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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 28, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Maury County Schools Grade (MSM)

The Tennessee Department of Education released on Thursday, Dec. 21 its first-ever letter grades for each public school in the state, including the 21 public schools operating within the Maury County Public Schools district.

The 2022-23 letter grades are meant to provide a snapshot of how each school is doing in meeting the state’s expectations for learning, according to the TDOE. The calculation used to generate grades for schools include four indicators: student achievement, student academic growth, growth of the highest-need students and college and career readiness measure for high schools. Schools receive an indicator score for each of the indicators, ranging from levels 1-5. Each indicator score is multiplied by a weight based off the grade band to create a total score which determines the school’s letter grade.

Within the MCPS system, the two schools to receive an “A” grade were Spring Hill Middle and Santa Fe Unit School. E.A. Cox Middle and Whitthorne Middle scored the lowest with an “F” grade. Nine schools received a “C” letter grade, five received a “B” and three received a “D.”

In a statement, Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ventura said the information is used to analyze, review and utilize to guide instruction.

“The letter grade designation is one piece of the performance data that has been used to measure school,” Ventura said. “School performance data represents a wide range of both success and opportunity across our school system, and each school is working on individualized goals and plans to continually improve and meet the needs of their students and families.

“We are proud of the work being done by the leaders, teachers and support staff in the Maury County Public School system to promote positive school culture, to provide high-quality instruction, and to prepare our graduates for college and career.”

State Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), who is the chair of the Education Instruction Subcommittee, spoke on the newly released letter grades, which he said will be used to come up with a plan for the worst performing schools.

“What you’re seeing in Maury County, there are some schools performing at a very high level,” Cepicky said. “If you’re an A school in Maury County, that means your proficiency grades are very high and your growth scores are very high. If you’re a C school, that could mean one of two things. Either your proficiency is very high and your growth is very low, which wouldn’t make sense. Or your growth is very high and your proficiency is very poor,” he said.

“Most of these schools that are Cs is because their growth scores are very high, but the kids don’t know because they’re not on grade level and they’re failing the test.”

Cepicky predicted that legislation will be brought forth when the General Assembly goes back in session next month.

“I think you’ll see legislation this year that will give all options to the Commissioner of Education about how to bring about those changes at the local level,” he said, not ruling out a possible district takeover.

“We owe it to these kids to make sure they’re getting the best education possible so they can become the future Tennesseans that will continue to drive our state forward.”

To view how your student’s school did, visit tdepublicschools.ondemand.sas.com/grades.

Process for Hiring New City Manager Underway (MSM)

The Mount Pleasant Commission approved last Tuesday, Dec. 19 a resolution outlining the selection process for a new city manager.

Current Mount Pleasant City Manager Kate Collier previously indicated to city commissioners that she will be retiring, with the commission voting last month to open the position and seek assistance from the state’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS).

Now, the commission has unanimously voted to approve the hiring process for a new city manager, with each step taking place in the form of a public meeting.

“The first thing to do is to decide what city manager you want and what are the qualifications,” City Attorney Kori Jones said.

MTAS will then send commissioners a survey for them to complete which would be returned to an MTAS representative.

“They will use that information and put it together to present a job announcement, which will outline the consensus for that job criteria,” Jones said.

Commissioners would then gather to vote on the announcement, which would include pay scale and minimum requirements, among others. Commissioners would also decide on how long the position stays open, with a minimum of 30 days recommended, or keeping it open until the position is filled.

During the next meeting, the board would decide on who they want to interview before beginning the interview process.

“MTAS will prepare the questions and they conduct the interview and you would listen to the responses,” Jones said.

Finally, commissioners would make a decision on how to move forward.

“At that meeting you would either decide if we want to move forward negotiating a contract with them, or you would say we’d like to do a second interview with this person. After that, a contract would be negotiated,” she said.

Collier said her biggest concern is ensuring her successor has a background in utilities.

“The biggest concern when you look at other cities, is most cities do not have three utilities. Many cities do not have any utilities,” she said. “That’s a separate entity, so that’s a really big deal here that we make sure someone has some real utility background because that’s a big part of my day every day.”

Commissioner Mike Davis, who was not in attendance at last week’s meeting, stated last month that he wished Collier came to commissioners first about her retirement.

“She wants to make sure the city is left in good standing, and I appreciate what she’s done, but we should’ve had a meeting and she should’ve come to us and said she is planning on retiring and we need to go from there,” Davis said.

