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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 1, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Farmers Drought Aid (Press Release)

Farm Service Agency in Maury County this week announced that ranchers and livestock producers can apply for assistance from the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for grazing losses incurred in 2023.

“Drought conditions in Maury County have triggered availability of the Livestock Forage Disaster Program," said Clint Bain, county executive director. “LFP provides compensation to livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought. We encourage producers to contact our office for an appointment and to learn what records they need to have on hand to apply for assistance.”

Bain said the program covers full season improved pasture, warm season improved pasture, cool season improved pasture, native pasture, forage sorghum, short season small grains, long season small grains, annual crabgrass and annual ryegrass. For losses due to drought, an eligible livestock producer must own or lease grazing land or pastureland physically located in a county meeting drought intensity criteria rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor. A list of eligible counties for LFP drought may be found on the FSA website by visiting www.fsa.usda.gov.

Eligible livestock include alpacas, beef cattle, buffalo/bison, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, reindeer or sheep that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland during the normal grazing period.

Producers must provide a completed application and supporting documents to their FSA office within 30 calendar days after the end of the calendar year in which the grazing loss occurred. Applicants should collect records documenting their losses and evidence that the grazing land or pastureland is owned or leased. Additional supporting documents include federal grazing permits and contract grower agreements.

For more information, or to make an appointment, contact the Maury County FSA office at 931-388-1307 x 2.  Additional USDA disaster assistance information can be found on farmers.gov, including USDA resources specifically for producer impacted by drought and wildfire and the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, Disaster-at-a-Glance fact sheet, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool. For FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service programs, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, producers and landowners should contact their crop insurance agent. 


Leadership Maury Scholarship Winner (CDH)

Columbia State nursing student Valecia Puckett was recently awarded as the first recipient of the Leadership Maury Class of 2022 endowed scholarship through the Columbia State Community College Foundation.

“As a graduate of Leadership Maury, I was glad to participate with fellow alums in creating this scholarship,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation. “The Columbia State Foundation is excited to introduce the first student recipient to representatives of Leadership Maury.”

As part of their class project, members of Leadership Maury Class of 2022 were determined to establish a scholarship to support and encourage students residing in Maury County in continuing their education. Other alums of Leadership Maury and friends joined with them to accomplish this goal. The scholarship was created to assist Maury County residents who are enrolled in a degree or certificate program of study.

Puckett, a Spring Hill resident, is the first recipient of the endowed scholarship.

“I chose to go to Columbia State because the community seems so close and more interested in my success than at a big, traditional four-year college,” said Puckett. “I also know that the nursing program here is very flexible to my needs as a student.”

Upon graduating, Puckett plans on transferring to the University of Tennessee Southern to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She hopes to eventually join the Air National Guard to be an OB-GYN or psychiatric nurse, or become a nurse practitioner.

“Each year, the Leadership Maury class selects a class project to benefit the community,” said Kara Williams, director of the Maury County Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Maury coordinator. “I am very proud of the Class of 2022 for selecting an endowment scholarship at Columbia State, one of the greatest assets in Maury County. This will continue to touch students’ lives for years to come. Congratulations to the first recipient!”

“I would definitely recommend Columbia State because of how small it is and how many campuses there are,” said Puckett of her time at Columbia State. “They are very flexible when helping you with your specific needs. I had a rough time transitioning and adjusting to the college life and the professors and advisors here really helped me get to where I am today. I really enjoy this school and there’s something for everybody.”

Visit ColumbiaState.edu/Foundation/Give for more information.


Christmas Tour of Homes (CDH)

A celebrated annual holiday tradition in Columbia is the Maury Christmas Historic Home Tour, which dates back to 1951. Started as the Majestic Middle Tennessee Tour of Homes, it has become a much anticipated holiday activity.

Tickets are $25 and grants visitors access to all sites featured in this year's tour. Proceeds will benefit The Athenaeum's annual operating costs and restoration efforts.

The self-guided tour will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call (931) 797-3316.

This year's featured homes and historic sites include:

The Athenaeum (Tour Headquarters) - 808 Athenaeum St.

The Coursey House - 206 Pleasant St. in Mt. Pleasant

The Gibbons Home - 811 School St.

James K. Polk Home & Museum - 301 W. 7th St.

The Newman Home - 505 Washington Ave. in Mt. Pleasant

St. John's Episcopal Church - 6497 Trotwood Ave.

