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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 5, 2023


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

We start with local news…

Lithium Battery Fire (MauryCountySource)

Maury County Fire Department responded to a lithium battery fire on July 1st at 10:54PM. The fire department was dispatched to an attached garage fire on Tom Osborne Rd.

Responding units arrived and found a garage door partially blown outward and thick black smoke pouring from the garage.

It was later determined that the fire stemmed from an electric scooter.

The scooter was removed to the exterior and ventilation was started. The lithium batteries were placed in a tub of water and moved to the middle of the yard due to potential further thermal runaway from other batteries.

MCFD said the homeowner attempted to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher and then exited the garage closing all doors to help hold the fire and prevent damage to the interior of the home.

Thankfully, Spring Hill Fire Department, Spring Hill Firefighters Association, and Chief Graig Temple hosted a lithium battery class two weeks ago which better prepared the responders for this incident.


Hospital Asks for Funding Increase (CDH)

Hospital leaders at Maury Regional Health are requesting an increase in funding of ambulance services due to community growth, according to a letter to the county penned by Maury Regional Medical Center CEO, Dr. Martin Chaney.

The current agreement between the hospital and the county allocates $600,000 per year for ambulance services, according to the letter, but the hospital's needs exceed those funds.

According to the county commission’s one-month extension of services approved June 20, last December, MRMC provided notice to the county that they would not continue its current contract with the county, stating instead an intent to renegotiate terms prior to any contract renewal.

At a May 1 Health and Environment Committee meeting, County Finance Director Doug Lukonen requested and extension to the Maury Regional ambulance contract to push negotiations forward.

“We’ve been hard at work negotiating with Maury Regional on that,” Lukonen said in May. “I talked with Dr. Chaney and in order to continue service, they would be fine extending our current agreement up to three months.”

Lukonen suggested in May that the extension be for one month in order to facilitate an expedited resolution.

The one-month extension to its agreement with MRMC was based on the ambulance contract that began in 1996.The yearly funding allocation portion for ambulances has been set at $600,000 since 2009 and the contract was originally set to expire July 31 based upon the initial extension approved by the budget committee.

The additional extension passed at the recent commission meeting moved the July 31 deadline to provide continuity of county ambulance services until August 31, while negotiations are ongoing.

Currently, July 6 is the date set for a request for proposal from MRMC, wherein any specific new costs would be presented.

In the event that a new contract agreement is not reached with the county, the county would be placed in a position of seeking bids from third party ambulance services to continue that arm of its emergency services, according to Chaney.

“We will respect the decision made by the county,” Chaney wrote. “Should that mean another entity will be providing ambulance service, we are committed to making that transition as seamless as possible," Chaney said in the letter.

Chaney further underscored the need as required by state law to continue funding the services currently offered.

Citing “increased losses” of MRMC ambulance operations, Chaney said costs have “far exceeded revenue received.”

Chaney projected MRMC loses an excess of $4 million – in part due to investment in new ambulances for the community.

“Like organizations across the nation, we are also feeling the impact of inflation and increased supply cost,” Chaney writes.

Additionally, the cost to replace an ambulance for MRMC would be $250,000 per vehicle, according to Chaney’s statement, with an average of two high-mileage ambulance replacements, annually.

District 8 Maury Commissioner and member of the EMS Ambulatory Service Committee, Gabe Howard stated that it is the county’s desire to avoid a third-party ambulance service provider.

“We are committed to providing high quality emergency medical services without burdening our citizens with a significant property tax increase,” Howard wrote in response to Chaney’s letter. Howard acknowledged the static state of annual funding for EMS, saying a review is warranted.

“In light of the July 6 RFP deadline, it is important to find a solution that balances community needs with the financial realities of providing essential services,” Howard said.

The EMS Ambulatory Committee was formed with the specific task to address the contract and is currently working with MRMC to draw up final plans.


