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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 19, 2024


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


We start with local news…

Mule Day Organizers Offering Scholarships (MSM)

The organizers of Columbia’s annual Mule Day celebration are marking the 50th anniversary of their involvement by creating a scholarship program that honors the blue-collar nature of Maury County’s biggest event.

The Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club has dedicated $7,500 in funding for scholarships for 2024, which will be awarded to students planning to pursue career & technical education (CTE) or vocational training.

“The theme this year is ‘50 Years of Long Ears.’ This is the 50th Mule Day since it was brought back in the early 70s,” said Brady Carr, chairman of the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club. “Mule Day is a blue-collar event and we’re paying homage to the unique contributions of the mule. They’re known for hard work, strength and intelligence.”

Students can receive a maximum of $2,500 in scholarships, but awards will be based on need in an effort to make that $7,500 go as far as possible, Carr said.

“With a lot of these CTE programs, they may not need that whole amount because Tennessee Promise oftentimes pays the entire tuition. The issue is, students sometimes may not have the money for the tools and supplies that go along with this type of educational program,” Carr said. “We may end up impacting half a dozen or three; it just depends on the applicants and the amount of need.”

Students will be able to use Mule Day scholarships to purchase books, tools and other equipment that would not be covered by Tennessee Promise.

Those interested in applying must be a Maury County resident or an active member of the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club and must exhibit financial need. Carr said those with “less than perfect academic records” are particularly encouraged to apply. Students who graduated within the last two years can also apply in the first year of the program, Carr noted.

“Maybe they got a GED or weren’t top in their class, they can still qualify,” he said.

The Mule Day scholarships are only available for CTE or vocational training, not for postsecondary education.

For 50 years Mule Day has supported a number of charities, ranging from construction and site improvements at the Maury County Park to local schools and civic organizations. Carr said the Mule Day organizers see the scholarship program as an extension of their mission.

“Mule Day is a 501(c)3 and we donate money back into the community,” Carr said. “This is a whole new direction for us.”

The scholarships are funded by local sponsors for Mule Day and businesses and individuals interested in sponsoring are encouraged to reach out to the Mule Day office.

“We have sponsorships from $500 and up, so we have spots for anyone who wants to get involved,” Carr said. “We want people to join us in this effort to make Maury County a better place.” 

Applications are due by March 11, 2024 and awards will be announced by April 1. All awards will be paid directly to the institution of enrollment by the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club.

For more information on applying for a scholarship, or to become a sponsor, contact Carr at muledayworks@gmail.com or (931) 224-1930, or co-chair Mandy Mills at mandymills4@yahoo.com or (931) 982-0061. Information is also available at muleday.com/works.

Commerce Center Moves Ahead with County (MSM)

In a 4-1 vote, the Maury County Admin Committee voted last week to move a proposed 500-acre development to the budget committee for further discussion.

The South Nashville Commerce Center development would occupy 500 acres on the eastern side of I-65 and would feature industrial, warehouse, hospitality and retail space. The proposal includes 5.7 million square feet to be built over time which would be utilized through Jim Warren to Port Royal Road and back to Saturn Parkway.

Phil Pastan, president of developer The Richmond Company, said the journey began three years ago when the property was purchased by the entity GV Spring Hill LLC.

“This project will create thousands of jobs from multiple uses of the property,” Pastan said.

“Over the last 24 months, we’ve received approvals from the planning staff at Spring Hill, the BOMA and IDB from Spring Hill for the proposal,” he said, which would segment an area to allow for a TIF (Tax Increment Financing).

“This would give us the opportunity to develop this by bringing utilities to these development sites,” Pastan said, adding that the lack of roads and bridges over I-65 are not currently suited for the proposal. “We have plans that we’ve been working on to build a new bridge, keeping the access over I-65 current and creating a new road with the right utilities in it.”

Pastan said the proposed project would add 4,500 direct and indirect jobs with average wages greater than $57,000 and $260 million in annual wages. Just under $21 million would be geared to schools over the next 20 years.

“There will be $89 million in new tax revenue with the TIF, you have $14 million in debt service and then there’s that 60/40 split with just under $21 million going to the schools for their budget,” he said. “The balance would be used for the infrastructure water, sewer, electric and roads.”

County Commission Chairman Eric Previti questioned the estimate of wages.

