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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for January 4, 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 Teen (MauryCountySource)

The Columbia Police Department is trying to locate a 15-year-old runaway juvenile, Jaleea Houston Travis.

Jaleea was last seen on January 2nd, 2024, in the area of Kimberly Drive. Jaleea is 5’05” tall and weighs 175 pounds 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

MuleDrop 2024 (CDH)

Though it was a cold Sunday evening, Columbia residents turned up to party, fundraise for a local nonprofit and count the seconds to start 2024 in an explosive and positive way.

The annual Mule Drop on New Year's Eve has become a Columbia tradition, now in its fifth year. Not only has the event become a way for locals to wind down the year in style, but also raise awareness and funding for Center of Hope.

Center of Hope, located at 110 E. 7th St., is a nonprofit which specializes in providing service to victims of domestic violence, including financial assistance, legal care, as well as shelter and therapy, among its many other resources.

"This year has been so great. We had the Emerald Empire Band from Nashville down here, who were just so great," Center of Hope Director Cindy Sims said. "We are having a good time this year, while also being a fundraiser for Center of Hope."

Sims added that a big part of conducting the event was made possible by city workers assisting throughout the night, from Public Works to officers with the Columbia Police Department.

"We are very thankful to have them. They put all of the barricades out, clean up the streets and are just really wonderful to us," Sims said. "Our local officers are just really wonderful at these events, and so we are really happy to have them. It was a wonderful event, though a little chilly, but I bet we were warmer than New York."

This year's Mule Drop was also presented in partnership with Experience Maury, an initiative of Maury County Visitor's Bureau, which encourages local business owners and stakeholders in ways that bolster the Maury County community.

"We love sponsoring this event every year, getting to look over the crowd, which this year is a great crowd. It's amazing," Mule Drop sponsor David Baxter of Baxter Services said prior to the midnight countdown. "It takes a lot of planning and strategy to make this happen. Nashville does their thing, but C-Town does our thing."

Baxter added that part of the fun is that each Mule Drop isn't just a great way to ring in the new year, but a great way for multiple organizations to get together and celebrate their town. It not only provides optimism for 2024, but also ties into the community's nature of giving to those who need it most, he said.

"Across the state of Tennessee, there are more cases of domestic violence and places like Center of Hope continue to need more funding," Baxter said.

With that, Baxter proposed an offer to Columbia residents asking for a $25,000 donation from Maury County officials, which he would personally match, whether it is one donation or multiple.

"We want to get at least $100,000 for 2024, and we can make this event even bigger than it is today," Baxter said. "Push to find $25,000 in your budget. Ask them for the support."

Baxter said Experience Maury and Center of Hope have a vision of the annual Mule Drop continuing to grow and prosper as the years go by.

"Every year it keeps getting better and better, and at some point we are going to be lined up to the Post Office," Baxter said. "We can make that happen in C-Town, folks."

New Burger Joint (MauryCountySource)

A new burger joint is headed to Columbia called Burger Bros.

Located at 1950 Shadybrook Street in Columbia, the new eatery will open in the former Wok n Grill location.

Based on the submitted business license information, Burger Bros is a fast-casual restaurant. A website has been created stating, “A family-owned burgers, fries, and milkshake restaurant located in the heart of Columbia.”

On the menu shared on the website, options for burgers are single, double, triple, all available to order as a combo that includes fries and drink. The most expensive combo listed is $10.99 for the Triple Cheeseburger combo which includes fries and a drink.

Alternative options to the burger include a BLT, chicken, or fish sandwich. Side items listed include onion rings, wings, and chicken salad. Three options for milkshakes were shared- vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.

Sources shared that the restaurant in Columbia is expected to open sometime in February. According to the website, other locations are coming soon to Chapel Hill and Franklin.

Find the latest updates on the Burger Bros. Facebook page.

Looking Ahead in 2024 (MSM)

Main Street Maury talked to city and county officials to get their take on what might be some of the biggest issues that Maury County and the cities within it will face during 2024.

We start with Spring Hill:

Will the June Lake interchange open on time?

