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Mayor proposes impounding funds

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By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post

Mayor Philip Craighead requested that Lebanon City Council create an “impound account” which could be used to help control city spending and keep the city “in the black” as required by state law at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

City Attorney Andy Wright explained to the council that since the account would not actually change the budget, it could be used without the required three readings and state approval required to actually change the city’s budget.

Craighead told the council he had found more than $1 million which could be impounded or held back, until the city was sure if revenues would allow the amounts to be replaced in the accounts they were drawn from.

The council expressed concern because the original ordinance called for a resolution, which only needs one vote to move funds back out of the account and back into the line items for spending.

At the request of Ward 3 Councilor Williams Farmer and Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath the ordinance was amended to require an ordinance to move the money out of the account.

Both also said they wanted to look at the ordinance to see if other changes were needed before the second reading.

Statements from citizens Derrick Dodson and Steve Wheelie opposing the Bible Park brought questions and comments for council members as well.

Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry asked the mayor to obtain financial statements from those involved in promoting the proposed park.

“I want to take another look regarding the Bible Park,” he said. “We need to see some real financial numbers. I want to encourage the mayor to request more information on the plans to finance the park. I know Lebanon needs revenue, but we need to know more before bonding is allowed.”

Farmer agreed, saying the financials had been requested before.

“I want to know who all is involved,” he said. “At first they said that Hard Rock was the star attraction. I want to know who was in Hard Rock and who is involved here. It’s a public project and they need to disclose this.” Hard Rock Park was developed by SafeHarbor holding company, operated by Armon Bar-Tur who later proposed the Bible Park first in Rutherford County and when officials there turned thumbs down it then brought it to Lebanon and Wilson County.

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Huddleston gave his first regular report, following a meeting with Commissioner of Finance Russell Lee and Jimmy Floyd Family Center Director Tim Martin.

Huddleston said the center could benefit from expansion and some changes to solve its problems with budget shortfall. He then asked for a work session to discuss changes. The session was scheduled for 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3, before the next regular council meeting.

Councilors allowed two vacant positions in the city to be filled despite a general hiring freeze. The first is a part-time position at the wastewater treatment plant. This position actually replaces a full time employee who is retiring with a part-time position. The retiring employee will actually be continuing to work 20 hours a week.

The second is a new Legal Assistant position to be filled instead of the existing Paralegal position which is vacant, due to the resignation of the employee who held that job.

The new job would have lower minimum education and experience requirements and would also have a lower pay scale. If, during the next two or three years the new legal assistant goes to school and improves her qualifications, she could then be offered paralegal status and pay, Wright told the council.

The council approved on second reading an ordinance accepting a bid for sewer extensions on Southside Park Drive and Tater Peeler Road.

A second reading of an ordinance to accept a grant for the Lebanon Fire Department was also approved.

Council passed the second and final reading of an ordinances changing the zoning of about 2 acres on Sparta Pike from B-5 Interchange Commercial to B-4 Highway Business. The B-5 zone is more limited as to what types of businesses can be in the zone than a B-4 zone is. B-5 also requires larger lot sizes.

The council also deferred an ordinance to revise the city’s accounting policy and procedure manual.Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@wilsonpost.com.

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