In other news, the commission also approved a resolution for the purchase of land, located on Hidden Acres, and the sale agreement, per the terms set out in the contract. Last month, the city authorized the city manager to negotiate the property, located next to the city park, up to $120,000.

“Pursuant to that authority, Kate did negotiate a purchase of the property for $120,000 and she entered into a land purchase and sale agreement for that property,” Jones said.

The two conditions set forth in the contract included approval and that the city is satisfied with access to the property.

“There’s a contingency in the contract that says we don’t have to close and it’s not a default from the contract if we’re not satisfied with the access,” Jones said. “The road goes up to the property that’s going to be purchased and it’s a city road up until that point, but then once it crosses this property that the city is buying, it’s just an easement. So that means if you buy this property, you’re buying it subject to that easement which means you could use it to access the property, but you can’t move it or abolish it.”

Collier said the city is unsure what exactly to do with the greenspace, which could be paid for by a USDA grant.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do next. The way I look at it is you’re protecting your greenspace. You’re protecting the part you already have.”

Spring Hill Denies Road Connection (MSM)

Spring Hill’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen denied 7-1 a development agreement last week that would have seen improvements made to an intersection of Kedron Road and Port Royal Road. 

The Kedron Korner Development is currently seeking preliminary approval from Maury County for 360 homes and was asking the city to connect Kedron Road to provide access to the proposed development. 

“I don’t believe approving or denying this is going to stop the development of a by-right project; I think it’s possibly going to delay it for a while,” Alderman Matt Fitterer said. “I think the net result is we still end up with the same number of cars on Port Royal.”

Despite agreeing with Fitterer on that point, Alderman Trent Linville listed several reasons he felt the agreement was not ideal for the city, including the fact the development is not in the city limits. 

“If they want to connect to Spring Hill city infrastructure, they have the opportunity to request annexation, go through the rezone process and then connect to the road,” he said. 

Linville added safety concerns, as well as brought up budgetary concerns. 

While the developer would agree to pay $1,939,000 toward the improvements, the cost analysis put the project above $5 million currently. 

“With the contribution to the intersection improvements, it leaves us with a large influx of traffic, but a $5.3 million project that we don’t currently have budgeted and don’t have visibility on how we’re going to budget it,” Linville said. 

Mayor Jim Hagaman agreed, “In my short experience here, what I have seen historically happen is the dangling of a carrot. $1.9M is a lot of money, but when you compare that to what the project actually costs, it’s a drop in the bucket. Whatever the cost is today, the more you delay it, the costs go up.”

City Administrator Pam Caskie said the money contributed by the developer would go into an account that would accrue interest and any future developers would also be required to contribute funds to the project. 

There was, however, no timeline on when the project would commence. 

“The agreement we have with the developer is that the dollars that would be provided by the developer would be set aside dedicated to the improvement of the intersection. We made it clear to them that it didn’t guarantee when it was going to be done,” she said. “Any future developers come on that would impact that intersection, we would require the same of them. I’m working on a formula for that. 

“Those dollars would not be available for any other roadwork, it would be for the intersection itself.”

Alderman Vincent Fuqua noted the road is already in need of repairs, and adding construction traffic to the road would add to the issues facing the road improvement project.

“The work that’s been done on a partnership is great, however, looking at the condition of the roadway from I-65 until you get to Saturn Parkway is decreasing in quality,” he said. “Specifically, Port Royal down to the interstate. Any money granted to us would go immediately to paving and improving the sideline of that road.

“I’m not sure there would be many dollars that could go to the improvement of the intersection with the current road condition.”

The lone vote in favor of the project was from Alderman William Pomeroy, who said the city needs to improve the intersection with or without the development. A point Fitterer made earlier in the discussion.

“I think this property is one parcel away from being able to access Bates or Silverado or other access that feed out onto Clara Mathis. Should the developer acquire one of these properties, they get the second entrance out – they’re allowed to build their by-right project anyway and Spring Hill is left with the same impact at Kedron and Port Royal Road without their financial contribution,” Fitterer said. 

Bad Idea and Ollie & Finn’s Combine (CDH)

Two popular Columbia food and drink businesses are coming together in one big, not to mention tasty, partnership on North Garden Street.

For Bad Idea Brewing and Ollie and Finns Counter, locally brewed beer and creative sandwiches are the right ingredients for their new restaurant concept in downtown Columbia.

