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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 20, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Spring Hill Gas Theft (MauryCountySource)

The SHPD is asking for the public’s help in identifying an individual who allegedly stole $400 worth of gas from the BP station in the 3500 block of Kedron Rd.

On December 1st, a Black male wearing a white t-shirt and black toboggan used a fraudulent card to purchase to fill up two Penske trucks with gas.

You can view a photograph of the alleged thief at www.maurycountysource.com.

If you have information relating to this investigation, please contact Detective Josh Weber at jweberspringhilltn.org 

Motorcycle Crash (MauryCountySource)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has identified the motorcyclist who was killed in a crash Friday afternoon in Maury County.

According to the Maury County Fire Department, crews responded to the wreck shortly before 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15 in the 700 block of Mooresville Pike.

A crash report provided by the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) reveals that 22-year-old Tre Davidson was traveling north on Mooresville Pike in a Kawasaki ZX1 motorcycle when he crossed the center line while attempting to negotiate a curve.

Officials said Davidson ran off the roadway, struck a ditch and continued traveling before eventually hitting a culvert.

Davidson was reportedly wearing a helmet when the crash occurred, according to THP.

No additional details about the crash were immediately released.

Fire in Maury (WKRN.com)

A Friday night fire in Maury County left at least one building damaged, as well as the surrounding woods.

The Maury County Fire Department said crews were dispatched shortly after 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15 to a report of a structure fire along Ragsdale Road in Santa Fe.

When units arrived at the house, fire officials said they found a home 80% involved in flames, with trees burning and an outbuilding catching on fire.

First responders reportedly operated in defensive mode for more than four hours, containing a half-acre woods fire and cutting down several burning trees with chainsaws.

According to the fire department, Maury Regional EMS treated one civilian and one firefighter at the scene. There is no word on the nature of their injuries at this time.

Officials have not shared any additional details about the fire, including its cause.

Ridley Championship Field Named After Dickey (CDH)

Christmas arrived early for former Mayor Dean Dickey with a special dedication by Columbia City Council of Ridley Park's Championship Field in honor of his many years of public service.

The dedication was presented in the form of a resolution during the council's regular voting meeting Thursday, Dec. 14, which Dickey said was "a complete surprise" to him, describing the notion as a "true honor."

"I was just told they hope I don't have plans for Thursday evening, that it was a secret," Dickey said. "I had no idea."

Dickey and his family have been Columbia citizens since the early 1970s, helping establish the Tennessee Grocers Association and spending his career managing a chain of Giant Food and Piggly Wiggly stores.

He joined the city council in 2008 and was later elected mayor in 2010, serving two four-year terms.

Dickey served in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict in the 1950s.

Dickey was also a devoted member of Columbia Kiwanis for more than 40 years.

During his time of service, Dickey was an advocate for creating jobs, overseeing many major projects and always keeping the mindset of "growth is good, but you have to stay ahead of it."

One of these major projects was creating the Ridley Sports Complex, which now hosts multiple tournaments throughout the year in Columbia, including the Mid-State Classic softball tournament, which has consistently been a sellout event for many years.

"I believe we're now in our fifth year with the complex. It's been a big deal, and we keep getting lots of sponsorships," Dickey said. "It's just a really nice place where you can meet a lot of nice people."

Last week, Dickey was presented with a copy of the resolution by council members, who also shared words of encouragement and gratitude for his many years of service.

"Mayor Dickey first got me on the architectural design review board, then he put me on planning commission, and he always said, 'Everybody needs to run for office,' and so I took him up on it," Columbia Vice Mayor Randy McBroom said.

"Mayor Dickey is a rock star, and everybody is always congregating around him to show respect. It shows you the kind of impact he has had, but the biggest thing is that he's still a link to the past. The foundation that he set is what the city is growing on now."

Ward 2 council member Debbie Wiles added that Dickey is "a man of character and strength."

"This man was kind to my husband, kind to us," Wiles said. "We just love seeing him everywhere he is around this town."

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder concluded saying the shape of Columbia as a community is because of former leaders like Dickey.

"Our obligation as a council is to make sure that Columbia is equally well-positioned so that 30 years from now future mayors, vice mayors and members of council can say that they were equally as well positioned," Molder said. "For the positioning that has been provided thanks to [Dickey's] leadership over the years, we all owe a debt of gratitude."

