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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 16, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Schools Closed (Press Release)

According to a notice sent out yesterday evening, all Maury County Schools are closed today due to the potential for inclement weather, including all Boys & Girls Club locations. Twelve-month employees may use discretion regarding reporting to work.


Food Truck Ordinances to Be Discussed (Press Release)

Join the City of Columbia Development Services Department for a listening session scheduled in Council Chambers to hear suggestions for updating the mobile vending regulations in the zoning ordinance.

EVENT DETAILS:

WHEN: February 16, 5pm – 6pm

WHERE: City Hall, 700 North Garden Street

This is primarily related to food trucks, but the City would like to hear from all interested stakeholders.


June Lake Progresses (CDH)

As work continues on the 775-acre mixed-use June Lake gateway development, city planners reviewed its latest design updates, including approval for a new roundabout and designs for a bike lane.

The June Lake development, which will be located near the upcoming Buckner Lane and Buckner Road widenings, as well as the new I-65 interchange, will feature a mix of residential, commercial, hotel and office uses. The roundabout in question would be located at Marston Avenue.

Senior Planner Peter Hughes said the proposed roundabout was first presented in December, which was required to make various design changes due to the Tennessee Department of Transportation standards. The standards, according to TDOT's requirements, would include a through bike lane.

However, despite the bike lane's requirement for the roundabout, Hughes said it is in an area that might not be the most encouraging for cyclists, especially considering much of June Lake's design is intended to promote pedestrian walkability.

"June Lake's roundabout on Marston Avenue is bordered by two multi-use trails in the immediate vicinity, as well as a greenway trail, and so there are multiple direct avenues for a direct route for a bike to use," Hughes said. "Also, Marston Avenue does not contain a bike lane detail, and so encouraging bikes to go through this area may not be the best."

Don Alexander, representing applicant and developer Southeast Venue, said this is an "unfortunate situation," explaining that TDOT typically requires a bike lane for all its roundabouts statewide.

"The roads that are on this design standard all include bike lanes, and none of the roads we've included in this scenario include bike lands. So we've had to find some middle ground to make it work," Alexander said. "But I think we've got a pretty good solution here."

Alexander added, much like Hughes alluded, that the 775-acre property's intent will include multiple multi-use trails in addition to what will be included in the roundabout's design.

"The major concern was having multi-modal transportation with the city, and June Lake is a walkable, bike-friendly community. So the Buckner realignment will use an old multi-use trail coming down June Lake Boulevard," Alexander said.

Hughes added that the Buckner multi-use trail would connect with nearby Summit High School and would allow for pedestrian and bike access for students.

"That would be the safest route for them to take as a designated way versus this roundabout," Hughes said.


Polk Home Not To Be National Park Site

The National Park Service (NPS) last week transmitted the James K. Polk Presidential Home Special Resource Study (SRS) to Congress, concluding that the 11th president’s Columbia residence and adjacent property meet three of the four criteria for potential inclusion in the National Park System.

Congress passed Public Law 116-9 in 2019, directing a study be conducted of the only surviving residence associated with Polk besides the White House.

President James K. Polk lived in the federal-style home owned by his parents from 1818 to 1824, as his professional and political careers were underway. He would eventually serve as a Tennessee state legislator, U.S. Representative, Tennessee governor and U.S. president from 1845 to 1849. The state of Tennessee with the James K. Polk Memorial Association purchased the Polk Home in 1929, at which time the James K. Polk Memorial Association opened the home to the public. The association maintains and operates the home, provides tours, educational programs and exhibits, and continues to acquire furniture and objects that once belonged to the Polk family.

The NPS prepared the SRS to evaluate for potential inclusion within the National Park System the Polk Home and adjacent property, which includes the Sisters’ House, a kitchen outbuilding, gardens and garden cottage, the Polk Presidential Hall and a modern law office building, all situated on the land parcel once owned by Samuel Polk, James K. Polk’s father.

When conducting an SRS, a study team considers public input and evaluates a site for potential NPS inclusion according to four congressional criteria: national significance, suitability, feasibility and the need for NPS management. All four criteria must have positive findings for the special resource study to identify a site as eligible for potential inclusion in the National Park System.

