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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for January 24, 2024


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


We start with local news…

School Closings (Press Release)

Maury County Public Schools will open two hours late on Wednesday, January 24. The delayed opening will allow the MCPS bus drivers and student and parent drivers to have full daylight while traversing roads with potential remaining ice buildup, slush, or snow. Maury County Public Schools Bus Drivers will use discretion and only travel on roads that are safe. All Boys & Girls Club locations will be open for after-school care.

All after-school athletics, practices, and extracurriculars will resume as normal. 

For surrounding counties: Giles County is closed today, Hickman is delayed 2 hours, Lawrence county is closed, Lewis is opening 2 hours late, and Marshall County is opening 2 hours late.

Animal Shelter Seeks New Director (MSM)

The Maury County Animal Shelter (MCAS) is looking for its next director after parting ways with Kaitlyn Stewart, who had held the title since December 2022.

Stewart has worked at the shelter since 2015, when she began as a part-time employee before working her way up to office manager then being elevated to director.

“Our intention is to ensure that MCAS is a great place for the animals and for public service,” Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt said. “I know the former director cares deeply for the animals and the future of MCAS. I have never doubted that. However, at this time we will be searching for a new director with management and proven leadership skills.”

According to the job description posted to the county’s website, the Animal Services Director will lead and manage all aspects of the animal shelter operations of Maury County Animal, ensuring that all animal care programs are conducted in a humane and compassionate manner.

Strong consideration will be given to candidates who possess strong interpersonal, organizational and decision making skills and demonstrate excellent communication skills as this position serves as a liaison between the governing body and government officials, agencies, civic groups, etc.

Allegations of abuse and negligence at the Maury County Animal Shelter were brought before the Maury County Health and Environment Committee at its meeting on Jan. 2, but county leadership maintained progress was being made in those areas at the time.

Mayor Butt said the county needs an expanded facility and more employees to handle the animal control issues as the county continues to grow at a rapid pace.

“Maury County Animal Services is not a TCA mandated service,” she said. “It is a service that the county renders to the public with no state funding. It is paid for with property taxes. There are rural counties in Tennessee that still don’t have Animal Services.

“We are very fortunate to have MCAS and I am committed to having personnel and volunteers who want to see the shelter survive and the animals thrive. I hope the people of Maury County are as well.”

Butt said in the January meeting she would stand behind Stewart because she had only been in the job for a short period of time and felt like she and the staff are working to improve conditions. Now, the mayor has chosen to move forward with a search for a new director.

“This change is being made with the new direction we want MCAS to take in mind. With the growth in Maury County, and the additional pressing need for all kinds of animal services, the decision was made to make personnel changes that will move MCAS forward and make it the best it can be,” she said.

Until a new director is hired, Deputy Director Makayla Vandiver will serve in the position. To apply for the position, visit maurycounty-tn.gov.

City Gets Clean Audit (CDH)

Data from the city's latest popular annual financial report shows not only a clean audit for 2023, but financial gains and budget increases compared to 2022.

The report was compiled by City Financial Officer Thad Jablonski, who also serves as assistant city manager and city recorder, as well as the city's finance team. The full report can be accessed via the City of Columbia website's archive center.

The city's government fund balance was estimated at $63.5 million, an increase of about $12 million compared to 2022's $52.5 million.

"Revenues are up and we've really held the line across the organization, our governmental funds, enterprise funds as well as our sewer funds," Jablonski said. "It was a good year."

A popular annual financial report, or PAFR, compiles the city's financial data over the last fiscal year ending June 30, 2023, and is presented in a more digestible, easy-to-read fashion. This includes major financial figures, budget numbers, as well as capital projects and a better transparency for citizens on how taxpayer money is spent.

The report also ensures the city maintains an Aa2 credit rating and an AA+ rating by Standard & Poor (S&P) first affirmed in 2020.

"It is our intent that the report provides Columbia citizens with better access and greater insight into the city's financial activities," Jablonski stated in the report. "It identifies revenue resources and describes how they are spent in a financially responsible manner. Although financial figures in the PAFR come from an audited source, they are presented in a condensed, unaudited format."

According to the report, all governmental funds increased approximately 11.7%, or $6.3 million, with the majority generated from taxes, which made up 61.3% of all revenues during the 2023 fiscal year.

This was partly due to the city's continued population increase, which fed into the city's ability to increase residential and commercial development.

