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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 27, 2024


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


We start with local news…

Accident Under Investigation (MauryCountySource)

On Friday at 9:30PM, Maury County Fire Department was dispatched to Hampshire Pike for a car accident with entrapment.

Responding units: Engines 22, 25, Rescue 21, Safety, Ops, Deputy, Chief 20.

Units arrived to find a driver heavily trapped and put Engine 25’s tools to work, followed by Engine 22’s. Rescue 21 set up the LZ for Vanderbilt LifeFlight at Station 25.

One patient was airlifted in critical condition to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating the accident.

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.

State Eggs and Issues Recap (CDH)

Education and taxes were among the main topics addressed at this year's State Eggs & Issues breakfast.

The annual breakfast, hosted by the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance, invites elected officials from the State Capitol to answer questions, speak about certain bills and the overall progress of this year's General Assembly.

This year's panel featured State Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and State Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, and was moderated by Maury Alliance President Wil Evans.

With Maury County's continued growth comes the increased need for infrastructure, as well as the question of how to pay for it.

Cepicky said there have been progress to address long-term infrastructure needs, such as securing $200 million to widen U.S. Highway 31 in Spring Hill. While other projects, like widening Bear Creek Pike in Columbia, continue to await funding approval.

"We constantly work at finding money that benefits our community," Cepicky said. "For growth, there is a bill I have already presented to allow half of the real estate transfer tax come back to Maury County. The rough numbers would be roughly $7-$8 million a year to help pay for our schools, school growth and maintenance."

There is also a push to allow the county to implement an impact fee for builders on new construction as an amendment to the existing state County Powers Relief Act.

Hensley added that the state's budget for capital projects did not include a large surplus this fiscal year, which has been common over the last few years. While there is enough money to pay for existing needs, some projects will unfortunately have to remain on hold, he said.

"Our revenue estimates have been below what we estimated for our budget," Hensley said. "So we haven't been taking in as much, will have to make up some money, but we are constantly looking for funds for Maury County."

Another piece of legislation is the push to put a 2% cap on annual property tax increases, which both Hensley, Cepicky and Kip Capley, R-Summertown, (who was invited to the talk but not present) said could have a negative impact on Maury County, which remains one of the fastest-growing counties in the state.

"With high growth counties like Maury County, that's going to put a big financial strain on us," Cepicky said. "But this doesn't mean the Maury County Commission cannot come back to the people of Maury County and make their case to raise taxes more than 2%. Then it goes to a referendum of the people, who we work for. It's your ultimate decision because you are the ones who are going to have to pay it."

Last year, the state implemented its new third grade retention law, which was designed to address early education reading and comprehension levels.

After its first year in effect, Cepicky said the retention data shows that Tennessee's literacy rate is currently at 40%, which is a 10% growth over the last two years. And while improvement is a good thing, the numbers are still far below where they should be, he emphasized.

"We are the highest growing state in the country, especially coming out of COVID," Cepicky said. "But still, 40% is not acceptable with 60% of our kids not on the right level. Our literacy in the 8th grade drops to around 22% and in high school it drops into the teens. That's our state right now."

Cepicky added that the declining numbers are why the issue of literacy should be addressed at the forefront, and that in order to advance the students must do the work, with hard data showing that growth is being accomplished.

"Education will solve our problems in our society on the backend," Cepicky said. "This is an epidemic, and it hasn't happened overnight, but we are going to fix it in Tennessee."

The state's education system could also see a big change this year with Gov. Bill Lee's proposed Education Freedom Scholarship Act, which would grant 20,000 school vouchers to qualifying low-income households with homeschool students or those wishing to attend private schools.

However, part of the proposed bill could also grant 10,000 of the vouchers to students regardless of household income, with other concerns regarding a potential decrease in school funding.

"Most students are probably going to stay in public education if we pass a program like this, but we just want to give parents a choice to have the best education for their child," Hensley said. "Parents ultimately have that right, but ultimately like any legislation it will be debated, go through all the committees and we'll just have to see what happens moving forward."

Cepicky added that the House plans to allow private schools to decide whether they want to participate in the program or not if passed.

He also proposed that participating schools would be required to send grades and test results to a third party, who would assess the data from all scholarship recipients. The final data would then be submitted to the State for evaluation.

"We create a level of separation between the government and our private schools and give them the protection they need," Cepicky said. "That information will then be disseminated to us in the House and Senate so we can track the academic progress of these kids going from a public to private school to make sure their academic progress is going in an upward trajectory."

For public schools, Cepicky said he is pushing for legislation to limit testing in grades K-12 to allow more time for teaching, which he said would free up almost 500 hours of instruction.

"There is a teacher who told me he gives his middle schoolers 15 tests a year. That's one every 11 days," Cepicky said.

"All we are doing is confirming for the multiple tests so that the kids don't have time to learn, and we are testing them and getting results that they don't know. You ask any teacher and they'll tell you one thing, 'If you give me the time to teach, I'll get them across the finish line.

"We are fighting for what's best for Maury County."

Festive and Flair Opening (2:23)

Yesterday, Festive and Flair, a new boutique opened on South Main Street in the Columbia Arts District. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting and spoke to the proprietors of the brand new business…

MRMC Surgical Quality Partnership (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) has been named a Surgical Quality Partner by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer (CoC).

