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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for June 22, 2023


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


We start with local news…

City Adopts FY2023-24 Budget (CDH)

While the start of a new year is often associated with the first of January, for a local municipality's government the new year begins when a new budget is adopted.

Columbia City Council voted its final reading last week to adopt the city's 2023-2024 fiscal year budget, which totaled approximately $80.4 million for all funds. This also includes no new increases in property taxes, while also expanding the city's core services and operating reserves.

These expansions include implementing a new employee compensation plan, including salary raises citywide, to remain competitive in both recruiting and retaining city workers.

“I am pleased with the recent passage of our next fiscal year budget, a balanced budget that includes no property tax increases, provides basic municipal services in the most professional of ways, and funds short-term and long-term capital projects that will ensure our city continues moving forward a positive direction,” Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said.

“I am also pleased with the focus on our city employees in this budget and will continue to work to find ways to best recruit, retain and reward one of our greatest city assets — our employees.”

The Columbia City Council approved a pay increase of 5% for all city employees in May. The raise took effect in June and is part of a 22.5% cumulative increase in employee compensation rates since 2018.

The 2023-2024 budget also increased by 19.3% compared to last year's $67 million operating budget, with 58% of the total being within the city's general fund. The general fund includes funding for Columbia Police, Columbia Fire & Rescue, Public Works and Parks & Recreation, all of which received a 10.5% ($4.4 million) increase.

"Thanks to the hard work of the City Council and the commitment by the City’s management team and finance staff, the new fiscal year budget provides citizens with the high level of city services that folks have come to expect,” City Manager Tony Massey said.

The 2023-2024 budget also includes funding for several new capital projects and initiatives.

Nearly $20.6 million is allocated for the city’s FY 2024-2028 Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The five-year CIP totals $99.5 million and includes major multi-year capital projects, including the Fire Station No. 1 renovation, Public Works Storage/Fuel Facility construction, City Hall HVAC replacement, Iron Bridge replacement, Duck River Station upgrade and Bear Creek Pike Pump Station replacement.

The City received the GFOA’s Distinguished Budget Award in FY 2023.


Rep. Ogles Introduces Articles of Impeachment (MainStreetMaury)

Maury County Republican Andy Ogles (TN-5) introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week. 

Support for impeachment is limited to a select group of Republicans in the House, and will be an uphill battle for the freshman congressman. Ogles claims Biden “weaponized” the office of the presidency to  “shield the business and influence peddling schemes of his family from congressional oversight and public accountability.”

Specifically, Rep. Ogles’ bill claims companies created by family members of Biden and associates used to “funnel millions of dollars to Biden family members.” He also alleges while serving as Vice President in 2016, Biden requested the Ukrainian President fire the prosecutor investigating Burisma Holdings, a company of which Hunter Biden sat on the board at the time.

“Joe Biden hasn’t just failed the American people with his abysmal excuse for ‘leadership’ – he’s violated his sworn oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Joe Biden has repeatedly abused his position of power, both as vice president and president, to cover up his illicit family business dealings and exploitation of taxpayer resources,” Ogles said in a statement. 

“The American people know they can’t depend on the so-called ‘Department of Justice’ to investigate the Biden family’s corruption, and so it’s up to the U.S. Congress to hold him accountable once and for all.” 

The second charge cites Biden’s handling of the southern border, claiming his actions – or lack thereof – have “endangered the people of the United States.” Ogles cites drug seizures at the border and illegal immigrant “encounters” at the border which have resulted in “8 of the 10 highest months ever recorded.”

Ogles claims Harris was complicit in the weaponization of the executive office, naming her in the charges as well.

“His accomplice, Vice President Kamala Harris, has demonstrated her extraordinary incompetence time and again,” Ogles’ statement reads. “She has allowed the land invasion at our southern border to continue unchecked, threatening the livelihoods of millions and the lives of thousands who have been murdered at the hands of illegal aliens and died from illicit fentanyl.”

Ogles summarized the bill with, “In all of this, Joseph Robinette Biden has acted in a manner contrary to the public trust and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”


Mt. Pleasant Gets ARP Water Grant (MainStreetMaury)

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) last week announced 131 grants totaling $299,228,167 from the state’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) fund, part of which TDEC is administering in the form of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure grants. Since August, TDEC has awarded and announced $933,632,711 in grant funds through ARP programming.

