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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for January 25, 2024


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


We start with local news…

Maury County Structure Fire (MauryCountySource)

On January 23, Maury County Fire responded to a reported structure fire at 6:38 PM on Hwy 431 in the Pottsville Community.

Arriving units found a shop on fire with a large amount of contents. Due to water shuttle operations, 431 was shut down by Maury County Sheriff’s Office Deputies to keep members from being struck by passing vehicles.

Units operated for approximately two hours. No injuries were reported.

Spring Hill Reviews Development Plan (CDH)

Spring Hill city planners reviewed a proposed concept plan to construct a 58-unit set of townhomes, some of which would serve as live/work residences.

The townhomes would be located on 11.13 acres along the intersection of Twin Lakes Drive and Buckner Lane and was submitted by applicant Ragan Smith. The concept is to provide a blend of live/work townhomes, residential townhomes and single-family homes.

In addition to the residential units, the development will also include several amenities to provide a modern neighborhood feel, such as a community pavilion, dog park, community garden and fire pit.

Since the project is only in the concept plan phase, no votes will be taken on the item at this time, according to the City of Spring Hill planning staff report.

Jay Easter, an architect representing Ragan Smith, said the next phase would be to develop a plan to annex the property, as it currently resides outside of the Spring Hill city limits, as well as zoning requests prior to site plan designs.

"These will be owner-operated with a residential space above, with a commercial space for office or small retail on the first floor," Easter said. "And these will front onto Twin Lakes Drive."

Once approved, the goal is for construction to start sometime in 2025 and conclude in 2027.

As the planning commission began discussions Monday regarding the project, Alderman Trent Linville stated that one of the requirements for a planned development, according to the city's Unified Development Code, is to provide a significant public benefit.

Easter said his team is currently finalizing what that benefit would be specifically, which is partly why the project is still in the concept phase.

"The request for use is fairly different than the surrounding area, which is primarily residential, and especially with a school adjacent to it," Linville said. "Justification for why we should be moving away from that is definitely something I want to be looking for. There is still some work to be done to make sure we have enough to justify this is a substantial benefit."

Alderman Matt Fitterer suggested the item be submitted as a discussion item for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

"Ultimately, I don't think there is any point in us providing a ton of feedback to the applicant without the applicant also getting the opportunity to get it from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen," Fitterer said.

The development, in its current design, proposes to include approximately 105 on-street parking spaces, some of which would serve as parallel spaces at the front of the homes.

This drew concerns from some planners, particularly Jonathan Duda, who said the parallel spaces would pose a safety hazard in regard to school traffic.

"My comment would be to seriously reconsider on-street parking at Twin Lakes Drive, or Austin's Way, which is the main road for 16- and 17-year-olds to drive to school, and school buses," Duda said. "I understand the traffic calming nature of parallel parking, but I just don't see that being viable in this scenario."

Planning Commission Vice-Chair James Golias agreed, saying that while public parking is needed for the live/work units, having it fronting a road which experiences heavy volumes of school traffic should be reconsidered.

"Maybe it would make more sense if the live/work was internal, maybe across from the stormwater detention or the park," Golias said. "It kind of gets it off the main thoroughfare and gives more of a destination. From a parking standpoint, it may help mitigate some of that on-street parking on Twin Lakes Drive with an opportunity where there is less traffic."

Maury County Schools Updates Vacation Policy (MSM)

The Maury County School Board has updated its vacation policy for 10-month transportation employees to include 10 days of paid vacation, fixing an error made which previously allowed for both holidays and vacations.

The Board met Jan. 2 to vote on the changes, with members unanimously agreeing to grant employees vacation and sick days rather than holidays.

Maury County Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ventura said the error was made last summer when creating a 210 day calendar rather than 200.

“From all the information we have gathered and from everyone we have talked to, these employees used to have no paid holidays,” Ventura said. “They had vacation and sick days and that is what they really wished to have.”

Ventura said she met with transportation employees to solicit feedback on the changes.

“There was no formal survey done. However, at least four members of my staff and myself have met with bus attendance, bus monitors, bus drivers and the dispatch crew,” she said.

Board member Bettye Kinser, who represents District 2, said vacation days should be paid across the board.

