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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 4, 2024

WKOM/WKRM RadioSouthern Middle Tennessee TodayNews Copy for April 4, 2024

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


We start with local news…

Construction Fee Progresses (MSM, WKOM)

A temporary solution to Maury County’s desire for an impact fee moved a step closer to final passage in the General Assembly.

House Bill 2426, previously touted by Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) as a compromise with builders and Realtors, was approved by a House subcommittee without opposition, then was heard by the Finance, Ways & Means Committee at its April 2 meeting, where it was passed with amendments and will now be considered by the House Calendar and Rules Committee today.

The bill would allow counties that meet specific criteria – which includes Maury – to temporarily increase their adequate facilities tax on new residential and commercial construction, up to $1.50 per square foot. Such changes would require a two-thirds vote of the county’s legislative body in two consecutive meetings. After four years a county could increase the adequate facilities tax by up to 10 percent, again by a two-thirds vote.

Maury County’s current rates are 50 cents per square foot for residential construction and 30 cents for non-residential. County officials have said Maury is losing out on millions of dollars in revenue and suffering as a result.

Eligible counties would be those which saw a 20 percent increase in population between the 2010 U.S. Census and the 2020 Census, or those which saw a 9 percent increase over the last four years as determined by a special census. A county could use annual census estimates to maintain eligibility if it fits one of the initial criteria.

Maury County saw a 24.7 percent increase in its population from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Census numbers. The most recent census estimate had the county’s population on July 1, 2023 at 110,760 – a 9.69 percent increase in that three-year span.

“House Bill 2426 makes changes to the County Powers Relief Act to further assist counties financially,” bill sponsor Rep. Tim Hicks (R-Gray) told the Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee during its March 27 meeting. “All we’re doing is setting this up for the counties to be able to do this their way.”

During questioning, the subcommittee was advised by legal counsel that a county’s changes to its adequate facilities tax would have to be at two regularly scheduled meetings and that a called meeting could not be utilized.

Initially, the bill was written to apply to Maury, Montgomery, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson counties. Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin) asked if Williamson could be removed via amendment and was told by Hicks that as amended, both Williamson and Wilson would be removed.

“Those counties currently are Rutherford, Sumner, Trousdale, Maury and Montgomery counties,” Hicks said in referring to which counties would be eligible under the bill, if ultimately approved.

Also on March 27, the Senate State & Local Government Committee approved its version of the bill by a 7-2 vote, moving it forward to that chamber’s Finance, Ways & Means Committee. Adam Lowe (R-Calhoun) and Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) voted against the bill.

Another amendment would limit the ability of a commercial building to be taxed to 150,000 square feet, regardless of its ultimate size. That concession was made in order to get the builders on board, noted Sen. Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro), who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

When the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee will take up the bill was not immediately known.

Local officials, including County Mayor Sheila Butt, have said HB 2426 would help but is only a temporary fix to a long-term problem.

“The legislation simply gives local government elected officials one option to help pay for growth. I am convinced that if we can’t get more ‘buy in’ to our community from developers that the quality of life for all of Maury Countians will suffer,” Butt said in a previous statement.


Mule Day (MSM)

Mule Day, the biggest annual celebration in Maury County, is celebrating a special milestone in 2024 as the event marks the 50th anniversary of its rebirth.

Mule Day is an annual celebration of all things related to mules and is held in Columbia, the so-called “Mule Capital” of the world. Begun in 1840 as “Breeder’s Day,” a single-day livestock show and mule market event held on the first Monday in April, the event was discontinued after World War II. The Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club helped resurrect the event in 1974 and now Mule Day has attracted as many as 200,000 people to downtown Columbia and takes place over four days. In addition to mules, food, music, dancing and crafts are featured.

“Today it’s Mule Day and that goes back to 1934,” said Louise Mills, the public relations director for Mule Day. “In the old days when it was Mule Market, it was a one-day event and they’d have a mule sale and sell stock. Everyone came to town and they looked forward to it all year long.

“It gets stronger and stronger every year, and this year we’re 50 years old!”

The heavy involvement of Maury County in the mule industry has caused the event to grow over time into “one of the largest livestock markets in the world,” according to organizers.

Mule Day’s return in 1974 came via the efforts of the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club, which was searching for a service project. A committee was formed and opted to recreate the traditional Mule Day.

Harvey Spann, the current president of the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club, was part of that committee and is one of two surviving members.