The ACS CoC is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving survival and quality of life for patients with cancer by setting and raising standards. MRMC received a three-year accreditation from the CoC in 2022.

CoC accreditation is granted to institutions committed to providing high-quality cancer care by demonstrating compliance with the CoC standards. Each cancer program must undergo a rigorous evaluation and review of its performance and compliance with the CoC standards. To maintain accreditation, cancer programs must undergo a site visit every three years. The CoC accreditation standards supply the structure for providing all patients with a full range of diagnostic, treatment and supportive services either onsite or by referral, including community-based resources.

MRH offers comprehensive cancer care at the Maury Regional Cancer Center at the Columbia Mall. A dedicated team of physicians and clinical professionals utilize the most state-of-the-art equipment available to meet the needs of each individual patient.

“It is very rewarding to be named an ACS Surgical Quality Partner. It recognizes our commitment to providing comprehensive and compassionate care to our cancer patients,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “I’m proud of the work our team at the Cancer Center does to make sure our patients and their loved ones are expertly cared for in every step of their battle with cancer.”

Being a Surgical Quality Partner signifies an institution’s dedication to consistently improving procedures and approaches, while maintaining a critical eye on process at every step. The Surgical Quality Partner designation lets patients know MRMC is dedicated to quality and relentless self-improvement and has been verified or accredited by the ACS. Patients can trust that the care they receive at Surgical Quality Partner hospitals adheres to the most rigorous standards in surgical quality.

“ACS Quality programs are grounded in more than a century of experience and participation is an important measure of a hospital’s surgical quality. As an ACS Surgical Quality Partner, MRMC has shown a commitment providing the best possible patient care, evaluating that care in a rigorous fashion and dedicating themselves to continuous self-improvement,” said ACS Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS.

For more information about the cancer services offered at Maury Regional Health, visit MauryRegional.com/Cancer.

Learn more about the CoC Accreditation Program at facs.org.

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.

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

Bettye Rose Frazier Messmer, 90, died Friday, February 23, 2024 at LifeCare of Columbia after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  Per her written wishes, there will not be a visitation or funeral at this time. Instead, she has requested a Christian graveside service and burial at the family’s cemetery at Goose Pond Cemetery in Scottsboro, AL.

Douglas John Tracy, 67, and member of First United Methodist Church in Columbia, died February 26, 2024 at his residence in Hampshire.

The family will visit with friends Saturday, March 2, 2023 from 3:00 PM until 7:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Online condolences may be extended at www.oakesandnichols.com.

…And now, news from around the state…

Pot Found at BNA (WKRN)

Two men were taken into custody and arrested after 68 pounds of marijuana was discovered in two suitcases at Nashville International Airport (BNA) last wek.

Investigators were running a luggage check on a Southwest flight from Burbank, California, when K-9 Officer Havoc alerted officers to the smell of marijuana coming from luggage, according to court documents.

Officers determined the suitcases belonged to Dalonta Jackson, 27, of Washington, D.C., and Marquoise Motley, 34, of Baltimore, Maryland. According to arrest documents, Jackson was taken into custody at Gate C25 and Motley was found aboard the plane, which was bound for Washington, D.C.

Both men consented to officers searching the luggage, during which multiple bundles of vacuum-sealed marijuana was found hidden inside Ozark Trail – Walmart brand tent boxes, according to court documents.

An estimated 45 pounds of marijuana was reportedly found in Jackson’s luggage while 23 pounds was found in Motley’s.

Jackson and Motley were booked into the Metro jail and charged with felony drug possession. Both have been released on $7,000 bonds.

Green Reconsidering Retirement (Tennessean)

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, is reconsidering his plans to retire from Congress, less than two weeks after he announced he would not seek reelection this year.

Green's office confirmed the congressman is reconsidering his decision, though it did not respond to a Tennessean question regarding his timeline for making the decision.

Punchbowl News first reported Green's potential change of heart on Monday. The outlet reported colleagues in the House and Tennessee delegation had encouraged him to rethink his decision.

On Feb. 14, Green said it is "time for me to return home" after the House voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Green is currently chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“In the last few months, in reading the writings of our Framers, I was reminded of their intent for representatives to be citizen-legislators, to serve for a season and then return home," Green said. "Our country – and our Congress – is broken beyond most means of repair. I have come to realize our fight is not here within Washington, our fight is with Washington. As I have done my entire life, I will continue serving this country–but in a new capacity.” 

Green's retirement would leave the Republican primary in the 7th Congressional District wide open. Green had never faced primary challenger for the seat, which now includes parts of Nashville and Davidson County after a controversial redistricting.

Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, a Democrat, announced in December she would seek the Democratic nomination in the 7th Congressional District and challenge Green for the seat.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Rock band Kings of Leon is kicking off 2024 with a host of announcements on social media.

The band has announced their upcoming 9th full-length studio album, Can We Please Have Fun, out on May 10. The lead single, “Mustang” is available now.

Kings of Leon also announced a 2024 World Tour. The tour, produced by Live Nation in North America, will hit 26 cities across the US stopping at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on September 26th.  Tickets will begin on sale Friday, March 1 at 10am local time at www.ticketmaster.com.


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