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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for August 31, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Justice Center GMP Amended (MSM)

The Maury County Commission approved at its Monday, Aug. 21 meeting an amended GMP (guaranteed maximum price) for the updated judicial center.

In June, the Building Committee sent the Commission a recommendation to move forward with a cost of $33.9 million, $159,018 under the budget. At the time, Jamie Spencer with the development firm Hewlett Spencer, said the reason the job was able to come in under budget was due to the early-release packages.

“The Commission in making that decision saved over $300,000 by approving that early-release package,” Spencer said.

Now, the county has approved a resolution which would take almost $1.5 million out of the county’s general fund balance.

The two-story, 55,000 square-foot center is currently under construction and is set to open in October 2024, Maury County Commission Chair Eric Previti said.

In other news from the meeting, the commission also approved a resolution accepting the SRO (School Resource Officer) endowment grant from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security for the Maury County Sheriff’s Department.

Previti said up until this point, the county has funded the SROs through the sheriff’s budget.

“That said, the sheriff has requested more because of growth in the county,” Previti said. “The state has funded to pay for SRO’s all through the state. In other words, the state is going to pay for SRO’s instead of the county,” he said.

The grant, which totals $1.65 million, would provide SROs in all K-12 public schools, with no matching funds required.

The funds may only be used for expenses directly related to placing an SRO in a school, which includes salary, benefits, training and equipment.

The state would make funds available to a local law enforcement agency after the agency presents the state with an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the agency and the local education agency or public charter school.

The agency would provide one full-time SRO to every school in the LEA or public charter school.

The grant, which began July 1, will be in effect until June 30, 2024. The General Assembly put $140 million in the state budget for 2023-24 to fund SROs statewide and is expected to maintain that funding in future years.


Hilton Applies for Expansion (CDH)

A Hilton-brand hotel to be located at the Spring Hill Towne Crossing multi-use development is now seeking approval by the Municipal Planning Commission to increase its capacity.

The Towne Crossing development is located at the southeast corner of Port Royal Road and Saturn Parkway. Of the many features being planned for the project, one of them is a 120-room hotel.

A request by applicant WES Engineering was brought before city planners this week seeking a modification to the hotel's capacity and parking.

The request included increasing the number of rooms from 120 to 159, as well as decreasing the parking requirements from 1.5 spaces per room to about one space per room.

"The reason they are doing this is that they are increasing to the number of rooms they are entitled to, which originally was 120 rooms. They are now seeking to be entitled to 159," Spring Hill Development Director Peter Hughes said.

"Based on the submittal, staff is recommending approval, and we are recommending approval based on industry standards. What they are presenting is the right amount of parking on the site, and in addition to that, the site in general across the mixed-use development has plenty of parking where people can park throughout the day as well."

The Spring Hill planning staff report notes that the requested parking modification would only affect the hotel lot portion of the multi-use property.

The Spring Hill Towne Crossing development, which encompasses nearly 51 acres, was originally approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in late 2020. In addition to the hotel, the site will also include:

48,500 square feet of grocery space

4,500 square feet for a gas station/convenient store with 20 gas pumps

5,000 square feet of standalone restaurant space

4,500 square feet of drive-thru restaurant space

12,500 square feet of retail space

11,000 square feet of office and retail space

334 multi-family apartments

Allen O'Leary, representing WES Engineers, said the project is currently finalizing its sewer capacity analysis, as well as preparing the hotel's design, pending the planning commission's vote.

"We will be forwarding [the sewer analysis] over to the city next week. We know they are planning to bring two Hilton products in," O'Leary said. "We haven't moved forward with the engineering or architectural design until we made sure we could get approval of the parking variation and extending the number of rooms."

Commissioner James Golias asked if the reduction in parking would affect the required number of ADA spaces. O'Leary said originally there were about 170 spaces, and the modification would only affect "maybe three of them."

Alderman Matt Fitterer described the request as a "more efficient use of the land," and that he appreciated the applicant bringing it forward with the proposed modifications.

No votes were taken during Monday's work session meeting, but the board agreed the item should appear on the planning commission's consent agenda in September, or listed among other items deemed non-controversial and are voted together as a group.


CPJI Honors Childress (MSM)

Columbia native and former Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association executive director Bernard Childress will be the second recipient of the Columbia Peace & Justice Initiative’s Legacy Award. 

The organization, founded three years ago to “celebrate the legacy of African-Americans in Maury County by exploring history, promoting justice, expanding understanding and inspiring conversation for a better community”, will honor Childress during a Nov. 1 luncheon at the Memorial Building.

