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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for January 29, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Missing Man (MauryCountySource)

The Columbia Police Department is trying to locate 22-year-old missing person Benjamin (Benji) Martin.

Benjamin was last seen in the area of Osage Trail in Columbia on 01/23/2024 wearing a black hoodie and black pants. Benjamin is 6’ tall weighing 156 lbs. with brown hair and brown eyes.

Any person with additional information that may assist in this or any other investigation is encouraged to contact Columbia Police Department Dispatch (24 hours) at 931-388-2727, Maury County Crime stoppers at 931-381-4900, or Columbia Police SAFE Tip Email to SafeTips@ColumbiaTN.Com

Dispatcher Delivers Baby (

Dispatchers in Maury County helped a couple deliver a baby on the side of the road.

Early Saturday morning, around 2:25 a.m., units responded to a reported childbirth in progress.

When the couple knew they wouldn’t make it to the hospital, they pulled over at Maury County Fire Station 27 at the intersection of Bear Creek Pike and Highway 431.

Dispatchers were able to give instructions and talk the couple through the process before the Maury County Sheriff’s Office, Maury County EMS and Maury County Fire Department arrived.

When crews did arrive, they found a healthy baby and mother and took them to a local hospital.

“Too often our 911 operators don’t get the credit they deserve for the work that they do, so please join us in showing appreciation for a job well done,” the Maury County Fire Department said.

Mt. Pleasant Water Limit (MSM)

The City of Mount Pleasant issued a request Friday morning asking all customers to reduce their water usage at least through the weekend, in hopes of avoiding a boil order.

On Friday, Jan. 26, the city issues a statement through its Facebook page stating in part, “The last two (2) weeks of snow, ice, and rain have taken a toll on the system and we are currently experiencing major mechanical issues at our water plant as a result. The system operators, with help from outside agencies, are working diligently to make sure our system stays online.”

Customer Service Supervisor Ashley Simpson stated that the city had already been forced to cut off service for some industrial facilities as of 11 a.m. Friday in an effort to conserve water.

“We’re asking the citizens to conserve water at this point…There’s a lot of mechanical issues, water levels are low in the tanks. So to avoid us more or less running out of water, we have asked everybody to conserve, don’t use anything you don’t have to.”

Simpson said the request would go through the weekend and the city would reevaluate at the beginning of the week.

“Your cooperation is important and all users are urged, whenever possible, to defer activities which may use large amounts of water until this conservation order is lifted. We will announce the end of this water conservation period as soon as we have found and repaired any leaks, made plant repairs, and have restored our water storage to normal levels,” the city stated in part via Facebook.

As of this morning, they issued the following statement:




A number of Middle Tennessee utilities have issued boil water advisories in the aftermath of the recent snow and ice, including in Giles and Lawrence counties.

Those needing further information on this matter are asked to call (931) 379-7717.

Marcy Jo’s To Close (MauryCountySource)

Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse and Bakery announced it will close for business.

The restaurant, formerly an abandoned general store built in 1891, was first opened by Rory Feek’s wife, Joey and his sister Marcy in Columbia in 2007. The restaurant is located at 4205 US 431, Columbia.

On social media, they shared the news that after 17 years, the doors to the restaurant will permanently closed.

Stating, “A ‘Closed’ sign was originally put on the door last week temporarily, just until the broken pipes inside could be fixed, but unfortunately it’s not going to come down. Between the residual impact on the business from the pandemic, soaring food prices, the deteriorating building and a hundred other factors, what worked before just doesn’t work anymore. We made the decision a few days ago that the restaurant is closed for good and the land & building will be going up for sale soon.”

Rory Feek shared memories about Marcy Jo’s in a blog post. “It’s the spot where I made my first real storytelling video, and later where we filmed fifty-something cooking segments for our TV show from 2012-2014.”

Continuing, “We’ve made music videos there. commercials. It’s been featured on Tennessee Crossroads and in dozens of magazine articles. It was the setting for a funny long-forgotten TV pilot we made, and another one that Heidi Klum and Seal filmed in 2011 that never came out. It’s where we first hosted the popular songwriter nights that we still do. People have gotten married there. Gotten engaged. We’ve prayed with customers and grieved over them when they passed. It’s been bitterly cold inside in the winter and brutally hot in the summer. The floorboards have holes in them and lean hard to south, just like the building. When a truck ran into the side of Marcy Jo’s in 2009, it just shook a couple of times and leaned the other way. That old restaurant is a piece of history, that is now a piece of our history.”

In the next couple of weeks, items from the restaurant will be for sale. Follow Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse and Bakery on social media for updates. If anyone is interested in purchasing the property, you can contact Keith at

CSCC Academic Fair (MSM)

Columbia State Community College recently hosted an Academic and Research Fair to display students’ research to promote opportunities for academic high impact practices participation among students and faculty.

The college-wide event was sponsored by the Columbia State Honors Program and organized by Columbia State faculty members Dr. Anna Duch, associate professor of history and coordinator of the Honors Program, and Dr. Elvira Eivazova, associate professor of biology and Tennessee Board of Regents ambassador for high impact practices in undergraduate research. Judges included faculty representatives from the Science, Technology and Math division as well as the Humanities and Social Sciences division.

