Sumner County Officials Silent on Community’s Concerns Regarding New School Complex Infrastructure


GALLATIN, Tennessee – Despite a resolution developed and adopted by about 70 neighbors on Sumner County’s new school complex regarding infrastructure following a community meeting, officials have remained silent.

The infrastructure will support an elementary-middle-high school complex on 265 acres of farmland purchased by Sumner County in 2015, which has since been named Liberty Creek, located off of the rural and picturesque Long Hollow Pike between Upper Station Camp Creek Road and Latimer Lane.

The project, which was funded in part through Sumner County Commission’s November 2018 approval of $103 million in bonds, has been the subject of controversy due to the accusations of abuse of eminent domain powers for a greenway and a sewer line. The sewer line was used for the benefit of developers and the Sumner County School Director ridiculed citizens and Commissioners who opposed the eminent domain land grab, as The Tennessee Star reported

The July 18 community meeting, conducted by Commissioner Jeremy Mansfield with the assistance of Commissioner Moe Taylor, was an outcome of a conversation initiated by County Mayor Anthony Holt with Commissioner Mansfield while both were attending meetings at the County Administration Building on July 2.

County Mayor Holt requested Commissioner Mansfield join him in the hallway following the regularly scheduled meeting of the Sumner County Highway Commission, of which Mansfield is a member, and before the Comer Barn Ad Hoc Committee meeting. The impromptu hallway meeting caused Mansfield to miss a portion of the latter meeting.

On July 5, Commissioner Mansfield sent an email to County Mayor Holt, summarizing the conversation between the two as follows:

Mr. Mayor,

To confirm what you pulled me aside to talk about after our Highway Commission meeting on Tuesday, July 2nd in regards to speaking with citizens about the road widening and infrastructure project for Upper Station Camp Creek Rd leading from Long Hollow Pike to the new School Campus, you relayed to me you would like me to personally gather input from the citizens surrounding these three options:

1. Do not widen Upper Station Camp Creek Rd at all or put in any turn lanes except in the right of way directly in front of the School Campus.
2. Put in turning lanes where necessary along Upper Station Camp Creek Rd for critical pinch points, along with minor widening of the shoulders to make it easier and safer for buses to pass each other.
3. Fully widen Upper Station Camp Creek Rd from Long Hollow Pike to the new School Campus with a dedicated turning lane all the way, essentially making it 3 lanes between Long Hollow Pike and the new School Campus.
Commissioner Mansfield, who initially got involved at the request of citizens over the eminent domain issue, does not cover the district where the future school campus and associated infrastructure is located.

Commissioner Mansfield’s email went on to inform County Mayor Holt that, in order to gather their input, the citizens had reserved a community center for a town-hall style meeting on Thursday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m., and expressed his hope that County Mayor Holt “will be able to join us to hear from the citizens directly.”

The email invitation was extended via copies to the Sumner County Highway Superintendent Judy Hardin, Sumner County Law Director Leah May Dennen and the state representative for the area, Johnny Garrett.

Since the project will involve TDOT and the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Long Hollow Pike and Upper Station Camp Creek Road, Commissioner Mansfield told Representative Garrett in the email that it would be “great to have a TDOT spokesperson there as well for the project to answer questions from the citizens.”

Commissioner Mansfield also relayed his understanding that Sumner County had already paid $46,583 in local matching funds towards the engineering of the traffic light.

Road Superintendent Hardin responded to the invitation stating that she was unable to attend the town hall meeting, but provided some specifications on the involved road. She added that she was unsure of what the engineering recommendations would be for the road, but that it will probably include traffic studies.

Ms. Hardin had also told the Highway Commission at their meeting a few weeks prior that her department would not be involved in the project due to resource and right of way issues.

Although unable to attend himself due to a family vacation, Representative Garrett’s office confirmed attendance of TDOT with Shane Hester, Region 3 Project Development Director; Shaun Armstrong with Strategic Investments Division; and John Philips from Local Programs Office at the meeting.

There was no response from County Mayor Holt prior to the meeting and he did not attend on the evening of the town hall.

The two County Commissioners who represent the district, Jerry Foster and Leslie Schell, also did not attend.

Although invited by Commissioner Mansfield, none of the other County Commissioners, School Board members, School Director or the Sumner Schools Supervisor of Board and Community Relations attended.

