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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 26, 2024

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


We start with local news…

Homicide Under Investigation (Press Release)

A local man is facing a murder charge in connection with the death of a Columbia woman.

According to a press release from the Columbia Police Department, officers responded on Thursday, Feb. 22 at approximately 11:45 p.m. to a residence on Greenview Drive.

Officers arrived on the scene and reportedly found Brenda Gail Hatcher, 71, bleeding and unresponsive. Attempts to revive Hatcher were unsuccessful and she was later pronounced deceased at Maury Regional Medical Center.

The Columbia Police Department obtained and served warrants on James Allen Davis, 58, for first-degree murder and aggravated assault resulting in death. Davis was transported to the Maury County Sheriff’s Office and was being held pending a hearing. No court date was immediately available.

Hatcher’s daughter stated in an interview that her mother and Davis had been in a relationship for nearly 30 years and that family had encouraged Hatcher to split up with Davis.

Early Voting (CDH)

There are still a few days left for Maury County voters to cast their ballots in the upcoming March 5 Presidential Preference Primary and County Primary Election.

Early voting began Wednesday, Feb. 14 and will continue through tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. All early voting must also be made at the Maury County Election Commission's main office at 1207 Tradewinds Drive.

Offices on the ballot include U.S. president; Maury County Public School Board Districts even seats 2, 4, 6, 8, 10; Republican delegates, Constable District 7 and 11.

Voters will be given the option of casting their votes via a paper ballot, which was approved by the Election Commission in 2022. Voters can fill out a ballot before entering it into a tabulator machine, where it will be counted and processed.

The process is not much different from a typical voting machine, just filled out on paper and fed through a separate counting device.

Maury Administrator of Election Chris Mackinlay said the first few days' turnout are "as to be expected" and in the lower numbers, which are typical especially for a primary election.

"It's been kind of as expected, and we have the capacity for a lot more," Mackinlay said. "If there are a significant number of people who want to come down and vote, that would be great. We could accommodate them easily."

However, Mackinlay said this is just the start of what will hopefully be an exciting election year, which includes a presidential election in November, and that it draws a large voter turnout for Maury County.

"We are looking forward to this year's election, and just seeing how we can watch Maury County do it with excellence," Mackinlay said. "We are going to do a great job and are prepared and ready for it. There is a lot of great experience in our office."

Visit the Maury County Election Commission's website at www.MauryCounty-TN.gov for early voting information, a sample ballot, or call (931) 375-6001.

Lynnville Infrastructure (CDH)

In Lynnville, residents faced great hardship when their basic need for water was in jeopardy when pipes froze, leaks sprung and the city water tank reached dangerously low levels during frigid temperatures in mid-January, leaving much of the town without running water for almost a week. Some went without for 15 days.

A town known for its Blackberry Festival, juicy burgers at Soda Pop Junction and the historic Train Depot, stood at a standstill for almost two weeks.

A little over a month has gone by since the big freeze, and the town is recovering and reflecting on the experience.

The county executive and water department have commented about the county and city's future response and prevention if a similar situation occurs.

Some, like Judy Roberts, a 59-year career teacher who runs Miss Judy's Academy Preschool and Daycare, said the situation forced her to close school for a week.

"I did have to close my school, but I don't have any ill feelings about it. It's just something that happened, and we had to bear with it, live through it," Roberts said.

"Everything is fine now, but we did have to close and just do what they asked us to do. I think the pipes were just old and can all spring leaks. I'm old too and don't work like I used to either, so I don't think you can lay any blame on anyone when things like this happen, you just have to live through it."

Not only was there no running water to drink, but the dry spell caused many local businesses to close, as well as families to go without the ability to cook, clean or even use the bathroom.

And amid the emergency, City Hall flooded.

"You just have to handle things as they come along, and we all just had to make the best of it," Roberts said. "I didn't hear any big complaints from anybody. We just had to make the best of it. I'm happy it's been fixed now, and if it happens again, we'll just handle it as it comes along."

Giles County Executive Graham Stowe said one of the leading causes of the shortage was due to the aging of the infrastructure, which dates back more than 70 years, and its durability to withstand below freezing temperatures.

He said that's what primarily led to the county's water shortage, because once the main lines freeze, the reserves could not be properly replenished.

