Mayors and city leaders from throughout Wilson County held a joint session last week at the Farm Bureau Expo Center to discuss the current and future state of infrastructure in the county.
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell, Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings and a Mt. Juliet team consisting of spokespersons Justin Beasley and Sami Kincaid, Public Works Director Matt White and Engineering Director Shane Shamanur gave presentations to the more than 100 people in attendance.
The meeting was one of three scheduled this year throughout the county and each meeting will discuss different topics.
The next meeting is scheduled for April 30 at 7:30 a.m. at College Hills Church of Christ in Lebanon and will be focused on utilities and representatives from different utility companies will be present.
Hutto said despite a 30 percent growth in the county’s population in the last decade, 74 percent of Wilson County remains open space. Through the federal American Rescue Plan, the county gave $5 million to Wilson County Water and Wastewater Authority, $3.5 million to Gladeville Utility District, $2.7 million LaGuardo Utility District and $1.5 million to West Wilson Utility District.
The funds will be used for infrastructure projects including maintenance, renovation and construction.
Hutto also discussed the completion of road projects throughout Wilson County and noted the county recently started a road study with Collier Engineering Co. Hutto also said the Wilson County Road Commission has continued to analyze county roads after all have been paved.
“Now, we’re looking at trying to take all the narrow roads and work out a way to making those wider,” he said.
Hutto said capital projects include a multi-level court building that would be located next to the Wilson County Jail. Hutto said the project would come before the Wilson County Commission for funding in the next month or two.
Bell said Lebanon leaders’ aggressive pursuit of grants and increased fees related to development has been beneficial to the city and residents.
“One of the things I learned when I was running for election was if we have growth, growth should pay for itself, so we’re doing everything we can to make that happen,” Bell said.
Fees from developers have helped with new traffic signals throughout the city and nearly half the cost of a $25 million sewer project along South Hartmann Drive, which Bell called one of the largest in the city’s history.
Developer fees account for $12 million of the project and most of the remaining costs are covered by American Rescue Plan funds, according to Bell.
“It’s going to have a huge impact on South Hartmann Drive. That’s an area that we have determined to be a commercial zone for us. It’s a place where stores will be. It’s a place where restaurants will be,” Bell said. “We have to have the sewer line out there to make that happen.”
Bell also highlighted the city’s CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant) project, which will allow city staff to remotely control traffic signals along U.S. 231 South and West Main Street, and the Lebanon Sports Complex, expected to open this year.
The Mt. Juliet team’s remarks included a spotlight on the Fire Department of Mt. Juliet and Mt. Juliet Police Department, which has seen success with its license plate reader program Guardian Shield.
“It has really helped us be proactive instead of reactive,” said Kincaid, who said the city’s crime against persons is the lowest since 2016 and crime on property is the lowest since 2018.
Kincaid said the city’s new police headquarters should complete in the next 16-20 months.
White highlighted several capital projects that have been completed, including the Mt. Juliet Road bridge widening above I-40, the Lebanon Road turn slip ramp to Golden Bear Gateway, the Willoughby Station roundabout and Providence Parkway extension to Central Pike.
The city has 32 total capital projects in the works, according to White.
Shamanur highlighted interceptor projects at Cedar Creek and Stoner Creek. The two are the oldest interceptors, which reroute wastewater to treatment facilities, in the city.
The Cedar Creek interceptor project cost $743,000 and completed in May 2022, while the $7.4 million Stoner Creek interceptor project is expected to complete in October.
Shamanur said the projects would be a long-term fix and save the city six figures annually.
Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings said the city faces different issues than others primarily because of its smaller size.
“Our issues in Watertown are not so much growth … ours is maintenance – keeping what we have upgraded,” Jennings said.
The city’s $1.9 million total budget sometimes presents challenges when major projects, such as paving the city’s 12 miles of street, are necessary, he said.
“We paved them all in 1997 for $300,000. The estimate I got in December from Collier Engineering for us to pave all of them this year is $9,776,000,” Jennings said. “That didn’t include the public square and it didn’t include the administrative cost, so probably we’re looking at $12 million.”
Jennings said the city is also taking steps to deal with its water treatment plant, which is authorized to treat 270,000 gallons of water a day but treats about 400,000 gallons during heavy rainfall.