Of the 131 grants announced today, 29 are collaborative grants and 102 are non-collaborative grants. Collaborative grants involve multiple entities (cities, counties, or water utilities) partnering on projects to work toward a shared purpose. All grants awarded represent 469 individual drinking water, wastewater, and/or stormwater infrastructure projects. 

Maury County will be receiving a collaborative grant of $3,377,420, it was announced.

Maury County, in collaboration with the City of Mount Pleasant and the Maury County Water System, will use ARP funds to develop an Asset Management Plan and address critical needs in their drinking water systems. The communities will use the ARP funds to replace 11,000 linear feet of faulty water lines, improve spring sites and replace meters in order to increase capacity and improve system resiliency.

Tennessee received $3.725 billion from the ARP, and the state’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group dedicated $1.35 billion of those funds to TDEC to support water projects in communities throughout Tennessee. Of the $1.35 billion, approximately $1 billion was designated for non-competitive formula-based grants offered to counties and eligible cities to address systems’ critical needs. Those include developing Asset Management Plans, addressing significant non-compliance, updating aging infrastructure, mitigating water loss for drinking water systems, and reducing inflow and infiltration for wastewater systems.

The grants announced last week are part of the $1 billion non-competitive grant program. The remaining funds ($269 million) will go to state-initiated projects and competitive grants. 

“As Tennessee continues to experience unprecedented growth, we’re prioritizing critical infrastructure investments that will address the needs of Tennesseans and give local communities the resources needed to thrive,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “We look forward to the improvements these projects will bring, and we commend the communities who have gone through the application process.”

“We are grateful to the local applicants, and we anticipate excellent results from these grants,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “This shows that Tennessee recognizes the need for improved water infrastructure, and we are grateful for the leadership of Governor Lee and the General Assembly in seeing that communities get this assistance.”


Parker’s Project (MainStreetMaury)

Parker Martin and his mother, Sondra Wilson-Martin, recently visited Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) to drop off another round of books for families with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Sondra delivered Parker in November 2016, 10 weeks early. Thanks to the excellent care MRMC’s team provided, he is today a healthy and thriving 6-year-old. Following his birth, Parker’s parents, both educators, launched Parker’s Project, which donates books to the NICU to support other NICU parents and honor his caregivers.

“As an educator, I understand the extreme importance of early childhood literacy,” Sondra Wilson-Martin said. “Reading books to children can help them in unspeakable ways for years to come, hence why we chose to donate books.”

Since launching in 2017, Parker’s Project has donated more than 1,000 books to the NICU. Reflecting on her experience, Sondra recalled the extraordinary care Dr. Nicole Falls, MD; and nurses Heather Potts, RN; Christy Brown, BSN, RN; and many others gave her in such a vulnerable time.

“Sondra Martin taking her experience and creating a positive mission with Parker is inspiring to watch,” Maury Regional Health Care Foundation Executive Director Joe Kilgore said. “Year after year, Parker’s Project positively impacts the families served by MRMC’s NICU. We are eternally grateful they continue this mission and share their story.”

Gifts to support Parker’s Project may be made through the Foundation’s NICU fund at MauryRegional.com/Foundation. Established in 2006, the Foundation provides support, health care services and a caring environment for individuals unable to obtain appropriate care. Since its formation, the Foundation has provided nearly $3.4 million in programs and services.


Growth Continues (MainStreetMaury)

Both Columbia and Spring Hill have continued to skyrocket in population over the last two years since the most recent census was conducted. Recent estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau reported Columbia is the seventh-fastest growing city in the state, while Spring Hill sits at ninth on the list.

Spring Hill is now the state’s 14th-largest city, according to the data. Tennessee passed Massachusetts in 2022 to become the nation’s 15th-largest state. 

“It’s not scary to us that we continue to grow at this pace,” Spring Hill Mayor Jim Hagaman said. “We have had meetings at the state and county levels to plan what we are going to do as growth continues to surge in Middle Tennessee.”

Hagaman said he has continued to work on smart growth in the city, and feels as if the city has been able to accomplish that through the Unified Development Code and Spring Hill Rising: 2040 comprehensive plan.

“Those are great guidebooks on how to grow and meet the needs of those moving here,” he said. “As we move forward, we are trying to mitigate the issues upon us and certainly not add to them.”