“I was a Navy recruiter in Columbia at the time, and Harv Mason, who was a disc jockey at WMCP, and I were good friends and both belonged to the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club. Someone brought pictures of the past Mule Day from the 1930s through the second World War and we got to looking at them, and one of us said we ought to try and bring it back,” Spann said.

“They appointed a committee of seven people, and I’m one of two still alive. Larry Watson, who now lives in Hohenwald, was one of the others.”

The 1974 event had a budget of $500 and consisted of a Queen’s Contest, a Mule Show on Friday and the Saturday Parade, Mule Pulling and Square Dance. Spann said there were no fences in Maury County Park at the time, which limited what organizers could pull off.

“It wasn’t nothing compared to what it is now,” Spann said of that 1974 Mule Day. “Over the years it has grown exponentially. We own the rights to Mule Day, but the mind-set of the people here is that Mule Day belongs to everyone in Maury County and Tennessee. We’re just the custodians of it.”

Today, Mule Day includes a log-pulling competition, a Miss Mule Day pageant for kids, live music concerts, a state auctioneer contest, a craft fair and much more. The full schedule can be found online at www.muleday.com.

“The mule shows at the park will run from Thursday through Sunday, and they add to it every year,” Mills said. “This year we have some different events and ones we’re continuing to do. There’s a lot of interest in something like a dog show or the Little Miss Mule Day pageant. Those little girls just flock to the pageant.”

The Mule Day Parade draws enormous crowds to downtown Columbia and has had big-name grand marshals in recent years. This year, country music star Clay Walker will serve as the grand marshal for the April 6 parade.

“I think he probably has a lot of fans who would love to see him in the parade, and we’re tickled to have him,” Mills said.

The parade’s honorary grand marshal will be the late David Skillington, who passed away in December 2023. He served as the Mule Day Treasurer for a number of years and was a respected member of the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club, achieving recognition in the Mule Day Hall of Fame. Skillington also is noted for dedicating his time to the Maury County Senior Citizen Board and the Maury County Park Board.

Members of Skillington’s family will ride in the parade in his memory.

The Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club has about 100 members and is one of the most active clubs in the state. The Mule Day Committee is made up of around 40 volunteer members, which consist of Directors and Assistant Directors for each function of Mule Day.

“We’ve got members who have been involved for 40, 50 years,” Spann said. “It gets to be a labor of love. Recruiting is an ongoing issue, getting younger members.”

The Club also thanks the many sponsors who help contribute to the success of Mule Day, including the City Of Columbia, Maury County Government, Maury County Visitors Bureau, Maury Alliance, the Kiwanis Club, The Lighthouse Church, Maury Regional Medical Center and Maury County Parks and Recreation.

Charitable contributions have been a staple for the Bridle & Saddle Club and Mule Day organizers since the event came back. Spann said in 1974 the proceeds were used to provide seven food baskets to needy families.

“Since then, we’ve continually given some of our proceeds to charity,” Spann said. “We’ve spent a lot of money here in Maury County Park putting in facilities to make it easier to have Mule Day. As long as we can, that’s what we’ll do. It’s home to us.”

Putting on Mule Day is a year-round process and Mills said the Mule Day Committee is already working on plans for 2025.

“We’ve already started working on next year. You have to get that jump on it and there’s a lot of stuff in October, November, December,” Mills said. “It takes a lot of effort and a lot of work; it’s more than year round!”

The financial impact of Mule Day for Columbia and Maury County is in the millions. Spann said a study in the 1990s estimated it at $15 million then and couldn’t guess what it is today.

“Having people come and visit our county and spend money helps everybody economically,” Spann said.

For more information on Mule Day and the 2024 event, visit www.muleday.com or call (931) 381-9557.

Planning Board Splits on Developments (MSM)

The Maury County Regional Planning Commission rejected one concept plan for a proposed development while giving initial approval to another at its March 25 meeting.

A concept plan for a 360-unit development in Spring Hill was ultimately rejected as planners cited traffic concerns, lack of emergency response and the city’s rejection of access from Kedron Road.

Meredithe Hyjek moved to deny the application based on Spring Hill’s rejection of Kedron Road access.

“We are dealing with a legal issue here with Spring Hill denying the use of Kedron Road. That is the natural way in and out of this development,” she said. “Why do we have to go and disrupt Pumpkin Creek and all these other roads?”

The motion to deny passed 7-1, with David Horwath voting no.

Initially, motions to approve and motions to deny each failed for lack of a second among the members of the planning commission.

Planning Commission member Mark Cook moved to approve the concept plan with the condition that the Planning Commission would not approve any further developments that tie into Greens Mill Road, but withdrew his motion after being told by Chairman Harold Delk that the board could not impose such restrictions on future requests.

