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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 13, 2023


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


We start with local news…

XXentria Comes to Maury County (Press Release)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter and Xxentria Technology officials announced yesterday that the company will invest $45 million to establish its first U.S. metal composite production facility in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee.

Xxentria will create 85 new jobs at the Cherry Glen Industrial Park, a Select Tennessee Certified Site, in Maury County.

Based in Taiwan, Xxentria Technology Materials Company, Ltd., is a leading manufacturer of metal composite material. The Tennessee location will serve the automotive industry with the composite panels used to manufacture truck and trailer bodies.

Xxentria’s expansion to Tennessee results from years of research to locate a manufacturing facility in closer proximity to Xxentria’s U.S. customer base. The Mt. Pleasant plant will house equipment capable of two lines for lamination and one line for fabrication.

Since 2019, TNECD has supported nearly 15 economic development projects in Maury County, resulting in approximately 3,500 job commitments and $4.8 billion in capital investment.

“Global brands continue choosing to invest in Tennessee thanks to our low cost of doing business, highly skilled workforce and central location. I thank Xxentria for selecting the Volunteer State as home to its first U.S. location and believe these 85 new jobs will positively impact families across Maury County for years to come.” – Gov. Bill Lee

“The State of Tennessee has a pro-business climate and is aggressively attracting international manufacturing companies like ours. Establishing a manufacturing operation in Tennessee will allow us to better collaborate and serve our valued customers throughout North America while demonstrating that Taiwanese innovation has a home in the southeastern U.S.” – Howard Cheng, CEO, Xxentria Technology Materials Co., Ltd.

“The City of Mount Pleasant continues to attract international investment in no small part due to the local investments made in the Select Tennessee Certified Cherry Glen Industrial Park, infrastructure improvements, and high-quality education and workforce development programs. We would like to thank Xxentria for selecting Mount Pleasant as the location for their new manufacturing facility. Additionally, we would like to thank TNECD, TVA, NACC, MTIDA, SCTDD, MPPS, IDB of Maury County, and the Maury Alliance for their continued economic development teamwork and support, making announcements like this possible.” – Mt. Pleasant Mayor Bill White

“I would like to welcome Xxentria as the newest member of Team Maury! I am especially excited by how well the diversification of industry to our local economy and the addition of high-quality job opportunities matches with the economic development goals and targets identified by the community. What a great fit and what a great new addition! I would like to thank Xxentria for their investment in Maury County and our economic development partners for their hard work and continued support of the community.” – Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt

 “We are pleased to welcome Xxentria to Tennessee, which will be home to its first facility in the U.S. This significant investment will create valuable jobs, boost our local economy and further establish our community as a manufacturing hub. We wish Xxentria a long and prosperous future.” – Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald)

Spring Hill Chamber Celebrates 20 (Press Release)

The Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 20th anniversary and the achievements of its members at its Annual State of the Chamber and Awards Ceremony on Dec. 7 at the UAW Hall. The event celebrated significant growth for the Chamber, honored legacy member Pat Larson of A Petal for Your Thoughts for her pivotal role in establishing the Chamber in Spring Hill, and welcomed the Chamber’s 500th member, Mary Williams of Super Shuttle Nashville.

In 2023, the Chamber saw a membership increase to 529, including 126 new members and a 93% retention rate. It hosted a record-setting 49 programs and events, and participated in 44 ribbon cuttings, highlighting the expanding business community in Spring Hill.

The annual award recipients included:

George Bobier Ambassador of the Year Award: Erika Sanchez

Jim Grimes Board Member of the Year Award: Melinda Miller, Halifax Hospitality (Hampton Inn Spring Hill / Residence Inn Berry Farms)

New Member of the Year Award: Massage Envy of Spring Hill (Owner Amanda Jerkins); Nominees also included Aha Indian Grill, The Brunch Collective, and Doctors Taxi

Chamber Member of the Year Award: Wild Root Florist & Gift Shop (Owner Kathy Miller); Nominees also included Hampton Inn Spring Hill, Towhee Club / Birdsong Social, and Tropical Smoothie Cafe

The event concluded with a keynote address on corporate vision by Butch Spyridon, former CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, who retired in June after 32 years of service.