The Polk home met SRS criteria for national significance, suitability and feasibility. However, the NPS study team found that the Polk home is adequately managed by the memorial association, with support from the state. The study identifies a variety of opportunities for continued preservation, including technical assistance, funding opportunities and other NPS designation and recognition programs, such as affiliated area status. The Polk home was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

Additions to the National Park System are designated by acts of Congress or through presidential proclamation. An SRS serves as one reference for consideration in the potential designation of an area to be added to the National Park System. Because an SRS is not a decision-making document, it does not identify a preferred course of action.

More information about the James K. Polk Presidential Home special resource study is available at www.parkplanning.nps.gov/polksrs.


Spring Hill Election (MainStreetMaury)

The 2023 Spring Hill city elections will take place in April despite all three races for city alderman going unopposed.

According to Erin Shouse, deputy director at the Maury County Election Commission, state law requires that election day be held, but the county could elect to forego early voting if no opposition qualifies in any of the wards up for election.

Three of the candidates up for election are incumbents, while former alderman and 2020 mayoral candidate Vincent Fuqua is the lone candidate that does not currently hold a seat on the board.

In Ward 1, John Canepari is unopposed, while Matt Fitterer runs in Ward 2 and interim Ward 3 appointee Brent Murray are both unopposed as well.

Canepari won election in 2020 over Liz Droke, Alex Jiminez and Bryan Watt, while Fitterer was unopposed. Murray was appointed following Dan Allen’s hiring as the city’s assistant city administrator. Allen defeated then-incumbent Susan Zemek, who was also considered for the interim appointment in October 2021.

Though the deadline has passed for official candidates to qualify, write-in candidates are still eligible for qualification through Feb. 22. In the event a write-in candidate does qualify, early voting will take place at the Winchester Building in Spring Hill from March 24 until April 8.

Voting locations for Election Day, April 13, are Longview Elementary, Winchester Building, Marvin Wright Elementary School, Spring Hill Middle School and the Spring Hill Public Library.


Kiwanis Yard Sale (CDH)

Rummage sale enthusiasts near and far are marking their calendars for the upcoming annual Kiwanis Club of Columbia Yard Sale, one of the largest in Columbia, scheduled for Feb. 25 at the Memorial Building downtown.

Held from 8 a.m. until noon, the yard sale will benefit Maury County Imagination Library, an initiative of the Kiwanis Club to improve reading in early school-aged children. The Imagination Library mails free books monthly to children in Maury County from birth to age 5, who are registered for the program.

The yard sale has been a constant in the community for almost 19 years.

Kiwanian Dwaine Beck, who has served as yard sale chairman on and off for 15 years, said for some, the yard sale marks one of the most anticipated community events of the year.

"It's a community event," Beck said. "Some people have told me that the yard sale Saturday is their favorite day of the year. People come and find treasures. Some people in the antique business buy treasures there and resell it.

"It's an amazing 24 hours. Donors help us fill the Memorial Building on Friday, and it's gone by noon the next day."

Visitors can expect to find items such as household goods, furniture, knick-knacks, books, glassware, sports equipment, toys and much more.

Imagination Library was started by Dolly Parton in her home county in east Tennessee as an early literacy effort. It has spread to all 95 counties in the state and several foreign countries. It was launched in Maury County in 2005, and the Kiwanis club has been an annual supporter.

This year's yard sale is dedicated to the memory of Doris Beck, Dwaine Beck's mother and devoted volunteer since the yard sale's inception, who died late last year. She was wife, mother, and grandmother to the Becks, and an accomplished seamstress who made dolls for newborns at her local church Jackson Heights Church of Christ.

An avid yard sale shopper herself, Doris Beck served as the yard sale's annual pricing specialist, which came in handy with all of her shopping experience, Dwaine Beck said.

"She loved yard sales and was always glad to participate for nearly 20 years. She loved to bargain," Beck said. "Not only did she help with Kiwanis but going to yard sales on Saturdays was one of her favorite activities."

Beck remembers his mother spending hours the day before the annual yard sale placing stickers on hundreds of various items from household objects to antique furniture.

"She was a member of the pricing team, and she'd be there all day Friday for set-up helping to price items. Her longtime experience as a yard sale shopper was a great help in that effort," Beck said.

Hundreds of shoppers are expected to visit the sale from all corners of Southcentral Middle Tennessee.

