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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 7, 2024

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


We start with local news…

Hohenwald Woman Charged in Assault (MSM)

An 18-year-old Hohenwald woman has been charged for allegedly robbing and beating a man in Maury County on Jan. 13, which left the victim with serious bodily injury.

Nevaeh Stewart of Hohenwald was arrested on Jan. 16, the same day a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was charged with especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault.

According to the affidavit, Stewart and two unnamed accomplices “unlawfully confined by means of fraud the victim. They then drove him to a field where he was robbed and beaten by two male accomplices.”

Both males allegedly used firearms to beat and threaten to kill the victim, who suffered from serious bodily injury and was medevac to a hospital.

The affidavit further states that Stewart took the victim’s backpack, phone and wallet during the robbery.

The Maury County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment when asked about the investigation.

Stewart is currently in custody at the Maury County Jail. She is expected to appear in court on Feb. 23.

City Mulls Rezoning (MSM)

The Columbia City Council met for their regularly scheduled study session last Thursday, Feb. 1, to discuss several items, including a proposed rezoning of 200 Oakwood Drive from Neighborhood Large Lot Character District to Neighborhood Character District, which is located in the Ninth Civil District in Maury County.

According to planning documents, the concept is for single-family residential development on the 57-acre parcel.

The project summary states that applicant Louis Sloyan requested to amend the Future Land Use Map of Connect Columbia, the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and change the future land use classification of 56.7-acre parcel from Suburban Corridor to Suburban Neighborhood.

Currently, the zoning designation permits low density single-family residences at two dwelling units per acre. The requested zoning designation permits medium density single-family residences at four dwelling units per acre, according to the project’s summary.

The request has to go through two readings before final approval, with the first scheduled for March before being sent to the Historic Commission.

Council is also set to vote on an amendment which would set the GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price) for the new Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion at $95,379,976. In November, the city accepted Judy Construction Company’s proposal to serve as the Construction Manager.

Paul Keltner, Director of Development Services, said the company will conduct a bid of each sub-contract.

“If there are any savings under the budget amount and the actual bid amount of that sub-contract, the city will receive that savings,” Keltner said, adding a project engineer will oversee the work every two weeks. The bid packages include grading, electrical, building construction and demolition, among others.

Keltner said construction is anticipated to begin in late spring or summer and is expected to take 48 months.

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said the project is significant for the city.

“There aren’t many projects that we deal with that include this type of price tag, but on the other hand, there aren’t many projects we deal with that have this kind of long-term impact for our future,” he said.

The city is scheduled to meet to vote on the item Thursday, Feb. 8.

Maury Alliance Annual Meeting (CDH)

At the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance annual dinner last week, president and CEO Wil Evans, highlighted Maury County's exponential growth not only in population but also economically over the past several years.

In just a few words, Evans delivered an economic punch citing big statistics, which could set the foundation for Maury County to become a leader in the state in economic growth and prosperity in addition to population growth.

Just days after the annual dinner, Maury County grabbed the number one spot in the state in four categories in incoming investment categories, according to SmartAsset. The categories include business growth, GDP growth, new building permits, and incoming investment. On a national level, Maury County ranked third in incoming investment and seventh in business growth. There are over 3,000 counties in the U.S. SmartAsset methodology looks at change over a three-year period, which demonstrates sustained performance. 

Dubbed as the fastest growing county in Tennessee in the 2020 U.S. Census, Maury County has continued a forward trajectory ever since, solidifying it as a city that's attracting people, business, commerce and economic investment.

Over 300 business professionals attended the annual dinner at the Memorial Building in downtown Columbia on Jan. 30 to celebrate the year's economic highlights.

According to a recent Maury Alliance 13-point "key performance indicator dashboard" used to measure trends, over the past 10 years, the county has experienced double-digit percentage growth in all 13 performance categories, including per capita income, annual income, median home price and retail sales.

"These are indicative of long-term economic growth and a thriving economy in the county," Evans said.

County growth over 10 years:

Per capita income grew over 50%

Average annual income grew over 30%

Median household income grew over 40%

Retail sales grew over 86%

Last year 1,760 jobs were created with capital investments of $2.4 billion in Maury County.

