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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 14, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Fire at Dotted Lime (MSM)

An afternoon fire last Friday heavily damaged the popular gluten-free eatery The Dotted Lime, located on Columbia’s South Main Street.

In a statement, Columbia Fire and Rescue said the incident is currently being investigated by the Columbia Fire Marshal office.

“At 3:52 p.m., Columbia Fire and Rescue was dispatched to 1806 South Main Street Dotted Lime. Upon arrival, heavy smoke was seen coming out of the front of the structure. No one was in the building upon arrival. Firefighters made an aggressive attack and contained the fire to the rear of the structure. No firefighters were injured,” the statement read.

Though the restaurant officially closed in October, many items were stored in the building.

Chrissy Jensen, who co-owned the restaurant along with her husband Paul, said she was “shell-shocked.”

“Our building, equipment, memories, baking mixes, ingredients, and paperwork are all destroyed,” Jensen said in a post on Facebook. “We don’t know what happened yet. We don’t even know what we need to do next,” she said, adding that all baking mixes have been pulled offline.

“No idea if or when we will be back to baking mixes. It’s hard to think right now. I don’t know what else to say or do, we are heartbroken,” the post read.

Assistant Fire Marshal Zach Bennett confirmed the cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Battle Creek Highschool Zoned (MSM)

The Maury County School Board approved an amendment last Tuesday, which would adjust attendance zones for the new Battle Creek High School, which is set to open in time for the 2024-25 school year.

The BCHS zone will consist of the current Spring Hill High School zone east of Highway 31, south of Saturn Parkway, and a portion of the current Columbia Central High School zone, south of Bear Creek Pike. Students entering grades 9-10 in the defined zone will attend Battle Creek beginning next August. Meanwhile, students in grades 11-12 will attend Spring Hill High School during the 2024 school year, which includes students currently zoned to both Spring Hill and Columbia Central.

BCHS will serve grades 9-11 for the 2025-26 school year and grades 9-12 in school year 2026 forward.

The Spring Hill High School zone will also extend from its current western line, which runs eastward to Highway 31, by extending south to Highway 43. The Spring Hill Middle School zone is also being adjusted to match the SHHS zone. Grades 5-8 in the area south of Columba Rock Road down to Highway 43 will be moved from Cox Middle School to Spring Hill Middle, per information provided to the school board.

The board voted on the name of the new school last year, opting for Battle Creek High School over the alternative option, Spring Hill High School at Battle Creek.

Constructed by design firm Kline Swinney Associates, the 305,675 square-foot school will house 2,000 students on three stories. The school will include a two-story main lobby, cafeteria with outdoor eating, computer classrooms, and a state-of-the-art media center. Additional spaces include a dual-level auditorium and gymnasium featuring a separate auxiliary gym on the second level, per Kline Swinney.

Meanwhile during the meeting, the board also approved $1.5 million in furnishings for the school, which were purchased off of a Williamson County cooperative.

“Without that Williamson County piggyback, this is over $3 million worth of furniture,” MCPS Assistant Superintendent of Operations Eric Perryman said. “We would like to get this approved so we can put the order of the items before the end of the month so they will be in by June or July.”

Mt. Pleasant Considers Land Acquisition (MSM)

Mount Pleasant is in negotiations with a local landowner for possible greenspace in the city next to the city park, but concerns about the future use of the land has become a point of contention among city commissioners.

“As a city manager, I wouldn’t feel like I was doing my job if I didn’t tell you there was greenspace next to a park we have that is on the market,” city manager Kate Collier told the board at its regular November meeting.

A piece of land, located on Hidden Cove Drive next to the city park, has been listed for sale for $130,000, and the commission voted to give negotiating power up to $120,000 for the land, which could be paid for by a USDA grant the city is currently pursuing.

According to the realtor’s website, the land is under a contingent contract, but the buyer is not listed.

If the city were able to purchase the land, a parking lot would likely be constructed to help meet current requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The ADA parking spots we want to do next to our ballfields – we don’t have space to do those spots right now per our own code,” city finance director Shiphrah Cox said. “The only reason we went for this is we need to put parking spots there if the ballfields are going to have traffic. We don’t have good parking there.”

Developers have looked at the property to build about four homes on the tract, but contracts to this point have fallen through, which allowed the city a chance to make an offer.

Commissioner Mike Davis raised the concern over the costs after the land was purchased, which – without an engineering study – is unknown.

“When you spend $130,000 on that and we do all that parking and then you have all that water runoff, what does that mean we’re going to have to do with drainage? Are we going to have to spend another possibly $200,000 on drainage or has any study been done on it,” he asked. “We need to know more about this before going ahead.

 “I want it to be known that if we flood these homes over here because of this project, it was brought up.”

Cox added that becoming ADA-compliant has been a topic of discussion and a major issue across the state, but this could help the city become compliant and avoid future lawsuits.

“They’re not making any more greenspace and we need that space because we don’t have anywhere to park that is ADA accessible,” she said.

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.

McConnell Named Chief Loan Officer at FM&M (MSM)

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation, the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, recently announced that Jennifer J. McConnell has joined the bank as Chief Credit Officer.