The two former Columbia Arts Building establishments recently reopened this month right off Highway 31 at the New South Business Park at 510 N. Garden St., facing the main artery into the heart of Columbia.

After months of moving, planning, renovating and everything that goes into a new business venture, the two hosted a soft opening earlier this month, opening officially last weekend and ready to serve up gourmet sandwiches, soups and Bad Idea's ever-changing menu of creative craft beer.

"We started looking for another space last summer, kind of keeping our eyes and ears open for the right spot for both of us that wouldn't require too much buildout," Ollie and Finn's co-founder Anna Eilerman said. "We love this spot because of that, and the visibility is right here where you can see it driving in."

It's also a step forward for yet another business that started in the CAB and now has its own brick and mortar facility. The CAB has served many businesses as somewhat of an incubator for local small businesses, many of whom have relocated to the North Garden business park.

"It's funny because businesses like Bloomstall, Needle & Grain, The Little Juice Co. all started at the Columbia Arts Building," Eilerman said.

The response to the pair's reopening was an immediate hit, with customers lining up throughout the night eager to sink their teeth into the menu, which includes a wide range of sandwich types such as the Cuban-inspired Madre de Aguas, the roast beef American Werewolf in Columbia, the turkey and ham Coyote Club and more.

Mostly, it was a reopening which bred the next step for both businesses, and another gathering place for longtime customers, as well as new patrons. It also helps being located just off the city's main highway.

"We loved being at the arts building, but in some way, we were still kind of hidden, even after four years of operating. Being at South Garden there's no doubt people know we're here," Bad Idea founder Zac Fox said.

"We almost want to put out a sign that says, 'Tired of traffic? Come in and have a beer.'"

The partnership also spawned simply from working in the same building, guiding customers to enjoy their sandwiches with a cold Bad Idea beer.

"Everything just kind of fell into place, because we knew we needed a place for food at the arts building," Eilerman said.

Business hours will be from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with Saturdays being 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., though Eilerman said that could change in the near future.

"We are just so pleasantly surprised at the amount of people who became followers, and how our regulars would start to grow," Eilerman said. "It's been crazy, being open at the CAB for almost two years. And we have adjusted the menu, providing wider options, and we'll add things as we go. Right now we are thinking of Bavarian pretzels with a beer cheese from Bad Idea."

Fox added that, above all, it's a great opportunity to share a space with friends, fellow business owners and see what the future brings, one beer and one sandwich at a time.

"We want to bring the same, fun environment that we had at the CAB, but both do it all under one roof," Fox said. "Offering a unified food and beverage experience is really the model for breweries right now too. The majority of the ones who have stayed open have tied in the food aspect, and we are in bed with one of the really good ones."

TDEC Gives Millions For Water Projects (MSM)

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced last week 49 grants, totaling $191.2 million, from the state’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) fund, part of which TDEC is administering through competitive grants for regionalization, water reuse, resource protection and a state strategic project. 

Of the 49 grants announced, 14 are for regionalization, eight for water reuse, and 27 for resource protection. The city of Spring Hill and Maury County Board of Public Utilities were each awarded grants for local projects.

TDEC awarded $7,760,000 of the money to the Maury County Board of Public Utilities, in partnership with Hillsboro, Burwood, and Thompson’s Station Utility District (HB&TS), for a project that will address regional drinking water needs. The grant money will fund the construction of a single transmission line that will improve Maury County’s water availability and water source capacity while serving the needs of both water utilities.

“This significant grant is great news for our community,” Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, said. “The Maury County Board of Public Utilities provides essential services, and I congratulate them on receiving this grant. Quality water infrastructure is essential to all Tennesseans, and these funds will go toward meeting the water needs of this county.”

The project, which will help address the needs of both water utility companies, is expected to improve Maury County’s water source capacity and water availability, Cepicky’s statement reads. 

“These water infrastructure grants provide assistance to communities across the state, and accelerate progress in rural Tennessee,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “I commend the communities that have participated in the application process and look forward to the results of these investments.”

The City of Spring Hill will use ARP funds to address two issues. 

One issue is potable water reuse needs. Spring Hill plans to utilize a $2,398,760 grant to construct an advanced purification pilot project and will use these funds for the design of the pilot, operation assistance, lab testing and sampling, and procurement of the individual treatment train units.

Spring Hill Mayor Jim Hagaman said the money will be used in a plan to build a water reservoir tank that will allow stormwater to be mixed with Duck River water, as well as effluent from the wastewater plant to be processed and sent back to the water treatment facility. 