In the coming weeks, Evans also said the Alliance will share additional data, showing "Maury County is a leader in the state and a top leader in the U.S. in other top indicators, so please stay tuned."

The Alliance also announced two large economic development investments last year, including SGB Enterprises Inc. and Xxentria Technologies in Mount Pleasant, bringing $46 million collectively in capital investments and 126 new jobs, with combined wages of $60,000.

Thirteen economic development projects in various industries have been announced since 2022.

Evans also called 2023 a "record-breaking year" for membership gains, ribbon-cuttings and Shop Local gift card sales.

The Alliance hosted 54 ribbon-cuttings throughout the year with an average of more than one per week. The Shop Local gift card program raked in over $60,000, doubling in sales compared to the year before. Since the Shop Local program started just a few years ago, the Alliance has been able to generate $200,000 in revenue in Maury County. In 2023, the chamber added 135 new members, which now has grown to 630 members to date. Plus, the Alliance hired two new staff members last year.

"This is just a small snapshot of what we've been able to accomplish within the last year," Evans said.

However, with much economic advancements generating growth, he said the organization will "pause" to reflect on its direction to ensure that the county grows in a "smart" way.

While many long-time and new residents welcome new growth from housing to industry, some question if Maury County will be able to retain its character, charm and small town feel.

"While all of this is very exciting, it does present us with a new set of challenges," Evans said.

"For those who have been in the community long-term — those who were raising your hand earlier about who've been here the longest — I don't have to remind you that seeing trends in the opposite direction ... creates a different set of challenges. I think most of us can agree that the challenges we are facing today are much better than the challenges we were facing five to 10 years ago.

"But there's one thing you have to take away from here tonight. It's been that our organization has been focused on growth because that is what creates opportunity for a thriving economy and opportunity for our citizens. We fully understand however that we are a much bigger community now than we were 10 to 15 years ago.

"We now need to pause reevaluate and ensure we are travelling in the right direction to achieve our destination."

Evans said as the organization begins its strategic plan this year, a tailored approach would be taken into consideration.

"We have already begun tailoring our approaches toward economic and community development to ensure we are growing in a responsible manner, and I assure you we will continue to do so even more as we begin mapping out our next strategic plan this year," Evans said.

Community Foundation Grant to Delta Recovery (Press Release)

Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, a nonprofit striving to build a more thriving and inclusive community -- today and for generations to come – by transforming thoughtful generosity into positive change, announces it has awarded Delta Recovery Solutions in Columbia a grant to build a caring community of support around alcoholics, addicts, and their families.

“Good work happens every day in our community through the efforts of dedicated and talented staff and volunteers of nonprofit organizations, and we are happy to support that work,” said Laundria Lewis, VP of Grants at CFMT.

Community Foundation awards discretionary grants annually from its unrestricted and field-of-interest funds through an open application process to Middle Tennessee nonprofit organizations addressing community needs and benefiting the well-being of citizens through valuable programs and innovative services.

Delta Recovery Solutions is a not-for-profit out-patient addiction treatment program serving Maury and surrounding counties. Their program focuses on providing recovery services to alcoholics, addicts, and their families even after their formal treatment program is completed, giving families struck by addiction the resources necessary to leave behind a life of fear and dependency and into a life of freedom and meaning.

“We are honored to be recognized by Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee,” says Delta Recovery Executive Director Matthew White. “They have long been the region’s leader in uniting generous donors with innovative non-profits seeking to make a lasting impact on our community.”

More information on the grant process is online at www.cfmt.org.

Maury Continues Economic Growth (CDH)

Maury County's ongoing growth has continued to make top rankings not only statewide, but in the nation based on a recent study by aggregate data generator SmartAsset.

SmartAsset's recent findings ranked Maury County as the top county in Tennessee under four major investment categories, which include business growth, gross domestic product (GDP) growth, new building permits and incoming investment.

In addition, the county also ranked No. 3 for incoming investment and No. 7 for incoming investment nationally, ranking in the Top 10 in more than 3,000 counties.

The SmartAsset study breaks down investment figures over a three-year period, which demonstrates sustained performance.

