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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 3, 2024

WKOM/WKRM RadioSouthern Middle Tennessee TodayNews Copy for April 3, 2024

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


We start with local news…

Ultium Produces First Cells (CDH)

Ultium Cells in Spring Hill successfully shipped its first battery cells to its customer, General Motors.

This milestone represents the culmination of two-and-a-half years of work, according to an Ultium press release issued Monday.

“This moment has been years in the making, and I’m grateful to the thousands of contractors, community partners, and team members who have worked tirelessly to make this moment a reality," Plant Director Chris Desautels said. "We’ve built a great team here in Spring Hill, and we’re proud of this world-class facility.”

The facility, which spans a half mile along Highway 31 between Spring Hill and Columbia, will continue to produce millions of battery cells for GM’s Ultium Platform electric vehicles, including the Cadillac Lyriq produced at GM’s neighboring Spring Hill Assembly plant.

Shipments to other GM plants will increase in volume and frequency as the plant commissions additional production lines.

“Tennessee creates incredible synergies by combining the operational expertise of GM and the validated, state of the art battery processes and equipment technology of LG Energy Solution to make benchmark battery cells for our customer General Motors," Youngduk Kim, Regional Director Dispatched from LG Energy Solution, said.

Ultium Cells continues to seek well-qualified applicants to join the company's launch team at the . Interested applicants can visit www.ultiumcell.com to learn more about Ultium Cells or apply for career openings.

Spring Hill is Ultium Cells’ second battery cell manufacturing plant to reach regular production, after the Warren, Ohio plant, which started regular production in November 2022.

The approximately $2.6 billion, 2.8 million square foot facility, is projected to be fully operational by 2025 with a workforce of up to 1,700 workers.


Spring Hill Library Pitches Expansion (CDH)

Spring Hill Public Library presented its annual report to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, addressing the facility nearing its capacity for space, while also being short staffed and growing in memberships.

Library Director Dana Juriew presented the annual report Monday. Juriew shared many examples of how, while Spring Hill's library maintains a Level 5 status, or a library that serves a population greater than 50,000, it falls below the state standards in many areas.

For example, Spring Hill's library space is approximately 17,000 square feet, while other Tennessee Level 5 libraries in cities like Johnson City, Kingsport, Brentwood and others range between 26,000 and 55,000, with some also being multiple stories in height.

"If we had the square footage that some of these other libraries have, there's no doubt we would have things like HOA meetings in our facility, more scout troops," Juriew said. "We would have more businesses using our makers space and our other areas."

Staffing also falls below the standards, which requires 15.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. Spring Hill currently has 12, lacking two full-time clerks, as well as one full-time computer maintenance/training person.

This has prompted library staff to find a solution by requesting two new self-checkout stations for members to curb the staffing shortage, as well as 10 laptops for computer instruction. There is also a need for additional shelving, which Juriew said is "at its capacity."

"The additional shelving gives us one last row, because it's all we can fit," Juriew said. "After that, ADA would have a problem with us not leaving space for wheelchairs to get through, and carts and strollers. We no longer have room for new materials that the public is demanding."

While square footage, daily visits and employee numbers remain at the bottom when it comes to level 5 libraries, Spring Hill ranks among the top for circulation.

According to data presented Monday, Spring Hill ranks third with 365,067 items checked out annually behind Brentwood at 465,479 and Johnson City at 507,940.

"Even though we have fewer people come in, we are the 'home school library,'" Juriew said. "They check out up to 30 items a week, and we process all of those that come in and come out. It's quite a dramatic number there."

And those numbers are just physical circulation, not including online transactions and other services the library provides. This includes more than 365,067 print, DVD, audio and CD checkouts, as well as 115,171 e-book, e-audio and streaming checkouts in 2023.

Additional services include rentals of Wi-Fi hotspots, computers, video games, memory kits for those experiencing dementia, and even a car charger in the event customers might need a jump. "It happens more than you would expect," Juriew said.

These services amounted to 5,177 checkouts last year.

Another aspect of the library Juriew touched on was its services and programs for early childhood learning.

This is another area she hopes to see grow as the city's population increases, and that while space is definitely a need, providing a well-rounded education program to future generations is also testament.

"Early literacy is, of course, our bread and butter, our children, our homeschool community," she said. "Our targets are providing programs for literacy from birth, all the way from baby time to high school."

This includes programs like partnering with the Boys & Girls Club to visit schools and provide tutoring for students struggling with reading skills.

The future of the Spring Hill Public Library has been a major topic for many years amongst the BOMA in a search to address its expansion needs, at one point being considered for relocation to the Northfield Development Center building. When it came time to discuss Monday's presentation, board members seemed in support of the requests, given that it would provide a solution of some kind, even if it isn't the ultimate goal of having a new building.

Alderman Matt Fitterer suggested the notion of implementing a fee for members who are not Spring Hill residents, which is typical in other libraries, while locals would generate funding via local property taxes. The library does currently charge a $25 membership fee, but only to residents outside Williamson and Maury Counties, Juriew said.