One of the major issues facing Spring Hill is sewer and wastewater – two things the city and its staff have been working to resolve for several years. 

“I’m sorry the issues we have exist, but we are managing them through elected officials and city staff,” Hagaman said. “We are racing to make sure we don’t put future citizens in a bind.” 

In recent years, the Maury County portion of Spring Hill has grown at a faster rate than Williamson County, bucking a decade-long trend. Hagaman said thankfully the city can levy impact fees, which lessens the burden on the city’s infrastructure costs. 

He said he would like to see the county be able to levy those among developers outside the city limits in the future – something county leaders have been working on passing at the state level for two years now. 

“When people build here, they impact everything,” he said. “We have to hire more staff, emergency personnel, equipment and infrastructure. We use those to offset some of the costs. Maury County is growing as well, and I’m surprised the state hasn’t allowed that for them, but they need them.”

For Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder, the growth in Columbia is not coming as a surprise at all. In fact, the city has actively recruited new residents over the last few years. The city has also budgeted for a special census to be called in the next fiscal year in order to capture the funding that comes along with growth.

“Our community is one of inclusion and progress,” he said. “We want to build a community that grows and thrives as our state grows. The business community and those who are investing in our city see where we are headed and want to go where we’re going.” 

Being among the state’s fastest-growing communities is something Molder and the city have been preparing for in recent years. The West 7th streetscape began a massive downtown paving initiative that is currently making its way through the city’s Arts District. The largest single infrastructure project in the city’s history is beginning with their sewer expansion project as well. 

“I am fortunate to have inherited a city that was planning for the future, and that’s what we need to continue to do,” Molder said. “We certainly have our challenges and opportunities, but I’d rather live in a community dealing with those caused by growth than the challenges caused by not growing.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates are based on birth and death records, regional migration information, and building permit data, among other data sets.


Dems Call For Primary (Press Release)

The Maury County Democrat Party have called for a primary for next year’s local elections. The primary will be held the same day as the March 5, 2024 presidential preference primary, and the cost to the taxpayer should be minimal. Voters in this primary will pick Democrat nominees for the August 2024 general election.

The deadline to file for local offices (including school board) will move from April 2024 to December 14, 2023 at noon. This affect candidates of all parties (Democrat, Republican, and Independent) equally.

Anyone who is interested in running for school board in Maury County, or for circuit court judge in the 22nd Judicial District, should plan to pull their petition this fall, rather than waiting until the spring.


Spring Hill Tourism Exhibit (Press Release)

The Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce its highly anticipated annual extravaganza, Experience Spring Hill, The Event presented by Liberty Federal Credit Union. The family-friendly, free event will take place on Saturday, June 24, 2023, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Summit High School. Featuring over 100 vendors offering a diverse range of products and services, Experience Spring Hill, The Event will showcase the vibrant community of Spring Hill in one convenient location.

The event will also offer a plethora of activities to delight all ages, including a touch-a-truck display, an exhilarating bounce house, an engaging golf simulator, an exciting video gaming area, an immersive virtual reality station, lively dance demonstrations from local studios, appearances by beloved "famous" characters, and a medley of entertaining games with fabulous prizes. Furthermore, the City of Spring Hill's library, parks, police, fire, and administrative services will be present, providing valuable community information on-site.

Rebecca Melton, the Executive Director of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce, expressed her enthusiasm for the return of the annual eat, shop, and play event. She stated, "Our organization's mission is to positively influence the business culture to create a better Spring Hill, and this event allows us to showcase the many local businesses and organizations that embody our mission.”

Bringing together representatives from the Spring Hill Welcome Center, Visit Franklin, Experience Maury, Visit Columbia, and South Central Tennessee Tourism Association under one roof, a new attraction at the event will be a "Tennessee Travels" exhibit area, featuring the very best in the area's local tourism, attractions, hidden gems and adventures.

"We are thrilled to be the presenting sponsor of Experience Spring Hill, The Event once again this year," said Chris Wagner of Liberty Federal Credit Union in Spring Hill. "Participating in this event allows us to connect with and wholeheartedly support the Spring Hill community in a meaningful and impactful way.”

For further information about the event, please visit the official website at www.experiencespringhill.com/experience-spring-hill-event.


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

Wilma Jean Cooley Stewart, 85, retired Dietary Aid for Life Care and Heritage Nursing Facilities, died Tuesday, June 20, 2023 at her residence in Columbia. 

