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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 26, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Warehouse Fire (CDH)

Columbia Fire & Rescue, as well as the Tennessee Bureau Fire Investigators are currently investigating a warehouse fire, which broke out early Friday at 2361 Park Plus Dr.

Fire crews responded to the F.S. Sperry Co. warehouse at approximately 1:38 a.m. Friday, spending several hours suppressing flames and doing salvage work.

"It's a pretty big building, and we've had just about every fire station in the city here fighting it," Fire Chief Ty Cobb said. "It's a large warehouse, and we've been here a while."

No injuries were reported at the time of the incident, according to CFR.

The fire, its cause and extent of damage is still under investigation by the Columbia Fire Marshal's office, who is working with assistance from TBI investigators.

"We are still investigating it, and they've been out there all day still. We don't have the property loss estimates yet, but it's going to be a major loss," Cobb said.

Cobb added that upon response, heavy smoke was billowing out of the structure, with flames "through the roof" upon arrival. Investigators also believe the fire started at the rear of the structure, he said.

And not only was this a major structure fire, but one which included response teams from all five Columbia stations, with Spring Hill Fire Department and Mt. Pleasant Fire Department on call.

In addition to the difficulties in manning a fire in such a large building, fire crews also dealt with working in freezing temperatures, as well as low water pressure in that particular area.

"Overall, the crews did a great job in protecting exposures and working throughout the morning in 25-degree temperatures to put the fire out," Cobb said. "It can be very challenging, but they did a great job, and I am thankful nobody was hurt."

"We have great equipment, some of the best fire equipment anywhere," Cobb said. "Our water supply is good in the city, but in this section of town the water pressures are low. It's an area we've strongly wanted to see a water tank, or an improvement in our water supply."

Cobb also expressed the need for fire safety during this time of year, when homes are heated and a situation like this can "make headway really quick."

"I encourage our residents to have working smoke alarms. This time of year is very busy for us with cold temperatures, and what's really tricky is that we've also had warmer weather," Cobb said. "Make sure you have working smoke alarms so that you are alerted when a fire breaks out."

Spring Hill PTO Treasurer Falsifies Signatures (TheNewsTN)

An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has revealed that the former treasurer of the Spring Station Middle School Parent Teacher Organization “falsified signatures” and held an “unauthorized raffle” in 2022.

According to the Comptroller’s report, the group's former band booster treasurer, who was not named, was “dismissed” by the Spring Station Middle School PTO Board on Nov. 14, 2022, after the Comptroller said that she falsified signatures on documents and “operated an unauthorized raffle” in 2022.

The school is a part of the Williamson County Schools system in Spring Hill, and the Comptroller's office began the investigation after “allegations of malfeasance” were made.

The report details that from Aug. 15 - Sept. 22, 2022, five cash collection documents from concession were falsely signed, four of which were signed by “the former treasurer's family member who counted the cash collected from the event but never actually worked at the event.”

Investigators reported that the names signed were people who actually worked the event, and that they “were unable to determine if any additional funds were collected that were not included in the documents’ collection totals.”

The report states that the band booster collected a raffle table fee during a December 2022 holiday fundraiser, which they said did not comply with the Tennessee Nonprofit Gaming Law.

The report reveals that the former band booster treasure did not deposit complete collections from at least nine concession sales events, having deducted "band-related expenses," and the funds were not deposited within three days of collection, both violations of the state's Model Financial Policy.

The report also found that the band booster "failed to implement adequate segregation of financial duties," as well as failed to maintain appropriate documentation for the collections and did not ensure that board members reviewed and reconciled bank statements.

The Comptroller's investigation only reviewed select records from Feb. 1, 2022-Dec. 21, 2022, and the results of the investigation were sent to the Office of the 21st Judicial District Attorney General for review.

Ultium Cells Produces First Batteries (TheNewsTN)

The Ultium Cells plant in Spring Hill has completed its first battery cell production.

The project, first announced in 2021 as a $2.3 billion partnership between General Motors and LG Energy Solution, was later expanded with a goal of creating 1,700 new jobs for a project cost of $2.6 billion. The Spring Hill facility was supported by millions of dollars in state incentives and billions of dollars in federal loans.

According to a post on LinkedIn, Ultium Cells employees last week celebrated the successful production of EV batteries for the first time since construction began in 2021. Officials targeted a late 2023 completion when the effort, one of the largest economic development deals in state history, was announced in 2021.

“These pictures represent the culmination of over two years of collaborative work between our construction team, our process installation team, our technical support teams, and our Ultium Cells team members,” plant director Chris Desautels wrote on social media. “Our team is looking forward to the future with excitement and confidence.”

