The City of Mt. Juliet doesn’t want you to watch…

The City is making it harder for citizens to watch City Commission meetings, and they have yet to post the budget on the website. Citizens of Mt. Juliet should be asking “Why?”

It’s never a good sign when the government doesn’t want citizens to see what they are doing.

From 2002 until 2008, the City of Mt. Juliet regularly posted a streaming video recording of the last several City Commission meetings on its website. This had the advantage of making it easy for citizens to review the last several Commission meetings conveniently. But that practice has come to an end.

The last City Commission meeting available on the City website is from February of 2008. There have been five Commission meetings since the last one posted. None have been made available. And apparently, they won’t be made available on the website anymore. No explanation has been offered for the change in practice.

There is no state law or city ordinance that we are aware of that requires the video of Commission meetings to be posted… but the question remains as to why the practice was stopped.

Of course, the meetings are still being broadcast, and recorded. If you miss one (and you didn’t set your Tivo), you can stop by City Hall and fill out a formal request for a DVD recording of a Commission meeting. . . and pay $10.00 for the DVD. The new practice certainly doesn’t encourage citizens to keep up with what’s going on in city government. And it certainly runs counter to the trend at all other levels of city government which are finding newer and easier ways for citizens to be informed every week. Mt. Juliet seems to be going in the opposite direction.

Along with this reversal of trends, one has to also weigh the fact that the 2008-2009 budget still hasn’t been posted on the city website – though it was submitted by the City Manager to the Commission two weeks ago, on May 12th.

Passing a budget is arguably the most important thing the City Commission does each year. Why don’t they want the citizens to have access to the budget they are considering?

Citizens should also be asking, “Why don’t they want us to watch what they’re doing?

Citizens should also be asking, “Who made the decision NOT to make this information available to us anymore?”

“Was it the Mayor?” “Was it the City Commission?” “Was it the City Manager?”

– Publius

in a modest contribution to what should be a wide discussion of the city’s budget, we will post a copy here on RFMJ.

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11 Comments

Filed under Public Records

11 responses to “The City of Mt. Juliet doesn’t want you to watch…

  1. Pingback: Crossing The Streams : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  2. Butch Huber

    Mr. Robertson,

    I spoke with Ms. Vollet about the $950,000 credit for the purchase of the Mt. Juliet Elementary School site yesterday. I gathered from our conversation that Ms. Vollet believed that the credit that was being bantered about was from the county to the city. In other words, that the county was giving the city a credit of $950,000. Her look of surprise and contemplation and some of the things that she said about that issue, coupled with Mr. Hagerty’s e-mail to me regarding the matter, lead me to believe it is possible that this city doesn’t quite know what it is getting into.

    I know that the city has met with the county over the land issue recently. I would like to be made aware of any deal that is pending or any offer that has been made, however, the only deal that I am aware of is the one contemplated in County Resolution 07-12-3. I suggest you call the county and request that they fax you a copy of 07-12-3 so that you may read it for yourself.

    Mr. Robertson, the county and the city established a committee two or three years ago to determine the county’s obligation regarding the improvement of Curd Road; an obligation that stems from the high school being built down that road. It was the determination of that committee that the costs to improve/enhance/straighten the “reverse L” portion of that road would amount to $950,000. That is the “Credit” the county is speaking of when they talk about credit in resolution 07-12-3. However, if you or others in Mt. Juliet government have the impression that the credit is a $950,000 credit from the county to the city, you are incorrect. The resolution clearly spells out that the county expects the city of Mt. Juliet to give the county a credit of $950,000 toward the costs of straightening out the Reverse L portion of Curd Road. In other words, rather than the county making a direct contribution of $950,000 in the form of cash, which the county doesn’t have available to contribute, the county is saying that they will sell the land at the Old MJES site for $2,000,000, take $1,050,000 in cash over five years at the rate of 210,000/YR, and will take a credit from the city of Mt. Juliet for $950,000 toward the county’s obligation with regard to the Reverse L. This fact that the credit is to be from the city to the county, and not from the county to the city, is clearly stated in the Resolution: County Resolution 07-12-3, which is the resolution that was passed by the county to offer the land to the city.

    Mr. Robertson, there are a few problems with that resolution and the intention thereof. The first problem that exists is that the resolution was dead, terminated, expired prior to any vote of the commission of the City of Mt. Juliet. County Resolution 07-12-3 has a termination/expiration date 60 days from the date of its passing, which I believe was December 17th. The commission of Mt. Juliet did not take action on that resolution/offer for sale until more than 60 days from its passage. That means that the county must go back and either extend the resolution or pass another resolution in order for there to even be an offer for sale from the county. That does not preclude the city of Mt. Juliet from making a purchase offer to the county, but it does not allow the county to structure a deal that is different or contrary to the one contemplated under county resolution 07-12-3, and since the city didn’t act on that offer within the 60 day timeframe, there is no offer of sale on the table.

