Mt. Juliet Mayor James Maness said he strongly dislikes the phrase “the new normal” during his hour-long “State of the City Address” last week.

“There is one phrase I have grown to hate — ‘The new normal.’ We are less than a year removed from March 3, a date that has changed the lives of so many,” Maness said about the date that a tornado struck the city last year.

For the first time, the annual address was made via a Zoom call. About 55 people were in attendance virtually to hear a review of the city from Maness, who became mayor last November.

Maness started his speech with an emotional nod to the upcoming anniversary of the tornado that caused fatalities and destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of property.

The mayor then spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on the city. He also mentioned the city’s financial health, the police and fire departments’ progress, public works projects, parks and recreation news, and a review of new businesses.

“So many are still in the process of rebuilding, or you know someone impacted,” he said. “We still see the scars when traveling Mt. Juliet Road, or maybe even closer to home in your neighborhood.”

“Everyone has been impacted in some way by COVID-19. Businesses have struggled with the lockdowns. Some have lost jobs, seen incomes disrupted, education impacted or disrupted, and some of us have lost friends or family members as a result.”

Along with a PowerPoint presentation, Maness revealed fiscal year 2019-2020’s total revenue for the city was $23.9 million. He said this was more than the previous year, and revenues increased this past February and March, stayed steady in April, took a dip in May and rebounded in June.

Sixty-one percent of the revenue came from taxes.

“We have very healthy cash revenues,” said Maness. “Even with expenditures up. Sales taxes are up for the city starting this past June.”

Property tax collections the past fiscal year were at $2,121,508, with Life Style apartments and Under Armour the biggest payers. Total expenditures this past fiscal year were $24,538,000, according to Maness.

Maness said the 2019 crime rate was at 49 percent. The 2020 totals have yet to be released.

The crime clearance rate is 60 percent, he said. There has been a 70 percent drug overdose increase (30 in 2019, 51 in 2020).

For the past fiscal year, about 21,000 additional calls to police have been recorded.

A 2020 breakdown of fire department related incidents show 60 percent are medical responses. Maness noted ongoing efforts to explore a partnership with a private ambulance company to get more ambulances on the road.

The average response time is 7 minutes, 4 seconds to the city’s central region; 6:20 minutes to the south region; and 8:51 to north Mt. Juliet, Maness said. The planned fire station on the city’s north side will free up resources, he said.

A map of the most frequent residential areas for fire department calls shows Del Webb at the top, Willoughby Station second, and Hickory Hills third.

Public works projects completed in 2020 include sidewalks on Woodridge Place near Mt. Juliet Middle School, Belinda Parkway and the Town Center Trail greenway. This year the department plans to add sidewalks along Lebanon Road, Mt. Juliet Road/I-40 overpass widening, and Cedar Creek Greenway.

“We want to see those orange and white cones,” Maness said.

A new record of 728 residential permits were issued this fiscal year as of this past November, with 616 inspections completed.

“Mayor Maness is genuine and heartfelt,” said Mark Hinesley, the president and CEO of the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce. “Not yet a year removed from the tornado you could see he was still very emotional. He has community pride and connects with his community.

“He talked about citizens spending a little money locally doesn’t seem like much, but he noted where it goes is enjoyed by everyone. I’m a cheerleader of Maness.”

“I thought Mayor Maness did a great job addressing the city,” District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Milele said. “He covered a wide-range of topics and issues that we face, and was quick to point out how strong and financially stable Mt. Juliet is. With his first State of the City behind him and in moving forward together, I feel that Mayor Maness has a great perspective and vision of where we need to go as a city.”