top of page

Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 10, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Innovation Campus Receives Grant (MainStreetMaury)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced last week 10 new Site Development Grant recipients, including Maury County’s Industrial Development Board.

The Industrial Development Board of Maury County will receive $100,000 for due diligence studies on the Innovation Campus Site. Located in Spring Hill, the Innovation Campus “is 330 acres of open land ideally located and well-suited for a corporate headquarters or business park,” according to Maury Alliance’s website.

“This site is a unique asset for our community as it was the vision of the Maury County Industrial Development Board to secure the property to be utilized for new and diversified types of economic development projects to create jobs for Maury County citizens, such as R&D, office, and corporate locations. We understand that this is a strategic, long-term, economic development play and commend the IDB for their vision and foresight with this project,” said Wil Evans, president of Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance.

“When the site was originally acquired by the IDB, initial due diligence was performed to ensure the site was developable such as soil reports, environmental reports, etc. These new funds from TNECD will be utilized to offset costs associated with additional due diligence, focusing more on how to best develop the site infrastructure, such as traffic flow and utilities.”

The grants, totaling approximately $5.9 million, are designed to help communities invest in infrastructure and engineering improvements to land economic development projects and achieve Select Tennessee site certification.

“We’re committed to providing rural communities with the resources needed to support continued investment and create quality jobs for Tennesseans,” Gov. Lee said in a press statement. “I thank the General Assembly for partnering with us to fund these 10 additional industrial sites and look forward to the economic growth and opportunity that will result from these projects.” 

The Site Development Grant program, part of the Rural Economic Opportunity Act, works in tandem with TNECD’s Select Tennessee program. Since 2016, TNECD has awarded 153 Site Development Grants across the state, totaling more than $60 million in assistance to local communities and generating approximately 6,400 new jobs for Tennesseans.

“The latest round of the Site Development program will bring 10 Tennessee communities one step closer to achieving Select Tennessee Site Certification,” said McWhorter. “Shovel-ready sites are in high demand, and through this program, we are working with local leadership across the state to bring this needed infrastructure to every community.”

Applications were reviewed by an advisory committee made up of TNECD, Austin Consulting, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Each application was supported by the community’s senator and representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Jr. ROTC Course Dedicated (CDH)

On 29 June, four years to the day of his passing, the obstacle course that Lt. Col. (Ret.) "Tony" Cornelius first planned out with a few select parents and cadets in 2016 came to fruition.

The formal dedication ceremony was attended by many former cadets, and current cadets of the JROTC program, as well as local civic organizations and parent volunteers that all helped build the course. 

From January 2009 to June 2019, Cornelius was the Senior Army Instructor at Spring Hill High School. In 2011 he first had a vision to construct an obstacle course. At the time, it was to be the only obstacle course that allowed side by side competition. 

He broke ground on the course in 2017 with parent volunteers and cadets putting in hours of hard work on weekends. After years of fundraising events, donations from local businesses and civic organizations, he was able to break ground on the massive 17-station obstacle course without any funds from school or government resources.  As the course was being constructed, parents and cadets started calling it “The Juggernaut” due to the size of some of the obstacles being constructed.  

Shortly before breaking ground, Lt. Col. Cornelius was diagnosed with throat cancer. However, he was not deterred as he underwent treatments, while building the course simultaneously.  

During his last weeks and days, he would be too weak to get out of his truck to help build.  His wife, Virginia, would drive him to the course, and he would sit and watch and give instructions. Parent volunteers would come to him in his truck and get instructions on what needed to be done, as he watched and provided guidance. Sadly, he passed away in 2019 before the course was completed.

For years, the program and obstacle course lacked effective leadership, motivation, and vision, as the obstacle course had little progress or attention.   

However, on June 29 after renewed passion and a vision under JROTC leadership, the course was officially completed and dedicated in his honor on the four year anniversary of Lt. Col. Cornelius's passing.

Cadets both past and present, the many parents, the school staff and faculty are all honored to have known, worked with, and learned from him. 

For many years to come, the obstacle course will serve as another tool to improve leadership skills, and "To Motivate Young People to Be Better Citizens."

The JROTC program will have the 1st Annual Lt. Col. Tony Cornelius Raider Challenge on Oct. 28.

