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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for January 5, 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

Maury County Caregiver Charged (MauryCountySource)

An investigation by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Medicaid Fraud Control Division into money missing from accounts of home care patients has resulted in the indictment and arrest of a Columbia woman.

In June 2023, after receiving referrals from Adult Protective Services, TBI agents initiated an investigation into an allegation that a caregiver for several home care patients in Maury County was using the victims’ debit cards to make fraudulent, personal charges on an online gambling site. The investigation identified Cynthia Dobbins as the caregiver responsible for the theft from the victims’ accounts.

On December 14, 2023, the Maury County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Cynthia Taylor Dobbins (DOB 09/21/1985) with four counts of Financial Exploitation of an Elderly/ Vulnerable Adult and four counts of Theft of $1,000 or less. Dobbins turned herself in at the Maury County Sheriff’s Office on December 29, 2023, and was released after posting a $10,000 bond.

Ready to Roll Ventures (WKOM Audio 2:38)

A new executive short-term rental company held their ribbon cutting yesterday in Spring Hill. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy stopped by the grand opening to learn more about Ready to Roll Ventures…

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.

Blood Needed (MauryCountySource)

As Blood Assurance prepares for the new year, the community blood center is asking residents to donate the gift of life to close out this season of giving.

Entering Friday morning, the nonprofit was in critical need of all blood types, especially O-positive, and O-negative. Additionally, platelet donations were urgently needed.

“December and January are always detrimental for community blood centers due to holiday travel, frigid weather, and illnesses, such as the flu,” according to J.B. Gaskins, CEO of Blood Assurance. “Blood Assurance has faced some enormous challenges in the weeks leading up to the new year, including supplying a large quantity of additional blood units to hospitals in Middle Tennessee, treating patients with injuries sustained during the deadly tornadoes.”

The call for donations comes on the heels of National Blood Donor Month. The month of January marks the 54th anniversary of National Blood Donor Month. Enacted in January 1970 by President Richard Nixon, the proclamation pays tribute to voluntary blood donors, while encouraging new donors to give the gift of life.

“Our non-profit is still experiencing one of the largest shortages we’ve seen in five decades,” said Gaskins. “We hope our community understands the importance of donating before, during and after National Blood Donor Month, by recognizing that blood isn’t something that can be manufactured. A single blood donation can save three lives.”

Donors can give back by scheduling an appointment at www.bloodassurance.org/schedule, calling 800- 962-0628, or texting BAGIVE to 999777. 

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.”

The contest will start with a commemoration ceremony honoring the courthouse, which will include a proclamation by Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt, followed by an overview focusing on the history of the Maury County Courthouse by me, Tom Price starting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan 11.

Maury County citizens will have from Jan. 11 to March 22 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…  

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.

Deanna Hobbs, 83, of Auburndale, Florida, passed away on December 13, 2023. 

She will have a graveside service on January 6, 2024, at 2:00 pm at Rose Hill Cemetery. The funeral services will be handled by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Welcome back to Southern Middle Tennessee Today on WKOM, 101.7 and WKRM 103.7. This program is sponsored in part by George Vrailas and the great team at The Way Realty. I’m Tom Price.

…And now, news from around the state…

Governor Proposes Updated Franchise Tax (Tennessean)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee will propose changes to the state's franchise tax during the upcoming legislative session to offer tax relief to businesses operating in Tennessee and modernize the way that tax is calculated.

But Lee said Thursday he has no plans this year to propose a rate cut to Tennessee's 4% grocery tax ― one of the highest such tax rates in the nation.

Businesses currently calculate what they owe in state franchise tax in a dual-pronged model first established in the 1930s. Corporations, limited partnerships and LLCs registered in Tennessee or doing business here are taxed either based on 0.25% of the net worth of the corporation, or based on the tangible property in which they operate.

On the advice of tax analysts at the state Attorney General’s Office and Tennessee Department of Revenue, the governor said he will propose a policy to simplify how franchise taxes are calculated when the legislature returns next week, which will "in effect give tax relief to businesses that are invested in our state." Specific details of the proposal remain unknown.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

This week will wind down with more New Year festivities as the city celebrates its first First Friday of 2024.

Shops will stay open late, music, food trucks and more will be about this weekend for one of downtown Columbia's most attended events.

McCreary's Irish Pub will have Beatles 4 Sale performing starting at 7 p.m.

If you happen to stop by Asgard Brewing Company & Taproom, 104 E 6th St., the brewhouse will have The Murphy Ridge Band performing starting at 7:30 p.m., with EAT Columbia food truck.

And be sure to drop by East 6th Street for Maury Alliance's Strolling on The 6th block party.


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