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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 27, 2023


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


We start with local news…

County Comes to Ambulance Agreement with MRMC (MainStreetMaury)

The Maury County Commission approved unanimously on Monday, July 17 a one-year agreement with Maury Regional Medical Center, which would fund two ambulances to replace outdated ones at an estimated cost of $300,000 per ambulance, while providing $2 million to be paid in the month of August to help subsidize the EMS service.

According to the proposal, which was brought forth by the Ambulance Service Committee, Maury Regional would staff nine ambulances within the county to manage 911 calls 24 hours per day, seven days a week. MRMC would also staff seven 24-hour ambulances and two 12-hour ambulances based on call volume trends.

Last December, Maury Regional CEO, Dr. Martin Chaney, asked the commission to review the previous contract.

Several commissioners expressed their frustration with Chaney’s presentation, stating the large number of emails and phone calls received from concerned citizens.

“When you brought this to us, I didn’t like the way it was presented,” District 10 Commissioner Danny Grooms said.

“You came in and said we either get this money or the EMS service is gone. It bothers me because number one, you upset the citizens of this county, you upset your employees and you laid the blame at this commission’s feet.”

Chaney apologized to the committee, stating the challenge of the last agreement, which would auto-renew for another year if six months’ notice was not given.

“I felt as CEO that it was important to get to a better deal because of the escalating cost of EMS that we were experiencing as an organization,” Chaney said.

“It was never an intent to scare anyone. It was a matter of formality and the way the previous agreement was written in order to foster the conversation which has taken place over the past six months by the committee.”

Chaney admitted the operation expense has grown, citing an increase of trucks on the road, more personnel and labor and inflation costs in replacing ambulances.

According to the agreement, if the Medical Center’s loss of operating the Ambulance Service is less than the subsidy of the county, MRMC will refund the amount by which the subsidy paid exceeds the loss incurred by the Medical Center in operation of the Ambulance Service.

Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt said she was thankful for the work put forth in the agreement.

“There were a lot of people involved in this and it took a lot of time, but when you can come to the table and sit and talk things out together, that’s the way to get things done,” she said.

The agreement will be in effect until June 30, 2024.

In other news, the commission unanimously approved 19-0 the budget for the upcoming 2023-24 fiscal year, which comes with no increase to the tax rate, set at $1.91.

The budget, which came in at roughly $255 million, includes the school general purpose fund, which totals $144 million.

Additional expenses include $44 million in the county general fund and $8 million in highway funds, among others.

District 8 Commissioner Ray Jeter praised the 14 new commissioners on their efforts during the budget process.

“This budget cycle went a lot better than I expected,” Jeter said. “That has a lot to do with the people on that committee, so thank you all for serving.”

The budget has been sent to the state comptroller’s office for formal approval.


4th Grade Promotion Rate (MainStreetMaury)

All but a handful of Maury County third graders will be moving on to the fourth grade.

That was the message from Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura, who stated, “Our 4th grade promotion rate is finalized as 97.7% of our third graders have been promoted.”

The Tennessee Department of Education released on July 19 final data about third-grade retention appeals. The window for families to submit an appeal of decisions about their student’s potential retention in third grade closed on June 30.  

The Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act passed in 2021 set forth key academic supports for third-grade students who did not score proficient on the English language arts (ELA) portion of their TCAP assessment, and updated requirements for these students to move to the next grade via multiple pathways for fourth-grade promotion. While some third-grade students may meet certain exceptions outlined in the law, students who scored “approaching” or “below” were able to access academic supports including free summer camp and tutoring in their fourth-grade year, and students who scored “approaching” had an additional opportunity to submit an appeal of a potential retention decision.  

Since the appeals window opened on May 30, the department received 10,572 appeal forms statewide representing 9,054 unique students. Of these students, 7,812 students received approval on their appeal, and 685 students received a denial of their appeal. Additionally, 557 appeals that were submitted were not applicable.

“Regarding appeals, the district knows that 112 appeals were granted. We do not know how many appeals were submitted by Maury County families in total,” Ventura said.

MCPS received its initial test data on Friday, May 19, in which roughly 63 percent of third graders failed to meet the required score, with 37.5 percent of MCPS third graders scoring “approaching expectations” and 25.9 percent scoring “below expectations.” Students were allowed to retake the TCAP in late May. MCPS indicated in early June that approximately 350 third-graders were signed up for the district’s summer learning camp, known as STARS.