“I want to know who the company is, who the clients are and where you’re getting this estimate of $57,000 in wages, because these look like warehouse jobs to me,” he said. “I think it’s misleading when you sit here and say there’s no residential impact. There is going to be a residential impact because in Maury County, we only have 3 percent unemployment, so there’s not many people looking for jobs right now. In other words, it’s going to be people coming in.”

District 8 Commissioner Ray Jeter voiced his concern over losing more farmland.

“Maury County is losing more and more farmland and it is a concern,” he said. “I think the piece of this that we don’t ever consider is it’s the farmers that are selling this land to the developers.”

In order to move forward with the development, the TIF must be approved by the County Commission. Pastan said the goal is to receive approval by the end of the month before starting construction in late spring. Improvements to the bridge on I-65 and Rutherford Creek would soon be followed.

“Growth pays for growth, and in this particular situation, we’re sort of in the perfect situation to provide that,” Pastan said.  

Judicial Center Update (MSM)

Maury County’s long-awaited new judicial center, which is on track to open in October, will receive two courthouse benches in an effort to preserve history from the old courthouse.

The Building Committee, which met last Monday, Feb. 5, approved the item unanimously following comments from County Commission Chairman Eric Previti.

“There was a lot of concern about preserving history and memories from the old courthouse,” Previti said, adding that the benches will be refinished and possibly named after previous judges.

Previti said discussions will also be held in the next 60 days over naming the new meeting rooms.

“If a decision is made to name those rooms, it does need to be done soon just because we’re getting those plaques one time if they’re bought,” he said.

The benches, which would be brought out of the circuit courtroom, would be used for the concourse for the clerk as a historic marker while bringing in a savings of approximately $4,000.

Previti said he would like to see the first floor of the old courthouse turned into a county museum which would display artifacts of Maury County history. In an effort to free up room on the square, the second floor would become the County Commission’s meeting room.

“The rest of the second floor would become the mayor’s office, plus meeting rooms and ADA-compliant bathrooms,” he said. “The third floor would become offices for the circuit court clerk staff.”

The idea will now be passed to the full commission to be voted on. The process of design and funding will begin upon approval. The Commission is scheduled to meet next on Feb. 20.

Spring Hill Rejects Williamson Growth Plan (MSM)

The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously rejected the proposed Williamson County Growth Plan last week.

City Administrator Pam Caskie, Alderman Trent Linville and Vice Mayor William Pomeroy each said they believe the plan recommended by the Williamson County Growth Plan Coordinating Committee failed to follow state law. They cited the lack of expanded urban growth boundaries for the City of Spring Hill.

“We quoted the TCA standards on the urban growth boundaries as not having been followed (utilities, growth, road planning etc.),” Caskie explained. “The legislation requires us to suggest an alternative. We went back with a map that said we want the northwest segment negotiated with the residents of the northwest and the city, it’s a very small section of properties. That we wanted the entirety of the east of 65 west of the Lewisburg Pike from the southern boundary of our city limits now to the Maury County line. That has been our stance from the beginning.”

Caskie said the city’s alternative also included the addition of a parcel on the east side of Lewisburg Pike where the owner of the property had specifically requested to be in the UGB.

Linville said he didn’t think the plan complies with state law and he would be voting to reject it. 

Pomeroy wanted the public to understand how other city’s requests to the coordinating committee had been handled.

“All the other municipalities in Williamson County, with the exception of a small portion of Thompson Station — Fairview, Nolensville, Brentwood, Franklin — they got most of their UGB requested from the growth planning committee,” Pomeroy said. “I understand there is heartburn for residents east of I-65 from here. I get that but we have a duty for the City of Spring Hill to protect our investments and ensure the coordinating committee follow the law.” 

The entire board voted against the proposed plan.

Culleoka Park Progresses (MSM)

Parks & Recreation Director Al Ray presented an update on a $750,000 grant the county has received from the state for improvements to Culleoka Community Park during the February meeting of Maury County’s Health & Environment Committee.

Maury County acquired 16 acres on Mooresville Pike for a planned park in 2021. The undeveloped land, bordering a stream, sits just west of the community’s center near the Culleoka Post Office and Culleoka Unit School. 

