was the first year with an updated methodology as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. As part of federal requirements, the plan was submitted to and approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

The new accountability framework is based on principles that all schools can be successful and all Tennessee students must be served well. It includes a variety of measures, including chronic absenteeism and discipline, ACT performance, and TNReady scores, to make a determination. All schools are rated both on how they serve the full student population and how they are specifically serving student groups that have historically been underserved: students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and black, Hispanic, and Native American students. This fall, the department will publish more information about how all schools perform on these measures as part of a new school dashboard that will be posted online to offer additional information to parents, educators, elected officials, and community leaders.

As part of Tennessee’s new accountability plan, all Priority schools will move into an evidence-based school improvement model, ranging from district-led plans to intervention by the state’s Achievement School District. To better support Tennessee’s lowest performing schools, the state has invested $20 million into school improvement over the last two years. This funding is specifically devoted for Priority schools.

Guns, drugs, cash found in Mt. Juliet home

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson County sheriff’s special response team and Lebanon police’s SWAT team, along with assistance of Mt. Juliet police, charged a wanted teenage boy last week and confiscated guns, drugs, stolen property and cash at a home in Mt. Juliet.

Authorities found three guns, including one stolen from a home invasion in Rutherford County, various narcotics, including cocaine, crack cocaine, cannabis and LSD, and large sums of money believed to be involved in drug distribution.

The arrest and seizure happened when a search warrant was executed at 1712 Mt. Juliet Road after authorities suspected they would find evidence connected to crimes associated with vehicle burglaries in Wilson and Davidson counties.

The search warrant also listed a teenage boy who had two active juvenile petitions out of Davidson County for aggravated robberies. Authorities found about 15 people inside the house, including the boy, who was wanted in Davidson County.

“We were able to collectively execute a search warrant on a residence where numerous drugs and firearms were present, as well as apprehend a juvenile who was involved in violent crimes out of the Metro area,” said Sheriff Robert Bryan. “This is just another example [the danger] this potentially could’ve posed the public and to the officers. We are working every day with our local and surrounding agencies to combat drug distribution and to keep weapons out of the wrong hands. Many of these suspects were also associated with vehicle burglaries, and we cannot stress enough the importance of securing your vehicle every time you leave it unoccupied.”

The boy was taken to Davidson County, and five other suspects face numerous drug and firearm charges pending the outcome of a Wilson County grand jury investigation.

Bredesen, Blackburn square off at Cumberland

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and former Gov. Phil Bredesen faced off in a debate last Tuesday night at the Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel where they debated the issues that will face Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.

The debate began with the first question to Blackburn who was asked what she thought was the single-most important issue facing Tennesseans and what she would do to address that issue.

Blackburn jumped right into tax cuts, jobs and the economy as her focus for the most important issues facing Tennesseans, citing economic growth in Scott County. She closed her opening statement with, “A healthy economy [is] good for all Tennesseans.”

Bredesen said the dysfunction in Washington D.C. is the most pressing issue, and noted many things that could help Tennesseans, specifically in terms of economics, are stalled in Washington due to partisan politics and a lack of leadership.

“This idea that somehow your party affiliation, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, ought to determine everything about how you think about things and how you approach things is one of the things that’s crazily wrong with it,” Bredesen said.

“You’ve heard a lot recently in this campaign about me, about these crazy ideas of how if somehow I’m elected and go to Washington that suddenly I’m going to turn my back on a whole lifetime of thinking for myself and being independent and suddenly become some kind of a political lackey. That’s not going to happen for a bunch of reasons.

“One of which is that I think a lot of the problem in Washington is with the leadership that we have there now. Whether it be Ryan or Pelosi or McConnell or Schumer, they’re not doing the job. We need to get new leadership, and I can tell you right now that if I’m elected, and when I’m elected and go to Washington, I am not going to be voting for Chuck Schumer.”

Blackburn latched onto Bredesen’s claim as an independent thinker and hammered home her claims that Bredesen would only support a Democratic agenda throughout the debate. She said the Democratic New York senator’s name 12 times throughout the debate, said Bredesen and his campaign was “bought and paid for” by Schumer six times throughout the debate.

“Phil had a choice. He could have run as a Republican or an independent, probably didn’t want to do that. He’s running as a Democrat so he will be with Chuck Schumer if he were to go to Washington,” Blackburn said. “He will vote with Chuck Schumer because his vote is already bought and paid for. His campaign is bought and paid for by Chuck Schumer.”

Bredesen made no mention of the ongoing support of Blackburn by President Donald Trump, who has campaigned at fundraisers for her in Tennessee several times, with the next rally scheduled for Oct. 1 in Johnson City.

Tax cuts, the national debt, immigration, refugees, President Donald Trump, health care, rural hospital closings, the opioid epidemic, trade, Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, gun control, the press, infrastructure and the United States’ standing in the world were all topics tackled by the candidates.

Blackburn fell solidly on party lines, at times defying the influence of Trump, while Bredesen supported progressive stances, albeit moderate in today’s political climate, but continued to call for a change of leadership in both the Democratic and Republican party in Washington.

“I am running to take your Tennessee values to Washington D.C.,” Blackburn said in her closing statement. “Phil said that he is running to end the dry spell for Democrats in Tennessee. He said that he thinks that D.C. listens too much to voters. I think that D.C. needs to listen more to voters. That’s what draining the swamp is about.”

“If what you want is someone who brings some experience from the business world, brings some experience from being mayor and governor, and in particular brings an attitude of wanting to start making things happen, of getting things done, of pushing the partisanship down and trying to actually solve some problems, that’s what I want to do. That’s what my whole life has been about,” Bredesen said in his closing statement. “If that’s what people want, I would like to represent them in Washington, and I’m applying for the job.”

County’s graduation rate dips slightly

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County Schools’ graduation rate for 2018 dipped slightly from the previous year’s rate, and one high school had a slight increase in graduation rate.

Overall among Wilson County’s four high schools, the 2018 graduation rate was 95.6 percent, which fell 0.6 percent from the previous year when it was 96.2 percent. Out of 1,553 seniors, 1,484 graduated in 2018, compared to 1,553 seniors and 1,512 graduates in 2017.

