Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 17, 2023
All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.
We start with local news…
New Spring Hill Library Plans in Jeopardy? (MainStreetMaury)
A new Spring Hill library may be pushed once again down the capital improvements budget based on a discussion at the most recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting in the city.
While the city was grappling last budget season with funding a new police station or library – ultimately opting for a new police headquarters – Alderman John Canepari requested the city begin thinking about a fire station to service the new interstate interchange and surrounding areas.
His recommendation of placing $3.5 million into a fund for a future fire station and budgeting funding for architectural plans are – ironically for the BOMA liaison to the library board – threatening the library project for a second year in a row.
The reasoning for moving ahead with the fire station, however, is simple – cost. A new fire station would cost about $7 million, while the library could potentially be four times that amount. Due to Canepari’s forward thinking, half of the project’s cost is already funded.
City Administrator Pam Caskie also noted that sales tax revenue is far ahead of projections, which could potentially reach a point where the city could pay for the station without borrowing funds.
Currently the city’s three stations can’t adequately cover a large portion of the city, which has caused the department’s ISO rating to suffer.
“When we look at this statistically and we look at our ISO ratings and our response times and so forth, this is going to make an immediate impact once this station is up and running to bring our response times more in line with where they’re supposed to be,” said fire chief Graig Temple. “We are graded on the 90th percentile, and some of our times that we’ve calculated are in the 50th percentile.”
Temple said building the new station would immediately decrease response times by 25%.
Additional costs would include staffing and equipment, which would cost $1.5 million initially, with salaries and benefits as annual costs. Fire trucks have already been purchased and are expected to be available in the fall of 2024.
Library director Dana Juriew presented to the board, highlighting the bevy of programs the library provides to the community, while Canepari prefaced her presentation by listing several additional programs.
Canepari noted the library was widely utilized, even closing in on the same level of use as the much better funded Brentwood Public Library.
“We’re not that far behind in people that use the library than Brentwood – they just have more money,” he said. “And our people and programs are better.”
Canepari estimated the library had been pushed to 96th on the Capital Improvement Projects list out of 100 projects the city needs to complete, and vowed to bring up the issue of more funding in this year’s budget cycle.
Caskie said the city has plans to budget $37,000 for a sketch of a future library plan to make sure the potential building would fit on the parcel of land the city hopes to utilize.
Meanwhile, the fire station would serve as a community hub that would include a fortified space where citizens can gather in the event of severe weather and workspace for police to work from if necessary. Additionally on site are plans for individual bunk rooms that would be available to accommodate male and female firefighters, a large gym space, commercial kitchen and specialty training equipment.
“We’ve incorporated all that together as a very functional space. We’ve just tweaked everything and made it a very functional space. We’ve also gone room by room in this facility. It matches a lot of what we’ve done in other stations,” Temple said. “So, again, there’s nothing here that’s really new, we just tweaked everything and made it more efficient for our purposes.”
Vice Mayor Kevin Gavigan was curious if the two projects were mutually exclusive or if the two could be built either simultaneously or back-to-back. Caskie said the two would likely not be able to be funded in the next budget.
If the BOMA decides to apply for a site plan through the planning commission, the city would have three years from approval to begin construction. The timeline Temple provided, however, would have the building completed by November 2024.
Historic Development Grants (Press Release)
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced today the recipients of Tennessee Historic Development Grants.
“Tennessee is known for its quality of life, and at TNECD, we have the privilege to take part in community development programs that assist in restoring and preserving some of our state’s most unique and historic assets,” said TNECD Commissioner Stuart McWhorter. “Through the latest round of the Historic Development Grants program, communities across Tennessee are taking steps to revitalize their historic buildings so that they can continue to serve as catalysts for future economic opportunity.”
Approved by the Tennessee General Assembly in April 2021, the program will provide $8.7 million to projects that aim to renovate and preserve historic buildings across the state. The program encourages communities and private developers to invest in buildings that have contributed to a community’s history but now sit idle. These buildings can once again contribute to the economy through job creation and commercial opportunities.
For this round of the program, the state’s $8.7 million investment is expected to leverage more than $18 million in private investment.
TNECD partnered with the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) to structure application requirements and review grant applications to ensure that each proposal would rehabilitate the structures while maintaining the historical integrity. The THC’s mission is to protect, preserve, maintain and administer historic places and encourage the inclusive diverse study of Tennessee’s history for the benefit of future generations.
“The Tennessee Historical Commission is proud to have the opportunity to provide assistance in this program to ensure that the legacy of Tennessee’s historic landmarks continue to inspire generations to come,” said Patrick McIntyre, executive director of the Tennessee Historical Commission and state historic preservation officer. “Historic properties are being rehabilitated across our state, including the Snuff Factory Warehouse in Memphis and the Vose School in Alcoa where work is being accomplished thanks to the economic incentives from the Historic Development Grants and Federal Historic Tax Credits.”
