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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 7, 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.

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.


Mulehouse Update (CDH)

News of The Mulehouse music venue's current move toward filing for bankruptcy has made waves through Columbia and the surrounding community, leaving many people wondering about the future of the popular establishment in downtown.

Originally, The Mulehouse had planned to hold a liquidation auction seeking new investors to take a stake in the business. However, the June 26 auction was ultimately canceled once founders Blair and Eric Garner decided the best decision moving forward would be to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

While this gave a glimpse into what's been happening behind the scenes, it was only a fraction of the real Mulehouse story, according to founder Blair Garner.

Garner said while a word like "bankruptcy" might conjure all kinds of thoughts and speculation, it could ultimately be just a chapter in The Mulehouse's story for many years to come.

Ultimately, with little details, Blair's message to Mulehouse patrons and future patrons, amid the response to the impending filing, is — "Hold on."

"There's a lot of smoke in the air right now which can seem really disturbing," Blair Garner said. "So much of that smoke was created by the fastest mode of transportation known to man — The Gossip Bandwagon. Yes, it's the fastest, but it's also the least reliable."

Though Garner didn't go into too much detail regarding the decision to file for bankruptcy, other than "there was an issue with the bank we weren't able to resolve," he said the solution moving forward will require a combination of hard work, community support and prayer.

"With His guiding hand, He has led us to an incredible plan for moving forward. He has even provided us with the financial backing to fully execute that plan," Garner said. "We're merely using our 'time out' to finalize the necessary paperwork. In the end, The Mulehouse will now realize its full vision at a greatly expedited pace."

Garner added that he and Eric will remain The Mulehouse owners during this time and beyond.

Blair insists that shows will go on in the present and future, including most recent bookings, he says are exciting, like country music icon Tanya Tucker.

Most recently, The Mulehouse announced Tanya Tucker will be performing a special "Kiss Breast Cancer Goodbye Concert" on Sunday, Oct. 1 benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Other upcoming Mulehouse events include First Fridays After Dark on July 7, Vinyl Radio on July 8, Laurel Canyon Band celebrating the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on July 13, followed by Resurrection: A Journey Tribute on July 14. July will then wrap up with country hitmaker Tracy Byrd on July 22 and The Beatles tribute band Forever Abbey Road on July 28.

For a full schedule of upcoming events, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TheMulehouse.com.


Maury County Growth (MainStreetMaury)

Maury County’s Regional Planning Commission continued its ongoing efforts to update the Unified Development Plan with a lengthy discussion on rural development last week.

At a work session on June 29, a selected subcommittee looked for ways to balance the continuing growth in Maury County with a desire to maintain the rural feel in unincorporated areas of the county.

Much of the discussion centered on redefining the current zoning designations of areas in the county. The county’s zoning ordinances were adopted in 1985 and while they have been amended since then, those amendments have made the current code difficult to interpret at times, according to maurycountyunifieddevelopmentplan.com. In addition, the county’s subdivision regulations have not been significantly updated since 2009.

Building Director Robert Caldiraro indicated after the meeting that planners were hoping to have their task completed in spring 2024. All recommendations will have to be approved by the Planning Commission and the County Commission before taking effect. 

“What are we trying to do now, to enhance what we’re doing now, to make it better? That’s what we’re trying to sell,” Vice Chairman Randall Webster asked the group prior to discussions.

Committee member David Horwath presented the group with an option to combine the county’s current Agricultural Forestry (A-1) and Rural Residential (A-2, A-2A) into one zoning district. Under current zoning, A-1 requires residential lots to be at least two acres in size while A-2 allows for one-acre residential lots.

In preparing the presentation, Horwath said he took examples from Beaufort County, S.C., South Bend, Ind., and Nolensville to create proposed changes.

“We don’t want it to feel like a subdivision going down Carters Creek and you’ve got a large lot. You want it to be traditional, historical, matching the feel,” Horwath said.

The committee agreed to recommend allowing one-acre lots in the newly defined district, which was given the name Residential Rural for purposes of the meeting.

Chairman Harold Delk said he felt the smaller definition was appropriate as most of the county falls under that definition currently.

“If we don’t go down to one acre… we have taken away rights of a majority of the county. I think we’ve got to maintain that,” Delk said.

The newly defined Residential Rural district would, if ultimately approved, apply to single lots and would have a time limit between subdividing the property, lest it become subject to subdivision regulations. Those would be covered under two other proposed districts, which Horwath called Residential General and Residential Neighborhood.

