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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for August 4, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Car Fire (MauryCountySource)

Just after 11 p.m. on August 1, Maury County Fire Department was dispatched to the intersection of Campbellsville Pike and Sheegog Lane for a vehicle fire.

Maury 911 quickly notified responding units the vehicle was reportedly on fire with a person possibly trapped.

Columbia Fire Rescue was requested on mutual aid due to the proximity of the incident to their city limits. An MCFD unit arrived and rescued the occupant from the vehicle.

CFR E4 was able to extinguish the fire quickly after arrival.


Spring Hill State of the City (MainStreetMaury)

Decked out in his Air Force bomber jacket, motorcycle helmet and Aviator sunglasses, Spring Hill Mayor Jim Hagaman delivered a brief synopsis on the state of the City of Spring Hill to the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce last week as if he were Maverick of “Top Gun.”

Following a movie trailer-like introduction, the mayor spoke on topics such as infrastructure improvements and capital projects, among others. With traffic being top of mind for anyone who has even an arms-length relationship with the city, Hagaman updated business owners on six projects the city is working to improve.

Among the projects updated were the Interstate 65 interchange, widening of Buckner Lane and Main Street. 

“One of the issues the city is working to resolve is traffic congestion,” Hagaman said. “We want the best flow of traffic there can be.”

One of the ways to accomplish the best flow of traffic on an interchange is to use the diverging diamond design, which is what will be used at the June Lake exit. Additionally, improvements will be made to US 431 to go along with what has already been completed at Buckner Lane.

Over the next couple of years, Buckner Lane will continue to be upgraded all the way to Duplex Road with five lanes, a multi-use path on one side and sidewalk on the other. 

“It is well-planned, it is funded and bid opening for the north section from Buckner Road to (Austin’s Way) at Summit High School will be Aug. 16, 2023. The next section from Summit High School south to Duplex Road bid opening will be in November 2024,” Hagaman said. “I am known around the office as a ‘smart growth guy.’ This is smart growth because we can’t do everything at once, [but rather] as funds are spread out – this is incredibly well-planned.” 

There is $35 million budgeted for the project, but Hagaman warned inflation could increase those costs, but noted the city has planned for that as well. 

As for the update to Main Street (U.S. 31), he reiterated the road is a state road and the city cannot control anything in regards to improvements other than contributing funds.

“Tennessee Department of Transportation has the authority to disburse funds statewide. Memphis has their own Highway 31, Chattanooga has their own 31 . . . This is a lot where politics come into place,” he said. “Who gets the priority? We have people that are constantly approaching them to tell them Spring Hill needs this done. We are confident that it is going to get done, but it takes time and effort.”

The city receives funding from federal dollars each year for road projects and has consistently placed them into the funding balance to be used on that project. Hagaman said the fund is at $3.1 million.

“We are going to use that for design and rights-of-way acquisition cost,” he said. 

Before the presentation, while updating business owners about the progress being made on housing developments, Jack Maher of John Maher Builders pledged up to $100,000 for the completion of the weight room at the new Spring Hill Police Headquarters building.

The weight room was cut from the initial building due to budget concerns, but Maher said they were excited to be able to give back to the department.

“It’s amazing how well Chief (Don) Brite has been able to keep our city safe with the amount of growth we’ve seen over the years, and they deserve this,” Jack said as he shook Brite’s hand. 

Growth has not only skyrocketed with residents, but Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rebecca Melton also noted the Chamber grew to more than 500 members over the last month. Maher said his dad, John, recalled being at Chamber meetings around a dinner table with only a handful of other members. 

Spring Hill is estimated to have more than 55,000 residents in 2023 after the 2020 census counted more than 50,000. 


Gun Reform Group Meets (MainStreetMaury)

Voices for a Safer Tennessee, a non-partisan coalition dedicated to prioritizing gun safety and advocating for common sense gun laws, held a forum on Faith, Firearms and Community Safety in Columbia on Wednesday, July 26.

Those in attendance included Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder, State Rep. Scott Cepicky and State Sen. Joey Hensley, among other elected officials.

The panel discussion was held just weeks before a special called session of the General Assembly on public safety, which is scheduled for Aug. 21.

In May, Gov. Bill Lee announced his plans for a special legislation session to strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights, according to an announcement made by the governor’s office.

Lee’s announcement came just over a month after the March 27 Covenant School shooting, which left three children and three adults dead, including two friends of Lee’s wife.

Days after the shooting, Voices for a Safer Tennessee was formed in an effort to make the state safer through legislative action on gun safety.

