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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 23, 2024

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

We start with local news…

County Powers Relief Act Gaining (MSM)

Maury County’s efforts to enact an impact fee on new construction may be gaining a more receptive audience on Capitol Hill during 2024, according to Rep. Scott Cepicky.

The County Powers Relief Act enacted in 2006 limits the ability of counties or municipalities to increase impact fees via private acts of the legislature.

Currently Maury County’s rates are 50 cents per square foot for residential construction and 30 cents for non-residential. County officials have said Maury County, which has enjoyed record growth in recent years, is losing out on millions of dollars in revenue and that county infrastructure, including schools, is suffering as a result.

Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) proposed a bill last year to address the situation, but that bill failed by a 5-3 vote in a House subcommittee. A similar bill passed the Tennessee Senate in 2022 but failed in the House.

In a conversation with Main Street Maury, Cepicky indicated that a potential compromise with builders and realtors, both of whom vehemently opposed Cepicky’s bill in 2023, might be in the works.

Cepicky referenced two bills that, if passed, could bring as much as $12 million annually into Maury County’s coffers. The first, HB 1629, would require half of the unencumbered revenue from the recordation tax to be distributed to counties for school debt and school capital projects.

“I presented a bill on the real estate transfer tax; half of that money coming back to Maury County which would be roughly between $6 million and $7 million to be used for our schools, our school maintenance and our school debt,” Cepicky said. “We are looking for funding right now… it’s a tough budget year but everyone agreed that this is probably a worthwhile effort to help out our districts and the upkeep of our schools.”

Cepicky also referenced a bill being carried by Tim Hicks (R-Gray) that would, he said, allow for an increase in local impact fees by letting high-growth counties opt into the County Powers Relief Act.

“It’s a compromise we have worked on with the builders,” Cepicky said. “It’s $1.50 for residential, so Maury County would go from 50 cents to $1.50, and $1.50 on commercial, which means Maury County would go from 30 cents to $1.50.

Cepicky estimated the second bill would generate “as much as $5 million for Maury County.” Again, the increase would be required to be used for school capital projects or for school debt.

“We’re trying to create multiple tools and multiple revenue sources, because you can’t rely on one revenue source long term,” Cepicky said. “We’re trying to do things we think are fair for everyone.”

In addition, a county commission would be able to raise those rates every four years by 10 percent, subject to a two-thirds vote, to allow for inflation. A planned amendment would also allow Maury County to return to the original rates if growth slows, Cepicky said.

Cepicky acknowledged the work done so far but noted there is a long way to go.

“The builders have really come a long way in support of this program; we are still hoping to get the realtors on board,” Cepicky said.

The House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee is set to hear the Hicks bill at its Feb. 21 meeting, Cepicky said.

Maury County commissioners authorized up to $100,000 in funding for lobbyists to promote its efforts for an impact fee during the 2024 legislative session.

During the January Commission meeting and a meeting of the Ad Hoc Growth Committee on Feb. 5, commissioners heard on the legislative efforts to allow Maury County to increase its current adequate facilities tax.

“If you feel like you’re alone, just know that Williamson County, Hamilton County, Rutherford County, Davidson County, have hired lobbyists,” lobbyist James Dunn said at the January meeting. “The state is coming up short on some revenues. Revenues are a little bit short too, so it’s going to be a challenge to increase revenues at a time when the state may be looking at making some cuts itself or at least revenues falling flat.”

Commissioners noted their lobbying dollars seemed to be making a difference in Nashville.

“A couple years ago if you would have asked me if I would have supported anything that had anything to do with lobbyists, I would have told you no,” said Commissioner Gabe Howard. “After the last legislative session last year, I saw the value of what lobbyists really do bring to the table. The things we’re going after are not partisan conversations, it’s legislation that really matters for growing communities like ours.”

“We see economic development coming through Spring Hill, Columbia, Maury County as a whole and Williamson County,” added then-Commissioner Vincent Fuqua, who has since resigned his seat. “If this community continues to grow at the pace that it is without somehow supplementing our needs financially, this county and others will go under in terms of economic growth.”