    Mr. Robertson, you should also note that the county wants assurances/indemnity from any further obligation on the part of the county to pay for, or cover, costs from the construction/enhancement of Curd road or the “Reverse L” as a condition of this deal. There are two major problems with that condition:

    1) The county could be responsible for costs other than those caused by the construction of the school, and there could be additional costs created by the construction of the school, including costs other than the enhancement costs of straightening out the Reverse L.

    2) The figure of $950,000 was developed more than two years ago. It is quite possible, and highly probable, that construction costs have doubled since the time of that study due to the rising costs of oil. I have looked at the price of asphalt and it has indeed doubled over the past three years. That means that the construction costs for the portion of the road that the county should be responsible for taking care of may be as high, or higher than, $1,900,000. Further, since that time (the time the committee developed the construction costs of $950,000) there has been some inflation and with a CPI increase of as much as 4.9% this year alone it has to have an impact on construction costs.

    So why am I telling you about the costs of the Reverse L? Because if the city agrees to what the county is proposing the city could be obligating itself to pay perhaps $950,000 to $1.4 or $1.5 million in additional construction costs. How? Because if the city takes the deal contemplated by the county under county resolution 07-12-3, the city will be responsible for all construction costs in excess of the $950,000 credit the county receives from the city from the sale of the Old MJES site. That means that if the construction costs for taking care of any enhancement to Curd Road caused to be necessary by the construction of the new high school have grown to $1.9 to as much as $2.4 million, as they likely have, the city will have to pay all of those costs, including the costs covered by the credit of $950,000 contemplated under this proposed offer for sale. The city receives a value of $950,000 in the land deal and that value is paid for by the city covering the credit in the construction costs for enhancing the reverse L portion of Curd Road. However, any construction costs incurred as a result of the development of the high school, costs that should be borne by the county, the city will have to pay for without any representative gain. That means that if the city concludes a deal as contemplated by County Resolution 07-12-3, the city will have incurred up to, and perhaps even more than, $1.4 million in additional debt. That means that the city will be on the hook for covering expenses that should be covered by the county. The city needs to stand firm on forcing the county to take care of its obligations with regard to the construction costs of that road. Why should we put the citizens of Mt. Juliet on the hook for costs that the county in its entirety should shoulder?

    Mr. Robertson, your budget does include the $210,000 annual payment to the county for the contemplated deal envisioned under 07-12-3, so it is obvious that the city intends to consummate this deal with the county, however your budget does not include any provision for paying down the $950,000 credit. If you go through with this deal, you will be taking on the county’s responsibility for $950,000 in construction costs as a condition of this proposed land purchase agreement. Payment for that $950,000 credit must come from the general fund and cannot be covered by bond funds. In other words, if the construction costs for the entire eastern bypass comes to $8,000,000, you will have to reduce the amount you pay toward that $8,000,000 by $950,000 (the credit from the city to the county). That means that the city has to pay the $950,000 from the general fund and can only pay $7,050,000 of the construction costs from the bond funds. You should make sure that you are very clear on this because to do otherwise, meaning if you use bond funds to pay down the $950,000 credit the city has to give the county under this land deal, you will be directing people in your command to commit an illegal act. It is illegal to use bond money for purposes other than what are authorized by the bond. Since the city will receive a benefit from the county in the land sale agreement equal to or greater than the $950,000 credit, it is the same as if the city received a $950,000 cash contribution toward the construction costs incurred to straighten out the reverse L. If the city were to receive $950,000 in direct cash contributions toward the reverse L the city would have to reduce the total construction costs by the $950,000 contribution. So in that scenario, if the costs of construction of the eastern connector were $8,000,000, the city would have to apply the $950,000 cash contribution received from the county toward the $8,000,000 before the city could cover construction costs from bond funds, which in turn means that the only portion of the $8,000,000 construction bill that could be covered by bond funds would be $7,050,000. The remaining $950,000 would have been paid down by the direct contribution of $950,000 cash from the county. Whether the city receives a cash contribution from the county or gives the county a “Credit” the end result is the same, the city must cover the obligation created under this deal from the general fund and not through bond funds.

    One very major problem exists in this whole situation; the city doesn’t have $950,000 to pay down the credit. Your budget doesn’t identify from which fund the city will draw the $950,000 to pay down the credit to the county. Considering that the county is going to want the road construction to begin immediately, it stands to reason that the funds necessary to offset the $950,000 credit need to be identified immediately as well and will need to be identified in the Fy 08/09 budget. Moreover, you cannot legally apply bond funds toward any obligation that is not the city’s obligation. If the county is obligated to pay down construction costs of the Reverse L portion of Curd Road, the city cannot apply bond funds toward those construction costs. Which I believe means that the city, if it takes this deal from the county, will be illegally using bond funds if it doesn’t separate the construction costs for the straightening out of the reverse L, and any other costs the county would otherwise have been responsible for paying for, from the costs of the rest of the eastern connector road and pay for all of the reverse L construction costs, and any other costs the county would otherwise have been responsible for paying, from the city’s general fund. Additionally, I believe that the county’s resolution provides reasonable proof that they understand and believe that they are fiscally responsible for the construction costs for the reverse L enhancement, and possibly other costs, as evidenced by their desire for an indemnification from further obligation as a condition for the land sale agreement.