Todd Cruse, chairman and treasurer for Voices for a Safer Tennessee, said he became involved after learning one of his neighbors lost their daughter in the shooting.

“That was heartbreaking because I couldn’t imagine if it was my kids,” Cruse said.

“Having the discussion with our children about what happened, that was tough. For me, that’s what said something has to change.”

The nonpartisan, nonprofit grassroots coalition outlines four separate gun safety policy reforms that the Tennessee General Assembly should consider: enact protection orders for persons showing elevated risk of harming themselves or others, implement child access prevention and safe storage laws, expand background checks to all firearm purchases and require firearm safety courses for ownership.

“Understanding what laws exist is important,” Cruse said during the forum, which was held at First Presbyterian Church. “If you buy a firearm in Tennessee, you do have to get a background check, but that’s if you go to a certain dealer that sells firearms. There are challenges with our background check system, it’s just broken. Fixing the background check problem is step one.”

Panelists also spoke on data released by the CDC, which shows firearms are the leading cause of death for US children and teens ages 1-19, surpassing motor vehicle accidents and those caused by other injuries, as of 2020.

“There is this concern that firearm incidents are the number one cause of death for children in this state,” Cruse said. “That’s a sobering statistic. It’s around common sense. It’s around secure storage. If you own a gun, store it. Know how to store it, know how to use it.”

The issue of mental health was also brought up, including the need for extra resources in the state.

Panelist CW Ball, a family physician and former medical director at Maury Regional Hospital, said mental health has been ignored by the nation for many years.

“We need to spend more; we need to put more people out there that can be counselors,” Ball said. “We need to have more availability for people because it’s always been a challenge as a physician to try to find mental health services for people.”

Event moderator Rev. Trent Ogilvie, who is the CEO and Executive Director of Columbia Housing and Redevelopment Corporation, noted research which has shown only 4 percent of community violence is attributed to severe mental disorders.

“When 20 percent of people have a mental health diagnosis in this country, they’re not 20 percent dangerous people,” Ball said. “On the other side of the coin, there are people who have borderline personalities and again, they don’t value life. Those are the kind of people that we say don’t need to be around a firearm because they can be dangerous people. It’s a small amount, but it’s horrendous if things happen that way.”

Rev. Russ Adcox, lead pastor at Maury Hills Church and panelist, spoke on the need for more churches to recognize mental health.

“For years there’s been a stigma associated with mental health issues among people of faith,” Adcox said. “The more churches can recognize and acknowledge that; it helps people get help. Sometimes you go to your pastor, and they say you need to pray more, or you need more faith, and I absolutely do believe in the role of faith and prayer, but I also believe there are people who need to seek professional help and medication.”

When asked about the pushback Lee has received from many Republicans following his call for the special session, Cruse said the organizations pushing back aren’t looking at the facts.

“Some have pushed back on any common-sense gun reform, believing it’s a slippery slope. If anything passes, it will lead to even more restrictions,” Cruse said.

“I think what we find is sometimes these organizations that push back, and they push back loudly, or they try to bully people into the right answer don’t have facts to back it up. Data doesn’t lie. There are pragmatic safety solutions that can allow firearm safety to exist just like car and car safety exists.”

Speaking on the upcoming special session, Cruse said he feels optimistic, though it won’t be a fast process.

“This is not going to get solved in August,” he said. “This probably isn’t going to get solved in 2024, but we have to keep the conversation alive. We have to keep the ball moving forward.”

In a statement following the panel, Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said he appreciated that the state legislative delegation was present.

“The fact our legislative delegation was present tells us they are willing to listen,” Molder said. “One thing that seems pretty clear is an overwhelming amount of Tennesseans support some of the initiatives being discussed relative to this upcoming special session.”

For more information on Voices for a Safer Tennessee, visit www.safertn.org.


9/11 Memorial (Press Release)

Join the City of Columbia and Columbia Fire and Rescue as they conduct their annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony. Located at Firefighters Park at 1000 S. Garden Street at 8:00am on Monday September 11th, local leaders will honor the brave men and women of emergency services. The public is invited to attend.


Fire Station 5 Opens (CDH)

Dozens of elected officials, firefighters and supporters gathered for the opening of the long-awaited Fire Station No. 5 in Hampshire, Tennessee on Sunday.

Maury County Fire and EMS Station 5 will replace an aging facility located in the heart of the community.

Maury County Commission Chairman Eric Previti said he has known for years that the community needed a fully functioning county-funded fire station to serve growing Hampshire. He remembers the former volunteer fire station as a "shed"-like structure with a fire engine "wedged" into the small space.

