All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.
We start with local news…
Missing Juvenile (Press Release)
The Columbia Police Department is trying to locate 13 year old runaway juvenile Kaiden Cole Brewer. Kaiden was last seen this morning in the area of E. 12th St. wearing grey Champion sweatpants, a black Nike hoodie, and white Nike Air Force 1’s. Kaiden is 5’ 0” tall weighing 120 lbs. with brown hair and blue eyes.
Any person with additional information that may assist in this or any other investigation is encouraged to contact Columbia Police Department Dispatch (24 hours) at 931-388-2727, Columbia Police SAFE Tip Email to SafeTips@ColumbiaTN.Com
Lewis Storm Cleanup Continues (CDH)
Many areas of Middle Tennessee are still in the recovery process following last week's storms, which generated an EF2 tornado, leaving many residents without homes and, in some cities, their lives.
In Lewis County, the damage amounted to multiple homes, commercial structures, barns and other extensive property damage. Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities were reported. However, the devastation can still be felt as residents pick up the pieces of what remains.
Dalton Crowell of Hohenwald was one of many, who experienced extensive damage. Crowell said, "it all happened in about two minutes," sweeping through his property. When the storm finally settled, the tornado managed to uproot much of his fencing, destroy several walnut trees and tear open the roof of a nearby barn dating back to the early 1940s.
Miraculously, Crowell and his wife Linda's home, which he built himself in 1992, was spared, receiving only minor damage to the siding and outer trim. The storm also caused power outages, which lasted until Sunday evening.
"It didn't rain a drop until after the storm went through, and I always heard that if there was rain, the storm wouldn't be bad. There wasn't any rain, and so it was bad," Crowell said. "After about three minutes, I looked out the door and my fencing was all gone, and then it started raining."
Crowell, now retired after working 35 years for Dana Corp. in the shipping department, now raises horses and cattle while doing what he calls "a few odds and ends here and there" alongside his dog, Digger. While living the simpler life in the country has been his life's work, he jokes about maybe finding a new hobby when it comes to raising animals.
"I've got two horses, but I'm thinking about getting rid of them. All they do is sit around and eat hay," Crowell joked.
Crowell added that in all his years living there, he had never experienced such a storm before, although he's lived through a few dicey weather incidents. The aftermath of the March 31-April 1 destruction also continues to stir up many emotions.
"It was one of the funniest storms I've ever seen, and I've lived through a couple of them," Crowell said. "It kind of makes you sick when you look out and see what it had done after you've worked your whole life building the place. Makes you want to throw up to tell you the truth."
Still, Crowell said he believes much of what was destroyed can be fixed, it'll just take time and lots of hard work, of which he has received help from family members and neighbors, often working through the night to rebuild fencing and clear up debris.
"It's definitely a funny feeling when you wake up and see everything has been blown away," Crowell said. "But when it blows away, you've just got to build it back, and this barn has a pretty strong foundation."
Hohenwald Financial Officer Kevin Hamm, whose home was just a few hundred yards from the tornado's path, described some of the harder hit areas as "a warzone, like a bomb went off."
Yet despite the devastation, there has been a sense of hope in watching neighbor helping neighbor, from clearing up yards and driveways to providing food and shelter to those who lost everything.
"I was about 500 yards away from the path of it. We had to take shelter, and luckily we didn't get hit, but we were just a short distance from it," Hamm said. "If you do go out and see the places that were hit the worst, you'll likely see people still out helping cleanup."
On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Lee issued a request for federal relief funding for the 10 tornado-impacted Tennessee communities, including Cannon, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Lewis, Macon, McNairy, Rutherford, Tipton and Wayne counties.
“State and local officials, first responders and volunteers continue to provide critical support to impacted Tennessee communities following significant storm damage,” Lee said in a press release. “As Tennessee rebuilds, I am now calling on our federal partners to make resources available to further our severe weather response and recovery across the state."
If awarded, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will also provide direct aid to eligible Tennessee residents in the requested counties for disaster-related costs and expenses, the release states.