"Water is life, and with our infrastructure, if your water lines are below a certain depth, you're going to be in trouble. And when the temperature drops below zero, and the water lines are made to withstand down to 15 degrees, it's a design problem," Stowe said.

Plus, the only two water sources feeding into Lynnville are from Fairview and Lewisburg, both of which were affected by the freeze.

Lynnville Water Department Director Christy Tolley said the department serves roughly over 600 water meters and 42 miles of lines, which rely on two other water providers in Lewisburg and Fairview.

"It was a trickledown effect that impacted many utility districts, including ours. We were fortunate to get a little bit of a heads up, and so as soon as we notified our customers, we immediately took action," Tolley said. "We could tell them to conserve water and that we weren't getting any water."

Lynnville City Administration began notifying residents as soon as cold weather hit that the water tank was becoming dangerously low.

Tolley added that, in total, workers found 19 leaks in the piping, including a few in the water department's office. However, given the age and threshold of the system during frigid temperatures, she considers Lynnville to be "very lucky" with what could have been a much worse situation.

"Our city buildings and businesses received mass amounts of damage," Tolley said. "Our office actually flooded. We took a hit, but we're ok."

As of Wednesday, Jan. 31, the Lynnville Water Department issued a statement that all water systems were thankfully back online after the first fall of snow began on Jan. 14.

"We are pleased to report that as of 1/31/2024 the problem has been corrected and that it is no longer necessary to boil water before consumption. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience," the water department stated.

Businesses and local organizations pitched in to provide water as the shortage prolonged, with many donations being handed out at Lynnville's train depot throughout the ordeal.

Tennessee Valley Authority also donated more than 700 cases of water.

Troy Elmore Realty and Auction, Persell Lumber and Mill Shop, Traditions Bank and First National Bank donated 600 cases of water.

"Restaurants cannot operate, people cannot shower, cook properly, clean or use their bathrooms. The residents and businesses need help and need more donations," Troy Elmore Realty and Auction posted on social media Jan. 25.

An anonymous "very generous and kind man" offered water at no cost from his well, the city posted on Jan 23.

One of the biggest takeaways, Tolley said, was how the community as a whole reacted through water donations delivered to each customer, as well as donations from churches, businesses and volunteers not just from Giles County, but the surrounding areas.

"Lynnville is a very aging community, and we have a lot of people with just one person in the home, and so to see the true meaning of Christianity to 'love thy neighbor.' It was very much that here," Tolley said.

"We needed to come together, and they did just that. We had people walking in groups delivering water. It was absolutely unbelievable. People were holding hands and praying at the distribution centers where they were giving out water. It was a crisis, for sure, but it was also a really beautiful thing that took place in our community, people coming together."

Stowe said between the age, the location of the pipes underground and temperatures dropping below 15 degrees were all contributing factors to the pipes freezing and the resulting massive shortage, as well as subsequent leaks.

However, Stowe said one of the bigger takeaways from the whole experience was how the community, businesses and neighbors came together to help.

"There's no question that this was a huge inconvenience, but what heartens me is that people were out there helping their neighbors," Stowe said.

"The bottom line is, if this happened again next month, we'll be doing the same thing to help."

Preventing an event like this from happening again won't be very easy, or cheap, Stowe said, but some solutions are being implemented to provide more efficiency in the future.

Reconfiguring the county's water system would cost millions, Stowe said. In the meantime, much of the issues during a time of crisis such as water being shut off first comes down to proper communication, he said.

"One of the biggest challenges, and this isn't any different from any other crisis, is communication. One of the challenges is that the city of Pulaski has the water plant, and the four other districts that are fed from that, and the public wasn't really getting any information from those sources," Stowe said. "One thing I hope we can get better at next time is getting communications out to the public."

Another task Stowe said is being done is mapping out where each and every water line is installed, some of which were installed more than 70 years ago. Part of this will be accomplished by a $2.7 million Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) grant to conduct Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping of all the county's water lines.

By conducting GIS mapping, Stowe said, it will allow the water districts to pinpoint breaks and other potential hazards much quicker.

"That grant will go out of all of the water districts, because the county doesn't own the water system. These are all rural utility districts," Stowe said.

