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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 29, 2024

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

We start with local news…

MCPS Teacher Indicted (MSM)

A Maury County Public School teacher was indicted on Feb. 15 on 16 charges related to child sexual abuse, all of which allegedly occurred on multiple occasions between 2020 and 2023.

According to the indictment, Kenny L. Anderson Jr., 39, of Columbia, is accused of having “unlawfully engaged in sexual contact with a child 13 years of age or older, but less than 18 years of age.”

The indictment further states that Anderson was in a position of authority over the victim.

In total, Anderson was charged with five counts of rape, five of incest, five of sexual battery by an authority figure and one count of aggravated sexual battery.

According to MCPS Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ventura, Anderson was suspended last August pending the investigation.

“Per MCPS School Board policy, all suspensions are without pay,” Ventura said. “MCPS is aware of his indictment.”

Ventura said Anderson is still employed, but did not comment on his current status.

Anderson was booked into the Maury County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 20 and released later that day on a $200,000 bond. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Thursday, Feb 29.

Spring Hill Park Property Purchased (MSM)

The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen has approved an agreement for the purchase of property for future recreational use.

The agreement calls for the city to pay $3.6 million for 33.65 acres at 2841 Hurt Road, which is located in Williamson County.

Also part of the agreement is the clause stating that it, “gives the seller of the property the right to name the park property, including trails, paths, buildings or amenities in recognition of Seller’s family.”

The seller in the agreement is identified as Danny C. Allen Trustee of the Danny C. Allen Trust.

Alderman Brent Murray noted the need for the property from a recreation standpoint, adding that the need is great for all sports and activities.

“At Parks and Recreation they’ve been looking for years,” he said. “This property is a great center point for fields, playground and park amenities as well.”

He added that the city has set aside $1.5 million for park land acquisition, adding that the price for the property is enticing.

“It’s a lot of space for not a lot of money,” Murray said. “It’s a great opportunity to provide something that’s a need here in our city.”

Other aldermen agreed about the opportunity to purchase the land and the need for the recreation space.

City Administrator Pam Caskie said the city has a due diligence period as set forth in the agreement. She said the city has money available for the purchase of the property once the proper amendments and transfers are made by the board.

The board voted 8-1 to approve the purchase agreement, with Alderman Kevin Gavigan voting against. Gavigan had expressed his concern that the purchase agreement was included on the board’s agenda as a consent item even though there had not been much time for public discussion and for the board to get familiar with it.

Annexation request

An item discussed by the board at its Feb. 20 meeting as part of its work session, but not voted on, was the requested annexation of the Caldwell Farms area.

The annexation request came to the board with a favorable recommendation from the Planning Commission and includes a rezoning request.

Mayor Jim Hagaman acknowledged the developer of the project in question has produced a quality development in Spring Hill, which he added is something the city government wants.

He praised several aspects of the design of the proposed development.

“My issue is that I strongly believe the issues we have on us, specifically to water and sewer capacity, this would not support my philosophy of responsible growth,” the mayor said, noting the he believes the city should avoid adding to those issues. “Your company is fantastic, but I can’t, as a representative of the citizens, support anymore growth that does not allow us to move forward with the issues we have upon us.”

Several aldermen agreed:

• Alderman Trent Linville noted that he was the one vote against the annexation on the planning commission. He pointed to the fact that all the areas surrounding the property in question are single family homes and the development includes multi-family townhouses.

“I don’t think it meets the public benefits standard we should have for development in Spring Hill,” he said. “As a board we need to decide do we want to reserve sewer capacity for residential development or to help diversify our local economy. We are really heavily weighted toward residential.”

• Alderman Vincent Fuqua, however, said that although he agrees with what the mayor said, he believes the city can service the area.

• Gavigan also expressed his appreciation for the work the developer has done in Spring Hill, but he pointed to the work the city has done on Buckner Lane and the impact more residential development would have there.

Election Task Force

After a Citizen Election Task Force spent a year working on alternatives to the way board members are elected based on changes in the state law, the board found out on Feb. 20 that those efforts may not be necessary now.

