Commission discusses growth, new high school

Matt Masters • Jul 18, 2018 at 3:27 PM

The Wilson County Commission met Monday and discussed bids for a new high school, economic growth, policies surrounding the school board, designated a day of prayer, recognized two teams of award-winning students and talked about improvements to the Wilson County Fair.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright presented the commission with the results of the bids that came in and the school board voted on Thursday to build a new high school in Wilson County.

There were four bids submitted to build the new high school that ranged from more than $86 million to $101 million, and each came in less than the estimated $110 million. The board approved a bid from Robert S. Biscan and Co. in Franklin for just more than $86.3 million on a 6-1 vote with board member Wayne McNeese against it.

The school board also passed its budget for the upcoming year Thursday by a 6-1 vote with McNeese against it. The budget will now go to the Wilson County Education and Budget committees for approval before it is ultimately approved by the Wilson County Commission. A joint meeting between the two committees will be July 23 at 5 p.m. at the Wilson County Courthouse.

Commissioner Frank Bush questioned Wright about the number of options considered besides building a new high school at the site of the proposed Green Hill High School on Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet. Wright said the only other option would be to expand current schools, but that choice was not really considered due to the large needs of the county.

“I don’t know that there were any other options that were viable options other than expanding onto existing high schools, which we had this conversation before. As far as building them out 2,500 to 3,000, we said that. As far as not only our board, but also know that we are not looking at high schools of that size,” Wright said.

“So no alternatives have been examined and priced out, so we have no comparisons to make when we get this data in front of us?” Bush said.

“No,” Wright said.

“Fair enough,” Bush said.

Bush also questioned Wright about Wilson County school board policy regarding information about firing employees, and he expressed frustration when he was asked to fill out open records requests. Wright said the protection of personal information and privacy was reason for an open records request, after which Commissioner Sara Patton and others called into question as to whether Bush’s grievances were actually commission business.

Wright also told the commission that since the last day of school in May, 404 new students were enrolled for the upcoming school year and more were expected before Aug. 1.

In other business, Eddie Callis with the Lebanon Kiwanis Club and Commissioner Sue Vanatta introduced a resolution to designate July 29 as a day of prayer in Wilson County schools, a day when churches will pray for the safety and success of students who will start school Aug. 1. The initiative was first introduced in 1999 after the Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado.

“We think that if on Sunday before school starts that all the people of Wilson County got together and prayed asking God to keep our children safe as school begins, that that will have some impact. We think, as the resolution says, that can have more impact than more laws, more metal detectors. We need to change the way people treat one another, and that’s what we hope to accomplish.”

The Wilson County Fair will be from Aug. 17-25 with new security measures such as added barriers, new digital tickets and the addition of the mega ticket for $25, which offers fairgoers gate admission and a ride armband to be used any day for one day, which is a 20-percent savings.

The commission also honored the Watertown High School Health and Occupations Students of America who competed in the International Leadership Conference in Dallas and finished fourth overall, and the Watertown High School Future Business Leaders of America who participated in the FBLA National Leadership Conference in Baltimore and placed ninth overall.

Wilson County Trustee Jim Major said the county had just more than $59 million in funds and collected 98 percent of taxes for the year at $104 million. Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard said total growth of 5.12 percent was the largest since the 2008 economic downturn.

A resolution in support of Wilson County as a “broadband ready” community was passed unanimously with the hope to recruit private investment in broadband infrastructure.

A resolution to adopt the 2018 edition of the International Residential Code was passed unanimously, which updates building codes for homes in the county.

Commissioner Kenny Rich was elected to the Wilson County Road Commission to represent Zone 1. Commissioners Chad Barnard, Bush, William Glover, John Lancaster and Jerry Taylor were named to the Wilson County Audit Committee. Gary Thorne was appointed to the Wilson County Board of Zoning and Appeals.

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