“In tracking district graduation rates, we have consistently scored above the 95 percent graduation rate each year as set by the [Tennessee Department of Education],” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “ As Wilson County Schools continues to grow, we are committed to ensuring students, parents, teachers and administrators work together so our students can reap the benefits of an excellent education. We also commend each of our high schools for their diligence and commitment to every student in making sure they stay on track to graduate on time and have a postsecondary plan once they graduate high school.”

Lebanon High School was the only high school in Wilson County that had an increase in graduation rate in 2018 compared to 2017. Lebanon’s graduation rate rose 0.3 percent to 93.2 percent, compared to 92.9 percent in 2017. Out of 459 seniors, 428 graduated in 2018, compared to 449 seniors and 417 graduates in 2017.

Mt. Juliet High School’s graduation rate fell 0.4 percent to 98 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. Out of 502 seniors, 492 graduated in 2018, compared to 507 seniors and 499 graduates in 2017.

After it celebrated one of the highest graduation rates in the state and the highest in Wilson County in 2017, Watertown High School’s graduation rate had the most significant decrease in 2018, compared to the previous year. Watertown’s graduation rate fell 1.9 percent to 97.3 percent, compared to 99.2 percent in 2017. Out of 113 seniors, 110 graduated in 2018, compared to 118 seniors and 117 in 2017.

Wilson Central High School’s graduation rate fell 1.2 percent to 94.9 percent in 2018 compared to 96.1 in 2017. Out of 469 seniors, 445 graduated in 2018, compared to 486 seniors and 467 graduates in 2017.

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said the 2017-18 high school graduation rate held steady at 89.1 percent, which is the highest graduation rate on record for Tennessee. This year, more than 56 percent of districts with high schools statewide saw their graduation rates improve when compared to last year’s rates.

“Our schools and districts should be proud that once again we have hit our state’s highest graduation rate on record while still holding our students to high expectations,” McQueen said. “By continuing to raise the expectations, we are signaling that Tennessee students are leaving high school with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce. This graduation rate is a testament to the work being done by teachers and students in schools across the state.”

Under the Haslam administration, Tennessee set high expectations for both students and educators, and students have made significant gains as a result. As part of the work, the state transitioned to a more rigorous calculation for graduation rates in 2011, and even under the new criteria, rates have continued to rise.

Additionally, the state raised the bar for graduation expectations when the state Board of Education included participation in the ACT or SAT as a graduation requirement for Tennessee students. This year’s results are the first to reflect the change in accountability.

For 2018, the most notable gains and overall achievements in the state were:

• 9 districts improved their graduation rates by 5 percent or more. The districts with the most significant gains were Union City at 9.4 percent, Richard City at 8.7 percent, Van Buren County at 8.4 percent, Sequatchie County at 7.6 percent and Bledsoe County at 6.5 percent.

• 44 districts – more than one-third of the districts in the state with high schools –had graduation rates at or above 95 percent, an increase from last year.

• 106 districts – nearly 81 percent of the districts in the state – had graduation rates at or higher than 90 percent, an increase from 98 districts last year. Richard City, Oneida Special School District, Alcoa City and Morgan County all had graduation rates at or higher than 99 percent.

• 22 schools across 15 districts had graduation rates of 100 percent.

County receives its new bond rating

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County’s bond rating remains at a strong AA+, Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard told the newly seated Wilson County Commission on Sept. 17 at its meeting. 

Standard and Poor’s looked at the county when they began the recent bond sale and determined they are “very strong,” in relationship to their debt service and general fund, Maynard said.

There are only six counties in Tennessee with AA+ bond ratings. That is the second highest rating possible, Maynard said. Only two counties – Williamson and Hamilton – have a higher rating at AAA+.

“We’ve taken great strides to remain AA+,” Maynard said. “When I first came here, we have an ending general fund balance of $100,000. Now it’s at $10 million and is stable. We pay off our debit on time and have strong reserves. Standard and Poor’s recognized that and reaffirmed our bond rating.”

The only voting business the commission had Monday was when it passed a resolution to request unclaimed funds from the state. The funds are then put into the general debt fund, according to Maynard.

Maynard told the commission he was tasked by Hutto to prepare a Powerpoint presentation to detail the need for, and benefits of, a countywide sales tax increase referendum. The referendum would be on the Nov. 6 ballot and would, if passed, increase the county’s sales tax from 9.25 percent to the state maximum of 9.75 percent. The funding would strictly be used for education purposes such as education debt services or new schools.

The alternative to the sales tax referendum is a property tax increase, Maynard said. That does not have to be approved by the public’s vote. 

Maynard and Hutto said they would be available for presentations to various groups, businesses and other interested parties. The county may also send out mailers and hire an independent public relations firm to help spread the word about the need for the half-cent sales tax increase.

New commissioners, who met for the first time since the Aug. 2 election, took no time to elect committee members.

Hutto was elected the commission’s chairperson, and Commissioner Wendell Marlowe was chosen as commission chairperson pro-tem.

Four members were elected to the Budget Committee. Annette Stafford, Gary Keith, William Glover and Marlowe were chosen by paper ballot. Also chosen by paper ballot were members of the Finance Committee. Diane Weathers, Bobby Franklin, John Gentry and Dan Walker were elected.

Sue Vanatta, Terry Ashe, Gary Keith, John Gentry and Jerry McFarland were chosen by commissioners to serve on the Insurance Committee. Hutto appointed residents Nancy Andrews and Chris McAteer, along with Marlowe, Sonja Robinson and McFarland, to serve on the Animal Control Committee.

The Ethics Committee will consist of Terry Ashe, Cyndi Bannach, Chris Dowell, Mike Kurtz and citizen Earl Ray. Diane Weathers was appointed to the Planning Commission.

The road commissioner for Zone 2 will be Chad Barnard, and Robinson will be the road commissioner for Zone 4.