For example, local sales tax revenue generated an 8.3% increase, or $1.4 million stemming from a growing retail climate.

"Our tax revenue showed very good signs in terms of year-over-year increases," Jablonski said.

The city's total debt also decreased by $2.3 million, including proprietary funds such as sewer, power and water systems.

"The increase is due primarily to increased revenues over expenditures across major and non-major governmental funds," the report states. "In addition to strong revenue growth during 2023, containment measures implemented to stay within the current revenues provided for decreased expenditures. The positive economic climate evidenced by increased residential and commercial development also drove record sales and business tax collections."

The report also compiles the city's annual employment rate, as well as data reflecting an increase in overall building permits.

Columbia's overall employment rate in September showed an approximate 0.1% increase compared to 2022, or 2.9% compared to the statewide average of 3.6%.

A few of Columbia's top employers include Maury Regional Medical Center (3,200), Maury County Public Schools (1,886) and Tennessee Farm Bureau (698), along with Maury County Government (510) and Columbia State Community College (512).

Since 2020, the data indicates an estimated 3,400 jobs have been created in Maury County, with $4.8 billion in capital investment.

Building permits in 2023 also increased at 2,588 compared to 2,309 in 2022. This also included a total valuation at approximated $290.5 million in 2023 compared to $205.3 million in 2022.

According to Smart Asset's 2022 rankings, Maury County ranks second in Tennessee and within the top 5% in the U.S. for counties receiving incoming investment.

Among the city's upcoming capital projects highlighted in 2023, the top items were the upcoming renovations to Fire Station No. 1, with an estimated cost of $4.882 million and is set to begin by the end of January.

Other top projects include a $1.2 million investment for a new Public Works storage and fuel facility, as well as the recently completed South Garden Street streetscape, which totaled $2.1 million. Funding for these projects came from the city's General Fund reserves.

Columbia is also continuing its largest project in the city's history to construct a new Wastewater Treatment Plant, a $95 million project, as well as a new $8.255 million pump station at Bear Creek Pike and $240,000 in various other Public Works projects.

"Everything is moving along. All of our projects are either under construction, or about to start," Jablonski said. "And we've got some other things in the cooker as well that we're excited about."

Mid-State Classic Tickets (Press Release)

Tickets for the 8th Annual Midstate Classic Collegiate Softball Tournament, happening on April 2, 2024, are now on sale. Hosted by the City of Columbia, the Midstate Classic is held annually at Ridley Sports Complex, one of the top recreational complexes in the state. This year's Midstate Classic will feature the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers facing off against the University of Memphis Tigers at 5:30 PM. Earlier that day, Columbia Central softball will play Spring Hill High School softball at 10:00 AM. Also, Columbia State Community College Lady Chargers will be playing the University of Tennessee Southern Lady Firehawks at 1:30 PM. Tickets to the Midstate Classic are $10 and will cover admission to all three games. Tickets can be purchased in advance at https://www.columbiatn.com/686/Midstate-Classic.

UT and Columbia State have been participating in the Midstate Classic since 2014, making this their eighth appearance. This annual event at Ridley Sports Complex has become a staple in the community's calendar, drawing support from locals and fans across the state. It provides the opportunity for fans to experience collegiate-level softball at all ages.

For questions regarding the Midstate Classic, please call (931) 388-8119.

SizeUpMaury (Press Release)

Maury Alliance is launching SizeUpMaury on its website on February 2nd making powerful market research and business intelligence available to all local businesses.

Businesses in Maury County can now access industry-specific and hyperlocal information to help them grow and make smarter decisions using Big Data analysis. The research is individually customized for each company. By using SizeUpMaury local businesses are able to:

 

Rank their business performance compared to industry competitors

Discover potential customers, suppliers, and better understand their competitive landscape

Optimize advertising to target ideal customer segments

SizeUpMaury helps to level the competitive business playing field by providing small businesses with market research that typically only large corporations could afford to access by contracting multinational management consulting companies or hiring internal research analysts.

“In today’s information economy, if you don’t have access to information your business is at a significant disadvantage. With the launch of SizeUpMaury on our website, we are empowering small businesses in Maury County to be able to make data-driven decisions,” said Wil Evans, President & CEO of Maury Alliance. 