“The goal of the Academic and Research Fair is to provide an intellectually stimulating experience for our students outside of the traditional classroom setting,” Eivazova said. “Inspired and guided by their faculty mentors, students conducted literature research on a range of topics of their choosing. Such scholarly activity helps to advance students’ critical thinking, creativity, research and writing skills in a non-traditional way. To recognize students’ creative efforts, monetary prizes were awarded to the top posters in each participating category. We are thrilled to observe a growing number of participants in the fair!”

The fair invited students to showcase their talent and creativity by presenting a research project in the form of a poster presentation. These presentations covered a wide range of topics in science, math, humanities, business and technology. The exhibition was held on both the Columbia and Williamson Campuses.

In the Science and Math category, Elinor Fix won third place with the project, “Drug Usage and Stress Among Adolescent Population;” Alyssa Helmick won second place with the project, “Bone Loss: The Effect of Microgravity on the Bones, Muscles and Connecting Nerves;” and Madalyn Falletti won first place with the project, “Snake Venom: Toxicity and Therapeutics.”

In the Humanities category, Olivia Loud won third place with the project, “The Princes in the Tower;” Cameron Cox won second place with the project, “Casual Theories on the Black Death” and “Meriwether Lewis: Murdered;” and Hannah Fritsch won first place with the project, “”Jerome.”

John Pickle won the Business and Technology category for leading his group project, “The U.S. Government Spent $6.273 Trillion in 2022,” along with his team of William Miles and Bryan Jacobs.

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."

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.”

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

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

Randy Ervin Davidson, 71, retired Machine Operator for Union Carbide and resident of Culleoka, died Saturday, January 27, 2024, at Maury Regional Medical Center. 


Funeral services will be conducted Friday, February 2, 2024, at 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Thursday, February 1, 2024, from 4:00 P.M.-8:00 P.M. at the funeral home. Condolences may be extended online at

…And now, news from around the state…

Bail Denial Expansion (Tennessean)

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton Friday morning announced plans to introduce a bill that would amend the state constitution and allow judges to not set bail for a wider variety of violent charges. The move could open the door for fewer people charged with violent offenses to have an avenue for pretrial release.

The amendment was announced during a press conference at Memphis City Hall that saw Memphis Mayor Paul Young flanked by Sexton, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, a number of state legislators representing Memphis and Shelby County, local law enforcement officials and Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.

Sexton said the measure is intended to "allow the judicial branch to have more discretion" when it comes to setting or denying bail. He also said judges would be required to explain why they decided to deny bail.

"There are a lot of cases all across our state that you've seen, not just in Memphis, but all across the state, of someone who is out on bail, who is a violent criminal who committed another violent crime shortly thereafter that took another victim," Sexton said. "We don't have the tools to give, due to that limiting constitutional aspect, the judges and the DAs the capability of denying bail on those violent criminals."

Bail has been a hotly contested topic over the last year, with former Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland placing blame for the rising crime rate in Memphis on defendants posting bail and committing more crimes. The Memphis Police Department has voiced similar concerns, citing repeat offenders as the culprit, however, it is not clear if they are referencing people committing crime after leaving prison, posting bail or racking up a number of charges before their arrest.

The state legislature has also taken aim at bail, filing a number of bills to limit which offenses people can be charged with and allowed to be released on their own recognizance.

Mulroy has consistently pushed back on the notion that bail is leading to a higher crime rate, pointing to data between September 2021 and March 2023 that showed that 12.5% of all offenses committed were alleged to have been committed by people out on bail, with less than 1% of all offenses being violent offenses while people were out on bail.

Data from Shelby County General Sessions Court has also indicated that fewer people are being arrested while out on bail since the bail hearing room, a constant target by political officials, was opened in February 2023, compared to before the bail hearing room was open.

The average bail amount for violent charges has gone up under the reformed bail system in Shelby County, according to data collected by Just City.

The bill has not yet been introduced, and a specific list of violent crimes has not yet been listed, Sexton said. He did, however, emphasize that non-violent offenses would not be eligible to be denied bail.

"We're still working on the language," Sexton said Friday morning when asked what specifically the amendment changes. "There's a section of the constitution that says that the only thing that's a denial-able bail offense, I'm paraphrasing, is a capital offense. Basically, that means first-degree murder is how it's interpreted. There are other violent crimes that we think should be there. We're working through that process, but it would be just violent crime, not your petty crimes."

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The 300-foot, iconic General Jackson Showboat will welcome guests aboard for a romantic Valentine’s Day evening cruise on Wednesday, February 14, 2024. The three-hour experience departs the dock at 7:00p.m. and includes a delectable three-course meal followed by musical entertainment and dancing. Guests will enjoy beautiful scenery and panoramic views of Nashville’s skyline while cruising down the Cumberland River.

The General Jackson Showboat is one of Nashville’s most visible and popular attractions with a rich history in its 38-year existence.

Learn more at


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