USDA Grants Available in Maury (MainStreetMaury)

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Tennessee State Director Arlisa Armstrong announced last week the availability of grants to help repair essential community facilities that were damaged by severe winter storms in 2022.

The facilities must be located in eligible rural areas and presidentially declared disaster areas. Maury County is included among the Tennessee counties eligible for the grants.

“The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA stand ready to deploy every resource we have available to help families and individuals rebuild their lives and their communities,” Armstrong said. “The assistance I’m announcing today will help rural communities across this state have the resources they need to repair essential community facilities that were damaged by natural disasters in 2022. Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Secretary Vilsack, USDA remains committed to helping America’s rural communities build back better by making rural infrastructure – including vital community facilities – more resilient in the face of increasingly severe floods, wildfires, hurricanes and other risks.”

USDA is making up to $50 million in grants available through the Community Facilities Disaster Repair Grants Program, which received supplemental disaster funding under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. Eligible entities may apply to receive up to 75 percent of total project costs to help repair community facilities that were damaged by natural disasters in 2022. Eligible organizations include public bodies, federally recognized Indian Tribes and community-based nonprofits.

Funds may be used to: repair essential community facilities, replace damaged equipment or vehicles or purchase new equipment to undertake repairs.

Applications for Community Facilities Disaster Repair Grants will be accepted on a continual basis until all funds are exhausted. There is no minimum or maximum grant limit per project.

For more information on how to apply, visit www.rd.usda.gov/tn.


Spring Hill Development (CDH)

The city is considering an annexation request for approximately 22 acres off Buckner Lane, as well as preliminary designs for new residential development, which will include townhomes.

The requests regarding the Caldwell Farms property were brought before Spring Hill's Municipal Planning Commission for consideration, who will vote on the two items in August, which will then move to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for final approval. The development plans include a request for R-2 residential zoning to allow for a planned unit development (PUD) overlay.

In all, 52 single-family units are being requested with the design, which will consist of 40-foot, 45-foot, 50-foot and 65-foot sized lots. The use of townhomes is also unique in that, according to city planning staff, goes against plans outlined in the Spring Hill Rising: 2040 comprehensive plan, which does not recommend its use in the area.

Greg Gamble of Gamble Design Collaborative said that, while this is a unique request, the applicant Crescent Homes has proven its commitments as a trustworthy developer in the past.

"Crescent Homes is a very unique developer who truly believes in having a high bar in Spring Hill. I think you've seen that through Wilkerson Place," Gamble said. "They recognize that Caldwell Farms just south of Wilkerson is part of that same story."

Part of that story is in the development's contributions to local infrastructure, which will include right-of-way dedication along Buckner, as well as $2,500 donated to the city per home, Gamble said.

Gamble also added that the use of townhomes, which would number between 60-70 units, was to address the need for diversity among residences in the area, which has increased particularly for younger families moving to the area.

And given its location near Buckner Road and the new I-65 interchange, it is also addressing the need for "smart growth."

"It's where the infrastructure is being built," Gamble said. "We want to utilize our existing infrastructure to its full potential and efficiency."

Monday's discussion focused on many topics, including emergency vehicle access onto the property, which includes a gate that opens when signaled by the sound of sirens. However, the design and method in which the gate operates did raise a few issues.

"I believe that conversation is ongoing, because it's not just emergency access for the fire department, but also an emergency exit for people who live there," Spring Hill Planning Director Peter Hughes said. "And if the gate is only opened by the sound of emergency vehicles, residents can't get out."

Alderman Matt Fitterer said he had concerns with the vehicle access design as well, and worries that despite its intent, you can't trust that every driver would adhere to the rules of the road and that certain curb cuts and entrances are restricted to emergencies only.

"Every day I see people turn left where there are no left signs, people drag racing up and down the old Buckner Lane. We're just riddled with people not following rules of the road," Fitterer said. "What I don't want to see is this resulting in, essentially, three curb cuts onto Buckner Lane."

Monday's discussion concluded with comments from Mark Nosal of Crescent Homes, who said his objective with the Caldwell property is to continue the success Crescent has had in the past with neighborhoods like Wilkerson Place, and to provide a diverse group of homes near one of the largest areas of development in the city.