After numerous changes in deadlines, the Tennessee Department of Transportation says the June Lake interchange will, indeed, open in either late spring or early summer in 2024. 

The project timeline has been moved three separate times, including a move of the estimated completion date to an earlier-than-expected timeline, but was subsequently delayed and then delayed again to the most recent timeline. 

The contractor, Bell Construction, is incurring financial penalties for each day the project isn’t completed. While TDOT will recoup much of their costs incurred by keeping staff on site during the extension, Spring Hill mayor Jim Hagaman was not confident the city would be repaid for having similar staff on site during that time. 

City Administrator Pam Caskie requested that TDOT consider reimbursing the city during a public meeting in November, but representatives did not acknowledge any such intention. 

Which of the multi-use developments in Spring Hill will be in use before the end of the year? 

There are currently six mixed-use projects underway in Spring Hill – either approved at some level by the planning commission or already going vertical. 

Which of these projects are most likely to see some commercial property development before the end of the year? Both Spring Hill Town Crossing off Jim Warren Road and June Lake will begin to see some commercial build outs in 2024. Grocery chain Publix is slated for the former, while Hy-Vee announced its intention to build in June Lake. 

Kedron Square has begun building, but currently only residential buildings are being constructed, while Legacy Point (at The Crossings), Port Royal Commercial Park (between Derryberry Lane and Longhunter Chase Drive) and Clear Blue (along Wall Street) are still in the initial stages of development. 

How many people live in Spring Hill?

The city authorized a special census during the November 20th meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen that will cost the city $50,000 to complete. The city began collecting data on January 1, 2024, and are expected to complete the process by March 1, 2024. The city does have an online portal where citizens can submit their information to avoid a visit from census takers at their door.

In 2020, the national census counted 50,005 residents, but city leaders believe the population to be much greater. The state of Tennessee distributes shared revenues based on population at $169.29 per capita. 

Next Up? Mount Pleasant:

Will downtown construction actually start?

After a tumultuous bid process over the last two years, Mount Pleasant has received bids for their downtown revitalization project once again, and Mayor Bill White said he expects the bid to be awarded in the first quarter of 2024. 

TDOT awarded the city $1.25 million in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant funds in 2018 for the pedestrian improvements. As part of the grant agreement, the city must provide a minimum match of 20 percent to receive those funds. In an effort to do a comprehensive project, the city has worked with the Water and Sewer Department to conduct water and sewer rehabilitation simultaneously.

Mount Pleasant Power is also assisting the city in funding the lighting and traffic signalization portion of the project. In total, the project construction is expected to cost about $2.5 million.

Who will be the next Mt. Pleasant city manager?

Mount Pleasant City Manager Kate Collier indicated recently to the city commissioners her intention to retire in the coming months, and the city will work with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) to open the process of searching for her successor.

Who will that be and when will they take over? Mayor White hopes the new city manager will be in place prior to the budgeting season so they can be familiar with the city’s finances before the next fiscal year begins. 

This is Mt. Pleasant’s Bicentennial Year 

This is less of a question, but more a celebration as the city is planning a major party downtown to celebrate 200 years of incorporation this October. 

Mayor White and his staff have worked diligently to begin the preparation and planning stages for the event, which promises to be one of the biggest in the county for 2024.

What about what’s happening out in Maury County?

Will the House pass the Property Taxpayer Protection Act?

In 2023, the bill, which would allow county commissioners to decide how fees should be used to pay for incoming developments, failed to pass the General Assembly for the second year in a row.

In response, the commission formed an ad-hoc growth committee consisting of five members to oversee negotiations with the home builders and realtors association. 

In November, the commission approved additional funding for lobbyists for the upcoming legislative session. 

How often will commissioners travel to the State Capitol? How do they plan on working alongside the home builders and realtors association? Will an inter-local agreement be passed between the cities of Columbia, Spring Hill and Mount Pleasant? These are all questions that will directly affect county residents.

Will the proposed math intervention bill be signed into law?

In October, State Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), announced a new bill aimed at increasing math scores for K-8 students is scheduled to be introduced into the state legislature. 

