By L.T. JENKINS, District 19Wilson County Commimssioner
My thanks to The Wilson Post for showing the deplorable conditions at Lebanon High School.
About a year ago, Wilson County Board of Education member Teddy Cook and I toured the LHS on a school holiday. We failed to see any cockroaches, but then again we didn’t open any manholes, either, or any sewage traps.
As the County Commissioner for District 19, I agree we need a new high school and I would support it. The other side of the picture that worries me though is just how much industry our county has lost and a lot of people cannot find jobs.
If an additional $50 is wheel tax is added, as some propose, it would generate slightly more than $4 million and the last cost of a new school I heard about was around $56 million. I honestly don’t know if that figure of cost remains the same or not. At any rate, it would take a few years to pay for it via taxes, or school bonds could be sold. We have a finance officer who can figure the best way to go about paying for a school.
One thing that irked me when I attended a school board meeting more than a year ago was that the architects who designed the new Mt. Juliet High School openly admitted that their plans for a new Lebanon High were the very same plans used for Mt. Juliet High, the exceptions being that these same plans were simply flipped-over blueprints! When I pointed this out, I was told, “Oh there is much more to do at LHS, for we will be adding a trade school and we have to pay for core drilling.”
So the school board tried to get the county commission to come up with $3 million to pay the architects, but the county commissioners refused, more or less saying, “Pay for it yourselves, out of your own money.” Now the school board has the idea that if and when new bonds are let for a new high school that the $3 million (I hope I am correct on the figures) will be added to the bonds thereby reimbursing the money paid to the architects, etc.
Personally, I wish they would build the new school where the present LHS now stands, but then where would the students attend during construction? You see the current LHS has five entrances and exits compared to one single egress on the new site off Hartmann Drive. Imagine all those school students trying to get out onto Hartmann when school is out! That is asking for someone to get killed, in my opinion.
Here are a couple of problems I have with how the school board runs its business. Food for the cafeteria I understand comes out of a supplier in Cookeville, while Lebanon has Performance Food Group, a wholesale supplier, right here in Lebanon. I hate to put anyone on the spot, but since Mr. Kevin Lester of PFG is my neighbor, I asked him why PFG did not sell to LHS. The answer I received was, “We don’t sell seconds.” So Ms. Cook and I inspected the storage in the kitchen of LHS and found no out of date canned goods, nor any bent or rusted cans. The cafeteria manager was doing an excellent job.
Next, I have industrial suppliers based here in Lebanon that sell janitorial supplies. There are at least three that I know of and perhaps more that I don’t know of. Can they sell bathroom tissue, wax stripper, wax, mops, brooms, chemicals, etc. to Lebanon High? No! One told me had had been told by a school official that he (the local supplier) did not have enough storage room. What? Hadn’t that official ever heard of drop shipping where the local dealer calls his supplier and says drop off a load of whatever is needed at such and such county school here in Wilson County? No, the cleaning supplies come out of Nashville. Whatever happened to doing business at home?
Mike Davis, director of Wilson County Schools, has made it plain that the computers in the schools are out of date. I may just have a solution if the county commissioners and school board would go along with it. I understand that when Dell Computers came to Lebanon they were given 40 years of free real estate tax as long as they kept at least !,000 employees. Now, via the grapevine, I have been told that the total number of employees has fallen way below the 1,000 mark and the county has had local attorney Bob Rochelle look into the matter. Perhaps a deal could be made where Dell could furnish new computers to our schools in lieu of paying the owed taxes. Just a thought. Yes, we need a new high school, but we also need to straighten out the way business is done.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Jenkins resides in Lebanon