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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 3, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Airport Runway Getting Update (CDH)

Over the next few months, the Maury County Regional Airport will undergo a much-needed facelift to its aging runway, an $8 million project that will resurface the 6,000-foot stretch, laying the foundation of future travel in Middle Tennessee.

The regional airport in Mt. Pleasant, or Federal Aviation Association ID MRC, one of 78 airports throughout the state, has made a name for itself as one of the busiest airports of its size in Tennessee, housing one of the longest runways among small airports in the state and selling 20,000 gallons of fuel per month.

Manager Paul Turner attests that what keeps the air traffic coming to the regional airport in Mt. Pleasant is hands down the memorable customer service.

Although major corporations like General Motors, call the airport its home base for freight distribution and executive travel, the face of the airport — Turner's hospitality — is what sets the terminal apart, according to repeat customers.

The airport, located in rural southern Middle Tennessee provides quick access to state Hwy. 43, which was extended to reach Columbia's Highway 31 for better access to GM, then Saturn plant, in the 1980s.

Corporate giants that frequently use the airport include Love's Travel Stop, Walmart, Kohler, Hobby Lobby, Jimmy John's sandwich shop and Springer Mountain Farms chicken to name a few. It's also not uncommon to see a few country music stars walking through the terminal on any given day.

Greg Martin, airport board member, said the upgrades will set the stage for the future, but regardless of the upgrades, Turner serves as a solid fixture at the airport through the changes.

"They choose the airport because of the quality of service," he said. "Paul sets the high standards of service. That airport is his baby."

Turner recently gazed out the terminal window at the cranes and bulldozers, which line the runway, not a familiar site, he says. He can't wait to get back to normal operations upon the completion of the project in September that includes resurfacing the five decades-old runway, installing LED lighting and upgrading electrical systems.

The runway, which was constructed in 1974, has remained untouched and will now be strengthened to ensure it can accommodate the weight of multiple aircrafts of all sizes and the freight they carry for numerous companies in the region.

The $8 million grant brings improvements to the 30-year-old runway. The project is funded through a matching grant program in which both the local airport and the Tennessee Aeronautics Division will partner to provide 5% toward the project, while the Federal Aviation Administration provides 95% of the project's funding.

"We can accommodate any aircraft here, a gulfstream for example, because of our runway length and width, unlike many smaller, more crowded airports in the region," Turner said. "We have always been able to do that. We are not landlocked. We have plenty of room.

"The upgrades just ensure we can keep doing that. It just needed to be done."

The airport's economic impact to Maury County is $13.9 million annually, according to the recent Tennessee Aviation Economic Impact Study generated by Tennessee Department of Transportation in 2019. Of that amount visitor spending equaled $3.8 million.

The state's aviation industry reaches $40 billion among 78 airports, including major sites in Middle Tennessee like BNA, Nashville's commercial airport, John C. Tune in Nashville and high-traffic airports in Smyrna and Murfreesboro.

According to Martin, the Maury Regional Airport is on its way to becoming self-sustaining through its sale of fuel at a competitive price and frequent air traffic that draws corporate and private customers to the region. Martin said the new runway will secure airport operations over the next 50 years, adding that plans to build a new terminal is in the works once funding is secured.

Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance president Wil Evans said the airport is a crucial component in attracting major corporations to Southern Middle Tennessee by providing convenient business travel and distribution.

As Maury County has become a hub for the auto industry and manufacturing with facilities like GM, JC Ford tortilla machine-maker, Fiberon, Mersen and Ultium Cells, the airport adds convenience to companies' logistical distribution, deliveries and travel.

"We are serving many different businesses and people from other states, so they might be traveling by plane or helicopter from site to site," Evans said. "It allows them to land directly in our community. It's important that the facility is of highest quality since many times, it's the first impression they get of our county.

"The airport also offers a good option to transport freight for many of the companies we serve."

Turner, who is on-call 24/7, focuses on high quality customer service even though the airport is not a private entity, but state and federally funded.

Taylor greets flyers, serves individuals and corporations and schedules logistics almost every hour of the day.

Many have come to depend on Turner to fulfill their daily flying needs from helping to coordinate deliveries to nearby manufacturers to storing planes for personal travel.

As Taylor stands in front of his "wall of fame" in the airport lobby in early June, dozens of familiar faces decorate the wall, including local country music greats, and frequent fliers, like Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan and recent visitor Tim Tebow.

Turner says he loves his job and wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

Although the airport administrative offices were built in the 1950s from left-over materials used to build Maury Regional Medical Center, Turner keeps the site spic-n-span.

"It comes from my days in the restaurant business and service industry. My pet-peeve is fingerprints on glass," he said. "I will follow behind families with kids to make sure the smudges are gone."

Putting customers first comes naturally for Turner, who hangs his hat on hospitality.

"I think people keep coming back because we are clean, accommodating, laid-back and offer a place to seek solace and relax. If you need coffee or a snack, we have it, or even a shower or a place to be quiet," he said.

The airport will be unusually quiet, something Turner is not used to, over the next three months as the runway and tarmac undergo much needed upgrades that will set the foundation for future traffic at the airport.

"Everyone has been really patient and say they can't wait to come back," he said.

Maury Regional Expansion Unveiled (WKOM Audio 8:24)

On Friday, Maury Regional Hospital unveiled a $115 million expansion project. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the unveiling and spoke to Maury Regional Health CEO, Dr. Martin Chaney to learn more about this important project.

