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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 8, 2024

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


Maury Dems to hold March convention (Press Release)

The Maury County Democratic Party (MCDP) will hold its quadrennial County Convention on March 16, 2024, when the MCDP will kick off its efforts to re-elect President Biden and support Democratic candidates for state elections at all levels.

The Convention will be held at the Dr. Christa Secrest Martin Recreation Center in Fairview Park, 871 Iron Bridge Road in Columbia, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Doors will open at 11 and business will start at noon. A monthly open meeting of the Maury County Democratic Party will be called to order after the convention.

The MCDP Convention is part of the process for electing “selectors.” Selectors will choose Democratic National Convention delegates on April 6 at the Congressional District Convention. The location and time for the Congressional District Convention will be announced soon.

Maury County is entitled to pick 29 of the 280 selectors for the Fifth Congressional District. These selectors at the Fifth Congressional District Convention will pick five delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

The Tennessee Democratic Party will choose additional at-large delegates on April 27. The Democratic National Convention will be held in August in Chicago.

Candidates for delegate must declare themselves by March 7. Further information for those wishing to be a candidate for delegate can be found at the Tennessee Democratic Party website (TNDP.org) website under “Delegate Selection.”

To participate in the County Convention, you must have voted in the March 5 Democratic Presidential Primary in Maury County. Voters who will turn 18 between March 6 and Nov. 5 are exempt from that requirement. All Democrats must sign a form pledging to support the Party's presidential nominee.

Democrats are encouraged to pre-register online at maurydems.org/2024convention. The Maury County Democratic Party is the local county affiliate of the Tennessee Democratic Party and represents the interests of tens of thousands of Democratic-leaning voters in the county.

Tennessee Children’s Home announces new president (Press Release)

The Tennessee Children's Home (TCH) is excited to announce its next president as the Board of Trustees has unanimously selected Mike Yuhas as the person to take over leadership of the organization. The transition of this office will begin on April 1, 2024, and will commence no later than June 30, 2024.

“Tennessee Children's Home is a great organization made up of people who are passionate about helping kids. I am thankful and excited for the opportunity to lead these efforts into the future,” Yuhas said.

Yuhas has been with TCH since 1995 and has excelled in every facet of childcare. He has served as an Emergency Shelter Shift Worker, Houseparent, Residential Counselor, Principal, and Program Director. Since 2008, Mike has been Director for the Spring Hill Campus. Mike graduated from Freed-Hardeman University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“Mike has proven himself strong and capable at every level. We are confident that he is the person to lead the Tennessee Children's Home organization to an even brighter future for the children in our care,” said Bruce Gibbs, Chairman of the Board of Tennessee Children’s Home

Mike will be replacing President Brian King, who will be retiring at the end of June. King has served TCH with great distinction for 42 years. He started out being a social worker and in 1998 became the President. During King’s presidency, the home expanded and improved its services throughout the state with campuses in Spring Hill, Henderson, Knoxville, and Clarksville. TCH currently has a census of 96 children and young adults (as of October 2023). TCH will host an event honoring Brian’s commitment and service near the end of his tenure.

“I know Mike Yuhas will do a great job. He has an extensive background in childcare and business management. It’s a good feeling to know that Tennessee Children’s Home is being left in good hands,” King said.

Tennessee Children’s Home began as Tennessee Orphans Home in Maury County in 1909. Currently, the services at Tennessee Children’s Home include group home residential treatment, child and family counseling, and after-care programs. TCH supports, educates and provides Christian out-of-home care for children who are victims of abuse, dependent neglected, orphaned and/or exploited, making all reasonable and practical efforts to provide services to meet their intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual needs. You can find more information about TCH at www.tennesseechildrenshome.org.

Culleoka park grant takes step forward (MS Maury)

Parks & Recreation Director Al Ray presented an update on a $750,000 grant the county has received from the state for improvements to Culleoka Community Park during a Feb. 5 meeting of Maury County's Health & Environment Committee.

Maury County acquired 16 acres on Mooresville Pike for a planned park in 2021. The undeveloped land, bordering a stream, sits just west of the community’s center near the Culleoka Post Office and Culleoka Unit School.

