Rose announces local office hours

Congressman John Rose’s staff will be in Mt. Juliet on June 4 to meet with local citizens who need assistance with federal services.

“I am thrilled to have a talented district staff serving the good folks of Tennessee’s Sixth District. We are focused on providing top-notch constituent services for all 19 counties,” said Rose. “Knowing that at times it may be difficult to travel to one of our two district offices, I have directed my district staff to periodically set up office hours in other locations throughout our 19 county-district. This will allow everyone in the Sixth District to have face-to-face access to my district staff and the services we provide.

“The next opportunity for constituents to take advantage of these remote office hours will be in Wilson County. Ray Render, my deputy district director, will be meeting with constituents at Mt. Juliet City Hall in the meeting hall lobby area on Tuesday, June 4 from 1-3 p.m. Constituents who do not need a face-to-face meeting may, of course, call the Gallatin office to discuss any questions at 615-206-8204.”

Rose represents Tennessee’s Sixth District and lives in Cookeville with his wife, Chelsea, and son, Guy.

Roadwork heats up in Wilson County

Staff Reports

Several new or ongoing Tennessee Department of Transportation road projects could cause drivers some delays in the coming days and weeks throughout Wilson County.

Lanes will be closed on Interstate 840 from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. from north of the Rutherford County line to east of Stewarts Ferry Pike to allow workers to repair bridge decks. There will also be lane closures nightly from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. to allow workers to clean bridge decks, repair them and apply epoxy in the same area of I-840.

State Route 141 widening work continues daily from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. from south of Spring Creek to north of Lovers Lane. Temporary lane closures will take place, but one lane will remain open in each direction.

Bridge repair will continue on Baddour Parkway over Sinking Creek in Lebanon. Baddour Parkway was reduced to one 10-foot lane in each direction at the bridge and will remain that way until the work is completed sometime in the fall.

Resurfacing on State Route 24 from U.S. 70 to the Smith County line will continue daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. There will be temporary lane closures in both directions to allow for paving. One lane will remain open.

Bridge repair on the Interstate 40 eastbound overpass at Sparta Pike will continue after an oversized tractor-trailer hit the bridge and damaged it recently. Permitted loads will detour onto South Hartmann Drive and Maddox-Simpson Parkway at exit 236 on I-40 eastbound until further notice. A detour sign is in place.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on U.S. 231 from Market Street to near Forrest Ave. in Lebanon will cause temporary lane closures in both directions. One lane will remain open.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. will cause temporary lane closures in both directions on State Route 141 from east of Stokes Street to Sugar Flat Road. One lane will remain open.

Widening on I-40 from State Route 109 to I-840 will continue daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. There will be alternating lanes closed on I-40 in both directions between mile markers 232-237 for pavement markings and construction sign installation.

Widening work will continue on State Route 109 daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Rolling roadblocks will be used for rock blasting and excavation. Traffic will also be reduced to one lane in both directions at the intersection of State Route 109 and Callis Road to allow workers to put in a turn lane and crossover.

State Route 10 will be reduced to one lane daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. to allow workers to install a gas line from Vesta Road to Flat Woods Road.

TDOT officials said drivers are encouraged to use caution and obey reduced speed limits in all TDOT work zones, regardless of lane closure activity. Most work will be weather dependent and subject to change due to inclement weather.

Two July 4 fireworks shows possible in Mt Juliet

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

There could be two separate fireworks shows on Independence Day in Mt. Juliet.

Originally, the city canceled its event, claiming there was nowhere to safely have it that would also allow spectators to view the event.

Along came Tom Needham, owner of Needham Nurseries, who said he would sponsor an event that would take place at the Providence shopping area in the city.

City Manager Kenny Martin said recently he found a place to hold the fireworks show, despite previous statements that included, “Mt. Juliet is a “dense city,” meaning there are quite a few buildings within the city limits, which, in turn, leads to no appropriate space for the fireworks to be lit.

“You have to have a proper and safe fall-out zone to properly discharge fireworks,” Martin said in March about the area needed for fireworks debris to land safely.

For a professional fireworks display, depending on the size of the shell, there has to be a certain equal distance from the fireworks shells to the audience. That will allow the debris to not fall on spectators.

Martin said in March there is no “[current] piece of land perfectly situated to do such a thing. Some have asked why we couldn’t do it off of Golden Bear [Parkway], but we simply don’t have the adequate parking to safely do something like that.”

In April, Needham said his business would hold a private fireworks show near the Providence area.

“A couple of weeks ago, [Martin] canceled the fireworks show with no explanation,” Needgam said in April. “Then, I started hearing Kenny’s explanation. No parking. No fall-out zone. No safety-zone.

“[The Providence area has] the very best parking, noting he called Dale McCullough, a representative from Jones Brothers who owns land in the area. McCullough said he’d be glad to offer his property for the show. McCullough also said Martin did not call him to ask if the city could use his property for the show.

“The next area was owned by the Boyle Group,” Needham said. “Now the Boyle Group has been a very important part of our community. They have been good to our community.”