    The county’s resolution 07-12-3 is a good deal all-the-way-around for the county and a bad deal for the city of Mt. Juliet. Here’s why. The county recognizes that it is obligated to pay the construction costs to straighten out the reverse L portion of the eastern connector road (at a minimum) as evidenced by their desire for indemnification from further obligation under 07-12-3. They want to sell a piece of property located in Mt. Juliet. So they enter into an arrangement through which they are able to unload the land they want to sell; raise the money that they would have to contribute toward construction costs from that land sale, (which means that they don’t have to make a bond offering, raise property taxes, or take out a loan in order to be able to pay those costs.); they provide a hedge against having to pay for any other portion of the eastern bypass, and they provide themselves with a shield against the rising costs of construction materials and construction costs. Great deal for the county! However, here is what the city is doing. The city, due to the desires of Ray Justice, Ed Hagerty, and Will Sellers to donate 8 acres of land to the YMCA, is agreeing to: limit the county’s obligation with regard to the eastern bypass to just the costs of the reverse L portion of the road: limit the county’s obligation for the reverse L portion of the road to $950,000 regardless of actual construction costs; and provide the county with a means of avoiding having to take out a loan or float a bond in order to cover its obligation for the reverse L construction costs. This deal also puts the city of Mt. Juliet in a financial bind because it really can’t afford the $210,000 per year, will have to come up with $210,000 in September, and certainly cannot afford the $950,000 credit. This deal may also create a bond fraud situation if the city illegally uses bond money to pay down the $950,000, and, may also create a situation where it is further illegally using bond money because the city is making a deal that would represent that the city is taking on the county’s obligations with regard to additional construction costs of the reverse L and/or the eastern connector. In other words, it could be argued that the land deal with the Old MJES site, because of the indemnification clause, creates a condition under which the city has taken on any obligation the county has with regard to the eastern connector and/or the reverse L, and that in the event the actual construction costs the county would have been obligated to pay for amount to $2,000,000 or $3,000,000, the city must cover those costs. If the city then were to use bond funds to cover those costs, rather than pay for those costs out of the city’s general fund, the city would have illegally used bond funds to cover an obligation that would not have been an obligation of the city if the city were not to enter into this land sale agreement. The city cannot use bond funds in that manner, so therefore it could could be argued that the bond funds were used illegally. Additionally, if the city has to float a loan to cover those additional costs there will be interest fees on that loan that could amount to an additional million or two in expenses. Those interest fees would have been something that the county would have paid for instead of the city.

    This deal for the Old MJES site could ultimately cost the city several million dollars if it is concluded, and the city entering into this deal for the purpose of being able to give away two thirds of the property to the YMCA. Since we don’t experience a increase of assets from the 8 acres of land that is going to be donated to the YCMA, the city will experience a loss of as much as $3,000,000 as a result of this deal and may end up having to defend a lawsuit or charges of bond fraud.

    The way to make this deal with the county is for the city to float a loan for $2,000,000 and pay the county for the land with the $2,000,000 in cash. Obtain a free and clear title from the county. Provide the YMCA with a long-term lease for the property at $1 per year with an agreement to convey title to the YMCA upon the final payment on the $2,000,000 loan. The county can then cover its financial obligations for construction costs of the reverse L and/or the eastern connector from the $2,000,000. The city could make it a condition of the deal that the county put the $2,000,000 in a fund from which the city of Mt. Juliet could draw funds to cover construction costs. If the county objects to that provision the city can make it a condition of the deal that the county construct or enhance whatever portion of the eastern connector that the county is obligated to cover and the city will construct its portion of that road project. The condition can be made that the county’s portion of the road must be constructed with the same standards as what the city builds its portion, and perhaps with the same construction company. That way we won’t have a weird road. That way, there is no bond fraud, there is no collusion, and everything is nice and clean. I don’t agree with the YMCA deal on any level, but if you are going to do it you need to do it legally. One other thing that this scenario would do would create a situation where we can calculate exactly what it will cost the tax payers of Mt. Juliet to provide the YMCA with this gift…and we should know that figure seeing as we are the one’s who will pay for it in the end.