Caskie and City Attorney Patrick Carter explained that approximately a week after the CETF made its recommendations to change Spring Hill’s board elections to wards rather than at-large, an advisory came down from the Tennessee Municipal League that the way the elections were previously held may be legal.

The Municipal Technical Assistance Service has informed the board they have three options: 1. continue as voting has been historically done and make sure the state agrees it is legal; 2. implement the CETF recommendations or 3. do what has been done with state approval and rebalance the wards from which aldermen are elected.

Caskie said the wards need to be rebalanced in order to make sure each ward has near the same number of people.

Caskie also stressed the importance of Spring Hill citizens filling out the special census, explaining that it will help with ward balancing and help the city get more money from the state.

The concensus among board members was much like Alderman Matt Fitterer’s comment that while he appreciates the work the CETF did, the reason for putting the task force together was all based on a premise that there was a mandated change.

He added that he believes the system Spring Hill has been using works well and makes sure all of the elected officials are accountable to all citizens.

Carter said he would follow up with TML to make sure the city is in fact following state law. He noted that a lot of cities got the same MTAS opinion across the state.

Kiwanis Yard Sale Recap (CDH)

With over a dozen tables piled high with all the "stuff" one could imagine, the Kiwanis Club of Columbia's 20th annual Yard Sale Saturday drew a crowd of at least 800 visitors, scouting for unique and practical finds at the Memorial Building.

Shoppers formed a line around the building by 7 a.m., an hour before the event began, just like in years past.

Funds raised will benefit Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in Maury County, a long-time beneficiary of the Kiwanis Club.

Garage sale-goers rummaged through treasures such as fine China, vintage cameras and unique finds such as a collection of rare literary works with a copyright of 1909, once used as curriculum at Central High School. Volunteers packed up the volumes to be delivered to the Maury County Archives for preservation.

Kiwanis Yard Sale chairperson Jan McKeel said she enjoys seeing familiar faces each year and raising money for a worthy cause, or building literacy in Maury County.

"The turnout amazes me," McKeel said. "We were absolutely fortunate to have beautiful weather today. It was amazing to see all of the donations come in, and just as quickly, see all of the stuff go out. We are so thankful for Kiwanis supporting Imagination Library all of these years.

"We don't have all of the tallies yet, but we think it will be a great sale once again."

Loads of items, including an extensive collection of furniture from dining room sets to side tables, lamps, art, ornate picture frames and plenty of glass ware delighted shoppers. Pyrex dishes were grabbed up by collectors, while others found silver homeware items, copper and vintage Mason jars.

The Lange and Stanfill family stopped to take a photo with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library cardboard cutout displayed at the sale (though not for sale) during their annual visit. The family of sisters and cousins have been attending the sale for almost a decade.

"You never know what you are going to find," Jessie Lange said. The family commences their succession of yard sale visits with the Kiwanis Yard Sale as their first to kickoff the season. They attend at least five other community yard sales throughout spring.

Lange's finds this year include a baseball mitt for her son and a "Home Alone" movie T-shirt, which will serve as souvenirs from this year's visit.

"We always look forward to coming and block our calendars," she said.

Meanwhile, past County Trustee Steve Konz browsed the book section, while shoppers Blair Miller and Emily Senefeld took interest in glass wares.

"It's a great place to find a bargain, a good place to see people you haven't seen in a long time, and the funds raised go to a good cause," Senefeld said.

Columbia sisters Lee Dillehay and Jean Parham have been attending the yard sale since its commencement two decades ago.

Dillehay said she loves the book selection and has collected many history books from the sale over the years. One of Parham's favorite finds is a Christmas decoration that counts down the days until Christmas by lighting candles, a treasure she still uses.

McKeel said the Imagination Library, which mails free books to children from birth, is an essential piece of literacy to children in Maury County.

The nonprofit has served over 21,575 children across the county, distributing 54,000 books per year. Over the past 20 years, the Maury County leg of the nonprofit has mailed 821,049 books to community children.