Don Chambers was reappointed to the Water and Wastewater Board, while John Lavender was reappointed as a parks and recreation advisory board member.

Twenty-five commissioners and their families will help build a Habitat for Humanity home Oct. 13 in Wilson County. Their work will take place during the one day, Hutto said.

Community grieves loss of teen who drowned

By Jared Felkins

Keon Dotson

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

WATERTOWN – A tight-knit community continued Monday to mourn the loss of a 17-year-old boy who drowned Saturday while swimming at Old Hickory Lake.

Wilson Emergency Management Agency divers found the body of Elijah Keon Dotson, of Watertown, on Saturday evening after about a three-hour underwater search at Cedar Creek Boat Ramp in Mt. Juliet. 

Dotson was a senior at Watertown High School. He previously played football and was a member of the track and field team. According to Watertown High School principal Jeff Luttrell, counselors were made available Monday to students who needed support. 

“We are so saddened as a school and community at the loss of our student, Keon Dotson,” Luttrell said. “He possessed a powerful smile and a personality that drew people to want to know him. We will take every step possible to ensure we assist our students as they grieve the loss of a friend and classmate.”

A community prayer service was held Sunday evening in the library at Watertown Middle School, organized by the Bridge’s parents of teens life group and the church’s youth group. All community members and students were invited to participate. 

According to social media posts, students and faculty wore red Monday to school in honor of Dotson. According to a tweet by a member of the football team, the Purple Tigers dedicated their season to Dotson, and the student section plans to have a “red out” during Friday night’s game against Westmoreland. 

Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore said the incident on Old Hickory Lake happened Saturday at about 2:30 p.m., and divers found the Dotson’s body at about 6 p.m. He said Dotson tried to swim to a buoy beyond the swim area, and there was a change in water depth where he went under and was unable to surface. 

Wilson County sheriff’s boat patrol and Wilson Emergency Management Agency water rescue crews searched for Dotson on Saturday afternoon in Mt. Juliet. 

WEMA director Joey Cooper said divers were called to the boat ramp to search for the teen. Moore said it’s believed no foul play was involved. 

Cedar Creek Boat Ramp is at 9264 Saundersville Road in Mt. Juliet. Old Hickory Lake is part of the Cumberland River.

‘True greenway’ suggested for subdivision

By Angie Mayes

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet Planning Commission members meet Thursday night to discuss several plans for new developments in the city.

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Lynwood Station, connected greenway from Charlie Daniels Park to a new subdivision in Mt. Juliet, was a key point at the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission meeting Thursday night.

Commissioner Art Giles said while he appreciates a trail going through the subdivision and eventually ending at the Music City Star train station, he would like to see a greenway more aligned with a true greenway other than a path.

“I’d like to see the [10-foot] path turned in to a true greenway,” Giles said. “We need the connected paths or greenways, but we need to come up with a solution to put an actual, true greenway in the project.”

He suggested moving the border fence on the project to the property line and putting a true greenway path between the fence and the buffer made of the existing trees, which are mostly cedar trees. That way, a 10-foot greenway and a 10-foot buffer of the trees could be included, Giles said.

“If we look at coming up with another idea, which includes bringing a greenway near Clemmons Road, we can have a 6-foot sidewalk on the other side,” Giles said. “My vision is that the greenway be run all the way up Clemmons to the Woodridge subdivision bridge. If a sidewalk is built in Woodridge to the bridge, then residents of both subdivisions will be able to utilize the greenway.”

He said a true greenway would help the city with multi-modal grants in the future.

“But, if the greenway is put in by the developer,” it will be faster than getting a grant,” Giles said.

The property at 325 Clemons Road, will consist of single-family homes and townhouses. The plan came before the commission in April and May, and the commission asked for a reduction in the number of structures.

Commission chair Luke Winchester said he would be concerned for the safety of the residents since the greenway plans do not include lighting or patrols by police.

Giles said Charlie Daniels Park and the greenways in the city close at 10 p.m., but there are a number of people who are on the paths at midnight.

“I wouldn’t do it,” he said.

Winchester was concerned about getting to people in case of an emergency.

“Because the greenway would be between the fence and the trees, the emergency services personnel could not get to it easily,” Winchester said. “There needs to be some sort of entrance to the trail [throughout the greenway].” 

The commissioners will require traffic-calming measures throughout the subdivision, Winchester said. 

The commission voted to give the project a favorable recommendation to the Mt. Juliet City Commission. 

Also, on the agenda, the commission approved a renovation at Chick-fil-A on Mt. Juliet Road, which plans to add a second drive-thru lane at the restaurant.

Backyard, shed go up in flames

Staff Reports

Mt Juliet firefighters responded to this fire in the rear of a home on Raven Crossing. The fire involved a shed and sections of fence and some trees. There was no damage to the home.

Mt. Juliet firefighters fought a fire Tuesday evening that burned a resident’s backyard, shed, fence and trees. 

Mt. Juliet dispatchers sent firefighters to 2022 Raven Crossing just before 6:15 p.m. after a resident reported his backyard was on fire and spreading to the trees and a fence. 

Deputy Chief Chris Allen arrived first and found a shed, fence and trees were on fire in the resident’s backyard. Firefighters with a ladder unit led by Lt. Brent Blamires arrived and started to extinguish the fire. A hydrant was found in the front yard. 

Firefighters put out the fire and cut away some trees and a few fence sections to ensure the fire wouldn’t reignite. The roofing material from a shed was pulled away and firefighters soaked the pile of ashes.

Allen said the cause was determined to be a homeowner who burned some fungi in the back of the shed when the fire got out of hand and spread to the shed. The fire then extended to the trees and fence. 

Firefighters cautioned the homeowners about open burning in the densely wooded area so close to a building.

There were no injuries and no damage to the home.

Sales tax increase placed on November ballot

By Angie Mayes

Special to the Democrat

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Thirty-five-year military officer Rita Wilson, a Wilson County resident, explains what the Pledge of Allegiance means. She broke down the words and explained what each section meant for Wilson County commissioners Monday night at their meeting.