Cepicky, who is the chair of the Education Instruction Subcommittee, also carried the third-grade retention law. Passed in 2021, the law requires third-grade students repeat the grade or receive additional interventions if they are deemed not to be proficient in the ELA section of the TCAP. 

The math intervention bill would require summer school or tutoring for K-8 students who do not perform well on their TCAP test or universal screener. However, the bill is not similar to the third-grade retention law in that students will not be retained. 

Is the new Judicial Center still on track to open in October?

Maury County Commission Chairman Eric Previti said the new judicial center, which was approved last August at an amended GMP of $33.9 million, is on track to open in October.

“I actually hope it can be sooner than that,” he said, adding that he believes something should be done to the bookstore located next to the center, which could be used for parking purposes. “I wish we had been able to purchase that with the last commission. I don’t know if this commission will do it or not,” he said.

Located on the grounds of the former Daily Herald building, the long-awaited judicial center has been an effort on the part of both current and former commissioners. The construction will come at no cost to taxpayers. Instead, funds will be used from the American Rescue Plan Act, with the remaining costs coming from litigation, court fees and adequate facilities taxes. 

In addition to the judicial center, Previti also noted the progress being made on the archives expansion building and the agricultural extension building. 

The Commission held their first meeting of the new year on Tuesday, Jan. 2.

And finally, Columbia:

When will construction start for the six-story mixed use building?

In October, it was announced that a six-story, nearly 120,000 square-foot mixed-use building will be coming to downtown Columbia, which would be located on the north side of East 7th Street from Woodland Street to Glade. 

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said construction will begin in the first quarter of the calendar year. The apartment complex will feature both one, two and three bedroom units with amenities including a bike shop and music studio. The building will also include approximately 4,322 square feet of retail space and 3,065 square feet of leasing reception and co-working space for residents.

“It’s going to really change the landscape of our downtown in a lot of positive ways. It’s going to be a nice structure and it’s going to add a lot of downtown residential density, which is something we don’t really have,” Molder said. 

When will the downtown parking garage renovation begin?

Molder said renovations to the garage, located next to the Columbia Police Department, will begin “within the next 60 days.” 

Council was first presented with the project last October by Morrison Engineering. Renovations will include a new paint job, waterproofing and brick replacement. “It will cause a little bit of disruption in our downtown parking, but it will ultimately add life to that parking garage and allow it to continue to serve both our police department and those who park there regularly, so we’re really excited about that,” Molder said. 

The renovations are expected to take four months. 

What is the blueway development? And what will it offer the community?

Last year, the city received a grant which would provide additional access points at the Duck River at Riverwalk Park. 

The blueway development will allow for more exciting canoe and kayaking opportunities on the Duck River. Molder said it was an effort on both the part of the city and county.

“The county will be putting in an intake above the dam in the Yanahli Park area. We’ll have an intake below the dam at Riverwalk Park,” Molder said. “So now you’ll be able to get on a kayak at Yanahli Park and get off on the intake at Riverwalk, shop downtown, and then get back on your kayak.”

The blueway development is part of the city’s Parks and Greenways Plan.

CPWS Names New Leadership (MSM)

Following the announcement of a new president and CEO, Columbia Power & Water Systems (CPWS) continues with three more leadership appointments. Ashley Maddux has been named executive vice president of Administration and chief financial officer, Glenn Jernigan has been named executive vice president of Technology, and Richard Kelly has been named executive vice president of Operations.

“Between Ashley, Glenn and Richard, we have assembled an experienced team of passionate and incredibly talented leaders who have become vital members of the CPWS team as our service territory continues to rapidly expand,” said Jonathan Hardin, president and CEO at CPWS. “I’m incredibly grateful for them and all of our 154 employees, who have a combined 1,870 years of service at CPWS. We have the best team in the business, and I’m honored to be working alongside each of them as they serve our community every day by keeping the lights on, the water flowing and the internet connected.”

Maddux is a longtime employee of CPWS and in her new role will lead all aspects of CPWS’ financial operations, customer service and billing operations, and oversight of other administrative functions. 

