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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 7, 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 Person (MauryCountySource)

The Columbia Police Department is trying to locate a reported missing adult, 22-year-old Benjamin (Benji) Martin.

He was last seen on 12/4/2023, leaving the Osage Trail area. Martin is 6’0” tall, weighs 155 lbs., and has brown hair and brown eyes.

Any person with additional information that may assist in this or any other investigation is encouraged to contact Columbia Police Department Dispatch (24 hours) at 931-388-2727, Maury County Crime stoppers at 931-381-4900, or Columbia Police SAFE Tip Email to SafeTips@ColumbiaTN.Com


Chief Cobb Returns to Job (CDH)

Columbia Fire Chief Ty Cobb returned to work last week following a 30-day suspension, which was issued in late October due to what the city described as "insubordination."

In addition to the 30-day suspension without pay, Cobb was also given a year of probation, which will expire Nov. 27, 2024.

Details as to what constituted the insubordination charge were never made clear at the time of the suspension, though Cobb said he is anxious to resume his duties with the department he has served for nearly three decades.

"I'm glad to be back serving, protecting and supporting my community as I have been blessed to do for the past 25 years," Cobb said. "I want to thank everyone for the prayers, cards, phone calls and words of encouragement I have received. I'm thankful and honored to be your fire chief."

After making an open records request to the city, The Daily Herald found only minimal correspondence between Cobb and city staff, first with Cobb requesting an internal investigation of his department on Sept. 21.

According to the email, the investigation was in connection to the May 3 incident in which former firefighter Roy Brooks, who was terminated in 2022, was charged with carrying a firearm onto Central High School's campus in response to an active shooter call, which turned out to be a hoax.

Brooks was later indicted Aug. 17 by a grand jury for carrying a firearm onto the campus of Central and has a trial set for May 22, 2024 in Maury County.

"I'm requesting an internal investigation into the City of Columbia Central High School May 3rd incident and what has transpired since May 3rd, 2023," Cobb states in the Sept. 21 email requesting the internal investigation. "The safety of my employees and the people of Columbia is my top priority."

On Oct. 28, City Manager Tony Massey sent a follow up email notifying Cobb of his suspension effective Oct. 30, as well as the subsequent year-long probation expiring Nov. 27, 2024.

According to the city's charter regarding disciplinary actions against city employees, suspensions without pay must be approved by the city manager.

The employee may also request a pre-determination hearing within three days of receiving notice of the suspension, with the hearing being granted within five days of the request. The hearing would then consist of the employee, the employee's department head, the city's human resources director and the city manager.

"The pre-determination hearing provides an informal opportunity for the employee to challenge the proposed suspension before the final decision is made as to whether to suspend," the charter reads. "At the pre-determination hearing the employee will be allowed to present written statements of witnesses or any other information to the City Manager regarding the charges under consideration."

However, in the case of a department head being considered for suspension, the decision falls on the city manager, Massey said.

"Department heads, under the city charter, are under the direction of the city manager and are not classified as civil service employees," Massey said. "And because of this, they don't have the same appeal process we would follow, a pre-determination or civil service hearing an employee would have."

Massey added that department heads are classified as "at will" employees, which are appointed by the city manager, therefore the city manager has the authority to make disciplinary actions.

"There is a difference when it's a department head and a civil service employee," Massey said. "It's why we didn't go before a civil service board. It would not apply in this situation."

Massey later said he did not wish to discuss further details regarding Cobb's suspension, only that the city approached the situation according to the charter in an appropriate manner.

"I don't discuss personnel matters, never have in my career working in the public," Massey said. "I just think that's the right thing to do."

Massey concluded saying he is happy to see Cobb back in service, especially just in time for last weekend's Columbia Main Street Christmas Parade, in which Cobb provided commentary throughout the night.

"I'm looking forward to him resuming his position and doing everything he can as fire chief to promote Columbia Fire & Rescue and the city of Columbia," Massey said. "It was great having him back on Saturday being the same old Ty Cobb."


