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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 17, 2023

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

Suspect in KKK flyers case claims First Amendment allows distribution (MS Maury)

On Thursday, July 13, Columbia police, along with Spring Hill police, arrested Daniel Walls, 38, and a 17-year-old juvenile on charges related to the posting of “bias-based rhetoric” flyers on historically Black churches and at least one business in Columbia.

Flyers were placed on Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, Bethel A.M.E. and Faith United Missionary Baptist churches last week that included language warning mixed-race couples, communists and homosexuals that the “Klan is back again and here to stay,” and those people should “make amends or stay away.”

Walls was arrested and charged with four counts of Civil Rights intimidation and one count each of vandalism and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

In a statement to Main Street Maury, Walls apologized for his actions, stating he did not post the flyers as an act of hatred, but only as recruitment of “like-minded individuals.”

“I'm truly sorry for the actions and flyers; it was not done out of hatred for any skin color or targeting anyone,” he said. “It was just for recruiting purposes only. I wasn't aware the congregations were all black, but everyone gets them no matter their race. How are we supposed to know who lives or goes where?”

Wells claims he was simply distributing the preprinted materials as a recruitment pitch and chose churches because he is also a Christian.

“I'm no terrorist or racist, I have black friends that will vouch for me,” he said. “I did not create those flyers, I just distributed them for my organization as I thought the First Amendment gave us the right to do.

“I stand for what I believe in. I'm a Christian, but just have different views than others on things as we all do and I thought we had that right, but I guess not so much. I apologize to the churches, the public and anyone else who my actions may have offended. I didn't have any intention to harm anyone in any way shape or form.”

Walls said he does not have an attorney, as he cannot afford one at this moment. His previous employer – Peek Pools and Spa in Spring Hill – has terminated him. He was released from custody on July 13, after posting bail on a $43,000 bond, and is set to appear in court Aug. 14.

Maury County School Board rehears charter school application (MS Maury)

A Tennessee-based nonprofit attempting to open a charter school in Maury County has refiled its application, after members of the school board rejected the initial application in April.

The application by American Classical Education (ACE) is one of five filed earlier in 2023 across the state. Maury, Montgomery, Madison and Robertson counties rejected the initial filings, while Rutherford County approved the company's application.

The Maury County School Board is set to take up the application during its Tuesday, July 18 meeting. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at Horace O. Porter School, 1101 Bridge St., Columbia.

At the board's April meeting, ACE's application was rejected by a 6-5 vote. Kristen Shull, Laura Nutt, Steve McGee, Jackson Carter and board chairman Michael Fulbright voted in favor at the time, while Jamila Brown, Will Sims, Bettye Kinser, Marlina Ervin, Austin Hooper and Wayne Lindsey voted against.

ACE officials have filed an amended application with 39 pages of documentation that seeks to answer some of the concerns raised previously by board members. According to Fulbright, the amended filing does not need to be scored by the review committee set in place by the school board.

"The amendments to the application are going to be voted on," Fulbright told Main Street Maury. "I don't know that (the company) will necessarily be there to say anything. They submitted that back in June."

Fulbright said he felt the amended filing by ACE covered many of the concerns discussed in April.

"I think that several board members expressed a need for more details and more detailed information. Some of the areas were food, transportation, those type of things. Just a little bit more detail on some areas that were uncertain for some board members," he said.

At the April meeting, Maury County Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ventura said many questions remained about the initial application, including special education, transportation, standards for academic plans design and financial plan and capacity.

"Because they weren't at 'meets and exceeds,' the review committee recommends the denial of the initial recommendation," Ventura said at the April meeting. "All of our summary ratings have to be at 'meets or exceeds standard' in order to give you a recommendation to approve."

“The Maury County School Board will review the updated submission from ACE," Ventura said in a statement emailed to Main Street Maury. "Neither the district review team nor I have any opinion or determination in the vote to be taken on 7/18/23. The vote lies in the hands of the School Board.”

Maury County Public Schools' charter review committee presented a 37-page report to the School Board in April. That report rated ACE's application as partially meeting or failing to meet required standards in 22 of 27 areas. The review committee had 11 members and consisted of Ventura, principals, assistant principals, two school board members and community members.