John Cooper of law firm Holland & Knight, representing the developer, noted that the project received concept plat approval in the spring of 2023, contingent upon a connection to Kedron Road. Cooper said the developer had negotiated such an agreement with the City of Spring Hill, but it was rejected by the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“The concept plan meets all legal requirements of the subdivision regulations,” Cooper told commissioners. “The previous condition is now an impossibility because the city will not allow it. This new plan has sufficient connection points to Greens Mill Road and Pumpkin Creek (Lane).”

Before the vote on the concept plan, a preliminary plat was deferred at the request of planning staff with the developer’s concurrence.

Nearby residents, several of whom were in attendance, asked planners to reject the development.

Maggie DeLisi said Lee Road and Pumpkin Creek Lane would need to be widened to accommodate the influx of traffic and also noted the regular presence of bicyclists in the area, adding that bike lanes would be needed. DeLisi also noted the time first responders need to respond, saying that Spring Hill’s Fire Station No. 3 does not service that area.

“Now you’re going to stick 360 more homes back there; who’s going to service us?” she said. “We have plenty of houses around here, but I’m really concerned about the safety. We just can’t handle it.”

Kenneth Unger claimed the most recent traffic study was two years old.

“We’ve got a lot more traffic than we did two years ago on Greens Mill Road,” he said. “I’ve watched from my house trucks that are making deliveries down Regan Road and one has to wait because they cannot pass each other.”

Beth Norwood echoed the traffic study concern and also said the water availability letter had expired. She also cited previous Planning Commission minutes during which planners had said they leaned against Pumpkin Creek being used for construction traffic.

Scott Sumners, who recently was appointed to the County Commission, said the inability to utilize access to Kedron Road should make the Planning Commission’s decision a no-brainer.

“With the City of Spring Hill denying access to Kedron Road, that should be the biggest red flag ever and should kill this project for good,” Sumners said.

Developers conceded that the traffic data was collected in 2022 but said it had been updated with projections through 2030.

Cook asked if a city annexed land but not the road it borders, whether the city had the authority to deny access to that road. He also asked if planned developments on Shaw Road and Greens Mill Road had been included in the traffic study, and was told it was not part of the analysis.

“That is what we are dealing with… It’s putting this planning commission in very bad positions,” Cook said. “The buildout of all three of those would take the stretch between Regan Road and Kedron Road from 1,400 trips a day to approximately 7,400 trips a day.”

Planning staff said that in its review, projections were more like an increase of 3,400 trips per day between Pumpkin Creek and Greens Mill.

Planners also took up a dual request regarding a proposed 724-acre Planned Urban Development (PUD) on Highway 431 and Flat Creek Road in Spring Hill.

The owners are seeking to have the property rezoned from A-2 Rural Residential to R-PUD and also submitted a preliminary master development plan for approval.

The development would include 407 homes and a planned golf course, according to Mark Enderle of Storied Development.

“We’ve got a long history of doing these type of communities in Tennessee and across the country; we’ve done The Grove in Williamson County,” Enderle told the board.

Enderle added that the developer would voluntarily pay a $2 per square foot impact fee on the residential development, noting Maury County’s fight to enact such a fee on developers.

Peder Jensen, who volunteers with the Maury County Fire Department, noted the county’s height restrictions on buildings and that the department did not have a ladder truck. Jensen noted that such a truck costs an estimated $2 million.

“From a Fire Department perspective, we’re going to struggle,” Jensen said. “We don’t have a way to properly serve the size of the homes… I’d like to see our county commission think through these requirements and how you’re going to staff us appropriately.”

Residents again spoke on their concerns, which were similar to the previous request.

“If anybody’s ever been down Flat Creek Road, especially with large dump trucks and 18-wheelers, there’s no room for another car,” said Mark Hyjek. “Water in our area… there are four other developments going in up there. Is the water department going to be able to handle the demand?”

Hyjek called the request a “spot zone,” saying the golf course would likely not be open to the public and would only benefit the residents of the proposed development.

Ray Jeter, who represents District 8 on the County Commission, said he had met with residents and the developer to hear concerns. He praised the developers’ willingness to self-impose an impact fee.

“This is one as a county commissioner that I really have to look at. Maury County does not currently have anything like this in our county… As I try to figure out how we’re going to fund the needs of this county (the impact fee) is a big deal.”

Jeter noted that Williamson County has similar developments and uses those to fund much of its school capital needs.

