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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for June 23, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Spring Hill Adopts Budget (CDH)

The city of Spring Hill, after numerous meetings, changes and amendments, has adopted its latest 2023-2024 fiscal year budget.

The budget, which consists of approximately $88.7 million in the city's general fund, went before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen its final reading this week. Prior to the final vote, BOMA members issued requests for several additional amendments for various funding needs and projects.

This year's budget also included no changes to the city's property tax rate.

Of all the projects budgeted to receive funding this year, 80% of operating costs are being designated to street/road projects, public safety and utilities. This includes projects such as the ongoing Buckner Lane and Buckner Road widenings in conjunction with the new I-65 interchange, construction of a new Spring Hill Police headquarters and finding solutions to the city's water capacity concerns.

A few of the proposed amendments approved Monday included:

$10,000 for a Spring Hill Visitors Center (from tourism funds)

$40,000 for roof repairs at Historic Rippavilla (from tourism funds)

$272,500 for bridge improvements at Jim Warren Road

$38,500 for design costs for Port Royal Road widening

$100,000 for professional services for improvements to Kedron Road from Main Street to Saturn Parkway

$7,600 for a part-time Mental Health Specialist position

One item that was absent from the 2023-2024 budget was funding for a new Spring Hill fire station, which was a topic of discussion at previous budget talks. The estimated $11 million project remains a top priority for city leaders, but there wasn't enough revenue in the budget to cover it next fiscal year.

In his monthly newsletter, Alderman Matt Fitterer said construction of Fire Station 4 is a priority BOMA takes very seriously, and that while its funding won't appear in this year's budget, there are other efforts being made to ensure the project moves forward.

"The vast majority of BOMA clearly supports Fire Station 4 as the most important facility capital project not currently underway. There simply isn't resources to do so with current revenue levels," Fitterer stated.

"However, two things simultaneously occurring should allow BOMA some room to move forward with Fire Station 4 this year anyways. The Budget and Finance Committee recently met with the city's municipal bond council with the goal of identifying alternative lending or debt instruments that will allow Spring Hill to gain some additional capacities."

Fitterer added that Fire Station 4 is not the only priority facility project to address the city's growing needs, and that in addition to a new fire hall, there is the ongoing need for a new library, city hall, additional park land and renovations to Fire Station 1.


CSCC Pins EMS Grads (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College recently recognized 7 emergency medical technicians and 23 advanced emergency medical technicians upon completion of their programs during the Spring 2023 EMS Pinning ceremony held in the Webster Athletic Center.

 

“These students exemplify excellence in emergency care and are to be commended for the hard work they put into these programs,” said Greg Johnson, Columbia State EMS Academy program director. “Each will become valuable assets as emergency responders in the communities to which they will serve. Columbia State’s EMS Academy faculty continue to produce exceptionally qualified clinicians and set the bar for credentialing exam success.”

Spring 2023 EMT completers achieved an 100% first-attempt pass rate for the national registry. Students in the integrated certificate received a 100% first-attempt pass rate on the EMT national registry and a 83% first-attempt pass rate on the Advanced EMT registry. The success of these students is phenomenal when compared to a national average first-attempt pass rate of 59-68% across the same time period.

An EMT provides basic life support at the site of illnesses and injuries, assisting with transport to the hospital. The Advanced EMT provides basic and advanced life support at sites of illnesses and injuries through transport to the hospital. 

The accelerated AEMT path is an academy-style, technical certificate program designed to educate and train students to serve as vital members of a pre-hospital EMS team in a single semester. Students must complete 144 hours of clinical rotations to earn a technical certificate in AAEMT.

EMT certificate completers also have the option to pursue the General Technology Associate of Applied Science degree by combining coursework from two certificates with general education courses to complete a personalized degree program.

“Successfully completing Columbia State’s program signifies confidence in the ability to provide exceptional pre-hospital care,” said Dr. Kae Fleming, Columbia State dean of the Health Sciences Division. “These new EMTs have bright futures with jobs to choose from and options for career advancement!”

The program provides students with the necessary didactic and practical training to perform life-saving skills. Additionally, students learn to work alone, as well as in a squad-based (team) environment. 

For more information about the EMS program, visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/EMS  or contact Johnson at 931.540.2792.


