Council to discuss park funding

Xavier Smith • Updated Dec 2, 2016 at 9:00 AM

The Lebanon City Council will have its first discussion Tuesday regarding a future city park on donated land during its regular meeting.

The council will discuss the appropriate funding of the park as one agenda item would authorize a loan pursuant to an agreement between Lebanon and the Public Building Authority of Clarksville not to exceed $5 million. 

Councilor and mayor-elect Bernie Ash said he supported the park, but did not agree with the city borrowing money for the project.

“The park is fine, but we haven’t had one formal meeting to discuss a park or $5 million. It’s not an emergency situation, and we need to sit down and talk about it before we jump into voting for $5 million,” Ash said. 

The Bell family donated the 15 acres of the Hamilton Springs property to the city in August for a new public park that will be built adjacent to the Hamilton Springs train station on the west side of the city.

Councilor Rick Bell said Tuesday would simply start the process of bringing a recreational park to the west side of the city. 

“We’re not voting to spend any money Tuesday night. What we’re voting to do is create an account similar to a line of credit, and as the process goes through, we can draw money off that account,” said Bell, who said the process would take multiple steps and the council and mayor would have an intimate part in those steps. 

“Everything we do has to be bid out, and the city council has to approve all of those, so there will be no money spent without city council approval. I also want to create a citizens’ committee to look into the park and see what kind of amenities they want in there,” he said. 

Ash said he would like to see the projects’ finances run through the upcoming budget process. 

“Building a park is not an emergency item that we have to deal with now. The budget process is coming up, and a $5-million expenditure should probably be run through the budget process to make sure we have the money to do it. I think we’re going too fast,” Ash said. 

“It’s been a goal of mine since I first got on city council to bring a city park on the west side of town. We have a lot of recreational areas, greenways and parks throughout the city, but the west side really doesn’t have anything,” Bell said. 

“Having a public park next to the Music City Star stop fits into our overall plan for transit oriented development at the site,” said Jack Bell, president of Horn Springs Development, earlier this year. 

Hamilton Springs is the first community in Middle Tennessee that has planned, designed and built a traditional neighborhood “village” with residences and businesses centered on a train station.  It emphasizes the use of transportation modes other than cars.

“We’ve been here for generations, and Lebanon has been really good to us. We just want to give something back. From my point of view, we don’t want the land to just sit there. It was donated for the citizens of Lebanon to use for their enjoyment. We really hope that happens,” Rick Bell said.

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