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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 13, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Spring Hill Water Question (MainStreetMaury)

Drinking water in Spring Hill became a hot topic of conversation last week following a social media post that garnered attention from both residents and city officials. 

Spring Hill utilities director Jessica Weaver said she and other water treatment employees were made aware of a situation where a resident complained of a chlorine-like smell coming from tap water to the point where a pet would not drink the water. 

The resident quoted a chlorine dioxide level above safe parameters based on a testing kit purchased online.

Weaver said Spring Hill’s drinking water would not leave the facility if unsafe to drink, adding that city water would not emit chlorine dioxide as a byproduct at all. 

“You have to be careful with test kits purchased online because most of them are made for testing pool water,” she said. “We offer free water testing any time to any resident.”

Weaver said the city offers the free test at any time, preferably not on weekends, but in an emergency the city would gladly send an employee out to test water if it were suspected to be unsafe.

“We work really hard to make sure our drinking water is at a high standard,” she said. “We’ve won awards for the best tasting water recently, and we’re proud of that.”

Some of the potential causes for foul odors or poor taste are different pipes or aftermarket hardware. 

“Sometimes aftermarket products can be an issue because there are some manufacturers that don’t have to adhere to certain regulations or standards, which can erode over time, creating issues at the tap,” she said. “Once water leaves the treatment facility, it goes into the mainline pipes then to each service line. After it hits the meter, it’s the responsibility of the owner.”

Additionally, frequent cleaning of faucets and taps is important to water quality.

“One thing people really miss is the smell of the water can affect the taste. If you’ve got a dirty faucet or white buildup, that can make it taste different,” Weaver said. 

The city has its 2021 water quality report posted on its website, but has not yet posted the 2022 report at this time. No violations were reported in the 2021 report. 

To request a free water test, please contact the utilities department at (931) 486-2252.


SRO’s In Private Schools (MainStreetMaury)

With the Tennessee legislature having opened the door to providing school resource officers at private schools, local officials discussed last week whether it was a good fit in Maury County.

Both houses of the General Assembly have passed House Bill 1456, which authorizes private schools to enter into an agreement with the local county government body for the purpose of putting an SRO in those schools.

Last week, Gov. Bill Lee proposed over $140 million in funding for increased school security. His proposed budget includes at least one trained officer in every school, threat monitoring, security upgrades for both public and private schools and increased mental health resources. Lee also called for expanding the statewide homeland security network with 122 agents. The added focus on school security comes following last month’s Covenant school shooting in Nashville which left six dead.

Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland brought up the changes being made during last week’s Safety Committee meeting.

“When you have private businesses or clubs, there’s stipulations on what you can and cannot do,” Rowland said, adding that Columbia Academy has had security in place for a long time.

Rowland said other private schools in the county have hired off-duty city officers to fill in on their days off. Earlier this year, the department began a partnership with Zion Christian Academy, allowing off-duty deputies to fill in.

“They are absolutely going to get on board where they have their own security,” Rowland said. “Or we can sign an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and they can pay for that.”

Meanwhile, District 8 Commissioner Ray Jeter shared his concerns over the recently passed bill.

“Most of the private schools I know of have very well-trained security at their school,” he said, adding that private schools may not be interested in entering into an agreement with an SRO because they already have it covered. “But if there was a school and the funding was there, I think it opens the door for these discussions,” he said.

Rowland said all SRO’s must be trained at one of the recognized police academies in the state, which takes a total of 12 weeks.

“In a perfect world, you’d want someone that’s worked in law enforcement and has some experience there,” he said. “Some people think there’s a difference between an SRO and a city police officer or a patrol officer, but there is not,” Rowland clarified. “They are a deputy.”


Hotel Feasibility Study (MainStreetMaury)

A feasibility study from Core Distinction Group found a downtown hotel in the city of Columbia was its largest retail need. The study, commissioned by the city council, confirmed what mayor Chaz Molder and others suspected.

“Unfortunately, there are not a lot of hotel options in the core of the city, so people end up doing Airbnb – which is great – or they end up in Spring Hill,” Molder said. “That’s great for Spring Hill, but we would like to capitalize on those people who are visiting our town.”