“I think if you pay people for their vacation days you have to do it across the board,” she said. “Everybody is important. There’s got to be equity here, so I think that opens up a huge can of worms and I think if you pay out every employee we have then it’s going to be a budgetary issue.”

District 5 member Laura Nutt suggested adding a bonus for the percentage of pay collected at the end, which she said could be an incentive.

“The reason why I say that, is to give them incentive to actually work those vacation days,” she said. “I know that’s a problem I’ve heard mentioned is that there’s a lot of inconvenient vacation days being taken, so I just thought an incentive of that form might benefit us.”

Any unused sick or vacation days will be paid out to employees at the end of the year, which would help in bridging the gap during the summer months. Ventura said the policy change will go into effect immediately.

The board will next meet Tuesday, Jan. 23 for a special called meeting in which they will vote on a gym floor covering bid for multiple schools and a weight room bid for the new Battle Creek High School.

Revive Day Spa (WKOM Audio 2:00)

Yesterday, Revive My Skin Day Spa held their grand opening. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy stopped by the ribbon cutting to see what the new day spa has to offer…

Spring Hill BOMA Discuss Key Topics (MSM)

Spring Hill’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen met for its annual “advance” last Friday and Saturday to discuss some of the most important issues facing the city in the coming year.

Mayor Jim Hagaman said he believed city leaders were able to identify problem areas and debate solutions for those issues during the meetings.

“We were able to get all of our department heads and the board into a room to discuss the needs of the city,” he said. “Being able to have those discussions helped us to find the best way forward on those issues. It may not have been a consensus every time, but we feel like we have a plan everybody will get behind.”

The open, advertised meeting tackled major points of emphasis in the city such as the water and sewage solutions the city is currently in the process of implementing, the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) and more.

“The biggest challenges we face in the coming years are all infrastructure,” Hagaman said. “We are doing our best to get ahead of projects where we can. The Nashville metro area is growing exponentially, and we have to make sure we are able to meet the need where we can, if not get out ahead.”

With the UGB, Williamson County has preliminarily approved the county-wide plan, contingent on Spring Hill’s upcoming approval of the city’s local approval.

“The county asked us to determine a plan for infrastructure, and there is unfinished business with the county,” he said. “I asked the county to give us some time to have my team come up with a plan on how we want to proceed. We are ready to start the process of submitting our UGB when we get back.”

One of the biggest hurdles Hagaman said is expanding east of I-65, which is one of the major topics the board discussed during the meeting. With the addition of June Lake and the recent TIF approval for Project Suitcase, an industrial and commercial development that may include a private airfield in the future, the city knows how important it is to get the proper infrastructure in place before it becomes necessary.

Other discussions within the CIP included what buildings needed to be on the priority list to build, centering around a new fire station and library.

In order to pay for these future upgrades and improvements, Hagaman said the board discussed a number of options.

“Everything was on the table regarding funding,” he said. “That includes raising fees for water, sewer and garbage, as well as raising taxes, but we also talked about how to get more grants from the state and federal governments. It’s always a big deal when we can do creative financing with grant money to help abate as much taxpayer money as we can.”

The current state of water and sewer has long been a top priority for the city, and it has recently been granted money to implement a pilot program in the state, but many questions remain. Hagaman said it was good to hear the status of those projects as well.

“Throughout the duration of this issue, there have been consultants and staff who have been focused on nothing but this issue,” he said. “We invited all of them to the table to present to us what they have.”

The annual advance meeting is held in January of each year, which allows the board to nail down their top priorities for both the calendar year and fiscal year ahead of budget season. The meeting is advertised and is open to the public, Hagaman added.

“We always want to see the general public interested in the city’s business at any meetings we have, including this one,” he said. “It isn’t a typical meeting format, but we think a lot of good comes from these advances, and we hope the public feels the same way once we get back to the business of the city.”

Website Asks for Signatures About Hwy. 31 Work (MSM)

Spring Hill residents have found a way to answer the calls of Tennessee Department of Transportation leaders following the release of the most recent 10-year construction plan. Widen31.com, a website produced by an anonymous source has a pre-written statement and the ability to sign your name and email address.

The form sends a message to local representatives.