American Classical Academy is affiliated with Hillsdale College, which raised controversy last summer when one of its officials was quoted as saying, "...teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country."

After the April vote to reject the application, ACE officials told television stations that they believed the review committee's report was plagiarized as wording was similar or in some cases exactly the same as reports generated in other counties where ACE had filed applications for charter schools.

ACE Vice President of Schools Phillip Schwenk told Main Street Maury that his organization has tried to address concerns raised by the public and by school board members.

"The appeals process allows us to make comments on what their concerns were. What's changed is, now we've heard specifically the remarks of the board and the county and have given them our answers in the hopes of clarifying some of the concerns they had," Schwenk said.

Schwenk said he would be in attendance at Tuesday's meeting to address any other questions from the board.

Schwenk also promoted the benefits of adding a charter school, saying, "These schools are schools that parents ask for, the kind of model they want to have for their kids... One of the elements of a charter is that you can tailor different types of educational processes to different kids... The benefit is that families have choices."

Asked if ACE had identified a specific location for a charter school if the application is approved, Schwenk said officials had looked at properties near the north and western ends of Columbia, saying ACE wanted to be in a central Maury County location.

If the school board denies the charter again, the company can appeal to the Tennessee Charter Commission, a nine-member group appointed by Gov. Bill Lee.

Indictment returned in traffic accident that killed Maury deputy (MS Maury)

A Maury County grand jury returned an indictment against Clark Austin Daniel last month in connection with the death of Maury County Reserve Deputy Bradley Miller.

Daniel was indicted on four counts, including vehicular homicide by recklessness, violation of the move over law and speeding.

On Dec. 12, 2022, Miller was working as a patrol vehicle operator on construction detail. His vehicle was struck from behind and took the brunt of the crash, which Sheriff Bucky Rowland said likely saved the lives of several workers on site.

Immediately following the crash, Rowland said a nearby former police officer began assisting Miller while sheriff’s deputies and other emergency personnel arrived on scene. Additional life-saving measures were taken at the scene before Miller was transported to Maury Regional Medical Center, where he succumbed to the head trauma injury he suffered in the accident.

Miller served the Maury County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy for 19-plus years with a goal of working 20 years with the department, Rowland added.

“He always did it with a smile and joy in his heart, lifting people up around him. He made this uniform look better than I can. He was very physically fit and dressed to the T,” Rowland said. “He took pride in how he represented himself, his department and others – especially his coworkers from General Motors, brothers and sisters from the UAW and – most importantly – his family.”

Following his arrest, Daniel was reportedly released on a $50,000 bond on June 28. He is set to appear in court on Aug. 3.

And now a look at your hometown memorials brought to you by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home:

William Neal Pulley, Sr., 92, retired crane operator for Union Carbide and resident of Columbia, died Wednesday, July 12, 2023 at Life Care Center of Columbia. Funeral services for Mr. Pulley will be conducted Monday at 11:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Sunday from 3:00 P.M.- 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

31,000 lost TennCare coverage in first month of redetermination process (The Center Square)

Tennessee saw more than 31,000 members lose TennCare coverage in the first month of redetermination, according to a recent unwinding report.

Of the 80,000 renewals in the month of April, there were 43,666 who remained eligible for coverage.

Redetermination of TennCare eligibility was blocked during the COVID-19 health emergency rules between March 2020 to March 31. That meant anyone who qualified once for the programs continued to be eligible until this year.

Normally, states are required to check Medicaid eligibility once every year.

Despite the start of redetermination, TennCare still reached a high of 1.8 million enrolled in the program in May. Those who were determined to no longer be eligible for coverage were referred to the federal health care marketplace.

TennCare went into the state of emergency with 1.3 million members and expected membership to peak at 1.8 million before the completed redetermination process is expected to bring that number back down to 1.3 million.

The extra members from the COVID-19 emergency pause is expected to cost Tennessee $500 million this year.