Historic Elm Springs - 2357 Park Plus Drive

The Price Home - 209 N. Main St. in Mt. Pleasant

The National Confederate Museum - 2357 Park Plus Drive


City Receives Accounting Reporting Award (Press Release)

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to the City of Columbia for its annual comprehensive financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022.

This is now the 24th year the City has been awarded this honor. The report has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.

“I’m very proud of the team’s work preparing the annual financial report for the 24th consecutive year,” said Assistant City Manager Thad Jablonski. “We take pride in producing an annual financial report, as well as a condensed version of the report, that is accurate and informative for the City Council, Management, and Columbia citizens.”

The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. This award reflects the goal of the City to serve as a financially responsible government entity, that also provides excellent services to our citizens.

Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “I am once again proud of our Finance Team at City Hall, including Thad Jablonski and everyone else who plays a part in ensuring our financial reporting remains second to none. We have no greater responsibility than to ensure transparency and responsibility with all tax-payer dollars. This award is the latest example in our commitment to that goal, and our ability to succeed on that goal.”

The City of Columbia’s annual comprehensive financial reports can be viewed on the City’s website at www.columbiatn.com/235/Annual-Financial-Reports. To learn more about the GFOA award, go to www.gfoa.org/coa-award.


MRMC Job Event (Press Release)

Maury Regional Health (MRH) will host a walk-in career event for positions in clinical and non-clinical areas on the second Thursday of each month beginning December 14 from 3-6 p.m. in the Human Resources conference room at Maury Regional Medical Center located at 1224 Trotwood Avenue in Columbia.

Applicants interested in joining a nationally recognized health care system should bring a copy of their résumé to this hiring event — no application required. During the visit, candidates will have the opportunity to speak with members of the talent acquisition team about positions and opportunities at Maury Regional Health’s southern Middle Tennessee locations as well as to learn more about our comprehensive benefits, educational assistance programs and more.

Positions of possible interest include but are not limited to:

Nurse technician

Registered nurse (RN)

Physical therapist

Pharmacy technician

Licensed practical nurse (LPN)

Medical lab technician

Registrars

Dietary services

Facility services

Environmental services

Applicants who are unable to attend the walk-in event on December 14 but are interested in exploring open positions are encouraged to contact the Human Resources Department at 931.380.4017 or careers@mauryregional.com.

Maury Regional Health is a not-for-profit regional health system serving southern Middle Tennessee through its hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, outpatient facilities and physician practice group. Located in Columbia, Maury Regional Medical Center serves as the flagship hospital. The system also includes Marshall Medical Center in Lewisburg, Wayne Medical Center in Waynesboro, Lewis Health Center in Hohenwald, Maury Regional Medical Group physician practices across the region and several outpatient facilities.

Maury Regional Health offers one of the most comprehensive and competitive benefits packages in Middle Tennessee, including medical, dental and vision insurance plans; merit-based pay increases; flexible shift options; an on-site daycare center; education assistance for qualifying candidates; access to earned wages before payday; financial counseling and career navigation support; local discounts; and more.


Maury County to Fund Lobbyists (MSM)

The Maury County Commission met Monday, Nov. 20 to approve a number of items, including a resolution which would provide additional funding for lobbyists to support amending the 2006 County Powers Relief Act, sparking a debate over the county’s representation on the matter.

The resolution would provide an additional $25,000 for lobbying efforts for the upcoming legislative session. The commission has already approved $75,000 to go towards the hiring of one lobbyist.

The efforts are part of the fight to pass an impact fee, which would allow local commissions to decide how fees would be used to pay for growth from incoming developments.

In 2006, a bill known as the “County Powers Relief Act” was passed, allowing local governments to enact adequate facilities taxes on new developments. However, the bill limited the ability of counties or municipalities to increase impact fees via private acts of the legislature.

Earlier this year a bill seeking to remedy the problem, which was sponsored by Rep. Scott Cepicky, failed to pass the House Property and Planning Subcommittee.

Cepicky, who was not in attendance for the meeting, was brought up several times by commissioners who questioned his representation.

“I think we do have a representative, but that particular representative has not attended the last three meetings when we discussed this matter,” District 8 Commissioner Ray Jeter said. “Quite frankly, I feel like we are not being represented properly on this matter. Otherwise, I would not be in favor of spending this money for a lobbyist.”