He said the person he called with the Boyle Group said they would agree to hold the show on its land and added Martin didn’t call to ask about using the land this year.

In May, Martin there was adequate parking at local grocery stores, Charlie Daniels Park and local schools.

After Martin said the city would once again have the display, Needham questioned why the city was “spending $15,000 for [about 500 cars to park], when at you’ve spent $30,000 for tens of thousands of people. That makes no sense.”

Needham said he worked as a volunteer with the state on the Fireworks Safety Council, “helping write the safety laws. Kenny, I know you love Mt. Juliet, but safety is something you said [in originally canceling the show]. The site down below Publix is the safest place that we’ve had.”
He said “thousands and thousands of cars” could park at Providence to see the fireworks.

“Visibility,” Needham said. “You can see it from miles around. It’s the best place we’ve ever had.”

Commissioner Ray Justice said, “I have never in my life seen more fireworks over fireworks. With everything we have to consider in the city, fireworks is a little ridiculous. Once [Needham] got it in his hands [to do the fireworks show], rather than calling the city manager and having a conversation with him about other places that may be opportunities within the city, he decided to come down here and call the city manager everything but a child of God.”

Justice said there “are parking issues over there, but those parking issues are no more than any other place in the city of Mt. Juliet. There will be a traffic safety plan and a fire safety plan.”

He said the police and fire resources will be in the north end of the city, where the fireworks will be shot.

“There will be adequate plans in place to make sure it’s acceptable and safe,” Justice said.

Vice Mayor James Maness asked about the two shows.

“I have no idea,” said Justice, who noted Needham had not taken out any permits to hold his show.

Martin said, “Just like with any site, the [city’s] fireworks show has moved many, many places over the years. The city has grown tremendously over the years, and we can only use property that we can use.”

He said there are plenty of places to park for the city’s show.

“Will it be the same as Providence?” Martin asked. “Maybe not, but it’s still going to be a great show.”

Martin said the fireworks show would start at 9 p.m. at the Mt. Juliet Little League Ballpark. Impact Pyro will present the show.

Martin said various locations to park would include along Mt. Juliet Road, Lebanon Road, Charlie Daniels Park and Mt. Juliet Middle School.

“This is similar to the Providence area but a smaller scale,” Martin said Thursday. “The city was able to secure a location.”

Martin said the show would last between 20-30 minutes. He said in year’s past, the budget was $30,000, but this year’s budget will be $15,000.

As for Needham’s potential show, Martin said a permit must be granted to hold a fireworks show, and no permits were applied for as of May 16.

Wilson County’s unemployment rate hits record low

NASHVILLE – Wilson County’s unemployment rate for April dropped to a new record low, according to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Wilson County’s rate of 2.2 percent, which was 0.5 percent lower compared to March’s revised rate, rose one spot to fifth lowest in the state behind Williamson, Davidson, Rutherford and Cheatham counties, respectively.

Wilson County’s rate in April represented 1,640 unemployed workers compared to a 75,560-person workforce and did not include those who did not file with the labor department or no longer receive benefits. Compared to the same time last year, the jobless rate was a 0.2-percent decrease.

Lebanon’s rate for April decreased 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent compared to March and decreased 0.3 percent compared to a year ago. The city’s rate represented 400 unemployed workers, compared to a 15,860-person labor force.

Mt. Juliet’s rate for April was 2.3 percent, a 0.5-percent decrease compared to March’s revised rate. It was a 0.1-percent decrease compared to a year ago. The rate represented 450 unemployed workers compared to an 19,630-person labor force.

Unemployment rates for 94 of Tennessee’s 95 counties decreased in April. The unemployment rate in Maury County remained unchanged for the month.

Ninety-four counties had rates lower than 5 percent, and one county’s rate was higher than 5 percent.

Unemployment in Williamson County dipped below 2 percent in April. The county’s current rate of 1.9 percent marked a 0.5 percent drop from the previous month.

Davidson County’s unemployment rate hit a record low during April; it dropped by 0.5 percent and landed at 2 percent. Rutherford County followed at 2.1 percent, while Cheatham, Wilson, Moore and Sumner counties each recorded a rate of 2.2 percent in April.

Along with Davidson County, Wilson, Sumner, Smith and Hickman counties marked record-low unemployment. Rutherford County tied its all-time low rate.

“County unemployment rates continue to be extraordinarily positive,” said TDLWD Commissioner Jeff McCord. “Across our state we are now seeing unemployment rates at or below 5 percent become the norm.”

Clay County had the state’s highest rate in April at 5.6 percent, which was a 0.4 percent decrease from the previous month. Hancock and Rhea counties had the next highest rates at 4.9 percent. Those rates represented a 0.9 percent drop for Hancock County and the rate was 0.8 percent lower in Rhea County when compared to the previous month.

The April rate for the Nashville-Murfreesboro metropolitan area, which includes Wilson County, decreased 0.5 percent from March to land at 2.1 percent and was 0.3 percent lower than a year ago. The rate represented 23,040 unemployed workers compared to a nearly 1.1-million-person labor force.