"The analogy is to compare it to the power grid and where you get your power from. The water comes from these rural utility districts, and the county tries to sponsor them using grants, because we don't have a county engineer or county water employees. What we do is try to support them with anything from getting grants to encouraging consolidation of the utility districts. I think that is important."

Kids’ Place Fundraiser (Press Release)

Join the Kids’ Place Child Advocacy Center for the 5th Annual Kid's Place Shine Gala, a Roaring 20s Ball inspired by the Great Gatsby. This year's theme, "Together We Shine," celebrates the shared commitment to the work done at Kid's Place and the successes they have achieved. They are excited to present an exceptional program that promises to be both engaging and entertaining. 

Get ready to bring your glam game! The dress code is semi-formal with a touch of 20's Gatsby style. The talented chefs at Keestone Resort will be whipping up light hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour beginning at 6pm. For dinner, savor the deliciousness of filet medallions and coconut shrimp, with a side of roasted baby potatoes and fresh asparagus. And for the grand finale, choose between a berry or turtle cheesecake that will make your taste buds dance! 



All proceeds raised from this event will go towards the continued training and services the Kid’s Place provides. Their free services include Forensic Interviews, Trauma Focused Therapy, Family Advocacy, and Preventative Education and Community Awareness.  

There will be live music, a local speaker, and they look forward to sharing how they are growing! You will also get to hear about how you can help in the fight against Child Abuse.  

If you sign up as a monthly donor from the donate page at www.kpcac.org before the Gala, you can help Kid’s Place reach their goal for the evening! 

$30/month – 2 drink tickets - recognized as Help Partner

$50/month – 4 drink tickets - recognized as Hope Partner

$75/month – 6 drink tickets - recognized as Healing Partner

Can’t attend, that’s ok – you can still SHINE!

You can become a monthly Help, Hope, or Healing partner, or make a one-time donation of $250, $500, or $1000. 

The event will take place at 6:00pm on March 22nd at the Keestone Resort located at 150 Club House Drive, in Loretto, TN.

MRMC Offers Pediatric Echocardiograms (Press Release)

Maury Regional Health is now offering pediatric echocardiograms to more patients to help diagnose heart conditions as early as possible.

Pediatric echocardiograms have been offered for inpatient infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) for more than a decade. The health system is now also offering the test at MRMC on an outpatient basis for infants who are 0-12 months of age and whose physician has ordered an initial screening for a non-complex congenital anomaly or a follow-up.

“We’re excited to offer echocardiograms to a wider range of pediatric patients,” said Christina Lannom, DO, chief medical officer for Maury Regional Health. “This is one of the best tools to help us detect heart conditions in their earliest stages, which can be critical to providing successful treatment.”

Pediatric echocardiograms are the primary imaging tests used to evaluate the pediatric heart for any abnormalities. Echocardiography is an ultrasound test that uses sound waves to create images of the structure and function of the heart without the use of radiation.

The exam is commonly ordered for children who have displayed symptoms of heart conditions, such as shortness of breath, a heart murmur or chest pains.

A physician’s order is required for a pediatric echocardiogram. It is recommended that parents check with their insurance provider to determine coverage.

In addition to pediatric echocardiography, Maury Regional Health offers an array of comprehensive cardiac diagnostic tests for adults that include calcium CT scoring, cardiac catheterizations, carotid ultrasound, electrocardiography, electrophysiology, heart monitors, and nuclear and treadmill stress tests.

MRMC was recently granted a three-year term of reaccreditation by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) in echocardiography in the areas of adult transthoracic and adult stress. It has been accredited by the IAC since 2018. Additionally, MRMC has been recognized as a Chest Pain Center with PCI by the American College of Cardiology and holds certification in the treatment of heart failure from The Joint Commission.

Learn more about heart services offered at Maury Regional Health at MauryRegional.com/Heart.

Courthouse Commemorating 120 Years (Press Release)

Maury County Government has been awarded a $5,000 matching grant from the South Central Tennessee Development District.

The Arts Build Communities, or “ABC,” grant will help the county commemorate the historic Maury County Courthouse as it celebrates 120 years of service to the community in 2024.

The grant will fund a community juried art competition open to Maury County citizens of all ages.