A proper dedication at the park will be planned at a later date, or as Dickey said "when the weather gets a little nicer." In the meantime, he appreciates the tribute, and continues to push for "smart" growth within the city.

After turning 90 this year, Dickey said he "doesn't do much, and probably shouldn't these days," but always has a watchful eye on how the work he started is continuing on an upward scale. But, just as when he took the mayor's seat for eight years, the goal is to stay ahead of growth, and that it very much takes a group effort to succeed.

"As long as they keep creating good jobs, we can handle the growth," Dickey said. "Growth is good if you control it. We could have a problem soon with traffic, but we've got lots of people coming down here, and I think Maury Regional is a big draw for healthcare. It's going to continue."

Maury Alliance Report (CDH)

The state of the county's progress appears to be in good shape and growing as the year winds down, according to the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance.

Maury Alliance President Wil Evans presented his quarterly report to Columbia City Council this month, which highlighted recent project announcements and goals outlined for 2024, which include job growth, new investments and an always-growing Chamber body of members.

Evans said the county's unemployment rate has "stayed steady" over the last year, but the active project pipeline remains strong with about 22 projects currently.

The current unemployment rate is 2.9% as of September in Maury County, according to state data, lower than the state average of 3.2%.

Evans also commented on the recent announcement about Xxentria Technologies, a Taiwanese-based metal works company which selected Mt. Pleasant as the location for its first U.S.-based facility. This would create approximately 85 new jobs, as well as $45 million in capital investment for the county.

"They are one of the leading manufacturers of metal composites in the world, used for solar, transportation and other various applications. The project here would focus on the transportation industry, where they will be making composite panels for semi trucks and tractor trailers," Evans said.

"They will be building a new facility on 35 acres at Cherry Glen. It's right there with that strike zone by bringing a diversified industry ... and these are very high-quality jobs above the average wages that we've seen in projects over the last few years."

There has also been progress in implementing the county's recent strike zone survey, which addressed the top wants and needs based on feedback from local government boards and committees.

"On a typical year, we receive about 150 requests, which has been down a bit this year to about 100, but still a lot of activity," Evans said. "This year, with our new strike zone we've responded to about 25-30 of those RFPs, taking into account are these projects diverse? Do these jobs have high wages and are they a responsible use of the properties we have?"

Evans concluded his quarterly presentation by updating council members on the status of the Chamber, which now includes 636 members compared to 599 at the end of 2022.

"That's about a 6% growth, which the average is about 3%-5%," Evans said. "Last year was really strong with about an 11% growth, and so we are still trending in a very positive direction there. That's indicative of the business environment here, and many of those are new businesses located here in the city of Columbia."

Evans also added that the Maury Alliance's drive to support local businesses is still thriving, partly due to the Local First gift card campaign, which are cards valued between $10 and $25 available at the Maury Alliance, which can be used at more than 60 local businesses.

"This year to date, we sold and/or distributed over $47,000 into the community, and during the week after Thanksgiving we had a promo where we sold over $30,000 in just two days for those cards," Evans said. "And after talking with our front staff this week, we've also sold an additional $6,000-$7,000 worth of cards in the last few days. This program has taken off over the last few years, and we are excited to implement it to promote shopping local within the community."

Looking into next year, Maury Alliance plans to launch a new Size Up Maury software platform, which will focus on small business growth and local business resources, including steps on how to start a business, as well as an interactive map for citizens to find information on businesses and their locations.

Businesses can enter various data points of their business and pretty much benchmark their performance against other businesses within that sector of Maury County, within the state and the U.S., he explained.

Noon Rotary to Dedicate Clock (CDH)

The Columbia Noon Rotary Club will soon dedicate a free-standing clock at the Farmers Market Pavilion at Riverwalk Park commemorating the organization's 100th anniversary.

The item was brought before Columbia City Council this month as a resolution, which was unanimously approved at the beginning of the meeting. The clock is estimated to be valued at approximately $20,000.

"I just want to say a 'thank you' to the Noon Rotary club for constantly adding value to the city of Columbia," Mayor Chaz Molder said. "Whether it is through volunteer work, other public opportunities or providing beautification to our parks, all the while commemorating some of its own history."

