Headlines – Mt. Juliet News – October 24, 2007

West Wilson Middle feels the squeeze
Two portables delivered last week

Editorial Teaser
Children’s lives will be in danger if solution to Curb[sic] Road is not found soon
[We think they mean “Curd” Road…]

page -2-
Acquisition of right of ways delay road to new MJHS
[Once again, this is the same project which the newspaper reported was “resolved” in its August 29th issue, quoting extensively from Mayor Elam and Commissioner Justice.]

There are two disturbing quotes from Commissioner Justice in the article.

“There are people with the opportunity to help us on this, but their priority was dollars in the pocketbook instead of  safety of kids”
– Commissioner Ray Justice

Safety of kids is important but it not just unfair, its downright disturbing and dangerous that an elected offical would take the position that a citizen should just allow the government to have their property. Commissioner Justice needs to go home and read the US Constitution again, paticularly the fifth amendment:

“. . . nor shall any person . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Its outrageous that an elected official would suggest that anyone is required to allow their private property to be taken without “just compensation.” Shame on Commissioner Justice. The City has known for over two years that the high school was going to be built on Curd Road. The Wilson County School Board, the Wilson County Commission and the Mt. Juliet City Commission have shown themselves to be completely ineffective in dealing with the problem of how to build a road to the new high school.

But Commissioner Justice wasn’t finished. He has another howler in this article.

“The County Commission has never said it won’t give their portion of the money to get this done.” – Commissioner Ray Justice

Really? They voted twice on a resolution to appropriate money for the project. And both times the resolution was defeated. Looks like “NO” to us. TWICE.

– Publius

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Headlines – Mt. Juliet News – October 24, 2007

  1. Butch Huber

    I believe the situation on Curd Road will rise to a crisis situation at some point in the near future. Once the school is open and the traffic begins to increase, and as continued development occurs, Curd Road will become more and more of a problem. If they started building the road today, could they have it completed by the time the school opened for business? I doubt it.

    This is just one more example of why this city needs a comprehensive, detailed, long-range plan for the development of the city.

    The county is certainly not innocent in this either. The acrimony that exists between the city and the county is unacceptable. This Curd Road issue is evidence of the problems that are caused when one government entity hates or abhors another, as the relationship between Wilson County and Mt. Juliet appears to be. Had Wilson County and Mt. Juliet had a better working relationship all along, perhaps they would have worked closely together to develop the new school/Curd Road/Beckwith interchange projects in a mature and rational manner; With proper planning and organization instead of creating a crisis in the making.

    The idea of asking citizens to give land for the development of a road is not wrong…expecting them to is another thing.
    Making publicly disparaging remarks because they refuse to “give” their property to the city is just wrong…and if that is what was done (I didn’t read the article and I was not at the meeting) a public apology is in order. No citizen should ever be made out to be a villain because they choose to protect their property rights.

    The only way that we will be able to build a charming, functional, organized and sensible city is to have a road map to success for the city…which is a master development plan for the city based on the twenty-year growth plan and by forging a working relationship with the county. No developer could expect to have a successful development project without first developing an overall plan for the project. Eventually they need drawings that include everything involved in the project. If someone showed up at the planning commission with simple artists sketches of what they planned to do, but didn’t have any detailed drawings, I don’t believe they would get final approval for their project. Yet, that is exactly what we are allowing the city to do with the growth of the city, isn’t it? Shouldn’t the city government kind of act as a general contractor for the city in a way; making sure that we have a clear picture of what needs to happen and when?

    It is in the county’s best interests to develop a relationship with Mt. Juliet, after all, we will soon outnumber Lebanon in population (If we haven’ already), and if there is another call to develop a metro government for Wilson County, Mt. Juliet will become the county seat (Unless I misunderstood the conditions for becoming a Metro government.) Regardless, before long they will have to redistrict the county, and when the county they do the redistricting Mt. Juliet will become the power base in this county.

    We need to keep extending the olive branch to the county, but if they choose to ignore our offer of cooperation, one day they will find themselves in an interesting position.