The rankings come on the heels of the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance Annual Dinner last week, celebrating a "record-breaking" year in many aspects of local growth, which has been building momentum for over 10 years in Maury County.

“The SmartAsset report findings serve as a capstone to ten years of sustained growth for Maury County," Maury Alliance Vice President Travis Groth said. "It is important to note that results like this would not be possible without teamwork and the strong local, regional, state, and TVA economic development partnerships that have been developed.

"We are proud of Maury County’s economic performance and the positive benefits it has delivered broadly across the local economy. That said, we are even more excited for what’s still to come for Maury County as we transition the focus of our local economic development efforts from community growth to community enhancement. Maury County is a great place to live and do business and that is getting truer every day."

Groth added that much of the continued success, which dates back nearly a decade, has been the combination of having a good team, a good location and the reputation for Maury County as a place worth investing in for jobs.

"This is an accumulation of all our efforts along the way, a measurement over time as far as sustainment and investment within the community over time," Groth said. "There is a wealth of opportunities that we at the Maury Alliance are here and happy to help assist on."

And while the latest data has focused on the last three years of investment and job growth, much of Maury County's success can be traced back to almost 10 years, with many factory jobs, growth at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill, as well as opportunities for small business entrepreneurs.

"I think over the next few years you'll see our focus will now be from growth to enhancement, and so we are happy and excited to see the next chapter for Maury County," Groth said. "It's a combination of partnerships that we've not only seen locally, but statewide as well, and Maury County is just a perfect strategic location that's led to some really positive things. This is more of an affirmation than anything else, a real capstone."

Social Worker Joins MRMC (Press Release)

Amanda Ferrara, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, has joined Maury Regional Medical Group (MRMG) and will see patients at the PrimeCare Clinic in Columbia.

Ferrara received her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Prior to joining MRMG, Ferrara worked as a therapist for five years. Ferrara has worked with families and teens and provides an abundance of support in areas of grief, loss and trauma. 

At the PrimeCare Clinic, Ferrara sees patients ages 15 and older. A physician’s referral is required to make an appointment. Ferrara says she is excited to join the practice and begin helping patients in the Columbia area.

PrimeCare Clinic in Suite 301 of the Maury Regional Medical Plaza is a family medicine practice offering health care for all ages. In addition to primary care, PrimeCare Clinic offers behavioral health care services.

At the practice, Ferrara joins Family Nurse Practitioner Loretta Davidson, as well as Physician Assistants Josefine Luna, PA-C and Miranda Wood, PA-C.

The practice is located at 854 West James Campbell Boulevard, Suite 301, in Columbia. Hours are Monday–Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information, call 931.540.4140 or visit MauryRegional.com/PrimeCare.

 

Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year (Press Release)

On January 20th, Boys and Girls Clubs of South Central Tennessee came together for their first local Youth of the Year celebration event! Youth from across the organization, representing both Giles & Maury County, competed by preparing essays and speeches that they presented to a panel of external judges for scoring. Judges included representatives from KCS Building Group, Stan McNabb Chevrolet, and UT Southern.

Boys and Girls Clubs are excited to announce that Giles County High School student Talajuwon "Ty" Robinson was selected (based on a unanimous decision from the judging panel) as the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Tennessee 2024 Youth of the Year! In March, Ty will travel to Nashville to compete with other Club youth from across the state for the title of Tennessee Youth of the Year.

"As an advocate for my local Boys & Girls Club, I am deeply committed to fostering a positive and nurturing environment that empowers our youth to thrive. I believe in the transformative power of mentorship, education, and community involvement; I am thankful to have experienced this first hand,” said Robinson

Stay tuned for the results of Ty's journey to Nashville for the statewide competition next month! Congratulations, Ty! Your Boys & Girls Club family is already so proud of your accomplishments.

The Well Outreach Fundraiser (Press Release)

Join The Well Outreach on February 10th, for "A Night of  Hope" at the renowned World Wide Stages in Spring Hill, TN!

 

This will be an evening like none other as they are joined by special guests (award-winning Christian music artist) Michael W. Smith and Helen Smallbone (mother of for KING & COUNTRY and Rebecca St. James).

