The last year has been an adventure to say the least. This has been my first year as mayor and we’ve seen a lot of changes to City Hall and to the city as a whole. Aggressively, with the support of our staff, we began taking La Vergne forward to a better place.
We started at the budget; cutting out wasteful spending and dedicating funds to public safety like police and fire as well as infrastructure improvements throughout the city. In 2019 we dedicated more than a million dollars to public safety alone. At the same time we also began working on our infrastructure to make improvements throughout the city. That includes the research for widening South Waldron, realigning Charter Place as well as fixing our traffic light signaling throughout the city. We’ve also begun addressing the quality of our water. As of today our water quality is better than it has been in the history of La Vergne and through more work that we’ve already approved it will be even better in the future. We’ve done all of this while avoiding any tax increases or any water or sewer rate increases. We are responsibly using your tax dollars for the betterment of our city.
We’ve also seen changes in staff here at City Hall. You can see where we’re bringing in experience and leadership from across the state including our own Fire Chief Chris Clark who has completely reorganized the fire department, making it more efficient for our residents and included more training for his men and women to serve our citizens better. Another area in leadership that has changed in 2019 is that of our Senior Center. Over the course of the year the senior center is now being run in a different manner. We have Don Bebout and Linda Tomlin being led by Melissa Cooper. The three of them have taken our senior citizen center to a whole new level. They have gotten engagement and interaction from the community that has never been seen before, as well as working with our private sector to get grants and donations so that our seniors can have a better quality of life experience whenever they’re down there.
We’ve seen new businesses flock to the area with over 500 new jobs being created in the city by numerous Fortune 500 industry and corporate companies including ICEE, Cardinal Health, and Automation NTH. I want to thank our partners at the Rutherford County Chamber as they work together with our economic development team to bring these new jobs and new opportunities to our city. As a result our white collar jobs now outnumber our blue collar jobs here in the city. We have more residents coming here to work than leaving. Our economic team is out attending numerous conferences across the country working with brokers and developers to bring in new retail companies to our city. In the past, Thomas Broeker has worked to bring in Walmart and he’s working today to bring in new companies to our city. We’ve talked to everyone from Golden Corral to Sam’s and Costco and everyone in between. We are actively working to recruit new retail opportunities here in La Vergne so that this can drive the quality of life improvements that everyone in our city wants and dreams of. There will come a time when you won’t have to go outside of our city limits to have quality sit down meals or go buy a suit in another city; you’ll be able to buy that right here. We’re working diligently to make that a reality here in La Vergne.
Our Board of Mayor and Aldermen have improved multiple ordinances and resolutions to clean up our city and make it look better. This is to improve our commercial district and overall make it something that everyone wants and enjoys. This began work to replace our eye sores with quality businesses. Our city is strong and growing but with that growth we have to grow accordingly. Controlling the quality of growth to ensure it meets our standards of both look and density is important to myself and the rest of the board. Growth has to be partnered by what can be handled by our roads and our emergency services.
With our upcoming budget I will continue to push for priority spending with police and fire. I hope to begin this fiscal year with the construction of a new fire station 1 to replace our 55 year old building. This will provide our growing fire department with opportunities to store equipment correctly, have it out from the elements and away from prying eyes. It will let more men and women, as we grow, serve. It will also give us a facility where we can train our future men and women who want to be fire fighters such as our explorers – a high school group that’s spending time learning about the fire department and experiencing it firsthand.
With newly acquired land that the city purchased in 2019, I would like to see a new community center developed along with relocating the ball fields from City Hall. This would allow us to provide a secure lot to the La Vergne Police Department as well as expand their building. Very sadly we have officers that are working out of literal closets that have been converted into office space. As our city grows our infrastructure needs to grow with that. Hopefully we can develop a community center that gives back to our community, and provides a place for our children after school hours, a place where they can go and have fun and have a second chance versus just being on the streets getting into trouble. It also gives an opportunity for the police department to provide room for their services. With the help of the board and staff we continue to address numerous infrastructure improvements throughout the city.
We’re also working with our partners at TDOT as the smart corridor continues to move forward for residents. We want to make sure that this is done in a coordinated fashion so our residents aren’t stuck on side streets and long queues trying to get onto Murfreesboro Road or trying to get to I-24. So we’re working with those partners at TDOT to ensure that those lights are going to be timed correctly so that our residents can get in and out to do their business versus sitting and waiting while the main road goes through.
For 2020, I’m pushing to implement a Project Helping Hands which would be new for the city. This would create financial assistance to residents in regards to their water and sewer bills. It would be funded by people adding an extra dollar onto their water bill each month. A board selected by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen would determine how those funds are delegated and spent. This would help many of our residents throughout the community and would just add an extra layer of security for those who desperately need it.
In the coming months the board will review an impact fee study to modernize our impact fees, but I’m hoping it’s also going to include all of our permitting, including our rezoning fees, special exception fees, and permits for new buildings. All of that needs to be included in this and my hope is the board will modernize those permit prices. Our zoning ordinance will also be updated to today’s standards. We will discuss the fire code and while I don’t feel all homes need sprinklers I do believe that if we are going to develop any more three-story townhomes that are densely packed together we should absolutely consider mandatory sprinklers for those types of homes.
With help from our board, our staff and the great community that we have here I want to see La Vergne beautified in 2020, whether that’s through landscaping, artwork or building improvements. Our community is open and welcoming and our environment should reflect that. If we have artwork we have landscaping with flowers and trees it makes it more inviting for everyone and it celebrates all of the different diversity in our city. At the same time we can also bring together our students with different art contests. We can do that and beautify our city. It just takes our community as a whole to come together and do that. I think a great partnership with the Rutherford County Alliance for Arts would be a great start to move that forward. I’ve spoken with my good friend Ron Alley at Carpe Artista and he is willing to help us establish that cooperation to see the arts flourish here in La Vergne.
I’m dedicated to serving you, the residents, as is the rest of the board. We want to see the city come together, united, not just at any election time; we want to see unity all throughout the year because that makes our community better. It unites us on goals and everyone works together. We want to see that as a whole and we hope that you will come and partner with us on these goals and many more that will come out during the budget planning process. 2020 is going to be a great year for the city. I hope it’s good for your family. I hope it’s great for everyone.