The clock's design will be a two-dial E. Howard Post replica with an electronic reset control at the base, and will stand at a height of between 9-10 feet.

Following the vote for approval, members of Noon Rotary gathered at the City Hall council chambers for a photo-op, as well as expressing their gratitude for the council's approval of the project.

"I've been happy to be a member of this club, working on my 10th year which is approximately 10% of the time this club has been in this community," Noon Rotary member Gerald Vick said. "I feel like we do a lot for this community and have in the past, and I look forward to being a part of this second 100 years in this community."

In addition to the clock, a plaque dedicating the century-old club will also be included, acknowledging Columbia Noon Rotary's Feb. 29, 1924 charter date.

"I think it looks very nice and will be a nice addition when it is installed, and so again I say to Rotary 'thank you' so much for your many contributions to our community," Molder said.

"Please express our gratitude to your club, and we look forward to voting on this ... but also looking forward to the installation. While it's also providing beautification to our park, it's also commemorating a very important club, and its history, in our community."

Nicotine Cessasion Class at MRMC (Press Release)

For those seeking to kick the habit of smoking or nicotine use, Maury Regional Health will offer a free four-part nicotine cessation program in January 2024.

The nicotine cessation program will meet on Tuesdays in the new year, with classes beginning Jan. 2 and continuing Jan. 9, 16 and 23. Each class begins at 6 p.m. and will be held at Maury Regional Medical Center (1224 Trotwood Avenue in Columbia). Participants should enter through the hospital’s main entrance and will be escorted to Private Dining Room 1 on the ground floor.

“Quitting cigarettes, vaping products and smokeless tobacco may be the single most important thing a person can do to improve their health,” said Sharon Dobbins, a respiratory therapist who will lead the sessions. “As a former smoker, I can personally relate to the challenges that come with trying to stop using tobacco products and encourage those who are trying to quit to join this supportive group session.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking and tobacco use is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. More than 16 million Americans are also living with a serious disease or health condition caused by smoking, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.

Over time, people who quit smoking or other nicotine products see many benefits to their health. After you stop using nicotine products, your body begins a series of positive changes that continue for years, including:

Improves health status and enhances quality of life

Reduces the risk of premature death

Reduces the risk of many adverse health effects, including cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer

Advance registration for the nicotine cessation program is required so that course materials may be prepared. To register, visit MauryRegional.com/Quit.

Indoor Golf Facility (MauryCountySource)

Two Spring Hill residents saw a need for an indoor golf facility for the local community; the way to fulfill that need was by opening Links Social.

Matt  Baggett and Trevor Perkins combined their friendship and passion for golf by designing an indoor golf space with a membership.

“Spring Hill doesn’t have an indoor golf club, and with the ever-growing population of avid golfers in southern Williamson County and northern Maury County it just made sense to open a venue in right here in Spring Hill where they live,” stated the owners.

Here’s how the membership works. Membership is simple with a flat monthly fee that grants members 24/7 access to the private Trackman 4 equipped bays, each featuring soft seating and bar top options. Members can bring up to 3 guests each visit at no extra charge and have access to tournaments and special events.

Other benefits at Links Social include the lobby, which boasts several TVs with access to all the sports offerings on ESPN and a 14ft putting green. Books, Magazines, and a couple of themed gaming systems also give members something to do before or after booking.

Current members can access Links Social beginning on December 16th. Those interested in membership can choose between several offerings, from Founders membership, limited to the first 100 who join, Unlimited membership, and a pledge trial membership for those who want to try out the experience before joining.

For more information, visit www.links-social.com/

Courthouse Commemorating 120 Years (Press Release)

Maury County Government has been awarded a $5,000 matching grant from the South Central Tennessee Development District.

The Arts Build Communities, or “ABC,” grant will help the county commemorate the historic Maury County Courthouse as it celebrates 120 years of service to the community in 2024.

The grant will fund a community juried art competition open to Maury County citizens of all ages.

According to a press release, the theme will focus on "What does the courthouse represent to its citizens?" Citizens are invited to use their artistic abilities to design an original piece of art (all genres are welcome) that interprets what the Maury County Courthouse means.

“The Maury County Courthouse is an iconic and historic structure for the state of Tennessee.”

