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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 5, 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 Mixed Use Plan (MainStreetMaury)

Developers of a previously approved mixed-use project along Spring Hill’s Port Royal Road have requested a major modification to the project following an architectural design change, which would increase commercial space and allow more “synergy” among the project, developers told the Spring Hill Planning Commission last week.

Originally approved in October 2022 was 84,000 square feet of commercial space, but the modified plan would include 123,000 square feet. The residential prospect is 237 units or 12.92 units per acre. 

Project developer Andy Zhu of Pentagon Holdings said the change came after talking with a number of parties with a vested interest and realizing the approved plan may not be viable, specifically for commercial tenants. As approved, the storefronts would have been lined along Port Royal Road, but that wasn’t an option following those discussions, Zhu said. 

“Part of our intent was always that the corridor along Port Royal would be the active corridor. That’s where you want to see the energy,” he said. “We are kind of exploring how we can stay in line with the original intent of the site with the open space and improve the access and viability of the commercial space while also improving safety, pedestrian walkability and making sure we can break those parking lots up a little bit. 

“Maybe there’s a chance here to push the design in a different way.”

Aldermen Matt Fitterer and Trent Linville, along with commissioner Jonathan Duda commended Ken Babinchak of Smith Gee Studio for their work on the latest proposed development.

“This is obviously a more thoughtful design than what we saw previously; it’s unfortunate you weren’t here six months ago,” Fitterer said. 

Babinchak and Smith Gee Studio, who have worked on the Berry Farms project in Franklin, said his group wanted to build a sense of place with the new design.

“We really like this idea of a centralized amenity open space, but how can we embrace that and enhance it? We wanted to locate the place-making internal to the site,” he said. “By making it internal, it is not only more pedestrian-friendly, but it enhances the connectivity and enhances the synergy among those uses.”

With the changes comes new amenity options. The original plan included a central lawn, fire pit seating areas, dog park and a pond or water feature. In the proposed plan, there is a pocket park, a kid’s play area, a dog park, a central lawn and an event stage. 

“We located the open space and extended it out to Port Royal Road so it’s more visible and creates the front door,” Babinchak said. 

One of the major changes would be added height and length to the multi-use buildings. Babinchak said that in order to properly frame the open space to scale, the multi-use buildings would need to be taller than initially approved, but still within the approved levels of the commission. Building length, however, was a point of contention in the first design and Babinchak proposes adding 50 feet to each of the mixed-use buildings to 225 feet. 

Linville said he would like to hear feedback from the fire marshal before offering his thoughts on the request. 

The project is scheduled to come back before the board at its next meeting on April 10, but would not be up for a vote at the meeting.

“It’s been exciting working with the city on this project. Hopefully it can bring something exciting and impactful for the city and the residents and neighbors nearby,” Zhu said. 


School Safety a Top Priority in Maury (MainStreetMaury)

As conversations continue on the issue of gun safety across the state and country in the aftermath of the death of three students and three faculty members at a Nashville private school, student safety remains atop the priority list in Maury County.

While no additional measures have been introduced at Columbia Academy immediately, head of security, Ben Jones, said he and school administration are constantly finding ways to better secure their campus.

“Columbia Academy is unique in its campus design with multiple buildings, but we feel like we have a high standard of safety when it comes to our students,” Jones said. “We’re always trying to get a different perspective from parents, alumni and staff on what we have and if it’s enough.”

Since being named head of security, Jones said a lot has been improved upon in both policy and procedures, but also in physical protection.

“We have cameras and access control systems in place, and we have multiple armed security on campus,” he said. “We work with local law enforcement to host training sessions to make them familiar with our buildings and campus, and so their response times are reduced as much as it can be.”

Meanwhile, Maury County Public Schools serves over 13,000 students in the pre-K through 12th grade, with the number of students continuing to rise due to the county’s rapid growth rate.

Jonathan Barry, School Safety Coordinator for MCPS, said protocols have been in place as long as there has been a school district. Focus shifted in the late 1990s to include active shooter procedures, he said, following the school shooting in Giles County and Columbine.

In 1995, 17-year-old James Ellison Rouse opened fire at Richland High School in Lynnville in Giles County, killing one student and one teacher. The shooting is considered noteworthy for occurring before the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which killed 12 students and one teacher.

Barry said MCPS security protocols are referred to as Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) and are required by the state to be revised and updated yearly.

“My office is responsible for ensuring the completion of EOPs and submitting them to the state via our state approved school security software,” Barry said.

Updated EOPs are required to be submitted to the state prior to each new school year. Barry added that districtwide security assessments are also required to be completed each spring for each individual campus.

