Late request causes county schools planning meeting deferral

Xavier Smith • May 22, 2018 at 7:02 PM

A late request from the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission prompted the Wilson County Schools’ deferral last week during the group’s monthly meeting.

Wilson County Schools representatives were slated to appear before the commission to discuss plans for a proposed new Mt. Juliet high school on North Green Hill Road, on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School. However, the group asked for a deferral until the June 21 meeting.

“About two hours before the planning commission meeting, we were asked to provide information on a new topic, which required some additional research,” said Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson. “Instead of making our presentation without that information and coming back next month to address this new question, we simply asked if we could defer.”

Planning commission meetings often feature a handful of deferrals and delays, and Johnson said the district’s deferral request is not atypical.

“I have to believe that getting all of the information at one time is better for the residents who are interested in this topic,” she said.

The Wilson County Commission approved $1.55 million last year for Wilson County Schools to conduct design services for the potential new high school in Mt. Juliet. The design authorization does not signify the groups’ commitment to spend $110 million for a new high school, which is the estimated cost.

Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard said it would cost an additional 12-18 cents on the property tax rate to fund a new high school in Mt. Juliet, unless a new funding source is found, dependent upon how the debt payment is structured.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said he hoped commissioners would have all necessary information available this month to make a decision regarding funding, which would leave about 26 months for construction before the targeted opening in 2020.

Maynard reiterated additional funding mechanisms would be necessary for the school’s 2020 opening.

“This all comes down to a funding mechanism. You all know that. It comes down to what does it take in terms of an adequate facilities tax, property tax, wheel tax or whatever form of tax you want to take. We know, as we sit here today, we can’t fund another school without another revenue source,” Maynard said last year.

Many residents have opposed the site for the new high school, and intended to voice their concerns during last week’s meeting.

The Wilson County Board of Education picked the North Green Hills Road site in 2016 after the district’s design team, which includes representatives from Civil Site Design Group and Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris Architects, examined the pros and cons of all potential high school sites.

The North Green Hills site scored an 84 out of a possible 100 on a KBJM site study, 16 points higher than the next highest ranked site of 64 acres on Benders Ferry Road. Other potential sites included 65 acres at West Division Street near Devonshire Drive; 90 acres on South Mt. Juliet Road; 284 acres on Double Log Cabin Road; and 78 acres at State Route 109 and Highway 70.

Factors taken into account included land size and topography, land acquisition cost, site restrictions, access points, infrastructure needs and proximity of people the site would serve. The site received positive marks for it’s location within three miles of the population it would serve, adjoining an existing feeder school, the possibility of two or more access points and site size.

Mt. Juliet City Commissioner Ray Justice spoke about the site during the 2016 meeting, noting the site falls in his district.

"A total of 1,436 homes that are probably going to come online in the next 12-18 months," Justice said. "The North Green Hills site already has a five-lane road that goes to it. It's already set up for W.A. Wright traffic. What I didn't hear, and I want to point out, is with traffic conditions that we've got, if you take those people in the northwest quadrant of the county and take them to a new school on North Green Hill Road, you've cut their travel time down considerably and the bus traffic time down considerably."

The board has had heartburn about potential sites for a new high school since 2015 when the first round of responses of requests for proposals failed to appease a majority of the group. The district’s second RFPs failed to receive any additional responses.

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