“The Legacy luncheon is an opportunity for us to recognize the achievements of individuals who have accomplished great things in our community, and not only in our community but have broadened the scope of their influence,” CPJI president Trent Ogilvie said in announcing this year’s honoree.

“Bernard is from Maury County, he grew up here in the community, he’s been a great leader and educator, athlete. He went on to lead the TSSAA and has had great influence across the state. We want to recognize him and his work as far as athletics, because of the great impact that’s had.”

Dr. Christa Martin, Columbia State executive director of access and inclusion and former two-term vice mayor for the city of Columbia, was recognized last fall as the CPJI’s inaugural Legacy Award recipient.

“I’ve been blessed to receive several awards through my athletic career, from induction into the Columbia Central athletic hall of fame, the Belmont University athletic hall of fame; I’ve had several national honors with the (National Federation of High School Athletic Associations). Nothing means more to me than to be recognized by an organization in your own hometown,” Childress said. 

“(For them to say) ‘we see what you’ve done and you’ve made a positive impact and we appreciate it’ – that means more to me than anything. I really appreciate all the other awards I’ve received; I’m very humbled by them. But when someone in your hometown, many I went to school with, was classmates with, to say ‘Bernard, you made a difference’, it brings chills. It almost brings tears to my eyes.”

Expected to speak at the luncheon are Mark Reeves, who succeeded Childress last summer as TSSAA executive director following Childress’ retirement; Chris Poynter, athletics director for Maury County Public Schools; and a member of the Childress family.

In addition, CPJI will present its MVP Award during the event to the Morgan family. Willie Morgan is the first African-American to hold the title of Columbia Parks and Recreation Director, and Saviya Morgan, his granddaughter, is a Columbia Central senior who is expected to sign a softball scholarship this fall with the University of Tennessee.

“We want to look at not only the past history of African-American achievement but we also want to recognize those who have presently made an impact on our current history,” Ogilvie said. “That is the real purpose of the Legacy luncheon – to recognize those individuals and hopefully inspire those in our community, to recognize the achievements and motivate others to continue to work and strive because if you can see it, you can be it and you can do it.”

Space for the ticketed event, which will begin at 12 noon, is limited. For ticket or sponsorship information, e-mail columbiapeaceandjustice@gmail.com.


Spring Hill Rezoning Denied (MSM)

For the second time in as many years, a 33.7-acre property rezoning request has been denied by the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The project, located just north of Allendale Elementary School at 2841 Hurt Road in Williamson County, was requesting R-2 and R-3 designation from Ag in order to build 78 single-family homes. 

Despite the property being deemed residential in the city’s comprehensive plan and all three of the surrounding properties having R-2 designation, the board denied the request. 

Much of the concern for the development was construction traffic on Hurt Road. Adam Crunk of Crunk Engineering said the company had not completed a traffic study to determine the level of traffic the development would generate, and therefore hesitated to make any commitments on improvement ahead of the vote.

Legally, the board can’t stipulate conditions for zoning requests.

“This state you cannot do contract zoning. You cannot zone something on the condition they will do something,” city administrator Pam Caskie said. “The question has to become: is the rezoning of this property consistent with the comprehensive plan and is it consistent with the neighborhood characteristics around it?

“If it meets those criteria, then rezoning would be appropriate, but that does not mean you have to rezone.”

Caskie did say the “assumption is: whatever the negative impacts this zoning brings, in the preliminary plan stage, the developer will be required – as conditions of the plan to solve it.”

Crunk said his client intended to make improvements, but not until there was more information.

“If this property were to be rezoned, we would meet with staff to make sure we have all the proper locations for connections to adjacent city streets. We only want to study the streets that would be impacted, but we’re a little ways away from that. Yes – Hurt Road is one of those roads. I don’t think there is any circumstance where we don’t connect to Hurt Road,” he said. “I think it’s going to make a big difference about how many cars we are going to add to (Hurt Road). 

“In terms of fairness, the most fair thing to do when it comes to any roadway improvement is to improve the portion of the road that’s adjacent to our property and on our side.”

Alderman John Canepari was vehemently opposed to the project due to what he called adverse impact on the residents along Hurt Road. Alderman Trent Linville said he would be more open to the idea of rezoning if there was better data on the traffic impact.

Caskie noted that one of the unique problems Spring Hill has battled over the years is an unorthodox pattern of growth, which has been one of the main contributors to traffic congestion.

“This city did not grow from the inside out. Most cities grow from the inside out – we didn’t,” she said. “One of the reasons we have so many problems with traffic, construction and some of these development infrastructure is we didn’t grow out.

“We have construction in the middle of all these homes that all got developed, and how do they get the same right everybody around them got? That’s a fairness question only you can answer.”