Statewide, unemployment remained at Tennessee’s historic low of 3.2 percent. It was the third consecutive month the rate was at the record level.

County unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted, while the state and national rates use the seasonal adjustment to eliminate outside influences on the statistics.

Wilson County honors its oldest veteran

By Matt Masters

[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.

Crash sends 5 teens to hospital

An early Friday morning wreck hospitalized five teenagers after the car they were in crashed into a utility pole and caught on fire near Mt. Juliet.

The single-vehicle crash at the intersection of South Mt. Juliet Road and Stewarts Ferry Pike totaled the car and trapped some of the teens. A bystander rescued some of the teens before flames engulfed the car.

That bystander was Conner DiBenedetto who said that he came up on the wreck just minutes after it happened where he pulled three people out of the car, one of whom was unconscious.
“I give it all back to God, for it was his grace that was the hero,” DiBenedetto said.

According to Wilson Emergency Management Agency director Joey Cooper, the car was fully involved in fire at about 1 a.m. when firefighters arrived.

WEMA paramedics took two teens to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt with what was described as moderate injuries, and one teen had multiple unknown injuries. Paramedics also took two teens to TriStar Summit Medical Center with minor, non-life threatening injuries, Cooper said.

Their names and conditions were unavailable due to their ages. 

Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers led the investigation into the crash, which remained under investigation. Mt. Juliet police and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp. workers also went to the scene.

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.”

Wilson County lawmakers respond to House speaker scandal

Wilson County’s state House members gave their thoughts on Republican House Speaker Glen Casada and multiple calls for him to resign amid scandals.

Casada, a former House GOP Caucus chairman and majority leader, is under fire with calls to resign from some Republicans and nearly all Democrats amid the scandal that involved text messages with a former top aide, 32-year-old Cade Cothren, who stepped down last Monday.

Cothren, who in one text discussed using cocaine in a state office building, was Casada’s press secretary until his promotion to the newly elected speaker’s chief of staff in January.

Black lawmakers are furious over some of Cothren’s racist text messages, too. The messages were leaked.

State Rep. Susan Lynn laid out her arguments for Casada to remain House speaker in a statement Wednesday to The Democrat.

“I do not rush to judgment when I hear bad news about others, because there is always more to the story that is unknown,” said Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet. “I have investigated each of the allegations and as far as I can tell, I do not believe that the Speaker should resign.

“There are basically four allegations, inappropriate text messages, an accusation of the manipulation of a date on an email by his chief of staff, listening devices in the Cordell Hull building and the white noise machines.

“In 2016, there were a small number of inappropriate texts privately shared as friends between then Tennessee House Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, the House GOP press secretary Cade Cothren, and a disgruntled former employee.  Speaker Casada did not actually remember these texts because they were very trivial goings back and forth outside of work, but he has taken full responsibility for the content, and he has apologized.

“The disgruntled former employee also shared some inappropriate text messages from 2015 and 2016 that were between only himself and Cothren, which involved partying and drug use. The behavior and the messages were unknown to the speaker until [News Channel 5 reporter] Phil Williams showed him. The speaker could not even believe that Cade would ever take part in such activity. However, when confronted last week, Cothren confessed, and the speaker asked for his resignation.

“The email manipulation has since been proven false. There are no listening devices in the Cordell Hull building other than the clerks’ office video recording system for committee meetings, and the white noise machines were installed because the walls are thin.

“It should be understood that the three text messages that included the speaker in the thread are very old, long before he was speaker of the House and at a time when he was going through a divorce, and it is easy to understand that at such a time he might have leaned on the friendship of these two young staffers. We should be careful to not judge harshly when we come into one chapter in the story of someone’s life. Speaker Casada is a great leader, a very humble, kind and generous person and a loyal friend, which is very rare in the political world.”

State Rep. Clark Boyd, who was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday for a work trip, said he would know more after a Republican Caucus meeting scheduled for Monday.

“As legislators, we are held to a higher standard and even more so are those who serve in positions of leadership,” said Boyd, R-Lebanon. “I am very disappointed by the actions and behavior that have recently come to light surrounding our leadership in the House of Representatives. I have spoken with our speaker on multiple occasions and have expressed to him my disappointment. I have given him my recommendation, and I will continue to pray for him as he considers my advice, as well as the advice of many other legislators. The House Republican Caucus will meet on Monday to decide what actions to take as we move forward.”

State Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, said he didn’t want to comment on incidents in the House.

“I know the House has their own ethics committee, as well as their own rules on how they handle House issues,” Pody said. “As a senator, it is not something that I will be involved in. Thank you for asking.”

A seventh state Republican representative called on Casada to step down amid a scandal over lewd text messages, eavesdropping allegations and reports of a FBI investigation into the school vouchers bill vote.

“Yes, I do,” Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, of Lancaster, told The Hartsville Vidette on Friday. “The choices made by these people – including the speaker – should have consequences. That teaches a lesson to everyone.”