  2. Ray

    Hello All,

    I wanted to take the time to explain a couple of things that “Publius” either didn’t know about the Curd road situation, or elected not to share. First, I have never been in agreement that the City of Mt. Juliet should expect right of way to be given in order for a road to be built. This deal with the owners of certain property was made, and agreed to, a long time ago. It, only recently, became a concern that the resolution to other, non related, issues were being used to barter with the city in return for the right of way. The end result is that because of the lengthy discussion the road will not be built in time to take care of the traffic issues that were identified by both the former city manager and the former city planner. The city of Mt. Juliet did not build the school on this property, the county did. Again, the result, quite the same as the recent unfunded federal mandate that regulates stormwater. It seems that others take action that forces the city to respond with city tax dollars and, in the case of the federal government, refuse to send any money home to assist in the program they created. This brings us to the county involvement…I began working with the county several months ago trying to get assistance(financial) from the county commission. I talked to several commissioners who advised they would be willing to go along with the plan as long as the city had all of the necessary ingredients to begin construction. Those things included ROW, construction plans, Department of Conservation permits, and an interlocal agreement spelling out the level of involvement of the county and city. I promised those county officials I would not come to them requesting the funds until all of the pieces of the puzzle were in place. On two occasions others have gone to the county on behalf of the city requesting funds without the items requested and on both occasions they were turned down because the items requested were not in place. The newspapers reported this was the case and the newspaper articles in the past have quoted me as saying this. As for my “public disparaging” anyone. The last time I checked I have the right to say what is on my mind and if that is a problem then possibly others should break out the constitution and read it. I am not elected by the city, I am elected by the people in my district that make up this city and if I feel that these people who elected me are not being treated correctly then I will certainly speak out. Again, if you are looking for politically correct speech you probably should not have a conversation with me because I refuse to say the words that others want to hear just to gain favor. I thank those involved for this forum but I am sometimes amazed at the lack of informed comments made by some, not all, of those who post here. As usual, I have put myself in a position to be blasted and blasted I expect to be. Have fun and know where I stand. This has nothing to do with whether I run for re-election in my district or simply run for the county line. All of those are options, by the way.

    Ray Justice

  3. Butch Huber

    Ray,

    If there are people who have committed to selling property to the city, or even giving their property to the city, and they have done so on signed paper, then they should be honorable and do as they agreed. However, if parameters have changed or conditions have lapsed to a point where they (the people in question) are no longer bound by what was agreed, then nobody should hold it against them if they negotiate for a different or better deal. That is capitalism.

    Even if they did agree to something and are now trying to wiggle out of a deal, making disparaging remarks about them in a public forum is not going to endear you to them and cause them to want to cut a deal with the city. If I were one of those people and you made comments about me, my mind would be saying, “that comment just cost you”. Unfortunately, in this case, the term “you” refers to “us”, the citizens of Mt. Juliet. Words have power and influence…you should be careful what you say and how you say it because “your” words impact “our” lives. I don’t feel that you should say what people want to hear just to gain favor as you put it, however, I do believe you should temper what you say so that you are not causing people to feel they are being castigated by an elected official in public.

    As far as running for office or running for the county-line…comments like that will certainly lose votes for you. Certainly not the best type of comment for someone who is considering running for Mayor of Mt. Juliet.

    Ray, a citizen making a comment about an elected official in reference to that elected official’s official capacity it does not carry the same weight or effect as an elected official making a comment about a private citizen. The citizen doesn’t have a separate identity in the way that an elected official does. For instance, I hate what Mayor Elam has done to the city as Mayor, and I speak out about her behavior as Mayor all the time, however, I don’t think I have ever publicly said anything disparaging about “Linda Elam”, but to the contrary, I have complemented her repeatedly. She is a very smart and capable person and I have nothing against her as a “person”, but I would hate to see her seek and win election to mayor or any other elected office again. However, if she decides to say something about me she is limited to talking about me as a person as I have no other title or position except that of private citizen. Since private citizen has no special category, because it is a position we all share, it becomes personal. That is something that you and all elected officials should always keep in the forefront of your interactions with the public. You work for us, you are our public servants, you owe us respect and courtesy, and if you can’t control what you say publicly you should not say anything at all. Just like you can’t just say anything you want to Sheriff Ashe and keep your job, you can’t say anything you want about citizens.