Overall, 1.3 million in the U.S. have lost Medicaid eligibility since redetermination began March 31 with Florida disenrolling 303,000 and Arizona next at 149,000, according to numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced new rules to prevent those who still qualify for Medicaid from losing services, including allowing managed care plans to help complete portions of renewal forms and allowing pharmacies and community organizations to help with reinstatement for those recently disenrolled.

“Nobody who is eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program should lose coverage simply because they changed addresses, didn’t receive a form, or didn’t have enough information about the renewal process,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Tennessee suing online liquor stores for shipping to state residents (Tennessean)

The Tennessee Attorney General's Office filed a lawsuit on Friday against six out-of-state liquor distribution companies it said delivered liquor to Tennessee addresses without the appropriate licenses.

The companies are Bottle Buzz, Cask Cartel, The Liquor Bros, My Bev Store, Prime Time Liquor and Wooden Cork, all of which run websites where shoppers can order alcohol for delivery.

According to the lawsuit, there's no license that allows out-of-state companies to ship liquors directly to Tennessee consumers. Doing so is a Class E felony, the lawsuit says.

The specific allegations in the lawsuit are the result of an investigation by undercover agents from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. After staff attorneys sent the companies cease and desist letters, the agents placed orders on their websites to be delivered to a Tennessee address. They received the drinks "untaxed and unauthenticated," a news release states.

In case you were wondering, here are the six drinks the undercover TABC agents ordered for their investigation, per the lawsuit:

A fifth of Evan Williams Peach Whiskey

A fifth of Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon

One dozen 50 ml bottles of Sheep Dog Peanut Butter Whiskey

A fifth of Bird Dog Blackberry Flavored Whiskey

A fifth of Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey

A fifth of Tito's

The plaintiff is seeking an order prohibiting the companies from continuing to ship alcohol directly to customers, civil penalties pursuant to the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and reimbursement for their investigation.

The AG's office said that this is the first time a Tennessee attorney general has used the 21st Amendment Enforcement Act, a federal law passed in 2000 that gives state attorneys the power to sue anyone believed to be illegally moving alcohol within the state.

The TABC thanked Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti for the litigation.

“I am very happy that General Skrmetti decided to prosecute this case,” said TABC Executive Director Russell Thomas. “Our agents and staff worked hard to collect the evidence against these bad actors. Too often, we find websites operated by unscrupulous individuals willing to deceive consumers.”

F&M Bank Arena opens in Clarksville (Montgomery Source)

There are few places where you can catch a college basketball game and practice your stickhandling under the same roof, but after this weekend, residents of Clarksville will be able to do just that.

After nearly a decade in the works, the long-awaited F&M Bank Arena will officially open its doors in Downtown Clarksville with a grand opening ceremony this Saturday at 11 a.m.

“The Grand Opening celebration is set to ignite Clarksville with a whirlwind of festivities, fun, and unforgettable moments,” SS&E Vice President & General Manager Danny Butler said. “This event isn’t just about a venue – it’s a highly anticipated celebration that will reverberate throughout our community.”

The arena and its adjoining Ford Ice Center are the latest extension of the Nashville Predators’ footprint in Middle Tennessee, this time into a community both passionate about sports and hungry for a premier live entertainment center to call their own.

“We really wanted to impact downtown Clarksville,” Butler said. “And with the area growing and big business coming here, it’s an area that needs entertainment.”

To get started, the Preds collaborated with Montgomery County and former county Mayor Jim Durrett, knowing the positive impact they could make on the surrounding region, but unsure of what sort of facility to build.

“At first it was two sheets of ice like at Ford Ice Center,” Butler said. “Then it was just an arena. Then we talked about maybe an amphitheater downtown and about Minor League Baseball. We looked at a million different ideas but we kept coming back to the arena with some sort of ice.”

With a clear vision in sight, the group added two more partners into the mix, inviting Austin Peay State University to become the venue’s full-time tenant and selling the coveted arena naming rights to local business F&M Bank.

Starting in 2023, the arena will become home for both the Governors’ Men’s and Women’s basketball programs, helping bring both the student body and Peay fanbase to downtown Clarksville – another step in transforming the town into an entertainment destination.