One nearby resident countered, “Everybody who’s going to live in that subdivision is never going to spend a penny in Maury County. They’re going to go to Williamson County, to Cool Springs… It’s morally wrong what you’re going to do to us if you approve this.”

Perry Dillehay decried what he called “carpetbaggers” who come into the community, saying, “I find it hard to believe they’re going to be part of our community. The closest school is going to be Spring Hill, you’re not going to send these kids to that school. Is Williamson County going to cover it? Absolutely not.”

Horwath asked if the development’s roads would have sidewalks, given that they would be private roads. Enderle replied that they would for the most part.

Regarding water concerns, another of the applicant’s representatives stated that Maury County Water had a commitment for 2 million gallons per day and could serve 140 lots immediately.

Planning staff noted that if the rezoning and preliminary development plan were approved by the county commission, the planning commission would still be able to weigh in on preliminary and final plats in the future.

Hyjek again moved to reject the PUD, saying, “If we read from the A-2 Rural Residential district guidelines, it speaks about farming, agricultural activities, having the necessary services available… This does not fit in this area, we don’t have the services.” Her motion died for lack of a second.

The request was ultimately approved by a 7-1 vote with Hyjek in opposition. The rezoning and PUD will now go before the county commission for its approval.

And now, news from around the state…

State Unemployment Rates Drop (WilliamsonHerald)

More Tennesseans started the second month of 2024 on the job as employment improved across the state in February, with every county recording lower unemployment rates for the month.

According to newly released data from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, all 95 counties showed an improved unemployment situation when compared to their revised January numbers. The decrease in unemployment across the state led each county to post rates under 5 percent in February.

Williamson County had the state’s second-lowest rate of the month at 2.1 percent, a 0.4 percent decrease, followed by Rutherford County, which dipped from 2.7 percent to 2.2 percent in February.

Davidson County registered a 2.3 percent jobless rate in February, down from the 2.8 percent rate in the same month of 2023.

Moore County had the lowest unemployment in Tennessee with a rate of 1.9 percent. That represented a 0.8 percent drop from its January number.

Maury County tied Hickman and Wilson Counties for 8th spot on the list at 2.3%.

Nobody Trashes TN Joins BSA (Press Release)

The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s (TDOT) Nobody Trashes Tennessee (NTT) litter prevention campaign is once again expanding its youth group partnerships. All six Boy Scouts of America councils serving Tennessee have joined with Nobody Trashes Tennessee to offer scouts the opportunity to earn a Nobody Trashes Tennessee patch.

 Boy Scouts of all ages have multiple ways to earn the patch by completing Nobody Trashes Tennessee educational worksheets and participating in litter cleanups in their community, coordinating their own cleanup in their neighborhood or school grounds, or through existing beautification and service projects. For Boy Scouts ages 12 and older, the Adopt-A-Highway program is an opportunity to earn both a patch and a roadway recognition panel for committing to quarterly pickups. Patches are provided by Nobody Trashes Tennessee at no cost to the councils or individual scouts.

 “Community service is woven into the fabric of our program,” said Casey Norwood, Scout Executive/CEO, Boy Scouts of America, Chickasaw Council. “I believe the goals of the Nobody Trashes Tennessee campaign align well with our Scouts giving back to the communities in which we all love and live.”

 All scouts are encouraged to participate in spring and summer cleanup events in their communities, including the Great American Cleanup, which continues through June. Observances including Earth Day on April 22 offer additional opportunities for troops to join existing events or conduct their own community cleanup.

 “Boy Scouts are known for their commitment to community and partnering with Nobody Trashes Tennessee underscores their dedication to instilling values of environmental stewardship, civic responsibility, and leadership in young people,” said Brittany Morris, TDOT Beautification Office. “We are thrilled to have participation from all six councils representing the state.”

 The Boy Scouts join Tennessee’s three Girl Scout councils, and additional youth groups in offering the NTT patch.

 All residents are encouraged to show their support for a litter-free Tennessee. To find a local cleanup event, visit nobodytrashestennessee.com/events. Join the conversation on FacebookInstagramand on X.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Need plans after the Mule Day parade? The Factory at Columbia has you covered.

This event will feature an afternoon of music with the Muletown Songwriters. Bring the family for some great music, good food and fun shopping!

Date: Saturday, April 6, 2024Time: 12-3pmAddress: 101 N James M Campbell Blvd, Columbia, TN

This event is free to attend.

Songwriters include:Jacob “PooserSavanah NicoleClyde VantassellGolden Soul ReviewPatty McCabeNessa LeeEvan AllenJames Gregory


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