“The sheer magnitude of severe weekend weather created tremendous debris, destruction, and the tragic loss of 15 Tennesseans,” TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan said. “This assistance will be critical to the recovery efforts in the hardest-hit communities in Tennessee.”
Maury County Budget Talks Begin (MainStreetMaury)
Maury County’s Budget Committee held a special called meeting last Thursday, March 30, to begin budget talks for the 2023-24 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The meeting largely focused on a proposed 6 percent raise for all county government employees. Though the Budget Committee voted in favor of the raise during its March 13 meeting, Maury County Finance Director Doug Lukonen said it will be a long process. However, the raises could be voted upon on as early as May.
With a proposed impact fee failing to pass the House Property & Planning Subcommittee last month, questions loom whether taxpayers will see further increases with the proposed raise, though Lukonen said the likelihood is very low.
“It just depends on how many capital projects are funded,” he said, listing new schools, renovation projects, and buildings.
Lukonen said the proposed raise will be paid for with a mixture of all governmental revenues, such as taxes, fees and grants.
“We have seen a natural growth in revenue due to growth, but we also have challenges of capital funding to support that growth,” he said. “As of right now, there is not a tax increase being discussed.”
The meeting also went over submissions made by department heads. Requests are being considered for the Sheriff’s Department, Maury County Jail, tourism and county buildings, among others. Sheriff Bucky Rowland, who submitted one of the requests for the Sheriff’s Department, stated the number of calls for service has increased, leading to more warrants issued by the courts.
“This trend will only increase with our overwhelming growth,” the justification read, citing the need for an additional dispatcher, deputies and correctional officers.
Thirty-two new positions are currently being requested across all departments with a total estimated amount of $2,057,012.13, including benefits.
Lukonen listed his three main goals as balancing the budget, no tax increase and funding the services needed for the community.
The next Budget Committee meeting is scheduled for April 10.
Mt. Pleasant Downtown Revitalization (MainStreetMaury)
Mount Pleasant announced that it received a Notice to Proceed with Construction from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) in late March, which moves the project to the bidding phase. The project is Phase I of a Downtown Revitalization Project that will include new accessible sidewalks, ADA compliant pedestrian ramps, new pedestrian lighting and amenities including benches, trash receptacles and bike racks.
TDOT awarded the city $1.25 million in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant funds in 2018 for the pedestrian improvements. As part of the grant agreement, the city must provide a minimum match of 20 percent to receive those funds. In an effort to do a comprehensive project, the city has worked with the Water and Sewer Department to conduct water and sewer rehabilitation simultaneously.
Mount Pleasant Power is also assisting the city in funding the lighting and traffic signalization portion of the project. In total, the project construction is expected to cost about $2.5 million.
“This project has been in the making for many years. It started with a Downtown Master Plan, continued with a grant application to TDOT, then years of coordination and going through TDOT’s required processes. We are thrilled to finally put this project out to bid!” said City Manager Kate Collier.
The bidding process is expected to be initiated over the next several weeks, with a bid opening in early May. More approvals and coordination with TDOT will have to take place before a formal award is made. However, the city hopes to be able to begin construction later this summer and the project complete by the fall of 2024.
The schedule of implementation of the Phase I project is timely, given that the city was awarded approximately $1.85 million in a 2022 TAP grant for the pedestrian improvements in the Phase II project area. This is part of the city’s ongoing commitment to implement the master plan for revitalization of Mount Pleasant’s downtown.
Parkinson’s Group Formed (MainStreetMaury)
A new support group is forming to address the needs both of those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and those who care for the ill.
The Parkinson’s Project, organized by Jannie van Deventer, will begin meeting on the second Wednesday of each month at the Maury County Senior Center, 1020 Maury County Park Dr., in Columbia from 2-4 p.m.
“We offer a safe and compassionate space for patients and caregivers to share their thoughts and feelings, learn coping strategies and receive counseling. We understand that Parkinson’s Disease can be a source of loneliness, depression and stress for both patients and caregivers. That’s why we are committed to providing comprehensive support that addresses the emotional as well as the physical aspects of the condition,” van Deventer said in an email to Main Street Maury.