 

Proceeds from "A Night of Hope" will bring hope to hungry families throughout Middle Tennessee as The Well Outreach prepares to open a second Food Pantry location in Mount Pleasant, TN! 

Join The Well Outreach as they come together to provide HOPE to our community in need. Tickets are available individually or by the table.

Learn more by visiting www.thewelloutreach.org.

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

Mr. Gary Wayne Jackson, 46, died Friday, February 2, 2024, at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville, TN. The family of Mr. Jackson will visit with friends on Thursday, February 8, 2024 from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia, TN  

Maggie Lee Anderson McMeen, 97, resident of the Hampshire community, passed away Sunday, February 4, 2024 at NHC Columbia. 

Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, February 8, 2024 at 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Sheboss Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.

…And now, news from around the state…

State of the State (Tennessean)

Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly warmly received Gov. Bill Lee’s budget priorities for the year during his State of the State address on Monday: a $1.6 billion in tax breaks for businesses, and a controversial $141.5 million statewide school choice voucher program.

Lee touted Tennessee as an “economic powerhouse,” and “the center of the automotive universe,” and praised the legislature’s conservative fiscal management and investments in workforce development. He outlined plans to make new investments in rural health care access, and protect musicians from misused artificial intelligence.

But spectators regularly booed from the House galleries as Lee outlined these budget priorities on Monday ― particularly his call to pass an expanded statewide school voucher program. 

Instead, Democrats called on colleagues to pass a budget that prioritizes working families ― not corporations and private school interests.

Among Lee's top policy priorities this year are reforming the state's franchise tax to offer $1.6 billion in tax breaks for businesses, and a controversial $141.5 million statewide school choice voucher program.

Lee is also backing policy reforms aimed at preventing misuse of artificial intelligence in songwriting, new funding for rural healthcare access, and new funding for land conservation. Unlike in recent years, Lee's proposal does not include any tax cuts for consumers, such as the three-month grocery tax holiday he backed last year.

First lady Maria Lee sat in the front row to watch her husband deliver his State of the State address. Last year, Maria Lee was absent from the House chamber as she prepared for a bone marrow transplant amid a serious cancer battle.

The governor grew emotional on Monday night as he recalled his wife's absence and precarious health in 2023.

"Last year, for the first time since I became governor, she was unable to attend the state of the state address in-person," Lee said. "That night, we didn’t know just how remarkable her healing journey would turn out to be. Maria and I want to thank all of you – here tonight and across the state – for your love, for your encouragement, and most of all, for your prayers for healing."

Gas Prices (MSM)

For the second week in a row, Tennessee gas prices have become more expensive. Over last week, pump prices moved five cents more expensive, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $2.84 which is 13 cents more expensive than one month ago but 36 cents less than one year ago.  

“Last week we saw pump prices rise fairly quickly early in the week, however, we have seen our state gas price average consistently decline since Friday,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Right now fluctuating oil prices and higher gasoline demand are contributing to higher pump prices. It’s likely that drivers will continue to see fluctuating prices this week. If crude oil prices move more expensive, drivers may see pump prices rise again this week.”

Quick Facts

23% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $2.75 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.61 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.12 for regular unleaded

Tennessee fell to the 16th least expensive market in the nation

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The coolest thing you can do all year is participate in the Muletown Polar Plunge on February 25 to help fund the Special Olympics for Area 6. Dubbed Freezin’ for a Reason, the event helps support the special needs athletes who compete in the Special Olympics. Their goal this year is $20,000. So far, they have raised $1,500. 

With a minimum entry fee of $75, $50 for students, each plunger will receive an official “Freezin’ for a Reason” t-shirt and “all bragging rights associated with taking the frigid plunge.” The more funds raised by an individual, the more swag they will receive. There is a $10 down payment fee to participate. Register at www.classy.org/event/muletown-polar-plunge-2024.

People can plunge as individuals or part of a team. Costumes are strongly encouraged. There will be for the best costumes and themes. 

The Polar Plunge will take place at Muletown Rec at 1446 Oak Springs Drive in Columbia. Registration/check-in will begin at noon, and the plunge will take place at 1:00 p.m. 


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