The grant recipients includes $300,000 to complete some restoration work on the Memorial Building located on W. 7th Street in Columbia.
Mule Kick 5K (Press Release)
Hosted by the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation and presented by First Farmers and Merchants Bank, the annual Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will take place Saturday, April 1, at Riverwalk Park in Columbia.
Proceeds from the 2023 Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot provide funding for Maury Regional Health’s mobile medical unit, which delivers health care services to at-risk and underserved individuals throughout southern Middle Tennessee by providing basic health screenings, education and resources. A portion of the proceeds from the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will also support the Foundation’s Wellness and Aquatics Center Healthy Living Endowment and the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, the Maury County school with the most participation in the event will receive a donation to their P.E. program from the Foundation.
“The Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot is a great tradition for both Maury County and the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation that helps support our mission of providing important health care services for individuals who may not otherwise be able to obtain care,” Foundation Executive Director Joe Kilgore said. “We are excited to host the Mule Kick 5K and look forward to an exciting race!”
On Saturday, April 1, the race will begin at Riverwalk Park in Columbia with an 8 a.m. start time for the 5K and a 9:15 a.m. start time for the 1-Mile Trot. Both runners and walkers are encouraged to participate. Participants may register for the race online at runsignup.com/MuleKick5K.
“The Mule Kick has become one of the great annual events for Maury County, and we are honored to be involved again as presenting sponsor,” said Brian K. Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of First Farmers. “We’re thankful for the tremendous work of the Foundation in helping to serve the health care needs of others throughout our region.”
In addition to presenting sponsor First Farmers and Merchants Bank, sponsorships ranging from $350 to $2,500 are still available for those who are interested in marketing exposure at this event. For additional information, contact the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation at 931.380.4075.
To learn more about the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation, the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot or to make a direct gift to support the mobile medical unit fund, visit MauryRegional.com/Foundation.
Worldwide Stages (MainStreetMaury)
When Worldwide Stages first looked at the Northfield Complex as a potential site for an entertainment production facility, keeping an open mind was key. Structurally, the building had many flaws and was going to need an overhaul to have any productive use – whether the City of Spring Hill or a private company was going to utilize it.
Originally built in the 1980s as the headquarters for Saturn Corporation, the building sat mostly vacant for nearly a decade before the city acquired the building in a sale with plans for a library, police headquarters and office space for other city departments.
Following the 2019 election, which saw three new aldermen elected to the city’s Board of Mayor and Alderman, the city began to explore selling the building rather than rehabbing it for those purposes.
Enter Worldwide Stages.
Kelly Frey, President and CEO, said the building was perfect for their needs, and though it was a “labor of love,” the company could not be more proud of what the space has become.
“We spent literally millions of dollars resurfacing the floors, replacing ceiling tiles, redoing the walls; trying to make it an exceptional, five-star luxury type of production space,” he said.
For many, a 320,000 square-foot building on 38 acres might be overwhelming, but Frey said the company just took it one square foot at a time. From refinishing the floors, replacing ceiling tiles and fixing walls – the project could have gotten away from them. Fortunately, however, the company hasn’t bitten off more than it can chew, and has found itself utilizing what it can and fixing what it can’t.
“For example, we have a 70-seat theater that we’ve been able to retask. Our clientele is primarily in the production industry with entertainment so for example when a feature film comes in to shoot their film here with us they utilize our theater in conjunction with the screening dailies so that they can make sure they’ve got all the shots,” Frey said, adding that music video shoots utilize the space as well for similar screenings. “We realize that we’re just stewards of this building, and what we wanted to do is build on what was already here.
“So we didn’t look at coming into the building and starting from scratch, what we wanted to do is use the best of what the building had to offer historically and build on that.”
Tucked away at the southern end of the city, just off Saturn Parkway and U.S. 31, the building lends itself to security as well, which is paramount when major studios and A-list celebrities are looking for a public space to rehearse or perform.
“It’s somewhat isolated from the rest of the community. It’s surrounded by fencing, private roads. We’ve augmented that with a series of software-driven access points throughout the building,” Frey said. “We’ve got over 70 facial recognition cameras throughout the building while leading into our command-and-control center that’s staffed with armed guards.
“We also have a medic on site so we prepare for our clientele to make sure that when they come into the building, not only functionally can they do what they need to do, but they’re in a safe, secure environment so they can do what they do best, which is to create.”
Frey said about 40 of the country’s top 200 touring acts have homes within 20 minutes of Spring Hill, which allows them to work nearby and be able to sleep in their own beds, which has been a major draw for the company. Sure, there are sound stages and production spaces across the country, but Worldwide Stages strives to be more than that.