Executive Director Becca Melton expressed gratitude toward the members during the State of the Chamber and Awards Ceremony. “We are so thankful to our members for another wonderful year,” Melton said. “This year’s event celebrated not only our significant milestones and achievements but also underscored the remarkable spirit of collaboration and growth in our community.”

"Seeing our members' contributions to the Chamber's success is truly inspiring," said Jaimee Davis, 2024 Board Chair. "We eagerly anticipate building upon this momentum in the upcoming year."

About the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce

The Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce aims to positively influence the business culture for a better Spring Hill. It provides professional development, networking opportunities, and support services to local professionals. The Chamber also manages the Spring Hill Welcome Center at 5326 Main Street, Spring Hill.

Mr. Electric Ribbon Cutting(WKOM Audio 2:56)

Yesterday, Mr. Electric, a new electrical systems company held a ribbon cutting ceremony in Columbia. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy attended the grand opening and spoke to the owner and lead technician about what the company has to offer…

Spring Hill Recreation Expansion Proposed (MSM)

Spring Hill Parks and Recreation director Kayce Williams brought the most recent plans for the expansion of the Walnut Street Skate Park to the city’s planning commission last week, which includes the addition of four pickleball courts.

Along with the pickleball courts, a building that will contain restrooms was proposed, but city staff and engineers have concerns that will need to be addressed.

Currently, the restroom building’s height is not tall enough to meet code at just over 12 feet. The city’s Unified Development Code requires buildings to be 14 feet, under the current zoning.

“I think it’s appropriate, even though it is a restroom, that we are consistent with making sure we build to city standards,” city development director Peter Hughes said.

Hughes also asked if the building was planned to be used as a storm shelter, which Williams said it would not, at least not to her knowledge.

Commissioner Jonathan Duda asked if the park would have any lighting, but currently city parks close at dark, which would presume there would be no need for lighting at the park. Williams, however, did state that lighting could be part of future plans for the park.

Spring Hill will enhance the Walnut Street Skate Park with a $300,000 grant that will fund these additions and improve Fischer Park at Port Royal by adding a small Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant mobility track with cornhole, lighting, irrigation and field restoration.

The grant is part of the $7.6M awarded to communities throughout the state from the Local Parks and Recreation Fund (LPRF) program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program. The state is also awarding $1.9M in grants from the Recreation Trails Program (RTP).

“Parks are a very important part of our communities, and I am very pleased these funds are available for this project,” Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said. “They serve as a wonderful outdoor space for our residents, improving the quality of life for our citizens and promoting outdoor activity. I congratulate our local officials who were instrumental in helping secure these funds.”

“These recreation amenities will enhance the quality of life in our community, but it will also give residents with disabilities greater access to our parks,” Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, said.  “I thank our city leaders for their partnership and for submitting a successful application for these very worthy projects. It was an honor to support their efforts, and I appreciate TDEC’s investment in Spring Hill.”

The LPRF program provides state funding for the purchase of land for parks, natural areas, greenways and recreational facilities. LPRF funds also may be used for trail development and capital projects in parks, natural areas and greenways. The LWCF program provides grants to states to administer to state and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. The grants require a 50 percent match.

The RTP is a federally funded, state administered grant program, providing funds for land acquisition for trails, trail maintenance, trail construction, trail rehabilitation and trail head support facilities. These grants are distributed in the form of an 80 percent grant with a 20 percent match.

Spring Hill Christmas Parade Postponed (MauryCountySource)

Due to the severe weather on Saturday, the City of Spring Hill postponed the Christmas Parade from Saturday, December 9, to Saturday, December 16, 2023. The parade will begin at 5 p.m. and all logistics will remain the same.

If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact the City of Spring Hill at commdept@springhilltn.org.

Sobriety Checkpoint (Press Release)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol will be conducting sobriety roadside safety checkpoints during the week of December 15th on State Hwy 7 .1 miles south of Knob Creek in Maury County starting at 10:00pm.

