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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for June 14, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Mulehouse Forclosure (CDH)

The Mulehouse, the popular concert and venue hall in Columbia is up for a foreclosure auction, according to Ron Ramsey & Associates Realtors and Auctioneers.

The auction is scheduled for June 26 with on-site bidding set to begin at 11 a.m.

However, current co-owner and venue visionary Blair Garner, known for his work as an acclaimed country music disc jockey, says The Mulehouse is not going anywhere and scheduled shows will go on without disruption.

The venue's marquee currently shows the sentiment, "Ain't Goin' Nowhere." The recent foreclosure notice stirred community speculation about the fate of Columbia’s premier music venue.

Monday, owner Blair Garner confirmed the auction but echoed the phrase on the marquee, dispelling worries among patrons about an end to the popular concert hall.

“We believe it will be business as usual, all forward momentum,” Garner said, who co-owns the venue with Eric Garner. “We knew this could happen, but we are also for sure a sale will not go through.

“We have a well-crafted plan in place.”

Garner said the foreclosure auction is not expected to end with the property changing hands and confirmed The Mulehouse is not under current plans to shut down.

Although Garner said he is losing no sleep over the notice, he did not elaborate about the future plan as negotiations continue between the bank and owners.

The Mulehouse, located at 812 South High Street, has served as a popular music and event venue since opening in May 2021. The Mulehouse has hosted performances by artists such as Miranda Lambert, Craig Campbell, Tyler Farr, Tracy Byrd, Phil Vassar and many more artists.

Other events held at the Mulehouse include country music line dancing, comedy shows, receptions and gatherings like Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder's victory party in November.

According to the Ron Ramsey & Associates Realtors and Auctioneers website, the notice of foreclosure mentions default of debt for the venue’s official company name, Coalesce Media LLC, and their plan to take offers from the highest bidder.

“We are trying to negotiate for a better term on our loan,” Garner said. “We want to make sure we are a sustainable project.”

Garner said it was fair to call the turn of events a procedural necessity in dealing with a defaulted debt.

The notice also names Justin M. Sveadas of Chattanooga as the substitute trustee holding powers of sale for the auction. These powers of sale allow for the trustee to be the decider of several different options of the sale.

Garner confirmed Monday that the venue is still selling tickets and that 90s Country Music star, Tracy Byrd is still scheduled to perform on July 22 with no impact or interruption to scheduled events.

“What I have seen is that we have an incredibly supportive community,” Garner said.

The venue is known for its rich, state-of-the-art sound technology at the former renovated First Baptist Church with stained-glass windows and pews for seating. A $7 million renovation project transformed the church into the popular, world-class music venue. Since its opening, patrons have been lining up to see name brand acts.

“We built The Mulehouse without excuse and spared no expense,” Garner said on the venue's website. “Much like Field of Dreams, we felt that if you build it, they will come.”

Garner’s mission, for patrons and performers, is “to provide an experience that is so deep and so rich that it becomes a memory. People will go where they feel welcome and appreciated and they will want to return. Shortcuts never win.”

According to Garner, the venue is the first in America to be built around livestreaming and one of only two (Radio City Music Hall in New York is the other) that’s entirely 4K video resolution and is ready for 8k technology.

Justice Center Price Tag Finalized (CDH)

The waiting and wondering, the pricing and planning will soon change the look of downtown Columbia as county court business makes a change of venue to South Main Street.

Maury County Building Committee members were the first to hear Monday what many had long wondered: what is the last all-in cost of the future Maury County Judicial Center?

The project's final "guaranteed maximum price," or GMP, finally settled at $33,740,982, a figure that eked in just under budget projections by $118,000.

Project manager, Jamie Spencer shared the slight savings measures on Monday, which was music to the ears of 15 newly-elected commissioners last fall.

“It took a lot of work and a lot of bids,” Spencer said. “This is a day that we have all waited on for a long time. We could not offer a GMP at first, and we went through a lengthy discussion about why. Contractors were not holding their prices more than a couple of days.”

Spencer said at the time that the rising cost of materials would have made any GMP inaccurate.

As predicted, in January, with new commissioners installed, possible cost jumped by nearly $4 million to $33.9 million, as opposed to the flat $30 million that former commissioner and budget committee chairman, Scott Sumners proposed, prior to August 2022 elections.