“You can go anywhere in the United States and get access to sound stages, which this facility also lends itself to, but we’ve added to that its functionality such as green rooms and luxury furnished artist suites,” Frey said. “Most of the furnishings have been done by set designers from the feature film industry, so it’s not only a functionally good place to produce your content but it’s also a good place to relax.”
Because of the location close to the interstate and nearby Franklin or Cool Springs, those artists and crew could easily just come in and leave, but Frey said his staff has made a concentrated effort to make sure any dollars that need to be spent are done so in Spring Hill.
“We really do want to be good corporate citizens,” Frey said. “When we have a guest coming up, they might bring 100 to 150 employees with them that are part of the production and we have a three-ring binder that’s about four inches thick. In that binder we have a 1-page summary of all the local merchants, so if someone needs gas or they need pharmaceuticals or they need cosmetics or they need flowers or timber they have the ability to go through that book and look at who the local merchants are.
“We’d like for them to spend their production budget here locally and increase the economics of the local community.”
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.
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 email@example.com
For more information, contact Maury Alliance at www.mauryalliance.com.
And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…
Beverly Ann Roach Dawson, 86, passed away Monday, February 13, 2023, at Maury Regional Medical Center.
Funeral services for Mrs. Dawson will be conducted Saturday, February 18, at 11:00 am at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Richard Farris officiating. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery. The family members will visit with friends Friday, February 17, from 2:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. and again from 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. at the funeral home.
…And now, news from around the state…
New Titans Stadium Plan (Tennessean)
As negotiations wrap up between the Tennessee Titans and Metro Nashville officials on a new NFL stadium deal, Nissan Stadium managers are still contending with the fallout from winter freezes and a growing list of needed upkeep.
They have focused on safety and security in recent years, as increased maintenance needs outpaced the county's ability to cover all the costs. Metro Nashville is responsible for stadium maintenance and improvements to keep it in "first-class condition," according to the lease agreement.
The Titans cover everything related to the team, like locker rooms, offices and luxury suites. The organization is currently replacing slick stadium grass at Nissan Stadium with a Matrix Helix monofilament turf − a new technology designed to simulate real grass with better moisture retention than rubber synthetics. Team officials did not share the price of the turf.
The vote is expected to be taken up next month and finalized by April if council members have questions about the deal, which has been studied by its East Bank Stadium Committee.
In just the first six weeks of 2023, the 70,000-seat coliseum has racked up $11 million in urgent maintenance projects. They include fixing crumbling concrete steps; replacing the stadium's electrical switchboard due to "potential failure of critical infrastructure"; and modernizing "obsolete operating systems and software platforms" in the control room and TV broadcasting systems.
"We continue to have the responsibility to keep the stadium in first-class condition. It's a standard we're bound to (in the lease agreement)," Metro Sports Authority Executive Director Monica Fawknotson said. "We're always trying to be diligent and good stewards of the buildings."
In December, dozens of water leaks flooded concession stands and floors throughout Nissan Stadium and Bridgestone Arena when pipes froze.
Metro leaders are now working with the stadium's insurance company to pay for those repairs. The bulk of the Sports Authority's administrative budget is for insurance payments, which account for $1.8 million of this year's $2.26 million budget.
School Voucher Program Expands to Hamilton (Tennessean)
The Tennessee Senate on Thursday passed legislation to expand eligibility for the state's school voucher program, which would extend the program beyond Shelby and Davidson counties to allow Hamilton County to join.
The Education Savings Account program allows students to take public education funds and apply it to private school tuition.
Sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, the bill expands the program to include school districts that have five schools identified in the bottom 10% of schools in the state. The law currently includes districts with 10 schools in the bottom 10%.
The program was one of Gov. Bill Lee's early legislative wins in 2019, but the program stalled for several years through lengthy court battles. It kickstarted last year for a two-year pilot program.
Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)
Watershed Public Theatre will debut its latest production, which is an original take on the classic "Cinderella" story, but with a twist.
Written and directed by Watershed co-founder Beverly Mitchell, "Those Wicked Stepsisters" tells the tale of what possibly happened after Cinderella marries her Prince Charming.
"This play makes sure that everybody has a chance at a happily ever after,” Mitchell said. “Along the way, there’s fun and silliness to make children giggle and humorous dialogue to make adults grin.”
Wondering what they will do next, the stepsisters are aided by bird fairies and a little magic, allowing each stepsister to eventually find her own true heart's desire.
Performances will take place at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 3 p.m. matinee Sunday at Columbia State Community College's Cherry Theater, 1665 Hampshire Pike in the Waymon Hickman Building.
Tickets are $20 for general admission, $18 for seniors and $10 for students and children, and may be purchased at www.WatershedPublicTheatre.org