“When TDOT came and spoke to us in November, they said the best thing citizens can do is to be in constant communication with their representatives about important road projects,” Alderman Matt Fitterer said. “Widen31.com just makes that really easy to do.”

The Transportation Modernization Act (TMA) plan was released late 2023, which is the result of an investment strategy for the $3 billion general fund transfer approved in April 2023 that evenly distributed funds across all four TDOT regions to advance critical transportation projects.

A November Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting with TDOT officials yielded additional information, and the project now has secured funding, though it is not scheduled for construction until 2033.

Jay Klein, Legislative Director for TDOT, said, “We want to call our (new motto) ‘What we start, we finish.’ I think that should be important to this body, particularly in light of that project. Previously, we’ve had two iterations of our three-year plan that have been generated with this philosophy in mind. (U.S. 31 widening) did appear on the three-year plan prior to that change in philosophy.

The website’s letter lays out some of the most important claims from traffic issues in the city.

“Over the years, our region has experienced significant population growth and increased economic activity, leading to a surge in traffic along State Route 6 / Highway 31,” it reads. “This has resulted in congestion, longer commute times, and a strain on the existing infrastructure. To alleviate these challenges and promote safer, more efficient transportation, I fully endorse immediate widening.

“The proposed widening would not only enhance the flow of traffic but also improve safety conditions for commuters. With the increased capacity, the risk of accidents and traffic-related incidents is likely to decrease, contributing to a safer and more reliable transportation network.”

TDOT officials said the cost of the project would top $110-120 million dollars in construction fees alone, not including right of way acquisition or utility movement costs. The city has contributed more than $3 million in funding already, before the project was placed on the 10-year plan.

Being placed on the 10-year plan, however, does secure funding, though it is not scheduled for construction until 2033.

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.

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

Samuel Thomas Dubois, 35, son of Tom and Anita Dubois, died Sunday at his residence here in Columbia.  A memorial service will be conducted Friday at 11:00 AM at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.  The family will visit with friends Thursday from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home and Friday from 9:30 AM until 11:00 AM at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall.

 

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

Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, January 27th 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 26th from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

 

Mr. George Allen Clanton, 92, retired employee of Occidental Chemical 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…

Child Rape Death Penalty Bill (Tennessean)

Tennessee could become one of the few states to permit capital punishment for rape of a child under 12.

House Bill 1663, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, would allow juries to impose the death penalty on adults convicted of raping a child under 12, with certain aggravating factors. The bill passed a first legislative hurdle on Tuesday, sailing through the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee by voice vote. 

“I don’t take this bill lightly,” Lamberth told a House committee on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re going to protect our children in the state of Tennessee. If someone rapes one of our children, they forfeit their own life.”

“Life in prison for these evil people is simply too good,” he added, noting that life imprisonment makes taxpayers responsible for food, medical, and housing for the prisoners.

Tennessee is one of 27 states that allows capital punishment, and currently does not allow capital punishment for non-homicide crimes. Only seven other states allow the death penalty for certain child rape offenses.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Franklin Theatre has announced the latest slate of favorites to hit its big screen with its lineup of movies for February. 

Throwback Thursday: John Hughes Month will kick off on Feb. 1 with a screening of the iconic Ferris Bueller's Day Off at 7 p.m. This will be followed by fellow classic '80s teen films Sixteen Candles on Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. and The Breakfast Club on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. 

On Feb. 4, Marvel fans will be excited to hear that Superhero Sundays are back with a Tony Stark doubleheader of Iron Man at 4:30 p.m. and Iron Man 2 at 8 p.m. 

Rock & Roll Mondays will continue on Feb. 5 with A Hard Day's Night, Yesterday on Feb. 12 and, breaking the Beatles-inspired streak, Grease on Feb. 26. All showtimes are 7 p.m. 

The Movie Gang returns on Feb. 13 with a showing of Disney's original animated version of The Little Mermaid, while Sci-Fi Sunday continues on Feb. 18 with The Last Starfighter. Both are showing at 7 p.m.

Finally, Feb. 18 will also see the debut of a new series titled Faith, Hope, and Classics. The series will begin with 1976 Best Picture Oscar winner Rocky at 3 p.m.

To purchase tickets, visit www.franklintheatre.com


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