    If you or any other public official makes a publicly disparaging remark about a citizen that person is owed a public apology; There is no proper alternative.

    The words “I’m sorry” are not that hard to say if your heart is right. Regardless of the issues, no public official should ever allow themselves to make off color remarks about private citizens…it just is not acceptable.

  4. Bobby Franklin

    Ray,

    The landowners you spoke of wanted three specific things before donating the right of way (at least while I was talking to them).

    1) The road centerline staked out across the property.
    2) Initial grading for a five lane cross section.
    3) A contract with the city assuring a drop-dead bid date to construct the road. After that date the ROW would go back to the original owners.

    If you saved your e-mails you could go back and read the one I sent the entire Commission the first week in July. It details these three things the owners wanted before donating the ROW. I immediately scheduled a meeting with Gresham Smith and Sheila Luckett out of which came the order to stake the centerline. I talked with Louis Oliver to get him to craft the contract. Grading to a five lane cross section never appeared to me to be a problem. The City Commission would have to vote to approve the contract anyway.

    The landowners have always been concerned most about the city actually building the road. It may be that the recent staff turnover has spooked these property owners. Rob Shearer, and his staff, had a very good reputation with developers and landowners. Providence, Providence Marketplace, Paddocks, Dell Webb, improvements to Mt. Juliet Road, Commuter Rail, and the Beckwith Road Interchange all happened on his watch. No one knows yet if the new City Manager will be so productive – maybe they don’t want to gamble on him yet with their land.

    Look at it like this: You have boys that are pretty athletic and someday they may go to college on athletic scholarships. Many schools will recruit them if they are very talented. I am sure their dad would help them choose the best school possible. What if one of the schools, say Tennessee, was on the top of your list but their coach was abruptly fired (forgive me Phil) before one of your sons committed? Wouldn’t that uncertainty cause you to reassess? What if you had never heard of the new coach?

    The development community doesn’t like uncertainty either. The confidence the development community had with the previous City Manager, and his staff, is not so easily transferred.

    Bobby Franklin

  5. Butch Huber

    Wow,

    Mr. Franklin, are you saying that these people were “donating” their property to the city? Am I to understand that citizens were freely “giving” their property to the city for the development of a road that would benefit all of us? Am I to understand that the city and/or county didn’t meet their conditions by their deadline? Am I to further understand that because the city/county failed to meet its obligations, those landowners took back their offer to donate their land to the city? And finally, am I to understand that they have been publicly disparaged because they elected to withdraw their offer to “give” up their land?

  6. Bobby Franklin

    Mr. Huber,

    I no longer work for the city so my comments in the previous post referred to negotiations that went on back in May and June of this year, while I was employed.

    It is not unheard of for landowners to donate ROW for roads that raise the value of their remaining property. I negotiated a similar ROW agreement across the Gilbert property near the Beckwith Road Interchange. The city is now building a segment of road with that ROW.

    I do not know what happened to the ROW agreement that Commissioner Justice referred to. It was one of about a dozen projects I was working on before being terminated July 13th. The landowners were, at that time, willing to donate the Eastern Connector ROW if a number of conditions were met. I made the Interim City Manager aware of those conditions immediately and later e-mailed a report to the entire City Commission.

    I also presented a plan to the City Commission back in May that, if approved, would have built the Eastern Connector for 5.5 million dollars of City expenditure. My presentation was so well received the entire Commission asked for information about a bond issue to secure that money to build the road. I do not know what the City has done about this since. It sounds like they dropped that ball and started shopping for parkland instead.

    It is not easy getting multiple self-interests on the same page with respect to road building projects. It is made even more difficult when at least 3 of 5 elected officials also have to agree. Now I know I am not the only person in the world who can broker these kinds of agreements – but the City did terminate the person doing it.

    Lets fire all the salesmen until sales improve…

    Bobby Franklin

  7. Butch Huber

    I have had a really interesting last 24 hours. I have been shown to two sides of the same coin on the ROW issue, and while I am too ignorant of all the facts to make a judgment on the specifics involved in the ROW issue, I can’t help but notice a great big void in city leadership.