SizeUp uses big data, cloud computing, and computer algorithms to deliver custom analysis for local businesses. The data comes from hundreds of public and proprietary data sources covering firmographic, demographic, geographic, labor, wage, cost, consumer spending, transportation, and more.

“Maury Alliance is committed to helping locally-owned businesses succeed. They are the foundation of our local economy, employ our residents, create new jobs, and make our community a more prosperous place. Launching SizeUpMaury on our website is just one more way we are supporting local businesses and hopefully setting them up for success,” said Wil Evans, President & CEO of Maury Alliance. 

This new service provided by Maury Alliance is completely free for local businesses to use and is available anytime through the Maury Alliance website at www.mauryalliance.com. For a demonstration of SizeUpMaury, you are invited to the official Launch Event on February 2nd at 8:30 am. Visit www.mauryalliance.com/sizeupmaury to register.

Justice Center Time Capsule (Press Release)

The Maury County Historical Society has been granted permission by the Maury County Commission to place a time capsule in the new Maury County Justice Center currently under construction. A selection committee has been created and is ready to receive items. If you have something small and Maury County related you would like to donate, contact Eric Previti at (931) 626-9878 or epreviti@icloud.com.

Maury Alliance Annual Meeting (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance on Tuesday, January 30th for their most anticipated event of the year as they celebrate their accomplishments for 2023 and recognize the transition of their volunteer leadership. 

This will be a lively night of entertainment and networking celebrating business and industry in Maury County with dinner and beverages by It's Chef Jess and live music featuring The Velvet Troubadours.

Purchase tickets to the Maury Alliance Annual Meeting now to guarantee a seat at their biggest event of the year!!

The event will take place from 5-8pm on January 30th at the Memorial Building, located at 308 W. 7th Street in Columbia.

For more information visit www.mauryalliance.com.

Spring Hill Census (CDH)

Spring Hill has launched a new special census for citizens with the goal of generating enough population numbers to receive up to $2 million in additional annual federal funding.

Residents can participate in the census by logging onto the city's website at www.SpringHillTN.org.

Earlier this month, Mayor Jim Hagaman commented on the importance of the census during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen's Jan. 2 work session meeting.

"I would ask that you citizens take it seriously and fill it out, which is incredibly simple. You go to our website and simply type in how many people live in your house, and your done, just like that," Hagaman said. "It's very important because it will translate into dollars that we get in our coffers to do projects we need to do and/or want to do."

The city last conducted a special census in 2020, and the decision to launch a new one is due to the continued exponential growth Spring Hill has generated over the last four years. It will also play a vital role in accomplishing much-needed projects, hiring more staff members and more.

"Since the 2020 Census, the City of Spring Hill is estimated to have increased in population by roughly 10,000 people which could earn the city an additional $2 million in funding," The city's website states.

If the estimated numbers are met with the new census, the additional moneys could be used for things like:

Hiring additional firefighters and public safety staff

Street maintenance

Infrastructure improvements

Courthouse Commemorating 120 Years (Press Release)

Maury County Government has been awarded a $5,000 matching grant from the South Central Tennessee Development District.

The Arts Build Communities, or “ABC,” grant will help the county commemorate the historic Maury County Courthouse as it celebrates 120 years of service to the community in 2024.

The grant will fund a community juried art competition open to Maury County citizens of all ages.

According to a press release, the theme will focus on "What does the courthouse represent to its citizens?" Citizens are invited to use their artistic abilities to design an original piece of art (all genres are welcome) that interprets what the Maury County Courthouse means.

“The Maury County Courthouse is an iconic and historic structure for the state of Tennessee.”

“Built by local architect J.E.R. Carpenter, before he went on to great fame as one of the leading architects of luxury high-rise living in New York City, this building has been the central focus of Maury County since it was built in 1904. It symbolizes much to our community. This grant is a wonderful opportunity to allow the citizens of the county to interpret and express what the building represents.”

Maury County citizens will have from now until March 22nd to submit their artwork to the Maury County Archives' temporary location at 1446 Oak Springs Drive, Suite 100 (the far end of Muletown Rec).

Art will be juried in four age categories: elementary, secondary, high school and adults ages 18 and over. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place for each category, and one grand-prize winner will be announced during Mule Day on April 6, 2024.

Rules for artist submissions include:

Artwork must be original.

All art intended for wall-mounting (drawings/paintings etc.) in the 18+ category must be submitted in a frame and wired for hanging.