Weaver, a religious conservative, said, “If one’s going to step up to a place of authority – mayor, county commissioner – there is a level of representation you’ve got to bring to the table. …Bad choices bring bad consequences and bad consequences have victims. Good choices make good things happen.”

Six other GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, of Signal Mountain, previously called on Casada, a Williamson County Republican elected speaker in January, to step down.

Others include Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn, of Knoxville; Rep. David Hawk, of Greeneville; Rep. Jeremy Faison, of Cosby; Majority Whip Rick Tillis, of Lewisburg; and Rep. Sam Whitson, of Franklin.

Others have raised serious doubts and concerns about Casada, 60, including Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker from Oak Ridge, last week said “I believe it would be in the best interest of the legislature and the state of Tennessee for Speaker Casada to vacate his office at this time.”

McNally emphasized that it’s the House’s decision.

While stopping short of calling for Casada’s resignation, Republican Gov. Bill Lee, also of Williamson County, said if Casada were a member of his administration, he would ask him to resign.

Meanwhile, a Nashville television station reported Friday that FBI agents started talking to lawmakers asking whether any improper incentives were offered to support Lee’s school voucher bill, which narrowly passed the House on a 51-49 vote after first deadlocking 49-49 for 40 minutes.

WTVF reported FBI agents are interested in whether anything of value – such as campaign contributions – was offered to anyone in exchange for their vote.

The station said it was unclear whether those inquiries are part of a preliminary investigation or a development in an ongoing probe. Casada played a key role in pushing the measure through the chamber.

While stopping short of calling for Casada to step down, Lee made his firmest remarks yet about the speaker who faces multiple calls to resign over a scandal involving sexually explicit and misogynistic texts and other allegations.

Asked last Thursday evening if he would ask fellow Williamson County resident Casada to resign if he were a member of his administration, Lee replied, “I would.”

Lee also told reporters after a Nashville graduation ceremony for technology and trade students that “given what has unfolded in the past days, I have a responsibility in the executive branch to speak to what culture should look like, to the standard that should exist in the executive branch.”

The governor said he has “communicated that to my team, and it’s a standard of integrity, honest and transparency, values and principles that are consistent with Tennesseans.

“I think some of the events that have come to light in the last several days are not consistent with that, and if an employee in my administration acted in a way that wasn’t consistent to that they wouldn’t be in my administration.”

Still, Lee said, it’s House representatives’ call and not his on what course of action to take.

“It’s important to remember that the members of the House of Representatives have the responsibility to choose a leader, and it’s not the governor’s responsibility, and it’s important that they weigh in because it is their responsibility to do so,” Lee said.

It was an echo of similar remarks made earlier Thursday by McNally, who said that if Casada were a senator he would “probably” ask him to resign and added that “if it were me that did some of those things, I’d probably be packing my bags for Oak Ridge.”

Andy Sher with the Chattanooga Times Free Press contributed to this report.

Belinda City residents protest development

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

More than a dozen Belinda City residents stood in front of the microphone at the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission meeting Thursday night to protest a development that would directly affect their community.

“I understand there is going to be so many commercial lots on 76 acres,” said Betty Evans, who lives on Belinda Parkway. “I understand you’re going to be voting on townhomes or condominiums. This is directly behind my home. According to the plan, we have one of the entrances comes directly behind my fence. We’re in the middle of Belinda City. I don’t understand why there has to be entrances to this built in our neighborhood.”

Paul Leeks lives on Sunset Drive. He said, “I’ve been a resident of Mt. Juliet for 17 years. I was here before Providence was here. I enjoy Belinda Parkway because there’s not that much traffic. There’s never been that much traffic. Children can play on that road. I’ve seen children ride their bikes up and down that road.”

“Now with this project, there is going to be tremendous traffic on that road. If they are going to put restaurants up there, like I’ve heard they’re going to do, how are they going to get their materials up there? They’re going to drive semis up and down the road.”

Belinda Parkway resident Brent Bassett also spoke.

“As I look out my back, I see bats. I see raccoons. I see deer back there,” he said. “There are birds, lizards, things we didn’t experience in Colorado because of the elevation. Now I have to worry about bulldozing and how many years it’s going to take. I hope something else can happen.”

Former commissioner Jim Bradshaw lived at his home in Belinda City since 1990.

“Currently, there are properties available in Providence Marketplace, In Paddocks, where Walmart is.,” he noted. “There’s 500 acres on the east side of Beckwith Road. We’ve been waiting for years for development to start there. I haven’t seen anything.

“There’s Golden Bear Gateway. All the way down to Curd Road, to Bender’s Ferry, to Lebanon Road. I haven’t seen a single development there yet, and that’s been there a while now. There are ample properties all over Mt. Juliet. That’s just a sample of it, not even counting the North side of town.”

Brenda Madden has lived on Belinda Parkway for 32 years.

“One of the entrances to the townhomes will be right across the street from me,” she said. “There is an open field there at this time. I watch all the neighborhood kids play ball in that field. Our schools are already overcrowded. You put townhomes in, that’s more kids. We have new schools being built. They’re overcrowded when they open.”