The Kiwanis Club has contributed over $72,000 to the nonprofit over the past two decades. Other major sponsors include Maury Regional Group, General Motors Spring Hill, and many individual donors and churches.

"We are looking forward to reaching one million children in Maury County by 2027," McKeel said.

Mt. Pleasant City Business (MSM)

The Mount Pleasant Commission has voted to consider setting a special called meeting to review applications for the new City Manager, with discussions set to be held Thursday, March 7.

The announcement was made during the commission’s regular meeting last Tuesday, Feb. 20.

In November, the commission voted to ask MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) for help in initiating the search process. The vote followed current City Manager Kate Collier’s announcement to city commissioners that she would be retiring in the coming months.

The following month, the commission approved a resolution outlining the selection process, with each step taking place during a public meeting.

City Attorney Kori Jones said the initial review date was set for Feb. 26, which is when commissioners will receive applications.

“The whole packet of everybody that submitted applications will be sent to each commissioner,” Jones said. “You’ll have a chance to review them individually. This meeting would be a meeting for you as a group to review those applications together and decide if you want to go forward with interviews or if you want to wait longer.”

If the commission decides to move forward, they will choose the candidates they wish to interview before setting a date.

Meanwhile, the commission also voted on a resolution to name the pavilion in Gardenia Park. The nominations will be open for public comment until Wednesday, March 13.

Commissioner Mike Davis expressed his concern that not enough has been done for the park, which is located at 123 Gardenia Street.

“I just think right now as a city, we owe it to the gardenia people or the citizens of Mount Pleasant, to take full control of building the pavilion,” Davis said. “This pavilion has been going on in talks for over ten years, and I’m saying it’s the responsibility of the citizens of Mount Pleasant to do what we said we were going to do for the people of Gardenia Park.”

Finance Director Shiphrah Cox said the project will not go out to bid due to the cost being under the bid threshold.

“Our bid threshold is now $25,000. If we can get materials and labor under $25,000 for a project, we do not have to bid it out,” Cox said.

Cox said all name recommendations for the pavilion must be sent to her in written form.

The final decision will be made by the full commission on March 19.

Mixed Use Development Proposed (CDH)

While many mixed-use developments continue to be created around Spring Hill with retail, residential and office spaces, a new one is being proposed at Jim Warren and Port Royal Roads.

The Spring Hill Planning Commission reviewed a concept for what's being called Eastport Farms, located on 48.21 acres off Jim Warren, Port Royal and Derryberry Lane.

The concept includes a mixed-use neighborhood, which combines spaces for family housing, townhomes and senior living alongside approximately 15 acres of commercial businesses consisting of full-service and quick-service restaurants, convenience stores, as well as a 150-key hotel and medical office.

"We believe that that scale of commercial with the offerings for restaurants, shopping, places to hang out and create Spring Hill's culture, that this size and scale of neighborhood is very much appropriate," applicant Greg Gamble of Gamble Design Collaborative said. "We have the opportunity for placemaking."

Charlie Pond, Director of Building Development for head builder Neyer Properties of Ohio, said mixed-use properties is one of the company's passions, and is excited to bring its skills to Spring Hill for the first time.

When it came to the project's development, Pond said the goal is to, "Phase it in a way where all of the main anchors are finished at the same time."

"We believe this really has to be developed holistically," Pond said. "We don't believe that everything will necessarily start at the same time, but we would like to finish, open the infrastructure and the majority of the facilities at the same time."

Discussion among planners was fairly brief Monday, but Alderman Matt Fitterer said he believes the Board of Mayor and Aldermen should also review the concept before moving forward.

"I think it's important that we get the concept before the board as well," Fitterer said. "It's one thing to get feedback from us and with staff, but let's get this in front of the ultimate decision makers, when they say they are ready."

Alderman Trent Linville also weighed in, agreeing that the BOMA should give its input.