Goad Named Spring Hill Grand Marshal (MSM)

The Spring Hill Christmas parade is set for Saturday, Dec. 9, and leading the parade as Grand Marshal this year will be Spring Hill’s city recorder, April Goad.

Goad is a 36-year veteran employee of the city and has become a staple inside City Hall – no matter where it might be located.

“I am so honored to be chosen to lead the Spring Hill Christmas parade,” she said. “This city and its people mean so much to me, and I am so grateful to be thought of in such a manner.”

Goad has seen the city change from a small, rural town to the growing city it has become since her time began at the city. City Hall has moved from a small one-room building that also housed the fire truck (singular) to a place that has been expanded at least once and will be again soon.

“Watching the town grow into a city as an employee was unique,” she said. “I had a bird’s eye view of how we operated in each phase of the city’s life. From a small town to a growing community to a major city. It’s been a wild ride.”

Spring Hill Parks and Recreation director Kayce Williams said she couldn’t think of anyone in the city more deserving of the honor in 2023.

“What April has seen in this community, and what she’s meant to it behind the scenes is unmatched,” she said. “On top of everything else, she’s just a wonderful person to know and I am so happy we get a chance to celebrate her and what she means to this community.”

“Most people would have no idea of her contributions to our city,” former mayor Rick Graham said. “She has seen Spring Hill go through a lot in 36 years and has made it all better. She has a huge heart and treats everyone with respect.”

Mayor Jim Hagaman said the city couldn’t run without her guidance, and praised Goad’s character as well.

“She is the best,” he said. “The perseverance she’s shown through the years as she’s battled cancer and continued to be an amazing city recorder is just a testament to who she is as a person and a testament to her humanity.”

Goad was also recognized by the Tennessee Association of Municipal Clerks and Recorders with the 2023 Distinguished Service award.

There will be road closures throughout the city during the day of the event that will begin at 4:30 p.m. along the parade route, which starts at 5 p.m. and closures will remain in place for the duration.

Roads along the route are expected to reopen at approximately 6:30 p.m. Harvey Park will also be closed on the day of the parade. There will be no designated public parking on the day of the event.


New AirBnB (WKOM Audio 2:00)

Yesterday, a new Air BnB was opened in the Arts District of Columbia. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy stopped by the ribbon cutting and spoke to owner Daryl Haskins…


Sleep Inn Moves Forward in Spring Hill (MSM)

The highly contested proposal for a Sleep Inn hotel in Spring Hill has taken the next step in the process of approval during the most recent Spring Hill Planning Commission meeting.

A 22,000-square foot hotel is proposed, which would encompass 36 rooms in four stories. The site is on the west side of Kedron Parkway and sits on 1.41 acres.

Commissioner Jonathan Duda made a point to note the exterior of the proposed building did not meet the design standards the city hoped to set in its town center district.

“Across the street from you, you have a library that we constructed. We made a point to put dormers, and the childcare facility next to you,” he said. “Town Center is a more classical theme that was set in the late-80s when it was approved.

“My comment is how can you more incorporate the town center’s original concept is around you? Take a look at those buildings and see what was intended.”

Architects on the project said the building was proposed this way in order to meet height requirements, but originally had similar stylings at the three-story height.

The planning commission does reserve the right to allow buildings to be higher than the 50-foot limit if the commission deems it necessary. The building’s new height was made necessary due to the parking space requirements within the city’s code.

A variance was requested by the applicant for fewer parking spots but was denied.

Architectural design, however, is the least of the concerns of citizens opposed to a high-traffic hotel in the area, continuing to note the inconsistencies between the city’s long-term vision and current city zoning.

One comment stated, “This area of the downtown already includes subdivisions, town homes, apartments, city offices, post office, banks, community credit unions, local library, dog park and city park, and soon will have a daycare and learning center,” Smith said. “I would encourage you to consider the extensive work done to develop the future land use area that is designated in the downtown city center in which the hotel is being proposed and the desired community character the comprehensive plan was developed to protect.”

