A letter of protest to the state legislature will be sent by the Wilson County Commission with divided feelings about sending it.
Approval of the letter was only one of several major agenda items at a busy County Commission meeting Monday night, where the good news was that the county recently received a $100,000 grant to expand the Mt. Juliet Library, according to Mayor Randall Hutto.
In addition, the commissioners hired a new probation director for the county and approved a downtown land swap with the City of Lebanon.
In the evening's most controversial issue, the commissioners voted 14-10 to have County Finance Officer Aaron Maynard send the state legislature a letter that Maynard and the mayor have drafted, describing exactly how a new law which limits borrowing power of counties across the state is going to affect Wilson County and its citizens.
'Not a good idea?'
Speaking for those who voted against sending the letter, District 24 Commissioner Joy Bishop wasn't sure it's a good idea to tell the very people who wrote and passed a law that it's a bad law. First a motion was made to table the letter, which has been in the drafting stage for two months now, so it could undergo further consideration and revision, but that motion was voted down by the same 14-10 margin.
The new state law would require the county to arrange "level debt payments" any time it borrows money, so the county's loan payments would have to include as big a payment on the principal of the debt as on the interest, beginning with the very first payment.
While that may not sound like a bad idea, it means the county could not borrow money for new projects until all older debts were completely paid off without raising property taxes.
In October, District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines and the commission had asked Maynard to draft the letter to the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate.
County budget is balanced
Maynard also told the commissioners Monday night that his office is working with the State Comptroller's Office to find out exactly what the requirements of the new law will be.
"There may still be some exceptions," he said.
Maynard also read a letter from the comptroller telling the commission that the county has a balanced budget, although some school funds failed to maintain at least one month of operating funds at the end of the school year.
But he said at least one of the three funds was a fund for federal money that required it to be spent almost as soon as it was received.
Land swap with Lebanon
The commissioners also voted 23-0, with District 20 Commissioner Annette Stafford abstaining, to trade property with the City of Lebanon. The county will accept a piece of property known as Lake Street, located behind the County Judicial Center, in trade for property known as the Old Court House property which the county owns on the Lebanon Public Square.
The deal will only go through if the City of Lebanon agrees to the trade and to close Lake Street between Baddour Parkway and Rogers Avenue. The county already owns the land on both sides of Lake Street. The trade would allow the county to use the street property to expand parking or, possibly, to expand the Judicial Center itself.
The County Judicial Committee recommended, with the mayor's agreement, Betsy Jakalski to become the county's new probation director, and the County Commission voted to approve her employment.
The commissioners also voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting maintaining current troop numbers at Fort Campbell and requesting the federal government not to lower the number of troops stationed there.
No authority on water woes
Laguardo Utility District's problem with producing "hard" water from its new $9.2 million plant also was brought up when District 17 Commissioner Gary Keith asked if there is anything the County Commission can do to assist his constituents with the problem.
The water district has recently started drawing all its water from deep wells it has drilled.
The result has been extremely "hard," calcium-saturated water which damages customers' appliances such as hot water heaters and dishwashers. It also leaves dishes and clothes with spots and stains.
However, County Attorney Mike Jennings said while the commissioners could pass a resolution encouraging the utility to solve the problem, there is nothing they could legally do to enforce the resolution.
Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.