According to a press release, the theme will focus on "What does the courthouse represent to its citizens?" Citizens are invited to use their artistic abilities to design an original piece of art (all genres are welcome) that interprets what the Maury County Courthouse means.

“The Maury County Courthouse is an iconic and historic structure for the state of Tennessee.”

“Built by local architect J.E.R. Carpenter, before he went on to great fame as one of the leading architects of luxury high-rise living in New York City, this building has been the central focus of Maury County since it was built in 1904. It symbolizes much to our community. This grant is a wonderful opportunity to allow the citizens of the county to interpret and express what the building represents.”

Maury County citizens will have from now until March 22nd to submit their artwork to the Maury County Archives' temporary location at 1446 Oak Springs Drive, Suite 100 (the far end of Muletown Rec).

Art will be juried in four age categories: elementary, secondary, high school and adults ages 18 and over. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place for each category, and one grand-prize winner will be announced during Mule Day on April 6, 2024.

Rules for artist submissions include:

Artwork must be original.

All art intended for wall-mounting (drawings/paintings etc.) in the 18+ category must be submitted in a frame and wired for hanging.

All submitted art must be accompanied by a card with the artist's name, contact information, category, title and medium.

All art must be submitted by 3 p.m. Friday, March 22.

Art will be juried by five esteemed artists which include local photographers Sarah Gilliam and Ross Jaynes, as well as painters James Spearman and Margaret Warfield and sculptor Jennifer Grisham.

The winning submissions will be displayed at the courthouse during the 2024 Mule Day festivities. All submitted artwork will be placed on display at the Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Community College from May 13th-June 14th. The exhibit will open with be a gallery reception on May 13th.

For more information about the contest, contact the Maury County Archives at (931) 375-1500.

…And now, news from around the state…

ACT Retake (Press Release)

Last week, the Tennessee Department of Education released data on the 2023 ACT Senior Retake, which provides public high school seniors with an additional opportunity to boost their score on the ACT for free. Thanks to the retake opportunity, the number of high school seniors who took the ACT in 2023 and are now eligible for the state HOPE Scholarship has increased to 24,623, representing one out of three seniors.  

 

Tennessee leads the nation in ACT access, becoming the first state in the nation to offer public high school seniors the opportunity to take the ACT two times for free during normal school hours and boasts a strong statewide ACT participation rate of 99% for the graduating class of 2023. Public school students test once in the spring of their junior year, and then have an opportunity to retake the ACT in the fall of their senior year during normal school hours.  

 

Across the state, over 423,000 students have participated in the retake opportunity since inception in 2018. In fall 2023, 51,745 students participated in the retake opportunity and 77% of those students increased their superscore, the average of the highest sub scores from each subject of all test attempts. Additionally, economically disadvantaged students increased their composite score by 2.02 points and superscore by 2.36 points and students with disabilities increased their composite score by 2.01 points and superscore by 2.35 points.  

 

“Every student should have the opportunity to qualify for additional scholarship funding and improve their chances to pursue postsecondary education,” said Lizzette Reynolds, Commissioner of Education . “We thank the General Assembly for implementing and supporting this program, which has made education beyond high school a reality for thousands of Tennessee students.” 

 

Key Highlights from the 2023 ACT Senior Retake Opportunity: 

Of the 51,745 students who participated in the retake, 77% increased their superscore and 65% scored higher on two or more subjects 

Tennessee’s retakers exceed national ACT score increases with an average increase of 2.09 points compared to one point nationally 

With an average composite score increase of 0.5 points, 49% of students scored higher on the retake  

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Country artist Scotty McCreery will fulfill a long held dream and officially become a member of the Grand Ole Opry on April 20. McCreery will be inducted by Opry member Josh Turner. While performing on an Opry Country Christmas show in December, McCreery was surprised onstage by Opry member Garth Brooks who wished him “Merry Christmas” and went on to officially invite him to be the newest member of the Opry family.

“It has been my longtime goal to be worthy of Opry membership,” said McCreery. “I am overjoyed to join this prestigious family that is the heart of country music. To be invited by my hero Garth Brooks and to be inducted by another hero Josh Turner is beyond what I could have ever dreamed.”

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