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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 9, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Yellen Visit To Ultium (WKOM Audio 2:51)

Yesterday afternoon, United States Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen visited the Ultium Cells Battery plant in Spring Hill. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the event and got to hear her remarks…

Spring Hill Shooting Suspects Arrested (MainStreetMaury)

Two arrests have been made in connection with a shooting that took place on Jan. 26 in the area of Saturn Parkway and Port Royal Road in Spring Hill.

According to a press release from the Spring Hill Police Department, 24-year-old Juan Salas of Spring Hill and 20-year-old Nathan Grove of Columbia have been charged with attempted second-degree murder, possession of a weapon during a dangerous felony and reckless endangerment. Grove was also charged with tampering with evidence. SHPD said the motive appears to be a road-rage incident.

On Jan. 26, officers were dispatched to the 4600 block of Port Royal Road at 10:30 p.m. after receiving calls concerning someone shooting a gun. According to SHPD, witnesses stated they heard several gunshots and saw an individual standing outside of what appeared to be a dark-colored SUV.

Officers were unable to locate any victims or vehicles at the time. Soon after, the individual in the car being shot at reportedly returned and spoke to police, who identified bullet holes in the vehicle. No one was injured in the shooting.

Salas and Grove are currently in custody at the Maury County Jail. A court date was not immediately available.

Spring Hill Fire Station #4 (CDH)

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen examined designs for the proposed Fire Station 4 this week, which staff promises to be a much-needed upgrade to Spring Hill Fire Department's growing needs.

The need for a new station has been in the works for many years, beginning around 2018-2019. Fire Chief Graig Temple said he hopes the process will not take that much longer now that a design is on the table. As of now, the station is expected to open and be fully operational at the corner of Duplex and Buckner roads by November of 2024.

"This is truly going to be a hub for the community," Temple said. "We are looking for this building to be a 50-year plan, and so it's going to be around for a long time."

The new 17,023 square-foot station's proposed design, created by Renaissance Group consulting firm, will keep the traditional fire hall look and feel, but with a whole lot more resources available for staff, as well as office space for Spring Hill Police personnel. This includes individual dorm rooms for staff, four drive-thru bays, spaces for training and an in-house gym.

Other features include a commercial kitchen, as well as a conference room that doubles as an emergency storm shelter. The station will also be dedicated to the memory of former firefighter Mitchell Earwood, who died May 3, 2020 while off duty.

As far as the public benefit, Station 4 will also create an immediate impact on SHFD's response times, Temple added. It will also allow the opportunity to hire 15 new firefighters, which has been another need for the department.

"Once Station 4 is up and running we're expecting to see about a 25% decrease in response times, specifically in that area, as well as other areas in providing need to those other stations," Temple said. "The hiring for the firefighters at this station also needs to be staggered. We'd like to try and hire six in January, and then the other nine in July, which allows us to do promotions for other positions, and also get these folks on board and ready to work as this station is ready to open."

Mayor Jim Hagaman jokingly asking Temple if there will also be a traditional fire pole. Temple replied, saying a fire pole will be part of the design, he and his staff just aren't sure who'll be brave enough to try it out first.

"It's a tradition to install a fire pole. Aesthetically it's going to be very pleasing, and it's also going to be very functional," Temple said. "We're taking bets on who's going to be the first one that wants to go down. During an open house, I think it's going to be a lot of fun to see that."

The project is expected to break ground in October, with a construction cost estimated at $6 million.

However, some city staff raised concerns whether city could afford it given the need for other capital projects, such as addressing the city's water capacity issues, multiple roadway projects, as well as a new library and police headquarters.

"I am overjoyed with this plan, but what I am not overjoyed with is the cash flow situation we need to look at," City Administrator Pam Caskie said. "Whether we can get there in exactly the time frame the chief would like to get there is an unknown. Another thing we are all dealing with right now is the increasing cost of everything."

The site plan design will appear as part of a resolution later this month, where the BOMA will vote its recommendation to be considered by the planning commission. Once approved, the planning commission will review the design and resubmit the design to the BOMA with its recommendation to approve or deny.

CSCC Students Win Science Competition (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College students led by Dr. Elvira Eivazova recently won second place in the microbiology category at the 132nd Tennessee Academy of Science meeting.


