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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 10, 2024

WKOM/WKRM RadioSouthern Middle Tennessee TodayNews Copy for April 10, 2024

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.


We start with local news…

Lawrenceburg Car Fatality (WKRN.com)

A teenager died after crashing into a utility pole in Lawrence County early Sunday morning.

The crash happened on Highway 43 at 2:20 a.m., according to a preliminary crash report provided by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

The THP reported a 16-year-old was driving a Dodge Charger southbound on Highway 43 when he “failed to negotiate a curve to the left.”

According to the report, the Charger went of the right side of the roadway and hit a utility pole before it overturned and ejected the teenage driver, who was not wearing a seat belt.

No additional information was immediately released.

Cobb Contests Firing (MSM)

Former Columbia Fire Chief Ty Cobb is contesting a determination by the city that he is not entitled to a hearing before the city’s Civil Service Board.

Cobb was terminated by City Manager Tony Massey on March 12, 2024. The termination letter contained allegations that Cobb accused Columbia police officials of being involved in an attempted break-in of a civilian’s residence and offered to pay for favorable news coverage of himself and his department.

A letter sent by Cobb’s attorney, John Mark Windle of Livingston, states that under the city’s charter, Cobb is entitled to contest his termination before the city’s Civil Service Board.

“The City of Columbia Charter and City Code clearly state that the Fire Chief is not a department head and is entitled to a civil service hearing,” the letter, dated April 3, 2024, states in part.

In an email to Main Street Maury, Massey disagreed with that assessment, stating, “That position is not covered under Civil Service per the Columbia City Charter.”

A separate letter from Windle, dated March 15, 2024, states in part that “When John Cobb was hired he was given written notice he was a civil service employee. Mr Cobb (sic) status as such has never been rescinded or terminated nor has Mr. Cobb received any actual notice from the City of the termination of his status as a civil service employee.”

Chapter 2 of the City of Columbia’s charter states that the Department of Public Safety “shall have jurisdiction of the fire department” and that the director of public safety “may not suspend the chief of the police department or the chief of the fire department without the concurrence of the city manager.”

The City of Columbia’s website does not reference a Department of Public Safety but instead lists police and fire separately among the city’s various departments. The City also does not have a director of public safety listed among its employees.

Sewer Rate Increase to be Discussed (MSM)

The Columbia City Council will hold a public hearing Thursday on a proposal to raise the city sewer rates in order to service debt expected for the construction of a Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

The city council’s next voting session is scheduled for Thursday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. The public hearing is scheduled to be held prior to the start of the meeting.

According to documentation provided by city staff, the guaranteed maximum price for the new WWTP is just over $95 million, plus engineering costs.

It has been recommended that the city use existing funds to cover approximately $20 million of the cost. Those include $10 million in reserve funds and $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal assistance funds.

It is proposed that the city issue bonds for the remaining $77 million. The bond issuance would be for a term of 30 years at 4.12 percent interest. The sewer rate increase has been proposed to service that debt.

Using the proposed new rate, it is estimated that the average sewer bill, assuming a family of four using approximately 5,000 gallons of water per month, would increase the monthly bill from $39.49 to $53.74, or $14.25 per month.

City staff information indicates the last sewer fee increase was 2011.

Second reading of the ordinance change concerning the sewer rates is scheduled for consideration.

Having received a “Small Cities” Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for sidewalk improvement along South High Street, from West 8th Street to West 11th Street, and along East 8th Street from South Main Street to (west of) South Glade Street, the city council will consider awarding the contract. The city will be required to cover just over $200,000 of the cost of the $763,314 project.

Mayor Chaz Molder noted that it is believed to be the single biggest sidewalk investment at one time due to the scale, adding that it is a good opportunity to get the sidewalks improved at a good cost.

Chief of Police Jeremy Alsup told board members last week that the department has a new K9 officer, named Winston, paid for partially through the Tennessee Highway Safety Grant.

His handler is current Columbia PD Officer of the Year Austin Sanders.

The council will be asked to ratify the application and accept the grant funds for the grant, as well as another gran to continue the K9 program.