Citizen feedback both online and during each meeting where this has been proposed has been mostly negative toward a hotel being built in what is designated as a downtown area.

Austin Brass of the city’s staff noted in a May meeting that while the plot is inside the designated area, it is zoned C-4, which would allow the hotel to be built by right without approval from the commission if all other requirements are met.

“I do appreciate the zoning is C-4 and that we are right of use,” citizen Christie Smith said. “I don’t think the downtown city of Spring Hill is a place where that Sleep Inn is appropriate. I believe that our city is valued more if higher income people coming to stay.”

Alderman Matt Fitterer implored upon the project’s engineer to take the feedback from citizens about the Sleep Inn brand back to the client.

“I would encourage you to listen to the citizen feedback you’re about to hear and take it back to your client,” he said. “I would tend to agree with those comments about the brand.”


Culleoka Student Named Academic Ambassador (MSM)

Chloe Moore, a Culleoka Unit School student from Columbia, has been selected to the Ambassador Leadership Program by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS). A role model to peers, Moore was selected out of hundreds of applicants for demonstrating strong academic achievement and a commitment to community service.

Each year, student members of NSHSS are invited to apply for leadership roles responsible for representing the Society in their schools and inspiring peers to become more involved in community activities.

Participation in the NSHSS Ambassador Leadership Program is an opportunity for talented scholars to enhance their leadership skills by identifying a community or social need, actively becoming involved in volunteerism and helping others. NSHSS provides exclusive Ambassador scholarships based upon their active participation in the Program during their senior year.

The National Society of High School Scholars seeks to advance the goals and aspirations of high-achieving students through unique learning experiences, scholarships, internships, international study and peer networks. From attending the annual Nobel Week festivities in Stockholm, Sweden, to internships with major corporations and government agencies, pre-college summer study programs, and more than $2 million in scholarships awarded annually, NSHSS is continually seeking new ways to provide lifetime learning and growth opportunities for academically talented and accomplished student leaders, and the educators who support them.

NSHSS pairs leadership education and skill development with community service to ensure a comprehensive experience for those chosen to participate in the Ambassador Leadership Program.

Formed in 2002 by James W. Lewis and Claes Nobel, a member of the family that established the Nobel Prizes, The National Society of High School Scholars recognizes academic excellence at the high school level and helps to advance the goals and aspirations of high-achieving students through unique learning experiences, scholarships, internships, international study and peer networks. NSHSS members become lifetime members. At each step along the way – from high school to college to career – NSHSS connects outstanding young scholars with the resources they need to develop their strengths and pursue their passions. Currently, there are more than 2 million Society members in over 170 countries. To help us further efforts that provide students with continued opportunity, please acknowledge NSHSS in any press release mentions by providing a resource link to nshss.org. For more information about NSHSS visit www.nshss.org


Child Care Resources Seminar (Press Release)

Please join Maury Alliance for an ALIGN Maury Workforce Development Lunch & Learn on Thursday, December 14th from 11:30-1:00 at the American Job Center.  During this event, Dana Glenn, Director of Child & Adult Care Licensing at the TN Department of Human Resources, will provide insight into the current child care landscape, the role of child care in workforce development, and resources that are available to employers and communities to support the creation of child care capacity. As part of this solutions-focused conversation, innovative models from across the state will be shared.

 

Please note that a pre-event survey will be provided to attendees to assist in understanding needs related to childcare resources in our community.  

 

Attendees who wish to learn more about our local resources, are welcomed to attend a focused Q&A with local providers at the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance immediately following the lunch & learn portion.  

 

Attendance is limited; your RSVP is greatly appreciated.


St. Peter’s Lessons and Carols (Press Release)

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church presents a service of Lessons & Carols on Sunday, December 17, at 4:00pm in the St. Peter’s sanctuary located at 311 West 7th Street in downtown Columbia, next door to the Polk Home.