The committee approved recommendations for Residential General that would allow for large-lot subdivisions, defined as no smaller than one acre. Residential Neighborhood would allow for lots as small as one-third of an acre, but would also require that a defined portion of the property be preserved as green space.

“It’s to give the developer options. You can put in more properties but you have to give back something, or you can have bigger lots. I think we win on both ends,” Webster said of the two subdivision proposals.

“This would effectively help protect the rural community,” Caldiraro agreed. “That’s the only way we’re going to protect Maury County. (People) are moving here because we don’t have a state (income) tax. People are going to move here by the groves because they can develop cheap.”

The subcommittee will meet again on July 13 and July 20 to continue discussions on updates to the Unified Development Plan before presenting its current ideas to the full Regional Planning Commission at its July 24 meeting.


New School Funded (MainStreetMaury)

A $4 million purchase by the school system of land near Carters Creek Road for construction of a North Columbia Elementary School received somewhat begrudging approval from the Maury County Commission at its June 20 meeting.

The purchase was approved by a 14-4 vote with one abstention, after commissioners raised concerns over traffic flow in the area and the cost.

“Honestly, I’m feeling bullied that we can’t have discussion, that we can’t have good conversation about our constituents that are reaching out to us, that are concerned about light safety, public safety, fiduciary duty,” said Commissioner Gabe Howard. “We are a funding body. We don’t want to be the micro-manager of the schools’ budget… but we’re sitting here having a funding conversation.”

“I’m already getting calls from the neighborhoods behind that property,” added Commissioner Cindy Hestla. “I think anything near that can-opener bridge… it’s going to make a lot of kids late and there’s going to be a mess if you do anything there.”

Finance Director Doug Lukonen pointed out that Maury County Schools has the funding in place and a lack of approval by the Commission would likely lead to an audit finding from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

“The School Board has already voted this through; they’re going to do it. They’ve got everything lined up,” Lukonen said. “If we don’t amend the budget, expenditures exceed budget.”

“A vote to kill this does not kill this… we cannot stop this purchase,” concurred Commission Chairman Eric Previti.

“We looked at just over 15 properties; I think if I would have brought you any property there would have been an issue,” stated Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ventura. “We all know the locations where the schools need to build… we would be remiss if we built a school and have to transport kids 45 minutes to it.”

Ventura said the shape of the property would allow designers to place a long driveway at the new school, keeping traffic off Carters Creek Road.

The Commission also signed off on the county’s 2023-24 budget, which tops $244 million between the county and the school system.

Unlike last year, this budget contains no increase in property taxes, which will remain at $1.91 per $100 value of assessed property.

Commissioners will meet again in July to give the budget final approval after public notice is made in the local newspaper, as required by state law.

The county also gave its blessing to a proposal by Spring Hill to provide $55 million in Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) to Brentwood-based developer SouthStar for the development of The Crossings.

A previous study by the Younger Group, an economic development research firm, predicted the development, which is expected to include a United States Tennis Association regional headquarters, will bring in multi-millions of dollars in annual tax revenue.

Commissioners also approved payments of $50 per meeting to the members of the Regional Planning Commission.

Also approved was a resolution approving the construction of Maury County’s new judicial center at a cost of $33,740,982. That figure came in slightly less than the original estimate.


AAHS LECTURE SERIES AMERICA (Press Release)

The African American Heritage Society of Maury County will continue its quarterly lecture series with the theme “Democracy in America” on Saturday, July 8, 2023, at 10 a.m. at the Maury County Public Library located at 211 West 8th Street in Columbia, TN.

The speaker, Dr. Learotha Williams, will discuss the contentious election of 1876 and the resulting Compromise of 1877 which effectively ended Reconstruction and the promise to protect the civil and political rights of the formerly enslaved.

Dr. Williams is a professor of History at Tennessee State University. In addition, he coordinates the North Nashville Heritage Project, an effort to encourage a greater understanding of the history of North Nashville. His most recent publication is I’ll Take You There: Exploring North Nashville’s Social Justice Sites. He is a native of Tallahassee, Florida, where he earned a doctorate in history from Florida State University.


The lecture is free and open to the public.


Founded in 2012, the African American Heritage Society of Maury County is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to preserve the heritage and history of African American of Maury County, TN.


