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MJ mayor wants 'fair settlement' from school system

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While Mt. Juliet's city manager was mum about the status of the lawsuit filed by the Wilson County School Board against the city to get unpaid liquor-by-the-drink taxes, the mayor said he still wants a "fair settlement."

That fair settlement was a request to the county by Mt. Juliet officials to cut nearly in half its owed $449,000 in unpaid alcohol taxes. Back in November, Mt. Juliet told school officials it had waived construction building fees for several schools and requested a $200,000 offset on the debt it owed.

However, the school board nixed that request, and Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty said the lawsuit is "still pending."

"Mt. Juliet waived building fees for the Wilson County School system on several occasions," Hagerty said Monday night. "The obvious question is - had we known we were supposed to be sharing the liquor tax with the school system, would we have waived the fees? Certainly not."

According to Hagerty, neither Lebanon nor Watertown ever waived school building construction fees for the county. City records show Mt. Juliet waived nearly $400,000 in fees for the school system.

"No other municipality waived building fees - not Lebanon, not Watertown," Hagerty reiterated.

"In fact, they collected fees."

Lebanon's City Council has worked out a plan with the school system to pay back the $811,000 it owes in annual increments. The legal firm representing Mt. Juliet in the matter said the lawsuit is still being negotiated.

"We have been negotiating for about five to six months," said Charles Michels, with Taylor, Pigue, Marchetti & Blair, PLLC.

He noted those negotiations have not progressed much since the school board voted against waiving the $200,000.

"We wish it could move forward," he said. "It seems somewhat stagnant. The city wants it to move forward but wants it to be fair."

Michels said no formal counter offers, on either side, have been made, to his knowledge.

Lead city attorney Gino Marchetti said, "We are in the process of trying to resolve this matter with the county.

"We have always had a great relationship and want that to continue while recognizing the need to be fiscally responsible to the citizens of Mt Juliet."

Attorney Mike Jennings spoke for the school system.

"The county continues to explore settlement with Mt. Juliet," he said. "The wording of the law necessitated us filing suit when we did. An Attorney General's Opinion limited our potential options for settlement. Gino Marchetti and I continue to explore possibilities. The Board of Education is interested in doing that."

Martin echoed their sentiments.

"The attorneys are working together on various resolutions, and there is no new news at this time," Martin said.

Hagerty agreed with the city attorney.

"We are interested in a fair settlement which recognizes the value of the waived fees," he said.

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at laurieeverett1@gmail.com.

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drink tax, lawsuit, Mt. Juliet
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