All submitted art must be accompanied by a card with the artist's name, contact information, category, title and medium.

All art must be submitted by 3 p.m. Friday, March 22.

Art will be juried by five esteemed artists which include local photographers Sarah Gilliam and Ross Jaynes, as well as painters James Spearman and Margaret Warfield and sculptor Jennifer Grisham.

The winning submissions will be displayed at the courthouse during the 2024 Mule Day festivities. All submitted artwork will be placed on display at the Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Community College from May 13th-June 14th. The exhibit will open with be a gallery reception on May 13th.

For more information about the contest, contact the Maury County Archives at (931) 375-1500.

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

Mrs. Lynda June Coffey Briggs, 82, resident of Columbia, TN, and retired secretary for Highland Church of Christ, passed away Friday, January 19, 2024 at NHC Columbia.

Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, January 27, 2024 at 10:00 A.M.at Highland Church of Christ. Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Friday, January 26, 2024 from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Mr. George Allen Clanton, 92, retired employee of Occidental Company and resident of Columbia, died January 12th at Meadowbrook Nursing Home in Pulaski. The family will visit with friends Saturday, January 27th at 11:00 A.M. followed by a memorial service at 11:30 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Mr. Jerry Allen Uzzell, 82, resident of Culleoka, and retired employee of Lewis County Middle School, passed away Monday, January 22, 2024 at NHC Columbia. Funeral services will be conducted Sunday, January 28, 2024 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.. Burial will follow at Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Saturday, January 27, 2024 from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. 

…And now, news from around the state…

TN Joins Free Speech Fight (Tennessean)

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, along with 23 other attorneys general and the Arizona legislature, filed an amicus brief last week in support of the National Rifle Association’s free speech case against a New York official.

The case centers on a New York state financial regulator who allegedly tried to deny the gun organization access to financial services because of its controversial political advocacy in 2018.

In the brief, the attorneys general ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court ruling that Maria Vullo, who was the superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services in 2018, did not stifle the NRA’s free speech rights when she allegedly targeted the group by issuing "formal  guidance  letters  and  a  press  release  urging  every bank  and  insurance  company in New York State to ‘sever their ties’ with ‘the NRA or similar gun  promotion  organizations,’” according to court documents.

The NRA initially won the case when a district court ruled that the threats and inducements Vullo used to coerce financial institutions to cut ties with the NRA were sufficient to claim as a violation of the First Amendment. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that Vullo had not violated the NRA’s free speech rights and had performed normal business practices.

In the brief, the attorneys general ask the Supreme Court to hear the case again to "protect Americans’ right to free speech from government officials."

“The power of government must never be used to suppress dissenting ideas, whether directly or indirectly,” Skrmetti said in a statement. “I am proud to join this coalition of 23 states supporting our First Amendment rights.”

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will offer perspective on country music’s latest chapter with the opening of American Currents: State of the Music on Wednesday, Feb. 28. The exhibit runs until February 2025 in the museum’s ACM Gallery.

Presented annually, American Currents takes a broad view of the genre over the past year to explore musical developments, artist achievements and notable events, as determined by the museum’s curators and editorial staff.

“Through the 8th annual American Currents exhibit, the museum looks at the country music landscape through a wide-angle lens — encompassing developments in mainstream country, Americana, bluegrass and related roots music,” said Kyle Young, chief executive officer of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Our curators and historians examine the year’s major events and achievements, allowing the museum to assemble an exhibit that reflects the genre’s current impact, history and continued evolution.”

Featured in American Currents is a selection of artists, musicians, songwriters and initiatives that figured prominently in country music in 2023. This year’s exhibition will include Oliver Anthony, Kelsea Ballerini, Sam Bush, Tyler Childers, Luke Combs, S.G. Goodman, Nat Myers, Nickel Creek, Joy Oladokun, Jelly Roll, Allison Russell, Shucked (the Broadway musical scored by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally), SistaStrings, Billy Strings, Taylor Swift, Molly Tuttle, Morgan Wallen, Kelsey Waldon, The War And Treaty, Lucinda Williams and Lainey Wilson.

In support of the exhibition’s opening, the museum will host related programming including a Songwriter Session with Kelsey Waldon on March 2 and a Musician Spotlight with C.J. Lewandowski on March 3. Visit the museum’s website www.countrymusichalloffame.org, for more details on the programs and exhibit.


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