A Lebanon City councilor wants to explain the action he took at the Feb. 18 meeting regarding an ordinance that would establish a community development fund to capture the city’s portion of sales and property taxes generated within the 257-acre Cumberland Development District and keep it in a savings fund.
As proposed, the funds would eventually be used to create a $40 million events center on 20 acres of donated land in the area.
When the matter came before Lebanon City Council for second and final reading at the Feb. 18 meeting, Burton said “present, not voting.” Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino, Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes and Ward 5 Councilor Tick Bryan voted in favor while Ward 1 Councilor Lanny Jewell and Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath voted against the measure.
By not voting against the ordinance, Burton’s action kept the vote total from being a tie which could have been broken by Mayor Philip Craighead who has long pushed for the CCDD.
Since that time, Craighead and some local citizens have criticized Burton’s action. In an article in the Feb. 19 edition of The Wilson Post, Craighead said, “I just can’t understand. The vote on the first reading was a unanimous ‘yes’ from all council members. What changed when you had the confidence to vote for it in a first reading?” Council passed the ordinance on first reading on Nov. 19, 2013.
Burton, in a written statement he provided to The Post, said, “An ordinance is a law set forth by a governmental authority, if it is handled incorrectly your city can be liable for its outcome.
“I asked the administration many times for the following information:
“One, I asked to go to a center of the size proposed for Lebanon to get info on building costs, overhead costs, employee costs, number of events and type of events.
“Two, we were never presented a funding plan that would have no risk to our city taxpayers.
“Three, no feasibility study was ever presented.
“This ordinance had three other governmental bodies, Wilson County Commission, Wilson County School Board, 10th District School Board (Lebanon Special School District) for financial participation. Neither had agreed to participate,” he said.
Burton added, “During the meeting, a citizen asked the question of how much it would cost to put a road through the property, and the answer was ‘I don’t know.’ You cannot make decisions when it comes to taxpayer dollars of ‘I don’t know.’
“I have had a number of business men saying to me do not go into this proposal blind-folded. From a legal standpoint, you cannot use taxpayer funds to invest into real estate that the city does not own.
“In reference to Roberts Rules of Order, there are many avenues you can take when it comes to making your voting decision.
“In conclusion, I stand by my decision, and we all live in a democratic society, and we should being the proposal to the citizens of Lebanon in the form of a referendum and let the people speak,” Burton said.
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