To raise funds for educational projects, Wilson County placed a sales tax increase in the form of a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. 

It will be on the ballot for voters to decide instead of the Wilson County Commission’s consideration of a property tax increase, according to county finance director Aaron Maynard.

If voters approve it, the sales tax would increase from 9.25 percent to the state maximum of 9.75 percent. The .50 percent equals a half-cent increase, Maynard said.

“On $100, the increase would be 50 cents,” Maynard said. “By law, the sales tax increase has to go on a referendum. Half of the amount raised in sales tax has to go to education. It depends on where the sale took place. The state gets 7.50 percent of the money. The cities and the counties get 2.25 percent, depending on where the sale takes place.”

For example, if the sale is in Mt. Juliet, the city gets the money. If the sale is in the county, Wilson County gets the sales tax money.

In most recent statistics available, Lebanon received $11 million in sales tax revenues per month, while Mt. Juliet had $10.3 million in sales tax revenues, Maynard said.

In addition to Wilson County Schools, Lebanon Special School District gets money from the sales tax referendum, as well, he said. 

“It is based on the average daily attendance,” Maynard said. “This year, they received $886,000 that didn’t come to the county.”

The county received $5.2 million from the sales tax coffers during the previous fiscal year.

Maynard said the “driving force behind the sales tax referendum is infrastructure. We can manage operating co

sts through growth. That could be hiring teachers, deputies and paramedics. It’s hard to manage through population.”

In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were 113,993 people in Wilson County. In 2017, the estimate was 136,442. That’s the approximate number of people the census bureau had originally estimated would be in the county in 2019.

“Over the past seven years, we added 22,449 people,” Maynard said. “We’re expected to add 21,389 in the next six years. In 2023, we are expected to have 157,930 people. The census bureau does come in on the low side, so we could have more.”

Maynard said the only option other than a sales tax increase, is to raise the property tax, which will hurt homeowners and businesses.

“The sales tax option affects everyone who spends money in Wilson County,” Maynard said. “It will be spent by residents who shop here, tourists or even people who just drive through and stop.”

Maynard said 49 of the 95 counties in Tennessee already have their sales tax rate at 9.75 percent and 11 counties are at 9.5 percent. 

“That means that more than 63 percent of the counties in Tennessee have a rate of 9.5 percent or higher,” he said. “Williamson County just raised theirs to 9.75 percent. Rutherford County is at 9.75 percent. Montgomery County is at 9.5 percent, and Sumner County is at 9.25 percent.”

Maynard said the county supports school renovations and construction. In the past few years, Wilson County Schools expanded Carroll-Oakland School, Gladeville Elementary School, Rutland Elementary School, Southside School, Tuckers Crossroads School, Watertown Elementary School, West Elementary School and West Wilson Middle School. Lebanon High School and Watertown High School were built within the past seven years. Gladeville Middle School is scheduled to open next fall. The new Green Hill High School is expected to be ready to open in two years.

Maynard said a property tax hike does not go before the citizens. The state allows a county to raise its rate by commission vote.

He admitted there were three referendums to increase the sales tax since 1994, and all three failed. He hopes it will be different this year.

“We’ve been asked by property owners why we increase the property tax,” Maynard said. “We don’t want to penalize the property owners, but that’s what we will have to do if this doesn’t pass. This is our bottom line. Hopefully people will turn out to vote for this. This is an opportunity for people to choose what kind of tax they want.”

Wilson County honors POWs, MIAs

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Matt Masters • Mt. Juliet News
A POW/MIA memorial service concludes with the posting of two POW/MIA flags outside the Wilson County Veterans’ Plaza and Museum where they fly high in memory of those lost but never forgotten.

Veterans, active-duty servicemen, former prisoners of war and their civilian supporters gathered Friday morning at the Wilson County Veteran’s Plaza and Museum to remember America’s prisoners of war and missing in action.

Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash gave the keynote speech and issued a proclamation to honor the day in recognition of POWs and MIAs. Ash also said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto also issued a proclamation.

“To those that are still missing, we will not rest until you or your remains are returned home. To all those former POWs, we will never forget your service and sacrifice that you and your families have given to this country and for us individually,” Ash said.

Ash also invoked the memory of possibly the United States’ most famous POW, Arizona Sen. John McCain who died Aug. 25. McCain was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and held as a POW for five and a half years.

“There is a continuous effort by the United States government and activist groups like Rolling Thunder, who we heard from today and others, to bring these soldiers home, but it takes all of us to keep the pressure on until every last soldier has been accounted for,” Ash said.

Linda Yates, president of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1004, said education and recognition of the sacrifices is key to keep the history and memory of POWs and MIAs alive.

“There’s way too many POWs and MIAs unaccounted for. As we heard, there’s over 90,000 between all the different conflicts and wars, so it’s important that we remember them and work toward bringing them home,” Yates said. “This is one of the under recognized ceremony days and we wanted to make sure that it’s memorialized because of the connections to our community right here in Lebanon.

“The other part that we wanted to do today is to educate the younger generation and we are fortunate also that they publicized it in some of the schools, particularly Tuckers Crossroads, which actually did a program with their children, and we showed them the [POW/MIA] flag and explained to them the significance behind it. It’s important because it’s being forgotten. You have Bill Leslie, who in his 80s, his story is very important and those stories could be lost.”

Wilson Central JROTC cadets laid a uniformed cap on the Missing Man Table to remember those who await their honorable return home. State Rep. Clark Boyd and Dennis Guillette with the Vietnam Veterans of America participated in the roll call ceremony to remind the crowd just how many people never made it home from each of America’s engagements.

Bill Burkhart, whose father was shot down in Vietnam, spoke about the hardships of growing up not knowing if his father was alive and the challenges to find his final resting place. Burkhart said in the past year, advances were made to locate his father’s crash site, and work is ongoing to try and make more discoveries in the hope to bring his remains home.

Bill Leslie shared a unique story as a civilian POW as a child during World War II when he and several thousand people were held in a concentration camp by the Japanese while living in Manila, were they faced starvation and disease among other horrors.

