Monday night went to Wilson County’s veterans who were represented in dozens to watch the Wilson County Commission approve spending $600,000 to build the Wilson County Veterans Plaza and Museum.
Commissioners voted 20-3 to allocate the funds to the project from the sale of the old Mt. Juliet Elementary School, which sold for about $1.2 million. The remaining balance previously went to Wilson County schools.
The vote didn’t come without some contention as commissioners Clint Thomas, Frank Bush and Nathan Clariday opposed the measure.
“My take on it is this vote is not a litmus test on your support of our troops,” said Thomas. “At this point, it’s something the private sector should be involved in and finish out. As a vet myself, if we were going to spent this $600,000, I think it should be spent on something more substantial.”
Thomas said things like scholarships, medical care and investing in a shuttle to take veterans to hospitals or commissaries would be more useful ways the money could be spent.
“Those are the kinds of things that would be more substantive and mean more to those guys coming back than putting more than half a million dollars toward this project,” Thomas said.
Bush echoed what Thomas said, asking the project be funded through private means.
“There is probably not one person here who is more than one-step removed from a veteran,” Bush said. “But I think there are a lot more important things we can do with $600,000. We could buy an annuity and provide us with $10,000 a year forever to help veterans in Wilson County. I think there are better ways that could benefit our veterans than what is presented here.”
But Commissioner Bernie Ash, who heads the plaza and museum project and serves as director of the Wilson County Veteran’s Office, disagreed.
“[That money] would be a drop in the bucket, and $10,000 a year would not go very far,” Ash said.
Ash introduced the resolution by telling several stories of past veterans from Wilson County, including some who served in World War II, along with prisoners of war.
“This monument will have the names of the people who gave their lives, but it doesn't tell the story,” Ash said. “Once this museum is built, I want these students to come in and hear the stories about these heroes, real heroes.”
Once the vote was tallied and results read, veterans gathered at the meeting Monday night gave a standing ovation.
The meeting also opened with Hubert Murray, a World War II veteran who will be 90 years old Tuesday, giving the invocation. Ray Brabbas, a Vietnam veteran who served three tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
The commission also:
• heard a speech from Wilson Central FFA member Will Singer, who won the Tennessee prepared public speaking competition at the recent state FFA convention and will soon represent the state at the FFA National Convention.
• heard from John Stone with the National Weather Service, who designated Wilson County as a Storm Ready county and honored Steve Spencer with the Wilson Emergency Management Agency.
• approved Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto as commission chairman and Paul Abercrombie as chairman pro tem.
• named commissioners Mike Justice, Jerry McFarland, Annette Stafford and Sara Patton to the newly formed finance committee.
• named Don Chambers to the Water and Wastewater Authority.
• approved an interlocal agreement between Wilson County schools and Lebanon schools.
• approved line-item transfers in property assessor and budget corrections returning funds to the general fund.
• approved an additional appropriation in the capital projects fund.
• approved an additional appropriation to the drug fund.
• updated Occupational Safety and Health Administration program plan for a safety director for Wilson County government, excluding schools.
• approved a general obligation school refunding bond for $11.12 million.
• approved a county district school refunding bond for $2.04 million.