"We've had great success working with the city at our Wilkerson Place community, and our objective here within the constraints of this property is how can we bring a second, similar community to this area," Nosal said. "The plan here today reflects that input pretty well, and we appreciate the thoughtful comments here tonight, and we'll go back as a team to make sure we can respond to these."

The annexation and preliminary design requests will appear again on the planning commission's regular voting meeting agenda, scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14. And as previously stated, if approved the items would then go before the BOMA for a final vote.


The Well Outreach Expanding Again (MainStreetMaury)

The Well Outreach is preparing for another expansion from its current location on Main Street in Spring Hill. 

“When we moved into the building on Main Street in Spring Hill, we never thought we would fill it to capacity. When we first moved here, we were serving 200, maybe 250, families a month through our food pantry,” said Shelly Sassen, CEO of The Well Outreach. 

During COVID, however, the pantry saw the number of families it served double to more than 500, and last month The Well served 1,005 families. Of those 1,005 families, 65 percent live in Columbia and 77 percent live in Maury County, Sassen said. 

That sparked the idea of finding a space in Columbia to make sure they could serve the community in the most efficient way possible. 

“Our goal is to build a second location, which will give this location a little bit of relief and better meet the needs of our guests down there,” she said. “There is poverty everywhere – it’s a matter of how much is seen and the quantity of it. There are people in Williamson County living in poverty, but as we go south we were surprised to see the sheer numbers and also the lack of grocery stores in some of our more rural areas.”

Access to food is just as important as being able to afford it, Sassen said. Which is why The Well is dedicated to finding a building or land in Columbia that can serve even more of Maury County. 

“As we spread the word, we’re hoping for new partners now and letting people know we are coming. We need land and buildings while we build a team to get ready to launch,” she said. “We will probably serve 1,000 families the day we open our doors, so we need to raise about $1 million just to build it out.”

Sassen, with the help of Maury County mayor Sheila Butt, applied for a $500,000 grant that would bring a semi-truck trailer with a grocery store inside to Columbia in order to quickly begin meeting the needs of the community. 

“If we don’t receive the grant, we may start with a smaller campus to start while we raise funds for the building we need, which we think will be about 10,000-15,000 square feet,” Sassen said. 

The Well Outreach also serves at-risk students with the JetPack Project, a backpack food program which provides food for children during the weekend. The program, which was started more than 10 years ago, serves over 800 students each week at 25 different schools in southern Williamson County and Maury County. A mobile food pantry is also available for families in need. There are currently 15 mobile food distributions scheduled for the year, with schools being used as the distribution site.

Sassen said the food comes from Second Harvest through a partnership started five years ago. 

The mobile food pantry runs from March to November, with two distributions each month.

The food pantry, located at 5306 Main Street in Spring Hill, is open Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The pantry is closed Sunday, Monday and Friday. Each household can visit the pantry twice per month and as often as needed for bread.


Sheriff’s Department Positions (MauryCountySource)

Looking for a new career in law enforcement? Maury County Sheriff’s Department announced on July 26 that they are hiring for multiple positions.

Current open positions include:

Communication Dispatcher

Correctional Officer

Deputy

Sheriff Administrative Clerk

To apply, visit www.maurycounty-tn.gov/jobs.


Prime and Pint Coming Soon (Press Release)

Downtown Columbia is getting a new, unique butcher shop!

Soon to open in the location of the former Marcy Jo’s Muletown on East 6th Street, Prime & Pint is a fusion of craft butchery, spirited taproom, and pop-up restaurant/supper club.

Offering local chicken, pork, and beef, exotic meats, and the crown jewel – dry-aged beef, Prime & Pint is far more than just a butcher shop or a bar!

Their vision is to create a dynamic experience that tells a story of exceptional quality and craft while enriching Columbia’s culinary scene and creating a space where food, friends, and community can flourish.

The restaurant is hoping to open this fall.

Stay up to date with Columbia’s Prime & Pint journey on Facebook and Instagram.


MRMC Respiratory Health (Press Release)

Maury Regional Occupational Health, located at 1114 W. Seventh St. in Columbia, offers respirator medical examinations to its business partners for employees who must wear a respirator on the job. Their providers have extensive knowledge regarding Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines to determine if the employee is cleared for respirator use with no restrictions, cleared with restrictions, isn't cleared for any respirator use or needs a follow-up examination. Maury Regional Occupational Health offers respirator medical examinations on a walk-in basis Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Any necessary follow-up appointment will then be scheduled. For more information, visit www.mauryregional.com/occupationalhealth.