Included in the planned improvements via the Local Parks & Recreation Fund are utilities, parking, signage, lighting, paving, a picnic shelter, playground, restroom and a walking trail with three picnic pads/tables. With a local match and consultant fees, the project is expected to cost just over $1.26 million and the county has three years to complete the project.

A budget amendment related to the grant was sent on to the Budget Committee and should come before the full Commission later this month.

Ray also said his department was working to update its master plan, which was last done in 2019. Public input meetings will be part of the process and those meetings will be announced at a later date.

Steve Thomas, executive director of Maury County Senior Citizens, Inc., presented a request that the county fund the My Ride Maury program for the remainder of the 2023-24 fiscal year and fully fund the program for FY 24-25. The total cost for the remainder of the current fiscal year was estimated at $17,372.

"This program ceased operations in July 2023 because of lack of funding after the grant ran out," Thomas said. ". Mayor Butt called me and said, 'Let's talk about this.' She tasked Doug (Lukonen) and I with creating a proposal."

The My Ride Maury program offered rides to seniors 60 and over who paid a $25 annual fee with a cost of $4 per trip. Rides required three-day notice and were offered Monday through Friday. Volunteers used their personal vehicles and were paid mileage.

From July 2022 through June 2023, My Ride Maury served 42 total clients, with a waiting list of over 60, and made 1,986 total trips covering 26,312 total miles. Most trips were to doctors' offices or other health care providers.

The request was advanced to the Budget Committee for further consideration. If moved on to the full Commission, it would come for a vote in March.

A brief update on Maury County's beleaguered animal shelter was also presented by the interim director.

Makayla Vandiver has been serving as interim director since Kaitlyn Stewart was relieved of her position in late January. The county is currently taking applications for a full-time director.

At the committee's January meeting, allegations of abuse and negligence at the Maury County Animal Shelter were presented by a former volunteer. County Mayor Sheila Butt said at the time she felt the shelter staff was working to improve conditions and needed time to make those improvements.

Butt did not comment during the meeting on her decision to remove the director.

Of 62 total calls in January, Vandiver's report indicated that 32 were in unincorporated areas of Maury County and 23 in Columbia.

Vandiver said the animal shelter had received a $2,000 grant from Best Friends that would be used to pay for drugs and medical supplies. Vandiver also said the shelter could be eligible for up to $20,000 in grant funding next year.

Girl Scout cookie sales ongoing (Press Release)

Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), the largest girl-led organization in the world, announces the launch of the 2024 national Girl Scout Cookie™ season. During this highly anticipated time of the year, girls flex their entrepreneurial muscles and acquire important life skills like goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. All proceeds from cookie sales stay with local councils and troops to power Girl Scouts’ amazing experiences year-round.

Girl Scout Cookies were scheduled to be delivered to their respective counties on Saturday, Feb. 3. Maury County cookies were set to be delivered to WireMasters on North Point Road in Columbia.

This year’s theme, "Unbox the Future," aims to remove social barriers that often keep girls boxed in. When bold, goal-getting Girl Scouts sell a package of cookies, they do much more than what’s seen at face value. Girl Scouts are entrepreneurial powerhouses creating a more equitable future for themselves and the world.

Nearly 700K girls participate in the Girl Scout Cookie Program, which provides vital girl-led entrepreneurial skills that build courage, confidence, and character. As a result, girls obtain limitless barrier-breaking futures outside the box with transferable life skills. Girl Scouts can earn a variety of badges and awards to develop valuable business skills, including Cookie Business badges, Financial Literacy badges, Cookie Entrepreneur Family pins, and Entrepreneur badges.

Councils rely on cookie earnings to run their programming, which supports incredible experiences for girls, such as service projects, troop travel, and summer camp. The 2024 lineup includes classics such as Thin Mints®, Samoas®/Caramel deLites®, Peanut Butter Patties®/Tagalongs®, Adventurefuls® and other fan favorites.

“When people buy Girl Scout Cookies, they’re buying so much more than cookies. Every package of Girl Scout Cookies sold puts girls one step closer to making real change in their own futures, communities, and the world,” said GSUSA Chief Revenue Officer Wendy Lou. “Girls break expectations through the power of the cookie program and open a host of possibilities beyond the box.”