Desautels previously held a series of engineering and plant management positions at General Motors but moved to Spring Hill to oversee the Ultium Cells plant.

The first Ultium plant in Warren, Ohio, broke ground in May 2020 and began its cell production in August 2022, according to the company. A third facility is under construction in Lansing, Mich., and is also targeting 1,700 jobs.

Ultium Cells employees were not originally represented by the United Auto Workers, which represents workers at GM’s nearby Spring Hill plant. However, that changed as part of the recently ratified contract between the UAW and GM. The online vote tracker for the new contract states 96 percent of Ultium Cells employees across its three plants voted in favor.

More than two-thirds of Spring Hill GM UAW employees voted against the contract. The plant was one of 13 local unions that voted against the ratification. Still, the agreement was ratified by 54.7 percent of all union members. The union said earlier this year it had been told Ultium employees would never be allowed into its agreement.

Now that the strike has ended, UAW president Shawn Fain has thrown support behind Volkswagen workers trying to unionize in Chattanooga. He joined local faith leaders and others from the community to deliver a letter to VW management on Monday after workers filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against the company.

“Volkswagen’s illegal actions come on the heels of the UAW announcing that well over 1,000 workers, making up over 30 percent of the Chattanooga plant, have signed union cards as part of a national movement of non-union autoworkers organizing to join the UAW in the wake of the union’s record contract victories at Ford, GM, and Stellantis,” the UAW said in a Facebook post.

Shop With A Cop (CDH)

Columbia Police Department, or Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #26, held is 21st annual Shop with a Cop event on Dec. 20 this year to bring extra cheer to designated families.

"Christmas is a time of year to slow down and appreciate the many blessings that surround us," the department posted in a Facebook post. "It allows us the chance to spend time with family and friends. It is also a time to reflect on the wonderful community we live in."

The program is funded by donations and the police department.

"This city truly knows the meaning of Christmas," the post said.

The program this year helped 43 children experience a Christmas filled with cheer and presents under the tree.

Officers took the children shopping at local stores where they were able to shop for family members as well as themselves.

"The public support and backing the department receives from the citizens of this community is truly humbling to each one of us who work for CPD. We truly appreciate your support and are honored to serve you daily," the department post said.

Children returned to the department to celebrate with a movie and pizza party, while the Kiwanis Club of Columbia wrapped a mountain of gifts to take home to their families.

The Kiwanis Club wraps annually, drawing dozens of volunteers.

CSCC Pins Nurses (CDH)

Columbia State Community College recently celebrated 41 nursing graduates in a pinning ceremony in the Webster Athletic Center.

“The Columbia State nursing faculty and staff are happy to celebrate the nursing graduates of Fall 2023,” said Dr. Amy Huff, Columbia State nursing program director. “They have chosen to pursue one of the most trusted, rewarding and challenging professions. We wish them the very best on their nursing journeys as they prepare to care for their communities as registered nurses.”

Columbia State nursing graduates completed four semesters of classroom instruction and 540 hours of clinical instruction to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing.

Next, graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination to earn licensure, which is required to practice as a registered nurse. The 2022 Columbia State nursing students’ first-attempt pass rate for the NCLEX is 92%, exceeding both the state average of 86% and the national average of 80%.

Nursing students are prepared to provide direct patient care in various areas, including medical, surgical, pediatrics, and more. After graduation, these nurses will work in various settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, schools, and home health care.

“Congratulations to these soon-to-be registered nurses for choosing valuable educational pathways to prepare for rewarding careers and economic independence,” said Dr. Kae Fleming, Columbia State dean of the Health Sciences Division.

The Columbia State nursing program is committed to excellence in nursing education. It has received full approval from the Tennessee Board of Nursing and is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The program’s three-year average graduate job placement rate is 99.7%. 

Columbia State’s nursing program has a competitive admission process with applicants admitted twice per year. For more information about applying to the program, visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/Nursing.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

College football meets in Music City for the 26th annual TransPerfect Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., for an SEC and BIG 10 showdown with the Auburn Tigers and Maryland Terrapins. Tickets and parking passes are now available to the Music City Bowl on Saturday, December 30, 2023, at Nissan Stadium in downtown Nashville.

Celebrate the final days of college football season and stay in town to ring in the new year at the Jack Daniel’s New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, where you can see performances from host Elle King, Thomas Rhett, newly crowned CMA Entertainer of the Year Lainey Wilson, and Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Lynyrd Skynyrd. For more information on the FREE star-studded celebration televised by CBS, go to www.visitmusiccity.com/newyearseve.


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