Other business on the agenda for the Columbia City Council’s Thursday meeting includes:

• A public hearing on the rezoning of a group of parcels off Morningside Lane from CD-3L (Neighborhood Large Lot Character District) to CD-3 (Neighborhood Character District). Second reading is also scheduled for consideration.


Eclipse at Riverside (CDH)

Roughly around 2 p.m., temperatures dropped briefly and the atmosphere appeared like dusk instead of the middle of the afternoon at the watch party at Riverwalk Park hosted by the city Parks and Rec Department.

Although, being an overcast day made the likelihood of visibility questionable, conditions seemed to clear once the eclipse came into view.

"We showed up and were hoping the clouds would go away," Glenna Hornaday of Columbia said. "It all seemed to clear up just in time, so we could see it. It was amazing."

While the viewing crowd Monday was fairly scarce at the park, many families and residents came out to sit on the grass, socialize and witness an eclipse, the last having occurred across Tennessee in 2017.

The Parks and Recreation Department offered proper eclipse-ready eyewear on a first-come, first-serve basis, though quickly ran out.

"It's funny how they often say this is once in a lifetime, and here I am having it happen twice in my lifetime," Parks & Rec Program Director Christina Walls said. "I love solar stuff, and with this happening I figured it would be a good community event. Though I didn't realize the glasses would go as fast as they did, almost instantly."

Parks and Rec Assistant Director Alex Troge said the department wanted to participate in a way that allows anyone wishing to see the eclipse to have the ability.

"The biggest thing was creating this opportunity we'd be able to provide, one of many programming events we are always trying to find, one where we can be at a location and break barriers of entry," Troge said.

Troge added that events like an eclipse are also a good opportunity for community gathering, as well as education, two areas Parks and Rec often includes in its programs.

"The nature of it and the information behind it is absolutely worthwhile, even if it's just a random day talking about astrology," Troge said. "That stuff is interesting regardless of the context, but when you get to experience it, the cosmological factors and anthropological factors throughout history, I just find that very interesting."

The next total solar eclipse visible in the U.S. is expected to occur in 2044.

Habitat Applications Open (MSM)

Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury is thrilled to announce the opening of applications for its Homeownership Program. The program offers eligible individuals the opportunity to achieve the dream of homeownership through a collaborative and supportive process.

“We help families and individuals buy their first home by removing the down payment and customizing mortgage payments to never be more than 30 percent of their income. With that kind of financial stability, kids can put down roots and parents can start planning for the future. We bridge the gap between renting and buying a home the traditional way,” shared Hannah Seegmiller, HFHWM Homeowner Services Manager.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must meet three basic criteria; need for safe, affordable housing, ability to pay a monthly mortgage and willingness to be an active partner for the duration of the process. For full details on program qualifications, please visit hfhwm.org/apply.

Once approved, families will help build their own homes alongside volunteers and community partners. Those homes are then sold with affordable financing to the families. Program participants will complete budget coaching and homebuyer education to prepare for the responsibilities that come with homeownership.

“Our path to homeownership is an important and in-depth process that requires hard work, time, and dedication. But this helps ensure the long-term success of our partner families,” said Seegmiller.

Nobody is a better testament to the transformative power of Habitat homeownership than Carrika Washington. From Habitat homeowner to HFHWM board member, the trajectory of her life has changed since becoming a homeowner.

“I received my Habitat home eight years ago. I was a 30-year-old single mother and never thought I would have a safe and secure home for me and my son. The budgeting classes and the first-time homeowner classes helped me so much and I continue to use the budgeting class to this day,” Washington said. “Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury started the stepping stones for my career and my ability to provide for my son in the way that I didn’t think I would.”

By offering a hand up, not a handout, Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury is committed to empowering families to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. The organization invites individuals and families who meet the eligibility criteria to apply for the Homeownership Program and take the first step towards homeownership.

For those interested in applying or learning more about the Homeownership Program, please visit hfhwm.org or contact apply@hfhwm.org.