“Built by local architect J.E.R. Carpenter, before he went on to great fame as one of the leading architects of luxury high-rise living in New York City, this building has been the central focus of Maury county since it was built in 1904. It symbolizes much to our community. This grant is a wonderful opportunity to allow the citizens of the county to interpret and express what the building represents.”

The contest will start with a commemoration ceremony honoring the courthouse, which will include a proclamation by Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt, followed by an overview focusing on the history of the Maury County Courthouse by me, Tom Price starting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan 11.

Maury County citizens will have from Jan. 11 to March 22 to submit their artwork to the Maury County Archives' temporary location at 1446 Oak Springs Drive, Suite 100 (the far end of Muletown Rec).

Art will be juried in four age categories: elementary, secondary, high school and adults ages 18 and over. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place for each category, and one grand-prize winner will be announced during Mule Day on April 6, 2024.

Rules for artist submissions include:

Artwork must be original.

All art intended for wall-mounting (drawings/paintings etc.) in the 18+ category must be submitted in a frame and wired for hanging.

All submitted art must be accompanied by a card with the artist's name, contact information, category, title and medium.

All art must be submitted by 3 p.m. Friday, March 22.

Art will be juried by five esteemed artists which include local photographers Sarah Gilliam and Ross Jaynes, as well as painters James Spearman and Margaret Warfield and sculptor Jennifer Grisham.

The winning submissions will be displayed at the courthouse during the 2024 Mule Day festivities. All submitted artwork will be placed on display at the Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Community College from May 13th-June 14th. The exhibit will open with be a gallery reception on May 13th.

For more information about the contest, contact the Maury County Archives at (931) 375-1500.

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

Mr. Hugh Earl Rhodes, 91, resident of Columbia, passed away Friday, December 15, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center.

Visitation for Mr. Rhodes will be Thursday, December 21, from noon until 2 PM at Oakes and Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia. A funeral will begin at 2:00. Internment will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens.

…And now, news from around the state…

Food Recall (Press Release)

The Tennessee Department of Health is reminding consumers not to eat any of the recently recalled apple cinnamon fruit puree or cinnamon applesauce pouches manufactured by WanaBana USA, under three brand names. The pouches should be thrown away immediately.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to investigate a multi-state outbreak of lead poisoning linked to the following products and brands:

• WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches – including three packs

• Schnucks-brand cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety pack

• Weis-brand cinnamon applesauce pouches

The CDC has reported 205 total cases in its investigation across multiple states, including one case in Tennessee.

On October 31, 2023, the FDA recalled all WanaBana USA apple cinnamon fruit puree and cinnamon applesauce pouches regardless of expiration date and lot code, as part of its investigation into the lead-contaminated food products.

WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches are sold nationally and are available through multiple retailers including Amazon, Dollar Tree, and other online outlets.

If you have any of these products throw them away immediately. Contact your healthcare provider if your child has consumed the WanaBana applesauce pouches.

Consumers who purchased the products with the specified batch numbers and expiration dates can return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Gas Prices (MSM)

Tennessee gas prices have dropped to the lowest prices so far in 2023. Over last week, gas prices across the state fell five cents, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $2.75 which is 19 cents less expensive than one month ago and a penny less than one year ago.  

“Tennessee pump prices are falling at the perfect time, as more than 2.5 million Tennesseans prepare to take a road trip for the year-end holidays,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Right now, over half of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $2.75 per gallon. Strong domestic gasoline supplies and low oil prices have contributed to the downward pressure on prices at the pump. Oil prices regained some strength last week, so a modest increase is possible at the pump, but AAA expects gas prices to remain low through the holidays.” 

Quick Facts

57% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $2.75 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.47 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.19 for regular unleaded

Tennessee dropped to the 14th least expensive market in the nation

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Nashville’s classic holiday tradition returns, featuring a one-mile walking path with elegant and creative displays of lights that set Cheekwood Estate & Gardens aglow. With over one million lights twinkling throughout the gardens, s’mores, seasonal libations and a Holiday Marketplace, Holiday LIGHTS is a memory-making experience for visitors of all ages.

Holiday Lights is open from now through January 7th. They will be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day.

For more information, visit www.cheekwood.org


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