Kissing House Changing Biz Model (CDH)

Spring Hill’s historic “Kissing House” is about to add to its history again, as a brunch spot and after-hours beer garden, breathing new life into a site listed among the National Registry of Historic Places.

The house that came to be after a betrayal and a stolen kiss is undergoing a redesign before reopening its doors.

Bill Benedict bought the residence eight years ago, hoping to make something more of it than a uniquely designed old house; he wanted the community to benefit from its use.

Community juice lovers probably remember the most recent business operating out of The Kissing House, I Love Juice Bar, a venture of Fresh Hospitality food operation, which announced its opening in 2017 but recently closed.

"My concept was adaptive re-use,” Benedict said, an idea that calls to mind the similar business operation on Main Street, where late Spring Hill teacher Mattie Laura Harris once lived for years. The former Harris home is now the popular local gathering place, The Fainting Goat coffee shop.

“I wanted to create something that would sustain and help preserve the building,” Benedict said. “But also, to open it to the community.”

Running a startup restaurant out of the historic home for several years after purchasing the location, Benedict eventually sold his business and is today, re-emerging with new business partners, Josh and Pamela Batovsky.

Benedict’s adjusted business venture, Kissing House, LLC will be two-fold with the Batovskys at the forefront, the architect and entrepreneur said.

Benedict said Josh and Pamela Batovsky have a winning concept that pairs with his own vision.

The Batovskys recently relocated from California to Spring Hill with hopes of starting a business, building new roots.

Experiencing a series of setbacks during the height of COVID-19 just like many business owners, Batovsky said California felt particularly impossible as a place to ever see their business hopes thrive again.

“We owned restaurants and a clothing store in California,” Batovsky said. “We got rid of those and fled to Tennessee.”

Josh said landing in Spring Hill was where he and Pamela wanted to end up, keeping a business that is “family friendly and community focused.”

The Brunch Collective will soon have a soft open that Josh says he hopes will bring the perfect solution for families looking for more than a place to go eat, but moreover, find activities to share together and connections to make with others.

“The Collective will feature brunch plates, coffee, and the return of the house Juice Bar,” Josh said. “Upstairs we will have our Boutique, The Boho Butterfly.”

Josh said that the boutique is currently located in Columbia but will be moving its operations to the Kissing House. Fresh flowers by the bouquet are also a part of the business model.

“The idea of The Collective is that there are multiple things the community can come and experience and not just have a breakfast and leave,” Batovsky said. “You could come play Cornhole, a tabletop game, and if you wanted to stay all day, you can get lunch.”

Later in the evening, the eventual plan is for Benedict to bring a night concept for after hours relaxing and fun.

Once the Collective closes, the plan is for Benedict to transition the business into his own adult-oriented third place, with a working moniker turning the tone to a place more befitting Benedict’s concept: Babylon Beer Gardens.

“And that really fit into our multi-faceted idea for The Collective,” Batovsky said.

Located at 412 McLemore Avenue just off Main Street, the Carpenter-Gothic architectural style house was built in 1878 by a man named Peter Ritter and eventually owned by the Odil family, whose own history with the house harbors its own intrigue of love, betrayal and recompense. According to the history documented in the court case record from 1898, Sarah Odil was betrothed to marry Hugh Brown, unaware that Brown was married in Nashville during the time of their engagement, to a wife who was ailing and not expected to live long.

As Benedict tells the story, Brown took Odil on a romantic walk, where he pledged his love and intent to marry and care for her, sealing the promise with a kiss.

“Sarah was quite the catch and was courted by quite a few locals,” Benedict said. “One of those being Hugh Brown who went to church with the family.”

Though Sarah’s father was reluctant to give his daughter’s hand in marriage due to Brown being 15 years her elder, he consented.

“A few weeks later, Sarah’s father opened the paper and found Hugh Brown had married another woman,” Benedict said. “To say the least, he was a little upset and went to the Sheriff to press charges against Hugh.”

The Odil family won the lawsuit against Brown and were awarded an amount equivalent today to around $100,000, Benedict said.

Sarah, along with her family filed suit against Brown for breach of promise and was awarded $2,800, which allowed Sarah Odil to purchase the home, current owner Bill Benedict said.