Fitterer said it's a suggestion he has made in the past but was never adopted, and that the library board should revisit the idea.

"I know the Level 5 is based on the population you serve, not necessarily the population of the city, because I think we know we have a lot of people outside of the city limits who come and use the public library," Fitterer said. "That's fine and I think it's fair to welcome in, but I also think it's fair to ask them to help financially support the library and the services they aren't paying for through property taxes."

Alderman John Canepari said the non-resident fee would likely only generate the $26,000 Williamson County currently allots each year, and so might not be the best solution.

Canepari concluded saying part of the library's continued progress has been through straying away from cost increases, while also having employees working overtime to remain within the annual budget.

The main goal should remain in the design and progress in creating a larger, more modern facility to meet the state standards, as well as fall in line with the other Level 5 state libraries. This includes a design proposal to be included in the upcoming fiscal budget, which will go before the BOMA in June.

"It's coming, a new building is coming as long as I'm sitting here," Canepari said. "I'm going to keep my eye on the budget."


Fast Paced Urgent Care Opens (WKOM Audio 1:42)

Yesterday, Fast Pace Urgent Care Clinic opened in Spring Hill. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy stopped by the ribbon cutting and spoke with Cynthia Stevens, Fast Pace Regional Director and Physician’s Assistant Taylor Dodson to learn more about the services they provide…

Highschool Competition at CSCC (CDH)

Recently over 150 high school students participated in Columbia State Community College’s annual High School Competition when students from nine southern Middle Tennessee high schools competed in different academic areas, including creative writing, vocal performance, algebra and sociology.

“We had a fantastic turnout for the 2024 High School Competition, with students representing nine schools and six counties in our service area,” said Daniel Kelley. “The competitors performed exceptionally well and impressed our faculty judges with their abilities, knowledge, and talents. Thanks to our faculty and staff volunteers, this annual event was a tremendous success.”

Dating back to the 1980s, the competition continues to focus on humanities disciplines and has since added math components.


Hippies and Cowboys to Perform (CDH)

Hippies & Cowboys, rock and roll band out of Music City, is set to perform at The Mulehouse, 8 p.m. Friday.

Tickets are $20 and $25.

The band has performed at Pilgrimage music fest, appeared in People Magazine and is building a following at Kid Rock’s in Nashville. In May, they open for popular Southern rock band Blackberry Smoke. 

With lead singer Aaron Sparling, 26, the band just launched a live album recorded at Fox & Locke, where they were first noticed at the venue’s legendary Open Mic Night.  

Hippies & Cowboys are currently recording a studio album of newly written songs, along with a couple of surprise rock standards, according to a media release.

The sound is a the cross between country and Southern, rock and soul, the release says.

They will also perform at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion and will be “back by popular demand” at Pilgrimage in Franklin.

For more information, visit https://www.hippiesandcowboysband.com.


Regional Hosts Coaches Clinic (Press Release)

Maury Regional Health athletic trainers will host a coaches clinic for all sports coaches in the area to learn more about preparing athletes for their season.

The clinic will be held April 13 at 9 a.m. at the Maury Regional Annex, which is across the street from Maury Regional Medical Center at 1223 Trotwood Ave. in Columbia. It is meant for coaches of any age group (youth, middle school, high school, college or volunteer) or for anyone else who wants to learn about coaching, leadership, athlete safety and more.

 A group of speakers are slated to present, including:

·         Brigadier General Steven Turner, assistant adjutant general with the Tennessee Army National Guard will present on leadership, ownership and mentorship.

·         Andrew K. Nielsen, MD, a specialist in internal medicine and pediatrics with Maury Regional Medical Group Primary Care & Pediatrics, will present on nutrition and hydration.

·         Andrea Bain, PT, a physical therapist with Maury Regional Medical Center, will present on proper warm-up techniques and injury prevention.

·         Amanda Cothran, MSN, RN, CEN, the stroke, trauma and chest pain center coordinator for Maury Regional Medical Center, will present on pre-hospital management of athletic injuries. 

 After the speaker session, CPR training will be provided for anyone interested. It will not serve as a certification course though it will count toward Bronze-level CPR/AED training for the Tennessee Safe Stars Act. Coaches from Maury County Public Schools will also receive in-service credit for attending.

 The clinic is free to attend. Registration is not required, but anyone attending is asked to RSVP by emailing dhightower@mauryregional.com.


Where is Maury the Mule (Press Release)

Maury the Mule is LOST in Maury County and we need your help to find him!

Find Maury the Mule hidden in businesses across Maury County for a chance to win $500 and other great prizes.Maury Alliance’s annual “Where’s Maury the Mule?” shop local passport adventure is happening now. The rules are simple: pick up a passport, find Maury the Mule hidden in as many businesses as possible, and turn your passport in at the Maury Alliance office by 5:00 pm on Tuesday, April 9th. Share your adventure on social media using #maurythemule so everyone can follow along!

This year’s event was made possible by the generosity of Harmon Scrap Metal in Columbia, TN. Harmon Scrap Metal is a premier scrap metal recycling company and has been family owned and operated since 1985. Learn more at https://www.harmonscrapmetal.com/.

