Sewer hookup on a new elementary school in Mt. Juliet will have to wait following city commissioners' vote Monday night to defer a resolution that would allow the work to continue.
The Director of Wilson County Schools said news the City of Mt. Juliet's deferral on an item related to allowing continued sewer work at the new Springdale Elementary School was "disappointing and surprising."
Mt. Juliet city commissioners considered, then deferred in a 3-2 vote, a resolution to accept a performance bond already in place in lieu of a letter of credit for sewer hookup at the school. The deferral is until Oct. 24 and puts a stop to the process of sewer hookup in the meantime.
City Recorder Sheila Luckett confirmed the final vote since there was some confusion.
Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall wanted to reiterate that if the "sewer part of the project" is deferred for paperwork, it "won't stop the work on the actual building."
"That will go forward," he said. "We will open on the first day of school there."
The item is related to the contractor connecting sewer to the City of Mt. Juliet at the school currently under construction at 5675 Central Pike. It's slated to open in August 2017 to relieve overcrowding at both Mt. Juliet and Stoner Creek elementary schools.
After the meeting, Hall further explained there already is an $18 million-plus performance bond in place for the school. He said an additional $1 million letter of credit would cost an additional $30,000 to process.
"We suggested using the performance bond which covers the construction of the school in lieu of adding a letter of credit to save some money," he said.
He noted during the construction of Lebanon High School, the City of Lebanon granted construction without a letter of credit.
During discussion, District 1 City Commissioner Ray Justice tried to amend the resolution with a deadline of Oct. 15, and then if things "aren't resolved the letter of credit would be posted."
He wanted sewer installation to continue now, instead of later when things are resolved, in part to keep secure some type of grass at the sewer hookup site before the upcoming winter.
"There is a performance bond already issued," he said. "We should waive the usual letter of credit and rely on the performance bond. If the other issue isn't resolved we will post the letter of credit."
Hall was in attendance at the meeting to hear whether the city would waive the letter of credit. Abston supported Justice's move to allow progress on sewer hookup, while other commissioners indicated the issue was too complex and more time was needed to hear about the issue. Vice Mayor James Maness at first indicated he'd accept Justice's amendment, but later said "half the people hearing this probably don't understand what's going on."
Hall relayed the vote to Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright immediately after the meeting.
"When the information was sent to me on what occurred at Mt. Juliet's city commission, I sent an immediate update to the school board members that the action was deferred until the 24th," she said Tuesday morning. "It somewhat put me in a awkward position. I've been meeting with various city leaders and I'm somewhat surprised, and 'disappointed' would be the word."
She said she met with City Public Works Director Jessica Gore, Mayor Ed Hagerty and Justice a couple weeks ago about working out details, but "it was never indicated work on the sewer line might be delayed."
There is possible pending litigation from the school board related to back liquor taxes owed from the City of Mt. Juliet, and both city and school officials are trying to work together to create an agreement on the method of payment.
The school board meets Monday night and the issue may arise again at that time, though Wright could not confirm that. For months school officials and the city have been working to resolve the back taxes owed issues without a possible lawsuit.
Wright said she was disappointed by Monday's city commission vote because "we've made multiple overtures working with the City of Mt. Juliet.
"This new school is mutually good," she said. "It will also benefit the city itself. The school is urgently needed, and anything that derails, even if temporarily, a project like this is an unfortunate kink and costs time."
Abston supported Justice's suggestion to allow sewer work to continue.
"Things have been going on a long time and a stalemate," he said. "I want to trust they [system] will do what they say, and we want the school to be done as soon as possible. I don't think it's a mistake to go ahead and allow with a peace pipe of sorts and show we are on board. If that doesn't happen we'll pull a stop work order."
Maness reminded the board "there is too much stuff going on in this discussion, and there is just nine days difference in revisiting this on the Nov. 24 [versus the suggested Nov. 15 deadline].
The school board meets at 6 p.m. Monday night at the Central Office on Stumpy Lane.
Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at email@example.com.