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Tim Tebow headlines Cumberland homecoming

A Heisman trophy winner is headlining Cumberland University’s homecoming event alongside a familiar face from local sports.

Former college football standout Tim Tebow plans to deliver remarks at Nokes-Lasater Field at 2 p.m. on Oct. 8. Later in the day, at Baird Chapel, he will be joined by WSMV4 sports anchor Chris Harris and Cumberland University Athletic Director Ron Pavan.

As for the topic of discussion, Tebow, Harris and Pavan will be exploring how people can make a difference in the lives of others.

“Cumberland is fortunate to have great friendships across multiple fields,” Pavan said. “We are thankful that Chris Harris would dedicate his time and expertise to Cumberland. It’s not every day a sports anchor is willing to cover a university’s homecoming game instead of a Titans game.”

Harris added, “I was very happy and honored to be asked by Ron Pavan over at Cumberland to help them out and moderate this event, which should be a lot of fun.”

For more than a decade, Harris has worked at the Nashville news station, covering sports across Tennessee and beyond. He’s covered sports from collegiate athletics to the big time, and on Oct. 8, he will be the moderator for the discussion with Tebow and Pavan.

“It’s going to be more of a conversation between Ron, Tim and myself,” Harris said. “We’ll talk about athletics and (Tebow’s) achievements, what he has done over the years and see where it goes. He has obviously been impactful both on and off the field. I think it will end up being more of an open-ended conversation that should be a lot of fun to hear about.”

With a subject like Tebow, Harris isn’t worried about keeping the conversation rolling.

“We are trying to make it as informative and entertaining of a night as we can,” Harris said. “I am sure that Tim has plenty of stories that are worth sharing, and we will try to bring some of those out.”

It’s not Harris’ first time at Cumberland University.

“I have covered a few things (at Cumberland), mainly with Coach (Woody) Hunt (the school’s recently-retired, long-time baseball coach),” Harris said. “You cannot think of Cumberland University without thinking about Woody Hunt. I was here in 2014 when they won the national title with the baseball team. That is when I first got to know him.”

Although Harris has a fond memory of that team’s return at the airport, he’s endeared to the university in other ways.

“Over the years, I have done a few stories over there and gotten to know Ron a little bit,” Harris said. “I was honored and happy that they thought of me when they were looking for someone to help with the event.”

The night will be Harris’ first time moderating an event.

“I have done speaking engagements or hosted a few events but nothing quite like this,” Harris said. “Tim Tebow is a huge name among the college-athletics landscape, and for Cumberland to be able to get him there is great.”

Harris has been covering sports for a long time, and there’s hypothetical question he often revisits, and he indicated that he’s probably not alone. It involves how things might have turned out differently if Tebow had not gone to the University of Florida.

“Back in the day, it was a choice between Alabama and Florida for him, and he ultimately chose Florida,” Harris said. “Had he chosen Alabama, that could have been a real sliding-doors moment. If he ends up going to Alabama, there is a good chance that Nick Saban never ends up at Alabama. Mike Shula was the head coach at the time. I don’t know, I would like to chat with him about that to see if he ever thinks about that.”

Even with all those years later, the gravity of that decision is still not lost on Harris.

“Covering sports, there are moments in time that end up being pivotal moments, and over the last 20 years, that is one of the biggest in college football,” Harris said.

Harris indicated that both his parents were alumni of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and that he grew up going to Volunteer football games.

“I have some great memories doing that,” Harris said.

Despite his orange connection, Harris harbors no ill will toward Tebow.

“I just appreciate excellent athletic achievement in any capacity,” Harris said. “Doing what I have done for so many years, my fandom has subsided exponentially from what it was back in the day.”

The ties that bind

More than 60 Special Olympics Tennessee athletes competed at the state golf tournament on Monday.

Among them was a father-and-son duo that has forged a relationship thanks to the links.

Eric Cecil is 57 years old and has cerebral palsy. He spent the last 30 years living at Stoneway Acres in Lebanon but recently moved to Brentwood to live with his dad and golf partner, 81-year-old Tom Cecil.

The competition was held at Smyrna Golf Course, and each grouping sought to take care of business. The Cecils did not card the lowest round, but as Tom put it, that doesn’t matter.

The pair shot a 54 on nine holes, which was not far off the low round. In the unified category that they compete in, each golfer alternates shots.

