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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 5, 2023


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


We start with local news…

SHPD Asking for Help in Larceny (MauryCountySource)

The SHPD is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying an alleged shoplifter.

On October 19, a white male wearing a black Top Gun shirt and black Carhartt ballcap allegedly took over $1,000 worth of merchandise from Walmart without paying.

You can see the alleged thief’s image by going to www.maurycountysource.com. If you can identify this person, please contact Detective Josh Weber at jweber@springhilltn.org.


Culleoka Theft (MauryCountySource)

 Maury County Deputies are looking for an armed robber.

At 8:30 pm on November 30, a male dressed in all black entered Cully’s Market on Hwy 373 in Culleoka, TN. He brandished a handgun and robbed the clerk of cash from the register and left the store.

If you were in the area and saw anything suspicious or have any information, please contact Detective Keith Wrather at the Maury County Sheriff’s Department at (931) 388-5151.


Judicial Center on Track (CDH)

The future Maury County Judicial Center is now standing tall with its two-story metal structure (and basement) in place as seen from Carmack Boulevard in Columbia.

County and state officials attended the "topping off" ceremony for the building's last and highest beam on Sept. 19. Since, the structure on South Main Street is steadily taking shape into a facility "our grandchildren" will remember, said Maury County Commission Chairman of the Board, Eric Priviti.

The approximately $34 million building is still on track for completion by fall of next year, according to Previti.

"Anyone driving up and down Carmack at this point has seen the new construction and hopefully has realized that it is the new Maury County Judicial Center," Previti said. "It's exciting to see all the progress there. The place is all lit up at night."

The new courts facility will be located at the old site of The Daily Herald newspaper 1969 building on South Main Street, which was demolished last year.

Upon last report from Hewlett Spencer, project owner advocate, the project has reached 40% completion and is slated for final completion between August and October 2024, weather permitting, Previti said.

Bell Construction is managing the build of the project.

The judicial center will be comprised of new courtrooms, administrative offices and meeting rooms for lawyers and clients, greatly relieving Maury County's existing historic 1906 courthouse on Public Square, which is bursting at the seams with activity, caseload and cramped facilities.

Public Defender, 22nd District, Travis B. Jones serves on the building project's steering committee, which ensures the features of the facility will benefit the needs of the 22nd District court system.

In his years of practice, Jones said he has spent "many years speaking to clients while sitting on the basement steps of our current, historic courthouse."

"While a beautiful centerpiece of our community, its adequacy has long since passed with the growth of our county," Jones said.

The new courthouse will provide much needed space, privacy and safety to all who enter, Maury County General Sessions Judge Bobby Sands said.

"The new courts building will address two key needs, more space to accommodate growing dockets in both civil and criminal cases and safety issues for persons required to be in the building as witnesses, victims and jurors," Sands said. "While, we love and respect our historic courthouse, it has safety issues, as well as accessibility issues which the new building should resolve."

Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Chapman agreed that the new building will greatly improve daily court operations.

"We are excited about it. It's great to see it coming up out of the ground," Chapman said. "You are starting to see what it's actually going to look like. It's going to be a lot more functional for everybody and the court system, as well as, provide privacy for clients and counsel."

He jokingly added that many are pleased to see the purple beams amid construction because "we like to support our Columbia Central High School Lions."

The Maury County Historical Society is also accepting items to include in a time capsule to be inserted in the walls of the building, according to society president Previti, which just received a grant for the project.


Christmas Parade Recap (CDH)

A little rain didn't hold off the 37th annual Columbia Main Street and Christmas Parade from making its way into downtown Columbia over the weekend.

This year's parade featured a record-setting 130 participants and floats, the largest turnout in parade history.

"I'm so proud to be here tonight on a great night in Columbia, Tennessee," Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said. "I know we are here for the main event, which is the tree lighting, but we have to give a special thanks to some folks who made this all possible, beginning with the Columbia Public Works department, Columbia Police, Columbia Fire & Rescue and all other city departments, as well as the Maury County Sheriff's Department and other agencies as well."

Leading the parade this year was retired Col. Ashley Brown, who was chauffeured in by parade sponsor Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia.

"This is really a great honor seeing my town looking so beautiful, and all the hard work that has been done here to make this event happen," Brown said. "I'm absolutely honored and humbled. Thank you very much."