Mt. Juliet planning director Jennifer Hamblen grew up in Belinda City and said she understood the citizens’ concerns.

“I would like for the residents to know that we, as staff, and you guys have their best interest in mind when we look at these projects,” she said. “We do everything we can to make it better. We cannot stop development, but we can make it better.

“With that being said, I’ve spoken with Joe Haddix, who is the engineer for this project, to have a town meeting [with the residents], because I think there’s been a bunch of misinformation spoken about tonight, and I would like the residents to know and be the most informed they can be when this development does come back for a vote.”

Haddix, who is with Civil Site Design, told the commission, “We would like to ask for a one meeting deferral based on the comments I’ve heard here tonight. I think a town hall meeting would be a great way to address the concerns we’ve heard here tonight.”

Planning Commissioner Chuck Turner asked whether the traffic could be diverted off Belinda Parkway.

“I’ve heard a lot of citizens say about Belinda Parkway. Is there any way to eliminate traffic onto Belinda Parkway for this development?”

Hamblen said, “I think that would be terrible planning to be honest with you. I get what [the residents] are saying, but that would be terrible planning.”

Haddix said, “When this development would tie to the two pieces of property directly east, all the way to the interchange, your retail, your shopping, this is kind of leading you back to the residential and more commercial and business and the townhomes. As this develops, you’re going to see a lot more growth around that interchange.

If we don’t connect to Belinda, the bottleneck gets worse around Rutland and Posey. Right now, we have everybody going down there just to come back around to the retail that everybody wants at this interchange.”

Hamblen is currently collecting information to determine when the town hall meeting will take place at City Hall. For an exact date and time, call the planning office at 615-773-6283.

Mayor questions fire department funds

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty spoke out against a property tax increase at Mt. Juliet Commission meeting last Monday night.

“As most of you know, there is before us tonight, a pitch to increase your property taxes by nearly a factor of four,” Hagerty told the crowd in the audience. “From the current rate of 16 cents to 59 cents. Of that, 39 cents would be dedicated to the fire department, and the balance of 20 cents would be dedicated to infrastructure.”

When approving the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, the resolution to authorize the increase and the budget that went along with the increase, was removed from consideration. Hagerty said because of that, there was going to be a move to drop the potential increase at this time.

“I do want to comment further, because there’s been quite a bit of discussion about this,” he 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 said the fire department’s revenue increased 42 percent in the past five years.

“Most agencies would be thrilled. They’d be ecstatic with an increase in funding of 42 percent,” he said. “We celebrate our economy when our gross domestic product is 2 percent or even 2.5 percent in a year. Could you imagine if a business increased their revenue 42 percent in five years?”

He asked if the audience had a 42-percent increase in income in the past five years.

“How many of those have spent every penny of the increase?” Hagerty said. “You probably didn’t. You probably [saved some] like most of us do. In this case, the department has not only spent it all, they more than doubled the spending. They spent more than 100 percent of a 42-percent increase in revenue.”
He said there would be “a lot of excuses as to why this happened. But I ask you this. If any of you had a teenager, who was spending recklessly, would you blindly give him or her more money? Would you triple or quadruple what you’re giving them? No, you’d take a deep breath and talk to them and try to get them to act responsibly. And you’re giving solutions that make sense.

“If you teenager then acted impetuously, challenged you, talked down to you or ignored you, would you be more or less inclined to triple their money?”

He related a story about calling for an ambulance May 8. He said his wife called, and the Fire Department of Mt. Juliet did not show up, even though they were two miles from his home.

“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 what to speculate why the city of Mt. Juliet [fire department] did not come when called.”

Later in the meeting, fire Chief Jamie Luffman, told Hagerty the 911 system, which goes to the Wilson Emergency Management Agency first, recognized his home as outside the city limits. Therefore, WEMA’s fire truck and ambulance showed up for the call.

“My personal situation aside, assuming this property tax proposal fails over the next two months, I will be bringing to the commission alternate proposals and ideas for consideration,” Hagerty said.

He said that could include raising the sales tax, which everyone who visits Mt. Juliet pays. Hagerty said other options are to “change the impact fee on construction, reduce spending or become more efficient. Here’s the real kicker. We got our budget books on Tuesday, electronically, and on Wednesday, we got the hard copy. We have not had a single [work] session dedicated to the budget until now.”

He acknowledged there was a work session for the tax increase proposal. There were also two town hall meetings for the tax proposal.

“Through all of those, the sales pitch was always on the revenue side,” he said. “Not a single comment on the spending side of the equation. The sales pitch has been relentless, ‘We must have more revenue for the fire department. We must have more money for the fire department. We must have more of your money.’”

Hagerty then said he quoted exactly from the fire department’s executive summary in the budget book.

“The Fire Department of Mt. Juliet’s budget request is largely status quo,” he read. “The Fire Department of Mt. Juliet is requesting no additional personnel, nor are we requesting any additional funding for any capital project.”
Hagerty said because the taxes are paid in arrears, the tax would be due Oct. 1. That would, he said, cover the period of Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. The budget runs on a fiscal year, July 1 through June 30. He said the residents would have paid twice, once Oct. 1 and then Oct. 1, 2020 before the department needed any money.