Burkhart and Leslie laid a wreath in memory of those lost, provided by the American Legion Post 15.

Paul Williams with Rolling Thunder Tennessee Chapter 1 in Middle Tennessee, an advocacy group that seeks to bring full accountability for the country’s POW/MIA service members, said it’s important to support those who have sacrificed so much, especially those who did not make it home through their sacrifice.

“The main tenant of Rolling Thunder is the POW/MIA issue. We want to help keep it in the forefront so that we can get as full an account as possible for all of our missing servicemen and women. Today is the National POW/MIA recognition day, and we also do things to help current active-duty servicemen and women and our veterans, including providing a motorcycle escort for anyone who asks for it during a veteran’s funeral,” 

The service concluded with the posting of two POW/MIA flags outside the Wilson County Veterans’ Plaza and Museum where they fly high in memory of those lost but never forgotten.

Ten local schools named Reward schools

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

The state Department of Education named 10 local schools, seven in Wilson County Schools and three Lebanon Special School District schools, as Reward schools, which is the highest honor given annually to individual schools.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Friday the 2018 Reward and Priority schools, which are two key designations under Tennessee’s school accountability system. It was the first year Tennessee implemented its new school accountability model, which was developed with educators and stakeholders across the state and which looks at multiple measures of success.  

Wilson County schools named Reward schools were Mt. Juliet High School, Watertown High School, West Wilson Middle School, Elzie D. Patton Elementary School, Stoner Creek Elementary School, West Elementary School and W.A. Wright Elementary School. No Wilson County schools were named priority schools. 

“By any standard, the start of this school year has been exceptional,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “Last month, we learned that the district has now achieved a Level 5 status for the academic growth of our students. Nine of our schools – almost half – received the highest ranking possible. Today, we’ve learned that seven of our schools have also achieved Reward School status. I can’t say enough about the hard work and dedication that’s been exerted by our students, teachers and administrators.”

For the second year in a row, the Lebanon Special School District earned exemplary status, which indicated the district exceeded state growth expectations in all indicators. Half of Lebanon schools achieved Reward status. Byars Dowdy Elementary School, Sam Houston Elementary School and Walter J. Baird Middle School were named Reward schools. No Lebanon schools were named Priority schools.

“Our administrators, teachers and students across the system work so hard,” said Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson. “It is a major accomplishment to have half of the schools in the system recognized by the Tennessee Department of Education as Reward schools and for the system overall to be classified as exemplary for the second year in a row. We were celebrating our Level 5 status when the additional accolades were announced. I am extremely proud of everyone involved. We will continue to focus on areas of improvement and, at the same time, celebrate success with our students and teachers.” 

Reward schools improved overall student academic achievement and student growth for all students and for student groups, and they are identified annually. In 2018, 318 schools in 85 school districts – about 20 percent of schools in the state – earned Reward status.  

Priority schools are identified at least every three years, and they are schools most in need of support and improvement. Priority schools fall into the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state test scores in the past three years and have low graduation rates. Following legislation passed last spring, 2017-18 TNReady data was not used to identify Priority schools. The 2018 Priority list included 82 schools across eight districts, and these schools will be eligible for additional funding and will be supported by the department, in coordination with their districts, to develop a plan to improve.  

“In this first year with our new system, it is incredibly encouraging to see more than 300 of our schools are earning Reward status for how they are supporting our students’ academic achievement and growth,” McQueen said. “At the same time, we see a number of places where we need to improve. Our new school improvement model takes a student-focused, evidence-based approach to tailor interventions for our Priority schools, and we will be working closely with these schools and their districts over the coming year to improve academic outcomes and strengthen whole-child services that support student success.”    

Tennessee’s new school accountability system was developed through a 16-month process of gathering feedback and hearing input from students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. Tennessee has designated Reward and Priority schools since 2012, but this was the first year with an updated methodology as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. As part of federal requirements, the plan was submitted to and approved by the U.S. Department of Education.  

The new accountability framework is based on principles that all schools can be successful and all Tennessee students must be served well. It includes a variety of measures, including chronic absenteeism and discipline, ACT performance, and TNReady scores, to make a determination. All schools are rated both on how they serve the full student population and how they are specifically serving student groups that have historically been underserved: students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and black, Hispanic, and Native American students. This fall, the department will publish more information about how all schools perform on these measures as part of a new school dashboard that will be posted online to offer additional information to parents, educators, elected officials, and community leaders.  

As part of Tennessee’s new accountability plan, all Priority schools will move into an evidence-based school improvement model, ranging from district-led plans to intervention by the state’s Achievement School District. To better support Tennessee’s lowest performing schools, the state has invested $20 million into school improvement over the last two years. This funding is specifically devoted for Priority schools.  

Schools appoints committee to name new high school

Staff Reports

With construction underway on Wilson County’s fifth high school, it’s time to start thinking about a name for the new school.  

In conjunction with school board policy, Director of Schools Donna Wright appointed 12 people to the naming committee, including a combination of school board members, community leaders, parents and a recent graduate, who once served as a student board member.  

The committee members are Zone 1 board member Wayne McNeese, Zone 2 board member Linda Armistead, Lakeview Elementary School principal Tracy Burge, W.A. Wright Elementary School principal Bryan Adams, community member Tommy Hibbitt, former Wilson County Commissioner Terry Muncher, former Commissioner Becky Siever, Mt. Juliet planning director Jennifer Stewart, Parents of Wilson County Schools Facebook group administrator Angela Butler, Mt. Juliet High School Parent-Teacher Organization president Julie Ruesewald, community volunteer Britt Linville and Wilson County High School alumnus Preston George. 

School board policy requires all schools be named for:

• the area or community in which the school is located.

• a street, or bordering street, where the school is located.

• a local leader who has made an outstanding contribution to education.

Wilson County Schools officials also seek input from the community. Anyone who has an idea about a potential name for the school may submit it to the school district’s Facebook page on a post to solicit ideas or email ideas to the district via Let’s Talk at wcschools.com.