Today, commissioners like Gabe Howard, District 8, have remained vocal and persistent to keep eyes peeled on what the now under-projected GMP includes in its finer details.

Room for upgrades to interior details of the building, such as a chair rail in courtrooms, is available upon commission approval as the project moves forward.

The project steering committee previously outlined specifications for the building.

That group consists of officials like Judge Doug Chapman, Sheriff Bucky Rowland and public defender, Travis Jones who will require the site’s daily usage and facility presence. Weeks ago at a planning meeting for the facility, Jones pleaded that the facility not exclude the crucial needs of those who must work there on a daily basis.

Jones cited as reference, the post-facility challenges facing Mount Pleasant’s limited spacing situation for defenders and prosecutors after their courthouse had made cuts to cost.

Gabe Howard stated that he just wants to ensure that commissioners are good stewards of county funds. As Howard praised the work of reaching an under-budget GMP, he also hopes to “continue the conversation” until the minutiae of finer points are clear and present, he said.

These finer points are not, Howard says, for his preference as much as for staffing and providing what those using it will require.

County Commission Chairman Eric Previti said earlier this year that utility and other cost-cutting measures reveal what makes "Team Maury" projects like this come together.

“I’m so pleased we came in under budget,” Previti said. “We are really looking forward to finally moving ahead on this project.”

The county’s successful savings of more than half a million dollars during the first two early funding approvals, has created an easy transition for the third and final funding phase to begin.

The project is now under construction.

Maury Regional Pet Program (Press Release)

For the last decade, four-legged friends have helped make the days a bit brighter at Maury Regional Health (MRH).

 The pet therapy program at MRH was initiated in 2013 to help provide a little comfort to anyone who may need it — patients, visitors or hospital staff. The team has included 19 dogs and their handlers so far.

 “You can see the positive impact our pets make on everyone they come in contact with at the hospital,” said Cindy Short, volunteer services director at Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC). “Research has shown that physical contact with a pet can lower anxiety and stress levels, and we’re so glad to be able to provide this service to our patients, visitors and staff.”

 In January, Amy Brinkley and Ryman, a 2-year-old goldendoodle, joined the team.

 Brinkley, who is married to MRH Chief Administrative Officer Charlie Brinkley, became aware of pet therapy after her mother volunteered with Hand in Paw, an animal-assisted therapy nonprofit based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her mother passed away about four years ago, and Brinkley wanted to get involved in pet therapy to honor her memory.

 Ryman was trained in Mt. Pleasant, and they became a registered therapy team through Music City Pet Partners, based in Nashville. Only certified teams may apply for the pet therapy program at MRH, and pet candidates must be proficient in basic commands or have obedience training.

In their short time on the team, Brinkley and Ryman have found a lot of joy in creating smiles — especially in waiting rooms.

 “The staff and patients really seem to enjoy seeing her,” Brinkley said. “Don’t think she doesn’t benefit, either. She loves getting all the pets, and you can tell she gets excited as soon as we pull in the parking lot.”

Brinkley and Ryman joined Yokota and Jamison, black Labrador retrievers, and their handler, pastor and MRH volunteer Jeff Kane, as current MRH pet therapy team members.

 Yokota is 5 years old, and Jamison just turned 1. Yokota joined the pack after a career change, while Jamison is currently training to become a service dog.

 In November, Jamison will travel to Florida to the Canine Companions regional training center for six months of training. Then, he will be placed with a family who has a need for a service dog.

 “The hospital has been a great environment for us, and it’s so rewarding to see how happy they make everyone we come in contact with,” Kane said. “I’ve been in ministry for more than 40 years, and I’ve never seen a program like this that’s so accepted and valued like it is here.”

 To join the MRH pet therapy team, not only do pets have to obtain certification, but they also must meet immunization and grooming requirements and adhere to organizational policies. Once a pet is certified, the handler must also go through the volunteer orientation process.

 “We would love to have additional therapy teams join Amy and Jeff,” Short said. “The amount of joy these animals and their handlers bring to our patients is immeasurable.”

 For more information about becoming a volunteer or arranging a pet visit, contact MRH Volunteer Services at 931.380.4047 or go to

Fire Station #4 (CDH)

As Spring Hill leaders prepare to cast their final votes on the upcoming 2023-2024 budget, one topic among discussions of what will be funded is the new Fire Station No. 4.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously 8-0 on the budget's first of two readings, the second of which will appear at the board's June 20 regular meeting.