“For these reasons alone, I stand opposed to this proposal and will be bringing alternatives to the table in the next few days,” he said.

The issue was moved to the June 10 meeting, where the budget would be considered on first reading. A second and final reading will take place June 24 if it’s approved on first reading.

Roadwork heats up throughout Wilson County

Several new or ongoing Tennessee Department of Transportation road projects could cause drivers some delays in the coming days and weeks throughout Wilson County.

Lanes will be closed on Interstate 840 from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. from north of the Rutherford County line to east of Stewarts Ferry Pike to allow workers to repair bridge decks. There will also be lane closures nightly from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. to allow workers to clean bridge decks, repair them and apply epoxy in the same area of I-840.

State Route 141 widening work continues daily from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. from south of Spring Creek to north of Lovers Lane. Temporary lane closures will take place, but one lane will remain open in each direction.

Bridge repair will continue on Baddour Parkway over Sinking Creek in Lebanon. Baddour Parkway was reduced to one 10-foot lane in each direction at the bridge and will remain that way until the work is completed sometime in the fall.

Resurfacing on State Route 26 from U.S. 70 to the Smith County line will continue daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. There will be temporary lane closures in both directions to allow for paving. One lane will remain open.

Bridge repair on the Interstate 40 eastbound overpass at Sparta Pike will continue after an oversized tractor-trailer hit the bridge and damaged it recently. Permitted loads will detour onto South Hartmann Drive and Maddox-Simpson Parkway at exit 236 on I-40 eastbound until further notice. A detour sign is in place.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on U.S. 231 from Market Street to near Forrest Ave. in Lebanon will cause temporary lane closures in both directions. One lane will remain open.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. will cause temporary lane closures in both directions on State Route 141 from east of Stokes Street to Sugar Flat Road. One lane will remain open.

Widening work will continue on State Route 109 daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Rolling roadblocks will be used for rock blasting and excavation. Traffic will also be reduced to one lane in both directions at the intersection of State Route 109 and Callis Road to allow workers to put in a turn lane and crossover.

State Route 10 will be reduced to one lane daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. to allow workers to install a gas line from Vesta Road to Flat Woods Road.

TDOT officials said drivers are encouraged to use caution and obey reduced speed limits in all TDOT work zones, regardless of lane closure activity. Most work will be weather dependent and subject to change due to inclement weather.

State gas price average drops 5 cents in May

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s state average gas price was $2.57 per gallon Monday for regular unleaded, which was 3 cents less than the average a week ago and 3 cents less than a month ago.

The national gas price average Monday was $2.86, 3 cents less than last week’s average, 4 cents less than one month ago and remained flat compared to the same time last year.

“For the first time in three months, gas prices are declining slowly but steadily across the country,” said Stephanie Milani, Tennessee public affairs director for AAA.

Sadie Ford Heritage Farm unveiled at Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials cut the ribbon Saturday on the 73.3-acre Sadie Ford Heritage Farm and Art Center as a naturally and culturally significant addition to Cedars of Lebanon State Park.

The property is will be restored and incorporated into the state park as a complex of cedar glades and barrens ecosystems interspersed with woodlands, reflecting the state of the land prior to European settlement.

“We are excited to bring this site under the umbrella of Tennessee State Parks,” said Anne Marshall, acting deputy commissioner of TDEC. “It will encompass natural beauty, historical significance and will be a center for public programming that should attract many visitors. We believe Tennesseans will love having this gem be part of Cedars of Lebanon.”

The core of the property is about 8 acres that include a home, barn and outbuildings that will be set aside as a historic district. The site is opposite the entrance to the state park. The 1920s bungalow-style house was built for local schoolteachers, Delta and Sadie Ford, who lived there with their children until the mid-1940s. Museum displays will describe aspects of the area’s history.

Tennessee State Parks acquired the property in the fall. The tract corners existing state-owned land to the west and north, as well as adjacent land east of U.S. 231. Within the adjoining tracts are Cedars of Lebanon State Park, Cedars of Lebanon State Natural Area and Vesta Cedar Glade State Natural Area, all part of the 10,000-acre Cedars of Lebanon State Forest.

The property offers recreational significance, as well as the cornerstone for access to the western portion of Cedars of Lebanon State Forest and more opportunities for park visitors, including a multi-use hiking-biking trail. The homestead and WPA-era museum will be a center for educational events for families, students and history buffs regarding rural life in the 1920s and 1930s.

Whitman to visit Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage for 119th Spring Outing

HERMITAGE –Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush and former governor of New Jersey, will be the keynote speaker at the Andrew Jackson Foundation’s 119th annual Spring Outing on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Hermitage.

Whitman is president of the Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm that specializes in energy and environmental issues. She led the EPA from January 2001 until June 2003 and before that served as New Jersey’s first woman governor from 1994 to 2001. As governor, Whitman earned praise for her commitment to preserve a record amount of New Jersey land as permanent green space. She is the author of New York Times bestseller “It’s My Party Too.”