Volunteers needed for long-term care program

Staff Reports

The Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program seeks volunteers in Wilson County to provide advocacy for residents in long-term care facilities. 

The facilities include nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and homes for the elderly. 

“There are more than 160 long-term care facilities in our 13-county district, and we rely very heavily on volunteers,” said Cindy Rudolph, volunteer administrative assistant with the District 5 long-term care program in Wilson County. “We need volunteers in Wilson County.”

Rudolph said Wilson County currently has three volunteers, and that includes her. The program works in Wilson and 12 other counties in Middle Tennessee and is a partner agency with the United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. 

The ombudsman staff consists of three district ombudsmen and an ombudsman assistant, along with 35 trained volunteers. 

Trained, certified ombudsman volunteers pay regular visits to the facilities where they spend time with residents, monitor conditions, investigate complaints, educate regarding abuse and neglect and protect residents’ rights. The program offers mediation, complaint resolution and public education for residents and their families.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is actively recruiting for volunteers in the Wilson County area. Volunteer applicants must pass a background check and attend 16 hours of in-house training. 

The next training session will be Nov. 7-8 in Nashville. Those interested in becoming a volunteer have until Oct. 15 to contact the program by sending an email to crudolph@mchra.com or calling 615-850-3918.

Ex-commissioner files ethics complaint

By Angie Mayes

Frank Bush

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Wilson County Ethics Committee received an official misconduct ethics complaint against Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto and county attorney Mike Jennings regarding funding of the new high school.

The complaint, filed by former commissioner Frank Bush, alleges that the two subverted rule 17, which states all resolutions must appear before the appropriate committees before they are submitted to the full commission.

Bush said the complaint “stands on its own” and alleges Hutto and Jennings approved the resolution be considered and voted on by the full commission, without it coming before the education or budget committees.

“The mayor, with the advice of the county attorney, chose to ignore what I believe to be a clear interpretation of rule 17,” Bush said. “This is the largest financial transaction in Wilson County’s history. If that is what the commission wanted, then they needed to do it properly. It might have been delayed a month, but it should have been considered by the committees.”

Jennings said Wednesday in an email he disagreed with Bush.

“This ethics complaint is totally unfounded,” Jennings said. “It is filed by a former county commissioner who was unsuccessful in his battle to stop construction of the new high school. The vote to proceed was 18-6. Neither Mayor Hutto nor I did anything unethical. We followed the rules of order. Mr. Bush was unsuccessful.” 

Hutto agreed with Jennings. 

“The question was from the floor, that Chairman Bush said that we didn’t follow rule, and the paperwork had not gone through committee,” Hutto said. “I asked [Jennings] his opinion.”

Hutto said Jennings told him the issue had been through the committees and discussed for a year.

“The resolution itself was the loan document,” Hutto said. “The real resolution [was about the] building [of] the school and how you’re going to fund it. The third resolution was to approve the [bond] document. Those two relate to the third one. That’s why [Jennings] said it had been sent through committee.”

Hutto said rule 17 exists “for [issues such as if] someone who says they want to buy three pickup trucks, and the issue had not been through committee for discussion.”

Bush said without the paper resolution before the committee’s members, it would be impossible to render a decision.

“First of all, we deal in documents,” he said. “Because the resolution was never presented to any committee, they were never able to properly discuss the issue. They never were able to consider the points that some of us were making [about the cost of the school].”

Bush said if Budget Committee chair Mike Justice was presented with the document, “and he chose to pass it on, then that’s OK,” Bush said. “It was not done that way. There have been any number of cases that the county mayor and county attorney have sent back to committee.”

Former Commissioner Jeff Joines said the Education Committee, which is one of the committees the information was submitted to, did see paperwork about the school and the cost. He said the Education Committee did consider it and passed it, along with a favorable resolution, to the Budget Committee. 

Joines said resolutions do not come to committees. Rather, information is given to the commissioners, and they recommend or don’t recommend a project based on that information.

Education Committee chair Annette Stafford said in an email Wednesday she wants Commissioner Terry Ashe to recuse himself from the complaint.
The email was sent to commissioners, school board officials, school administrators and the media.

“I strongly [request] that Commissioner Terry Ashe recuse himself entirely from this ethics complaint due to the fact, that Commissioner Ashe [has] voted against this resolution in the past, as this is a conflict of interest or lack of impartial opinion based on his votes he made in the past,” Stafford said. 

“If Chairman Ashe [does] not see that he should recuse himself, I would like my request to be forwarded directly to District Attorney Tommy Thompson for his review and opinion, to see if any ethic violations had occurred during the August 2018 county commission meeting regarding the funding of the new high school.”

Bush said he disagreed with the way the funding measure for the new Green Hill High School in Mt. Juliet was presented to the commission. The approved bid for the cost of the project was $107 million, and Bush said he believes the school could be built for less than $80 million. He pointed out recently built schools were constructed for less than $80 million.

According to the Wilson County Schools website, Lebanon High School was built for $47 million, “but that project began in 2010, during a severe economic downturn, when construction costs were at rock bottom,” the site said.

Watertown High School cost $38 million, “but that project was bid in 2012, and the school is approximately half the size of the one being considered in Mt. Juliet,” the site said.

None of the commissioners on the Budget Committee were available for comment. Hutto also sits on the committee.

Complaint against mayor dismissed

By Angie Mayes

Ed Hagerty

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Tennessee Ethics Commission dismissed an ethics complaint against Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty filed by his 2016 mayoral election competitor, Jim Bradshaw.
Bradshaw, who lost the election, 7,000-5,621, filed the complaint April 6 that alleged Hagerty, violated the conflict of interest disclosure statutes for six years.

The complaint said Hagerty has rental property, which resulted in more income than Hagerty listed on his financial disclosure statements. He was required by state law to report any private income greater than $1,000.

Hagerty owns 10 rental properties, which Bradshaw alleged could generate possible rental income, according to the complaint. In Hagerty’s disclosure, he reported income from his wife’s job was the only income the family had.

Hagerty, in response to the complaint, submitted disclosure reports from 2013-2018 to the attorney general. On April 20, he submitted an amended financial disclosure statement that listed the rental properties.