County Mayor Sheila Butt said she looked forward to the possibility of relief for Maury County as well, saying in an email to Main Street Maury, “”One of the most important things that needs to happen for property taxpayers in Maury County is for development to have skin in the game and help the County pay for schools, as well as fire protection, ambulance services and other things mandated by the state for the County to provide… For property owners who have lived here many years and have been paying for those services, it is absurd for them to pay for all of the new services required by development because the only tool we have to pay for growth is property taxes…

“I also sincerely believe that we have to ask developers willingly to invest more in our community. Also, we need to begin thinking ‘outside the box’ when it comes to building schools. I will continue working with legislators and our County Commission to find multiple ways to grow responsibly so that we can maintain the great quality of life we have in Maury County.”

Learning Zone (WKOM Audio 3:16)

Yesterday, a ribbon cutting was held at Learning Zone, a new daycare and preschool in Spring Hill. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the grand opening and spoke to the proprietors of the new facility…

Mid-TN Bone and Joint Merge (MSM)

Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance (TOA), Nashville, Tennessee Orthopaedic Clinics (TOC), Knoxville and Mid-Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic (MTBJ), Columbia, have announced that they have combined under the name Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance (TOA), making TOA one of the largest networks of orthopedic care providers in the country.

The three Tennessee-based orthopedic practices joined forces to usher in a new era of orthopedic care that is centered around providing greater access and delivering expert orthopedic services to meet their patient’s unique and evolving needs. Combined, the group has 107 physicians and a staff of more than 800, with 27 locations in 17 counties, serving patients from the Great Smoky Mountains in Sevierville to the Tennessee River in Waverly. In addition, the combined group offers 11 orthopedic urgent cares, providing a valuable alternative to the emergency room in each community they serve.

“Three years ago, we decided to take a step forward in a partnership with TOC and MTBJ, with the ultimate goal of becoming a unified TOA. I’m excited to announce that this goal has come to fruition beginning Jan. 1, 2024,” said Rob Simmons, TOA Chief Executive Officer.

“Combining the strengths and talents of our providers in these three markets, will allow us to enhance our patient’s access to quality orthopedic care and keep TOA at the forefront of innovative sub-specialty orthopedics across the many communities in the Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee markets.”

Serving patients in Columbia and Middle Tennessee, Mid-Tennessee Bone and Joint Clinic is devoted to the quality care and health of patients through focused attention on their orthopedic well-being. Founded in 1975 in Columbia, Mid-Tennessee Bone and Joint Clinic provides a complete range of orthopedic services including the treatment of fractures, total joint replacement, arthroscopic surgery, spinal surgery and sports medicine.

“In uniting MTBJ with TOA and TOC under a singular banner, our clinic is embarking on a transformative journey. The new Alliance signifies not only a momentous milestone in the realm of Tennessee’s orthopedic care, but also a reminder of the steadfast commitment we’ve had to our patients since 1975,” said Fred Drews, President. “By combining our Columbia clinic’s collective expertise, resources and passion for healthcare with that of TOA clinics in the greater Nashville and Knoxville markets, we are truly better able to fulfill the mission and vision of our surgeons, physicians, providers, and staff. We’ve enjoyed nearly 50 rewarding years as part of the Columbia community and look forward to many more as TOA Columbia.”

The combining of Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance (TOA), Tennessee Orthopaedic Clinics (TOC) and Mid-Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic (MTBJ), marks a significant milestone in the field of orthopedic care. By aligning under the name Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance (TOA), these three esteemed practices have created one of the largest networks of orthopedic care providers in the country. This strategic collaboration reflects a commitment to enhancing patient experiences, by providing greater access and expert orthopedic services tailored to meet the evolving healthcare needs of their patients

Mobile Table Technology (WKOM Audio 2:12)

Yesterday, our own Mary Susan Kennedy spoke to Mobile Table Technology developer Jordan Shaw about his app that is helping to drive the local economy…

Courthouse Plan Begins to Take Shape (CDH)

The Maury County Commission took its first steps in planning to use the county's historic courthouse as a partial museum once the new Maury County Judicial Center on North Main Street is completed.

A request to approve a concept for the courthouse's future use received unanimous approval Tuesday.

"I want to thank everybody on this commission, because we are preserving history at this point," Commission Chair Eric Previti said. "This is something that for a long time has been discussed, and here we are taking those first baby steps. We are all making this happen."