A Nashville tradition that began in the early days of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association as a picnic on the mansion’s lawn, Spring Outing has evolved into one of the major events held at the Hermitage and regularly features nationally known speakers who present on a variety of topics, including politics and history.

Past speakers include former first lady Laura Bush, NPR’s Mara Liasson, longtime White House correspondent Ann Compton, former Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam and former Tennessee House speaker Beth Harwell.

“More than any other event, Spring Outing celebrates the legacy of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association, the determination of its founders and their collective foresight in preserving the home of Andrew Jackson for future generations, including ours,” said Spring Outing co-chair Nancy Deaton.

“We are their daughters in many ways, and I think the connection becomes clear when you listen to Christine speak. We’re thrilled she is joining us,” said Spring Outing co-chair Mimi DeCamp.

The Ladies’ Hermitage Association, currently known as the Andrew Jackson Foundation, is one of the oldest women’s organizations and historic preservation organizations in the country, established 130 years ago, in 1889, after the passing of Andrew Jackson’s daughter-in-law, Sarah Yorke Jackson.

The 119th Spring Outing will be Wednesday at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage with a patrons party at 10:30 a.m. in the mansion, followed by the main program at 11 a.m. on the lawn. More than 500 guests are expected to attend the event, with thanks to the volunteer leadership of DeCamp and Deaton. All proceeds will benefit the Andrew Jackson Foundation’s many projects, programs and events, designed to elevate national awareness of the seventh president and his home at the Hermitage. Spring Outing is an invitation-only event. To receive an invitation, call 615-889-2941, ext. 213.

Deaton is a native of Nashville and a graduate of Hollins University. She and her husband, Mark, moved to Nashville 28 years ago after they lived in Charlottesville, Virginia and Indianapolis. They have three children and enjoy outdoor activities together. Deaton has been an active volunteer, serving on the Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville board and advisory committee since chairing the event. She is an active member of the Garden Club of Nashville, West End United Methodist Church and the Junior League of Nashville and has enjoyed involvement with the Family Center, Ensworth School and Cheekwood.

DeCamp is a native Nashvillian. After graduating from Sweet Briar College in Lynchburg, Virginia, she married her husband, Bill, and returned to Nashville, where she joined her mother in the real estate business and has enjoyed a 30-year career as a realtor. She is an active member of St. George’s Episcopal Church, and her volunteer opportunities have included the St. George’s Kindergarten Board, Cheekwood, the Antiques and Garden Show, the Family Center and Ensworth School. She and Bill have two sons, Will and Rob.

Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage: Home of the People’s President is one of the largest, most well-preserved and most visited presidential homes in the United States. Opened to the public in 1889, the Hermitage is one of America’s first presidential museums. The Hermitage is currently a 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark with more than 20 historic buildings, including Jackson’s mansion and tomb, restored slave cabins, a church and gardens. In recent years, new interpretive initiatives and educational programs such as the history of slavery have enhanced the experience of nearly 230,000 annual visitors. For more information, visit thehermitage.com.

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. 

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.

Education Committee hears tax options

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Wilson County Commissioner Lauren Breeze brought information about educational impact fees to the Wilson County Education Committee meeting Thursday night.

“I talked about educational impact fees at the last meeting,” Breeze said. “This is a summary from the County Powers Relief Act, which we’re not under because we are under a private act for the [adequate facilities tax].”

The County Powers Relief Act said, “a county that levied a development tax or impact fee with a private act under previous law cannot levy a school facilities tax authorized by the act, so long as they are levying and collecting a development tax or impact fee under the authority of the private act.”

Breeze said if Wilson County tried to create an educational impact fee like Williamson County did, “that would take us out under our private act and put us under the County Powers Relief Act, which would restructure how we do [adequate facilities tax] in general.”

She said if the commissioners “wanted to explore the idea of an impact fee, we could increase the [adequate facilities tax]” and designate [the extra tax money] for schools.

“We could use money that way for building improvements and to work on facility improvements that was given to us by schools.”

If the adequate facilities tax was raised from its current level, the extra amount of money would go into the educational fund balance, Breeze said.

Youth Links will no longer be a part of Wilson County Schools, according to Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright.

The program will now be a part of the Tennessee Workforce Development System, she said.

“They’ve consolidated programs,” she said. “If you remember several years ago, they did that with the adult high schools and several other programs. They collapse them around the state in different regions. That’s what we’re seeing right now with Youth Links.”

She asked for approval for other lines of the account. Listed on the sheet was a $66,382 increase, which included $750 for unemployment and $65,632 for other supplies.

The expenditures included $9,000 for clerical; $53,500 for other salaries; $2,879 for Social Security; $94 for state retirement; and $909 for Medicare. The items were reclassified per the grant guidelines by the granting agency, according to the report.

Also included in Wright’s requests was a capital outlay transfer of $400,000 to the school system’s fund balance.

The money will be used for small wares for Gladeville Middle School. That will include pots, pans, utensils and other small items to be used in the kitchen.