“The hope is to tie things into the campus to bring some excitement,” Butler said. “They can skate, they can easily go to events. And then the community as a result grows around it.”

In addition to APSU basketball, the arena – one of the only buildings in Tennessee with both live entertainment space and a full-sized ice rink – will play host to a variety of different events.

“The uniqueness was so important for the building,” Butler said. “It allows anybody to do different things. If you look at the run of different events we host, it just allows for everything.”

Visitors attending Saturday’s grand opening got the chance to experience that variety firsthand, with the day including arena tours, public skating, meet & greets with APSU players and much more.

TWRA arrests 31 for BUI, 15th boating fatality recorded (MS Media)

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers made 31 arrests for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) over the July 4 weekend, as the number of violators continues to climb.

Twenty-eight of the arrests involved alcohol and three involved illegal drugs.

Nine serious boating injures and nine property-damage accidents occurred during that period, and 271 citations were issued for various boating safety violations.

Following the July 4 weekend, a woman died in a boating accident on Boone Lake in East Tennessee, the state’s 15th boating fatality of the year. Twenty-nine boating fatalities occurred last year.

BUI is a point of emphasis for the TWRA, which is in charge of patrolling the state’s waterways and enforcing regulations. It is not illegal to have alcohol aboard a boat, but the operator cannot have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or higher, the same rule that applies to drivers of automobiles.

Offenders can face jail time, fines and loss of boating privileges.

The crackdown on impaired boaters will continue through the peak summer season as the state’s lakes grow increasingly congested. Over 252,000 boats are registered in Tennessee, in addition to watercraft such as kayaks and canoes that require no registration but still must adhere to various safety requirements.

"Boat jumping" danger: A social media fad called “boat jumping’ has resulted in at least four deaths this summer, and officials estimate countless others have been injured.

People are filmed jumping from a fast-moving boat and the video is posted on social media as a “TikTok Challenge.”

Boaters are warned of the danger of broken necks and other serious injuries.

Conservation Raffle: Tickets are on sale for the annual Conservation Raffle conducted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.

Prizes include a new truck, travel trailer, hunts for elk, deer and turkeys, fishing packages and assorted outdoor gear.

Tickets cost $20 for one, $50 for three and $100 for 10. Last year’s raffle generated over $1.8 million for various conservation causes in partnership with the TWRA. The ticket deadline is Aug. 20.

For additional information and to purchase tickets visit the TWRF’s Conservation Raffle website

Blickman Industries, LLC to add 48 new jobs in Lawrence County (MS Maury)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter and Blickman Industries, LLC officials announced last week that the company would invest $2.7 million to establish manufacturing operations in Lawrenceburg.

The project is expected to create 48 new jobs in Lawrence County.

"Tennessee’s commitment to creating and maintaining a pro-business environment, which allows businesses and its employees to thrive, was our key deciding factor in relocating. Our organization will certainly benefit from the state’s centralized location, impressive transportation infrastructure and skilled workforce. We are looking forward to joining Tennessee’s growing healthcare manufacturing industry,” said Blickman CEO Anthony Lorenzo.

“The City of Lawrenceburg is excited to welcome Blickman Industries to our community. This investment not only represents new opportunity for our people, but also solidifies Lawrenceburg’s position as a destination for advanced manufacturing,” added Lawrenceburg Mayor Blake Lay.

Founded in 1889, Blickman Industries provides the healthcare industry with groundbreaking stainless steel and chrome solutions. The company offers high-quality medical equipment and services to acute care hospitals, primary care offices and surgery centers across the nation.

Since 2019, TNECD has supported more than 50 economic development projects in the southern Middle Tennessee region, resulting in approximately 7,600 job commitments and $5.5 billion in capital investment.

“Tennessee continues to be a top destination for manufacturers that are looking to expand operations. This investment by Blickman Industries will bring more quality jobs and economic prosperity to Lawrenceburg. I congratulate the company on its success and look forward to the positive impact it will have in Lawrence County,” Rep. Kip Capley (R-Summertown) said in a press statement.


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