 

Graveside services will be conducted Friday at 11:00 A.M. at Polk Memorial Gardens with Reverend Jeff Kane officiating. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements


Mr. Jerry Dwayne Walters, 71, retired employee of Precision Tubular and resident of Mt. Pleasant, died Friday, June 16, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services for Mr. Walters will be conducted Thursday at 11:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Arlington Cemetery.


Mrs. Sheryl Kathleen Ragsdale Wray, 73, retired caregiver for CPS, died Friday, June 16, 2023 at her residence in Pulaski. Funeral services for Mrs. Wray will be conducted Thursday, June 22, 2023 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens.


…And now, news from around the state…

Game Wardens Trespassing? (Tennessean)

A three-judge panel on Tuesday heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of a Tennessee law that authorizes game wardens to perform warrantless searches on private property.

The state is appealing a March 2022 ruling from Benton County that declared the law unconstitutional.

The statute in question gives representatives of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and other designated state or federal agencies the power to enter any property outside of buildings to enforce wildlife laws without a warrant. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian nonprofit and opponent of the law, called it the "game warden surveillance law."

The plaintiffs, Terry Rainwaters and Hunter Hollingsworth, challenged the law after TWRA employees ignored their "No Trespassing" signs and entered their private Benton County lands on multiple occasions in 2017 and earlier to search for potential wildlife violations and installed cameras on their property without their knowledge. The men argued that the law violates their right to privacy under the United States and Tennessee constitutions.

Attorney Josh Windham, from the Institute of Justice and representing the plaintiffs, said the law gives TWRA a “blank check” to enter private land “whenever they please.”

Tennessee Appeals Court Judge Jeffrey Usman contrasted the power the law gives to TWRA employees to police and sheriff’s deputies, who generally need a warrant to enter private property without the owner’s consent.

“If police can’t enter (private property) to investigate a crime against persons, why can the TWRA enter to investigate with regard … to animals?” Usman asked. “Doesn’t the state have an even stronger interest in protecting persons rather than wildlife?”

Amanda Jordan of the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office replied that the standards are different for TWRA because that agency has a different interest and duty than other law enforcement.

“If people are allowed to hunt on private property, then TWRA … needs to be able to enter private property to check for these licensing compliances and to make sure that they are complying with all of the wildlife regulations,” Jordan said.

Windham said during his statement that the statute effectively gives hunters less protection than bootleggers.

“The state’s position in this case seems to be something like, ‘People have less protection under Section 7 (of the Tennessee Constitution) when they’re exercising their constitutionally protected right to hunt than they do if they’re bootlegging... or they’re manufacturing drugs on their land,'” Windham said. “That can’t be the rule that prevails in Tennessee.”

Judge Arnold Goldin asked Jordan why the agency couldn’t just be required to get a warrant to do these sorts of checks, and Jordan replied that agents might not know a hunter’s name, or that a hunter might not be at the same place by the time a warrant is issued.

Arguments lasted only 30 minutes in all. Goldin said the judges will have a decision “as soon as possible.”


Gas Prices (MainStreetMaury)

Tennessee gas prices held relatively steady over last week, moving only a penny more expensive, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.15 which is three cents more expensive than one month ago but $1.45 less than one year ago.  

“While parts of the country are still experiencing big swings at the pump, the movement in pump prices here in Tennessee is relatively stable for now,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The start of summer is nearly here and it’s likely that increased fuel demand will contribute to continued volatility in pump prices over the next few months. The good news is that even with expected volatility in pricing, drivers are finding pump prices far lower than last year.”

Quick Facts

20% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.91 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.48 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 7th least expensive market in the nation 


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

A big winner won a Powerball $1 million prize in Franklin Tennessee from the June 19, 2023 drawing. The winning ticket matched all five white balls.

The winning ticket was purchased at Tim’s Market & Deli located at 1535 Columbia Ave in Franklin.

About the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation

The Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation operates entirely from the revenue it generates through the sale of its products. Since January 20, 2004, the Lottery has raised more than $6.8 billion to fund designated education programs, including college grants, scholarships, Drive to 55 initiatives and after-school programs. In addition to the educational beneficiaries, players have won more than $18.8 billion in prizes and Lottery retailers have earned more than $1.8 billion in commissions.

For additional information, visit tnlottery.com 

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