According to the resolution, the concept includes repurposing the courthouse's first floor to serve as a county museum.

The second floor would serve as the county mayor's office, as well as a meeting room for the county commission and Grand Jury room.

The third floor would be used as a secured area for Circuit Court judges and their staff.

Previti added that cost estimates would come at a later time, and that the resolution is merely a concept to discuss.

"We're not spending any money right now. This is just us saying, 'Hey, this is the idea, what we want to look at,'" Previti said. "So there are no expenditures at this point."

The resolution also includes publishing a request for qualifications (RFQ) for individuals or groups to provide guidance on potential costs, building codes and ensuring the project is in compliance with all applicable laws.

"There are going to be lots of talks, lots of meetings to be made afterwards, lots of decisions to be made, but we are going to tell Maury County's story," Previti said.

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

Mr. William Porter King, 88, retired professor and longtime resident of Columbia, died Sunday at Poplar Estates. A memorial service will be conducted Saturday at 11:00 AM at West 7th Street Church of Christ. Burial will follow in Worley Cemetery in the Hampshire Community. The family will visit with friends Friday from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home and Saturday from 10:00 AM until time of the services at the church.

Mrs. Matilda Couch Beaird, 84, died Monday at Maury Regional Medical Center. A memorial service will be conducted Sunday, February 25th at 2:30 PM at Mt. Pleasant First United Methodist Church. The family will visit with friends one hour prior to the services at the church. Burial will follow at Zion Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Hagerty and Other TN Officials Visit Border (TheNewsTN)

Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty defended his decision to vote no on a bipartisan border bill in a press conference Wednesday. The Nashville event followed Hagerty’s recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border with several Tennessee law enforcement officials and mayors.

Among those joining Hagerty in Eagle Pass, Texas, and again Wednesday included Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan, Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy, Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby and 12th Judicial District Attorney General Courtney Lynch. The trip came days after Hagerty joined fellow U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn in voting against a bipartisan border bill that could have radically changed border security and immigration policy — a bill that former President Donald Trump pushed GOP lawmakers to vote against. Also in February, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee traveled to the border alongside several other GOP governors to call for “immediate action.” 

When asked if their opinions on the border crisis had been influenced by the trip, the local law enforcement and government officials said their views on the issue had in fact been reinforced.

“It's definitely strengthened our opinion,” said Sullivan County Sheriff Cassidy on Wednesday. “We've already seen the funneling of fentanyl and drugs and cartels, gangs, and just to be on that border, feet on the ground, it strengthened what we already knew.”

“I'm tired of getting calls everyday about somebody overdosing on fentanyl, and it's sad,” Wilson County Sheriff Bryan added. “It's strengthened my concerns about what's going on there, and this fentanyl is coming across into Tennessee and it's killing our citizens, and I'm not good with that.” 

Hagerty defended his vote against the border bill, telling reporters that he “wanted to take action” but he and his fellow members of the Senate “were not allowed to amend that bill.” The majority of Senate Republicans argued the legislation didn't go far enough to secure the border.

“What we have is an administration that has demonstrated they are unwilling to basically follow the law,” said Hagerty. “You're looking at the way they used executive orders, and they do not follow the law that's on the books right now. What we needed to do was put in place a lock-tight, rock-solid requirement that the Biden administration enforced the wall — that was not present.”

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Garth Brooks’ and Trisha Yearwood’s four-floor, 54,715-square-foot honky-tonk Friends In Low Places will host its grand opening celebration on March 7.

Situated at 411 Broadway in the heart of Nashville’s famed Neon Neighborhood, the entertainment complex is the largest honky-tonk on the strip. The highly-themed Friends In Low Places even includes a police substation developed in partnership with the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The bar’s initial opening only encompassed the first two floors. But on March 7, guests will be able to enjoy every floor. Each level – and even the staircase that connects them – has a distinct feel and theme that blends tradition and innovation.

And the rooftop bar is appropriately called The Oasis. The open-air space boasts two full bars and retractable garage doors to protect patrons from the weather. It is the largest rooftop in the Neon Neighborhood. Lush 10-foot palm trees complete the beachy theme, transforming the space into a true neon oasis.


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