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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for June 15, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Columbia Flag Raising (MainStreetMaury)

The City of Columbia celebrated Flag Day on Wednesday, June 14, with a ceremony at City Hall raising the first official city flag in the city’s 216-year history. 

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said it wasn’t a mistake that Flag Day was chosen for this event. 

“Today is a day we pause to recognize the importance of our flag and what it symbolizes for our country,” he said. “All across the country, people are celebrating flags, and today we’re celebrating Flag Day by honoring the stars and stripes of the United States flag, but also by raising the brand new Columbia flag.”

The idea of the flag came through a dream of both Molder and 17-year-old Nathaniel Bliss. 

“This project began sort of on a whim. I like to keep up with what other cities are doing to make sure we’re keeping up and moving forward in a positive direction,” Molder said. “I noticed a few other cities who recently adopted a new city flag. I’d always talked to (Visit Columbia Tourism and Marketing Director) Kellye (Murphy) about it; it had been sort of a dream.”

When Molder got an email from Bliss, the dream became a reality.

“We’ve worked with Nathaniel to accomplish this goal to have an official city flag,” Molder said. “I love so many things about this project because it started with an idea of a young high school student in Maury County and it was part of his Eagle Scout project.”

The Culleoka student’s love of vexillology – the study of flags – and the lack of a city flag turned into the perfect project. 

“I was looking through a flag website of all Tennessee, state, county and municipal flags and when it got to Columbia’s page there wasn’t anything there,” he said. “There was an unofficial flag that hadn’t been used before.

“I figured we might as well make an official one at this point.”

The city opened a contest through its arts council to invite designs from residents, something Molder said is important when creating something so important. Add in the city’s ability to work with a local small business to make it happen, and it was a community effort.

“Our arts council got involved with the competition piece, and as a community that supports the arts, we’re constantly trying to find ways for them to be involved,” Molder said. “We were able to call upon experts in our own backyard who have provided the products today of the official city flag.”

The winning design came from local graphic designer Bryson Leach. 

“This is a really big honor. I guess I’m going to unlock a hidden love of flags that I didn’t know I had. I started doing a bunch of research and figuring out what made a really cool flag,” he said.

The design elements of the flag have specific meaning, which Leach says pay homage to the city, county and state. 

“We wanted to pay honor to the Tennessee flag, so we have the red, white and blue. The single star at the top is to represent the city being the county seat and place of leadership in the county,” he said. “The wave of the flag represents the Duck River, which is a major part of our county and its biodiversity. The stripes represent the weaving of the diversity and commitment to diversity and equity in our community.” 

The idea that his design could last generations was brought to his attention by his grandmother, and he said that was when the significance of this honor really hit him.

“It’s such an honor for it to be around for a really long time. It’s cool to think this could be around for more than 100 years,” Leach said.


Spring Hill Pay Raises (MainStreetMaury)

Spring Hill’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen are considering a pay scale change for employees in the city based on comparable ranges in other municipalities and county governments. A resolution was presented to the board at their most recent meeting, but was deferred until next week after discussion.

According to the staff memo presented to the board, on January 3, 2023, BOMA awarded a contract to Burris, Thompson & Associates to prepare a Classification & Compensation Study Update. Steve Thompson of BTA reported to the BOMA on May 15 the salary surveyed comparable cities, counties and public utilities, and the data obtained was used to create pay ranges based on job functions/titles. Each position was assigned a grade and each grade assigned a minimum, midpoint and maximum. 

Thompson reported last week the pay ranges themselves only needed to move about two percent, but police were about nine percent below market. He suggested the board move the pay scale the two percent and police up eight percent. 

In the city’s proposed 2023-24 budget, there is $950,000 budgeted for the increases, but city administrator Pam Caskie said in order to reach the suggested raises, the board would need to approve about $140,000 in additional funding. 

Thompson reported 108 employees would be given raises immediately based on the minimum on the new scale. 

Most of the city’s employees could see a five percent increase as well to account for inflation. 

Thompson and Caskie presented the board with options for a five percent increase and a six percent increase across the board with police getting either a two percent increase or eight percent increase in minimum pay movement. 

Caskie said other cities are doing five or six percent increases, and it’s important for the city to keep up with neighboring municipalities.

“Obviously, I would like to see us pay our employees as well as possible. I think it gives us the best ability to recruit,” she said. “We are challenged against some of the wealthier communities that don’t have the kind of issues we have with capital needs.”

Alderman Matt Fitterer said he was okay with either the five or six percent option, while Alderman Trent Linville wants to make sure the board doesn’t sway too far from the initially budgeted $950,000.

One of the additional proposals included a raise based on years of service in the role, but Caskie and other aldermen objected.

“I don’t necessarily equate tenure to great performance,” Alderman Brent Murray said. 