Last week’s meeting began with multiple citizen comments, including Spring Hill Fire Capt. and Firefighters Association President Nick Kolesar, urging the BOMA to move forward with the proposed fire hall. Much of the concerns were based on current response times to certain areas of the city. In some situations, the extra minutes often mean the difference between life and death.

"I live about 1,000 feet from the proposed property of Station 4, and as we are going through the numbers tonight there is one I want you to keep in mind specifically, "11." That's how long it takes an emergency vehicle to get to my house, 11 minutes," Kolesar said. "That could be the distinction between life and death, brain injury from lack of oxygen. I think that our children and neighbors alike deserve better. Please consider Station 4 and making it at the top of your list."

Alderman Matt Fitterer said last year's budget set aside $3.5 million in fund balance for Fire Station 4, which he said he hopes to increase this year, given the project's estimated total cost is about $6 million. The new station will be located at Duplex and Buckner Roads, and will include a 17,300 -square-foot facility, along with 44 parking spaces.

Fitterer also commented on the public's input as to the importance of this project, and that he too has experienced excessive response times due to his home's location.

"I do certainly appreciate the public input this evening and the passion that was used to speak to Fire Station 4," Fitterer said. "I don't think there is anything you have to do to convince this board that it's a need and a priority, and that it's something that should be urgently addressed."

With that said, Fitterer added that he doesn't see the assuredness that the additional funding would make it into the budget. Though that doesn't mean they cannot secure the funds by the end of the year.

"The best news I had today was the presentation from Cumberland Securities during Budget and Finance [Advisory Committee]," Fitterer said. "There is a very clear path to a significant borrow this year without even getting close to our debt capacity rules."

This would include presenting a budget amendment in August or September to approve the borrow to secure the additional funds to construct Fire Station 4.

"I do expect Fire Station 4 to be built during this fiscal year, I just don't expect it to be included in the budget we adopt in two weeks," Fitterer said.

Remote Area Medical in Columbia (MauryCountySource)

Remote Area Medical – RAM® – a major nonprofit provider of pop-up clinics delivering free, quality dental, vision and medical care to those in need – will hold a free, two-day clinic in Columbia on July 8-9.

RAM will be set up at the E.A. Cox Middle School, located at 633 Bear Creek Pike, Columbia, for two days only. This clinic is in collaboration with the Filipino American International Organization in Tennessee.

All Remote Area Medical services are free, and no ID is required. Free dental, vision and medical services will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. The patient parking lot will open no later than 11:59 p.m. (midnight) on Friday night, July 7, and remain open for the duration of the clinic. Once in the parking lot, additional information regarding clinic-opening processes and next steps will be provided. Clinic doors open at 6 a.m.

Due to time constraints, patients should be prepared to choose between DENTAL and VISION services.

Medical services are offered, in addition to dental or vision services, free to every patient attending the clinic.

For more information, to donate or to volunteer, please visit or call 865-579-1530. 

Services available at the free Remote Area Medical clinic include dental cleanings, dental fillings, dental extractions, dental X- rays, eye exams, eye health exams, eyeglass prescriptions, eyeglasses made on-site, women’s health exams and general medical exams.

In some situations outside of Remote Area Medical’s control, such as inclement weather, volunteer cancellations or other circumstances, the parking lot may open earlier or a smaller number of patients may be served. Remote Area Medical encourages everyone who would like services, especially dental services, to arrive as early as possible. Clinic closing time may vary based on each service area’s daily capacity. For more information, visit

Blood Assurance Donor Appreciation Day (Press Release)

Blood Assurance will be hosting its annual Donor Appreciation Day on Saturday, June 17th from 8am-2pm at their location at 1412 Trotwood Avenue in Columbia. There will be food, music, and giveaways. To sign up, visit

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

Mrs. Anne Lindsey Baker, retired Office Administrator for Maury County Water System and resident of Leoma, died Friday, June 9, 2023 at Southern Tennessee Regional Health Systems. Funeral services for Mrs. Baker will be conducted Wednesday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Mrs. Sandra White Dugger, 80, retired unit secretary for Maury Regional Medical Center, died Friday, June 9, 2023 at Brookdale Assisted Living. Funeral services for Mrs. Dugger will be conducted Wednesday at 10:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Friendship Cemetery.

