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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 22, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Missing Woman (MauryCountySource)

Maury County Sheriff’s Department is searching for missing woman, Shyane Brooke Hopkinson, who was last seen on Dec. 19.

She was last seen by the reporting party in Hickman County late November 2023 and in Mt Pleasant by her mother a few days later. Her mother said she left with “Jenny”.

She is known to frequent Columbia and Pulaski as well. Her last known address is Smith Hollow Road Mt Pleasant.

If you have information regarding Shyane’s whereabouts, Please contact the Maury County Sheriff’s Department, 931-388-5151 ext.1 or Detective Chris Webster at 931-375-8697 or

Senate District to Receive Block Grants (CDH)

Maury County and other parts of the 28th District are set to receive more than $2 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), according to Sen. Joey Hensley, R- Hohenwald.

Hensley made the announcement Dec. 21 after receiving notification from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which administers the grant program under a procedure authorized by the Tennessee General Assembly.

“This important grant funding is welcome news for our local communities in Senate District 28,” Hensley said. “With this much-needed funding, our local leaders will be able to improve street safety and parks as well as water and sewer systems. Congratulations to our local elected officials on securing this competitive grant, and I will continue to provide assistance as needed.”

The grants include:- $400,000 for 2023 Ardmore CDBG Storm Shelter- $110,565 for Lynnville CDBG Street Improvement- $243,000 for Minor Hill CDBG City Park Lighting Improvements- $560,000 for 2023 Maury County CDBG Sewer Rehabilitation- $630,000 for 2023 Mt. Pleasant CDBG Water System Improvements- $208,826 for 2023 Cornersville CDBG Sidewalk Improvements.

The funding is part of a larger sum, almost $37 million in grants for improvements in five categories across the state, including public health and safety, community infrastructure, community revitalization, water system improvements, and sewer system improvements.

Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter recently approved the $36.6 million in CDBG funding, which will assist 78 counties with infrastructure improvements, housing rehabilitations and health and safety initiatives.

“What happens in rural Tennessee matters to all Tennesseans, and these infrastructure improvements will be key in preparing communities for future economic development opportunities and continued growth," Lee said.The allocation of CDBG funds is based on priorities set through the public meeting process at the local community level.

The CDBG program is funded through HUD and administered in Tennessee by the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Columbia State Graduation (MSM)

Columbia State Community College celebrated 169 degree and certificate candidates as they crossed the stage during the fall commencement ceremony in the Webster Athletic Center on Saturday, December 9.

Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president, opened the ceremony by welcoming degree and certificate candidates, faculty, staff and guests.

“Today is a special day for several reasons,” Smith said. “First and foremost, it is a day of celebration of accomplishments. It is a day of recognition that these soon to be graduates set a goal and accomplished it.”

Smith introduced alumna Leigh Williams as the guest speaker for the fall commencement ceremony. Williams is the executive director of the Williamson Health Foundation in Franklin and is a certified fundraising executive. There, she oversees the hospital’s current $30 million “More for You, Close to Home” capital campaign, which supports the foundation’s historic transformational expansion and renovation project. Williams has been involved with the foundation since 2013, serving in several different roles such as development coordinator, development associate and director of development.

Smith highlighted Williams, who graduated from Columbia State in 1993 and earned an Associate of Science degree in mass communications. She then went on to graduate from Lipscomb University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and Capella University with a master’s degree in public administration.

Williams began her speech by describing the circumstances that led her to Columbia State instead of attending a university right after high school like she had originally planned. She then reflected on how her unexpected experience helped prepare her for success.

“Everything about Columbia State was just what I needed at the time,” Williams said. “It bridged my gap between high school and adulthood, and I am forever grateful for the collegiate foundation it became for me.”

Williams went on to applaud her own daughter, Lauren Sinor, who was one of the ceremony’s graduates, stating, “I’m proud to say I am a Columbia State graduate. I’m proud that my daughter is graduating today and how it has laid the groundwork for her lifelong career.”

Williams closed her address with gratitude for her time at Columbia State and encouraging the graduates with her own equation for success that mirrored the order of operations taught in algebra classes: “Remember the order of operations to solve your equation for success: exude your parentheses, be exponential, mentor and multiply, divide and conquer, add what you need and subtract what you don’t. Be inspired, encouraged and motivated to always strive for success — and never, ever give up!”

Closing the ceremony, the alumni induction of new graduates was presented by Anne Scott, Columbia State library director, and Lakelon Bates, fall 2023 graduate and member of the Student Government Association.

President’s Leadership Society graduates were also honored with a medallion at the commencement ceremony.