Impaired driving is a serious crime that kills more than 16,000 people and injures 305,000 people every year in the United States. Troopers will evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. Troopers will target those who operate a vehicle while impaired and take corrective actions for other violations observed while ensuring the protection of all motorists.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol recognizes that sobriety checkpoints are highly visible and effective tools in the battle against impaired driving.

St. Peter’s Lessons and Carols (Press Release)

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church presents a service of Lessons & Carols on Sunday, December 17, at 4:00pm in the St. Peter’s sanctuary located at 311 West 7th Street in downtown Columbia, next door to the Polk Home.

This traditional Anglican service originated in the Church of England in the late 1800s and was later formalized as a Christmas service. After the devastation of World War I it has been broadcast by the BBC around the world ever since. The service includes scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments that tell the story of the birth of Jesus. The remainder of the service includes audience Christmas carols and choir anthems performed by the St. Peter’s Choir.

St. Peter’s Choir Director, Dr. Peter Douglas, says that this service “is a nice relief from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with singing and reflection on the Christmas story.” Dr. Douglas will also play the opening and closing organ voluntaries.

“We are thrilled to offer this beautiful and historic worship service to God and share it with the entire community,” said Father Chris Bowhay, St. Peter’s Rector. “Its rhythms of song and Scripture bring a deep sense of peace and wonder as we, like the shepherds and the Wise Men, walk toward Christmas to greet the newborn King.”

This event is free and open to the public with no tickets required. A livestream will be available on Facebook at the St. Peter’s website at www.saintpeterscolumbia.org/worship.

Shop Local (CDH)

Maury County shoppers, mark your calendars for shopping opportunities in town that keep dollars spent local.

Accepted at over 50 small businesses and restaurants across Maury County, Local First Gift Cards could just make the ideal stocking stuffer for anyone on your holiday list. Participating business include retail, eateries and services, including bed and breakfasts, breweries, wine bars, hair salons, boutiques, restaurants and more.

"Every penny" stays in the community and supports our vibrant local businesses, according to a recent Maury Alliance newsletter.

Wil Evans, president of Maury Alliance, said the program boosts local pride and fuels the local economy, keeping dollars in Maury County.

"By choosing to shop local, we are not merely engaging in a simple transaction for goods and services, we are fostering growth, creating jobs and fortifying the foundation of our community," Evans said.

"Keeping our dollars local supports the businesses run by our friends and family, by those that support our local nonprofits and by those that, in turn, buy their goods and services from other local artisans and suppliers.

The Maury Alliance Local First Gift Card program provides a similar benefit as other universal gift cards, allowing the user to choose where they would like to shop with the benefit of knowing their dollars are staying in the community, Evans said.

Kara J. Williams, director of the Maury County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is "very proud of the Local First Gift card and the growth it has had over the years."

"These gifts highlight our small local merchants and ensure dollars stay in our local economy. Our small businesses are an integral part of what makes Maury County a charming and thriving place."

Local First Gift Cards are available for purchase year-round at Maury Alliance. Visit mauryalliance.com/local-first-cards/ for more info and a listing of participating businesses.

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

Mr. David Olan Malone passed away peacefully in his home, surrounded by his love one on December 6, 2023 at the age of 84. The family will visit with friends for service on Thursday, December 14 , 2023 from 4 P.M. to 5 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols funeral home in Columbia, TN. A celebration of life will follow immediately at the Rebel in Columbia.

Mr. Johnny N. Wooten, 86, born in Bartow, FL and a resident of Columbia, TN passed away on December 7, 2023. Visitation will be held at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia, TN on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. A memorial service will follow on Saturday, January 6, 2024, at 10;00 A.M., also at Oakes and Nichols Funeral Home. Johnny will be laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Mr. Michael “Scott” Turner passed away on Sunday, December 10, 2023 at the age of 57.

Funeral services will be conducted Friday, December 15th at 11:00 a.m. at Highland Church of Christ. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends on Thursday, December 14th from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. at Highland Church of Christ.