This year's parade featured a number of local businesses, schools, nonprofits and more, as well as local leaders like Vice Mayor Randy McBroom.

"Columbia really comes out for its Christmas parade," McBroom said. "This is a great day, a great night and is going to be a great month. Merry Christmas, Columbia."

Following the parade, citizens and spectators gathered at the courthouse steps to witness the lighting of the city's 40-foot Christmas tree.

Molder and Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt shared a few words before Santa Claus "threw the switch" illuminating the tree for this year's season.

"Maury County is a great dichotomy of what America is all about, which is faith, family, freedom and a community that works together," Butt said. "I wish every single one of you a very merry 'Maury' Christmas and a very prosperous new year."


Worldwide Stages Sacks Two Board Members (TheNewsTN)

Worldwide Stages, an entertainment company with a production facility in Spring Hill, has reduced its board of directors from five members to three after defaulting on five short-term loan agreements with Valiant Wealth Management.

According to a Dec. 1 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a special-called shareholder meeting was held Nov. 27 to remove Doug Vander Weide and Pete Fisher from the company’s board of directors. The two were removed with 69.57 percent of votes for their removal.

Vander Weide is the CEO of Valiant. Fisher is the former CEO of the Academy of Country Music and is now an entertainment industry consultant with the wealth company.

Kelly Frey, board chair and president and CEO of Worldwide Stages, said he could not comment on the information from the SEC filings.

“We continue to provide services broadly to the entertainment industry,” Frey added.

Worldwide Stages was founded in 2019 by Frey, Shane Ellis and Mark Long. The company acquired the former Saturn headquarters in Spring Hill in 2021. Worldwide Stages hosted productions for CMT TV, Katy Perry, Kane Brown and Paramount Network while renovating the building. The full facility officially opened in January 2023.

The company purchased the building from the city of Spring Hill and had been leasing space to a city department.

That lease agreement was recently ended after Worldwide Stages indicated it had plans to lease the space at market rate for other endeavors.

In an October SEC filing, the company reported it was unable to pay the outstanding principal and interest on the Valiant notes.

“The Company also is exploring other capital sources in order to satisfy the Company’s obligations under the Valiant Notes,” the December filing states. “No assurances can be given that the Company will be successful on obtaining a new source of capital or what the terms of such capital might be.”

The filing states holders of the notes could pursue action in Maury County court. As of Dec. 4, no court records list Worldwide Stages or Valiant in any litigation in Maury County.

The remaining members alongside Frey are Alandis Brassel and Keith Darcy.

Brassel is an entertainment law attorney and professor of music business at the University of Memphis. He has been in private practice since 2017 but previously worked as counsel for former U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville.

Darcy owns his own consulting firm, working with boards and senior executives on a variety of governance matters. From 2013 until 2021, he was independent senior adviser to Deloitte’s Risk and Financial Advisory Compliance Program. He has held several other board positions, including chairman of the Better Business Bureau Foundation. Prior to his service with Deloitte, Darcy was executive director of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association and chair of the ECOA Foundation. He is a former associate dean and distinguished professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, among other academic roles.

In an Oct. 6 SEC filing, Worldwide Stages reported its chief financial officer Kali Skar would resign effectively at the end of the month. Phil Sims is currently serving as interim CFO. He owns Sims CPA Consulting and has more than 21 years of experience in both public accounting and the corporate sector. He is familiar with company operations after helping with the company’s audits in 2021 and 2022.

The company announced in August it had launched an offering to raise $75 million to build new soundstages and renovate the facility further. The company stated in the August filing it was in negotiations with MBS Group, an entertainment studio consulting company, to provide design-build services with the proceeds from the Registration A offering.


Cumberland Professor Pens Book on Polk (CDH)

Cumberland University professor of history and project director of the Papers of Martin Van Buren Dr. Mark Cheathem has recently authored a groundbreaking book titled "Who is James K. Polk?"

The book, published as part of the University Press of Kansas' American Presidential Elections series, offers readers an authoritative and definitive narrative of the 1844 election. 