Included in the planned improvements via the Local Parks & Recreation Fund are utilities, parking, signage, lighting, paving, a picnic shelter, playground, restroom and a walking trail with three picnic pads/tables. With a local match and consultant fees, the project is expected to cost just over $1.26 million and the county has three years to complete the project.

A budget amendment related to the grant was sent on to the Budget Committee and should come before the full Commission later this month.

Ray also said his department was working to update its master plan, which was last done in 2019. Public input meetings will be part of the process and those meetings will be announced at a later date.

Steve Thomas, executive director of Maury County Senior Citizens, Inc., presented a request that the county fund the My Ride Maury program for the remainder of the 2023-24 fiscal year and fully fund the program for FY 24-25. The total cost for the remainder of the current fiscal year was estimated at $17,372.

“This program ceased operations in July 2023 because of lack of funding after the grant ran out,” Thomas said. “. Mayor Butt called me and said, ‘Let’s talk about this.’ She tasked Doug (Lukonen) and I with creating a proposal.”

The My Ride Maury program offered rides to seniors 60 and over who paid a $25 annual fee with a cost of $4 per trip. Rides required three-day notice and were offered Monday through Friday. Volunteers used their personal vehicles and were paid mileage.

From July 2022 through June 2023, My Ride Maury served 42 total clients, with a waiting list of over 60, and made 1,986 total trips covering 26,312 total miles. Most trips were to doctors’ offices or other health care providers.

The request was advanced to the Budget Commitee for further consideration. If moved on to the full Commission, it would come for a vote in March.

A brief update on Maury County’s beleaguered animal shelter was also presented by the interim director.

Makayla Vandiver has been serving as interim director since Kaitlyn Stewart was relieved of her position in late January. The county is currently taking applications for a full-time director.

At the committee’s January meeting, allegations of abuse and negligence at the Maury County Animal Shelter were presented by a former volunteer. County Mayor Sheila Butt said at the time she felt the shelter staff was working to improve conditions and needed time to make those improvements.

Butt did not comment during the meeting on her decision to remove the director.

Of 62 total calls in January, Vandiver’s report indicated that 32 were in unincorporated areas of Maury County and 23 in Columbia.

Vandiver said the animal shelter had received a $2,000 grant from Best Friends that would be used to pay for drugs and medical supplies. Vandiver also said the shelter could be eligible for up to $20,000 in grant funding next year.

State of Education Talk (Press Release)

The Powell Chapel Memorial Center is sponsoring a Community

 Educational Session titled “The State of Public Education in 

Tennessee” on Sat., February 24, 2024 beginning at 2 p.m. At St 

James Primitive Baptist Church 804 N First Street Pulaski. TN. 

Brother Garland Brown, a well known Criminal Justice Instructor, 

is the speaker. For more information contact Retired Pastor, 

Willim Howard Smith at 931 638 5603.

Maury County GOP Meetings (Press Release)

Monthly Meeting of the Maury County Republican Party will take place on Thursday, February 22, 2024 6:00pm. Doors Open at 5:30pm at the Memorial Building, located at 308 W. 7th Street in Columbia. 

Executive Committee Meeting Will Take Place Prior to Membership Meeting.  All Current Members are Welcome to Attend.

Republican Women of Maury County Will Meet Tuesday Feb 20 at 11:00AM at Catfish Campus located at 2509 Keith Drive in Columbia.

Denise Daniels from The Moodsters Children’s Foundation will be the featured speaker.

Duck River Electric Workshop (Press Release)

Reserve your seat now at Duck River Electric’s FREE Home Energy Workshop!

The Home Energy Workshop will be held in Maury County on Tuesday, March 12th at 6 PM at the Duck River office located at 798 New Lewisburg Highway in Columbia.

DREMC’s Residential Energy Advisor shares advice for improving the energy efficiency of your home, and you’ll learn about the programs, services, and rebates available to assist with energy efficiency improvements.

The workshop includes a light supper, plus, each participating household will receive a FREE energy-saving starter kit.

Due to limited space, reserve your seat today. Call DREMC at 931-680-5880 or sign up online at dremc.com/workshop.

Experience Tennessee Partners with Spring Hill Chamber (Press Release)

Experience Tennessee is excited to launch the “Experience Tennessee Community Tourism Project” in Spring Hill with a FREE, business-wide tourism workshop at 10 a.m., Feb. 21 at the Holiday Inn Express Spring Hill, 3003 Longford Drive in Spring Hill. This is a comprehensive tourism development partnership between the Spring Hill Chamber and South Central Tennessee Tourism Association, dba Experience Tennessee. The program is open to all Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce members and those who are interested in being members of the organization.

