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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 28, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Ogles Background in Question (CDH)

U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Columbia, said this week he misspoke about the degree he received from Middle Tennessee State University, an admission that comes amid ongoing scrutiny that he has embellished his credentials and work experience. 

Ogles said he graduated from MTSU with a bachelor's degree in liberal studies, not the international relations degree he cited in public conversations during appearances throughout his career as mayor of Maury County, his campaign for Tennessee's 5th Congressional District seat and now in his time in the U.S. House.

Ogles is facing backlash over his background amid multiple reports from NewsChannel 5 raising questions about his educational and work history. Ogles has called himself an economist and has said he has a background in law enforcement where he fought against international sex trafficking crimes. The media outlet's reports say there is little evidence to back up Ogles' claims.

In response, Ogles issued a statement on Sunday, partially addressing the criticism.

“I previously stated that my degree from MTSU was in International Relations. When I pulled my transcript to verify, I realized I was mistaken. My degree is in Liberal Studies. I apologize for my misstatement," Ogles said in a statement issued by his communications director.

"During my senior year of college, I transferred to MTSU to pursue a degree in Political Science and International Relations. Due to an interfamilial matter, I dropped out of college and returned home to financially support my family during a difficult time. Though leaving school was a difficult decision, it was the right one. I would do the same thing again today, even though withdrawing left several incomplete grades that would ultimately be registered as failing."

But in the mid-2000s, Ogles said he finished his final semester at MTSU through the school's distance learning program, in an effort to "set an example for our daughter, demonstrating the importance of finishing what you start."

Ogles completed coursework in order to obtain the undergraduate degree. Ogles' office first gave the statement to the conservative Tennessee Star.

"At the time, it was my understanding I had completed my course of study in Political Science and International Relations," he said. "Last week, I requested an official copy of my transcript and learned that I was actually awarded a broader degree in Liberal Studies with minors in Political Science and English."

Tennessee's 5th Congressional District was a longtime Democratic stronghold, including all of Davidson County. But the Tennessee General Assembly's Republican supermajority redrew the district into GOP-friendly territory. The new district includes parts of Davidson, Williamson and Wilson counties, along with rural Lewis, Maury and Marshall counties.

Ogles defeated five other Republicans in the Aug. 4 primary and defeated Democrat Heidi Campbell in the Nov. 8 election, flipping the seat Republican.

Since then, Ogles has made headlines. He faced criticism from fellow Republicans when he opposed the nomination of U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, as House speaker. Ogles voted against McCarthy for nearly a dozen rounds of voting and was capture on video in a heated exchange with McCarthy.

Before Ogles headed to Washington, he left a few seared bridges with his hometown Republican Party, when he withdrew from the Maury County mayoral race so close to the withdrawal deadline that the party was unable to choose another Republican nominee in the Maury County General Election.

Ogles drew a wide and loyal Republican following in Maury County when he resisted government mandates, opposed mask requirements and said he'd rather "go to jail" for his constituents rather than adhere to federal overreach during the pandemic.

During Ogles tenure as a one-term mayor before running for Congress, he traveled across Tennessee speaking before civic clubs and local Republican parties about his conservative views, rooted in upholding the state and U.S. Constitution.


Texas Roadhouse Opening (WKOM Audio 2:19)

A new Texas Roadhouse held a ribbon cutting yesterday in Spring Hill. WKOM/WKRM’s Mary Susan Kennedy stopped by to learn more about what they are offering…


Kiwanis Yard Sale (CDH)

Eager shoppers formed a line outside of the Memorial Building on Saturday in downtown Columbia as early as 6:45 a.m., ready to find bargains, treasures and surprises at the 19th annual Kiwanis Club of Columbia Yard Sale.

The sale benefits the club's longstanding reading initiative, Imagination Library, which is a program that mails books to children in Columbia from birth to five years old as a part of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

Each year, the club raises thousands of dollars so that children in Maury County will have a strong reading foundation from birth for free, no matter a family's ability to pay.

Most shoppers say they are happy to give to the cause, while spending the afternoon searching for treasures.