"There is always a line at the door about an hour before the sale begins. We have to say 'no early birds please.' We have a countdown and open the doors at the stroke of 8 a.m.," Beck said.

To donate, bring any gently used household items and furniture to the parking lot behind the Memorial Building Friday, Feb. 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The only clothing items accepted are winter coats.

Items not accepted include clothes (other than winter coats), TVs, sleeper sofas, computers, printers, and monitors.

What the Kiwanis Club does not sell on Saturday, they will donate to the Lion's Club, which holds a yard sale later in the year.

"It's a great recycling event. We are keeping stuff out of the landfill. One man's trash is another man's treasure," Beck said.


City Waives Fees for County (CDH)

Maury County Commission Chairman Eric Previti recently paid a visit to Columbia City Hall, requesting councilmen to waive utility connection fees and building permits for an estimated $150,000 in savings on the Maury County Judicial Center as site work continues.

Following a joint letter from Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt and Chairman Previti to Columbia City Manager, Tony Massey, the council voted unanimously at its regular meeting Thursday to waive the fees in an effort to help.

“This is a perfect example of 'Team Maury,' with the county and city working together,” Previti said.

Massey weighed in on the vote, saying the city grants similar waivers in other situations and that this one showed the council members’ support for the future center.

“At the end of the day, we’re all Maury County citizens,” Massey said. “We felt it was appropriate to make this happen.”

Last week, a new rendering was released, giving a more detailed look at the facade and posterior of the in-process facility, touted as a boon to ADA non-compliance given the current courthouse's limited access and a lack of downtown parking.

The judicial center's initial cost was $30 million, an amount that was approved by the commission last fall.

In late January, the commission approved the release of funds to begin Phase 2 of the project, which upped the cost on the center by $3.9 million, marking phase 2 of the project with a new grand total of $33.9 million. Still, upon that same approval, savings of $267,000 were secured by acting in time to lock prices for the cost of phase 2 materials and documents for design and construction.

With the new city-approved utility waivers, the total savings comes in at a current $417,000.

Last year, the previous commission made their final major vote with the approval of the center, lauding its passage without another property tax increase. A previous property tax increase passed last summer hit homeowners this fiscal year.

Given the cost of development caught under the multi-tiered conundrum of 2022’s rapid inflation, supply chain holdups and a state-level failed builder impact fee, some commissioners pressed the matter to avoid an even higher cost that would bring to impasse a facility already mired in a saga of continuances.

The new justice center will be located at the site of the old Daily Herald building on South Main Street, which is approximately four blocks south of the current courthouse.


Occupational Health (Press Release)

Maury Regional Occupational Health, located at 1114 W. Seventh St. in Columbia, provides its business partners with a full spectrum of employee health needs.

With convenient on-site X-ray and laboratory services as well as an array of testing and screening options, our team is equipped to handle employee health needs with proficiency and expediency and has extensive knowledge regarding federal OSHA and Tennessee worker’s compensation guidelines.


Comprehensive services:

∙ Evaluation and treatment of work-related injuries and illnesses

∙ Pre-employment and annual physicals, including those for the Department of Transportation

∙ Drug screenings and breath alcohol testing

∙ Routine immunizations (flu, hepatitis B, tetanus, etc.)

∙ Tuberculin skin tests

∙ Urinalysis

∙ Pulmonary function testing, respirator clearance and respirator fit testing

∙ Vision testing

∙ Hearing (audiometry) testing

∙ Treadmill (stress) testing

∙ Worker’s comp services

∙ Firefighter exams

Employers interested in partnering with Maury Regional Occupational Health should call 931.490.1125 for more information, or visit MauryRegional.com/OccupationalHealth.




State Eggs and Issues (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance and Breakfast Rotary for their Annual State Eggs & Issues. This event features a panel discussion and Q&A with Senator Dr. Joey Hensley, Representative Scott Cepicky, and Representative Kip Capley. The event will take place on February 24th from 6:45-8:00am at the Memorial Building located at 308 W. 7th Street in Columbia.

Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for nonmembers, and include breakfast.

Members of Breakfast Rotary do not need to purchase a ticket to attend.

To submit a question or topic in advance for consideration, please email nperry@mauryalliance.com

For more information, contact Maury Alliance at www.mauryalliance.com.