"This is much needed for the community," Previti said. "This is a great day for Maury County. With the commissions from 2018 to 2020, this is a piece of work (former Maury County Commissioner) Linda Whiteside has sought for years. This has been lifelong work to get this done for Ms. Whiteside.

"Linda is a great lady and honorable and wise to work with."

Whiteside had been working on getting a station approved for the community for almost 17 years.

Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt acknowledged the planning that went into the funding and construction of the new firehouse.

"This family and this community has had a dream, and we are seeing the fruition of that dream today," Butt said. "The most wonderful thing to me is that there were servants in government, servants in the community with no fanfare, they saw this spot [for the new fire station]. This will bring your community together."

Linda Whiteside talked about the importance of the station to the community at the groundbreaking ceremony in April 2022.

“All communities need a good fire station,” Whiteside previously stated. "We are so proud of it. When we had a fire, we would just call each other, get the firetruck and go. It has taken us a long time."

State Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald and Rep. Kip Capley, R-Summertown, attended the ceremony.

Located at 4126 Hampshire Pike, the new station is situated on a 3-acre plat of land located south of the intersection of Dry Fork Road in the center of the small rural community.

The new facility cost the county approximately $1.8 million. 


Columbia State Student in Civil Engagement Program (Press Release)

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett recently welcomed Columbia State Community College Student Government Association President Sasha Erickson to the annual College Civic Engagement Luncheon in Nashville.  

 

“My office has partnered with colleges and universities across the state to register thousands of students to vote,” said Secretary Hargett. “Student leaders are essential to working with our office to increase voter registration. I appreciate Columbia State SGA President Sasha Erickson’s commitment to increasing the number of registered voters on campus.” 

SGA leaders from more than 20 colleges and universities attended the College Civic Engagement Luncheon. Each year, Secretary Hargett invites SGA Presidents from every college and university across the state to join their fellow student leaders to discuss the importance of civic engagement and voter registration on their respective campuses in preparation for National Voter Registration Month in September.  

“Although the age group of 18-24 years old have the lowest voter turnout, this luncheon included student leaders of that age range eager to educate and inspire those around to register and vote,” said Erickson. “With each student leader and college campus participation I believe that we can and will make a difference to combat this shocking statistic and am confident that at Columbia State we are equipped with all the necessary tools to spark interest on our campuses for voting, as each vote county and statewide truly does make a difference.”

The Secretary of State’s office sponsors the Tennessee College Voter Registration Competition during National Voter Registration Month. The winning schools are selected based on the number of new students registered to vote relative to the size of their student body as well as their social media engagement in promoting the Tennessee College Voter Registration Competition.

“The annual College Civic Engagement Luncheon is a wonderful opportunity for SGA members and college staff responsible for civic engagement at colleges and universities from across the state to come together to get excited and prepared to get college students registered to vote,” said Tia Lammert Miller, Columbia State student development coordinator. “I am particularly excited that our SGA President Sasha Erickson was able to attend and see the importance of getting her peers to register and to the polls to vote. We are excited to get students registered this fall through our National Voter Registration Day events!” 

For more information about the Secretary of State’s Tennessee College Voter Registration Competition, visit sos.tn.gov/civics.

For more information on the Columbia State Student Government Association, visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/SGA.


Entrepreneur Boot Camp (Press Release)

Maury Alliance and Cowork Inc. have partnered together to offer a 12-week bootcamp led by PITON Consulting designed for entrepreneurs who are ready to take their business to the next level.

The MuleForce Entrepreneur Bootcamp is a transformative program designed to equip you with the essential tools and skills necessary to propel your business to new heights. During this business development program, PITON Coaching will guide you through a thought-provoking journey that will help you grow your business from infancy to expansion. By the end of this program, you will have the tools you need to become a more efficient and effective business owner with greater levels of impact and influence.

SESSION DATES are August 15th - October 24th Every Tuesday from 9am - 12pm at the Maury Alliance building located at 106 West 6th Street in Columbia. The cost is $300; $150 will be refunded back upon completion of the course

Go to mauryalliance.com/muleforce for more info and to apply!


MRMC Welcomes New Doc (Press Release)

 Lauren Dehan, MD, a specialist in pathology, has joined the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. She is associated with Opus Pathology/PCA Southeast.

 Dr. Dehan received her medical degree at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Cincinnati, Ohio. She completed the following at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee: a residency in pathology, a fellowship in cytopathology, and a fellowship in surgical pathology.