Political scholar Richard J. Ellis, the Mark O. Hatfield Professor of Politics, Policy, Law, and Ethics at Willamette University, praises Cheathem's work, stating, "In 'Who is James K. Polk?', historian Cheathem harnesses his unrivaled command of the politics of the 1830s and 1840s to give us the definitive account of this pivotal, if too often neglected, election."

William K. Bolt, professor of history at Francis Marion University and former assistant editor of the Correspondence of James K. Polk Project, commends Cheathem's book as the standard work on the election of 1844.

"It is also the model for how presidential elections should be studied and discussed. Cheathem gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of all the campaigns during the 1844 election. Any reader will feel like a political insider after reading this excellent work," Bolt said.

"I'm grateful for Cumberland University's willingness to provide opportunities and resources for faculty research, which made this book possible," Cheathem said. "It speaks volumes that the administration is committed to helping its faculty enhance their value in the wider intellectual community."

Visit the University Press of Kansas website for more information about the book.

Dr. Cheathem will be presenting a lecture on and signing copies of his new book at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Columbia on January 23rd at 6:00pm.

MRMC Job Event (Press Release)

Maury Regional Health (MRH) will host a walk-in career event for positions in clinical and non-clinical areas on the second Thursday of each month beginning December 14 from 3-6 p.m. in the Human Resources conference room at Maury Regional Medical Center located at 1224 Trotwood Avenue in Columbia.

Applicants interested in joining a nationally recognized health care system should bring a copy of their résumé to this hiring event — no application required. During the visit, candidates will have the opportunity to speak with members of the talent acquisition team about positions and opportunities at Maury Regional Health’s southern Middle Tennessee locations as well as to learn more about our comprehensive benefits, educational assistance programs and more.

Positions of possible interest include but are not limited to:

Nurse technician

Registered nurse (RN)

Physical therapist

Pharmacy technician

Licensed practical nurse (LPN)

Medical lab technician

Registrars

Dietary services

Facility services

Environmental services

Applicants who are unable to attend the walk-in event on December 14 but are interested in exploring open positions are encouraged to contact the Human Resources Department at 931.380.4017 or careers@mauryregional.com.

Maury Regional Health is a not-for-profit regional health system serving southern Middle Tennessee through its hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, outpatient facilities and physician practice group. Located in Columbia, Maury Regional Medical Center serves as the flagship hospital. The system also includes Marshall Medical Center in Lewisburg, Wayne Medical Center in Waynesboro, Lewis Health Center in Hohenwald, Maury Regional Medical Group physician practices across the region and several outpatient facilities.

Maury Regional Health offers one of the most comprehensive and competitive benefits packages in Middle Tennessee, including medical, dental and vision insurance plans; merit-based pay increases; flexible shift options; an on-site daycare center; education assistance for qualifying candidates; access to earned wages before payday; financial counseling and career navigation support; local discounts; and more.


CMYC Coat Drive (Press Release)

The Columbia Mayor's Youth Council is giving back this holiday season by hosting a Winter Coat Drive to benefit The Family Center. The Coat Drive will continue until Monday, December 8, 2023. New coats, socks, and blankets will be accepted and can be dropped off Monday through Friday during school hours. A provided drop box will be at the following high school locations: Columbia Central High School, Columbia Academy, Mount Pleasant High School, and Culleoka Unit School. Donations will also be accepted at Columbia City Hall Lobby (700 N Garden St., Columbia, TN, 38401) from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday.


Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “I am so proud of our Columbia Mayor's Youth Council, once again serving their community, not because they have to, but because already at a young age, they have the desire to. They want to serve our community and this coat drive allows us all an opportunity to follow their lead. I say it over and over again, I am confident in our community's future because I get to see our community's future already hard at work making this community a better place.”


This is the 3rd year of the Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council, which was established in the spring of 2021. This youth council allows students to connect with other peers in their community who want to make a difference through planning community events, partnering with local organizations, raising awareness, and connecting with future generations of leaders.


“I am so excited to announce that the Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council will be hosting our first-ever Winter Coat Drive to benefit The Family Center,” stated CMYC Chair Caroline Cashion. Cashion continued, “I am so incredibly proud of how these young people continue to put Columbia first and I am thrilled to see what all we can accomplish this year.”


For further information regarding the Winter Coat Drive or the CMYC, visit www.columbiatn.com/cmyc


Shop Local (CDH)

Maury County shoppers, mark your calendars for shopping opportunities in town that keep dollars spent local.