 

"We value our partnership with South Central Tennessee Tourism Association, and we are enthusiastic about this opportunity to come together, collaborate, and share resources for the benefit of our business community,” said Rebecca Melton, executive director of the Spring Hill Chamber. “We encourage all Spring Hill tourism-ready businesses to participate in this informative workshop."

 

The Experience Tennessee Community Tourism Project will be facilitated by the South Central Tennessee Tourism Association at no cost. The initiative is designed to help businesses in the attractions, eat & drink, lodging and shopping sectors become more "tourism-ready" by tapping into resources available to them at the local, regional, and state levels. The programming includes workshops designed to focus on tourism and travel trends and marketing strategies targeting the travel demographic. Lori Grimes, director of business strategy for South Central Tennessee Tourism, will facilitate the program in Spring Hill. 

“The South Central Tennessee Tourism Association is dedicated to assisting local businesses absorb the full impact of visitor spending, which generates more than $24 billion for Tennessee’s economy,” Grimes said. “By leveraging our toolkit and educational workshops, businesses will be better equipped to make the most of tourism, Tennessee’s second largest industry.” 

Pre-registration is not required. 

…And now, news from around the state…

Keep TN Beautiful Month (Press Release)

Gov. Bill Lee has once again designated March as Keep Tennessee Beautiful month. To officially kick-off the activities, including the state’s participation in Keep America Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup®, KTnB will host a rally and awards luncheon, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. CST, March 1, 2024. The event will take place in Conservation Hall at the Tennessee Governor’s Residence with Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, slated to bring the keynote address. 

 

“Keep Tennessee Beautiful efforts motivate people to visit our state, which in turn leads to a positive impact on the tourism industry and benefits their communities,” Mark Ezell, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, said. “We support environmentally sustainable practices that conserve and protect our natural resources while providing access to both Tennesseans and visitors to our state’s stunning outdoors and rich scenic beauty.”

The event will also spotlight Tennessee’s participation in KAB’s Great American Cleanup®, the annual, nation-wide effort rallying community leaders and litter grant coordinators throughout the U.S. The Great American Cleanup® annually engages more than 500,000 volunteers and participants. In 2023, Tennessee’s participation in the GAC resulted in the removal of 445,344 pounds of litter by more than 8,000 volunteers. More than 650,000 trees and flowers were planted throughout all 95 Tennessee counties. KTnB will join Metro Beautification, TDOT, and Nobody Trashes Tennessee on March 2 in Nashville for a community wide KAB cleanup event. Cleanups are being planned throughout the state. 

 

“We are grateful to Gov. Lee for continuing to support March as Keep Tennessee Beautiful month,” Executive Director Missy Marshall, KTnB, said. “This is definitely a celebration, but it’s also a call to action. We encourage all Tennesseans to live mindfully about our environment, to protect our state from careless littering, and to spend a day or two in the coming months volunteering for a local cleanup event. Let’s all contribute and help Keep Tennessee Beautiful.” 

 

In addition to Commissioner Ezell’s keynote address, Missy Marshall will announce KTnB’s Love Where You Live and Leader Against Litter Award-recipients. The Love Where You Live Award is given to a Tennessee resident who takes pride in their community and supports KTnB's mission. The Leader Against Litter Award is given to elected officials who have gone above and beyond their job description to involve citizens in environmental improvements.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Elvis™ fans from around the world will gather in Middle Tennessee March 21-24, 2024, for the 8th annual Nashville Elvis Festival, celebrating the music and legacy of the King of Rock & Roll. The 4-day festival will welcome back fans to Liberty Hall in The Factory at Franklin, located just south of downtown Nashville in the charming suburb of Franklin, Tennessee. Tickets are on sale now at NashvilleElvisFestival.com.

This year’s festival consists of 10 shows, and 3 late night parties (held at host hotel SpringHill Suites by Marriott Cool Springs), and features special guests and 30 of the best Elvis tribute artists from all over the world. 

For festival passes, individual show tickets, or more information, please visit the official website at www.NashvilleElvisFestival.com.


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