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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 26, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Governor Signs Duck River Bill (CDH)

After a long community battle since last fall, Gov. Bill Lee put his final stamp of approval Wednesday on legislation that will expand the Duck River's Class II Pastoral River designation from Maury County to the Hickman County line.

Efforts to ensure the bill's passage included over 2,000 Maury County constituents writing letters to the House Natural Resources Committee and over 100 constituents attending legislative meetings in Nashville several times to speak in favor of the bill. The push culminated last month when the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee approved House Bill 0447 that will extend river protections.

Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, led the charge as sponsor of the bill in the House, while Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, sponsored the companion bill in the Senate and Rep. Kip Capley, R-Summertown, also supported the bill.

Cepicky advocated to keep drinking water uncontaminated and for the river to be used for recreational use as one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world.

"I have never seen such widespread support from constituents on a bill," Cepicky said.

Preservationists, business leaders, local farmers, elected leaders and constituents from Maury County band together in support of protecting the river, leading to the bipartisan support of the legislation.

Seventh generation farmer Sam Kennedy, III, whose farm adjoins the Duck River, attended committee meetings and spent weeks speaking with legislators along with Columbia broker Dan McEwen and other landowners.

Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, a member of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, even visited the Duck River in Maury County ahead of the bill's passage, spending hours along the banks.

As a result of the groundswell of community support and interest in preserving the Duck River, grassroots group Save the Duck formed, now in the process of becoming a 501(c)3.

Preservationist and advocate Gale Moore, a Columbia resident who will serve on the Save the Duck board, said that she is pleased and relieved that the bill passed.

"I am grateful for the bipartisan support in the passage of the bill. Many residents spent days attending the legislative meetings, with the final meeting drawing over 200 supporters, which made a difference," she said.

"However, the battle is not over."

Moore refers to three pending permit applications submitted to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation by Louisiana-based Trinity Business Group last summer, seeking to develop a solid waste landfills and processing site on over 1,300 acres at the former Monsanto property in Columbia, just miles from the Duck River.

The proposal would include a tire processing facility, energy compost processing, energy recovery, metal salvage and wood waste processing from construction.

The pending permits were the catalyst for constituents to take action last fall to protect the river's natural resources such as fresh water for drinking and recreation as well as preserving aquatic life. The Duck River is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world, containing an array of rare species of fish.

Moore helped to organize a community meeting in October to raise awareness about the landfill proposal. The meeting drew dozens of constituents, leaders from TDEC and locally-elected officials.

Maury leaders and supporters of Save the Duck believe that the new legislation will thwart landfill development. But as an added measure, the Maury County Commission voted late last year to approve a state statute, dubbed The Jackson Law, that would prohibit the formation of landfills without the approval of local city councils and county commissions.

In addition, the newly appointed Maury-Marshall Solid Waste Regional Planning Board also voted earlier this month to deny Trinity Business Group's development of landfill operations at the old Monsanto property during a meeting at Henry Horton State Park located in Chapel Hill.

"We hopped yet another hurdle yesterday, thanks in part to your emails, presentations, letters, postcards, hand-outs in mailboxes, recorded calls, video downloads, and presence at the meeting," Moore wrote to supporters after the waste board's April 10 vote.

"Thank you all for letting the board know the will of the people."

During the legislative session, Trinity Business Group legal counsel alluded to launching a lawsuit if the landfill development was blocked.

In the meantime, Trinity Business Group's three original permits are still labeled as "pending" on the TDEC website.


GM Paint Shop (CDH)

As the General Motors Assembly Plant in Spring Hill continues its multi-billion-dollar ramp-up to full-scale EV production, the latest innovation to come online at full capacity is its new paint shop.

Construction began during the pandemic, and the new facility opened with limited production in June 2022. It reached full capacity, running two shifts, earlier this month — 12 weeks ahead of schedule.

While there are some 38-40 employees per shift — all of the actual painting is done by robots.

At about 1.5 million square feet, the new shop is actually 250,000 square feet smaller than the original paint shop, but it has a much more efficient footprint utilizing three-and-a-half floors and technology that increases output, reduces the impact on the environment, and enhances employee satisfaction.

Nick Howell, GM's paint area manager, has worked in paint shops for 17 years and said this one is like no other.

