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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 6, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Gas Line Hit (MauryCountySource)

Agencies from the Spring Hill Fire Department, Spring Hill Police Department, Williamson EMA and Atmos Energy responded to a ruptured gas line that was on fire shortly after 2pm Monday afternoon in the Spring Hill Place Neighborhood.

A construction worker using an excavator hit the gas line. He was able to escape without injury.

Five homes were evacuated due to being in close proximity of the incident.

Atmos Energy dug and clamped off both sides of the gas line for the incident to be brought under control.

Fire Chief Graig Temple stated ” All agencies worked exceptionally well together to mitigate the incident and bring the scene under control.”


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.


City Limits Apartments (WKOM Audio 4:38)

Yesterday, City Limits Apartments in Neapolis opened with a grand opening. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting and spoke with apartment manager Diana Spence about what amenities the apartment complex has to offer…


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.


Harmony Homeschool Choir Concert (Press Release)

Harmony Homeschool Choir is thrilled to announce its upcoming Christmas concert, "Merry & Bright," featuring 105 talented homeschool students ranging in age from 8-18. The concert will take place on December 11 at 6:00 pm at the Cherry Theater, located at Columbia State Community College.

The "Merry & Bright" concert promises to be a delightful evening of festive music and heartwarming performances, showcasing the exceptional vocal skills and dedication of the Harmony Homeschool Choir. Attendees can expect a captivating blend of traditional holiday favorites and modern arrangements, all presented by the talented young voices of the choir.

"We are excited to bring the joy of the holiday season to the community through our 'Merry & Bright' Christmas concert," said Sarah Latch, Director of Harmony Homeschool Choir. "Our students have been working tirelessly to deliver a memorable and enchanting musical experience for all our guests."

This is a free event open to the community. For more information, please visit the Harmony Homeschool Choir website at harmonyhomeschoolchoir.com or follow on Facebook.

Harmony Homeschool Choir began in 2019, rehearsing in Cornersville, TN with 13 young but dedicated singers under the direction of Sarah Latch and with Sharon Pennington accompanying on piano. We have now grown to six separate choirs, a theory course and over 100 participating students rehearsing in Columbia and Lewisburg.

Don't miss this opportunity to celebrate the magic of the season with Harmony Homeschool Choir's "Merry & Bright" Christmas concert on December 11 at the Cherry Theater. Join us for an evening of music, merriment, and cherished holiday traditions. The evening ends with a congregational hymn singing of cherished Christmas hymns by candle-light.


King’s Daughters Christmas Drive (CDH)

The King’s Daughters’ School and Heritage Bank & Trust are once again seeking help to make many Christmas wishes come true with the 23rd annual Santa's Mailbox gift drive.

The annual drive will run through Thursday, Dec. 14.

Wish letters can be picked up from Santa’s Mailbox at Heritage Bank & Trust branches in Columbia and Mt. Pleasant. The letters are from disadvantaged King’s Daughters’ students and state-custody kids who will be spending Christmas on campus.

Students have written down their Christmas wishes in letters to Santa.

"Santa’s Mailbox should be easy to spot when you walk into a Heritage Bank & Trust lobby. Each letter contains one Christmas wish item for a student," a press release states.

“We are so grateful to Heritage Bank & Trust for their support of our Santa’s Mailbox program. Many of our students cannot go home for the holidays, so the contributions of the bank, their customers, and our entire community make their Christmas wishes come true,” KDS Executive Director Shauna Pounders said.

Once gifts are returned, they will be wrapped by the King’s Daughters’ staff members and placed in Santa’s bag ready for delivery at the KDS campus Christmas Eve.

"The school and bank members thank you ahead of time for helping make Christmas special for each and every child at KDS," the press release states.

Heritage Bank & Trust is resuming hosting duties this year as a continued valued partner to KDS.

"Heritage Bank & Trust is proud to be a part of the wonderful work being done by The King's Daughters' School," says Shelli Golden, KDS Board Member and EVP, Chief Risk Officer of Heritage Bank & Trust.

"Over the years, I have served on the Board of Directors of The King's Daughters' School, and I continue to be impressed with the care and compassion given to each student to make their lives the best that it can be. Heritage is honored to partner with an organization making such a great impact on our community." Santa’s Mailboxes are located in two Maury County Heritage Bank & Trust lobbies: 217 South James Campbell Blvd., and 109 South Main St. in Mt. Pleasant.

The King’s Daughters’ School is a nonprofit residential school that has provided academic, vocational, and life-skills training to students with developmental delays for over 60 years.


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.

…And now, news from around the state…

Incarceration Numbers Up, Violence Down (TNLookout)

After years of steady declines, Tennessee’s prison population climbed by nearly eight percent last year, a bump in the rate of incarceration that surpassed all but three other states during a period of time that also saw steep drops in the most serious crimes.

Tennessee added 1,615 more men and 125 more women to its roster of state prisoners in 2022, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Justice. Only Mississippi, Colorado and Montana experienced greater gains.

By the end of 2022, there were 23,735 state inmates in Tennessee; the data does not include the population in county jails, which hold individuals for misdemeanor offenses and those awaiting trial.

Criminal justice reform advocates said they were disheartened but unsurprised by the data. 

“Everything that we said was going to come true has come true,” said Dawn Harrington, executive director of Free Hearts, a nonprofit that advocates for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.

Among the drivers, Harrington believes, is Tennessee’s so-called truth-in-sentencing law, which took effect midway through 2022. The law requires heightened minimum sentences for a host of offenses. 

The COVID epidemic also ushered in a series of social and economic challenges — among them unemployment, limited access to mental health resources and widening disparities in education and healthcare. All are “predetermining factors” that may also explain why more men and women wound up behind bars, she said. 

Tennessee incarcerated more people in 2022 despite a drop in crime. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported incidents of murder, rape, and kidnapping decreased by double digits last year.

The law was enacted over the objections of Gov. Bill Lee, who said he was concerned about “unintended consequences.” 

“Widespread evidence suggests that this policy will result in more victims, higher recidivism, increased crime and prison overcrowding, all with an increased cost to taxpayers,” Lee said in a letter to House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally before the legislation was enacted.

“If we need to build more prisons, we can,” Sexton responded at the time. 

Lee, nevertheless, declined to veto the law, allowing it to take effect without his signature.


McCreery Inducted in Opry (Tennessean)

Christmas, quite literally, came early for multi-platinum-selling country artist and American Idol winner Scotty McCreery.

On Sunday evening, the 30-year-old North Carolina native with five No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay chart singles was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry by Garth Brooks during the Opry's annual "Country Christmas" show.

"Merry Christmas," Brooks said after walking onstage and handing McCreery a wrapped gift.

This is a Christmas present to the Grand Ole Opry. We would love to invite you to be the newest member of the Opry."

"Holy cow. Yes, I would love to," replied a stunned McCreery.

McCreery's induction date will be announced soon.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Save the date and come out to the Holiday Farmers Market on Saturday, December 9th, 2023 from 10 am – 2 pm at Riverwalk Park (102 Riverside Dr, Columbia).

There will be fresh produce, gifts, crafts, baked goods, food trucks, and live music featuring the Murphy Ridge Band.

Follow the Columbia Farmer’s Fresh Market on Instagram for more information.


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