Commission approves $55 million in new school bonding
The Wilson County Commission approved the 2015-16 budget and set a tax rate before receiving a visit from the ghost of James E. Ward Monday night.
The county's $229.5 million budget passed unanimously, including a $124 million general purpose budget for county schools. A new property tax rate of $2.5704 also received a unanimous nod.
New MJ school funded
More financial action followed with another unanimous vote to allow the issuance of $55.27 million in school construction bonds. The bonds will be used for expansion and renovation at Tuckers Crossroads, Southside, Gladeville and Watertown elementaries and Mt. Juliet Middle School.
A new elementary in the Mt. Juliet area will also be included in the funding package. Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright told commissioners that a work session next Monday, August 31, will allow the school board to discuss some properties in that area which it can consider for the new school.
Alcohol sales get nod
Most of the commissioners also agreed to allow the sale of alcohol on property owned by the county. The 22-3 vote approved the sales at the James E. Ward Ag Center, specifically at the planned Expo Center or on the fairgrounds - if and only if the entire property is rented by a single commercial entity.
During the Agriculture Center Committee's report, the commission also was visited by a "ghost." Committee Chairman and District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines gave his time to "James E. Ward" (portrayed by current University of Tennessee Extension Agent Johnny D. Barnes, wearing old-fashioned clothes and a big straw hat) who described his reaction to being allowed to return to Earth to visit the Wilson County Fair last week.
Ward was county agent from 1936 until 1972. His "ghost" explained that during his time, the county fair had failed and been closed down due to lack of funds and volunteers. Then after a few years, the Kiwanis tried to revive it but also failed.
Finally, Wilson County Promotions, an all-volunteer organization, was formed. The group, in cooperation with county government, revived the Wilson County Fair, "Ward" said.
"This year, 557,000 people attended the fair, with a fair board of 300 volunteers and another 1,084 volunteers working on the fair," he said. "There was $251,000 left from last year's fair. And Wilson County is still agricultural, with 4,119 farms."
"Ward" then said he'd been close to Heaven touring the fair and would now be happy to go back.
Vets, county schools honored
The commission started the meeting by honoring Carl "Buddy" Stewart for his service to the county on the beer board, as well as the 26 years he spent as a school bus driver. Stewart, 91, is a World War II veteran and drove semi-trucks for 25 years.
"I decided I had been driving long enough, so I retired from trucks and started driving school buses," he quipped.
The commission also honored the local chapter of the Association of Vietnam Veterans of America (AVVA) for winning first place in the nation for community service; recognized Wilson County High School's Chelsea Sanders for being named 2015-2016 state president of the Future Farmers of America (FFA); and honored Wilson County Schools for its excellence in having five schools named by the state as reward schools.
The schools are W. A. Wright, Gladeville, and Mt Juliet. High School, which all won in both categories measured - and Mt. Juliet and Lakeview elementaries, which each won in one category. Only nine schools in the state won in both categories, which are proficiency and growth of skills.
'No' to pet tax
In other action, the commission also:
Voted down the proposed reinstatement of the pet tax, 15-10.
Deferred a decision on lighting and signage on S.R. 840 at Stewart's Ferry Road
Accepted an offer to purchase property at 212 E. Main St. from Doug VanVoorst.
Accepted a grant for the Wilson Emergency Management Agency (WEMA) to purchase special equipment for transporting heavier patients
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