Citizen feedback mixed on request 

Several citizens spoke on the project during public comments with a mix of positive and negative reactions to the request, but one topic of conversation was a proposed 11 acres of parkland donation to the city. 

“The 11 acres of proposed park land was ignored by the Planning Commission, but a year ago the parks director evaluated it and proposed it as a land adoption not to be donated to the city,” resident Tim Hidley said. “As a federally-mandated flood plain, sidewalks, park benches and even dirt trails cannot be constructed on that land – it can only be left as pure wetlands. It would not provide any value to the city.”

The city’s staff report actually shows 20.8 acres as parkland space, 11 of which would be usable for the city.

For Eric Droke – husband of planning commission chair Liz Droke – his comments were on a more personal level.

“I think those are legitimate concerns, but I’m concerned as to why did (detractors) choose this one,” he asked. “We’re dealing with a philanthropic family here in Spring Hill who have served and been very generous to the city. They are ready to unburden themselves and benefit the rewards of a sale. Our jobs are to take care of the people of Spring Hill.”

Caskie said she believes that – long term – the land would become residential as the city’s comprehensive plan alludes. Resident David Huebner said that is a major concern of his if the rezoning request were pushed down the line.

“Thousands of new rooftops are being built over the coming years. The Hurt Road development contains a mere 78 homes, likely – as I call it – slow built over several years,” he said. “Bigger homes built on spacious lots. I would rather see these 78 homes built, which is not very many, than years from now have a different BOMA approve something such as hundreds of townhomes or condos or apartments on this land.”

Alderman Jason Cox, who was one of two board members to vote yes on the project in 2022, said his vote would remain unchanged, though he added the city would need to follow through on improvements in their own right.

“I felt we were further along getting Port Royal (Road) and Buckner (Road) widened. Hurt Road needs to be addressed, but with two years – that turns it on us to make sure we get Fire Station 4 built and we have to address Port Royal (Road) and Buckner (Road),” he said. 

Cox, Matt Fitterer and William Pomeroy voted yes, while Mayor Jim Hagaman, Brent Murray, Linville and Canepari voted against. Vice-mayor Kevin Gavigan abstained and Alderman Vincent Fuqua was absent from the meeting. 


Charter Commission Asks for Comment (MauryCountySource)

The Charter Appeals Commission wants to hear from Maury County residents!

On September 21, 2023, the American Classical Education Charter (ACAM) appeal will be heard in Maury County at Horace O. Porter School, 1101 Bridge St., Columbia, TN 38401.

The Appeals Commission wants to hear whether Maury County citizens are FOR or AGAINST.

The Maury County Public Schools Board of Education voted down the amended application by American Classical Education (ACE) to open the county’s first public charter school this summer.

The Charter Commission is accepting written public comments for the public hearing on the American Classical Academy Maury public charter school appeal. The Commission will continue to accept written public comments until one week after the conclusion of the public hearing, September 28, 2023 at 4:00 P.M.

In accordance with the Tennessee Open Records Act, any comment submitted by a member of the public and the name and basic contact information of anyone who signs up to make a comment is considered a public record and may be provided in response to a public records request.

Please contact CharterSchool.Appeals@tn.gov with any questions.


Crossroads to Home Coalition Fundraiser (Press Release)

Columbia’s first annual “Arts in Maury” will take place at the Memorial Building on Saturday, September 9 from 10 am to 4 pm. A fundraiser for the Crossroads to Home Coalition, the event will feature local artwork including paintings, photography, sculpture, stained glass, pottery and jewelry. Additionally, a tasting of both food and wine can be enjoyed from noon to 4:00 pm. Grinder’s Switch and Natchez Hills will provide the wine and delicious food.

This Art, Wine and Cheese event is sponsored by TriStar Bank, and all proceeds benefit the Crossroads to Home Café. At the café, homeless individuals can have a cup of coffee, eat lunch, take a shower and find needed items of clothing. They also find people who listen and care. Every effort is made to connect them with organizations that specialize in their area of need.

With a stated goal “to provide a hand-up, not just a handout” the Crossroads works toward connecting people with what they need to live as valued, comfortable residents of Maury County. According to organization board president, Dr. Mark Kirschbaum, PhD, “‘Arts in Maury’ provides a connection between those with a great need in our community and art, which is a great gift in our community.” No stranger to organizing art shows, Joe Kilgore and the art show committee have put together an exciting event that celebrates Maury County while making it a better home for all its people.

Admission to “Arts in Maury” is $25 per person; ages 10 and under can attend free of charge. Tickets are available online at Eventbrite.com or in person at the Café at 1001 Galloway Street, Monday through Friday from 10am to 3:00pm.


