Less than 24 hours after being sworn into office, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash vetoed plans for a $5 million park planned for the city's west side.
In an e-mail, Ash explained his decision to nix the recently approved $5 million park slated for the Hamilton Springs development on 15 acres of land donated to the city by the Bell family. Ash said he agreed with the need for another park in the city, particularly the west side, but that "obligating taxpayers to a $5 million debt for a park is not in their best interest."
"If a park is to be built, I believe we should not borrow the money before we know exactly what we are building and exactly what it will cost," he said. "Finally, I think a park can be built for much less than $5 million."
In addition to vetoing the resolutions authorizing the city to incur debt for the park, Ash also vetoed a resolution authorizing the city's public works department to solicit proposals for the park's master plan.
The issue will be revisited at the next regularly scheduled Lebanon City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
Ash takes office
This was Ash's first action after beingsworn-in as the newest Mayor of Lebanon on Thursday night. He was joined by his longtime girlfriend, Marcia Spears, and family.
Ash spoke candidly with The Wilson Post prior to the occasion about his personal life, plans for the city and even his love/hate relationship with Facebook.
Ash was born and raised in Lebanon. After graduating from Lebanon High School, Ash spent four years in the United States Air Force. One of those years was spent in Vietnam.
He owned a business on the square, Creative Photography, for 21 years and has been in local politics since 1994. Ash has served as a Wilson County Commissioner, Veterans Service Officer and for the past two years he's also juggled being the Lebanon Ward 4 City Council Member.
Ash said that his various political roles have prepared him for his newest one as mayor. "I'm anxious to get started," he added.
When he isn't working, Ash enjoys riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle and restoring antique motor scooters. However, he realizes his position as mayor won't allow as much time for that.
He plans to continue assisting veterans whenever possible. "Helping veterans is going to be a permanent part of my life. I've been working full-time at it for so long," he said. "I still belong to organizations - the VFW Post 5015, American Legion Post 15 and Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1004."
Ash has three adult children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, who he said he "loves to death."
He will hit the ground running as mayor on Friday. His initial plan includes visiting with the city's 25 committees, commissions and boards.
"There will be some changes. For instance, the Planning Commission needs more representation from other districts. It is heavily weighted on Ward 5 and 6. We'd like to see some other wards if we can," he explained.
Throughout his mayoral campaign, Ash used Facebook to get a pulse on the needs of the community. At times, Facebook was controversial for Ash - including him being reprimanded by former Mayor Philip Craighead for questioning the timing of tax statements; however, he's found it to be a useful tool.
He also has plans to make city council meetings more efficient.
"I plan to have agenda meetings with the council beforehand. Of course, the public is welcomed to that - but it will be for council to go over every item on the agenda. If council has gone over and discussed the items, then the regular meeting will go quicker and be more efficient," he said. "I want to give as much information to the council as I can. If we all understand what we are talking about - then we won't have to be figuring it out in a public meeting."
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.