Mt. Juliet is considering funding roughly $6 million in police department expansions that officers say would meet their needs for 15 years.

The city’s board of commissioners approved spending $3 million of that amount on a first reading vote Monday. That money would reinforce the police and fire dispatch centers, emergency operations centers, administrative offices and building generator.

“Our headquarters right now is not structurally built to sustain a tornado,” MJPD Capt. Tyler Chandler said. “I don’t know if you all reflect back to the days of the tornado and what you were doing that night, but what I was doing was, I was in my basement and just praying that this tornado would not track over our headquarters because that would really put us behind … and three dispatchers were sitting in there having no clue of where this thing was going. ”

Chandler said protecting the dispatch centers is the department’s top priority. The other requests on the table: $1 million for an evidence area expansion, $1 million for new garage and equipment storage space, $700,000 for interior renovations and $245,000 for exterior improvements and a small communications tower.

Most of those proposals deal with the city’s population growth. According to Chandler, Mt. Juliet has 1.71 officers per 1,000 residents, while Tennessee cities with similar populations and crime rates average 1.99.

“We suspect Mt. Juliet will be near 50,000 in about 10 years, so in 10 years that will require to meet the same level of service, 25 to 30 additional officers and 11 to 14 additional civilians,” he said. “And civilians would be your dispatchers, records clerk or any administrative staff.”

The commission could potentially approve the remainder of the $5.9 million when the item comes up for a second reading on Oct. 26.

“I think we seriously need to think about funding this whole thing,” District 3 Commissioner Art Giles said. “I’m concerned that somebody could drive through there. I mean, seriously, we’ve had the tornado, we’ve had other events … we’ve got one police department, we don’t have five precincts.”

The city also saw another shake-up in its search for a new public park. A 63-acre space along Old Lebanon Dirt Road known as the Hollis-Hassett property was considered a top prospect after the commission’s Sept. 28 meeting, but fell out of contention recently.

“We were going after the Hollis-Hassett property at $3 million,” Mt. Juliet Parks Director Roger “Rocky” Lee said. “We were told the wrong numbers, it came out $3.9 million. So we’ve stepped away.”

According to Lee, three sites remain viable options: the McFarland property (47.4 acres off Old Lebanon Dirt Road), Tomlinson property (57.16 acres off Beckwith Road) and Hayes property (35 acres off Cook Road).

Price estimates on those sites are $2.3 million for the McFarland and Hayes properties and $950,000 for the Tomlinson property. Those numbers are subject to change as the city negotiates with the owners, and Lee plans to coordinate times for the commission to visit each of their properties.

“Right now we’re just trying to go with the best bang for the buck,” he said. “Which one’s the most feasible, which one do we need the most, and that’s what we’ve been searching for.”

The commission also authorized the city to work with Grace United Methodist Church to develop a park on its property. Lee estimated the project’s cost at roughly $250,000 from his department’s budget.

“We’re basically going to open it up into a big greenway,” he said. “A lot of green space with walking trails that come up and reach up to Mt. Juliet Road’s sidewalks, put in a couple pavilions … we are talking about putting in, again, some multi-use fields and stuff.”

The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners’ next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 26, at the city’s administration building on 2425 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

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