This, despite a written analysis provided by the County Law Director Leah Mae Dennen to the County Commission that the responsibility lies with Sumner County Schools that stated, in part, “The courts of Tennessee have long held that it is the responsibility of the local Board of Education to plan, locate, erect and furnish public schools in the County and that the County Commission is without authority to direct the specifics of school construction.”

At the last minute on the day of the meeting, the three TDOT officials all cancelled their attendance, according to Commissioner Mansfield.

Not too long after the meeting was opened by Commissioner Mansfield to a standing room only Ocana Community Center, neighbor Randy Pomeroy asked incredulously, “So, we have a 4,000 student complex coming and no traffic plan?”

While there was about two hours of discussion in total, Pomeroy’s question resulted in his impromptu development of a proposed resolution directed to Sumner County officials. On a voice vote, the 70-plus attendees were unanimous in their agreement with Pomeroy’s proposed resolution.

In a follow-up email the following day to the other 23 Sumner County Commissioners, 11 Board of Education members, State legislators, County Mayor, County Planning Director, and others, Commissioner Mansfield recapped the meeting.

Commissioner Mansfield listed the three options given to him by County Mayor Holt and attached the “Citizens official response to County Mayor Anthony Holt,” the sign-in sheet for the meeting, and a copy of the notice of the town hall meeting that was distributed to members of the public and the County Commission.

The “Citizens Response to Sumner County Mayor Holt” captured many of the points made by citizens during the meeting and reads as follows:

Whereas citizens from in and around the Upper Station Camp and Long Hollow Corridor and others from across Sumner County gathered July 18, 2019 at the Ocana Community Center to learn about and discuss traffic planning and infrastructure for the new Liberty Creek School Complex; and whereas citizens have been requesting information related to traffic and other infrastructure planning for two years; and whereas no representatives from the executive branch of Sumner County Government, the Sumner County Board of Education or its administrative staff, nor the State of Tennessee attended this meeting to answer questions or learn of concerns; and whereas we were presented with three options as coming directly from County Executive Anthony Holt for altering Upper Station Camp Road from which citizens could choose to accommodate traffic to and from the new schools;

The citizens in attendance unanimously agreed and declared by resolution that the following planning information/answers relating to the new school complex impact on traffic should have already been gathered, analyzed and thoroughly considered and that this information should be made readily available to citizens in order for our consideration and input on this matter to be meaningful and appropriate:

• How many automobiles are projected to travel north and south on Upper Station Camp each morning relating to the operation of three schools on this complex and at what times? How many projected to do the same in the afternoon and at what times?

• What is the projected on-property capacity for vehicles during load in/load out periods for the three schools on this complex?

• What plans have been made to use Hunters Lane and Latimer Lane for either ingress or egress from the school complex when the first schools open or at the time all three schools are in operation?

• Where are stop or signal lights planned in and around the area?

• What are the proposed school zones for reduced speeds during hours of arrival and dismissal of the schools?

• Have proposed changes to speed limits on Long Hollow Pike or Upper Station Camp Creek Road been considered and if so, what are they?

• What proposed changes have been planned by the State of Tennessee relating to turn lanes on Long Hollow Pike at Upper Station Camp Creek Road?

• What proposed plans are there for storm drains along Upper Station Camp Creek Road?

It was further declared that if the above information has not been gathered and studied by either the executive branch of Sumner County government, or by the director of Sumner County Schools, or by the Sumner County Board of Education, the citizens in attendance at this forum requested that for the safety of students and the entire community, and for efficient programming of these new schools into this area with the least amount of disruption to normal traffic flow for citizens, that this information be gathered immediately and that a forum be scheduled to present and discuss such information in a public setting.

After obtaining his copies of the emails from Commissioner Mansfield through an open records request, The Star contacted County Mayor Holt to ask if the summary by Commissioner Mansfield accurately summarized the hallway conversation from several weeks prior or to provide his account of the conversation.

County Mayor Holt was also asked if there was a reason he did not participate in the citizen meeting on July 18 at 6:30 p.m.

County Mayor Holt has not responded to The Star’s inquiry.

County Mayor Holt did, however, tell The Hendersonville Standard that he did not ask Commissioner Mansfield to conduct a public meeting, but to solicit citizen feedback.