KDS Lunch and Learn (Press Release)

Join the King’s Daughters’ School for their “About Autism Lunch and Learn, called ‘See Beyond the Spectrum.’” The program will feature Anette Hatfield, the director of the Center for Autism to learn about Autism and how we can partner as a community to provide safe places and inclusion for everyone. The event will take place on April 16th at 11:30am at The King’s Daugheters’ School Craig Hall, located at 401 W. 9th Street in Columbia. You can RSP by emailing tiffany wright at tiffany.wright@tkds.org.

The Kings’ Daughters’ School promotes independence through educational, residential, and community services for individuals with developmental disabilities, continuing a 100-years legacy of service.

CSCC Summer Camps (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College’s Columbia Campus is excited to announce summer camps for 2024. 

The Game Design Unity Camp will run from June 10 - 14 for rising 6th through 8th grade students. Campers will craft virtual worlds, master optimization techniques and bring their video games to life with sounds and animations. Join us for an adventure in creativity and technology!

Rhythm Retreat – Music Camp will run from June 24 - 27 for rising 4th through 6th graders. Student participants will experience drumming, comprehend new piano skills, enjoy music games and take part in choral singing.

Innovate & Illuminate will run from July 8 – 12 for rising 6th through 8th graders. Participants will learn to make fun and useful projects using the fundamentals of circuit building and microcontroller programing.


Maury County Clerk Satellite Office (Press Release)

The Maury County Clerk’s office can now help residents with renewals of license plates or placards each Wednesday from 8am to 3:30pm at the Maury County Senior Center located at 1020 Maury County Park Dr.

Please drive around to the back of the building and look for the car tag renewal sign near the back door.

Forms of payment include credit/debit card or check – no cash.

Any Maury County Resident can use this office.

All other transactions will still need to be done through the main office located at 10 Public Square.

Also, you can renew online at TNCountyClerk.com or at kiosks in Spring Hill City Hall or Mt. Pleasant Courthouse.


Justice Center Time Capsule (Press Release)

The Maury County Historical Society has been granted permission by the Maury County Commission to place a time capsule in the new Maury County Justice Center currently under construction. A selection committee has been created and is ready to receive items. If you have something small and Maury County related you would like to donate, contact Eric Previti at (931) 626-9878 or epreviti@icloud.com.

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Mr. William “Billy” Fowler Ridley, 55, a self-employed carpenter and resident of Columbia, died Thursday, April 4, 2024 in Columbia.

Funeral services for Mr. Ridley will be conducted Thursday at 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Greg Daimwood officiating. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

Nell Broadway Gilliam, 95, former longtime resident of Columbia and retired co-owner and operator of Gilliam Bros. Grocery, died Monday, April 8, 2024 at The Arbors at Willow Springs in Spring Hill.

Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, April 11, 2024 at 3:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.  Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery.  The family will visit with friends Thursday from 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Online condolences may be extended at www.oakesandnichols.com.


And now, news from around the state…

Tennessee Tornadoes (MSM)

Tennessee and it’s surrounding neighbors are no stranger to tornadoes.

One only needs to look back at the spring of 2023 to see that the state was host to the strongest tornado of the third-most widespread tornado outbreak in American history – and the long-term trends aren’t painting any more favorable of a picture.

A team by led by Victor Gensini from Northern Illinois University performed a multi-year analysis using the “Significant Tornado Parameter,” a tool used by meteorologists to analyze how favorable the atmosphere is for tornado activity, and found a dramatic upward trend in the likelihood of impactful tornadoes over much of the Southeastern United States, with the highest bullseye being painted over Northern Alabama, Mississippi and Southern Tennessee, with slightly more elevated possibilities extending as far as the Carolinas.

These long-term trends have been duly noted by the National Weather Service, and from 1988 to 2011, one of the most robust radar networks in the world was installed to help remedy the shortcomings of the sparsely-placed radars of decades past – and it worked. Almost.

Despite the apparent completion of the network ending in 2011, our region – especially Southern and Middle Tennessee, notable for the aforementioned trend of leading the nation in increasing tornado probabilities – has been left without a local radar in the network. This means a population of some staggering 1.5 million residents stretching from Humphreys County to northern Alabama have zero low-level, tornado detecting radar coverage and haven’t for decades.