 In addition to clinical experience, Dr. Dehan has taken part in numerous publications and conferences associated with her specialty.

 Dr. Dehan is board certified in anatomic pathology and clinical pathology, as well as cytopathology.


Maury County Fair (MauryCountySource)

The Maury County Fair will return on Thursday, August 31st and run until Monday, September 4th, 2023.

All the family fun and entertainment you love will soon be back!

This year, the fair festivities begins with a Rodeo, taking place on Thursday of Fair Week. Several other popular events will be happening like the junk car jump and run and the Saturday motocross races.

In addition to the back arena fun, all your favorite animal shows and exhibitor competitions are back this year too! The kids zone will see a variety of live, exotic animals and science shows that will amaze kids of every age.

For more on the fair and updates, visit maurycountyfair.com.

Address: Maury County Fair & Exposition

1018 Maury County Park Dr. Columbia, TN 38401


Fire Department Recruiting (MauryCountySource)

Maury County Fire Department is accepting applications for their fall recruit class.

The department provides fire and rescue services to 618 square miles in Maury County, Tennessee. In addition, the team offers public fire education, CPR certification classes, and smoke detector installations to the citizens of Maury County.

No previous experience is required to join the annual recruit class. MCFD training program helps you obtain the skills, certifications, and state-level requirements to become a support member or firefighter.

Visit maurycountyfiretn.org/recruits and fill out an application today!


Sheriff’s Department Positions (MauryCountySource)

Looking for a new career in law enforcement? Maury County Sheriff’s Department announced on July 26 that they are hiring for multiple positions.

Current open positions include:

Communication Dispatcher

Correctional Officer

Deputy

Sheriff Administrative Clerk

To apply, visit www.maurycounty-tn.gov/jobs.


…And now, news from around the state…

Blackburn on Spending Bill

New funding for military facilities and technology in Tennessee and a 5.2% pay raise for service members will be among the items funded in the federal government’s annual military spending bill, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn says. 

“We’ve got so many people that are thrilled to see that pay raise there – because inflation has been difficult, and Congress realizes that there needs to be a way to offset that inflation,” Blackburn, R-Tennessee, said in an interview.

After the August recess, Congress will begin to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate passed last week. The Senate version authorizes $886 billion for national defense, up from $816.7 billion last year, and $777.7 billion in fiscal year 2022. 

Several contentious provisions are included in the House version, which passed earlier this month, including one to prohibit the Pentagon from paying for abortion-related travel expenses, gender transition surgeries, or hormone treatments for transgender individuals. The House version also blocks funding for diversity, equity and inclusion administrators.

“Unfortunately, the Pentagon has recently decided to prioritize political agendas that don’t have anything to do with national defense while the rest of the world laughs at us,” U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, said of the House version. “I’m glad to see this bill preventing taxpayer dollars from funding ridiculous things like race-baiting trainings, transgender surgeries, and cross-state abortions.”

Typically considered a must-pass funding bill, the NDAA has passed both chambers along largely party line votes. Republicans in Tennessee’s Congressional delegation voted in favor, while U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, opposed the bill.

Blackburn highlighted new funding she helped secure in the Senate version, including new funding to make permanent the pilot Pathfinder Program — an effort that allows university engineers to visit with troops in the field to identify ways technologies could be helpful, then design innovative technologies to fill troop-specific needs.

Last year, engineers at Vanderbilt University met with troops in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell and conceptualized a first-of-its-kind exoskeletal system to assist soldiers repeatedly lift heavier objects while avoiding fatigue and back injury. The product, dubbed the “Exosuit,” is now almost ready to move to the commercial market, Blackburn said. 

Similar partnerships also exist with the University of Memphis, Tennessee Technological University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 

“When you start a pilot project and it proves successful, being able to move this into a full-time project — it’s just exciting to see it happen,” Blackburn told The Tennessean. “This is solving problems — that’s what people expect. And the great thing is that it is talent in Tennessee that is solving those problems.”


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Armory Recreation and Fitness Center invites the city's youth for an afternoon of getting soaked at Riverwalk Park as it hosts Water Wars this Saturday.

The event will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday and will feature an assortment of water-related activities, including balloons, water guns and a slip and slide. Kids can also have fun at the Columbia Rotary Splash Pad, which will be operating in full force Saturday.

Celebrate the new month as summer begins to wind down with another festive First Fridays, which believe it or not keeps getting bigger and better.

As always, the main First Fridays events will run from 5-8 p.m., with shops staying open late, live music, food trucks and more in downtown Columbia.


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