“These security assessments identify areas of weakness and allow us to focus our efforts on the identified weakness,” he said.

Barry also said School Resource Officers (SROs) are in each building, with two in each high school and two in one middle school. The funding for SROs was originally a joint effort by MCPS and Maury County Government at the inception of the program. Now, the division is completely funded by the county government. Jack Cobb, Communications Director for MCPS, stated in an email that the district has had SROs in place since 1999 and was the first district in Tennessee to have an officer in every school building.

Barry did not go into detail about the products used to secure buildings but did say that MCPS has protective measures for glass and windows, which have been in place for over five years. Cobb added that school doors have bullet-resistant laminate that would make it hard to gain access.

“Additionally, most entrance doors now have two-way mirror-protective vinyl graphics,” he said in an email to Main Street Maury.

In the most recent shooting in Nashville, the gunman was able to access the building by shooting through the glass doors, but Jones said there is a method in place at Columbia Academy’s campus to prevent such an entrance to their buildings.

“That was similar to the Sandy Hook shooting. It’s something that’s been done before and it’s something we’re prepared for,” Jones said.

Jones said he is confident that Columbia Academy has prepared itself the best it can for an active shooter situation.

“It’s an ongoing process, I always want to do more. We’re limited with time and funding, but it’s something (head of schools) Dr. James Thomas and our board have made a priority,” he said. “I’ll never feel like enough is enough, though. I’ll always try to do more any time I can.”

“Watching the dramatic footage from last Monday is a sobering reminder to the dangers we face in our school environment,” Barry added. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Covenant School Community in Nashville.”


Mule Kick 5K Results (Press Release)

A total of 564 runners and walkers participated in the 2023 Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot, presented by First Farmers Bank, at Riverwalk Park on Saturday, April 1, raising a record $34,784 for the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation thanks to contributions from racers and local sponsors.

Proceeds from the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot help to support Maury Regional Health’s mobile medical unit, which serves at-risk and uninsured patients throughout the region and has touched the lives of thousands of individuals since 2017. Proceeds also support the Foundation’s Wellness and Aquatics Center Healthy Living Endowment, the city of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department and the physical education program at Santa Fe Unit School, the area school with the most race participants.

“Thank you to presenting sponsor First Farmers Bank and all of our sponsors, runners, walkers and volunteers,” Foundation Executive Director Joe Kilgore said. “It was a little windy, but the warm sunshine made it a great day to race. The funds raised from this event will support the healthy living needs of our community’s at-risk and underserved populations through services like the Maury Regional Mobile Medical Unit.”

Justin Watson had the fastest run of the day in the 5K, finishing first overall in 17:32.95, while Ninette Chapman was first overall for the women with a time of 20:28.05. In the master category, David Hudson was first for the men in 18:18.58, and Alison Wierenga finished in 20:30.67 to lead the women. Paul Vondohlen and Connie Lovett Neal went home winners in the super grand master category, finishing respectively in 30:12.56 and 46:38.52.

The top three female finishers in the 1-Mile Trot included Harlow Hoeldtke, Audrey Turner and Ryan Laffey, while the top three male finishers were Whit Seago, Owen Slaughter and David Tuck.

A full overview of all the winners from the male and female age group categories is available at runsignup.com/MuleKick5K, where all 5K racers can also view their individual times and download their finisher certificates. Photos from the 2023 event will soon be available at Facebook.com/MuleKick5K.

To learn more about the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation or to make a gift to the mobile medical unit, visit MauryRegional.com/Foundation. 


Senior Salute Day (Press Release)

Maury County Public Schools invites area industries and businesses to their Senior Salute Day and Strive to Drive giveaway on Thursday, April 20, from 9 am to 1 pm at the Columbia Central High School Football Stadium at Maury County Park. During this event, one lucky senior will win a 2023 Jeep Compass from Columbia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat!


In addition to the Jeep Compass giveaway, this event will showcase seniors from every MCPS high school and allow area businesses to meet over 800 students and share with them what your business has to offer.


If you are interested in participating in the Senior Salute Day career fair event, you can email askmcps@mauryk12.org.




Where’s Maury the Mule? (MainStreetMaury)

The Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance kicked off their annual shop local passport adventure, “Where’s Maury the Mule?” last week. This event, presented by Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, encourages people to discover, explore, and support small businesses across Maury County.

Maury Alliance launched this event in 2016 to support local businesses and provide a fun activity for families during spring break and Mule week. “Where’s Maury the Mule?” is just one initiative from the Maury Alliance to help support the small business community, but it is one that both people and businesses look forward to each year. The event has grown every year since its inception and is now a two-week event with 35 participating businesses.

