Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Council united on donations, split on contracts

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JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post

In nearly back-to-back meetings this week, Lebanon City Council approved abandoning the city's interest in a one-block section of Wildwood Avenue at the request of Immanuel Baptist Church, and donated $80,000 to the Wilson County Veterans Plaza Museum.

The council unanimously approved the first readings of both measures at its regular meeting Tuesday, and similarly endorsed their second readings at a special called meeting Thursday.

'Best, not lowest bidders'
However, the vote was not unanimous on the second readings Tuesday of ordinances accepting bids for two construction projects in which a majority of councilors accepted the bidder they considered best rather than the lowest bidders.

Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton voted no on both measures after first trying to persuade the other councilors to change their minds. However, in the end Burton was the sole dissenter as the councilors voted 5-1 to accept the bids they had previously chosen 5-0 on first reading at their June 2 meeting, with Ward 1 Councilor Lanny Jewell absent due to the death of his father, former Lebanon Mayor Bobby Jewell.

At that earlier meeting, the two ordinances accepting bids for sidewalk repair and a water project were approved 5-0 after Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino made a motion amending them that was seconded by Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath. Cesternino and Warmath's amendments specified that Lebanon's Conrad Construction Co. should be awarded the contracts for both projects.

The company was not the lowest bidder, the councilors said, but they thought it was the best bidder based on previous work it has done for the city.

'Second thoughts'
By Tuesday's meeting, Burton had second thoughts even though he had voted for Conrad Construction previously. He moved to rescind the first reading amendments to accept the lowest bids instead, and in both cases Jewell seconded Burton's motions.

Jewell said he had done some research and believed that the council could not legally accept a higher bid. But Cesternino stood by his own earlier amendments based on the city having worked with Conrad Construction with good results, again stating the case for accepting the higher bids.

City Attorney Andy Wright advised councilors that it's illegal in Tennessee to prefer a company merely because it's local, but that they have the option of choosing the "best" company to do a job so long as they have reasons for assessing that company as "best." He also said that whatever decision the council makes, it will be his job to defend it.

The original ordinance to repair sidewalks in several places around the city, before Cesternino's amendment, showed a bid from Nashville's Sessions Paving Co. of $243,134.40 and a bid from Conrad Construction of $249,467.10, a difference of $6,332.70.

The ordinance to construct a water main loop connection in the vicinity of Virginia Avenue, before amendment, showed a bid from Tullahoma's Prince Utility LLC of $431,096 and a bid from Conrad Construction of $460,966.40, a difference of $29,870.40 - as well as three higher bids.

A representative of Prince Utility was present at the council meeting but was not allowed to speak because he did not speak during the portion of the meeting devoted to public comments.

In the end, Cesternino's position prevailed as even Jewell voted to award Conrad Construction the contracts in the 5-1 roll call, despite having seconded Burton's motion to rescind it.

Street released to church
In the council's unanimous vote to abandon the city's interest in a one-block section of Wildwood Avenue, Immanuel Baptist Church on Castle Heights Avenue requested the change because the street runs through church property from Castle Heights to Crest Drive.

Pastor John Hunn said the church is concerned for the safety of people crossing the street from the parking lot to the church buildings. "There are four crosswalks in that block of street," he said. "We want to raise those crosswalks a few inches. We also want to do some plantings along the street."

The change was recommended by the Lebanon Planning Commission at its May 26 meeting and it also was recommended this week by Ward 4 Councilor Bernie Ash, whose district includes the church. Immanuel members attended both the planning and council meetings in large numbers to support their request.

Vets' donation sponsored 6-0
As for the city's plans to contribute $80,000 to the Wilson County Veterans Plaza Museum, not only did councilors unanimously vote for the donation, they unanimously sponsored it.

Ash, who wears two hats as both a city councilor and Wilson County's veterans services officer, requested that all six members of the council sign on as sponsors of the ordinance, which Ash originally sponsored. Warmath asked that the change be made before the council's second vote, and by second reading the change had been made.

Warmath also asked for a work session to discuss the progress that is being made on improvements to the Lebanon end of Beckwith Road. Cesternino agreed and suggested that the councilors get their questions to City Engineer Jeff Baines so he can have answers ready.

However, Mayor Philip Craighead said he would like to wait until there is more information. He said the plans are still being drawn up and he has not heard from any developers yet. No date was set for a possible meeting.

New police, fire shifts finalized
In another significant second reading of an ordinance, the council gave a 6-0 final stamp of approval to amending the city personnel rules to establish 14-day work periods for police and public safety officers and 28-day work periods for firefighters when calculating overtime and comp time for those departments.

The council voted 5-0 on June 2 to pass the first reading of the ordinance. At that time, Human Resources Director Sylvia Reichle also assured the council that it would have no effect on overtime pay for 40-hour-per-week employees.

The council also approved two resolutions to borrow funds to construct a new water line from Hartmann Drive to Briskin Lane along the north side of I-40.

The loans will come through the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund and will total $2.175 million, of which $300,000 will be forgiven by the State of Tennessee. The city will have 20 years to pay back the remaining $1.875 million.

Grant for waste-to-energy
The council also voted unanimously to accept a $250,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Qualified Energy Conservation Bond program to help repay the $3.5-million loan made to the city to build a waste-to-energy facility.

In other action, the council voted on second reading to:

  • Annex 35.96 acres at 316 Bethlehem Road in Ward 6 and provide city services for the property.
  • Accept bids for the Westside Security Gate at the Lebanon Municipal Airport.
  • Authorize a budget amendment to allocate funds for updating the Lebanon Municipal Airport Terminal Building.

Writer Connie Esh can be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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city council, Lebanon, street closing, Wildwood
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