“He hits ... then, I hit,” Tom Cecil said. “You rotate shots, even on the green.”

The pair is capped out at 10 shots and must go on to the next hole.

“Fortunately, we didn’t do that today,” Tom Cecil said. “That’s a good round. Some days, we are all over the place. Some days we are more with it.”

Even with a partially-paralyzed arm, Eric Cecil can still play the game competitively.

“For a one-handed golfer, there are days where he can outdrive me,” Tom Cecil said. “We parred this last hole due to his second shot. He threw an iron up there, took it over the sand trap, and laid it about 15 feet from the hole.”

The Smyrna golf course is one that the duo has played throughout the years.

However, Tom Cecil remembers a trip to Port St. Lucie in Florida fondly.

“We stayed down there for three days,” Tom Cecil said. “It was great, just like a regular Olympics. They had a parade, the whole works. We won a gold.”

Tom indicated that the competition divides athletes into brackets in pursuit of fairness.

“They evenly match it, so they don’t get any ringers,” Tom Cecil said.

It’s not about the hardware though.

“The medals are great to get, and it’s something to get them, but the fact that they get to play at a beautiful course is the best part,” Tom Cecil said. “It was tough. They wouldn’t let you ride. You had to walk.”

Eric Cecil mostly sticks to golf these days, but his father mentioned that the athlete has competed in various games.

“Years ago, when he was younger, he did the whole gamut,” Tom Cecil said. “He ran track and field. Before golf, he went to the international games at Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge), and at those games, he competed in the 50-yard dash. He ran in front of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Gifford, and Tai Babilonia. It was great. They had a flyover at the stadium and broadcast on TV every night.”

Tom Cecil will admit that balancing his son’s needs has not always been easy.

“When you’re the parent of a special-needs child, you never really get it right,” Tom said. “You just try the best you can. It’s always a struggle, but I’m lucky. He’s a good man and a great person.”

Woodside Drive bridge to be fixed soon

A bridge on Woodside Drive needed replacement, prompting the Lebanon City Council to hold a special-called meeting on Thursday to appropriate funding to correct the issue.

Lebanon’s chief engineer, Regina Santana, said in an email on Friday that the city has already issued the award notice so that the bid recipient can start work on the bridge “as soon as possible.”

The city has already removed the old structure.

City officials unsealed bids for the project on Sept. 7. Two bids were submitted.

Lebanon city councilors opted to go with the lowest bid from Springfield-based Brown Builders, Inc., totaling $61,316.

Gresham, Smith & Partners conducted a bid review for the project and recommended awarding that company the contract after finding the bid from the packet of Brown Builder, Inc., acceptable.

The second bid, from Expedited Excavation Company, LLC, out of Lebanon, came in much greater. It totaled $159,684.14.

The bid approval process began on Tuesday during the city council’s regularly-scheduled meeting. The special-called meeting on Thursday was required to finalize a second reading of the matter.

The bridge was initially inspected last winter by a bridge inspection consultant.

“During their inspection, they had concerns about the bridge’s structural integrity,” Santana said. “City of Lebanon personnel went to the site with the consultant team and decided the safest course of action was to shut the bridge down until it could be replaced.”

Lebanon Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Baines added that the deterioration was most likely a result of the bridge’s age. He described the bridge as unsafe since the concrete had deteriorated and added that some reinforcement steel was exposed.

Although the inspection occurred several months ago, the city could not get the replacement job underway for some time.

“Replacement took longer than we hoped,” Santana said in an email. “No one bid on the project the first time around after the design was complete. The consultant team and Lee Clark, our general services administrator, talked to a couple of known bridge contractors to get a feel for what the issue was with the project and why they didn’t bid.”

Santana indicated that it was difficult to find a company with room in their schedule to add the bridge as another project.

“We scaled back the original proposal, which included another bridge replacement and some cosmetic work on a third location as well as Lee’s group removing the old structure and general clean up after the new bridge is in place,” Santana said.

Santana added that the city plans to bid out the other bridge and the cosmetic work on the third early next year.

The city council also approved the second reading of an ordinance related to phase 1 of the Congestion, Mitigation, and Air Quality (CMAQ) Intelligent Transportation System improvements.

The Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) project was initiated with a CMAQ federal grant. The first phase includes improvements to traffic signals along West Main Street and Highway 231 South. Phase 2 remains in the design phase.