“I’ve lived in Maury County my whole life and discovered many new businesses while participating in Where’s Maury the Mule last year. It was my first time to participate in that event and me and a friend went to 30 businesses in a single day!” said Marvin Russel, the 2022 grand-prize winner.

Those interested in joining the search for Maury the Mule this year can pick up a passport from event sponsor Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, Maury Alliance, or any of the 35 participating businesses. Once you have a passport, visit as many local businesses as possible, find the Maury the Mule image hidden at each business, and get your passport stamped or signed by an employee.

Visiting at least five businesses will enter you into a participation drawing for Local First gift cards.

Visiting 20 businesses qualifies you for the grand-prize drawing. If you visit 25 businesses, you will get a double entry into the grand prize drawing, and if you visit 30 businesses, you will get at triple entry into the grand prize drawing.

To be entered into the grand prize drawing, passports must be turned in at the Maury Alliance office by Tuesday, April 11 at 5 pm. Winners will be randomly selected on Tuesday, April 12. Two lucky people will win the Grand Prize – which is $450 in gift cards from participating businesses. Maury Alliance’s Local First Gift Cards will also be given away.

Visit mauryalliance.com/wheresmaury23 for more information.


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

Mrs. Sheila Ann Wood Moore, 68, homemaker and resident of Mt. Pleasant, died Friday, March 31, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. There are no services scheduled at this time for Mrs. Moore. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assistant the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

Expulsions Vote Thursday (Tennessean)

Yells rang out through the state Capitol as Tennessee House Republicans on Monday introduced resolutions to expel three Democrats for "disorderly behavior" after the trio led protest chants for gun reform on the floor of the chamber last week in the wake of the deadly Covenant School shooting.

On Thursday, the three House Democrats approached the podium between bills without being recognized to speak, a breach of chamber rules. With a bullhorn, Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis led protestors in the galleries in several chants calling for gun reform.

House leadership later likened the trio's behavior to an "insurrection," a characterization House Democrats decried last week.

The expulsion resolutions claim the three "did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions."

Final votes to expel the three members will occur Thursday. Johnson, Jones, and Pearson will have an opportunity to defend their actions during that session.

The House chamber fell into chaos as Republican Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, introduced the first resolution, which called for Pearson's expulsion. Protestors screamed from the galleries above. Pearson raised his fist in protest, and House Democrats raised their hands to object.

Amid the chaos, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, called for the vote. All three resolutions passed in a party-line vote of 72 to 23. Democrats will have little power to block expulsions on Thursday.

Sexton did not recess the chamber as protestors in the gallery began chants of "fascists! fascists!" and wagged their fingers and fists at members. Instead, the speaker called for state troopers to clear the House galleries.

While the majority of the crowd cleared peacefully, one woman was handcuffed and carried out of the gallery by state troopers after she refused to follow commands and pushed a responding trooper, per Davidson County court records. She was charged with assault on a first responder, disorderly conduct and disrupting a meeting or procession.

It was the only arrest on Monday, when thousands of young people marched on the Capitol to call for gun reform, Tennessee Highway Patrol confirmed.

Meanwhile, on the House floor, Jones and Rep. Justin Lafferty, R-Knoxville, were taking phone videos of the gallery being cleared. A scuffle ensued between the two with Lafferty snatching Jones' phone away.

In response, a knot of lawmakers converged on the House floor in confrontation that took several minutes to cool down.

After House business resumed, Jones accused Lafferty of misconduct.

"Rep. Justin Lafferty pushed me and stole my phone, and tried to incite a riot with his fellow members in this section of the House. I have it on video, I will send it to you," Jones told Sexton.

Jones shared video with the Tennessean of the incident, which appears to depict a physical confrontation between the two lawmakers.

In a statement to The Tennessean on Tuesday, Lafferty did not deny shoving Jones or grabbing his phone.

“Representative Jones came to my desk and as I turned he shoved his phone in my face in a threatening manner. I reacted as anyone would," Lafferty said. "Attempts to characterize this as anything else are misleading and false. The three members who are in danger of losing their jobs are desperate to deflect attention away from their actions.”

The trio were present and voted on bills Monday night. Together, they represent more than 210,000 constituents.

"We're going to push back, and we're gonna fight this because it's unprecedented and utterly ridiculous," Johnson said.