"You never know what you are going to find," Jessie Lang said as she shopped with her sister and niece just like they've done for five years in a row.

"This is an annual thing for us. We love yard sales. This event kicks off the yard sale season for us, up through the weekend of Mule Day. It's the first yard sale of the year."

One of the items Lang said she has liked most throughout the years is a bag of golf clubs she found for her husband that matched the exact brand and type he wanted ― a purchase of only $5.

"He still uses them," she said.

Most of all, Lang said they enjoy donating to a good cause, promoting reading for the children of Maury County.

Other items spied at the sale included glassware, China place settings, name brand finds like a Coach purse, and an array of warm winter coats. Last year, pillbox-style hats were on display from the 1950s and 1960s, reminiscent of former first lady Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis.

Shopper Judith Rummage said she has attended the sale for several years in a row.

"I like the hunt," she said. "I love the books, and I find fabric that I can use for sewing."

Imagination Library coordinator Jan McKeel, said the Kiwanis Club of Columbia is the longest-serving continuous donor of the Maury County program.

"We are thrilled that some people come out not just to shop but because they know what cause they are benefitting," McKeel said. "Folks support our purpose, and it's a wonderful community event that many look forward to every year."

According to McKeel, the Kiwanis Club has funded books for over 17,000 children from birth to 5 years old in Maury County since the program's commencement. The total number of books mailed since May 2005 when the program was launched in Maury County is 768,042 books.

McKeel said the event is like a homecoming every year.

"There are people I see each year just at this sale, and we look forward to seeing each other. I love seeing the familiar faces and the friends I've made."

Kiwanis Club of Columbia president Charlie Plunkett said the event has become a staple in many households.

"I have people come up to me and say this is their most favorite event of the year," Plunkett said.

Any items left over at the conclusion of the sale will be donated to the Rotary Club's annual yard sale this spring and leftover books will benefit programs in the Maury County Jail.


Spring Hill Alderman Mulls BFT Contract (CDH)

The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen revisited one of the city's most historic sites this month, and determined whether it should continue its partnership with the Battle of Franklin Trust.

In May of 2021, the city entered into a partnership with the BOFT, who was appointed to oversee Historic Rippavilla. The initial contract, which was set up for three years, was at the stipulation that Rippavilla one day becomes a self-sustaining entity.

However, Rippavilla has not been able to become self-sufficient during that time. A new contract presented to the BOMA would be good for another three years and would include an annual $50,000 allotment from the city to be used for things like maintenance, repairs and daily needs.

BOFT Director Eric Jacobson said, while Rippavilla hasn't reached its self-sustaining goal, it could likely break even by the end of the contract's third year. In addition, attendance at Rippavilla remains to be better than ever, despite the fact much of the home's interior items and furniture were removed prior to the BOFT taking over operations.

"Our attendance during the first full year of the contract was higher than the site has ever had, revenues higher from tourism than the site has ever had," Jacobson said. "Our attendance is approaching what Carter House was 20 years ago. I can't imagine what it will be in 10-20 years."

There have also been a number of structural repairs required, such as water damage, replacing copper wiring, which was another major expense during the contract's first year.

As far as programming, Rippavilla has also expanded its tours, which now includes telling the story of the enslaved people who once lived there, which has been a topic the BOFT and many others have felt hasn't been properly addressed over the years.

"The story of the enslaved is finally getting it's long, often ignored attention, and I hope we can keep the bar moving forward," Jacobson said.

While the BOMA ultimately approved the contract, some aldermen were not willing to support it, namely Aldermen William Pomeroy and John Canepari.

To them, the contract has not been sufficiently met in terms of Rippavilla becoming self-sufficient. This was also a stipulation that might have caused potential bidders to back out when it came time to find a new managing organization for the property.

Since being self-sufficient is not necessarily a requirement, their thoughts were whether to put Rippavilla's management duties up for bid and if a new organization can be brought on to take over the BOFT's duties.