“We are the only city in the state doing this. It has been tested and done in other states, so it’s proven technology – it just hasn’t been done in Tennessee,” he said. 

Another grant for $800,000 will go toward the investigation and plans for a water supply reservoir on vacant land. The reservoir will allow Spring Hill to provide strategic local drought management and promote resiliency and planning for extreme weather events.

The reason for this need is that the Duck River is becoming overwhelmed with the amount of water being drawn from it. 

“As most everybody from around here knos, we draw our water from the Duck River, but Middle Tennessee is growing exponentially, and water is something we have to have,” Hagaman said. “The Duck River Authority has told municipalities around us that we can’t draw more water out than we have already forecasted.

Freshwater mussels call the Duck River home, and it is one of the few places in the world where they can be found. 

“We don’t want to disturb their natural habitat, so we looked at – for lack of a better phrase – putting a straw in the river farther downstream,” Hagaman said. “It was so far downstream that it would have required an interlocal agreement for infrastructure to pump that water back to us that costs millions of dollars. Nobody has that kind of money.”

Regionalization projects will provide cooperative support across water and wastewater systems to improve the sustainability, affordability, and/or reliability of systems. Water reuse projects will reclaim water from a variety of sources then treat and reuse it for beneficial purposes. 

Resource protection projects will either improve water infrastructure resilience to extreme weather events, improve the management of stormwater to improve water quality, and/or restore natural landscape features such as streams or wetlands. The additional strategic project will address regional wastewater needs.

“This process demonstrates the importance of quality water infrastructure throughout the state, and we are glad we can help make the best investments possible from these funds,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “This is a significant step in providing the water service communities deserve.”

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

Mrs. Jacqueline Jones Quillen, 80, resident of West 7th Street, died Friday at NHC Maury Regional Transitional Care. Funeral services for Mrs. Quillen will be conducted Friday December 29th at 2 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Friday from 1 PM until time of the services at the funeral home.

Hope Elizabeth Bernhart Hood, 73, resident of Columbia, and retired LPN for Maury Regional Medical Center, died Thursday, December 21, 2023 at her residence.

A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family. Online condolences may be extended at www.oakesandnichols.com.

Vickie Lynn Love Knight, 79, a lifelong resident of Columbia, and retired Property Underwriting Vice President for Farm Bureau, passed away peacefully Monday, December 25, 2023 at her residence.

A private graveside service will be scheduled at a later date. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family. 

Marion Robert Davis, 90, resident of Maury County, died Tuesday December 26 at Maury Regional Medical Center

A graveside service will be held Saturday December 30, at 2:00 P.M. at Williamsport Methodist Cemetery. Military Honors will be provided by the American Legion Post 19.

…And now, news from around the state…

Jewish Organizations Receive Threats (WPLN)

The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville announced that it and several other local Jewish organizations received emailed bomb threats on Sunday.

Threats were emailed to Jewish organizations in at least 16 other states, all on the same day. Statewide Jewish organizational leadership is working with local and national law enforcement to respond, but it is not yet clear what person or group sent the emails.

Initially, synagogues suspended services for the rest of the day Sunday, and Nashville police conducted several security sweeps. Schools, services and other programming will continue as usual this week, according to Rabbi Dan Horwitz, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville.

“We are not going to be intimidated into not proudly and joyfully being Jewish,” he said. “And Lord knows Nashville in particular has been an incredibly warm and welcoming community broadly for our Jewish community.”

There has been an uptick in threats against Jewish organizations across the nation since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict on Oct. 7th. Earlier this year, there were multiple incidents where antisemitic flyers were found in Middle Tennessee neighborhoods.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Nashville Symphony has released details surrounding its second Artist Spotlight Series, showcasing a range of guest artists performing concerts and solo recitals at Schermerhorn Symphony Center throughout 2024. The four-concert series will feature pianist/composer Stewart Goodyear, pairing works of his own creation with those of Beethoven; GRAMMY® Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs performing an all-Bach program; Sphinx Virtuosi, the flagship performing entity of the Sphinx Organization performing works by Jessie Montgomery, Javier Farias, and others; and a recital with Peter Otto, the Orchestra’s new Walter Buchanan Sharp Concertmaster.

Tickets for each concert start at $25, with presale happening now for all Nashville Symphony subscribers. More information about the series can be found at nashvillesymphony.org/spotlight.


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