History-Related License Plates (CDH)

If history is told through images, Maury County is making use of that fact to display its historic legacy with a new vanity license plate featuring an artist’s rendering of the county’s most visibly familiar structure – the county courthouse.

There is only one catch to putting this plate on vehicles anywhere in the state, that being for the Maury County Historical Society to sell 1,000 units before production can begin, according to president of the organization and Maury County Commission Chairman, Eric Previti.  

“We’ve had a bit of trouble selling the needed amount of tags so far,” Previti said. “We really need people to step up for this one.”

The concept tag was developed four years ago with the help of local artist Susan Jones, and put to task through the required process of state legislature-approved production with Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, both supporting the bill to create the plate.

In Spring of 2022, a proposal for the car tag reached the state, Previti said.

When the county did not meet their sales goal in time last year, they received a year extension, stretching out until the end of June 2024 to sell the required units.

Currently, Previti said only 200 units have sold to date, leaving 800 needed to make the concept tags actual plates on vehicle bumpers.

The push to lend a creative hand to Maury County’s historic preservation efforts has also attracted the support of well-known local, Mike Wolfe from the TV show, American Pickers as well.

“This effort serves as a boost to further funding on projects that help preserve historic Maury,” Previti said. “Even though the plate is locally focused, anyone in the state can purchase a plate.”

The $90 vanity car tag includes the normal price of vehicle tag registration with an added $35 deposit, that will be refunded, should the required units not be sold in time.

Though MCHS is hoping that the plate moves from concept to reality.

“This is a fundraiser for the Historical Society,” Previti said, adding that it may help in aiding grant monies to preserve many of the county’s most beloved sites and structures.

In a tangible way, Previti said, structures such as the James K. Polk home in Downtown Columbia, the Athenaeum Rectory to stretches of trail that echo the past of the Civil War, will benefit from the funding effort to keep the story of Maury County in perpetuity.

The end goal will yield tag production as soon as the required units are sold. For more details on purchasing an Historic Maury tag, visit www.historicmaury.com.


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.


Hospital Expansion Plans (CDH)

The Maury Regional Medical Center will soon be two floors larger with an addition of rooms, physicians and a full cosmetic renovation of the facility, included as part of a $115 million expansion, administration announced on the hospital lawn Friday.

Under sweltering near three-digit heat, Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney made the announcement before dozens of local and state elected officials, hospital staff and community leaders.

Chaney said the hospital has grown over the past 70 years from a staff of 57 people and 100 beds in its beginnings to serving 500,000 inpatients, 1.5 million people through emergency services and has delivered 90,000 babies since 1953.

As Maury County ― the fastest growing county in the state — grows into the future, Chaney said the hospital must keep up.

"This has been in the works for a long time," Chaney said. "We deliver great care here, and it will only get better with more tools and space."

The expansion marks the first major construction project at Maury Regional Medical Center in approximately 20 years to enhance the patient experience and expand access to care.

The expansions and renovations would bulk up departments, add two additional floors for patient care and eventually present a more modern façade to the main campus complex.

The project that is expected to take nearly three years to complete and will be funded by issuance of bonds, the first of which Chaney said is expected to total $60 million.

Chaney acknowledged longtime board members, county commissioners and past CEO Bill Walter, the longest serving in the hospital's history, serving almost 35 years.

"We are standing on the backs of the many people who have gone before us," Chaney said. "This will improve patient access and experience."

Maury County Commission Board Chairman Eric Previti praised the hospital's endeavor, stating that the additions will further anchor the hospital in serving the community for decades to come.

"Amid change, Maury Regional hospital has remained constant. It's saved my life twice in two decades, and most of us have had loved ones who have entered the world here and those who have entered their final reward ...

"We are it. We are the best medical center in this region. We are not owned by a big corporation, which is unique. We don't have to go by corporate rules. We stay ahead of the game."

The additions and renovations will include additional labor rooms, two more floors, upgraded facilities and more physicians to name a few.

