Cumberland University in Wilson County is looking to expand its footprint and wants to use nearly $1 million dollars of taxpayers’ money to do it.
It has sparked a contentious property debate in Lebanon. Cumberland University wants $850,000 from the city to develop property off South Greenwood Avenue into student housing.
“We’re not asking for a handout from the city. We’re asking for an investment from the city,” said Paul Stumb, the Cumberland University president.
News4 asked the university president why a private college needed that much public money.
“Our capital planning budget presentation is several years out, and we think we can develop that property if we get the short term assistance from the city to procure the property,” said Stumb.
Cumberland University has received cash from the city before but not to this amount.
“This is two and a half times our total budget for charities,” said Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash.
The mayor said approving the donation would clear out the city for charitable donations the rest of the year.
“We would have to dip into our reserves to get that kind of money,” said Ash, on making any other donations to organizations.
Ash sent News4 the state comptroller’s opinion -- which you can read below -- stating in part how the donated funds would have to benefit the general welfare of the city’s residents. City council approved the ordinance for the donation on first reading earlier this month. It comes up for a second and final vote Tuesday.
Local realtor Greg Dugdale has lead a community effort against the donation.
“The point is $850,000 of the taxpayers money with very little public input, we really feel it’s unjust,” said Dugdale.
He said he feels there wasn’t enough time for the community to weigh in on that before final vote.
“Several years ago, Lebanon didn’t have a city park to speak of and the city bought a large piece of land over here,” said Dugdale. “It required a lot of development, and now it’s Don Fox park. We all go there and enjoy it, but they spent months promoting that idea.”
Others said they like the idea of development, but they want the school to use its own money. Whether you’re for it or against it, people who live here can go to Tuesday’s council meeting at 6:00 p.m. and voice their opinions.
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