"I believe that scared off some potential bidders from Rippavilla to manage it. I believe if they knew if they came back to the city to ask for more funds, we might have had more bidders come in to manage Rippavilla," Pomeroy said. "I'd like to maybe open it back up to bidding, and let it be known that you don't have to be self-sustaining. That's not part of it."

Alderman Matt Fitterer argued that finding a new partner at this time might not be beneficial for the city or the site, and that despite setbacks and not meeting what was originally intended in the initial contract, the BOFT has proven to be a worthy partner.

"It is, in my opinion, extremely short sighted to think we can potentially chase a better partner, when we have a proven partner who's executing at a high level standing in front of us," Fitterer said.

The item was ultimately approved with a 5-3 vote, with Canepari, Pomeroy and Alderman Brent Murray opposing.


CSCC Portraits of Hope Exhibit (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College’s Pryor Art Gallery will feature the traveling exhibit “Portraits of Hope: Inspirational Stories from the Lovelady Center.” The exhibit, which portrays women and staff from the Lovelady Center in Birmingham, Alabama, will be open to the public from March 13 until April 7. 

 

The Lovelady Center is a faith-based, drug and alcohol addiction program for women in Birmingham founded by Brenda Lovelady Spahn in 2004 with the goal of giving back hope to women affected by addiction. It started with just a few women leaving prison and entering Spahn’s home for rehabilitation. Today, it serves 400 women and 90 of their children. The Lovelady Center resides in a converted hospital that has dorm-style rooms, play areas and school rooms for the children, a worship center, classrooms, counseling areas and onsite work opportunities. A book has been published about Spahn’s story, titled “Miss Brenda and the Loveladies,” which will soon be made into a major motion picture.

“The Lovelady Center program was affordable and completely changed the life of a family member very dear to me,” said Lisa Hoffman, Pryor Art Gallery curator, who has personally visited and volunteered at the center multiple times. “Her accomplishments throughout the program, and post-graduation, are impressive—I pinch myself every day.” 

The exhibition will display 43 oil portraits by 40 nationally and internationally renowned artists. Beverly McNeil of Portraits, Inc., in Birmingham wanted to help support and bring exposure to the Lovelady Center. Using her connections in the fine art realm, McNeil organized the award-winning portrait artists who donated their time to paint the recovered women, their children and the faithful staff. The exhibit has since traveled to the Salmagundi Club in New York City and the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia, before arriving at the Pryor Art Gallery.

 

Included in the exhibit is Spahn’s portrait by John Howard Sanden, a Connecticut-based master portraitist who passed in 2022. Sanden, one of the nation’s leading portrait artists for four decades, served as the art director for Billy Graham prior to launching his career as a portraitist. Sanden received the John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement Award and painted the official White House portraits of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. His depiction of McNeil displays her gentle nature and warmth. 

Two of the accomplished artists in the exhibit are Middle Tennessee natives, Michael Shane Neal and Dawn E. Whitelaw, both of whom are Lipscomb University graduates. Neal has painted Sandra Day O’Connor, George H.W. Bush and Richard Thomas from “The Waltons.” Whitelaw is with On Track Studios in Franklin and is an award-winning plein air artist. She is a member of Portrait Society of America, Oil Painters of America and Plein Air Painters of the Southeast. 

“The caliber of oil paintings in this exhibition normally are only seen in private collections, museums and places like the White House,” Hoffman stated. “We are thrilled to have this exhibition in our own backyard of Columbia to serve our students and community.”   

The exhibit is free and open to the public. The Pryor Art Gallery is in the Waymon L. Hickman Building on the Columbia Campus located at 1665 Hampshire Pike and is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.

The opening reception, which is also free and open to the public, will be March 16 from 5 – 7 p.m. in conjunction with the Performance Series Appalachian Road Show concert. For information about the First Farmers Performance Series and tickets, please visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/Performance-Series.

For additional information about this exhibit, please visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/PryorGallery or on Facebook at ColumbiaStatePAG.

For more information about the Pryor Art Gallery, contact Hoffman at 931.540.2883 or lhoffman5@ColumbiaState.edu.


