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Honoring small businesses

Before the Lebanon City Council got down to business at its meeting on Tuesday night, local small businesses were presented awards in honor of small business week.

Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell issued a proclamation naming this week (May 1-5) national small business week in Lebanon.

The proclamation read by Bell stated that there are more than 2,250 small businesses in the city and that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stays in the local economy.

“We appreciate each and every one of the small businesses, because small businesses sometimes grow into big businesses so to speak,” Ward 3 Councilor Camille Burdine said. “I hope everybody will get out this week and support those businesses, the restaurants, shops, and offices.”

Bell and representatives of the Lebanon-Wilson Chamber of Commerce gave several small businesses copies of the proclamation and handed out several special awards, such as the longevity award that was presented to Fakes & Hooker.

“Fakes & Hooker Company has proudly served Middle Tennessee since the late 1860s,” Bell said. “It’s the oldest business in Lebanon, and it’s gone through multiple generations before (the current owners).”

The prosperity award went to Los Compadres. The female entrepreneur award went to the owner of Gondola Restaurant in Lebanon. The community engagement award went to Wilson Bank & Trust, and the innovation award went to Cedar City Enterprises.

Sticking to sign ordinances

During Tuesday night’s public hearing, Patrick Wilkerson from National Indoor RV addressed the city council to request an amendment to the specific plan for NIRV’s development at 1000 Aubrey Dr. in Lebanon.

“In this amendment, there’s really three things we’re looking for — large signs on the highway, the signage on the building itself and a monument sign at Hartman Drive at the entrance to the property,” Wilkerson said. “We’re asking for an amendment on each of those things.”

The amendments requested, included adding the services NIRV provides on to the front of the building and to increase the height of the monument sign at Hartman Drive, were approved. The amendment to replace the four billboards that are currently in front of the building with digital LED signs failed.

“We would like to use LED-lit signs,” Wilkerson said. “We know that there’s a new sign ordinance that just passed that says no electronic signs. But LED signs are really the thing of the future. They’re clear. You can read them easily, and you can change them easily. We want to replace those four billboards with these two signs.”

Wilkerson offered to allow the city to display city messages on the signs for four minutes every hour.

When it came time to vote, Burdine moved that all the signage amendments to NIRV’s specific plan be approved except for the amendment that would allow the property owners to use LED signs.

“I appreciate him trying to work with us,” Burdine said. “But, we’ve worked long and hard on our sign ordinances, and we’ve got to give it a shot to work. At this time, I want to stick with what we did on the sign ordinances. I appreciate the offer of helping us as the city, but for now, I think that we need to stick with our sign ordinance.”

Ward 6 Councilor Phil Moorehead agreed with Burdine.

“We worked hard to get that side ordinance revised,” Moorehead said. “At the time (the ordinance was passed), nobody wanted to have digital signs. I liked the idea of the of the four minutes per hour, but I don’t know that this stage of the game is when you start negotiating back and forth.”

Moving right along

After breaking ground in October, construction on the first phase of the new Lebanon sports complex is well underway at 1523 Murfreesboro Road.

“In phase one, we have five soccer fields,” Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell said. “Two of those will be turf. We’ll also have a walking trail to go around the entire property. We’ll have a playground where smaller kids can play while their siblings play soccer. We have a concession stand, some restrooms, and we have small pavilions that people can sit under in the shade.”

Most of the progress that’s been made so far has been on the sports complex’s five soccer fields. As of Wednesday, fields four and five are level, and field three is almost level.

“They’re ready to start putting up light poles and stuff on fields four and five,” Lebanon Parks and Recreation Director William Porter said. “Three will be ready in the next week and a half (to start putting up lights).”

The parks and recreation personnel met with the entities that will be responsible for putting in the lights, grass and turf to complete the fields on Tuesday. The city has also begun the process of approving another turf field for the complex.

“At city council, they did a first reading to start the process of getting a second turf field,” Bell said. “So, we’ll have two turf fields.”

The two turf fields will be fields one and two, which will be located near the parking lot.

“Hopefully, all the grass fields will be done this summer,” Porter said. “So, by July or August, you’ll see a field. There’ll be a lot of work to be done around the fields, but the actual field part will be done.”

The plan is to give the grass a year to grow before the fields are used.

“By this time next year, we should be playing,” Porter said.

The first phase of the sports complex is only the beginning.

“In phase two, we’ll have softball and baseball fields,” Porter said. “There will be a larger trail that will go around the whole perimeter of the complex that will tie into the little trail around around phase one.”

Lebanon Economic Development Director Sarah Haston said that as the sports complex continues to grow and develop, the city plans to use the land around it for commercial purposes.