The issue with performance or merit-based compensation is being able to equitably process performance reviews, and the city has only done one performance review in recent memory – if ever. 

“We need to get a little experience under our belt about being fair and equitable and teaching our supervisors how to do them in a way where everybody feels like they’re being treated appropriately before we tie people’s pay to them,” Caskie said. “There is no perfect system and I’ve given up trying to find one.”

In addition to teaching supervisors how to properly do performance reviews, the city would need to budget for those raises rather than a predetermined rate increase. 

“In my experience, you want to come as close to matching the inflationary rate as possible. Most of the time our people are talking with their friends with other cities and can be recruited away,” Caskie added. 

More discussion is anticipated at the next BOMA meeting on Monday at Spring Hill City Hall.


Culleoka Teacher Finalist for Teacher of the Year (MainStreetMaury)

The Tennessee Department of Education last week announced the nine finalists for the 2023-24 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award, including one from Maury County.

Emily Fowler, who teaches Spanish at Culleoka Unit School, was among the finalists and represents the South Central Region, one of eight Center of Regional Excellence (CORE) areas in the state, along with the Shelby County Municipal area. The 2023-24 Tennessee Teacher of the Year, and three winners for each grand division, will be selected from this group and announced during the Excellence in Education Tennessee Teacher of the Year Banquet this fall. 

“The MCPS Family is so proud of Ms. Fowler. However, we are not surprised. Ms. Fowler personifies what we know and believe about great teaching. This is a huge honor for the Culleoka Community and all of MCPS. Ms. Fowler represents us well in every way & we are certain the TN Department Of Education made the right choice in the final nine candidates!” said MCPS Superintendent Lisa Ventura.

Culleoka Principal Penny Love said, “Teaching is not just a profession, it’s a calling. It’s not about the test scores or the curriculum, it’s about inspiring and empowering students to reach their full potential. Mrs. Fowler strives to create a safe and supportive learning environment where every student feels valued and confident to take risks and learn from their mistakes. This is an incredible honor and a testament to her hard work and dedication who goes above and beyond for her students every day.”

Finalists will have the opportunity to serve on the department’s Tennessee Teacher Advisory Council for the duration of the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years. The council is composed of expert teachers who engage with the department and other state agencies throughout the academic year.

“I want to congratulate Emily Fowler on being named a finalist of Tennessee’s top teachers of the year. This is an incredible honor that highlights the remarkable impact she’s had in our community,” said State Rep. Scott Cepicky. “Maury County is fortunate to have so many great educators like Emily who are dedicated to ensuring that every student is successful.” 

“Educators dedicate their lives to ensuring our children receive the best education possible, and their work deserves to be recognized,” added State Senator Joey Hensley. “I would like to congratulate Emily Fowler for being recognized as a finalist for Teacher of the Year! We appreciate her commitment to education, children, and the community!” 

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year awardee will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the 2023-24 school year. To qualify, candidates must have been teaching full-time for at least three years, have a track record of exceptional gains in student learning, and be effective school and community leaders.


Comedy Fundraiser for Single Moms (MainStreetMaury)

Annie Belcher felt called to change the lives of single moms in crisis following her own personal experience.

After escaping a violent marriage nearly 20 years ago, she realized the hardships newly single moms face, both financially and emotionally.

Now, Belcher is holding a comedy show fundraiser along with 431 Ministries, a nonprofit organization in Columbia that tends to the needs of the overlooked and underserved women of Middle Tennessee. 431 Ministries provides safety and stability through life skills classes, professional counseling and grief support, among other supports.

“431 reaches all women coming out of crisis,” Belcher said. “A large percent of single moms fall under that.”

Belcher founded the fundraiser Anne’s Arbor two years ago to support organizations and individuals doing good work for women and single moms.

“This year really solidified that it was going to be a fundraiser,” Belcher said. “We had considered becoming a 501(c)(3), but for various reasons decided to do an annual fundraiser for individuals and organizations already doing great work.”

Last year, Anne’s Arbor funded a single mom who had been putting herself through nursing school.

“As a single mom, you tend to carry that weight alone usually without any community or help,” Belcher said. “When people would help me, I wanted to pay it forward.”

In partnership with the Pregnancy Center of Middle Tennessee, the mother was able to pay her rent for a year.

“It’s all about becoming a better woman today than you were yesterday,” Belcher said.

“If I had 431 Ministries at the time, someone who said it’s ok to put myself first, then it would have been a game-changer,” she said, sharing that her abuse was both verbal, emotional and physical.

“There is support and a better life waiting on the other side.”

The fundraiser is scheduled for Friday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Well Church, with an opening act by singer Shelby Lee Lowe. Comedian Moody Malavi will then take to the stage for some much needed laughs. Admission is $20. Donations can be made online at thewellcolumbia.org/give with the memo “Anne’s Arbor.” All proceeds benefit Columbia’s local 431 Ministries.