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

Billy Keith Martin, Sr., 91, retired Sergeant with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and resident of Columbia, died Monday, August 28th, at NHC Maury Regional Transitional Care. 

Funeral services will be conducted Thursday at 2:00 P.M. at Graymere Church of Christ. Burial will follow in Haynes Cemetery. Honors will be provided by Tennessee Highway Patrol Honor Guard. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the church.


Mr. George Otis Cochran, 90, retired employee of Ford Motor Company, custodian for Kaiser Elementary School and resident of Ypsilanti, Michigan, died Saturday, August 26, 2023 at Angela Hospice in Livonia, MI.  Graveside service for Mr. Cochran will be held at 11:00 A.M. Friday, September 1, 2023 at Anderson, Stephenson, Hunt Cemetery in Hickman County, TN. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.


Mr. Dickie Wayne Voorhies, 54, lifelong resident of Columbia, Tennessee, died unexpectedly on Monday, August 28, 2023 at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Funeral services for Mr. Voorhies will be conducted Friday at 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 4:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home.


Janice Gilley, of Atlanta Georgia, passed away on August 26th. 

A memorial service will be held Friday, September 1, 2023, at 3:00 P.M. at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 311 West 7th St, Columbia TN, 38401. Burial will follow in St. John’s Churchyard at Ashwood. The family will visit with friends Friday from 2:00 P.M. until service time at the church. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

Memphis and Nashville Bad Walking Cities (Tennessean)

Some cities are made for walking, but Nashville and Memphis aren't, according to a recent pedestrian safety study.

The company KURU Footwear ranked 37 U.S. major metro cities to determine which cities are the safest for people on foot and which aren't. Memphis came in at the bottom of the list as the most dangerous U.S. city for walkers scoring an eight out of 100 on the total safety score and Nashville came in second with a score of 13 out of 100.

Both cities have seen an increase in pedestrian deaths in the last several years, according to reports from the Memphis Commercial Appeal and The Tennessean.

"These cities may have some work to do to ensure their pedestrians stay safe while walking on foot. Addressing these issues identified in pedestrian safety is essential to create a more secure environment for residents and visitors alike," according to KURU.

In 2022, both cities had a record number of pedestrian deaths.

The number of pedestrians killed in the city of Memphis rose to 83 in 2022 compared to 42 in 2019, 66 in 2020 and 61 in 2021, according to the city. Two cyclists were also killed in Memphis in 2022.

In Nashville, 48 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed on the city's roads in 2022.

Memphis and Nashville topped the list of the worst cities for pedestrians. Take a look at which other cities filled out the top 10.

Memphis

Nashville

Tucson

Jacksonville

Louisville

Indianapolis

Albuquerque

Detroit

Fresno

Atlanta

Here are the top 10 safest U.S. cities for pedestrians.

New York

Boston

San Francisco

Washington D.C.

Chicago

Seattle

Philadelphia

Denver

Portland

Los Angeles


Gas Prices (MSM)

Gas prices in Tennessee are moving less expensive ahead of Labor Day weekend. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.40 which is four cents more expensive than one month ago but four cents less than one year ago.  

“Tennessee gas prices reversed course over last week and are trending less expensive, which is great news for those that are planning a road trip over the holiday weekend,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Drivers taking road trips over Labor Day weekend will likely see gas prices similar to last year. Even though it’s likely that gas prices will continue to trend lower over this week, continued volatility at the pump can’t be ruled out given the recent uptick in tropical storm activity.” 

The Tennessee average for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.37 on Labor Day 2022. Today’s state average is only three cents more expensive. If current market trends continue, drivers could be met with pump prices lower than last year. 

Quick Facts

85% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.50 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $3.17 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.74 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 6th least expensive market in the nation


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Elijah Browning from Thompson’s Station ran the intense obstacle course in this week’s episode of American Ninja Warrior on August 28th and will advance to the second stage of the Finals airing on Monday, September 4th. In this round, the ninjas must complete the 8- obstacle course in under 2:50, facing new obstacles the Gambler and Thread the Needle.

Season 15 has implemented a lot of changes from previous seasons. It will challenge the ninjas to race side-by-side and head-to-head across a high-stakes course with a spot in the national finals on the line. Additionally, the Mega Wall is even taller than before at 18½ feet and, for the first time ever, ninjas will need to complete all six obstacles in a designated time in order to earn a shot at the $10,000 prize.

Browning previously competed on Seasons 13 and 14 of American Ninja Warrior. His latest venture when he’s not training for the show, is with Vanderbilt Hospital, training a group of young people with physical limitations and disabilities.


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