"This shop offers among the best air-handling systems, the spray technology is best in class and the transfer efficiency is top notch," Howell said. "Any paint that doesn't stick to the car ends up as waste, so anything we can do to improve what's going on the car means less waste."

The new GM paint shop has the capacity to paint 600-800 cars per day. It runs on five "mods" or modular paint production lines, whereas the old facility was a two-booth shop with less capacity and functionality. The new setup allows for reduced color changing, which is another creator of waste.

"When you paint a red car followed by a white car, you have to clean out the paint lines and there's waste that goes into that," Howell said. "How nice would it be to put 10 red cars all on mod 2 and the white ones on mod 5, for example. That flexibility turns into throughput because now you are moving things in a much smoother capacity. We get more output out of this shop in terms of the flex and design of the process."

Among the colors used in the new paint shop are Summit White, Black Meet Kettle, Radiant Red, Sharkskin and Mary Kay Pink. Howell said his team will paint anywhere from 150-250 Cadillacs Mary Kay Pink in a year.

Aside from its enhanced abilities to make less of an impact on the environment, GM's new paint shop is also elevated to a level needed to paint world-class vehicles like the Cadillac LYRIQ, the first fully electric vehicle to come off the GM assembly line.

"Now our process aligns with the technology and design you see in these new EVs," Howell said.

Employees and others involved in the design, construction and functionality of the new paint shop are set to be celebrated at a special event to be held at the shop.

"To say we pulled this ahead (of schedule) 12 weeks under COVID conditions is certainly worthy of recognition to the team," Howell said. "The first shift has been running for nine weeks and we are building at 95% to 96% first-time quality. That is a testament to our partners in building the building and the launch team launching it."

Spring Hill GM's paint shop will continue to undergo expansion. While the facility will still operate out of the old and new buildings (with portions of the painting process still taking place in the original shop) a third building that is part of phase two of the expansion, will come out of the ground next door.

The phase two building will connect to the existing new paint shop and the original building will be gutted and revamped for body shop expansion beginning in June.

And it's all part of GM's ramp-up to full production of the LYRIQ and other soon-to-be-announced EVs. The LYRIQ launched in March 2022, but with very limited production. As the ancillary plants get upgrades like the paint shop, it enables GM to go into full production.

Maury Regional Gets Cancer Accreditation (Press Release)

The Maury Regional Cancer Center has been awarded another three-year term of accreditation in radiation oncology as the result of a recent review by the American College of Radiology (ACR). Radiation oncology, also known as radiation therapy, is the careful use of high-energy radiation to treat cancer.

 “This is the fourth time the Maury Regional Cancer Center has earned a three-year term of accreditation from the ACR,” Administrative Director of Oncology Services Dana Salters said. “It really is a testament to our physicians and staff and their dedication to providing our patients with the highest quality of care possible.”

The Maury Regional Cancer Center at Columbia Mall is a comprehensive treatment center that includes the clinical specialists, treatment technologies and support services needed by cancer patients and their family members. In addition to the accreditation from the ACR, the Cancer Center is also accredited by the Commission on Cancer.

 Radiation treatments are delivered in the Maury Regional Cancer Center by a sophisticated team who utilize advanced technology to precisely deliver radiation while sparing healthy tissue. Radiation oncologists are complemented by a team that includes simulation technologists, dosimetrists, physicists, radiation therapists and nurses.

 “Our team at the Maury Regional Cancer Center is committed to providing the best possible care to our patients,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “I’m proud of the work they do to make sure our patients and their loved ones are cared for in every step of their battle with cancer.”

 The ACR is the nation’s oldest and most widely accepted radiation oncology accrediting body, with over 700 accredited sites and 30 years of accreditation experience. The ACR seal of accreditation represents the highest level of quality and patient safety. It is awarded only to facilities meeting specific Practice Guidelines and Technical Standards developed by ACR after a peer-review evaluation by board-certified radiation oncologists and medical physicists who are experts in the field. Patient care and treatment, patient safety, personnel qualifications, adequacy of facility equipment, quality control procedures, and quality assurance programs are assessed. The findings are reported to the ACR Committee on Radiation Oncology Accreditation, which subsequently provides the practice with a comprehensive report they can use for continuous practice improvement.