    I have not met the new city manager personally, so I have no basis from which to form a personal opinion, however, I have heard some good things about him. I hope he does well in his position. As I have stated here before, having served in the military for nine years myself, I give points to any prior military member when evaluating their fitness for a position. I think the military is a great training ground for leadership and management. After thirty years in the military, surely Mr. Robertson has learned a trick or two. Unfortunately, his insensitivity toward the property tax issues in this city exposes his shallowness of understanding of the inner workings of the city of Mt. Juliet, as well as the issues the city has had with the county. Seems Mr. Robertson has stepped into the city and opened the proverbial “Pandora’s Box”. It certainly is going to be interesting to watch as this plays out.

    It could be that Mr. Robertson’s assertion that we need a property tax is nothing but him catering to a particular crowd, it could be a simple blunder on his part, or it could have been intended to be a calculated move on his part, but whatever his motive, Mr. Robertson seems to have stepped knee deep in a big pile of stinky stuff.

    This brings us to the point…are we better off today than we were on March 21st…the day before Mayor Elam illegally forced Rob Shearer’s resignation? Are we better off without a city planner? Are we really better off without Hatton Wright?

    Ever wonder how the effects of what has gone on at city hall have reverberated throughout the city? Sure, there are people who are celebrating the departure of the “old guard”, but what about the rest of the city? What price are we paying as a result of what has happened? Can it be calculated? What don’t we know about?

    There is a story in a book I once read about a new representative of a business, who soon after having been hired on in the business promptly went out and cost the company a million dollars. The young representative was called in to the President of the company’s office for a discussion on the matter. The young representative admitted to his error, hung his head, and turned to go clear out his things. The President of the company asked him where he thought he was going, upon which the new representative informed the President that he was going to resign, that he was going to clear out his things. The company president told him he wasn’t going anywhere, that he had just spent a million dollars training him and that the young representative wasn’t going anywhere until he got his investment back. I wish I could tell you where I read the story, I believe it was How to Win Friends and Influence people, by Dale Carnegie, but my memory betrays me. The moral of the story is that every organization pays a price when new people are brought on…it is inevitable. We had already paid the price for Rob’s, Bobby’s, and Hatton’s indoctrination, and as a result of their efforts, as well as those of Mayor Mack, this city was smoking. For the past six or seven years Mt. Juliet has enjoyed the distinction of being perhaps the fastest growing city in the state, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, having more money per person being spent on, or allocated for, infrastructure than just about anywhere in the state, having massive commercial growth build-up, and having its land values skyrocketing. What was just a few short years ago a sleepy bedroom community has become a burgeoning small city.

    Now, instead of building infrastructure to handle the growth, it’s all about parks. What price will we pay for not being able to conclude deals such as the ROW project for the Eastern Connector? This ROW project isn’t “just” about getting school children to and from school. This is about making use of the Beckwith Road interchange. This is about opening the spigot for growth in the part of the city where there is ample room for growth, the eastern part of the twenty-year growth plan. This is about relieving pressure to some degree on Mt. Juliet Road. This is about setting the city up for long-term, balanced, and multi-faceted growth.

    The city is looking for park land, but as I understand it, there is 80 acres land that has been available for the city for some time. That land is flat, it connects to what would be the Eastern Connector, it is located in the central part of the city, and it is affordable. If that is the case, then why are we even considering buying property on a hill to build a park? Doesn’t this sound strange to you?

    Folks, I am not the best mathematician on the planet, but this whole issue doesn’t add up to me. Call me paranoid, but I can’t help but think something is not right in the city between the lakes. I have come to the point where I suspect that there are deals going on of which you and I are not yet aware.

    This city has been doing business behind closed doors for some time. Read the depositions in the investigation into the Hatton Wright Complaint and you will see that there are deals going on.

    Who knows what is going on when deals are being done behind closed doors and/or out of the public eye?

    I am not going to state all that I have heard here as I am not able to discern the whole truth yet, but I am now convinced that there is a lot more that we don’t know than there is that we do know.

    It is time for this city to lay out a master plan for growth that details what is intended so that citizens, business people, and developers are playing from the same playbook that the city leaders are playing from. How else will we be able to hold public officials and government leaders accountable?

    It is time for change in Mt. Juliet, only this time the change is in how business is conducted here. It is time to put the cards on the table.

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