District 10 Commissioner Danny Grooms shared the same sentiments.

“For two years we tried to get this passed through the legislature. For two years, it’s been shot down.,” Grooms said, asking that Rep. Kip Capley be included in the meetings. “If we don’t do something, then all we do is sit here and talk. Either we put up the money to try to get this through, to get some relief for the people of this county, or we keep going down the road that we’re going.”

However, Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt said Cepicky has been working on many other bills.

“We do have a representative, and I have been a representative, but there are other bills that our representative is working on as well,” Butt said. “He needs help to go into those offices and get this bill passed for us among other bills.

“To me, I’ve always thought you have to make an investment sometimes to make money. This is an investment for us to eventually have some kind of fees, some kind of developers pay in to help us with what we have to do to continue the growth in Maury County.”

The contract will be reviewed by County Attorney Daniel Murphy, with an out clause as part of the agreement.

The Tennessee General Assembly will reconvene on Tues, Jan. 9.


Columbia Christmas Tree Lighting (CDH)

The lights will shine bright as the countdown to Christmas begins with Columbia Main Street's 37th annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting will be Saturday.

The event will once again take place in historic downtown Columbia from 6-8 p.m., with this year's lineup featuring a record number of 120 participants and floats, according to a City of Columbia press release.

“Kicking off the holiday season with the Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting truly warms your heart and puts a smile on your face," Columbia Main Street Manager Kelli Johnson said.

"I am thrilled for the community and businesses to be a part of this annual event because it shows how magical and unique our town truly is. I encourage all to come early and stay late for this festive event that takes place in the heart of Historic Downtown Columbia.”

Leading the parade as this year's Grand Marshal will be retired Col. Ashley Brown, whom Johnson said was the first name on this year's list of potential candidates.

Johnson said Brown was "an obvious choice not only as a civil servant, a retired U.S. Army National Guard veteran, but as someone who truly represents Columbia well."

"We are really excited to have him be a part of the parade this year," Johnson said. "We knew it was the right choice."

Brown first joined the Army at age 17, rising to the rank of Platoon Sergeant by age 20. He steadily rose through the ranks until Brown was promoted to Colonel in 1988. He is also an honorary Colonel on the staff of the Governors of Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee, and is an honorary professor of Military Science at the U.S. Army Reserve Forces School in St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1969, Brown was elected to the Maury County Court, now known as the Maury County Commission, as well as serving as chairman of the Rules and Alcohol Beverage Boards. He also served on the Budget, Hospital and Schools Committees.

"He's just one of those guys where you'd be hard pressed to find anyone to say anything bad about Ashley Brown, but you'll have a lot wanting to say something good about Ashley Brown," Mayor Chaz Molder said. "I'm proud of the decision, not only because it is well deserved, but because he is a personal friend."

As a local Kiwanian, Brown served as president of Columbia Kiwanis from 1980-1981 and remains an active member.

Brown's other civic roles include serving as a member of the Maury Regional Hospital Advisory Board, Maury County Mental Health Board, Maury County Civil Service Commission and President of UGF. He is also a Past Commander of American Legion Post 19.

Brown was awarded as Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2002 and 2009 by Columbia Civitan and Golden K Kiwanis Clubs.

The parade will begin starting at 6 p.m., featuring several holiday-themed floats, marching bands, costumed characters, as well as local churches, businesses, nonprofits and other civic groups all making their way down West 7th Street.

Santa will then light the 40-foot Christmas tree topper at around 7:15 p.m. on the Maury County Courthouse steps.

Entertainment will be provided by DJ Amped Eric McCandless, as well as an original song performed by Marta Albarracin and trophy presentations to multiple "best of" parade winners.

"It will be a hit once Santa lights the tree and people can hang around, dance and have fun," Johnson said. "Marta is also coming back after singing in last year's parade. The song she is singing this year she wrote about last year's parade experience, and it will definitely become a Columbia Christmas Parade Classic."

With a record-setting lineup, Johnson said additional prep work was done to ensure a steady flow for participants throughout the night. There will also be a new, somewhat interactive, opportunity for the kids featured this year.

"Logistically, the parade should be better for participants who are lining up along the parade route," Johnson said. "We are also handing out around 700 'giveaways' to kids in the crowd. It's like a glow stick, but more, which will be fun to see light up among the crowd."