The study indicated a need for an upper midscale to upscale hotel with 90-100 recommended guestrooms. It also indicated the property should offer amenities such as complimentary breakfast, fitness center, meeting room, pool and on-site convenience shop.

“Columbia has many possible locations for a new hotel, but the beautiful downtown area has great potential to be the ideal spot for a new hotel,” said Jessica Junker, Managing Partner at Core Distinction Group. “The community of Columbia attracts a great deal of both business and leisure travelers to the area and is currently losing those travelers to neighboring communities. This local, economic loss can be recaptured with a new, upper-scale hotel product.”

A hotel project was set to come to the intersection of Bear Creek Pike and Highway 31, but developer David Hunt was indicted on wire fraud charges in 2021, halting the project completely. 

Hunt, who purchased the site of the former Polk Hotel, was set to bring a Courtyard Mariott hotel and a retail portion anchored by Publix, which has now become the butt of social media jokes. 

The project, which included a tax increment funding (TIF) agreement, was allegedly slowed by weather in 2019 and design work in 2020, along with the pandemic, before the indictment.

“Ultimately that fell through and he’s trying to sell the property, but we recognized that Columbia, at its core, could use a good hotel or two,” Molder said. “We have great hotels on the interstate, but for those people who want to visit for a weekend, they really want to be closer to the city center.”

Molder said he plans to meet with hotel proprietors soon, and this study will give the city a leg up in recruiting the necessary development. 

The city is currently encouraging inquiries from interested developers, particularly those with experience with projects on scale of the recommendations in the feasibility study. Those with interest in learning more about the potential hotel project are asked to contact Assistant City Manager Thad Jablonski.


Packard Playhouse Opening (CDH)

The stage is set and ready for the Annie Moses Band's premiere Packard Playhouse production of "Annie The Musical," bringing Broadway to Columbia starting Thursday.

To mark the occasion, as well as introduce the community to the Packard Playhouse and the many things that go on as part of the group's latest music conservatory program, founder Annie Dupre and the Maury County Chamber of Commerce celebrated Monday with a ribbon cutting.

"Annie" will run over two weekends with a total of nine performances April 13-15 and April 20-23. Tickets are available at www.PackardPlayhouse.com or at the 616 N. Main St. facility.

"For the longest time, we didn't really have a space for people to see the fruits of what we are doing. It was very hard to do," founder Annie Dupre said. "It's going to be so much fun to be making music for people here, with our debut musical being the musical 'Annie.'"

Based on the popular comic strip, "Annie" tells the classic story of Little Orphan Annie, who finds herself becoming adopted by Mr. Warbucks, the most powerful man in America, featuring the classic songs "Tomorrow," "It's a Hard Knock Life" and "Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile." Once the wicked Mrs. Hannigan learns of the man's riches, she hatches a plot to kidnap Annie and take the $55,000 reward for her return.

"It's going to be absolutely stupendous, and we've got a great troupe of young Broadway performers that are part of our conservatory, alongside a whole group of veteran adult actors and singers as well," Dupre said. "It will be a great time for the whole family to come out."

Dupre added that the name Packard Playhouse makes tribute to the former Packard Automobile plant.

"Packard automobiles were made right here on the corner," Dupre said. "They also had a showroom and everything extended down the block until you get to the river. And so we thought it was really apropos to name this place the Packard Playhouse."

In 2020, the site was formerly renovated into a multiple studio and event space by Rory Feek called Red King Productions but closed a couple of years later. Once the space became available, the main studio was once again renovated, this time with seating and a stage, along with professional lighting and sound, making way for the playhouse.

Monday's ribbon cutting also included words of appreciation from city leaders, including Vice Mayor Randy McBroom.

"This place is amazing, and it was great getting to visit the back and see all the kids having fun and smiling," McBroom said. "This is what Columbia wants, places like this to fill our downtown."

In addition to the Playhouse, the facility also houses a mercantile gift shop up front and operates as a music conservatory. The faith-based conservatory offers a long list of programs ranging from voice to violin, piano, guitar, stage production and more.

"It's a very well-rounded program and a divinely-ordained group of people, which is what makes it exceptional," Dupre said. "When you make music and are a creative person, you can't do that in an environment that doesn't create light, life, love and goodness. This faith-based environment really does that, because God visits it, and we are grateful for all the ways he does that."