The Hendersonville Standard report did not indicate how County Mayor Holt expected Commissioner Mansfield to solicit citizen feedback, whether he specified to Commissioner Mansfield how to obtain the feedback, or how he expected Commissioner Mansfield to relay the citizen feedback to him.

According to The Standard‘s report, County Mayor Holt said he did not give Commissioner Mansfield those choice options, either.

The report went on to quote County Mayor Holt, “Mr. Mansfield and I had a conversation and I said that there’s basically three options. That is to leave the road alone as it currently is, put in strategic turning lanes or build a three-lane road from the school to Long Hollow Pike and I think those are the three valid options.”

Sumner County resident and neighbor to the affected area, Seth Vaughn, attended the two official meetings on July 2. He also joined Commissioner Mansfield and County Mayor Holt in the hallway discussion.

Vaughn confirmed the options for the Upper Station Camp Creek Road widening project, spelled out in the email from Commissioner Mansfield to County Mayor Holt.

He told The Star, “Yes those were the three options presented by the County Mayor who asked (Commissioner) Jeremy (Mansfield) to see what the affected home owners wanted to be done with the road.”

Vaughn went on to relay that the County Mayor told Commissioner Mansfield he didn’t care what they chose to do with it, because it didn’t affect him.

He recollected that the County Mayor said he had been working with TDOT regarding a traffic light at the Long Hollow Pike and Upper Station Camp Creek Road intersection.

Vaughn also told The Star that County Mayor Holt “did not want to be involved with the widening or altering of Upper Station Camp Creek Road, because no matter what he chose to do or what the end result was, the home owners would not be satisfied with it if he had any input on it.”

Commissioner Mansfield told The Star that County Mayor Holt told him during the hallway conversation in front of Seth Vaughn that he did not want to spend any money on engineering studies for the road until he heard back from the citizens on his three options.

A constituent of one of the County Commissioners representing the community expressed his disappointment regarding the commissioner’s absence at the July 18 town hall meeting via email.

Mr. Darryl Woodard wrote Commissioner Jerry Foster, “I would think you would agree this is an important matter for your constituents who are also your neighbors.”

Alluding to Commissioners Mansfield and Moe Taylor, Mr. Woodard also told Commissioner Foster, “It is disappointing that commissioners from other districts are more concerned about preserving our community than our own commissioners,” meaning Commissioners Foster and Leslie Schell.

Through a couple more email exchanges, Mr. Woodard conveyed to Commissioner Foster that, “Anthony Holt requested the town hall meeting to discuss options for the road improvement for Upper Station Camp Creek. The residents requested a traffic study. Can you relay that to Mr. Holt and the other commissioners?”

Commissioner Foster replied, with input he presumably got from County Mayor Holt, “County Mayor Holt did not request a town hall meeting to discuss the road options, that is why he was not there. He is already pursuing all feasible options with engineering firms and TDOT. He will call a meeting to discuss the options when he has more information. I’ll let you know when that will be.”

Commissioner Mansfield, who was later copied on the email exchange between Commissioner Foster and Mr. Woodard, replied telling Commissioner Foster flatly, “You were misinformed.”

He further explained to Commissioner Foster the same scenario he has relayed all along which has been corroborated by the only witness, Seth Vaughn. “County Mayor Holt requested that I solicit feedback from homeowners on Upper Station based on three options he requested I give them on his behalf.”

Commissioner Mansfield added definitively, “Any information you would have received contrary to those facts would be false and misleading.”

As of this report, it has been more than a week since Sumner County officials have received the input of the citizens in the area of the Liberty Creek school campus. No response has been received by Commissioner Mansfield or, to the best of his knowledge, any of the citizens in the area by any of the Sumner County officials, including those elected Commissioners and School Board members representing the district.

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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.
Photo “Sumner County Schools” by Sumner County Schools. Background Photo “Building School” by Tiia Monto. CC BY-SA 3.0.








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3 Thoughts to “Sumner County Officials Silent on Community’s Concerns Regarding New School Complex Infrastructure”

  1. Eric

    The Sumner County Commission including the county mayor is CORRUPT to the max!

  2. What this means is no one should have a conversation with Anthony Holt without at least one corroborating witness.

    1. Eric

      He is a LIAR. Yes I said it. A LIAR!