Highlights of the project include:

Addition of two floors - increasing the floors to 9 at the hospital

Emergency department expansion and renovation

Four new surgical suites

Modern exterior facade upgrades

Renovation of public dining spaces

Health parks in Lawrenceburg and Spring Hill

Heart Center expansion

Four patient rooms added to childbirth floor

Maury Regional Health selected Wold Architects & Engineers as the design firm, Chaney said.

The project is expected to be completed in 30 to 36 months.

The hospital has received a variety of recognitions recently as Chaney spoke of new technologies, treatments and added quality of care.

MRMC most recently attained “Gold” status among only 56 other national hospitals on the registry for cardiac care.

Friday’s announcement was preceded by June county meetings, laying the groundwork for new contractual agreements to support hospital infrastructure energy upgrades.

The county commission recently approved approximately $16 million for upgrades to the energy infrastructure in the hospital, which will kick-start the foundation of the project.

At the regular June commission meeting, commissioners passed a resolution authorizing the hospital to upgrade thermal assets such as chillers and boilers under an energy as a service (or EaaS transaction).

The initial move was seen as a way to reduce energy operating costs for the county-owned premises, according to the resolution.

Budget Committee Chairwoman, Kathey Grodi asked company representatives at the meeting how much would be saved from reduced energy cost, through a lease agreement with Bernhard, LLC, to which the reply was in excess of $1 million.

Bernhard would make central utility upgrades.

At the June Health and Environment Committee meeting, Chaney said any capital savings from energy would assist in the addition of four to six ambulatory operating rooms that are badly needed.

“The community is growing,” Chaney said. “We have a lot of surgeons now. They are maxed out as far as their times to operate and so we need operating rooms in a bad way.”

Chaney said Friday that he hopes for the community to see changes begin at the hospital by the end of this calendar year.


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


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. Diane Martin Weatherford, age 79, died Sunday, July 2, 2023, at home in Franklin, TN. Graveside services for Mrs. Weatherford will be held Friday, July 7, 2023 at 2:00 P.M. at Glenwood Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements


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.


Mrs. Shirley Jean Layne Cochran, 79, retired CPA and resident of Primm Springs, died Thursday, June 29, 2023 at Life Care Center of Columbia. Funeral services for Mrs. Cochran will be conducted Saturday at 6:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 2:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home. Graveside services will be conducted Sunday at 12:30 P.M. at Polk Memorial Gardens.


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.


Spring Hill Breaks Ground on Firehouse (thenewstn.com)

The City of Spring Hill broke ground on its future Spring Hill Police headquarters on Monday, June 26.

The 60,000 square-foot building will be located on Hathaway Boulevard off of Port Royal Road. Construction is anticipated to take place over the next 20 months.

The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Alderman approved the $37,500,000 project in their March meeting.

“Thank you, citizens, very much, because we truly believe in you and we truly know that this is what you want and this is what Spring Hill needs,” Mayor Jim Hagaman said.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Country Music Association announced the launch date for “CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair,” an original documentary film that tells the story of the world’s largest and longest-running Country Music festival, CMA Fest. Debuting on Hulu Wednesday, July 5, “CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair” marks CMA’s first feature-length film, with CMA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Trahern and CMA Senior Vice President, Marketing, Content & Communications Strategy Kelly Striewski serving as the film’s executive producers.

Told through exclusive one-on-one interviews, never-before-seen archival content and CMA Fest performances, “CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair” celebrates the festival’s humble beginnings as Fan Fair in 1972, which drew 5,000 fans to Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, its move to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in 1982 and then ultimately to downtown Nashville in 2001, which now draws 80,000 fans a day, across four days, with attendees from all 50 states and 39 countries. The 75-minute documentary features exclusive interviews with many of Country Music’s most notable artists

CMA Fest celebrated its milestone 50th anniversary June 8-11, 2023, in downtown Nashville, featuring hundreds of artists performing across multiple stages and offering fans from around the globe a festival experience unlike any other.


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