Accepted at over 50 small businesses and restaurants across Maury County, Local First Gift Cards could just make the ideal stocking stuffer for anyone on your holiday list. Participating business include retail, eateries and services, including bed and breakfasts, breweries, wine bars, hair salons, boutiques, restaurants and more.

"Every penny" stays in the community and supports our vibrant local businesses, according to a recent Maury Alliance newsletter.

Wil Evans, president of Maury Alliance, said the program boosts local pride and fuels the local economy, keeping dollars in Maury County.

"By choosing to shop local, we are not merely engaging in a simple transaction for goods and services, we are fostering growth, creating jobs and fortifying the foundation of our community," Evans said.

"Keeping our dollars local supports the businesses run by our friends and family, by those that support our local nonprofits and by those that, in turn, buy their goods and services from other local artisans and suppliers.

The Maury Alliance Local First Gift Card program provides a similar benefit as other universal gift cards, allowing the user to choose where they would like to shop with the benefit of knowing their dollars are staying in the community, Evans said.

Kara J. Williams, director of the Maury County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is "very proud of the Local First Gift card and the growth it has had over the years."

"These gifts highlight our small local merchants and ensure dollars stay in our local economy. Our small businesses are an integral part of what makes Maury County a charming and thriving place."

Local First Gift Cards are available for purchase year-round at Maury Alliance. Visit mauryalliance.com/local-first-cards/ for more info and a listing of participating businesses.

…And now, news from around the state…

Lee Faces Republican Pushback on Vouchers (Tennessean)

As funding and accountability details emerge on Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed statewide universal school voucher program, the governor is likely to face some opposition from members of his own party, as they raise questions and concerns over the plan.

While members of Tennessee’s GOP supermajority have voted in lockstep on many controversial issues, support for the governor's Education Freedom Scholarships Act among members of the GOP caucus is far from universal – and some have more questions than answers about the Republican governor’s top legislative priority for next year. 

“It concerns me,” Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, told The Tennessean in an interview. “As a fiscal conservative, my question would be what's the revenue source for this? And do they really know the true costs of what this will be? I can see this thing just spiraling out of control much like what they did when they first instituted TennCare. They have come back and fixed it.”

Whitson said there is little evidence that the state’s existing school choice program, the Education Savings Account initiative, is successful.

Parents of of students participating in the program have largely touted it and its benefits for their children. But state test results from the first year of the ESA program indicate that participants performed worse than their public school peers in Davidson and Shelby Counties on state-required testing. Administrators for participating schools say that poor performance could be due to the demographic of students that the program is designed to reach, or to school staff's lack of experience administering the tests.

Whitson is concerned that without imposing accountability measures and testing requirements the state requires for public schools, Tennessee will be unable to exercise appropriate oversight over non-public schools in the governor's proposed statewide program.

“They’re even talking about [including] home schoolers and unchartered schools,” he said. “They should be under the same standards and requirements as the public school so we can track achievement and progress.”

The program could also disproportionately impact disabled students, Whitson said, due to additional costs schools undertake to adequately serve that population. And, he’s concerned about the outside money and influence already being brought to bear from pro-school choice lobbying groups. 

“In Williamson County, we have the best school system in the state, and I just worry that this would undermine this great system we have here in the future,” Whitson said.

Lee's 2019 proposal to establish Education Savings Accounts was highly controversial, and passed by only one vote in the House of Representatives after then-Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, held the vote board open for more 40 minutes.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Many say Santa Claus speaks a special language that all the children of the world understand. For one Santa, Santa Charles, that language is American Sign Language (ASL), and he makes holiday dreams a reality by visiting deaf and hard of hearing children.

Deaf Santa Claus, also known as Santa Charles, is one of the only Santas in the country who communicates with children using ASL. As part of Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas festivities, Santa Charles will visit the resort on December 18 to help make Christmas wishes come true.

From 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. CT, the resort will host a private event for children from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to visit with Santa Charles. From 10:00 a.m. – Noon CT, the experience will be open to guests who pre-purchase a Deaf Santa Photo Package online. Photo packages begin at $40.00 and include a keepsake photo with Santa Charles and can be purchased online at tickets.gaylordopryland.com


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