Watertown City Council November2

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall speaks to the Watertown City Council about plans to add a 10,000-square-feet indoor athletic facility to the Watertown High School campus during the council’s regular meeting last week. JARED FELKINS

About 32 residents – the most attendees in several years – filled the community center Nov. 19 for the Watertown City Council meeting, and the majority were there to oppose a proposed rezoning and annexation request. 

Despite Mayor Mike Jennings’ explanation that the usual process is to include comments in a public hearing prior to the second and final vote on rezoning or annexation requests, several people spoke out against the rezoning and annexation request on Linwood Road prior to its first reading. The controversy surrounded a request to rezone and annex 3.3 acres of property across the street from Dowell Chapel United Methodist Church on Linwood Road. Louis Simpson owns the property, and the rezoning would allow for up to a 26-unit apartment complex.  

Earl Kennedy, who also lives on Linwood Road, said he was against the plan due to concerns with infrastructure, public safety, crime and history. 

A second 82-year Linwood Road resident, Virginia “Tootsie” Huddleston, also spoke out against the plan. 

“I would just like to say that each of you board members, I wish you would go out and look at this 3.3 acres, where it is located and how it will affect Dowell Chapel Church,” Huddleston said. “I claim that church as mine …”

Robert Pierce, a member of Dowell Chapel, gave some history of the church that dates back to 1912. He also pointed out the current dangers of tractor-trailer drivers that turn into the nearby industrial park, and the traffic issues could be increased with the addition of an apartment complex. 

Alderman Brandy Holcomb made a motion to reject the proposed plan of services regarding the annexation, and the measure passed unanimously. The plan of services rejection nullified the annexation and rezoning requests, and the plan failed in its entirety. Simpson would have to reapply for the property to be considered again. 

High school practice facility

In other business, the council approved a waiver of about $3,000 in building permit fees to allow Wilson County Schools to build an indoor practice facility on the Watertown High School campus. 

“I can tell you that we can always use the money, but I can also tell you that this board and this mayor has always had a long history of cooperation with our school system, and our school system has always had a long history of cooperation with us,” Jennings said. “And I hope that continues long after we are gone.”

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said the facility would be about 10,000 square feet, and the school’s existing weight room currently in the field house would be moved into the indoor facility to create additional space to allow for growth. The cost to build the facility is about $100,000 at each of the four existing high schools in Wilson County, and an indoor facility will be included on the Green Hill High School campus currently under construction in Mt. Juliet. 

Other business

The council also heard from wastewater director Dale Smith, who said he recently received an order dated Oct. 26 from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation regarding an overflow at the wastewater treatment plant in July 2018 that resulted in 2,497 fish killed in Round Lick Creek.

According to the order, an electrical failure at one of the city’s pump stations caused a backup and overflow of untreated sewage into the creek. According to the order, the city was told to pay $19,200 for the overflow and $839 to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency for the fish that were killed. Additionally, the city would have to pay $5,120 each time it happened again up to $15,360. 

Smith recommended the city respond to the order and remind TDEC officials plans are in place for a $2 million upgrade to the wastewater plant and sewer system. He said the state would have to reassess the order and respond in kind.

“I’d like a little mercy while we are working on this problem,” Jennings said.

The council approved measures to accept the title of the railroad turntable from Historic Watertown for liability reasons, give the city the authority to pursue grants and large donations, partner with Historic Watertown so the nonprofit organization can apply for grants on the city’s behalf and partner with Dawn Kupferer with Kwill Consultants so she can write grants.

The council also heard from Vickie Frazier with the Watertown Chamber of Commerce regarding next year’s excursion train schedule. She said trains will visit the city at least eight times throughout 2020, and a ninth visit was tentative. The dates included July 11 for a music festival, Sept. 5 possibly for Americana Day and a planned cruise in and April 18 and Oct. 10, which will be the two Mile-Long Yard Sale dates.

The city’s annual Christmas parade will be Dec. 14 at 2 p.m., and Round Lick Baptist Church members will hold an event on the square immediately after the parade ends.

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