“The establishment of this society was based on the belief that leadership is inherent to our lives and that we all have leadership roles,” Smith said. “The President’s Leadership Society is open to all students at Columbia State and requires only their commitment to involvement for learning, participation, and helping others.” 

Formed in spring 2011, President’s Leadership Society is a free leadership training program focused on developing a student’s unique leadership skills from their first semester through graduation. The program focuses on participation in college-sponsored programs that promote educational attainment, career choices, volunteerism and civic responsibility.

During the course of the program, students attend a leadership retreat, enjoy exposure to the arts, participate in workshops and campus life, develop civic understanding and give back to the community through volunteerism.

Farmers Grant Workshop (MSM)

Farmers interested in USDA Value-Added Producer Grants are encouraged to attend workshops provided by the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture to learn how to develop a strong application.

The Insight to Developing a Strong Application for the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program will be conducted in three locations in January 2024, including Columbia. These in-person workshops are designed to help producers with value-added enterprises develop a strong grant application. The focus of the workshops will be helping producers develop their ideas for the grants, a competitive program that helps producers develop value-added activities related to processing and marketing new products.

During the workshops producers will get an overview of the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, receive tips for developing a strong application, hear from past recipients of the grant, learn tips on how to prepare the proposal, see how applications are scored and learn how to prepare the application one section at a time.

Grant and matching funds may be used for planning activities, such as a feasibility study or developing a business or marketing plan, or for working capital expenses related to producing and marketing a value-added agricultural product.

Register online for the Insight to Developing a Strong Application for the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program at

Workshops will begin at 10 a.m. local time and conclude at 3 p.m. local time. Lunch will be provided. There is a registration fee of $20/person, and registration must be completed five days prior to the workshop date.

Dates and locations of the meetings are:

Jan. 23, 2024, Jackson 

Jan. 24, 2024, Columbia

Jan. 29, 2024, Philadelphia

Attendance at one of the three meetings will fulfill a Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) special requirement in the Value-Added Producer Diversification Sector in Application B. More information about the workshops is available at

Farmers and producers with questions should contact Troy Dugger at the Center for Profitable Agriculture at (931) 486-2777 or by email at

Bear Creek Pike Not on TDOT List (CDH)

The project to widen Bear Creek Pike will be put on hold for the time being following the Tennessee Department of Transportation's recent announcement regarding its 10-year plan for roadways.

The announcement was made Monday morning as Columbia and Maury County leaders anxiously awaited confirmation for final funding of the project, which at this point dates back more than a decade.

The city's vision is to take approximately 7.2 miles of road to widen into four lanes, as well as various landscaping upgrades to the Bear Creek/Highway 31 intersection, all in conjunction with the ongoing $29 million upgrades at the Bear Creek I-65 interchange.

The city initially submitted its application in August, highlighting that the city had committed $4.5 million to the project, requesting TDOT commit to approximately $10 million over the next 10 years.

City Manager Tony Massey said, while this isn't great news to hear, the city isn't giving up just yet.

"We did not get good news ... and we were very disappointed to see that the city of Columbia and Bear Creek Pike was not included in the list," Massey said. "We had high hopes, and felt like since we've made such a financial commitment to this, that we'd probably get preferential treatment."

Massey added that, according to the list of projects which were approved, there is an indicator that TDOT has its sights mainly set on metro areas and interstate highways. There are also plans to install something similar to toll lanes, or "choice lanes" where drivers would pay a small fee.

"If you want to pay a fee, you can take the express lane and miss some of the traffic going to Nashville every day," Massey said. "That's the concept behind it."

As for now, Massey said the city is "going back to the drawing board" to explore other options. Though this announcement presents something of a setback, it absolutely does not mean the project is dead in the water.

"Just because we didn't get it doesn't mean we are going to quit. We are never going to quit," Massey said.

"We'll just come back with a new strategy, because it's just too important to the community. It's been a priority for our city government for over 10 years and will remain a priority until we can get it. It's a setback, but it's not an end to all things, and so we'll keep an eye on it."

Fire Station 1 Upgrades (MSM)

Columbia Fire and Rescue’s Station No. 1 is set to undergo $4,882,000 in renovations following a unanimous vote of approval from the Columbia City Council last Thursday, Dec. 14.

Plans to renovate Station No. 1, which is the central station for the city, were brought up last July. The renovations will consist of a complete remodel, including a new roof, insulated attics, LED lighting, and a 35-person training facility. In addition, the station’s main public entrance will be moved to the rear of the building and a new parking lot will be paved.

The station will also include a “baby drop-off box,” which allows mothers of newborns to surrender unharmed babies to designated facilities, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

The facility at South Garden Street, which was built in 1977, has had very few upgrades other than painting and floor replacements since its original construction.