5G Connectivity (MauryCountySource)

AT&T has expanded its 5G network in Maury County, the company states via press release.  A new cell tower will enhance the area’s coverage and capacity.

“This new site will enhance AT&T’s coverage and capacity in the vicinity of U.S. Highways 412 and 31 and in the area’s residential neighborhoods,” reads a statement from AT&T.

“As a physician, I’ve seen first-hand the importance of connectivity as patients communicate with their healthcare provider, access their records, or simply research information,” said state Sen Joey Hensley (District 28). “With people increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to connect to the Internet wherever they are when the need arises, continuing growth of the wireless network is welcome. Announcements like this show the Legislature’s work to encourage private investment in advanced technology is paying off for the people of Tennessee.”

The new site also brings Band 14 spectrum to the area. Band 14 is a nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. “We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane,” states AT&T. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. When not in use by FirstNet subscribers, AT&T customers can enjoy Band 14’s added coverage and capacity.

“We know how important it is for our customers to stay connected,” said Kathy Sager, Regional Director of External Affairs for AT&T Tennessee. “AT&T 5G brings fast, reliable and secure connectivity to more than 281 million people in over 22,000 cities and towns nationwide, including in Middle Tennessee. This helps residents and businesses get the best possible experience over the AT&T network wherever they live, work and play.”

For more information about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out FirstNet.com.


Drug Disposal Day (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) will offer an opportunity to dispose of expired, unused or unneeded prescription drugs safely and anonymously on Saturday, April 22.

 The free drug take-back event will be held in front of the MRMC Medical Office Building at 1222 Trotwood Ave. in Columbia from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 

 The event will feature a convenient drive-through disposal process. Staff members will be present to safely receive items from drivers in their vehicles. The service is free and anonymous with no information required.

 “Once again, we are excited to offer our community members a convenient way to safely dispose of unused and unneeded medications,” MRMC Security Director Michael Johnson said. “We highly encourage all residents to take advantage of this opportunity to dispose of unused medications.”

 For numerous safety and health precautions, safely disposing of unused medications is extremely important. Medication should not be flushed down a toilet or tossed in the trash. In addition, medicines that are kept in home cabinets are susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that most misused and abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including medications taken from home medicine cabinets.

 Only medications in pill or patch form should be brought to the upcoming event. The site cannot accept liquids, needles or sharps. Items should be in their original container, if possible.


Wellness Fair (Press Release)

The Tennessee Department of Health and the Faith-based community is offering the “Bringing Health to You” Health and Welness Fair. The event will take place on April 29th from 10am-1pm at the Madedonia Church of Christ located at 123 Clinch Drive in Columbia. The fair will offer hands-on health check-ups with on-site local health professionals, community resources on health education, testing, and vaccines, real-time dental appointment scheduling on site, and free healthy recipes and samples. Participating organizations include the Maury Regional Medical Center Mobile Medical Unit, the Women’s Center, the Cancer Center, the Tennessee Depart of Health, Meharry Medical Center, Clinical Research Associates, Department of Children’s Services, Behavioral Health Group, Brittany Pye, LMT, and Chef Juels. For more information you can email Jennifer.kinzer@tn.gov or call or text 931-800-8344.


Donate Blood on National Volunteer Month (MainStreetMaury)

Blood Assurance and Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder are calling on residents to donate the gift of life during National Volunteer Month.

Since 1991, the month of April has been dedicated to honoring all volunteers throughout the United States, as well as encouraging volunteerism, like giving blood.

In recognition of the occasion, Molder is featured in a new Public Service Announcement produced by Blood Assurance.

“This is an opportunity to answer the call and give back,” Molder said in the promotional video. “Knowing that it will go on to help someone who needs it, I can’t imagine a more important calling.”

Blood Assurance is the sole supplier of blood and blood products to the city’s only hospital, Maury Regional Medical Center. The nonprofit has a donation center at 1412 Trotwood Ave.

“It’s important that our blood supply levels remain at a point that doesn’t get crucial for our community,” noted Molder. “I’m grateful for Blood Assurance and what they mean for our community as far as giving back.”

Donors can schedule an appointment online at www.bloodassurance.org/schedule, call (800) 962-0628 or text BAGIVE to 999777. Walk-ins are also accepted.