"Having the insight of the board on this project could be helpful as well," Linville said. "It's certainly an interesting project ... with the Jim Warren commercial area being introduced. This will be kind of helping build that area of the city, and to really underscore this is a place where people can come, and commerce will happen."

Spring Hill Innovation Series (Press Release)

The Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce "Innovation Lives Here: A Thought Leader Speaker Series for Middle Tennessee." Inspired by the globally acclaimed TED® talks, the series will commence with its first event on March 20, followed by additional events on July 24 and Oct. 16, 2024, each running from 10 a.m. to noon at Thompson Station Church located at 2604 Thompson's Station Rd E in Thompson's Station.

The first event within the series on March 20 will feature distinguished speakers including Yesenia Sevilla, Director, Strategic Engagement & Ecosystem Development with The Wond'ry at Vanderbilt University; Dr. Joyce Thompson Heames, Dean of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University; and John Woerner, notable lighting innovator and business owner of J Squared Systems.

“The Spring Hill Chamber witnesses examples of extraordinary innovation in our area every day,” said Executive Director Rebecca Melton. “We are thrilled to unveil an event that not only embodies our spirit of innovation, but will also inspire the entire Middle Tennessee community. Because this series will cover a wide range of topics across technology, education, healthcare, arts, and business, we encourage all professionals, entrepreneurs, and innovation enthusiasts to join us as we explore transformative ideas that will shape our future.”


For event and registration information, visit The speaker series is presented by Premier Design Build of Spring Hill.

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

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

…And now, news from around the state…

TPAC Moving to East Bank (MSM)

Tennessee Performing Arts Center and the Metro Nashville government have signed a memorandum of understanding to build a new performing arts center on the East Bank of the Cumberland River.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with TPAC and the state to develop a new home for this important cultural institution on Nashville’s East Bank,” Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell said in a TPAC news release. “A new performing arts center that offers a variety of entertainment and educational opportunities is exactly the type of development all Nashvillians can get excited about.”

According to the news release a new performance facility on the East Bank will support increased Broadway events; performances by TPAC residential companies, Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera and Nashville Repertory Theatre; and educational programming.

TPAC currently resides in the State of Tennessee’s James K. Polk Cultural Center near the state capitol building, which through a comprehensive real estate assessment has been determined by the state to be antiquated and does not fulfill the site’s highest and best use. The State of Tennessee has granted $200 million towards a new TPAC facility in the Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget.

State funds are contingent on TPAC raising matching dollars from the private sector and Metro Nashville participating in the project based on the Metro-owned East Bank site and related infrastructure needs.

The memorandum of understanding designates a site on the East Bank as TPAC’s new home and allows the organization to access pledged funds – both public and private – to begin designing and planning the arts center.

The actual transfer of the TPAC site would be subject to Metro Council approval as part of a development agreement.

Gas Prices (MSM)

Tennessee gas prices are moving in a more favorable direction after jumping double-digits two weeks ago. Over last week, gas prices declined two cents, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $2.95 which is 17 cents more expensive than one month ago and but seven cents less than one year ago.  

“Tennesseans saw a bit of a break at the pump over last week as the state gas price average moved two cents lower,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “While this is a nice change of pace compared to the last few weeks, it’s important to remember, however, that we are still in the midst of refinery maintenance season. This is also the time of year that we start to see stronger fuel demand as the spring driving season heats up. Because of this, drivers should expect to see continued fluctuation in prices at the gas pump.” 

Quick Facts

77% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.74 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.32 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is now the 9th least expensive market in the nation

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

If you have ever been interested in mountain biking, or biking in general, you are invited to check out this weekend’s Riverwalk Ride!

There will be several Trek Marlin 6 mountain bikes free to demo and ride around Riverwalk Park on Saturday, March 2nd from 1:00pm until 3:00pm. Starting at the Farmers Market, riders will be lead by Columbia Parks & Rec staff members and given basic instruction, knowledge of biking, and biking etiquette.

No registration is required and this is a free event! Helmets are required and provided at no charge.

For more information please contact Christina Walls at (931) 698-0088 or


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