Also included was the repainting and refreshing of some school kitchens, to install a card-entry system for school cafeterias, which is part of the Wilson County Schools safety program. A state safety grant was used to buy keyless entries at all of the schools that did not have them, Wright said.

The final project that would be paid for out of the transfer is the renovation of the serving and eating areas at Wilson Central High School. Included in that will be the replacement of aging tables and chairs.

“The serving and eating areas are nearly 20 years old and are in need of these improvements,” Wright said. “Wilson Central is our oldest high school.”

New Leash on Life sells land to continue expansion

Thanks to a recent land sale on State Route 109, New Leash on Life looks to use the proceeds can be used to improve and expand the programs provided for the community to help pets and their owners.

Capital Real Estate Services owner DeAnna Dodd and broker Claude Maynard handled the sale of the property on State Route 109.

“One of the reasons New Leash on Life chose to work with Capital Realty is because they have a give back goal as a part of their business model,” said New Leash on Life executive director Angela Chapman. “True to their mission with the land sale, Capital Real Estate gave our program expansion dream a head start by donating $4,500 to our programs.”

The first phase of the expansion was the Joy Clinic, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, which was made possible by Joy Bishop and an equipment grant from the ASPCA. 

The spay and neuter program currently fixes more than 3,000 dogs and cats annually.

Chapman said the next phase of the expansion will be to add indoor and outdoor runs for the dogs and a visiting area for potential adopters to spend time with available dogs. The build phase would be behind the current shelter, along with an enrichment space for the dogs.

“Once that phase is done, we can look at reworking the current shelter space to better accommodate the needs of animals in our care,” Chapman said. “The land sale is a great start toward this expansion, and with continued community support, we look forward to making this dream a reality.”

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.

Boyd gives update on process to end emissions testing

State Rep. Clark Boyd gave an update on the ongoing process to end vehicle emissions testing in Wilson County and Middle Tennessee.

“One of the most common questions that I get from constituents in Wilson County is about the timeline for ending the vehicle emissions testing,” said Boyd, R-Lebanon. “Although we moved quickly last year to pass legislation at the state level, we are now discovering that the wheels of bureaucracy move somewhat slower as we wait on the various stages before going to the federal government for final approval.”

In 2018, Boyd co-sponsored House Bill 1782 – which received unanimous support from the General Assembly – to begin the process to end vehicle emissions testing with approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. Then-Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill into law May 15, 2018.

Although all 95 counties have reached attainment status related to ozone, the state must maintain air quality and demonstrate to the EPA that elimination of the testing program will not interfere with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Currently, the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation is finalizing its analysis of whether the elimination of testing will interfere with NAAQS.

Once the phase is complete, the next phase will include briefing and receipt of approval from the state Air Pollution Control Board, a public hearing and comment required by federal law and the rulemaking process under state law, as well as a review by the attorney general and General Assembly. It is estimated the phase would be completed by spring 2020 and will then be submitted to the EPA for final approval. Once submitted, the EPA has up to 18 months to make its final approval.

“Although the steps involved in bringing emissions testing to an end are taking longer than we thought, it will be worth it when we can finally bring this time-consuming process of vehicle testing to an end,” Boyd said. “My hope is that the federal government will move as quickly as possible in approving our request.”

Boyd serves as chair of the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee and as a member of the Calendar and Rules, Commerce and Select Committees on Rules. He is also a member of the House Employee Affairs and House Utilities subcommittees. He represents House District 46, which includes Cannon and parts of Wilson and DeKalb counties.

Lee to allow online sports betting bill to become law

By Andy Sher

Chattanooga Times Free Press

NASHVILLE (TNS) – Gov. Bill Lee plans to allow a recently passed Tennessee online sports betting measure become law without his signature, his spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“The governor has said he does not believe that the expansion is best, but he recognizes that many in the legislature found this to be an issue they want to explore further,” Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold said in a statement. “He plans to let this become law without his signature.”

Earlier Tuesday, the House narrowly approved Senate amendments to the bill on a 51-40 vote. A bill requires a minimum of 50 votes to pass the House.

Earlier, House Bill 1 passed the Senate on a 19-12 vote.

Sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, the measure would allow and regulate statewide mobile and interactive sports gambling for people 21 and older.

Tennessee Education Lottery officials would be in charge of implementing and overseeing the program, which would impose a 20-percent privilege tax on online gambling, estimated to bring in $41 million for the lottery, $7.6 million for local governments and $2.5 million for the Department of Mental Health to fund gambling-addiction programs.

Dickerson said sports gambling is already widespread in Tennessee, and his legislation will bring it “off the street corners” and put it under regulation.

Critics say odds are that legalizing sports betting will boost addiction problems. Bill opponent Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, told colleagues during debate that it turns the current “black market” into a government-sanctioned “gray” market.

The original bill, which would have permitted brick-and-mortar betting shops, was eliminated from the measure due to Lee’s opposition.

Following the House’s final action, bill sponsor Staples said the money going to city and county governments is intended for road and other infrastructure needs. The local governments will get a 15-percent share of proceeds, he said.