Legislative Lunch (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance for a Legislative Lunch featuring Congressman Andy Ogles for a stimulating discussion around the current issues facing our business community and nation. This exclusive event offers the opportunity for you to engage with one of our federal representatives and gain valuable insights into current legislative matters. You may submit questions in advance by emailing them to nperry@mauryalliance.com

The event will take place on August 15th from 11:30-1:00pm at Puckett’s in downtown Columbia located at 15 Public Square. The cost is $25 for Maury Alliance Members and $30 for non-members.


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

Randy Eugene Dooley, 62, an employee of Lowe’s and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, June 3, 2023, at NHC Columbia after a brief illness.

 Private family services will be conducted at Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Saturday, July 29, 2023, from 4:00 P.M. - 6:00 P.M. at Southern Tre Steakhouse upstairs in the Magnolia Room.. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors is assisting the family with arrangements. 

Mrs. Mary Jane Galloway Moody, 80, retired employee of Travelers Insurance Company and resident of Houston, Texas died Sunday, February 12, 2023 following a brief illness.  A graveside service for Mrs. Moody will be conducted Saturday, July 29, at 10:00 a.m. at Polk Memorial Gardens to lay her to rest beside her husband. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

BCBS Glitch (Tennessean)

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is warning thousands of its current and former customers that a computer glitch caused the company to accidentally mail benefit information to their old addresses.

According to the company, the letters may have included customer names, member ID numbers, group numbers, provider names, claim numbers, dates of service and plan names. They may have also included eligibility information, including the types of coverage, premium and copay amounts, enrollment dates and application ID numbers, BCBS of Tennessee reported.

Nearly 2,700 customers were affected, according to the company. Social Security numbers and bank account numbers were not included in the letters, the company added.

The company blamed the mistake on a May 28 "system update" that caused the letter-mailing system to reprint and email some letters previously sent to members in 2019 and 2021. While they went to correct members, many of the addresses were outdated, the company said.

BlueCross BlueShield discovered the error on June 5 and has begun notifying customers.

"We’re sorry this happened," the company said in a letter to customers. "We fixed the mistake as soon as we knew about it. We’re also updating our processes to help make sure it doesn’t happen again."

The company is offering free credit protection services to affected customers. And, to date, BlueCross BlueShield said in a news release that it's not aware of any misuse of any customer information as a result of the mailings.

For more information, call 888-455-3824 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday, or email at Privacy_Office@BCBST.com.


Franklin Bank Robbery (WilliamsonHerald)

Franklin Police need the public’s help to identify a suspect in a bank robbery Tuesday.

Around noon that day, the suspect entered the Regions Bank at 3080 Columbia Ave. and demanded money. He did not present a weapon, according to a release from the city of Franklin. The teller put money into his bag.  

He then walked out and toward the back of the bank.    

“We do not know at this time if someone picked him up or if he left in a parked vehicle,” a spokesperson for Franklin Police said.  

There is a cash reward if you have any information about who he is. If you recognize him by the photo, which you can see on Williamson Herald.com, call Crime Stoppers at 615-794-4000.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Keanu Reeves, the star of the John Wick and The Matrix franchises, as well as the voice of Duke Kaboom (Toy Story 4) is coming to Nashville in late December.

And he's bringing his band.

Reeves is a bassist and backup vocalist for Dogstar, an alternative rock band he co-founded with drummer Robert Mailhouse. They're joined by guitarist and lead vocalist Bret Domrose.

The band formed in the mid 1990's, achieving average success, but above average media attention due to Reeves' involvement.

In May, the band reunited for its first performance in two decades, performing at the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival. It was then that the band announced its new album "Somewhere Between the Power Lines and Palm Trees" on Instagram.

The album drops October 6.

Along with the album, the band also announced a new song, "Everything Turns Around," and a mostly U.S. 30-city tour starting August 10 in California. The tour ends December 20 at Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville.

As an actor, Reeves' movies have made him a major box office draw, earning more than $3.5 billion in gross sales worldwide. He's appeared in more than 40 films.



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