With a looming March 8 court date, Monday night Mt. Juliet city commissioners tentatively agreed on a settlement with the Wilson County School Board to pay them back unpaid liquor-by-the-drink taxes.
During lengthy discussion, commissioners changed the lawsuit agenda item from a resolution to an ordinance and on first reading agreed on terms set forth by the school board with a 3-1-1 vote with Mayor Ed Hagerty no and Commissioner Art Giles abstaining. Their second vote on the settlement will come before March 8 and possibly avoid a court case.
The meat of the settlement obtained by The Wilson Post says the City of Mt. Juliet will waive up to the total amount of $380,000 related "to building, renovation, and development of new and existing schools." This is the agreed to amount owed in back liquor-by-the-drink taxes. Another pertinent section of the agreement is the "City of Mt. Juliet does hereby agree to defend and hold the Wilson County Board of Education harmless from any litigation, result, or payment of funds to the Lebanon Special School District in the action." In other words, the Wilson County Board of Education will not be required to pay any funds to the LSSD related to an liquor-by-the-drink tax collected by the City on or before June 30, 2013.
Two main sticking points city commissioners want to continue to work on with the School Board are a possible donation of three acres on the future Mt. Juliet High School site on North Green Hill and Lebanon roads, and the system pay for the dedication of the right-of-way at the new Springdale Elementary School and the subsequent construction of sidewalks to assist in providing safe travel to that school. They unanimously voted on a resolution to work with the School Board on this issue, even while Hagerty said it was "the weakest resolution I've ever seen."
"I am not support this [lawsuit settlement] without the three acres of donated land," Hagerty said in protest of the settlement."
However, District 1 City Commissioner Ray Justice hinted he might be working on some kind of deal with the School Board to possibly get those three acres. He indicated there might be willingness to donate, but certain limitations may hold that offer back and the issue needs to be worked on more.
"The lawsuit is a wash," Justice said. "It's [donation of land] is not off the table unless we beat it to death."
Hagerty said, "I'm just trying to get something for our $950,000, noting the total of monies waived by the City in the past for the school system on building projects.
Justice said he would not elaborate on his talks with school officials over the donation of three acres.
"We have an opportunity if we just don't blow it," Justice reiterated. "...I'm working on a relationship and trying to mend it. It's meant a lot and now is the opportunity we have, but they stick out their hand and we slap it. Somebody's got to stop, why can't we start?"
Hagerty noted, "We've already waived a lot of fees, why not a thank you?"
Regarding the sticking issue of who will construct sidewalks at Springdale, Giles said, "They [school system] need to step up and put their big boy pants on."
Commissioners approved an amendment to the ordinance to add the City of Mt. Juliet will work with the School Board on getting land for a fire hall near the proposed high school, along with the resolution to resolve they build the sidewalks.
Justice indicated by the second reading on Feb. 27 he will know whether or not his talks to secure a donation of land for a fire hall were successful or not.
Because of this, a budget amendment to purchase a couple of acres at Green Hill Church on Lebanon Road for a Northtown fire hall was deferred one meeting.