On April 26, the complaint was forwarded to the Tennessee attorney general to conduct a preliminary investigation. The attorney general’s investigation was purely a fact-finding mission and did not determine an outcome for recommendation as to whether there was a violation of the rule.

Assistant Attorney General Anna Waller interviewed Bradshaw on May 9, 2018. 

“Bradshaw stated that, prior to the 2016 election, he learned from a few constituents that Ed Hagerty owned investment rental properties, which he did not disclose, as sources of income on his statements,” according to the paperwork associated with the investigation.

“Bradshaw stated that he did not want to initially disclose the information but decided to file the complaint after he learned that Hagerty had not disclosed the sources of income on his 2018 statement.”

Waller interviewed Hagerty on May 11. During the interview, he affirmed he did have rental properties in Mt. Juliet and Sevier County. He listed the nine residences, plus an additional one in Sevier County. In addition to those properties, Hagerty owns his home in Mt. Juliet.

Hagerty appeared before the attorney general on April 20, 2018 and stated that he did not list the rental properties, “he did not disclose the rental income on the statements because he did not earn substantial income on the properties during 2013-2018, after factoring in expenses associated with taxes and upkeep of the properties,” the report stated.

According to the report by the attorney general, “Hagerty stated that he uses money received as rental income to pay for taxes, upkeep, and maintenance of the investment properties. Mr. Hagerty stated that these costs include carpet replacement, interior painting, HV AC repairs, roof repairs, plumbing repairs, and other expenses when tenants vacate. He further stated that some of his rental properties have been vacant at times between 2013 and 2018.”

The complaint was then forwarded to the Department of Ethics and Finance on July 12. That board met July 25, and the case was dismissed. The information from the Tennessee Election Commission stated that Bradshaw had the right to “seek reconsideration of this order and/or judicial review.”
Bradshaw would have 60 days – until Sept. 23 – to request a judicial review, according to the Tennessee Election Commission. He said he will not file a grievance because, “I would have to pay [Hagerty’s] attorney fees. This has been a lot of pressure on me and has taken a lot of time.”

Bradshaw said he is not mad about the results.

“I am very disappointed with the result,” he said. “The commission, except for one person who was not there, voted unanimously to dismiss the complaint.”

He said despite what some people may say, he’s not upset about losing the race. In fact, he said he has run three times, against Hagerty, fire Chief Jamie Luffman and Linda Elam.

“I’m not upset, and this is nothing against Ed, but I think he should follow the same rules as everyone else. If he had omitted the information one year, that would be something. But he left it out from 2013 to 2018. That’s more than just a mistake.”
Bradshaw is running for District 4 city commissioner this year. Because he lost the other races, he said “I’m used to losing. There are 6,000 registered voters in District 4. There are also a lot of things to vote for, so I’m hoping more people will come out and vote.”

Hagerty said, “the decision speaks for itself” and had no further comment.

City approves new high school measures

By Angie Mayes

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Melba Checote-Eads with the Trail of Tears commemorative event and Valeria Braun with Grace Methodist Churc, hold the city’s proclamation regarding the Trail of Tears commemorative walk.

Special to the Democrat

Green Hill High School, the planned newest high school in Wilson County, is one step closer to construction, thanks to two votes by the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners last Monday night.

The school will be on about 1.84 acres in Mt. Juliet. For Mt. Juliet to provide services to the school, the land first had to annexed into the city. The measure went without input from citizens and was approved unanimously.

Next, commissioners voted to provide a plan of services for the school. The plan of services includes police and fire protection, as well as road and other infrastructure services to the property. That item, also without pubic comment, was approved unanimously.

Grant money from the Metropolitan Planning Organization for alternative transportation projects such as bike paths and sidewalks was awarded to the city. The MPO is a multi-county organization that manages local transportation requests and recommends money to be given to communities by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The grant was for $811,812. The city will add an additional $202,953 to the mix for the more than $1 million project. The entire widening project will begin at the Mt. Juliet Road Interstate 40 eastbound onramp and will extend to Parkwood Drive to create two new lanes that will go northbound over I-40. The grant is specifically for bike lanes and sidewalks.

Another grant for the Mt. Juliet Intelligent Transportation System will give the city about $2.3 million with no city match required. The project is designed to allow traffic signals along the Mt. Juliet Road corridor from Central Pike to City Hall to be synchronized to allow travelers to make it through all of the lights without stopping, Mayor Ed Hagerty said.

A grant to extend the Lebanon Road sidewalks project from North Mt. Juliet Road to Park Glen Drive was also approved. This is the second part of the project. The grant, for $140,000 with a $35,000 match from the city, will pay for a sidewalk along one side of Park Glen Drive to connect with an existing sidewalk in Park Glen subdivision. Pedestrian traffic signals the length of the project will also be incorporated.

The commissioners also approved the International Residential Code, the International Fire Code and the International Building Code updates to include in their various building codes. The measure will take effect Jan. 1. 

“That will give the businesses and developers who have questions time to contact us,” Hagerty said. 

The code affects all structures whose plans have not yet been approved. Those current structures and those on commissioner-approved building plans and plats will not be affected.

The commissioners also delayed approval of a list of grants to nonprofits that affect Mt. Juliet residents. Hagerty said he wanted to hear from four new applicants about what they do and what their plans for the money would be. The measure will be discussed at the commission’s Sept. 24 meeting.

Members of the city’s ethics committee were approved. Darryl Blankenship, Harry Jester, Rick Rodriguez, Sam English and Matt Smith were named to the commission. The mayor and commissioners each nominated a person for the commission.

Hagerty also read a proclamation about the Trail of Tears Memorial Day, which is in conjunction with the 15th annual Commemorative “Trail of Tears” Walk on Sept. 15 at Grace United Methodist Church at 3085 Mt. Juliet Road in Mt. Juliet.

The Commemorative “Trail of Tears” Walk recognizes the hardships suffered by the five civilized tribes who were removed from the Southeast, including the Cherokee, Muscogee or Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole.