Jernigan, who joined CPWS over 15 years ago and established the broadband service at CPWS, will lead CPWS’s Information Technology department in his new role. 

Kelley, who joined CPWS in 2021, will continue to oversee power and water operations for CPWS, including partnering closely with Hardin and others on the expansion of CPWS’ water treatment facilities and power operations to provide excellent service to our customers.

CPWS also wants to recognize Ryan Massey, who was recently promoted to vice president of Power Operations after moving up at CPWS for over 20 years, and Aimee Hull, who was recently hired as vice president of Human Resources and comes to CPWS with over 20 years of progressive HR leadership experience.

Other recent promotions include:

Jenny King promoted to director of Customer Service;

Robin Dickson promoted to director of Accounting;

Brad Tebben promoted to director of Broadband Operations;

Shane Andrews promoted to director of Water Distribution; and

Tom Lunn promoted to director of Water Production.

These directors bring a wealth of knowledge to their new roles with over 100 years of combined service at CPWS between them.

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

Dee Cee Neeley, 96, died Saturday, December 30, 2023, at Life Care Center of Columbia after a brief illness.


Funeral services will be conducted Friday at 1:00 P.M. at Graymere Church of Christ. Burial will follow in Palestine Cemetery. Military honors will be provided by Herbert Griffin American Legion Post 19. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 3:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. concluding with a Masonic service at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home and Friday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the church.

Mr. William “Bill” Joseph Hossbach, 80, resident of Columbia, and retired Lab Analyst for Swarco, passed away on December 28 at his residence. A Celebration of Life will be held at Central Christian Church on Saturday, January 6 from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Belmont Receives Largest Gift (TheNewsTN)

Belmont University has announced it has received a record $32 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. — a figure that is twice the dollar amount of the school’s previous high-mark gift.

According to a release, the grant will fund programming related to sacred and popular music, performing arts, digital animation, sculpture and architecture. Billed as a national initiative, the program will include artists and theologians.

Sarah Cates, who serves as Belmont vice president for imagination, strategic initiatives and partnerships, will oversee the initiative.

The previous record gift to Belmont, announced in December 2021, was a $15 million donation made by the Barbara Massey Rogers and Jack C. Massey Foundation. The Jack C. Massey Center, which that gift funded, is located on 15th Avenue and houses the Belmont Data Collaborative, an admissions welcome center and the Cone Center for Entrepreneurship.

The announcement follows Belmont’s having announced in October its School of Theology and Christian Ministry had received a grant of $421,596 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Nashville Preaching Cooperative.

Relatedly, and in January 2020, Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded Belmont a $1 million, five-year grant to help support local churches' efforts to effectively function as they face community, denominational and cultural shifts.

“Belmont is deeply committed to the arts and diverse communities and traditions of Christian faith — as well as the intersections among them,” Belmont President Greg Jones said in the release.

“We are so grateful to Lilly Endowment for its investment in this important initiative, and we look forward to the impact it will have on the public as well as with artists, scholars and partner organizations.”  

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 through gifts of stock in the Lilly family’s pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. The foundation’s endowment offers assets of more than $30 billion.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Nashville Symphony announced their 31st Annual Let Freedom Sing concert in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to be held at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Sunday, January 14, 2024 at 7:30 PM. Conductor Dr. Jeffrey L. Ames will conduct the concert which features arrangements of traditional melodies and original music from composers Florence Price, Jeffrey L. Ames, Jane Ramseyer Miller, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Rollo Dilworth, Leonard Bernstein, Mary D. Watkins, Marc Kaplan, and Adolphus Hailstork. Featured soloist in two movements from Dr. Ames’s Requiem for Color and “Somewhere” from West Side Story is tenor Rodrick Dixon.

“’Somehow, Someday, Somewhere” is the theme for the 2024 Let Freedom Sing…the program brings awareness to the struggle that continues to occur across the globe, and our desire for a better tomorrow,” said Dr. Ames. “…we commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. May his dream of peace, healing, and unity become realized through music.”

Tickets will be made available to the general public on Monday, January 8. There is a four-ticket maximum per customer. More information can be found at


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