Johnson said she would consider a lawsuit if expelled, arguing their protest is constitutionally protected. She also pointed to a list of recent scandals involving lawmakers that didn't lead to expulsion, including the former House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who is under federal indictment and former Rep. David Byrd, who was accused of sexually assaulting teenagers when he was a basketball coach decades earlier.

"We had a child molester on the floor for years, they helped him get reelected and did nothing to expel him," Johnson said. "We've had members pee in each other's chairs. We've had members illegally prescribe drugs to their cousin-mistress, and nothing happened. But talk on the floor without permission, and you'll get expelled."

The House Democratic Caucus released a statement after Monday's votes, saying the caucus "stands firmly united" with its members.

"The Democratic Caucus has unanimously, formally voted to oppose the baseless resolutions for expulsion and will zealously oppose them should they come up for a vote on the House floor," the statement said.

Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators also issued a statement Monday night objecting to the resolutions.

"This political retribution is unconstitutional and, in this moment, morally bankrupt," the group said. "The people who elected us are calling for meaningful action to end gun violence and the people have a right to be heard through their duly elected representatives."

The group said Sexton instead should be "leading a real, bipartisan discussion to generate reforms that could stop the next school shooting."

The trio's floor protest last Thursday came just days after the deadly Covenant shooting that left three children and three school staff members dead.

House lawmakers on Thursday had to walk through a gauntlet of protestors, many of whom were teenagers, who had marched on the Tennessee Capitol demanding gun reform.

On the floor, Jones verbally sparred several times with Sexton. After the trio approached the well, the area in the front of the chamber where lawmakers speak, Sexton immediately recessed the chamber, halting legislative business for nearly an hour and ordering security to clear the House galleries of spectators.

Before the galleries were cleared, the Democratic trio led the crowd in chants of "gun reform now."

The trio later walked off the House floor after a heated confrontation with their own Democratic leadership, though leadership has since supported their actions. The House resumed its regular calendar, with the Democrats remaining on the floor.


Senate Safe School Act (MainStreetMaury)

U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) announced Thursday they will be introducing the Securing Aid for Every (SAFE) School Act.

The SAFE School Act establishes a $900 million grant program that will allow both public and private schools to train and hire veterans and former law enforcement officers to serve as school safety officers, hire off duty law enforcement officers, and provide funding to harden schools and increase physical security.

This legislation continues Senator Blackburn’s efforts to keep our children safe at school. Sen. Blackburn introduced similar legislation in the prior Congress. The SAFE School Act is supported by Tennessee leaders, school safety advocates and veterans, along with local, state and federal law enforcement officials and organizations.

“I am beyond heartbroken at the shooting that occurred at the Covenant School in Nashville,” said Sen. Blackburn. “No parent should have to endure what these families are experiencing. Schools should be places where children are safe to learn, play, and be children. My legislation with Sen. Hagerty will allow both public and private schools to train and hire veterans and former law enforcement officers to serve as school safety officers as well as increase physical security measures to harden schools. By providing these critical funds, we can help protect our precious children and secure our schools.”

“The Covenant School community, the city of Nashville, and our home state of Tennessee have suffered unspeakable, heartbreaking loss this week, and I join the families of the victims and all those affected in mourning this incomprehensible tragedy,” added Sen. Hagerty. “The heroic bravery of law enforcement officers and first responders who quickly ran into danger, as well as the actions of teachers, staff, and students who deployed security measures, saved many other lives and underscore the critical role of school-security planning and personnel in the face of depraved, evil acts. That’s why I’ve joined Sen. Blackburn in introducing this legislation to provide additional security resources to keep our schools and children safe.”The SAFE School Act establishes a $900 million grant program that will allow both public and private schools to train and hire veterans and former law enforcement officers to serve as school safety officers.

The SAFE School Act would establish a $900 million grant program that will allow both public and private schools to train and hire veterans and former law enforcement officers to serve as school safety officers.

Specifically, states would be allowed to establish, if necessary, and implement a certification program that allows for veterans and former law enforcement officers to become certified school safety officers.

States could use the grant funds to hire off-duty law enforcement officers as school safety officers.

Additionally, schools could also utilize the funding to increase training for teachers, enhance the physical security of the school, conduct threat assessments and purchase equipment for school safety officers.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Tears for Fears just announced a North American tour taking place this summer.

“Tipping Point Tour Part II” will stop at FirstBank Amphitheater on July 11th. The tour will feature special guests Cold War Kids.

Presale tickets begin on Wednesday with code VINYL. General sale tickets begin on Friday at 10 am. Find tickets at ticketmaster.com.

The band released its latest album Tipping Point last year, their first studio album in 17 years.


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