The Kissing House name was adopted thereafter, Benedict said, in a time when the Odil family owned a local market and were prominent residents of Spring Hill.

The kiss that sealed the unkept promise that was Brown’s undoing gave the home the name it retains in the play based on the real-life saga: “The House That Kisses Bought.”

The Brunch Collective is expected to open sometime in July.

For more information visit

Kids Helping Kids Give Money (CDH)

Kids Helping Kids, a children's ministry from First United Methodist Church in Columbia, recently gave “Sleep in Heavenly Peace” nonprofit $500 to help with two beds for children ages 3-17 who do not have them. 

Representatives from the group came to speak about child bedlessness. Sleep in Heavenly Peace is a group of volunteers dedicated to building, assembling and delivering beds to children in need in Columbia and surrounding areas. They believe in sharing the need with the community and then providing ways for the community to help meet that need.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace began in October 2022 and has delivered more than 100 beds. Each bed costs about $250 for the wood, hardware, mattress, pillow and bedding. All must be new and are delivered to the children in need in the community.

Their motto is, “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town!”

Sleep in Heavenly Peace will be having another bed build on August 12 at the Skillington Barn in Maury County Park, behind the Senior Citizens Center. Volunteers wanting to help should be there from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

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

James Walker “Jim” McEwen, 75, long-time Real Estate Broker in Columbia, died Friday, July 7, 2023 at his residence in Shady Grove. A celebration of life for Mr. McEwen will be held on the McEwen family farm in Shady Grove, Tennessee on Monday July 10, 2023 at 5 p.m. where he will be laid to rest. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home of Columbia is assisting with the arrangements.

Angela Dawn Lackey of Columbia, Tennessee and Business Analyst at Farm Bureau Health Plans for 21 years, died Wednesday, July 5, 2023. Visitation for Mrs. Lackey will be from 5:00 to 8:00pm Tuesday, July 11 at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with the funeral Wednesday, July 12 at 11:00am at First Presbyterian Church of Spring Hill. Burial will follow at 2:00 pm at Kirkland Cemetery in Taft, TN.

Mrs. Patricia Sewell Fitzgerald, 85, passed away Thursday, July 6, 2023 in Columbia.

Graveside services for Mrs. Fitzgerald will be conducted Saturday, July 15, 2023 at 11:00 A.M. at Sunset Hill Cemetery in the Theta Community. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Former State Democratic Chair Passes (TNLookout)

Roy Brasfield Herron, former state lawmaker and former chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, died in Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Saturday, one week after sustaining injuries in a jetski accident on Kentucky Lake. He was 69. 

“Roy loved his family with all his might,” said the Rev. Nancy Carol Miller-Herron, Roy’s spouse of 36 years, in a statement. “He passed doing what he loved most—spending time with our sons and their friends in the Tennessee outdoors where his spirit was always most free.”

A native of Dresden, Tenn., Herron graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin before getting a joint Master’s of Divinity and law degree from Vanderbilt University. 

He was first elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 1986 as a state representative, taking the seat held by Ned Ray McWherter, who was elected governor the same year. In 1996, he was elected to the Senate, where he rose to become chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus — at a time Democrats held solid majorities in both the House and the Senate.  

In 2010, he was the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 8th Congressional District, losing to Crockett County farmer Stephen Fincher. The Tennessee Democratic Party executive committee elected Herron chairman in 2013, where he served one two-year term. He authored four books and numerous articles. 

Herron was known by friends and colleagues to have a strong moral compass, a fierce work ethic,  unparalleled debating skills and devotion to his Methodist faith and to his family. His brand of Democratic politics was centered around improving life for Tennesseans and particularly through shoe leather work in his district for working men and women. 

His interest in politics came early and even before he held electoral office, he worked tirelessly to assure Democrats were elected — including, in his successful 1984 U.S. Senate run, former Vice-President Al Gore. 

“No one of our generation got up earlier, ran more miles, put in longer hours, covered more ground, listened to more people, took more notes and wrote and spoke more eloquently,”  said Nashville lawyer Tom Lee, a longtime friend of Herron’s.  “You might beat him, but you weren’t going to outwork him. And you weren’t going to worry about whether you still had a friend in him when it was all over.” 