Mrs. Patsy Gail Chumbley Fox, 53, training and client specialist for 30 years for Tennessee Farm Bureau and resident of Culleoka, died Friday, June 9, 2023 at St. Thomas West. Funeral services for Mrs. Fox will be conducted Thursday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Friendship Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 4:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Teacher’s Association Sues State (Tennessean)

Three Tennessee teachers' associations are suing the state over a new law that prohibits association dues from being voluntarily deducted from paychecks, the latest legal battle to emerge over controversial legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.

The dues provision was an unexpected inclusion in a budget bill aimed at raising the statewide teacher pay rate to a minimum of $50,000 per year by 2027. Some Democrats during session slammed the clause as a "poison pill" to the teacher pay raise legislation, which is set to go into effect on July 1.

The Tennessee Education Association, Knox County, Lawrence County and Metropolitan Nashville education associations are joining TEA in the lawsuit, along with two Tennessee teachers. Gov. Bill Lee and interim Education Commissioner Sam Pearcey are named in the suit.

In a Chancery Court complaint, the groups allege the deduction ban violates a portion of the Tennessee Constitution which prohibits a bill from becoming law if it "embraces more than one subject," arguing a teacher pay raise is "wholly different" than payroll deductions for professional organizations.

The groups argue the law would also violate another constitutional provision, which prohibits new laws from impairing the "obligation of contracts." The complaint states the law will substantially harm existing contracts between the education associations and local schools and school boards, in addition to individual contractual relationships between members and the local educations associations.

Lee had pushed for the law, saying in May the deduction ban was designed to "ensure taxpayer dollars are used to educate students, not fund politics."

Opponents to the provision, and the lawsuit plaintiffs, say blocking education associations from collecting dues via voluntary payroll deductions doesn't save the state any money, as schools continue to use a wide range of both mandatory and voluntary payroll deductions.

The bill, backed by Republicans, drew some bipartisan opposition but was ultimately passed in a flurry of end-of-session votes in late April.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Davidson County Chancery Court.

TSU Band to Play White House (NewsChannel 5)

Tennessee State University's Aristocrat of Bands is set to leave their mark on the south lawn of the White House as they perform in Tuesday's Juneteenth concert.

Not only will TSU be represented, but also the Fisk Jubilee Singers will make an appearance plus Jennifer Hudson, Maverick City Music, Colman Domingo and more.

"It's a lot to process honestly," Captain of the Sophisticated Ladies D'Erykah Sudduth said. "I feel like it hasn't really kicked in. The feeling of like you're really here. You really made it".

This celebration comes after President Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday back in 2021.

"This concert celebration will also take place during Black Music Month, where the Biden-Harris Administration will uplift American art forms that sing to the soul of the American experience," the White House said in a statement.

This has been a big year for the Aristocrat of Bands: winning a Grammy, performing at the Opry and playing at CMA Fest.

"I would have never imagined in the years that I have been alive, I would be you know performing at the White House," Head Drum Major Joshua Knox said.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

It looks like the Tennessee-based restaurant Aubrey’s will be opening in Spring Hill.

Proposed to be built at Main Street and Miles Johnson Parkway, it is proposed to be a 7,636 square foot restaurant with an additional 1,740 square feet of outdoor dining patio with parking.

This site is located on the east side of Main Street (US 31) at the Main Street and Miles Johnson Parkway intersection. Access to the restaurant will be from a proposed 30’ private access drive that will connect with Miles Johnson Parkway and align with the existing Harvey Springs Drive.

Aubrey’s currently has 14 locations in the Knoxville area; this will be the first one in Middle Tennessee. The company has no indication of the new location on its website at this time.

Owned by Randy Burleson, a University of Tennessee graduate, the restaurant was named one of the best locally-owned restaurants in Tennessee by Southern Living.

“The fact that chicken fingers with honey mustard sell like hotcakes tell you a lot about Aubrey’s,” Southern Living shared. “And at the helm after 30 years is a proud University of Tennessee grad who loves his state.”

Items on the menu are classics like fish and chips, buttermilk fried chicken, chicken tenders, and gumbo.


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