The Parkinson’s Project is a nationwide movement which recognizes that both patients and caregivers sometimes feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to cope with the emotional and practical challenges of the condition. Studies have indicated that Parkinson’s patients are likely to report a higher quality of life if their caregivers are not strained.
To reserve a spot or to learn more about the project, please visit bit.ly/ParkinsonsProject, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (615) 975-1673.
“We look forward to meeting you and providing the support you need,” van Deventer said.
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.email@example.com or call or text 931-800-8344.
TDEC Grant in Spring Hill (MainStreetMaury)
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) last week announced 43 grants totaling $203,244,525 from the state’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) fund, part of which TDEC is administering in the form of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure grants.
The City of Spring Hill will receive $2.37M, the department announced. The city will use ARP funds to address critical needs and significant non-compliance issues, as well as develop a comprehensive Asset Management Plan. Spring Hill will replace and modernize aging assets, develop an inventory and condition assessment plan and develop a planned Operations and Maintenance work order system.
Of the 43 grants announced, 14 are collaborative grants and 29 are non-collaborative grants. Collaborative grants involve multiple entities (cities, counties, or water utilities) partnering on projects to work toward a shared purpose. All grants awarded represent 132 individual drinking water, wastewater, and/or stormwater infrastructure project(s).
These grants announced bring the total ARP funds awarded by TDEC to $401.7M since August.
Tennessee received $3.725 billion from the ARP, and the state’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group dedicated $1.35 billion of those funds to TDEC to support water projects in communities throughout Tennessee. Of the $1.35 billion, approximately $1 billion was designated for non-competitive formula-based grants offered to counties and eligible cities. The grants announced today are part of the $1 billion non-competitive grant program. The remaining funds ($269 million) will go to state-initiated projects and competitive grants.
“These grants will address important water infrastructure needs across rural and urban Tennessee communities,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “We look forward to the improvements these projects will bring, and we commend the communities who have gone through the application process.”
“More than ever, infrastructure is critically important to our local communities,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge. “This money will allow cities and towns to address deficiencies and make improvements that will pay dividends not just in the present but in the years to come as well. I greatly appreciate the work of the governor and my colleagues on the Fiscal Accountability Group for their work in making sure these funds were spent appropriately and efficiently.”
“We continue experiencing considerable growth across the state, and many of our communities require additional resources to address their evolving needs,” said Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. “These grants will play a major role in ensuring cities and towns have access to infrastructure solutions that will enable them to continue thriving so Tennessee remains a preferred destination for both businesses and families.”
“We are grateful to the local applicants, and we anticipate excellent results from these grants,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “This shows that Tennessee recognizes the need for improved water infrastructure, and we are grateful for the leadership of Governor Lee and the General Assembly in seeing that communities get this assistance.”
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…
House Expulsion Proceedings (Tennessean)
Ten days after a shooter unloaded 152 rounds inside a Nashville school and killed six people, Tennessee House Republicans on Thursday expelled two Democratic lawmakers for breaking House rules and mounting a gun-reform protest on the chamber's floor.
After hours of fiery debate, the House expelled Reps. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, on a 72-25 vote, and Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, by 69-26, in a move that put the nation's eyes on Tennessee and its politics.
But the House failed by one vote to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to kick Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, out of the chamber. The effort to expel Johnson failed on a 65-30 vote, as chants of "Gloria! Gloria!" rang out in the House chamber.
Republicans removed two of the youngest Black lawmakers from the General Assembly, further reducing an already small minority caucus.
Still, the expulsions have elevated the two lawmakers’ political profiles, with little long-term gains for Republican leadership as Pearson and Jones could be reappointed to their seats within days or weeks.
The historic, partisan expulsion process has roiled political tensions as the state continues to grapple with the deadliest school shooting in its history.
"What is happening here today is a farce of democracy," Jones said at the beginning of his 20-minute defense. "What is happening here today is a situation in which the jury has already publicly announced the verdict. What we see today is just a spectacle. What we see today is a lynch mob assembled to not lynch me, but our democratic process."