In recent years Herron, along with McWherter and former Democratic lawmakers Craig Fitzhugh and Mark Maddox,  formed the Volunteer Center for Rural Development, an organization that developed educational programs with an emphasis on Tennessee issues, and he lobbied the legislature on behalf of public education issues.

Housing Market (MauryCountySource)

There were 3,533 home closings reported in Middle Tennessee for the month of June, according to figures provided by Greater Nashville Realtors. This figure indicates a 17 percent decrease from the 4,257 closings reported for the same period last year. In June 2019, there were 4,172 closings reported.

“Interest rates continue to drive the Greater Nashville housing market for both buyers and sellers,” said Brad Copeland, Greater Nashville Realtors president. “This has made condo sales continue to be strong as buyers flock to that inventory due to its affordability.”

Data for the second quarter of 2023 showed 9,722 closings, a 19 percent decrease from the 12,057 closings during the second quarter of 2022. There were 11,823 closings reported during the second quarter of 2019.

There were 2,894 sales pending at the end of June, compared to 3,245 pending sales at this time last year. In June 2019, there were 3,645 sales pending. The average number of days on the market for a single-family home in June was 41 days.

The median price for a residential single-family home was $474,900 and for a condominium, it was $330,000. This compares with last year’s median residential and condominium prices of $495,070 and $348,150 respectively. In June 2019, the median price for a residential single-family was $319,990 and for a condominium, it was $231,689.

There were 9,594 active listings reported for the month of June, according to figures provided by Greater Nashville REALTORS®. This figure indicates a 30 percent increase from the 7,370 active listings reported for the same period last year. In June 2019, inventory was 11,610.

Currently, there are 3.5 months of available inventory in the Greater Nashville region.

“For the qualified buyer, the stabilization of home prices in 2023 combined with increased inventory makes now the most buyer-friendly market we have seen in Middle Tennessee in several years,” Copeland added.

The data collected for this release represents nine Middle Tennessee counties: Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson.

Tax Free Weekend Coming

Tennessee's tax free weekend is July 28. The annual sales tax holiday will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and end at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, July 30.

During this time period, clothing, school supplies and computers may be purchased without the 7% state sales tax, including items sold online. Certain restrictions apply. For example, all items purchased must be for personal use and not for business or trade.

Wondering what's exempt on tax-free weekend and what isn't?


Exempt: Clothes costing $100 or less per item.

Not exempt: Clothing costing more than $100. Items sold together, such as shoes, cannot be split up to stay beneath the $100 maximum. Items like jewelry, handbags, or sports and recreational equipment.


Exempt: Personal use computers with a purchase price of $1,500 or less. If priced at $1,500 or less, laptops computers may also qualify as well as tablet computers.

Not exempt: Storage media, like flash drives and compact discs, individually purchased software, printer supplies and household appliances.

School supplies

Exempt : School and art supplies costing $100 or less per item, such as binders, backpacks, crayons, paper, pens, pencils, and rulers, and art supplies such as glazes, clay, paints, drawing pads, and artist paint brushes.

Not exempt: School and art supplies costing more than $100. Items that are normally sold together cannot be split up to stay beneath the $100 maximum.

For a full alphabetized list of exempt items, visit

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Grand Ole Opry will celebrate Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson as the longest-serving Opry member in the show’s history on Saturday, July 22. Anderson, one of the most awarded songwriters in the history of country music and a highly successful performer in his own right, was inducted in the Opry family on July 15, 1961. His membership has not lapsed in those 62 years, eclipsing the membership run of past Opry member Herman Crook, who joined the Opry in 1926 and remained with the show until his death in 1988.

The Opry will celebrate “Whisperin’ Bill,” with a Saturday night performance set to include Anderson and fellow Opry members Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Jeannie Seely, and Ricky Skaggs, among others.

“The Grand Ole Opry continues to be built on the shoulders of Opry members such as Bill Anderson,” said Dan Rogers, Opry vice president and executive producer. “Singling Bill out as the Opry’s longest-tenured member in our history among so many greats who came before him as well as so many contemporaries he calls his friends is a tremendous honor for all of us. We look forward to celebrating his achievement and dedication later this month.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum currently features the life and illustrious career of Anderson in the exhibition, Bill Anderson: As Far as I Can See, which has been extended through Monday, September 25. 

Find tickets at


bottom of page