 The ACR is a national professional organization serving more than 36,000 diagnostic/interventional radiologists, radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine physicians, and medical physicists with programs focusing on the practice of medical imaging and radiation oncology and the delivery of comprehensive health care services.

 For more information on the cancer services offered at Maury Regional Health, including medical and radiation oncology, navigation services, screening options, support services and more, visit MauryRegional.com/Cancer. The Maury Regional Cancer Center is located at the Columbia Mall at 808 S. James Campbell Blvd. in Columbia.


Maury County Growth Indicators (CDH)

As the city of Columbia continues its growth and development, looking at trends heading into the next 10 years, one indicator in tracking Columbia's progress is its requests for new construction permits.

Though the numbers appear to have stabilized in the last year or two, the overall amount of building permit requests for new construction has doubled compared to five years ago, according to the latest data provided by Columbia's Department of Development Services.

The numbers, as of last week, have averaged about 900 permit requests per year. This includes requests for apartment units, which came on board in 2021.

"That trend looks to be continuing so far in 2023 compared to the same time last year," Development Services Director Paul Keltner said. "Our overall permits have grown tremendously due to the mass home improvements that have taken place over the last couple of years. Which really gets reflected in our inspection numbers, which was over 6,000 last year."

Building permit requests since 2018 (not including apartment units) are:

2018 – 420

2019 – 446

2020 – 420

2021 – 708

2022 - 653

2023 – 259 to date

Mayor Chaz Molder commented on the stabilization of the last few years, meaning the city can not only maintain the growth its already experiencing but has the ability to plan ahead for the next spike, if and when it happens.

"We have seen quite a bit of growth over the last five years, but we are also starting to see a lot of other things, and one is the stabilization," Molder said. "We also know we have thousands of jobs that have been announced over the years, of which some have already been coming online. But there are still a few that are some years out from reaching their capacity.

"And so we are at this moment of opportunity in creating housing inventory for these jobs that are not yet filled. That is the sign of a robust, thriving, but not overly-strained growth rate."

Molder added that another indicator of the last five years' growth is in the city's planning commission meetings.

"Five years ago, we were happy to have a planning commission agenda, which meant there were items seeking approval," Molder said. "And now, we are to a point where our agendas are so long, our meetings are lasting three hours. But more importantly, it's because of the position we are now in that we have more leverage in the conversation."

Although building permit requests continue to come through the city, and developments are approved, the market largely determines its completion and/or timeline. This was made true during the COVID-19 pandemic when inflation and the rise in construction costs, building materials, and demand affected construction momentum.

"Market conditions drive a lot of this, and there have been multiple projects approved by the city, but have pulled back, in part or all together, because the market has changed and become too expensive," Molder said. "That's something to also consider when looking at these numbers."

Growth is also a topic that generates a number of opinions among citizens, such as those who might have owned property for generations suddenly facing a 500-home neighborhood next door.

However, Molder stressed that city staff has put much more focus on "smart growth," and that the goal is to continue the city's development, but to do it in a way that is deliberate, thereby creating a base for the future that can thrive and create more opportunities.


Red Sand Project (CDH)

Center of Hope and the Maury County Health Department are asking local businesses and residents to join together Thursday in the fight against human trafficking.

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, The Red Sand Project is a community-wide event in which participants are asked to pour a bag of red sand in front of their businesses or homes, take a photo and share it on social media.

Center of Hope will also be gathering participants at the Maury County Courthouse starting at 11 a.m. Thursday to join together on the pour.

"It's a wonderful project, draws attention to the problem and is just a brilliant way to raise awareness for all those people who fall through the cracks," Center of Hope Director Cindy Sims said. "There will be some of us at the courthouse and other places in town."

Sims added that Wednesday is also Denim Day, where schools, businesses and other organizations encourage people to wear denim in support for sexual assault victims.

Red Sand posts to social media are encouraged to use the hashtags #centerofhopetn, #RedSandProjectTN and #ITHasToStop.

Bags of sand may be picked up at the Maury County Health Department, 1909 Hampshire Pike through 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Sand will also be available on a first come, first serve basis.

For more information, contact Cindy Sims at csims@centerofhopetn.org or Jennifer Kinzer at jennifer.kinzer@tn.gov.