All individuals who donate from April 1-30, will receive a commemorate Super Donor t-shirt.

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

Mr. Bobby Wayne White, Sr.,86, retired employee of Columbia Daily Herald and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, April 8, 2023 at NHC Maury Regional Transitional Care. Funeral services for Mr. White will be conducted Thursday at 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens.


Mr. David Jonathan Bates, 60, former Agriculture teacher for Columbia Central High School and employee of Kings Firearms, died Sunday, April 9, 2023 at his residence in Mt. Pleasant. Funeral services for Mr. Bates will be conducted Friday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Pleasant Mount Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 4:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home.


…And now, news from around the state…

Pearson Reappointed to State House (Tennessean)

Shelby County Commissioners reappointed Justin Pearson to the Tennessee House of Representatives Wednesday to cries of applause and cheers of excitement.

“When we went to the well of the House, myself, Rep. (Gloria) Johnson and Rep. (Justin) Jones, we said we have an allegiance to a people, people who are tired of business as usual," Pearson said. “We do not speak alone. We speak together. We fight together. So a message for all the people in Nashville who decided to expel us: You can’t expel hope. You can't expel our voice. You sure can’t expel our fight.”

The expected move from commissioners means Pearson could be back in the state House as early as Thursday, less than a week after he and Rep. Justin Jones, who represents Davidson County, were expelled from their seats.

"The status quo needs changing," Pearson told supporters earlier in the day. "And that status quo needs you."

Pearson and Jones, among the youngest Black lawmakers in Tennessee, were expelled from the House for having led gun-reform chants that briefly disrupted House proceedings three days after three 9-year-olds and three adults were shot and killed at The Covenant School in Nashville.

A third representative, Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, was also threatened with expulsion, but retained her seat by a single vote.

Both Jones and Johnson were present in Memphis to support Pearson Wednesday.

The vote to reappoint Pearson was unanimous with seven commissioners present, all Democrats. Seven votes were needed for his appointment.

When a seat is vacated, members of the county’s legislative body can make an appointment on an interim basis. That interim representative will serve until one is selected in a special election, the dates of which have not been set.

Pearson has said he plans to run in the special election.

Jones was reappointed to his seat by the Metro Nashville Council Monday.

The actions of the Republican supermajority in expelling two young Black men have drawn nationwide attention, and put the spotlight on Pearson, who only arrived at the state House earlier this year.

Earlier Wednesday, Pearson met supporters at the National Civil Rights Museum, just over a mile from the county government building. From there, they marched to the Shelby County Commission meeting.

“The movement lives or dies in Memphis, and here at this hollowed place we are showing the United States of America…that the movement is still alive,” Pearson told the crowd, drawing on the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Pearson supporters at commission included U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen, state reps. Antonio Parkinson, Torrey Harris, G.A. Hardaway and Jesse Chism, Memphis City Council Vice Chair JB Smiley Jr. and numerous county officials

Torrey Harris said that once the commission voted and minutes were approved, he would take the resolution back to the House Clerk in Nashville.

Then, Pearson is expected to be sworn back in at 8:30 Thursday morning, allowing him to jump back into the business of the House by 9 a.m., just a week after his expulsion.

Commissioners Wednesday praised Pearson as a representative who is fighting against injustice.

Pearson, 28, first became widely known in Memphis when he co-founded the grassroots organization Memphis Community Against the Pipeline in response to a planned crude oil pipeline that would cut through backyards in South Memphis, particularly in the Boxtown neighborhood.

The work of MCAP, now called Memphis Community Against Pollution, has been credited with stopping the pipeline plans from Plains All American.

In January, he was elected by a significant margin to take the House District 86 seat in an election triggered by the death of educator and state Rep. Barbara Cooper, who died in October. The Shelby County Commission, after his primary win, appointed him to the interim position so he could start work early.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Melissa Etheridge announced a summer tour with 44 dates. Kicking off in Los Angeles and stopping in Nashville on Sunday, July 30th at The Ryman Auditorium.

Public on-sale for tickets begins on Friday, April 14th at 10 am local time. Etheridge Nation presale are on sale now. To find out more about Etheridge Nation, visit www.melissaetheridge.com.

Find tickets at www.ryman.com.


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