The ITS elements included in this project will feature enhanced traffic management capabilities on West Main Street and 231 South.

Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell said that he is optimistic that the project will reduce congestion by improving traffic flow. The technology will give a traffic management center remote control of signals, which city officials hope will improve response time and maintenance activities.

The project will also improve pedestrian crossings at multiple signal intersections by providing Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades.

City officials anticipate the project to be completed by July of next year.

Watertown eyes future

The Watertown City Council took steps to increase the boundary Wilson County established for expected urban growth at its meeting on Tuesday evening.

The county sets urban growth boundaries for Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, and Watertown. It encompasses land that the county expects could realistically request annexation to the municipalities in the future, pending development and growth.

During a meeting at Watertown City Hall on Tuesday, city councilors voted unanimously to request an extension to its urban growth boundary line.

At this time, the area outlined by the county is not part of the city. Still, property owners who would find themselves within the new boundary would have to request annexation officially.

“If it is not in our urban growth boundary, we cannot annex it,” Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings said. “It might be to our advantage to request that our urban-growth boundary lines be extended so that we can have some control over development. I don’t think there is any doubt in this room that the next big development is going to be there.”

Jennings was referring to land southeast of the city’s current limits. If the Wilson County Urban Growth Coordinating Committee approves the city’s request, the new future boundary will run to Patton Hollow Road to the south and to Hearn Hill Road to the east.

“We are not doing any annexing tonight, and we are not proposing any annexing,” Jennings said.

Still, it could only be a matter of time. As growth continues to radiate out of Nashville, Watertown will invariably end up in the scope.

“We’re beginning to see the development,” Jennings said. “It’s nothing like the scale of Lebanon, Mt. Juliet, and the county, but it’s coming.”

Jennings has been in his position for a long time, and although it has grown, he remarked that the best word to describe Watertown’s growth is gradual.

“I see houses now where there weren’t before,” Jennings said. “I see more and more businesses up and down the highway. All our business used to be in and around the square.”

According to the mayor, that growth was strictly limited to small subdivisions of family plots for a long time.

“Now, we are seeing some mid-level development of townhouses, which might be small for anyone else, but for us, it’s fairly significant,” Jennings said. “The bigger ones are coming, and we know that. There has been one talked about off and on to the east of Highway 70 on the other side of the high school that could bring hundreds of lots. We need to start preparing ourselves for that.”

Jennings said that preparation would include planning and possibly establishing development fees.

Change to the map

As the urban-growth boundary currently stands, a sizable chunk of land in proximity to the city was left out. The request aims to address that space.

Christopher Lawless is a member of the Wilson County Planning Department. He was at the meeting and presented a recommendation for the city.

“If you are wanting to expand your growth boundary, if you choose to go all the way to the south, I would recommend you take all the parcels on the north side of Patton Hollow Road and include those as well,” Lawless said. “If it were to develop, you don’t have a two-mile gap of the road you know that is not ever capable of being in the city.”

Jennings added, “(Lawless and I) talked briefly about it … and it might be our advantage to request that our urban-growth-boundary lines be extended so that we can control that development. I don’t think there is any doubt in the people’s minds here that the next big development in this town is going to be right there.”

Water, services

Lawless indicated that any future annexation and plans for services would have to be taken up with the Wilson County Water Board.

“We had these talks with Mt. Juliet as well,” Lawless said. “Right now, wastewater service outside the existing urban-growth boundary is the first right of refusal for the Wilson County Water Board. Increasing your growth boundary does not get rid of that agreement. If it came to you annexing this, and Watertown wants to service it, (Wilson County Water Board) will have to agree to that.”

The mayor indicated that he wants Watertown to retain its autonomy on decisions affecting its residents.

“I am big on Watertown remaining independent,” Jennings said. “I don’t like to be at anyone else’s mercy. In my mind, this is a step to say we are going to continue to be independent on this.”

Any additional land that might one day be annexed requires plans of services, like fire and police, as well.

“As you heard tonight, we are already providing coverage for the fire,” Jennings said. “If our people get a call, they go.”

In his report to the city council at the meeting, Watertown Fire Chief Blake Haun indicated that the fire department had responded to 57 calls in the previous month.

“Twenty-five were in the city,” Haun said. “The rest were in the county.”

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