During an at-times contentious meeting Monday night, Mt. Juliet city commissioners wrangled over the best way to fund a north end fire station without raising property taxes and one commissioner questioned funds used to build a proposed city clock tower.
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 received from the hotel-motel tax.
Mayor Ed Hagerty last month vowed to research ways to gain funds for the needed third station without raising the current property tax rate of 16 cents per $100 of assessed value to 59 cents, with 39 cents toward fire protection and 20 cents toward infrastructure needs as. That option was eventually vetoed.
This week Hagerty presented the results of his research and explained the city has negotiable bonds at the rate of 3.85 percent. The finance director said the city can renegotiate that rate to 1.7 percent or 1.8 percent.
“This presents a significant savings on payout,” Hagerty told the Wilson Post. “Why not refinance and get $3 million and build the fire station.”
This would be a seven-year bond and paid off in those seven years. Hagerty noted the monies should be spent in three years.
Since it is one-time money only for the construction of the fire hall, 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 told the Wilson Post.
District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice suggested 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 in his proposal.
He suggested splitting the reserves with the parks department.
“We have two more hotels coming,” he said.
However, Hagerty said this “would be a gross violation” of the ordinance. The proposal failed in a 2-2 vote.
The clock tower
In other business, Vice Mayor James Maness presented what Hagerty said was “new information” related to the approved signature clock tower. Maness said he “apologizes for my vote” regarding his vote to approve the construction of the clock tower planned next to City Hall.
“I dug a little deeper,” he said.
He referred to a 2014 ordinance where the commission voted unanimously to accept a cash donation of $250,000 to the city’s general fund earmarked for Robinson Park.
Maness said $175,000 was spent to build the park, which left $75,000. The clock tower project is projected to cost $200,000, which leaves a $125,000 deficit, Maness said.
“This means $125,000 will come out of taxpayer pockets,” he said.
City Manager Kenny Martin refuted those concerns and indicated no taxpayer money would go into the clock tower project.
The Wilson Post was unable to reach Martin to further clarify his position on Maness’ concerns. Maness said he will continue to research how the project will be funded now since he expressed his concerns.
Commissioners deferred second reading to rezone and adopt the preliminary master development plan for the property currently known as 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 completed. The second reading was deferred until further notice.