Columbia State biology research students Miriam Galindo from Brentwood, Annaleisa Matzirakis from Franklin and James Bautista from Chapel Hill presented their research findings at the 132nd Tennessee Academy of Science meeting held at Tennessee State University. Galindo received second place for her oral presentation titled, “Commonalities of tRNA Present in Cluster A Mycobacteriophage Genomes and Their Effects on M. Tuberculosis Infection.” Matzirakis and Bautista also received second place for a poster presentation titled, “Translational Frame Shift in the Tail Assembly Chaperone Genes in the Novel Bacteriophage SeaWolves.”

“We are so proud of our students’ accomplishments and always appreciate an opportunity to represent Columbia State at different scholarly events,” said Eivazova, Columbia State associate professor of biology and undergraduate biology research coordinator. 

The presentations, which were reviewed rigorously by an expert panel, focused on the uppermost cutting edge of biomedicine, a field dedicated to the discovery and study of novel bacteria-infecting viruses, with the goal of fighting multi-drug resistant microbes. The students were also invited to present at the annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

The Tennessee Academy of Science, founded in 1912, is an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, seeks to promote scientific research in the state of Tennessee. As a nonprofit organization, they organize symposia, manage programs in varying fields and communicate with the national scientific culture. They also work to diversify the science field by associating with the public and members of other academic arenas. 

For more information on the Tennessee Academy of Science, visit 

The Columbia State biology department has two courses with discovery and project-based research components, Honors General Biology and Biology Research, which are conducted in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The courses are designed to provide an authentic research experience for students with little to no prior lab skills. For more information, visit


Spring Hill Haven (WKOM Audio 2:00)

A new rental home in Spring Hill called Spring Hill Haven has opened for use to anyone who wants to explore and learn more about Spring Hill and Middle Tennessee. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting to learn more…

Hen House Food Truck (CDH)

Chef Nic Jones, hails from Napa Valley, California bringing healthy whole food options to Columbia by way of his new food truck Hen House, offering gourmet items from upscale crisp potatoes and roasted beets to herb-grilled chicken, using Argentinian-inspired cooking techniques.

At Hen House food truck in Columbia, parked at 609 Garden Street this week, customers can eat the rainbow, including beets with goat cheese crema, mandarin oranges drizzled with chili oil and grilled Crimini mushrooms from Mellow Nomad Mushrooms in Maury County, all served with a hearty portion of roasted chicken.

"We want to elevate the food culture in Columbia, bringing a fresher, different type of food," Jones said. "We have people who try our food and say, 'I never liked beets until today.'

"If God put food on this earth, you just need to know how to prepare it."

And with an extensive culinary background in the kitchen and on the farm, Jones brings his expertise in how to prepare the local food Columbia farms have to offer.

Jones guarantees that if you grew up on fried chicken, you'll love his juicy oven roasted chicken, finished on the grill, pressed by a brick to create a perfectly crispy skin. And if you like fried potatoes, you'll love his crispy patata bravas topped with homemade lime aioli. As for the beets, Jones cooks them plancha-style, using a cast iron flattop grill to make sure the sugars are caramelized for a balanced sweet and savory taste.

Jones first began his almost 25-year career in cuisine working under the tutelage of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck as part of his catering company. He then went on to serve as executive chef at acclaimed restaurant Goose & Gander in St. Helena, California, which uses fresh ingredients from its own gardens close by.

Jones and wife Jada moved to Columbia almost two years ago, when Nic first worked for a catering company in Nashville, but the couple finally decided to bring their own culinary venture to Columbia.

"We are not city people, " Nic Jones said. "We wanted to be close enough to the city but far enough that it didn't feel like the city."

Impressed with the friendly people and the local farm scene when the couple first visited Southern Middle Tennessee, they thought, "This is it," he said.

'We felt like we'd have a bright future here," Jones said.

Starting that bright future and a family, the couple welcomed their first child last year.

"When my wife was pregnant, we had a hard time finding healthy organic food," Jones said. "So we thought, let's create our own place."

Nic Jones said his style of cooking is fresh farm-inspired whole food, cooked for the seasons and as organic as possible.

"The concept is to work with the local farms out here," he said.

Just a few of those farms include True Blue Farm in Southern Middle Tennessee, Taylor Family Farm in Ethridge, Tennessee, Pig & Leaf Farm in Lewis County, The Farm and Fiddle in Santa Fe, Allenbrooke Farms in Spring Hill, Red Thread Farm north of Leiper's Fork and Mellow Nomad Mushrooms in Maury County.

With an array of fresh produce, perfectly seared mushrooms and local chicken, Jones loves to conjure herb pesto and chimichurri sauces, while using a brick to quick sear his quarter or half chickens, all of which have a Spanish and Argentinian influence.