This fact is doubly concerning when the preponderance of significant (EF/F2+) tornadoes since 1950 is considered.

From 1950 to 2023, almost 100 significant tornadoes have impacted the previously highlighted region – of which almost two dozen were E/F4 or E/F5, the most intense tornadoes possible based on the current understanding of the Fujita scale (winds equal to/greater than 200mph).

Moreover, this is to make no mention of the hundreds of detected – and undetected – weaker, still-dangerous tornadoes that happen almost every season in this portion of the country, with one recent example being that of the series of EF-1 tornadoes that struck Lawrence County in February 2020 without warning due to no low-level radar coverage, injuring one and doing more than $1 million in damage.

It was this confluence of factors that sparked a team of 32 scientists, led by Mark Weber of the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, to investigate just how much the true benefits of new radars could benefit portions of the United States, with a special focus on tornado prone regions.

One of the key takeaways was that, by a significant margin, the area that seeks to benefit to most from additional low-level radar coverage and its resultant economic and safety benefits was a stretch of Tennessee and Alabama. Overall, the study revealed that nationally, saving benefits of up to nearly $700 million are possible when considering the cumulative impacts of severe weather, and dozens – if not hundreds – of additional lives could be saved. This data considered factors such as financial burden incurred by injuries, clean-up crews, and the opportunity costs lost due to impactful severe weather.

Notably, the study also revealed that, when considering a hypothetical new radar somewhere near the TN/AL state line, the combined economic benefits per year for the stretch of poorly covered counties in Tennessee and Alabama was just shy of $10 million assuming 1-minute data updates. Assuming a linear relationship between scan frequency and benefit savings, some $21 million could be saved annually with modern radar technology scanning at 20-second intervals, as many non-government radars do in this age.

In 2020, Ben Luna and team members at Tennessee Valley Weather made it a point to obtain a compact, locally scanning radar to prove that a larger radar is necessary in this region. And it worked.

In its four-year lifespan, it captured numerous tornadoes, squall lines, pop-up thunderstorms, flood events, snow, and more – all with a limited range of just 40 miles. A full-power radar, scanning up to 300 miles, would, once and for all, lift the weather blindfold, according to Ben Luna, the Managing Meteorologist at Tennessee Valley Weather.

“It’s laid the groundwork perfectly. To me, and to my entire team, it honestly proves that something that will fix this gap permanently – this huge, ominous information gap across this portion of the country – is within arm’s reach,“ Luna said.

Luna added that State Sen. Page Walley and Reps. Kip Capley and Clay Doggett are attempting to secure an appropriation in this year’s state budget to build a radar.


Gas Prices (MSM)

Gas prices once again moved more expensive over last week, rising five cents, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.20 which is 12 cents more expensive than one month ago but 10 cents less than one year ago.  

 “The roller coaster at the gas pump continues this week with a five cent increase in our state gas price average,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “With recent changes in the oil market, we’re seeing renewed upward pressure on oil prices. This is likely why we’re seeing a wide range of pricing across our major metro areas in Tennessee with a 22 cent difference between the most and least expensive metros in the state. Drivers can likely expect to see a wide range of pricing across the state again this week as gas prices begin to normalize.” 

Quick Facts

  • 67% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.25 

  • The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.97 for regular unleaded 

  • The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.52 for regular unleaded

  • Tennessee is the 7th least expensive market in the nation


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Celebrating their 25th anniversary as one of country music’s most successful groups, multi-platinum GRAMMY® Award-winning Little Big Town joined forces with longtime friends and collaborators Sugarland at the CMT Music Awards to deliver a stunning world premiere performance of their new song “Take Me Home.” The two powerhouse groups are also set to embark on a U.S. tour titled Take Me Home Tour. The tour will stop at Bridgestone Arena on December 13.

Special guests for the tour will be Sugarland and The Castellows. Various ticket pre-sales for the Take Me Home Tour will run throughout the week, ahead of the general sale beginning on Friday, April 12 at 10am local time at www.littlebigtown.com.


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