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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 8, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Plane Crash in Pulaski (Knoxville News Sentinel)

A single-engine airplane that took off from Knoxville Thursday morning has crashed in Giles County near Pulaski, according to the Giles County Sheriff’s Office.

Two people have been confirmed dead, but their identities have not yet been released.

"A single-engine Beechcraft 35 crashed by a road near Pulaski, around 11:15 a.m. local time on Thursday, Dec. 7," a spokesperson from the Federal Aviation Administration said. "The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide further updates."

The crash happened near the Marshall County line, a sheriff's office staff member said. Officials with the Abernathy Field Airport in Pulaski reported the plane had gone down about seven or eight miles northeast of the airport.

"Bystanders saw the plane go down," said Bill Myers, director of emergency services for Giles County. "This was in a remote area of the county and a remote area of the property, so it took some time to reach."

Myers said the plane crashed into a hillside and two people inside were killed. An area search is being conducted to make sure there are no other victims, he added.

"The medical examiner is on the scene and the FAA has just arrived," Myers said.

According to FlightAware.com, a single-engine 1965 Beechcraft Bonanza took off from Home Island Airport in Knoxville at 10:48 a.m. and was headed for the airport in Pulaski when it crashed a little more than an hour later.

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.

Harris Joins Farm Credit Mid-America (MSM)

Farm Credit Mid-America is pleased to welcome Laura Leigh Harris as an associate financial officer at its Columbia office.

Before stepping into her role at Farm Credit Mid-America, Harris worked in government relations as a lobbyist for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“Farm Credit Mid-America is essential in securing the future of agriculture and I am grateful for this opportunity,” said Harris. “I am committed to serving farm and rural people and look forward to providing solutions to fit our community’s needs.”

Harris graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where she earned a degree in communications.

“We’re excited to have Laura Leigh join our team. She has deep knowledge of the agriculture industry from her previous roles and we can’t wait to see what new ideas she’ll bring to our team,” says Scott Holmes, regional vice president with Farm Credit Mid-America. “We are dedicated to providing the farmers and rural residents of this area with the best possible financial solutions for their unique situations. Laura Leigh’s deep understanding of the industry makes her the perfect addition to our team. We invite anyone in the community to stop by and meet her and the rest of our team.”

Farmers and producers can connect with Harris and her Farm Credit Mid-America team members by calling the Columbia office at (931) 388-2591.

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.”

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.

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.

TBI Reports Human Trafficking Up (Tennessean)

Calls and tips to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's human trafficking hotline have jumped more than 400% in recent years as public awareness grows.

TBI's human trafficking team received 1,291 hotline tips last year, up from 245 in 2016. The vast majority were for child sex trafficking, with more than 600 reports in 2022.

Those were some of the findings in a new TBI report released this month in response to directive from state lawmakers.

Legislators have vowed to fight human trafficking and are planning for a package of laws next year to tackle the problem.

In an August special session on public safety, they passed House Bill 7041, which directed the TBI to submit a report on the state of human trafficking by December. The agency's last report was in 2013.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, at the time said he planned to "make Tennessee a leader in ending this evil practice."

The 10-page report provides a snapshot of some numbers over past several years and ways the TBI has worked to address the issue. The figures represent calls, reports and tips, and not confirmed cases or charges related to human trafficking.

Among the findings:

While reports of other types of trafficking such a labor and adult sex trafficking have grown slightly, reports of child sex trafficking have increased dramatically since 2016.

Nearly half of all tips involving minors come from the Department of Child Services, which provides weekly information to TBI.

Minor victims range in age from five months to 17 years old, with 45% of reports involving children between the ages of 13 and 17.

TBI has conducted proactive operations since 2015 targeting the commercial sex industry, with the goal of identifying traffickers and recovering victims. This year TBI conducted 15 operations, of which 17 minors were located.

TBI needs additional resources to help examine thousands of online sex advertisements to identify potential victims.

Memphis to Nashville Rail (Tennessean)

The possibility of a passenger railway connecting the Bluff City to the Music City is beginning to track.

On Wednesday, Dec. 6, US. Representative Steve Cohen’s (D-TN) office announced that $500,000 in federal funding was secured for analyzing the project scope for a railway connecting Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta.

“Passenger rail service linking Tennessee’s major cities will be a major economic shot in the arm and will invigorate travel and tourism across our state,” Cohen said in a statement.

The funding is provided via the Federal Railroad Administration (RFA). More specifically, the grand is awarded through the RFA’s Corridor Identification and Development program. The program was created in November 2021 in part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg oversees the program.

“Once this service is in operation, much of the country will be accessible by rail from Memphis. This is a very big deal, and I look forward to working with stakeholders in all the route’s proposed cities to continue to move this project forward,” Cohen said.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Santa will once again make his way through Columbia this weekend for photos, sweet treats and more.

Hattie Jane's Creamery, located at Puckett's on the downtown square, will host Sundaes with Santa from 5-7 p.m. Sunday. Hattie Jane's will feature a photo booth and hot chocolate for each customer. Admission is $25 at the door for parties of four, and $5 for each additional member.

Faded Farmhouse will host Pancakes & Pictures with Santa at The Blue Barn & Garden, 2697 Bristow Road on Friday-Sunday, which will also feature many great holiday shopping opportunities for Christmas decor and local vendor items.

Muletown Lumberyard, 1104 S. Garden St., will host Photos with Santa & a Holiday Market from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, but photos with Santa are $40.


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