This traditional Anglican service originated in the Church of England in the late 1800s and was later formalized as a Christmas service. After the devastation of World War I it has been broadcast by the BBC around the world ever since. The service includes scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments that tell the story of the birth of Jesus. The remainder of the service includes audience Christmas carols and choir anthems performed by the St. Peter’s Choir.


St. Peter’s Choir Director, Dr. Peter Douglas, says that this service “is a nice relief from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with singing and reflection on the Christmas story.” Dr. Douglas will also play the opening and closing organ voluntaries.


“We are thrilled to offer this beautiful and historic worship service to God and share it with the entire community,” said Father Chris Bowhay, St. Peter’s Rector. “Its rhythms of song and Scripture bring a deep sense of peace and wonder as we, like the shepherds and the Wise Men, walk toward Christmas to greet the newborn King.”


This event is free and open to the public with no tickets required. A livestream will be available on Facebook at the St. Peter’s website at www.saintpeterscolumbia.org/worship.


…And now, news from around the state…

Libertarians File Lawsuit (Tennessean)

The Libertarian Party of Tennessee says it’s too difficult for third parties to get on ballots in Tennessee.

The party has sued state officials over Tennessee’s “unduly burdensome” ballot access requirements for minor parties, which Libertarian Party leaders say discriminate against third-party candidates and deny voters information about those candidates.

For the upcoming election, third parties running for statewide office must collect more than 43,000 signatures from registered voters 90 days before the election to be recognized to run candidates under Tennessee’s current laws. Candidates running as Republicans, Democrats or independents need only 25 signatures, which leads most third-party candidates for statewide office to be listed as independents in Tennessee.

The lawsuit asks for a judge to declare some of those ballot requirements unconstitutional and for a court order ensuring that Libertarian Party of Tennessee candidates are listed as members of their party on ballots in the Nov. 5, 2024, election.

The Libertarian Party of Tennessee and other minor political parties have challenged Tennessee’s ballot requirements several times, and in 2013 the Libertarian Party notched a win in federal court when a judge ordered the party’s candidate for the state House of Representatives be listed as a libertarian on ballots.

Tennessee was sued just a day before this lawsuit was filed over another of its election laws that requires polling places inform voters that it is illegal to vote in a primary election without being a "bona fide" political party member.

The Libertarian Party's lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee by members and leaders of the Libertarian Party of Tennessee against Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Elections Coordinator Mark Goins.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

To be recognized to run candidates on a general election ballot in Tennessee, minor political parties must present a petition with signatures totaling at least 2.5% of all votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. More than 1.76 million registered voters cast a ballot when Tennessee elected Gov. Bill Lee in November 2022.

The lawsuit states that meeting that requirement by the deadline of 90 days before the November 2024 election would be “virtually impossible.”

Libertarian Party of Tennessee Vice Chair Chris Darnell, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that even when they have led successful petition drives, it takes a large amount of money and time that the two major parties do not have to spend.

“It takes a lot of work on the front end, and by the time we get to the election, a lot of our volunteers are already burnt out because we're pushing them so hard to get those signatures,” Darnell said Monday.

The group’s lawyer, James C. Linger of Tulsa, Oklahoma, said that voters are withheld information about third-party candidates’ platforms when they are all but forced to run as independents.

“It's hard to justify laws that give voters less information about candidates,” Linger said.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Kristin Chenoweth is returning to perform with the Nashville Symphony

Saturday, January 20, 7:30 PM & Sunday, January 21, 2:00 PM

Tickets: Starting at $54

The Tony Award-winning sensation returns to the Schermerhorn. With her starring roles in Wicked, Glee, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and more, Kristin Chenoweth has dazzled audiences with her powerhouse vocals and delightful stage presence. Featuring selections from her vast repertoire and live orchestral arrangements. You can find more information at www.nashvillesymphony.org.


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