Mrs. Cavalyn Nancy Muller, 83, Educator for Maury County schools and resident of Columbia, died on December 2, 2023 at Maury Regional Hospital. Funeral services will be scheduled at a later date. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family

Mr. David Allen Dyer, 80, retired bus driver for Maury County schools and resident of Columbia, died on December 10, 2023 at his residence. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family.

Mrs. Lois Johnson Dugger passed away peacefully at NHC on December 7, 2023 at the age of 93. Mrs. Dugger, a respected member of the Culleoka community, was born on March 9, 1930 in Columbia and lived her entire life in Maury County.

A 1947 graduate of Columbia Central High School. Lois and her late husband, James Sr., were very active members of the Friendship Baptist Church for the over 75 years.

The funeral service for Mrs. Dugger was held on Monday and she was laid to rest beside her husband in Friendship Cemetery. The family, respectfully, requests that memorial contributions be made to Friendship Baptist Church.    

…And now, news from around the state…

TN Prison Audit Finds Trouble Areas (Tennessean)

Tennessee prisons may have violated federal law by mishandling sexual assault cases and are experiencing staggering staff turnover rates at CoreCivic-operated facilities, according to a new audit of the state Department of Correction.

The audit, conducted by the Tennessee's Comptroller's office and released Tuesday, found multiple examples of TDOC and CoreCivic staff violating federal Prison Rape Elimination Act standards, including closing sexual assault investigations before receiving rape testing results.

The department either didn't discipline or didn't document the discipline of at least four employees with "substantiated" allegations of sexual harassment against prisoners.

In its formal response to the audit, TDOC pledged to provide "training for the appropriate staff" to improve compliance with the federal law.

Meanwhile, systemic staffing issues are an ongoing concern, auditors found.

The private prison operator CoreCivic saw massive increases in staff turnover during fiscal year 2023, the audit found.

CoreCivic operated triple-digit turnover rates in its facilities, except for its Whiteville prison, a significant departure from its agreement with the state to keep turnover rates at 50% or lower, according to the audit. And the problem appears to be worsening, with CoreCivic facilities recording a 103% turnover rate in 2022 and a 146% turnover rate in 2023, the audit found.

CoreCivic's Trousdale prison is a major driver of these turnover issues, recording an 188% turnover rate in 2023, a 74% increase from 2022, the audit found.

The Tennessean has reached out to CoreCivic for comment.

Meanwhile, TDOC is seeking more than $9 million in budget increases in the upcoming fiscal year, more then $7 million of which is earmarked for CoreCivic.

State-run prisons have improved their turnover rates in the last four fiscal years, dropping from 44% to 37% from 2020 to 2023, per the audit.

The audit found TDOC management has "taken action" to address critical staffing issues, but prisons continue to face an "ongoing and deeply rooted challenge of attrition within their ranks."

Prisons have particularly struggled to staff correctional officer positions, which has led to entire housing units being staffed with a single officer, staff leaving doors that should be secured open for "convenience" and limited security during emergencies like fights and overdoses.

Meanwhile, the department has relied on "unsustainable" levels of overtime to fill staffing gaps, the audit found. TDOC spent $51.4 million in correctional officer overtime over the past two fiscal years.

CoreCivic facilities are also failing to offer postsecondary or Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology courses, which state prisons do offer.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Enjoy the Holiday Lights in the Park starting this week! The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department have lit up the parks this holiday season.

Holiday lights at Riverwalk, Woodland and Fairview Parks run through December 31, 2022. Woodland and Fairview Parks are drive-through displays.

Riverwalk Park is a walk-through display.

Woodland Park: 821 W 9th St, Columbia, TN 38401

Fairview Park: 871 Iron Bridge Rd, Columbia, TN 38401

Riverwalk Park: 102 Riverside Dr, Columbia, TN 38401

The lights will display every evening from 5:00 pm-8:00 pm.

Woodland Park will have only one way traffic entering via the bridge from West 9th Street during these times.


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