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Council OKs Empower Me rezoning, fire hall

Xavier Smith • Updated Jan 18, 2017 at 9:30 AM

The Lebanon City Council approved a land rezoning for a potential future Empower Me Center home a bid for a future Lebanon fire station during Tuesday’s regular meeting at Town Hall.

The body approved to rezone about 26 acres of unaddressed land on South Hartmann Drive to commercial service at the request of Jim Agee on behalf of Empower Me Day Camp. 

“What Empower Me does is absolutely amazing and its humbling. If you’ve never been there, you should get there. We take care of our veterans. We take care of our seniors. We do some things for our children, but I don’t know that as a governmental body that we’ve ever done anything for the special needs,” Councilor Rob Cesternino said.

Cesternino reiterated Empower Me executive director Michelle Hill’s figure of 492 special needs children in the Lebanon Special School District and said he would form a resolution to donate $49,000 from the council to Empower Me.

“I think these kids need our support and deserve our support and the work that is done for them is absolutely amazing,” he said.

Ward 4 Councilor Rick Bell, who also serves on the Empower Me board of directors, said last year that he believed it was time for the group to have a permanent home after it operated from the James E. Ward Agricultural Center since its inception. The group was unable to use the facility last summer due to the Wilson County Expo Center construction. 

The group also terminated its contract to buy land on Carver Lane earlier this year.  The group announced plans last year to build a state-of-the-art facility on about 16.5 acres.

The new facility will consist of a 37,000-square-feet community recreational building, recreational sports complex, complete with a splash pad, playgrounds, sports court and the Miracle Baseball Field. It will also house independent living cottages on the property.

Hill said the center would allow the group to serve more than 200 special needs children each week during the summer and thousands through year-round programs. 

Empower Me Center was given a check last week from an anonymous donor for $120,000 to put toward their goal of building their new facilities.

“This gift puts us over the halfway point to raise $3 million for phase one of our project,” Hill said.

The group also approved the award bid for the Fire Hall #4, to be located on E. Division Street, and showed no objections to the change order and bid.

The group awarded the bid of Steed Brothers for about $1.7 million. Other bids included Phoenix Commercial Builders with $1.8 million and Hilbers, Inc. and Baron Construction with bids of about $2 million. 

The group agreed to accept the donation last year from Henry and Hank McCall for land at State Route 109 and E. Division Street in front of Wilson Bank & Trust. The group had previously agreed and accepted bids to build the future fire station on Eastgate Boulevard behind Wendy’s.

“In that time frame, the other location became available, which was a more desirable location. We said with that approval, that we would negotiate the change order for moving the site. That change order is back and before you now and comes out to about $330,000,” Laine said. 

Laine said about $185,000 of the change order is dedicated to site improvements. Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Dowell said the location would bring a much-needed station to the western end of the city and the ability to control the traffic light at the intersection to have easy access onto State Route 109.

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