Goes to court in March if not settled
Mt. Juliet City Commissioners discussed at length Monday night their response to the Wilson County School Board's rejection of their recent counter-offer to settle a lawsuit regarding the city's owed unpaid liquor-by-the drink taxes.
Last month the city commission sent a counter offer to the school board listing their efforts to negotiate how to repay the $380,000 owed, namely waiving the amount in exchange for waiving certain fees for the school system.
However, the city had some concessions in their counter offer, and the school board rejected it and resent their original settlement offer to the city.
Monday's commission discussion stated language and specifics would be clarified before this latest counter is sent to school board attorney Mike Jennings.
Though the discussion was long, there was no real detail discussed about the school board's rejection notification, other than the school board was steadfast on their original offer on how to be repaid by Mt. Juliet.
The commission agreed to waive these fees to make up for the back taxes owed:
construction and plan review,
road inspection, and
fire inspection/permit fees.
The city commission still wants the school board to be responsible for constructing sidewalks at the new Springdale Elementary School that will open late summer 2017.
Schools to donate land for fire station?
Part of the settlement was the school system would donate three acres at the planned new Mt. Juliet High School site on North Greenhill and Lebanon roads.
Prior, the negotiation was the entire three acres be dedicated to a Mt. Juliet fire station. However, commissioners decided to send to the school board a counter that those specific acres won't be excluded to just a fire station.
"A fire station may not take up the entire three acres," Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty said. "We might have to use the rest for something else... like a police station or whatever."
Vice Mayor James Manness reiterated that counter request on Thursday .
"We don't want it authorized for just a fire station, we want the rest of the acreage available for any other city use."
Another issue sent back to the school board was their idea the city should annex particular schools into the city. This can't be done at Springdale due to the face that it's contiguous to another property owner.
"We will annex where we can," Hagerty said.
Also in need for clarification is a new road access constructed by the school system/county on their donated acres for the proposed fire station there. The city wishes it be not to North Green Hill Road, but rather Lebanon Road.
Manness explained after the meeting he believed the school system wanted the fire station be "constructed almost immediately," he said. "But before we build it we need to have an access road."
However, there was talk a fire station would be built within seven years with no discussion whether that be sooner or later. The hope is much sooner.
These requests were in forms of amendments and commissioners said the language needed to be "cleaned up" and more concise before sending to the school board attorney.
Is a fire station next to a school a good idea?
Other discussion was if the designated proposed three acres donated near the planned new high school was actually the best location for a fire station
"A fire station next to the proposed high school is a challenge," Fire Department of Mt. Juliet Chief Jamie Luffman said.
He talked about "shoot" time is four to six minutes from a fire hall to a call.
School traffic was brought up in this scenario. Luffman said there needed to be an access road to avoid school traffic. Justice said it would be about 40 minutes of total time during a school day to be concerned about related to school traffic.
Commissioners discussed the fact there is possibly other land within a stone's throw from the proposed donated land, but, it's not "donated" and would cost a pretty penny.
"We will put the fire station on the best parcel," Manness said Thursday. "But it's hard to make an argument against free land."
He noted he realized school traffic could be an issue; however, he said the other parcel considered is one-eighth of a mile away and possible school traffic would effect that site as well. He believes there are alternate routes if school traffic were an issue and noted there are many city schools with similar school traffic that could interview with fire response as well.
If no agreement, court date scheduled for March 2017
"I think this agreement is really good," Hagerty said of the amendments to this counter, counter, counter offer to the school board to settle. "We've given a lot. Hopefully they will accept. "
If not accepted, there is a scheduled court date for the lawsuit from the Wilson County School Board against the City of Mt. Juliet on March 17, 2017.
Justice asked repeatedly to defer. He said, if not, "It's an insult on what we've worked on. Let's get together. If not, I'm done."
Hagerty said, "Any time we stay out of court is a good day."
He noted none of this would have happened if the entire issue had been presented before the planning commission as "expected."
"If they don't agree... take it, let it go to court. We've spent way too much time on this," Justice added.
All commissioners reassured Justice they were committed to a fire station in north Mt. Juliet.
"I really hope we can get this settled and get back to business with no distraction," Manness said. "I want to get back to working with the school board. I'm still willing to meet personally with them on all this."
Ultimately, the commission will send a revised agreement to the school board's recent rejected city offer, based on the original offer from the school board, with several amendments that specified the donated land would not specify exclusively for a fire station and the sidewalks at Springdale would be paid for by the school system, among other requests as mentioned above.
Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at email@example.com.