In addition to training in the kitchen and at culinary schools Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena and Culinary Institute of America in Napa, Jones has also received extensive training directly on the farm as head of the charcuterie program at the 650-acre Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, a cattle ranch and winery in St. Helena, California. He is also a sommelier with a wine studies degree.

Even though the most people Jones has cooked for in a day is around 10,000 with the Puck team, at large events such as The Grammy's and The Rose Bowl, for example, he wants to nourish the people of Columbia by offering healthy, whole, organic food, farm-to-truck, at Hen House.

"Working at big scale venues, allows you to learn to work under pressure really well," Jones said.

"We absolutely love the community support, and the community has been so welcoming to newcomers. We've been blown away."

Hen House is taking Super Bowl preorders for chicken wings, offering Vietnamese Sticky Wings, with sweet chili and honey, fried garlic and scallions and Korean BBQ wings with gochujang, ginger and sesame seeds.

To place your order, email or DM Hen House on Facebook.

This week, Hen House will be parked at 609 Garden St. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and from 12 to 7 p.m. on Friday and Sunday from 12 to 7 p.m. It will be parked at 12th S. Farmer's Market for a Valentine's Day Pop-up on Saturday from 12 to 4 p.m.

…And now, news from around the state…

TN House Speaker Mulls Ed Money (Tennessean)

One of Tennessee's most influential Republican lawmakers says the state should stop accepting the nearly $1.8 billion of federal K-12 education dollars that help provide support for low-income students, English learners and students with disabilities.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton told The Associated Press that he has introduced a bill to explore the idea during this year's legislative session and has begun discussing the idea with Gov. Bill Lee and other key GOP lawmakers.

"Basically, we'll be able to educate the kids how Tennessee sees fit," Sexton said, pointing that rejecting the money would mean that Tennessee would no longer have "federal government interference."

To date, no state has successfully rejected federal education funds even as state and local officials have long grumbled about some of the requirements and testing that at times come attached to the money. Many Republican politicians and candidates at the federal level have also made a habit of calling for the outright elimination of the U.S. Department of Education.

According to Sexton, Tennessee is currently in the financial position to use state tax dollars to replace federal education funds. He pointed to the $3.2 billion in new spending outlined in Gov. Lee's recent budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year as proof that the state could easily cover the federal government's portion.

Federal dollars make up a small slice of Tennessee's K-12 education funding, which had an almost $8.3 billion budget as of fiscal year 2023. Yet the federal money is seen as a key tool to supporting schools in low-income areas and special education.

Sexton says he has been mulling the proposal for a while, but this week, he publicly touted the idea in front of a packed room full of lawmakers, lobbyists and other leaders at the Tennessee Farm Bureau luncheon on Tuesday.

"We as a state can lead the nation once again in telling the federal government that they can keep their money and we'll just do things the Tennessee way," Sexton said at the event. "And that should start, first and foremost, with the Department of Education."

However, he later acknowledged to the AP that such an undertaking had never been accomplished before by a state.

A spokesperson for Lee did not immediately return a request for comment.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally said he was open to the proposal, saying that "federal mandates in the area of education can be overly burdensome."

"McNally thinks a discussion about forgoing this money, a relatively small part of overall education funding, in order to maintain more control over how we educate our Tennessee students is a constructive conversation to have," said spokesperson Adam Kleinheider.

Education Pipeline (Press Release)

The Tennessee Department of Education announced additional registered teacher occupation programs are now available for aspiring educators through Tennessee’s Grow Your Own (GYO) initiative—immediately expanding opportunity to train future teachers and strengthening the teacher pipeline in Tennessee. 


To further strengthen the state’s educator pipeline, two additional educator preparation providers (EPPs) – the University of Memphis and Arete Memphis Public Montessori - have been approved to offer teacher apprenticeships, bringing additional educator talent to the state to increase high-quality academic opportunities for Tennessee students.

For programmatic inquiries, contact

Final Story of the Day (Tennessean)

Fresh off of last year's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, new wave greats Duran Duran have announced a 2023 North American tour, and the trek includes the band's first concert in Nashville in seven years.

Duran Duran's "Future Past" tour — named for their 2021 album — will stop at Bridgestone Arena on June 13.

Ticket presales will be offered to the band's "VIP Community" fan club, Citi cardmembers and more from February 13-15. General on-sale begins at 10 a.m. Thursday, February 16.

The band will be joined for the entire tour by British pop/rock group Bastille (known for their 2010s hits "Pompeii" and "Happier") and disco/funk mastermind Nile Rodgers, who fronts a modern version of his legendary band, Chic.


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