Lawmakers considered the fate of the three Democrats steps away from hundreds of protesters whose chants permeated the House doors, while more than 200 people stood in silence in the House galleries. Protesters continued to call on Republican lawmakers to pass gun reform and slammed the efforts to expel the lawmakers, who have been dubbed the "Tennessee three."
The expulsion proceedings threatened to strip more than 200,000 Tennesseans of their elected representation and mark just the fourth time since the end of the Civil War in which the House ousted sitting lawmakers. No House member has ever been removed from elected office for simply violating decorum rules.
Republicans insisted expulsion, the most extreme sanction available, was the right move to protect the integrity of the House and its rules.
“This is just not about one specific instance or one specific rule that may have been broken. The rules here are for order,” said Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, who led the GOP arguments against Jones. “We owe that to the constituents that we represent across this state.”
Jones took several pointed pauses while sipping water during his floor speeches, allowing the chants of "whose house, our house," to flow into the chamber from the crowd gathered outside.
"Your extreme measure is an attempt to subvert the will of voters who democratically elected us as representatives to speak and to passionately fight for them," Jones said.
The expulsions for the two were effective immediately.
Before the House voted on Johnson's fate, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, argued there was not enough evidence to uphold the allegations in Johnson's expulsion resolution. Two attorneys, both former House members themselves, also argued on Johnson's behalf, saying while Johnson stood in support of her two freshman colleagues, she did not lead the chants with a bullhorn.
“I have to raise the voices of people in my district, and I did what I felt those folks wanted me to do,” Johnson said in her defense.
Seven Republicans broke with their party to vote against Johnson's expulsion: Rep. Jody Barrett, R-Dickson, Rep. Charlie Baum, R-Murfreesboro, Rep. Rush Bricken, R-Tullahoma, Rep. Bryan Richey, R-Maryville, Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, and Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin.
Gasps rang out as the vote count was announced, before Johnson and Pearson drew each other into an emotional hug.
Following the vote, Johnson said she couldn't feel good about her survival due to the expulsion of her colleagues. Johnson, a white woman, believed Pearson and Jones were treated differently due to their race.
"They showed today how brilliant they are, how important their message is for the next generation to be able to connect like they can to the people," Johnson said. "It’s critical. We need people in the House who can do that, and they are just brilliant at it."
After Pearson was expelled in the final vote of the night, the chamber exploded in a cacophony of yells and chants, drowning out the ceremonial reading of his expulsion result. Two protestors unfurled a handmade banner reading, "Rural TN Against Fascist GOP," which was ripped down by a staff member. Rather than empty the galleries of screaming protesters, House leadership adjourned and lawmakers streamed out after the seven-hour session.
Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)
This weekend is set to be a festive Easter celebration all across Columbia. If finding easter eggs is your thing…there are plenty of places to hunt for them…
Harmon Scrap Metal will host an Easter Egg Hunt at Woodland Park, 1602 Hatcher Lane, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday. The hunt will start at the Fallen Heroes Shelter and will include foot trucks, prizes, photos with the Easter Bunny and more.
Aubree P. Boutique, 808 Walker St., will offer customers eggs with a chance to win prizes to anyone who shops from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
aMuse'um Children's Museum, 123 W. 7th St., will host a "Hoppening" Easter Party from 8:30-10 a.m. Saturday. Tickets range from $15-$20 depending on memberships. Activities include time with the Easter Bunny, spring-themed crafts and story time.
First United Methodist Church will host an Easter egg hunt "Egg-Stravaganza" from 9-11 a.m. Saturday at Riverwalk Park. The event will feature bounce houses, live music, mini donkeys, crafts, balloon art and 3,000 eggs waiting to be found.
Want to hunt for eggs under water? Muletown Rec, 1446 Oak Springs Drive, will host a special Easter Egg Dive from 9-10:30 a.m. Ages 3-4 will dive at 9 a.m., followed by 5-7 at 9:30 a.m., 8-10 at 10 a.m. and 11-12 at 10:30 a.m.