“We are pleased to announce that Jennifer McConnell has joined our bank as Chief Credit Officer,” stated Brian K. Williams, First Farmers’ Chairman and CEO. “Her banking career spans 27 years and includes a wealth of leadership experience in credit risk management, portfolio management and relationship management.

“Jennifer is transitioning into her new role under the guidance of Andy W. Davis, who has served as Chief Credit Officer for the last eight years. Under Andy’s leadership, First Farmers has steadily improved loan quality metrics, reduced loan losses and maintained a strong credit culture. We are pleased that he will be working closely with Jennifer to ensure a smooth transition.

“We have known Jennifer for a number of years, and her significant experience in commercial lending and executive leadership positions in credit were key attributes we sought as our next Chief Credit Officer. We are confident that she will continue to enhance our strong credit culture and high credit standards. We also believe that her extensive work with small businesses will enhance our strategic initiatives focused on business banking.”

Prior to joining First Farmers, McConnell served as Executive Vice President, Managing Senior Credit Officer for Commercial, Retail/Small Business, SBA and Equipment/Franchise Financing Divisions for BankUnited, a Miami, Florida based bank with $37 billion in assets. She was responsible for the processing, due diligence, credit analysis, underwriting, credit approval, portfolio management, loan closing, loan documentation, construction loan management, legal, booking/funding, servicing and secondary market teams within the above-mentioned divisions of BankUnited. In addition, Jennifer oversaw SOX review, credit review, internal audits, and compliance/fair lending exams for the same divisions.

Prior to joining BankUnited in 2017, she served as Senior Vice President and Senior Credit Manager for First Tennessee

Bank (First Horizon) where she was responsible for centralized credit teams and director of their SBA/government guaranteed lending unit. She previously served as SBA National Manager and Business Banking Team Lead for Fifth Third Bank and Senior Vice President of Business Banking at Regions Bank. She started her banking career in 1997 in the management training program of SunTrust Bank.

McConnell is a Nashville native and lives in the Franklin area with her family. She is a graduate of Centre College with a B.A. in Economics.

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation is the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, a community bank serving the Middle Tennessee area through 22 offices in seven Middle Tennessee counties. As of September 30, 2023, First Farmers reported total assets of approximately $1.9 billion, total shareholders’ equity of approximately $99 million and administered trust assets of $5.4 billion. For more information about First Farmers, visit www.myfirstfarmers.com.

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.

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

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.

…And now, news from around the state…

Megan Berry Taking on Green in 7th (TheNewsTN)

Megan Barry officially announced her campaign for Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District on Wednesday after weeks of public speculation. Barry, a Democrat, will face Republican Mark Green, a two-term incumbent who won the seat over Democrat Odessa Kelly by some 40,000 votes.

Barry focuses on gun control, protecting reproductive rights and preventing rural hospital closures in a short campaign launch video posted to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. She also recounted the story of losing her son, Max, to a drug overdose while she was mayor, while criticizing Green and lamenting partisanship and dysfunction in Congress.

Initially considered a long shot candidate for Nashville mayor in 2015, Barry reached a broad political base that handed her a decisive victory over conservative David Fox. Barry resigned halfway through her term after pleading guilty to felony theft related to a romantic relationship with Robert Forrest, an MNPD sergeant on her security detail. The charge was expunged in 2021.

“I don’t think anyone should be defined by their worst moments,” says Barry in her announcement video, her only reference to the incident. “It’s what you do next that counts.”

Insiders say Barry has retained support among the political crowd that helped buoy her 2015 campaign for mayor. Her campaign’s first fundraising disclosure is due at the end of the year.

Green, a Clarksville conservative who previously served in the state Senate, reported almost $265,000 on hand as of Oct. 1. 

Should Barry win her party’s nomination, she and Green will face off on Nov. 5 of next year.

No Trash November (MauryCountySource)

More than 86,000 pounds of litter was removed from communities throughout Tennessee as part of the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s (TDOT) 3rd Annual No Trash November, a month-long initiative to ensure the state’s roadways and waterways are safe from the harmful effects of litter.

Spearheaded by TDOT’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee campaign, the initiative encourages residents to join cleanups through Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTnB) affiliates, Adopt-A-Highway groups, or by hosting their own community cleanups in November. All told, 2,201 volunteers participated in 154 cleanups, collecting 4,303 bags of litter, weighing 86,064 pounds. Thirty-seven of Tennessee’s 95 counties were represented.

“The impact of No Trash November continues to grow each year,” said Deputy Governor and TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley. “This initiative affirms why Tennessee is called the volunteer state and is an excellent example of successful collaborations between nonprofit organizations, volunteer groups, and state, county and city governments.”

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Following the inaugural BNA Holiday Tree Lighting event held last month, Nashville International Airport® (BNA®) is continuing its festive spirit with a lineup of activities and performances for the holiday season, including:

Live musical performances – December 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, and 24

Balloon artists – December 14, 15, 18, and 21

Three special appearances by Santa Claus – December 15, 18, and 21

Holiday Carolers – December 15 and 21

Puppet Show – December 19

Guest appearance by Sandy Claus (Mrs. Claus) – December 20

Holiday gift wrapping – December 21

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