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Saving lives and a historic wall

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MT. JULIET -- “Better safe than sorry” was the attitude that Mt. Juliet city commissioners took as they discussed, but deferred, action on two proposals that came before them Monday night, Feb. 10.

The first safety issue involved the planned memory care facility at Carrick Glenn Senior Living on Northwest Rutland Road. The second potential safety issue focused on Old Lebanon Dirt Road’s proximity to the historic Chandler Stone Wall.

The Carrick Glenn proposal to serve Alzheimer’s patients and others with memory loss raises safety concerns because the developers plan to have the facility’s driveway enter a 90-degree curve on Rutland Road, District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice said.

A Piedmont Gas substation also is located near the proposed 36-bed facility, Justice added.
District 3 Commissioner Art Giles, whose district includes Carrick Glenn, also is opposed to the plans, saying that while the area is rural now, it won’t remain rural.

Mayor Ed Hagerty pointed out that long-term plans for the area call for allowing Rutland to become a connector road, which would require straightening the curves on both sides of the property.

Josh Line, appearing for the developers, said a traffic study shows that a minimal amount of traffic would be generated by the proposed facility, and the developer has been working closely with Piedmont Gas to ensure safety from the nearby substation.

“I like what you’re doing,” Hagerty responded, “but I don’t like the effect on the road.”

The mayor asked the developers to defer their request so their plans could be revisited and possibly revised. Commissioners deferred action on the Carrick Glen annexation and plan for services until the first commission meeting in March.

In the second safety issue that came before the commission, Justice sponsored a resolution to provide funding to install a guard rail along Old Lebanon Dirt Road in front of the old Chandler Stone Wall.

“My concern is that cars come off the road and hit that wall,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time until someone gets killed. I want a railing to protect people.”

While the dry-laid, mortar-less wall is pretty and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Justice added, a guard rail still needs to be placed in front of it for safety.

District 4 Commissioner Jim Bradshaw said he couldn’t support the resolution unless Justice agreed to ask the county to help pay, since the wall is mostly on county property.

But Justice said the road and its right-of-way are entirely in the city, and therefore the city would be responsible if someone were killed or injured.

“I don’t see any reason to hoard money when safety is involved,” he said, requesting an estimate from Public Works Director Marlin Keel of the likely cost to install the railing.

Around $40,000, Keel responded, adding that in his opinion it would be better to put a culvert pipe in the roadside ditch and fill it in so the guard rail could be placed further away from the edge of the road, which has virtually no shoulder at present.

“The way it is now, you’d be shining the cars (with the railing),” Keel said.

Hagerty asked City Manager Kenny Martin to check with the state about a possible partnership to widen Old Lebanon Dirt Road. The mayor said he already has received a query from the Tennessee Department of Transportation about widening the road, and that might be the best solution.

Property owner Larry Kent, who is the great-great nephew of the wall’s original stone mason John D. Chandler, has had to restore the historic stone wall after several accidents and offered photos and information about the problems to the commission.

“Cars are totaled when they hit the wall,” he said. “It’s just lucky nobody has been killed.”

Fixing the 114-year-old wall isn’t cheap, either, Kent added. “I just turned in an estimate of $25,000 to fix the most recent damage,” he said.

Each stone has to be placed exactly as it was, even if that means a section of the wall has to be stripped down to the ground and completely reset according to photos and patterns taken when the wall was named a historic landmark, Kent explained.

In the end, the commissioners decided to request more information from Keel, Martin, and Kent in an attempt to decide exactly what can be done and who will need to pay for the work. Justice also agreed to contact the county about its possible role, and then the commissioners voted to defer action until their next meeting.

The commissioners also approved, on second reading, the proposed rezoning of a property at the corner of Old Lebanon Dirt Road and Old Mt. Juliet Road from RS-30 to RS-15, on the condition that a sidewalk is built along both roads for the length of the property, with Bradshaw opposed.

In addition, they approved larger signage on the walls of the new Gander Mountain store, which is already under construction on Belinda Parkway.

They likewise approved funding for firefighters’ physicals and for insurance for fire trucks for the rest of the fiscal year.

At the beginning of their meeting, the commissioners also were privileged to hear West Wilson Countian Steve Smartt perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his trumpet in honor of the 200th anniversary of the writing of the national anthem.

Smartt told the commissioners that the song, composed in 1814 by Francis Scott Key during the British siege of Fort McHenry outside Baltimore, was finally named the national anthem over 100 years later, in 1931. Smartt plans to play the song in public on his trumpet at least 100 times this year.

George Page also was named city Employee of the Month at the meeting. Keel, his supervisor, said that Page wears several hats in his work for the city.

Keel explained that Page works with local businesses and industry to make sure they don’t discharge grease or other chemicals into the city sewer system. He also is the safety officer for the city, making sure safety regulations are followed and that appropriate safety equipment is available as needed. In addition, Page is the official photographer for the city.

Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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