    I wanted to send you this e-mail to ensure that you really are aware of what is actually happening in this situation. I am going to post this e-mail on Radiofreem.wordpress.com to ensure that everyone can see that I have informed this city of the actual situation. I have Cc’d the finance director, the city attorney, and the commissioners so that you are all aware of what is going on and what is required. If you don’t include the $950,000 credit in this budget you will have to amend the budget in the event the deal goes through. In order to do that you will have to identify from which fund the $950,000 will be paid and certify that the funds will be available. It is obvious by looking at the budget that you don’t have the $950,000 to pay down the credit, so unless you enact a property tax, obtain a loan, or float a bond, you will not be able to consummate this deal with the county.

    Butch Huber

  3. Tennessee Jed

    And when a 16 year old is killed because of the city/county road liability, I hope the grieving family sues the pants off of both entities. Even though as a taxpayer, I will have to pay my part.

    And this could easily happen. Prepare to die.

    If you think I’m an alarmist, take a tour of Curd Road. On a school bus if possible.

    More jokes in this county than Zanies has.

  4. Larry Whitney

    This secrecy by the city falls in line with the secrecy of the Willoughby Station HOA when Will Sellers was President of that group. This does not surprise me at all. He has probably talked the other commissioners and Mayor into the value of hiding their activities from the public.

  5. Brian Snyder

    let me address only one question in this short post:
    I decided not to post any additional BOC commission meetings on the city web site. I have several reasons for that:

    1. The person who used to post those videos left the city, and I took over their role and most responsibilities. I was forced to prioritize my work load. It was not a number 1 priority because I elected to replay the meeting every Monday at 9:00am.
    2. I am working on a new web site design, and I didn’t want to spend my time or city money spending a lot of effort on old pages. I continue to update the current web site, but I am eager to roll out the new one. The new site will Wow the residents of the City. It has improved functionality, improved and updated information, and will hold each department accountable for updating their information.

    lastly – the “editors and moderators” on this site routinely refer to city ordinances that require this info be posted here, or require that information be posted there… Let me say that when I ask for a reference to those ordinances – I get dead air. Not much in the way of a reply.

    Take the information here with a grain of salt. The truth is coming. In Matthew, The Bible clearly states:
    At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
    This site proclaims much, but backs up little with true and real evidence. Anyone reading this – take the statements on this site with a grain of salt, but if you do believe everything written here (just because it is written), you might want to invest ni that bomb shelter that’s been proposed within the editors posts.

  6. Bobby Franklin

    Mr. Snyder,

    No one has said there is an ordinance that requires the meetings be posted to the website. It is odd that you think you are improving the website by taking content off of it.

    So you know, the reason for doing this in the first place was to help those citizens who travel a lot and cannot pick up channel 3. It was a service as in “public service”. State law does not require citizen comments at every commission meeting either. I suppose people would ask about it if that was discontinued too.

    It is unfortunate that a simple question has made you so angry.

  7. Brian Snyder

    Just a point: I am not angry.
    I plan to post the meetings from the new web page. I just don’t have the bandwidth to do everything that needs to be done. Some things have to wait.

  8. Chris Sorey

    Anyone looked at Lakewood’s website? According to the charter, they meet on the first and third Thursday but here it is 10 working days since the third Thursday, and no vidoe of the meeting has been posted on the site. Maybe it is mislabeled as something else, maybe they decided not to have a meeting. The homepage doesn’t even have links to the other pages on the site.

    Someone should start radio free Lakewood!

  9. Bobby Franklin

    Mr. Sorey,

    Lakewood has met on only the first Thursday a long time before I started working there. We only record the meetings that take place.

    Six months ago Lakewood didn’t even have email, much less a website. We do have a lot of work to do on the site but all of the pages are linked.

    Given your recent investigative triumph of tracking down my residence – perhaps you are on the wrong site?

    If this is another attempt by you to cast bad light on me – why? Again, you have never met me and I have never said anything bad about you. Are you mad at me for really living in Mt. Juliet?

    Do you need a hobby?

  10. Chris Sorey

    Do you really think my above post casts bad light on you? The whole point of the post is those who live in glass houses…

  11. Butch Huber

    I have no other place to post this information on this site because there is no place for breaking news, so I figure this is as good a place as any.

    I heard through the rumor mill that the city manager may be leaving the city. Rather than rely on unsubstantiated information, I chose to call the city manager and ask him straight out about the matter.

    Mr. Robertson was very straight-forward and answered my question. He also stated that the papers have been calling him regarding the matter as well. I figure you will be reading about it in the paper soon. Mr. Robertson told me that he had in fact received an offer that he has to consider, but that it is likely that he will be remaining in Mt. Juliet. He stated that he has informed the city commission of the development and that they have been very gracious and understanding. I am sure that, based on the issues the Mr. Robertson has to consider regarding this development, Mr. Robertson has a difficult decision to make. I wish him and his family well and hope he makes the decision that is best for his family.

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