“We’re trying real hard to preserve (the land in the area), because we believe there’d be an opportunity cost if we were to let it go,” Haston said. “Once (the complex) is up and running, we believe that this area will fill up commercially with projects that will support this sports complex. People are gonna want a place to eat. If they travel, they’ll want a hotel to stay at. They’ll need a gas station to fuel up at.”

Once completed, the complex will be a place with something for many to enjoy.

“When this is finished, it’ll be a sports complex for softball, baseball, soccer and football,” Bell said. “It’s also a park that’s not just for sports. There’ll be a walking trail, playground and pavilions, so this is a multi-use park with something for everyone. It’s primarily for youth athletics, but there’s something for everyone out here.”

12-year-old on the loose

On Thursday night, the Lebanon Police Department apprehended a 12-year-old who had been joyriding in an off-road vehicle.

The Lebanon Police Department is uncertain regarding the circumstances that caused the Murfeesboro pre-teen to run away, but he was later seen driving recklessly in Wilson County.

“He ended up leaving (his) home (in Murfreesboro), and the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department spotted him and got into a pursuit with him,” Lebanon Police Department Public Information Officer Richard Clark said. “Due to the conditions while driving, they terminated the pursuit.”

Shortly after the Wilson County Sherriff’s Department terminated its pursuit, the Lebanon Police Department spotted the juvenile suspect in Lebanon.

“We took time to formulate a plan from a distance, because every time he saw marked vehicles, he got erratic in his driving,” Clark said. “We got unmarked vehicles in there, and we were able to box him in to where he wasn’t able to flee again.”

The pre-teen was removed from the vehicle and returned to his family without further incident. As of Thursday night, the Lebanon Police Department said that there hadn’t been any charges filed against the minor.

“If it’s a licensed driver (driving a street-legal, off-road vehicle) and they know what they’re doing and they’re being responsible, (driving an off-road vehicle on the road would be okay),” Clark said. “Being as young as he was and with the manner in which he was driving being very erratic and very reckless, we’re grateful that he didn’t hurt himself or someone else.”

Playing the 'we the people' game

On Wednesday morning, seniors at Lebanon’s Friendship Christian School were called out of class.

They filed into the performing arts center on campus, and once they took their seats, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Sen. Mark Pody, and State Rep. Clark Boyd were there to congratulate the soon-to-be graduates on earning the Anne Dallas Dudley voter registration award.

To receive the Anne Dallas Dudley voter registration award, a school must have 85% of its senior class registered to vote. To receive the gold level award, 100% of the senior class needs to register. In 2023, FCS was one of 14 schools in the state of Tennessee to achieve that goal and receive a gold level award.

It was one of only four schools to achieve that goal two years in a row.

“I think kids these days really have a penchant and a desire to be involved,” FCS teacher Chris Link said. “They hear things from so many different directions. They’re really open to suggestions, and if we can suggest one thing, that’s to participate. When we teach the (government class) we try to say, ‘We don’t care from which direction you come or what you think ... just think.’ We all win when everybody votes.”

Boyd shared that when he first ran for office, he visited neighborhoods to talk to potential voters. The person driving him was surprised that he didn’t knock on every door.

“People love to talk politics,” Boyd said. “They go home. They watch the news, and they complain about their government. But the reason that we don’t stop at their house and knock on their doors is because they’re not registered to vote.”

When Pody spoke to the senior class about their accomplishment, he began with an excited shout of, “Yeah ... what a day.” As Pody addressed the students, his fist-pumping encouragement for them to get out and vote was akin to a coach giving a pep talk before a big game.

“We’re standing on a basketball court, right,” Pody asked the seniors. “In order to win, somebody’s got to make a ball to go through that hoop, right? I want to tell you what happens when you play basketball. Not everybody makes the team. If you’re chosen for the team, you get to go out on the court and score. Sometimes, somebody will make the team, but they don’t get to get on the court. I want to tell you the game that you are playing right now is called, we the people. That means, according to the Constitution, the game that you all are involved in (is deciding) the direction of the state and this country. By registering, you all made the team to play we the people, because there could be a lot of people in the stands, but they don’t get to choose the direction of the state and this nation. You all made the team, but until you actually vote, you’re sitting on the sidelines.”

Hargett reminded the students that the game doesn’t end when they register to vote.

“Right now, as a registered voter, you are still a spectator,” Hargett said. “To get into the game, you have to go and vote.”

Hargett encouraged the soon-to-be graduate that they needed to be active participants in the voting process.

“If we sit idly by and don’t exercise our right to vote, then, frankly, we won’t get what we deserve from our government,” Hargett said. “If we want a government that looks like and acts like how we want it to, then you’ve got to go and vote and also encourage family members to vote as well. Please be an active participant in the process.”

Friendship Christian catcher Khloe Smith forces out Donelson Christian's Bailey Shepard at home plate after pouncing on a grounder at the dish to end DCA's four-run fourth inning Wednesday.