Columbia Fireworks Rules (MauryCountySource)

The City of Columbia wants to remind citizens that fireworks are only allowed to be used within the city limits on July 3rd, 4th, and 5th from 10am to 10pm.

Also, it is unlawful for any person to possess, sell or use:

Mortars (single or multiple tubes) larger than 1 1/2 inches in diameter or

Bottle rockets of any kind

For more information, visit

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

Mrs. Martha Blanche Shouse Nichols, 80, Math Teacher for the Davidson County Schools and resident of Mt. Juliet, died Friday, June 30, 2023 at Summit Medical Center.

A graveside service for Mrs. Nichols will be conducted Monday at 2:00 P.M. at Goshen Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Mr. John (Buddy) Thomas Fisher, Jr., age 95, passed away on June 30, 3023. A memorial service for Mr. Fisher will be held Thursday, July 6, 2023 at 1:00 P.M. at First Presbyterian Church. The family will visit with friends Thursday, July 6, 2023 from 11:30 A.M. until service time at the church and again from 2:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. at 814 Academy Lane, Columbia, TN 38401. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangement.

Mrs. Patricia Faye Ingram Holder, 68, Professional Painter and resident of Pulaski, died Thursday, June 29, 2023 at Meadowbrook. A graveside service for Mrs. Holder will be conducted Saturday, July 8, 2023 at 10:00 A.M. at Wilkes Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Mr. Robert Lee “Rob” Elliott, Jr., age 58, passed away unexpectedly on June 26, 2023, at his residence in Columbia, Tennessee. A Celebration of Life for Mr. Elliott will be held on Sunday, July 9th from 2-4 pm at the Southern Tre Steakhouse upstairs in the Magnolia Room. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Ticks a Problem in Tennessee (Tennessee)

A bug bite caused Julie Curtis to become allergic to meat and, as a result, upended her life.

A Lone Star tick got on her skin while she was working on her farm in Mount Juliet. It initially caused a red welt the size of a baseball and produced mild symptoms that seemed like normal fatigue: achy joints and dizziness.

But, before long, eating a variety of meats — or even consuming products whose ingredients included by-products of those animals, such as marshmallows — made her sick. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with alpha-gal syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening allergy to pork, beef, rabbit, lamb and/or venison.

For Curtis, eating certain kinds of meat initially made breathing difficult, the feeling similar to her throat closing, she said.

"It was pretty devastating," Curtis said. "It changes your life completely."

Lone star tick counts high in Tennessee

Spring and summer are generally prime tick months in Tennessee. Ticks carry a variety of diseases, a number of which are commonly transmitted in Tennessee. Some, while rare, can cause life-threatening illnesses. Tennessee is among the states with the highest number of lone star ticks, which carry diseases like alpha-gal, studies show.

Ticks are commonly found in grassy, brushy and wooded areas. Ticks that cause Lyme disease are more commonly found in the middle and eastern parts of the state, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. The overall number of tick-borne diseases has also grown in recent decades, the department has found.

Part of that may be because of the expanding range of ticks. The department has seen more black-legged ticks, which transmit Lyme disease from the north, where they have historically been more common, said spokesman Dean Flener. Similarly, Gulf Coast ticks, which transmit illness-causing Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis (the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever) have moved north into Tennessee, Flener said.

An overall warming climate likely hasn't helped.

"Ticks can be out throughout the entire year. It just needs to be above 45 degrees Fahrenheit for their bodies to start moving again," said Nick Oldham, a pollinator ecology technician at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "So, if we have a warmer winter or a warmer spring, they'll start moving pretty early. The further south you go, the more ticks you'll get, like in Georgia. But we've got a pretty big handful here, to say the least."

Curtis said she has since become a bit more tolerant of meat since she was bitten in 2021. She credits some alternative medical treatments, including acupuncture, for helping, though she said she limits her fast food and red meat intake.

"I'm not going to eat hamburger five days a week, you know?" she said. "I'm careful. I'm more cautious."

Research on the acupuncture treatment she sought out is limited, at best. It can also be very expensive — in her case, nearly $1,000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said alpha-gal is best managed with antihistamines, corticosteroids and other medications. The CDC also notes that infected people may begin eating meat again after avoiding re-exposure and tick bites for a long enough period of time.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library opens a new chapter this summer as the program celebrates a significant milestone in early childhood literacy, while continuing its expansion efforts with the rollout of new statewide programs!

Dolly’s book-gifting program has gifted over 211 million books to children across the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia and the Republic of Ireland. As we enter into summer, the Imagination Library continues to inspire more children around the world to Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More!

Thanks to over 2,800 local affiliates around the world who are dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by gifting books each month to children, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has reached a remarkable milestone, surpassing 200 million books gifted globally since the program’s inception in 1995!

To commemorate this global milestone, seven enchanting Dolly bookmarks will be randomly hidden inside Imagination Library books gifted during International Literacy Month (September) to children/families currently enrolled in the program around the world. (Children must be enrolled by July 31, 2023, to receive Imagination Library books in September).

Seven random children/families in five countries who find the Dolly bookmarks in their Imagination Library books will receive, if they choose, a video chat with Dolly, a personalized signed letter from Dolly, an autographed photo from Dolly and four Dollywood Theme Park tickets. The Dollywood Foundation will also donate $2,000 USD/CAD/AUD or £2,000 GBP, on behalf of the child, to their Local Imagination Library Partner as a thank you to those who Dolly calls the true heroes of her program.

To learn more, visit


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