“This has been a long time coming,” Fire Chief Ty Cobb said. “We have been working on this for a while and are excited to finally see the project get going. The station is in the busiest area and houses administration along with fire crews,” he said, adding that the expansion will also consist of an EOC (Emergency Operation Center) and tornado-proof shelter. “If there is severe weather damage or tornadoes, this will be an area where firefighters can be protected.”

While undergoing renovations, several offices will be relocated to stations two and three.

The project received five bids, with Pulaski-based general contractor Brindley Construction LLC ultimately taking on the task. George Nuber, the architect of the project, said the new station will also allow for segregation between males and females.

“We’re excited to adapt this building which will allow for that to happen,” Nuber said of the improvements, which will increase the total footprint to 17,330 square feet.

“The building was very inefficient in its installation. We were able to greatly improve upon the envelope installation factor for the facility, which will help its life cycle costing for energy use,” he added.

Renovations are expected to begin in January, with the project estimated to be completed in 12 months.

The council also approved dedicating the championship field at the Ridley Sports Complex in honor of former Columbia mayor Dean Dickey, and accepted the donation of a freestanding clock from the Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club in honor of the group’s 100th anniversary. The clock will be installed at the Riverwalk Park Farmer’s Market Pavilion.

A change order of $225,493.76 to the South Garden Streetscape project was approved, with the increase required because of added construction costs.

A rezoning of 4.28 acres off Morningside Lane was sent back to the Planning Commission after council members noted upcoming changes to the city’s Connect Columbia plan in the coming year.

The property owners had originally requested a change from CD-3L (Neighborhood Large-Lot Character District) to CD-4 (General Urban Character District).

Gerald Vick, an engineer representing the owners, asked for a deferral, noting that the city was looking at redefining the zoning requirements in the coming months.

“In light of the information we received about the project that the Development Services staff is bringing through, in order to allow a development to be zoned similar… in the same subdivision, we would like to ask that the council defer it until that change comes through,” Vick said. “At that point, would you consider approving it as a CD-3.”

The Planning Commission had recommended approval of the CD-4 request by a 4-3 vote at its November meeting.

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, news from around the state…

Statewide ACT Scores (Press Release)

This week, the Tennessee Department of Education released the ACT state results and participation rate for the 2023 graduating class. Thanks to efforts by schools and districts to encourage student participation on the ACT, the overall statewide participation rate for the 2023 graduating class improved to 99 percent, with 64,422 graduates tested. This year, the state average composite ACT score remained steady at 19.0 for the 2023 graduating class. 


The ACT provides important measures to understand students’ college and career readiness and how Tennessee prepares the next generation to transition to postsecondary opportunities. Through Tennessee’s award-winning ACT Senior Retake program, the state offers public high school students the opportunity to take the ACT two times for free during normal school hours.  


Each fall, the department releases statewide ACT results for the most recent graduating class representing each student’s highest ACT score. The 2022-23 graduating class’s ACT results are available on the department’s Data Downloads webpage. 


“In Tennessee, we are dedicated to supporting all students in preparing for graduation and future success no matter their chosen college or career path,” said Commissioner of Education, Lizzette Reynolds. “The ACT assessment is crucial for postsecondary opportunities and scholarships, and I am extremely proud of the statewide 99 percent participation rate that is thanks to the hard work of Tennessee districts, teachers, and students.” 

Williamson County Schools had the highest percentage of all students meeting the ACT benchmark (75.0 percent, scoring at least a 21 on the ACT, followed by Germantown Municipal Schools (70.0 percent and Collierville Schools (66.6 percent 

Christmas Travel (NewsChannel5)

Get ready for a busy travel weekend as people head out of town for the Christmas and New Year's holidays!

More than 115 million Americans are expected to travel.

Airlines across the country expect more than 39 million flyers over the next two weeks, which is up 16 percent from last year.

Nashville International Airport is expecting to be just as busy, so people are going to want to arrive early to the airport, allow extra time for parking, and check the status of your flight before coming.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Sparkling meteors will be seen dancing across the sky as the Ursid meteor shower reaches its peak just in time for Christmas.

The Ursid meteor shower will peak Friday night and go until the early morning hours Saturday. Tennesseans can catch a glimpse of this celestial event but will have to find a place far from city lights since the best time to see the meteors is well after dark.

This year, viewers will also have to contend with moonlight. The bright moon will be 89% illuminated. Despite this, enthusiasts could see upwards of 10 meteors per hour streaking across the night sky.

It also happens to be the last meteor shower of 2023.


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