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


Mrs. Griffitha Glasser “Griffie” Cook, 79, a resident of Columbia, passed away on February 24th. The funeral service celebrating Griffie’s life will be held at Zion Presbyterian Church, located at 2322 Zion Road in Columbia, on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 at 1:00 P.M. Burial will follow in Zion Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

Parking Costs at BNA Rise (Tennessean)

Nashville International Airport parking rates will increase by $2 beginning on March 1.

The funds will be used to pay for rising maintenance, operations and expansion costs, airport officials said. It's the third fee increase in the past three years due to high inflation and construction costs.

Economy-lot rates, which were $15 in 2021, will increase from $16 to $18 per 24-hour block.

Covered lots facing the terminal will increase to $28 and valet parking will be $38 a day. Airport officials said the prices are still competitive with other regional airports, and they have little competition with off-airport lots.

The fee increases come as the airport's list of renovations continues to grow with passenger rates rising faster than aggressive projections.

The airport anticipates growing from 18.4 million passengers in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, to 21 million on June 30, 2023.

In January, BNA's new terminal debuted its Grand Lobby as part of a $1.4 billion renovation project that will be complete later this year. A new international-arrivals terminal, shopping and dining center, on-site hotel and a satellite terminal will be revealed in September.

A third parking garage will also open later this year, completing the terminal-parking expansion project.

A second phase of construction costing more than $1 billion is also underway.

Airlines continue to increase service from Nashville, and the airport is courting more nonstop international destinations.

This month, WestJet announced nonstop service to Vancouver in May − giving Nashville nonstop access to Canada's top-five markets for the first time.

The airport is largely privately funded with parking, concessions and airline service fees. Standard & Poor's recently upgraded BNA's long-term credit rating from AA- to A+, reflecting BNA's strong financial management.


Grant Money Approved for Small Businesses (Press Release_

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced today the approval of up to $116.9 million in funding under the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) to support small business growth in Tennessee.

 “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and they play a central role in building strong communities throughout Tennessee,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. “I’m pleased that this funding will help expand the growth of small businesses and encourage interested Tennesseans to utilize these funds to promote economic growth in our state.”

 The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) will operate an initiative called Fund Tennessee, which is made up of a suite of programs from venture capital, to loan programs and technical assistance. TNECD allocated $46.9 million for the debt program that will work with participating Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) to serve rural to urban areas of the state, including underserved communities.

 “With one of the top business climates in the country, Tennessee is the ideal location to create, launch and grow a business,” said TNECD Commissioner Stuart McWhorter. “We appreciate the U.S. Department of Treasury for approving this funding, which will support and expand Tennessee’s small business and entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

 TNECD, in partnership with LaunchTN, allocated $70 million for the program, which is focused on direct investments in early-stage startups, along with a fund-of-funds strategy investing in emerging venture capital fund managers. 

 “Access to investment capital has been a challenge in Tennessee, so these funds will fill an immediate demand and support growth in startups that are primed to reach their potential,” said LaunchTN CEO Lindsey Cox. “We are eager to help founders across the state access this capital so they can continue innovating.”

 TNECD and LaunchTN are hosting regional kickoff meetings to give an overview of the new Fund Tennessee initiative. The meetings will begin today and continue through April. To learn more or register for a kickoff meeting, visit here.

 The SSBCI program provides funding to empower small businesses to access capital needed to invest in job-creating opportunities.

 In addition to generating private investment in states across the country, SSBCI provides historic investments in U.S. territories, with significant impacts for growing access to credit in these markets. Through SSBCI, U.S. Treasury has allocated more than $300 million to support small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Doobie Brothers are continuing their 50th anniversary tour with additional stops including one at FirstBank Amphitheater in Franklin, TN.

Doobie Brothers will hit the stage on Thursday, August 31st at 7:30 pm bringing together guitarists Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons and John McFee and singer Michael McDonald for the first time in 25 years.

Tickets go on sale on Friday, March 3 at 10 am, presale begins on Thursday, March 2 with code OPENER.

Find tickets at ticketmaster.com.


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