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

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


Mr. Wayne Cathey Delk, age 81, of Hermitage, Tennessee went to be with the Lord on Wednesday, July 5, 2023. Visitation for Wayne will be on Friday July 7, 2023 from 10:00 A.M. until time of the funeral service at 11:00 A.M. in the chapel at Hermitage Funeral Home & Memorial Gardens, 535 Shute Lane Old Hickory, TN 37138 with Harold Delk officiating. Graveside services will be at 4:00 P.M. in the Delk Cemetery in Maury County with Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in charge of those 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.


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…

Jaden Hamm Hoping For Big Leagues (MainStreetMaury)

People often say they’re living the dream.

Jaden Hamm truly is.

The former Columbia Central pitching standout expects to hear his name called during the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft, which will take place July 9-11 as part of the MLB All-Star Game festivities in Seattle, after establishing himself as one of the top prospects during his three-year career at Middle Tennessee State.

Hamm, along with fellow Blue Raider pitcher Eriq Swan, participated in the third annual MLB Draft Combine last month at Phoenix’s Chase Field. During the week-long event, the 6-2, 197-pound right-hander underwent medical assessments, performance testing, on-field workouts and in-person team meetings.

“It was a good experience, for sure,” said Hamm, who – after previously throwing for the Atlanta Braves at CoolRay Field in Lawrenceville, Ga., home of the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers – met with team officials for the Astros, Blue Jays, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Reds, Rockies and Royals at the combine.

“It’s been pretty surreal. I’m just taking it all in, staying humble through the whole process,” Hamm said. “The odds are kind of in my favor for my dream to come true, but (I want to) keep everything the same, keep doing what got me to this position. That way, I’m ready when my name gets called.”

Part of the high school graduating class of 2020 that lost the large majority of its baseball season to the global pandemic, Hamm earned District 8-AAA Pitcher of the Year honors his junior year after posting a 5-3 record with a 1.59 earned run average and 73 strikeouts over 44 innings.

At MTSU, he compiled an 11-7 career record with three saves, ascending to the coveted Friday night starter role in Conference USA play as a junior. He finished the 2023 season with 93 strikeouts in 79.2 innings, giving him 167 career punchouts in 150 innings and a 4.56 ERA over three years.

The past couple of seasons helped convince Hamm that his dream was within reach.

“Performance-wise, it kinda hit me at the end of my sophomore year,” he recalled. “I had four starts in a row, four ‘quality starts’, my strikeouts were up, … But it really hit me as far as the overall experience this fall when I had meetings (with MLB personnel) every other day, where they were coming to Murfreesboro and meeting with me in the press box throughout the fall. That was pretty cool.”

Indications are that a fastball that touches 96 miles per hour, plus a curveball, slider and changeup – all of which he’s comfortable throwing ahead or behind in the count – have Hamm going in the first five rounds of the draft and possibly as high as the first three rounds.

“I think it’s what I bring to the table as far as my arsenal and my work ethic, being able to go long in outings as far as a starter, and having a four-pitch mix that I can throw at any time,” he said.

Needing 21 hours to complete his degree in business administration, it’s all but certain Hamm will do that as a professional.

“If everything goes as planned (I’ll sign),” he said. “But the draft is the draft. You could go where you think you’ll go, or you could fall and not see it coming.”

The opening two rounds of the draft will take place on Sunday, with Rounds 3-10 slated for Monday and the final 10 rounds on Tuesday.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

As the dust settles following another explosive 4th of July holiday, Columbia will keep the party rolling into another festive and event-filled First Friday weekend.

1. First Fridays & Fridays After Dark

The weekend kicks off with another monthly First Fridays in downtown Columbia.

Shops will stay open late, live music will be echoing throughout the downtown area both inside and outside, food trucks and a lot more, with main events running from 5-8 p.m.

Just a few blocks from downtown, The Mulehouse, 812 S. High St., will host First Fridays After Dark starting at 7 p.m. The event will take place in the venue's courtyard, with live music, drink specials and tapas.

Are you one of those people who missed out on prom, or would like a re-do now that you're older, wiser, but still have that sense of youth to party down?

Don your best evening attire and mask up for an Adult Masquerade Prom, which will take place starting at 6 p.m. Saturday at The Memorial Building, 308 W. 7th St.

The evening will start will a red carpet entrance, followed by dinner, prize giveaways and the crowning of Prom King and Queen.

The Adult Masquerade Prom is for ages 35 and up and is a "black tie affair," with the dress code including formal gowns, short cocktail dresses, tuxedos, suits and ties.

And this being a masquerade, festive masks are most definitely required for the occasion.


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