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.

Mule Kick 5K (Press Release)

Hosted by the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation and presented by First Farmers and Merchants Bank, the annual Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will take place Saturday, April 6, at Riverwalk Park in Columbia.

Proceeds from the 2024 Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot provide funding for Maury Regional Health’s mobile medical unit, which delivers health care services to at-risk and underserved individuals throughout southern Middle Tennessee by providing basic health screenings, education and resources. A portion of the proceeds from the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will also support the Foundation’s Wellness and Aquatics Center Healthy Living Endowment and the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, the Maury County school with the most participation in the event will receive a donation to their P.E. program from the Foundation.

“The Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot is a great tradition for both Maury County and the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation that helps support our mission of providing important health care services for individuals who may not otherwise be able to obtain care,” Foundation Executive Director Joe Kilgore said. “We are excited to host the Mule Kick 5K and look forward to an exciting race!”

On Saturday, April 6, the race will begin at Riverwalk Park in Columbia with an 8 a.m. start time for the 5K and a 9:15 a.m. start time for the 1-Mile Trot. Both runners and walkers are encouraged to participate. Participants may register for the race online at runsignup.com/MuleKick5K.

“First Farmers is pleased to continue our ongoing partnership with the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation for this year's Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot. We are proud to support the vital work of the Foundation which exemplifies our dedication to fostering well-being in our region,” said Brian K. Williams, chairman and CEO of First Farmers.

In addition to presenting sponsor First Farmers and Merchants Bank, sponsorships ranging from $350 to $2,500 are still available for those who are interested in marketing exposure at this event. For additional information, contact the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation at 931.381.1111, ext. 1012.

To learn more about the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation, the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot or to make a direct gift to support the mobile medical unit fund, visit MauryRegional.com/Foundation.


And now, news from around the state…

Coffee County Mayor Found Dead (WKRN)

Coffee County Mayor Judd Matheny was found dead at his home Tuesday morning, just one week shy of his 54th birthday.

The Tullahoma Police Department said officers were sent to a home in the 1900 block of E. Lincoln Street to investigate a possible death. When they arrived, they found Matheny dead at the home.

No cause of death was released.

Matheny had been mayor of Coffee County since September 2022. Before that, he was a state representative for the districts of Coffee, Grundy and Warren counties.

The police department issued the following statement on Matheny’s death:

The Tullahoma Police Department expresses its deepest condolences on the passing of CoffeeCounty Mayor Judd Matheny. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and constituents duringthis difficult time. Mayor Matheny dedicated his life to serving our community, both as a successful businessman, farmer, and as a committed public servant. His leadership and dedication will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

Multiple Tullahoma and Coffee County lawmakers who worked with Matheny have since issued statements on their former colleague’s passing, from the state to local levels.

State Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) said she joined those in mourning:

I join with public servants from across the state in expressing our shock, loss and grief in learning of the untimely passing of our friend Judd Matheny. Prayers for his family as they walk through this time of loss.”

House Minority Leader Karen Camper (D-Memphis), who served with Matheny in the state house issued the following statement:

It was an honor to serve with him. We worked together on the first ever expungement bill in the Tennessee General Assembly. He signed on to be a co-sponsor and when I had to leave to tend to a family emergency, he presented the bill on the House floor and got it passed. Even though we were on different sides of the aisle, we were able to come together to do what was right for the citizens of Tennessee. My sincere prayers and condolences go out to his family.”

The investigation has since been handed over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, according to officials. TBI confirmed they were investigating at the request of 14th Judicial District Attorney General Craig Northcott in a statement to News 2, saying an autopsy will be conducted and the investigation remains “active and ongoing.” A TBI spokesperson said they were working with both the DA’s office and Tullahoma police on the death investigation.


Gas Prices (MSM)

Gas prices across the state continued to fluctuate over last week, but fortunately the moves in pricing were more favorable for drivers. Gas prices fell three cents, on average, over last week. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.15 which is 14 cents more expensive than one month ago but six cents less than one year ago.  

“We’re still continuing to see the fluctuation in pricing we would expect to see at the gas pump this time of year,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Fortunately for drivers, prices at the pump did move slightly less expensive at the pump over last week. Barring any major shifts in the overall oil market, it’s likely that prices will fall back into the ebb and flow of the seasonal increase in pump prices in the coming weeks as we head toward the busier summer driving season.” 

Quick Facts

  • 76% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.25 

  • The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.90 for regular unleaded 

  • The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.51 for regular unleaded

  • Tennessee is the 5th least expensive market in the nation

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Cirque du Soleil and Universal Music Group Nashville are excited to present Songblazers, an innovative country-themed show written and directed by Amy Tinkham. This dynamic theatrical production pays tribute to the legendary and modern trailblazers of country music. Charting the journey of two main characters as they forge their own path to country recognition, Songblazers promises an unforgettable experience for audiences.

The show will have a seven-city tour kicking off in Nashville at TPAC on July 2 – July 28th.Tickets are available now.

To secure your seats, visit: www.cirquedusoleil.com/songblazers.


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