For the first time in many years, Mt. Juliet squires did not vote on a new city budget last week, but rather voted to continue the operation of the city based on the existing budget until a new budget can be agreed upon.
“This is not unusual at all,” Mayor Ed Hagerty said regarding the stalled budget and continuance. “The prior year’s budget will continue. This will have little to no effect.”
One issue in the budget is the move to cut two part-time assistant chief positions in the Fire Department of Mt. Juliet to save about $85,000.
“It was a very discouraging meeting,” Vice Mayor James Maness said. “There were self-constraints with a $3.6 million surplus. They are firing or laying off two people, which means two people won’t respond to a fire.”
Commissioners voted unanimously to refinance city bonds and use the $3 million savings to build a fire station in north Mt. Juliet, but not without listening to another proposal that would use reserve monies gleaned from the hotel motel tax.
Hagerty said the city has negotiable bonds at the rate of 3.85 percent, and that the city can renegotiate that rate to 1.7 percent or 1.8 percent.
“This presents a significant savings on payout,” Hagerty said. “Why not refinance and get $3 million and build the fire station.”
The bonds would be paid off in seven years. Hagerty said that the monies should be spent in three years for fire hall construction only. Hagerty said growth monies would fund staffing and operation.
“We have been told growth monies have grown 45 percent in the last five years,” he said.
District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice proposed moving the reserves collected from the hotel/motel tax in excess of $1 million as of June 30, 2019, to construct the third fire station
“This is a one-time transfer to move the monies in excess of $1 million to fund the constructing,” Justice said.
However, Hagerty said that “would be a gross violation” of the ordinance. The proposal failed in a 2-2 vote.
In other business, commissioners deferred second reading to rezone and adopt the preliminary master development plan for the Cedar Creek Sports Center. After an approval on first reading commissioners said it was necessary to have a final FEMA approval before they would vote to pass on second reading.
Since that report is not in, Hagerty requested a deferral. Public Works Director Jessica Gore told commissioners it could take four to six months for the FEMA study to be realized. The second reading was deferred until further notice.
District 4 candidates
Four candidates for the vacant District 4 seat addressed the commission meeting for three minutes each.
Former commissioner Jim Bradshaw, local businessman Gerard Bullock, former Wilson County tourism director Rick Rodriguez and former Mt. Juliet finance director John Rossmaier told the commissioners about their qualifications.
“I enjoyed being a public servant,” Bradshaw said. “I am proud to say I was part of 17 years with a positive budget. I am a conservative and want to resolve issues.”
Bullock said he would “listen to the people and bring a different point of view.
Rodriguez said he is a 25-year resident of Mt. Juliet and he bought his second home in the district.
“I want to do my part and represent the district,” he said. “If given the opportunity, I will be dedicated 100 percent.”
Rossmaier also added his name as a nominee.
“I came from Cleveland, Tennessee,” he said. “I served as Mt. Juliet finance director for 10 years. I know there’s a lot to learn, but I will give you a good job.”