This year's Grand Marshal sponsor is Stan McNabb Chevrolet Columbia.

“I am so excited for this year's Columbia Main Street Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting celebration — 37 years and going strong,” Molder said. “I can't wait to welcome our residents and visitors alike in what will be a magical night in Columbia."


…And now, news from around the state…

Fight Over Bona Fides (Tennessean)

A group of Tennessee voters, including former Knoxville mayor and longtime Republican Victor Ashe, have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a new law requiring polling places to inform voters that it is illegal to vote in a primary election without being a "bona fide" political party member.

The lawsuit alleges there is no legal mechanism to determine a voter's "bona fide" party credentials and the law could spark voter confusion. Tennessee does not require voters to register by political party, meaning voters choose at the polls what party primary ballot they prefer.

Along with Ashe, the League of Women Voters of Tennessee and Knoxville voter Phil Lawson filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville.

In the federal court filing, the plaintiffs argue the law is unconstitutional because it threatens "voters, including primarily those who have no intent to crossover vote, with felony convictions based on nebulous standards that have no definition under state law and instead are defined by private political parties."

Ashe, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland, told the USA TODAY Network-Tennessee, he was worried who gets to makes the call on voters' party affiliation. He's a lifelong Republican but sometimes writes critically of fellow party members in his Knox News columns.  

He wondered if that was enough to be used against him at the polls. 

"This new law, I find it rather shocking because it allows someone other than me to decide if I'm a bona fide member of the Republican Party," Ashe said. "What is a bona fide Democrat or Republican? It's not defined. How does a citizen obey the law?"

"I heard about (the law) and I thought, 'This can't be true.'" 

State Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, sponsored the legislation, which largely passed on a party line vote, with a few Republicans in both chambers joining Democrats to vote against it. A separate effort to fully close the primary process and require full party registration failed to advance.

“This new law will have a chilling effect on Tennesseans exercising their right to vote and creates unnecessary confusion for voters,” Debby Gould, president of the League of Women Voters of Tennessee, said in a statement. “The League of Women Voters will continue to fight to ensure that all voters are empowered at the ballot box and can feel confident in their right to vote.” 


BNA To Reduce Parking (Tennessean)

In an effort to alleviate traffic, Nashville International Airport announced on Wednesday that it would implement complementary and reduced-rate short term parking beginning Dec. 1.

The rates will apply to Terminal Garage 1 and Terminal Garage 2, with 85 designated spots for short-term parking in Terminal Garage 1.

Doug Kreulen, president and CEO of BNA, said they have listened to traffic concerns and are making improvements to eliminate the congestion on the roadway.

"As we implemented a long-term parking strategy, we are also launching a new short-term parking initiative, complementing our existing free cell phone lot on Murfreesboro Pike," he said in a release.

"We ask visitors who arrive early to help us ease traffic congestion by either using the terminal garage with complimentary and reduced rates, or our cell phone lot. As Nashville and BNA continue to experience exponential growth, BNA is committed to providing a world-class airport.”

According to the release, the new parking rates aim to eliminate the persistent circling of Terminal Drive, which leads to roadway congestion. 

Also beginning on Dec. 1, there will be lane closures on Donelson Pike in both directions for Tennessee Department of Transportation operations. The closures will begin at 8 p.m. and will last till Monday, Dec. 4 at 4 a.m.

One lane will remain open at all times. BNA recommends to plan accordingly if traveling to the airport.

The first 30 minutes are free with increases based on the duration of the stay.

$5 for 30 - 45 minutes

$10 for 45 - 60 minutes

$20 for 60 - 90 minutes

$25 for 90 -120 minutes

$30 for over 120 minutes


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Ol' St. Nick will be making his rounds in Columbia this weekend, inviting youngsters to pay him a visit, enjoy a meal and share their must-have holiday wish list items.

Wake up early with the big guy on Saturday for Breakfast with Santa at the Maury County Arts Guild, 705 Lion Parkway, which starts at 9:30 a.m. The event will also feature a Christmas craft and holiday-themed games, as well as pictures with Santa. The event is free, but registrations are encouraged at www.TicketPeak.com.

Santa will also be making an appearance at aMuse'um Children's Museum, 123 W. 7th St., with multiple sessions starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $20 for members and $25 for non-members. To register, call (931) 223-6337.


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