If you or a family member is a victim of domestic violence and need someone to talk to, call the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can also text “START” to 88788.


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.


Swim Lessons (Press Release)

Swim lessons are starting June 15, 2023 at Fairview Park Pool!

Columbia’s Parks & Recreation Department is offering lessons designed for youth, ages 7-12, and teens, ages 13-16 on Thursdays in June.

Youth Swim Lessons will last 50 minutes while the Teen Swim Lessons will be a little over an hour. Lessons will encourage and enforce water safety, effective swimming, and efficient wading. All lessons are instructed by our lifeguarding team.

For more information, follow Columbia Parks and Recreation on Facebook.


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 www.bloodassurance.org/columbiadonorday.


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

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.


Mrs. Cleo Ann Gillund Mayfield, 84, resident of Columbia, died Tuesday, June 13, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. A memorial service will be conducted Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 2:30 P.M. at First Presbyterian Church. Friends are invited to family visitation on Friday June 16, 2023 from 5:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Private family burial will be held at St. John Churchyard.


…And now, news from around the state…

Alcohol Consumption Highest Since Civil War (wkrn.com)

The average American drinks 60 percent more hard liquor now than in the mid-1990s, an unheralded surge in spirit consumption that signals changing tastes in alcohol. 

Americans are drinking more wine, too: 50 percent more per person since 1995.  

Overall, the average American consumed 2.51 gallons of ethanol, the alcohol in wine, beer and spirits, in 2021, compared to 2.15 gallons in 1995, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If 2.5 gallons in a year sounds low, consider that the figure covers only alcohol, not water and other ingredients in an alcoholic drink. 

In America’s embrace of adult beverages, the big loser is beer. Beer consumption is down about 15 percent since the mid-1990s.  

Alcohol consumption has risen and fallen dramatically across the decades. The average person drank 2.5 gallons of alcohol in 1860, at the brink of the Civil War; 1 gallon in 1934, at the repeal of prohibition; 2.3 gallons in 1945, at the close of World War II; and 2.8 gallons in 1980, when modern-day drinking reached a historic peak. 

A national campaign against drunken driving and underage drinking pushed alcohol consumption to a historic low around 1995. In the decades since, the figure has crept quietly back up.  

In historical terms, we drink as much liquor now as in the Civil War days. The culture, demographics and economics of American drinking, however, could not be more different. 

Women may hold the key to rising liquor consumption. Women are quickly closing the gender gap in drinking and problem drinking, categories formerly dominated by men. Men once outnumbered women 3 to 1 in drinking and binge drinking. Today, the genders are approaching parity. 

“The story is women,” said Susan Stewart, a sociologist and demographer at Iowa State University. “Wines are marketed to women: the fancy labels with the flowers on them and the pretty colors.” 

Stewart tracks “a normalization of alcohol in our daily lives” that is encouraging women and men to drink. “It’s infiltrated our daily activities that didn’t typically involve alcohol, like sporting events, or a 5K: there’s a beer tent at the end.” 

Wine yoga. A beer fridge at work. Office happy hours. Cocktails at movie theaters. Bike-and-brew cycling trips. Wine-soaked book clubs. All of those modern conventions push alcohol to the center of social life, especially for women.  

“We have the whole idea of ‘wine moms,’ women who have a glass of wine after a long day of looking after the kids,” said Rod Phillips, a professor of history at Carleton University and author of the book Alcohol: A History.   

Cultural forces and relentless marketing have transformed attitudes toward spirits. Television programs such as Sex and the City helped to spawn a 1990s cocktail culture that thrived and spread in the 2000s, celebrating high-priced bar drinks.  

Around the same time, hard-liquor manufacturers began advertising heavily on television, ending a decades-long, self-imposed ban that averted potential government restrictions. 

“There was a huge change in spirits marketing beginning around the turn of the century,” said David Jernigan, a professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University. 

“The spirits companies realized in the late ‘90s that they were getting their clocks cleaned by beer,” an industry that advertised freely on television. “There was a huge increase in spirits ads on TV,” from roughly 2,000 ads in 2001 to 63,000 ads in 2009. 


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Joey’s Italian Ice will move to a new location, according to a social media post.

Joey’s Italian Ice shared, “We’re absolutely thrilled to announce that we’re bringing our delightful homemade Italian ice to the heart of downtown Columbia! 812 South Main will be our new home!!”

They continued, “For the past year, our original shop has been serving mouthwatering Italian ice on the other side of town. But now, we’re moving to the historic downtown square, where we’ll be right in the midst of all the charm and energy that Columbia has to offer!”

Joey’s Italian Ice will remain at its current location at 1412 Trotwood Avenue in Columbia through the last week in July. They hope to open their new downtown Columbia location in August.

For the latest updates, visit Joey’s Italian Ice on Facebook.


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