They were the tribes of the Southeast who were forced to remove to Oklahoma Indian Territory after the passage of the Indian Removal Act 1830. The forced Indian removal became known as the “Trail of Tears.” 

Also announced at the meeting was the 37th-annual Pow-Wow, which will take place Sept. 22-23 at Mundy Park in Mt. Juliet.

Foreign exchange students learn American values

By Tonia Cunningham

Zoe Boizaod

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The transition from childhood into adulthood can be difficult for most, but for students in the American Field Service intercultural program, it can be a culture shock.

The organization held a meeting last weekend at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, organized by American Field Service public relations officer Barbara Willis and chair Becky Haywood. The purpose of the meeting was for students to learn more about AFS and American values.

American Field Service Intercultural Program is an exchange program for young people 15-18 years old. The program promotes world peace and understanding. Many of the students in the program are from foreign countries. They stay with host families in the United States while they attend school. 

“As far as culture shock goes, the family who I stay with does not eat together,” said Zoe Boizaod, an exchange student from France. My family in France eats together. In addition, teachers at Mt. Juliet High School where I attend try to learn about the students. Educators in France do not do that.” 

The program started with ambulance drivers in 1947. Young men could not be drafted for World War II if they had a disability. At that time, there were 52 young people in the program. 

“Since that time, the program has progressed into an event where American students can study aboard,” said Haywood.

The program’s success has since opened up many opportunities financially. Students can currently apply for scholarships. Those financial awards include National Security Language Initiative and Youth Exchange Study. The deadline for NSLI is Oct. 30 and Dec. 1 for YES.

Anyone who would like to become a part of the action can do so, and more volunteers are needed. To volunteer, fill out an application at afsusa.org-volunteer-withafs.

Leedy elected president of state American Legion Auxiliary

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Kathleen Leedy, of Mt. Juliet, was elected president of the American Legion Auxiliary of Tennessee. Pictured (from left) are Marge Sterling, Pat Fields, Leedy, Gwynne Qweener and June Spata.

Kathleen Leedy, of Mt. Juliet, was elected president of the American Legion Auxiliary of Tennessee. It’s the first time in the organization’s history a Wilson County resident was elected president of the state organization. Leedy has served as Post No. 281 president since November 2010. As newly elected president, Leedy chose her fundraising project as ‘Healing Waters Fly Fishing,’ which provides service members with disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder with a therapeutic outdoor recreational activity. Leedy’s home auxiliary Post No. 281 will hold a pancake breakfast to benefit Healing Waters Fly Fishing on Oct. 13 from 7:30-10:30 a.m. at Victory Baptist Church at 1772 Tate Lane in Mt. Juliet. Tickets are $5 or $20 for a family of five or more. Pictured (from left) are Marge Sterling, Pat Fields, Leedy, Gwynne Qweener and June Spata.

Mt. Juliet project in running for statewide award

Staff Reports

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
A project completed in Mt. Juliet at the Beckwith north distribution center by S&ME, Inc., is among those under consideration in the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards competition, presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee.

A project completed in Mt. Juliet at the Beckwith north distribution center by S&ME, Inc., is among those under consideration in the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards competition, presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee. 

The award is one of the highest honors an engineering firm can receive and is considered the “Academy Awards of the engineering industry.”

Panattoni, Inc. contracted S&ME, Inc. to provide permitting, design and construction period support services for the restoration of about 800 feet of an unnamed tributary to Cedar Creek. Property owners had mowed the grass to the water’s edge and installed a driveway culvert crossing. No other vegetation was present near the bedrock-lined channel. These combined conditions created a stream channel that was over-widened and lacked habitat diversity. Also, wetlands adjacent to the stream reach needed to be avoided during construction. 

To address the challenges, S&ME used square Bio-D block coir blocks anchored to the bedrock with wooden stakes installed in holes drilled into the rock. The approach avoided wetland impacts, enabled channel restoration to appropriate dimensions, and stabilized the banks using soil behind the Bio-D block for a cost-effective project. 

Construction was completed in August 2017.  The restoration of the unnamed tributary to Cedar Creek helps to improve water quality to provide improved physical habitat for aquatic organisms and eventually provide shading of the stream to avoid elevated temperatures during the summer as the streamside vegetation matures. This streamside trees and shrubs will also provide a source of nutrients for aquatic macro-invertebrates from leaf fall into the stream.  

Project entries from across the state are up for consideration. The winners of the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards will be announced during an awards gala at the Omni Hotel in Nashville on the evening of Oct. 26, where ACEC Tennessee will also celebrate its 50th anniversary. Additional information about the awards can be found at acectn.org. In 2017, the TDOT Diverging Diamond Interchange at State Route 66 exit 407 project, completed by engineering firm Gresham, Smith and Partners, won the top prize.

Founded in 1968, ACEC Tennessee is a statewide organization that represents more than 100 Tennessee engineering firms. ACEC Tennessee has chapters in Nashville, East Tennessee, Southeast Tennessee and Memphis. The organization works to advance the business environment.

Changes coming to Music City Star by end of year

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet News File Photo
The Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee will have an open public comment period through Oct. 15 to bring new schedule options for the Music City Star commuter rail service to the public for feedback.

NASHVILLE – Customers can attend a meeting in person at one of the three upcoming meeting dates to learn more about the potential schedule changes. Information is also available at the RTA website at musiccitystar.org and click on the service change banner at the bottom of the page.

Meetings will be Sept. 27 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the FiftyForward Donelson Conference Room at 108 Donelson Pike in Nashville, Oct. 2 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce office at 2055 N. Mt. Juliet Road, suite 200, and Oct. 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Lebanon’s Town Meeting Hall at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave.

If anyone interested is unable to attend one of the public meetings, feedback may still be provided. Submit comments online at surveymonkey.com/r/starsurvey, provide a customer comment at musiccitystar.org or call 615-862-5625.

For more information on the Music City Star, contact customer care at 615-862-5950 weekdays from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sundays 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. or visit musiccitystar.org.