If you know a registered Girl Scout, reach out to her to find out how she's selling cookies. If you don’t know a Girl Scout, check with your local council or visit the online Girl Scout Cookie Finder at www.girlscouts.org/en/cookies/how-to-buy-cookies.html to find a booth and purchase cookies.

Beginning Feb. 16, customers who do not already know a Girl Scout will also be able to purchase cookies to be shipped directly to their homes by entering their zip code into the Girl Scout Cookie Finder. This link can also be used to find a local booth, purchase cookies and/or to donate cookies for local community causes.

You can also text COOKIES to 59618 to stay informed about how to purchase Girl Scout Cookies and other exciting Girl Scout news.

For more than 100 years, Girl Scouts and their enthusiastic supporters have helped ensure the success of the iconic annual cookie program — and they’ve had fun, developed valuable life skills, and made their communities a better place every step of the way.

Charter school to open in Rutherford County (MS-Nashville)

Springs Empower Academy, a K-5 tuition-free public charter school, has announced a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Rutherford County Smyrna Club to operate its school out of the facility opening in the fall of 2024.

The Smyrna Boys & Girls Club operates an afterschool program in its facility during the school year. During regular school hours, the facility is unoccupied, providing an opportunity for Springs Empower Academy to use the facility while construction at its site on Enon Springs Road continues, according to a news release from the school.

According to a school spokesperson, the agreement with the Boys & Girls Club is for two years. There is no finalized construction timeline for the Enon Springs facility, but it is expected to open in the fall of 2026, the spokesperson said.

“Our long-term goal remains to build and open our school on Enon Springs Road,” Springs Empower Academy Executive Director Jared McLeod said. “However, due to construction and financing delays, it was apparent to our team we needed to find an alternative location to begin serving students in the fall of 2024. We see this partnership with the Smyrna Boys & Girls Club as a win-win solution. We will begin serving students and families in the fall of 2024, which has been our primary goal, while also partnering with an outstanding community leader in the Boys & Girls Club.”

Springs Empower Academy will have 10 classrooms serving approximately 250 students in grades K-5 at the Smyrna Boys & Girls Club location, according to the news release.

“The Springs Empower Academy team is ecstatic over the opportunity to provide such a wonderful school environment at the Smyrna Boys & Girls Club,” Springs Empower Academy Principal Shane Wickwire said. “Not only will the interior provide the classroom space we need to serve our students in a personalized atmosphere, but it will also provide the playgrounds and extra-curricular space for healthy minds and bodies.”

The Smyrna Boys & Girls Club will also serve as the afterschool program for students and families that need additional care.

“We heard from many parents during our parent interest meetings that afterschool care is a real need,” McLeod said. “We are happy this partnership provides a solution.”

“We are excited about this partnership,” Boys & Girls Club of Rutherford County CEO Sheryl Chestnutt said. “Not only is it a great use of our space, students may become Club members, and it helps us fulfill our mission. Like Springs Empower Academy, we invest in young people and strive to have a lasting impact in their lives.”

Families who completed the Rutherford Choice open enrollment process or were selected through the lottery have been notified of their enrollment status. Springs Empower Academy will continue to accept applications for a waitlist if additional spots become available.

A virtual meeting for parents is planned for Thursday, Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. to provide more information for the upcoming school year.

Fire Station #1 groundbreaking set (Press Release)

On Monday, February 12th, at 3:00 pm, the City of Columbia is excited to host a ground-

breaking ceremony marking the beginning of a significant project – the renovation and expansion of Fire Station 1. This historic station has been a cornerstone of our community since the late 1970s, faithfully serving and protecting the residents of Columbia. The decision to revitalize Fire Station 1 stems from the leadership of Fire Chief Ty Cobb and City Manager Tony Massey, who recognized the urgent need to enhance the station's capabilities to meet the evolving demands of Columbia's growing population. Their vision for the modernized station reflects the city's commitment to providing top-notch emergency services to residents and visitors of the City of Columbia.

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