Much like when his parents migrated to Middle Tennessee from Wisconsin in the early 1970’s, Hendersonville is experiencing a second wave of residential growth that poses its own set of challenges, Mayor Jamie Clary said Tuesday during his State of the City address.
The annual address is given each May at the monthly Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“It’s a wonderful testament that people moved here and want to stay,” added Clary who was elected to his second four-year term in November. “But we have a blessing and a challenge situation here.”
Many who move to Hendersonville from other states want to see property taxes remain low, but they also want the same level of services they had where they moved from, Clary noted.
Other challenges include keeping pace with the city’s infrastructure like roads, and how to pay for the new growth.
Like the 1970’s the city is adding one house per day, he added.
“There’s a myth out there that new homes are a net gain for the city. That’s absolutely not true,” the mayor said. “New homes bring in additional property tax but it’s not enough property tax to cover the services that the people who live in those houses need. And frankly I think it’s a little bit irresponsible for me to encourage new houses to be built… until our infrastructure is prepared for it.”
Clary urged long-time residents to welcome their new neighbors. He also encouraged those who are new to the area to be patient while the city continues to balance keeping property taxes low with other demands.
The mayor introduced the city’s new Chief of Operations, Jesse Eckenroth. Eckenroth, the former public works director in Rancho Mirage, Calif., started his role in the newly created position on April 26. During the interview process Eckenroth said he was attracted to Hendersonville, in part, because he wanted to raise his family in “a culture that I’ve only seen a few states offer.”
Clary said he shared those values as well.
“We’ve heard Tennessee values are turning away businesses and conventions and tourists,” he said. “That’s not true. I will continue to talk about my views and I will continue to reflect Hendersonville values.”
Clary pointed to several initiatives he said were in keeping with those values.
- The recent naming of six streets in the Baird Farms subdivision named for Hendersonville’s five fallen police officers: Reserve Officer James Gammons, Sergeant Richard Bandy, Sergeant Jody Sadek, Officer Danny MacClary and Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol. A sixth street has been named for Bristol’s daughter Eloise, who is now four years old.
- The increased use of License Plate Reader cameras in certain parts of the city. The cameras are used to alert police of stolen cars or cars that belong to those who are wanted by police. Clary said that serious crime has declined 20 percent in the last two years.
- City leaders allocated an additional $500,000 for paving streets in the current budget cycle.
- With the use of the city’s storm water utility revenue, more drainage and flooding issues are being addressed, Clary said.
- Local sales tax revenue has increased from $13.6 million to $15.2 million in the last year. Clary attributed the more than 10 percent increase to residents shopping local and thanked the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Thrive 37075” campaign for encouraging and rewarding residents for doing so.
Clary recognized outgoing interim Chief of Operations Paul Harbsmeier for his work with the city. Harbsmeier served in the police department for 40 years, most recently as a commander, before being appointed to the interim position in February.
He also gave a shout-out to Senior Network Administrator Tina Martin and the city’s Information Technology department for their work in coordinating the many Zoom meetings held over the past year during COVID-19.
Danielle Slack, PTO president at Gene Brown Elementary School, was named the third recipient of the Sam Walton Volunteer Community Service award. Clary created the award in the fall to recognize those who go above and beyond to volunteer in the community.
Slack has recruited and trained other parents to serve at Gene Brown; recently raised $3,500 in one week in pennies; made and contributed hundreds of T-shirts for students; started a program to recognize exceptional fifth-graders at the school; and raised money for a student who lost his father, Clary noted, adding, “all while raising three kids and working full time.”
Sumner Rugby Football Club (Sumner RFC) Board President and Head Coach Brian Silkwood was also recognized for his efforts to build two regulation-size rugby fields on donated land in the Durham Farms area. The fields opened in October.
Hendersonville is the only community in Middle Tennessee with two side-by-side rugby fields, and draws teams from across the state who stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants, Clary noted.
The mayor updated residents on some construction projects as well. They include:
- The realignment of Walton Ferry and Old Shackle Island roads, a project with the Tennessee Department of Transportation dates back to the early 1970’s, is scheduled to be bid in the next couple of months.
- The Tennessee Department of Transportation recently announced a revised timeline for the widening of Vietnam Veterans Boulevard to three lanes on each side, according to Clary. Initially scheduled for 2028-2030, that project could begin as early as 2024.
- A long-awaited traffic signal synchronization project could see bids going out in the next couple of months with construction scheduled to begin soon after that.
- The construction of a new fire station, the city’s seventh, will lower the city’s overall ISO rating, Clary said. The new station will be in Volunteer Park at Arrowhead and is expected to be open within the next year-and-a-half, he added.
- Two covered inline hockey rinks will also be constructed soon in Volunteer Park at Arrowhead.
- A new cell tower was recently erected in Drake’s Creek, providing more revenue to the city that leases the space as well as better cell coverage for those in the park.