The Red Sand Project is an interactive art exhibition whose mission is to raise awareness of human trafficking.

Participants will spread red sand on sidewalk cracks, in front of local businesses and community gathering spots. The idea is to bring attention to those who have "fallen through the cracks" in society, according to a press release.

The project has spread to more than 70 countries around the world, with more than 1 million participants taking part.

Participants have included students, educators, businesses, nonprofit organizations, celebrities and survivors.

Sand used in the red sand project consists of a feldspathic rock, a known source for producing a natural, non-toxic material void of carcinogens like crystalline silica, quartz and tremolite asbestos.

The red coloring is made using organic pigment and resins, encapsulating each grain with only organic ingredients. The sand is also free of any nuts, gluten or wheat and is tested annually for safety.


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, news from around the state…

American Classical Academy Nixed in Robertson (Tennessean)

The Robertson County Board of Education voted unanimously to deny the charter school application for American Classical Academy Robertson in a special called meeting Monday.

“I can promise you that as the chair of the charter school review committee and the committee itself, there’s been quite a few hours spent on this application,” Robertson County Schools Director Chris Causey said.

Board members voted to deny the application based on an extensive review process by and on the recommendation of the Robertson County Schools Charter School Application Review Committee, which found it lacking in its academic, operational and financial plans.

Summary ratings for the three sections of the school’s academic, operational and financial plan needed to meet or exceed the standard for the board to approve the application. Each section was found to partially meet or not meet the standard.

The review committee named several concerns with the school’s plan, including that the Barney School Charter Initiative curriculum developed by Hillsdale College is not currently aligned to Tennessee’s Academic Standards, the budget does not provide a realistic alignment to the acquisition of a facility, whether constructed or leased, and a debt service, if needed, is not addressed and financial procedures, policies, systems and processes for accounting, payroll and independent annual audits are not clearly outlined in the application.

Additional issues the review committee found with the school’s application include a budget that does not provide for debt service and requires annual donations of $150,000 raised primarily by families, the process for identifying students with disabilities, at-risk students and gifted students is not clearly explained and relies on outdated exiting criteria and eligibility guidelines and Career and Technical Education opportunities and pathways to college and career are not provided.

Through their research, committee members ultimately recommended non-authorization of the application.

“While the review committee acknowledges the commitment of American Classical Academy Robertson board members to partner with Robertson County Schools to offer school choice to families, the lack of alignment throughout the application makes it difficult to assess the capacity to open and sustain a viable school,” Robertson County Assistant Director of Schools Melanie Dickerson said of the committee’s closing statement.

“For an application to be approved, the operational and financial plans must align with and support the academic plan, mission and vision of the school. This misalignment along with various weaknesses in the academic plan and insufficient planning led to the final recommendation," Dickerson continued. "The Robertson County Schools Charter School Application Review Committee recommends non-authorization of the American Classical Academy Robertson application.”

Following the board’s denial, the charter school has 30 days to submit an amended application for review. The board would then have 60 days to rule on the amended application.

American Classical Academy, a branch of American Classical Education affiliated with Hillsdale College, submitted a 500-page application to five school districts across Middle Tennessee in Jackson, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson and Rutherford. At the Maury County Board of Education meeting last night, American Classical Academy’s proposal was rejected by a vote of 6-5.

Three districts in Murfreesboro, Clarksville and Jackson, previously denied ACE charter applications in July. However, the school reemerged late last year, filing an application across the five counties.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

PEDIGREE Foundation, a philanthropic organization that helps dogs find their forever homes, will host “The Love of Dogs” Benefit Concert on Wednesday, May 17th at 6:00pm at Marathon Music Works (1402Clinton St, Nashville, TN 37203).

The concert event will be hosted by syndicated country radio personality Shawn Parr and will include a cocktail reception, dinner, and exciting live/silent auction that will be followed by a Special Musical Performance by Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives – all to benefit PEDIGREE Foundation and its shelter and rescue grants program.

Marty Stuart is a Country Music Hall of Famer, five-time Grammy-winner, and AMA Lifetime Achievement honoree. Stuart will release his new album, Altitude, just two days after the event on May 19th via Snakefarm.

Limited tickets and ticket packages are on sale now. For more information about the event and tickets, please visit the www.donate.pedigreefoundation.org/event.

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