Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer also felt the mayor acted in a disrespectful manner. Farmer speculated that Craighead did not fully understand the Lebanon City Charter, which does not give the mayor authority to submit the application without council approval.
“You either don’t know the role of the city council, or you don’t care,” Farmer said. Farmer indicated he voted against the resolution because of a lack of communication from the mayor to the council while he was working on the details of the grant. Craighead, however, noted he has been working on the grant for a year and went to the Wilson County government on July 2 to get a commitment from them to contribute $50,000 to the local match of $200,000. Farmer and other council members said that they were not informed of this action on July 2.
Farmer said the mayor acted outside of his powers that are given to him by the Lebanon City Charter, despite the change in the grant application process by the TDEC this year. He pointed out that the mayor is an elected official of the people of Lebanon, not the state of Tennessee.
“Once it was voted down 4-2, you didn’t have the authority to do anything on Friday, and that’s the problem,” Farmer said.
Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler also voiced his concerns with the resolution and the mayor’s actions. Buhler was skeptical about the value of the land the park is to be located on, estimated to be $80,000. Buhler asked where the money would come from if the land was not worth the estimated $80,000.
Buhler also felt the park’s lack of restroom facilities, absent from Craighead’s grant application, would cost the city too much money when they are built. He cited the cost of the Don Fox Park restrooms as an example, between $35,000 and $40,000.
Craighead responded saying he had addressed all of the council’s concerns that they expressed on Aug. 11 and felt he should submit the grant before the deadline.
“I looked at the things we discussed and I had the answers,” Craighead told the council.
Craighead reiterated to the council that his decision was based on the advice of the TDEC assistant director of Tennessee Recreation Educational Services Jeni Lind Brinkman.
“If the restrictions said I had to have council approval before sending it, I wouldn’t have sent it,” Craighead said regarding the grant application.
Craighead also said the council had known about the park since 2009 when they approved a resolution to construct new phases of the Cedar City Trail. He said this grant would only provide improvements to the park and the city would not have to worry about maintenance for two years.
“We had the commitment to do the park as of 2009. The city wouldn’t have to pay for maintenance for two years,” Craighead said.
The $500,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation that council approved in 2009 would be used for construction of the new park across from the new Lebanon High School, in addition to constructing new phases of the Cedar City Trail. The new $200,000 grant would be used to construct two pavilions playground equipment at the park.
Craighead assured the council he was only acting in the best interest of the people of Lebanon, and trying to improve the quality of life in the city. He also said his goal was to make Lebanon an attractive place for potential residents and businesses and this new park would go a long way in achieving that goal.
Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry agreed with Craighead, noting, “I could not fault the mayor for trying to make Lebanon a better place.” Barry was one of the two councilors who voted in favor of the mayor’s resolution on Aug. 11, along with Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes.
“If the mayor is wrong then he needs to start working with us, and if some of us are wrong then we need to start working with the mayor,” Barry said.
However, Farmer and other councilors continued to voice their disapproval and their disappointment. “I think you owe an apology to the council and to the Lebanon people,” Farmer said.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.