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


Mrs. Earlene Phaye Fowler Pipkin, 77, homemaker and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, February 11, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. A graveside service for Mrs. Pipkin will be conducted Thursday at 2:00 P.M. at Polk Memorial Gardens.


Mr. Dan U. Harmon, 80, retired architectural illustrator, long-time resident of Atlanta, GA and Columbia, TN, died Sunday, February 12, 2023 at his residence. A celebration of life service for Mr. Harmon will be held Thursday, February 16, 2023 at 3:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia TN. Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be Thursday from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Child Care Costs (Tennessean)

With the cost of quality child care often exceeding in-state tuition bills at Tennessee colleges, two lawmakers filed legislation Monday to create a state government program to offer child care scholarships to low- and middle-income families.

Dubbed Promising Futures, the program would use tax revenue from the state’s growing sports betting industry, most of which currently goes into a lottery education fund that supports the popular HOPE and Tennessee Promise college scholarships.

The bill comes after a 2022 study found that Tennessee businesses and taxpayers are losing $2.6 billion annually in earnings and revenue because parents have problems accessing child care.

Those numbers amount to a crisis, say state Sen. Becky Massey and Rep. Mark White, who are sponsoring the legislation.

“Working parents of young children struggle with child care affordability, quality, and access, which affect their ability to work,” said Massey, a Knoxville Republican. “In turn, many businesses are struggling to find employees.”

White believes that Promising Futures can do for early child care access what Tennessee Promise has done for higher education access. Under that groundbreaking initiative created in 2014 under former Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, Tennessee became the first state to offer its high school graduates a chance at two years of tuition-free community or technical college.

“Promising Futures is just as important,” said White, a Memphis Republican who chairs a House education committee. “We can help our young families, support early childhood growth, and position our state on the front end to improve our literacy rate.”

Their bill would launch the program in mid-2024, for children through age 5 whose parents’ household income does not exceed the state’s median income (currently $67,708 for a two-person household, $79,719 for a family of three, and $88,095 for a family of four). Also eligible would be children who reside with a foster parent or legal guardian. The state education department would oversee the scholarships and pay funds directly to the program in which a child is enrolled.

The program would capitalize on rapid growth in tax revenue from the sports betting industry.

Tennessee legalized sports wagering in 2019 and collects 20% of the gaming industry’s adjusted gross revenues as a privilege tax. Of that, 80% currently goes to the lottery fund deployed primarily for higher education scholarships, 15% to the state to distribute to local governments, and 5% toward mental health programs.

The Promising Futures bill proposes starting the scholarship program in mid-2024 with 60% of the privilege tax revenue from sports wagering, increasing to 80% by mid-2025. Such a change might also require changes to how the remaining 20% gets allocated.

Other lawmakers have been eyeing that growing pot of money, too. Last year, Rep. David Hawk, of Greeneville, sponsored a bill that would have directed some sports betting tax revenues to local governments to help them deal with the skyrocking cost of school construction. But his measure stalled in committee.

Massey thinks now is a good time to redirect sports betting money toward child care and early education needs.

“The lottery fund has a good reserve, so it’s not going to jeopardize the money needed to (keep) Tennessee Promise a viable program,” she said.

At a legislative hearing earlier this month, Mary Beth Thomas, the executive director of Tennessee’s Sports Wagering Advisory Council, reported the state collected more than $68 million in sports betting privilege taxes in 2022, compared with $40.6 million a year earlier.

Promising Futures is backed by Tennesseans for Quality Early Education, or TQEE, which formed in 2016 to advocate for a strong education foundation from birth to third grade. The group, which has more than 30,000 members across Tennessee, launched a website and petition Monday seeking public support for the bill.

“Child care is crucial to early health and brain development. It’s really in all of our best interests to ensure those child care settings are high quality,” president and CEO Blair Taylor stated.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Chicks, formerly called Dixie Chicks announced a world tour for 2023 with a stop in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena.

The date for Nashville is set for Thursday, July 27th at 8 pm.

Public tickets go on sale beginning on Thursday, February 16th.

On social media, The Chicks shared, “Thank you to all our fans for making last Summer so fun! It’s time to get the party going again! We can’t wait to see everyone!”

Special guests for the tour for select dates include Maren Morris, Wild Rivers, and Ben Harper.

Find tickets at ticketmaster.com.


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