The Mt. Juliet League ended negotiations with the city of Mt. Juliet for a city-funded, interest-free loan to upgrade field lighting at the organization’s baseball and softball complex on Lebanon Road.
League president Ray Justice, who is also Mt. Juliet District 1 commissioner, said the organization signed papers last week for a loan from CedarStone Bank.
“There was considerable talk about the need for new lighting at the park,” Justice said after Monday night’s commission meeting. “We do not want any negatives related to the park. This would taint the park. It’s unfortunate, but we want the park to be separate from government. “
He declined to reveal an interest rate for the bank loan, which could be as high as $450,000.
When the bank loan is in place, Justice said installation of the upgraded lights should be complete by the end of February. The softball and baseball seasons start in March. There are about 2,600 players on teams at the Mt. Juliet League.
“CedarStone Bank is honored to work with the Mt. Juliet League on the ballfield lighting upgrade project,” said CedarStone Bank CEO and president Bob McDonald. “The league has been an important part of the Mt. Juliet community for over 51 years and continues to provide a great service to children and young adults. We look forward to cheering on this great organization and watching its continued success for many years to come.”
This month, city commissioners agreed on first reading to fund up to $450,000 in an interest-free loan to upgrade the lighting at the ballpark.
Vice Mayor James Maness and Commissioner Art Giles said they would not vote for the loan until further questions were answered. Justice said he would recuse himself from any votes about the ballpark.
“I am disappointed in the lack of engagement shown by the city for youth sports,” Justice said. “This has been ongoing for many years and has never been substantial.”
The city gives a grant to the league from its the annual budget. This year’s grant was $15,000, an increase from $10,000 the previous year. If the city had made the loan itself, it planned to discontinue the grant until the loan was paid.
At the city commission meeting, Giles explained his projected “no” vote for funding.
“I am not against any kind of athletic program for youth,” he said at the time. “We give them a $15,000 a year grant. We’ve just settled a [liquor tax] lawsuit, we must deal with another fire station with $1 million for staff on that. We are not in the banking business. I am supportive, but I can’t vote for giving a loan of $450,000. I am voting no, not against sports, but we have to be good stewards of our money. People have voiced their opinions. I can’t do it.”