City Adopts FY2023-24 Budget (CDH)

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.


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.”

American Barrel Opens (CDH)

American Barrel owners Nathan and America Close opened the doors of their new cocktail café earlier this year in downtown Columbia, providing an upscale spot for sipping drinks and noshing on small plates with diverse flavors.

The couple says the café's key purpose is to create a sense of community, embodying its name, where all have a seat at the table.

The husband-wife team is serving creative cocktails with homemade signature syrups at the new bar/café on historic 7th Street next to Bluff City Soap downtown, offering dishes inspired across cultures, including Spanish, Italian, Hispanic, Southern, and Asian.

The renovated long-vacant spot is attracting customers through its low-lit, cozy atmosphere with upscale, modern finishes.

America Close said bringing different cultural components together at the café was inspired by her own diverse background — and by her name.

The meaning of American Barrel, a double entendre, America explained, references oak barrels that hold spirits and America as a "melting pot."

"It's a celebration of the melting pot. You will see that in our food menu and our decór. The idea was to have a seat at the table for everybody and to enjoy each other," said America, who has a degree in education and a background in the service industry.

Dishes feature tapas-style plates with fusion influences with recipes devised by America, based on her multicultural background.

America brought her flair for cooking and mixing drinks, while her husband Nathan brought his woodworking and building skills to renovate the spot.

The decór depicts low lighting, dark wood counters reclaimed from the original wood in the building, and wainscoting halfway up the walls providing a cozy European Old World feel with a modern touch.

The couple got the idea to expand their existing mobile Bar Car Americana business — one of the first fully-licensed mobile bars in Tennessee — during the pandemic when people felt so separated from one another, ex-Marine Nathan Close explained.

Earlier this year, the couple brought their Bar Car concept to the brick-and-mortar location in Columbia but still run the Bar Car operation, reaching a wider audience.

Bar Car Americana, all-inclusive bartending service in tandem with the café, can be booked anywhere in Tennessee with full access to the American Barrel menu. The couple started Bar Car in 2020, featuring pop-up "experience" events — Valentine's Day, speakeasy-themed events, and more — during the pandemic, which grew in popularity, drawing customers from all over Middle Tennessee.

"We wanted to build experiences people would remember for years to come, " America said. "It was Covid; everyone was separated, and there wasn't a lot of community being built."

So, she wanted to build a sense of community in her own town of Columbia.

"There was a lot of political unrest and racial tensions. It was sad for me to see people who could've been loving one another, just fighting so much. I always loved being named America because it was multicultural, multiracial, multilingual," America said. "It doesn't mean being perfect, it means being with people who also chose to come to that table.

"I wanted to bring people together again."

Now with the opening of American Barrel, "you don't have to leave Columbia to have a top-notch cocktail and experience," she said, along with tasty dishes.

With a Swedish and Native American ethnic background growing up in Arizona, America said the diversity of her heritage has inspired her passion for connecting cultures and people to build community, as well as a talent for cooking.

One of five children with a spirit of determination, America has experimented with all recipes, sometimes cooking dozens of variations inspired by her father's Native American heritage.

The menu features the popular "bourbon bites," or pan-seared Kielbasa sausage with a bourbon glaze; Albondigas, or Mexican meatballs in a smoky chipotle sauce; sirloin strip poached in a garlic and thyme butter sauce, as well as Italian Caprese salad and elote Mexican street corn, to name a few.

Cocktails include house-infused flavors like orange and lavender and feature classics like the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and signature cocktails like Mezcal Punch with lime and cranberry and La Fluer with Condesa Orange Blossom gin, house lavender bitters and elderflower.

The cocktail café held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week hosted by Maury Alliance, officially celebrating its opening at 118 W. 7th Street in Columbia.

"We are trying to give our guests the quality experience not just in our drinks but in our food and our service," Nathan said.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The café is closed      Sunday and Monday.

"It's about creating a place where everybody can come. The food and space is designed to develop community," America said.


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.


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


…And now, news from around the state…

School Security Grants (Tennessean)

On June 21, 2023, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee invited local law enforcement agencies and schools to apply for nearly $200 million in grant funding to further strengthen security at Tennessee schools.

These two grant programs – a result of bipartisan action by Gov. Lee and the General Assembly to pass strong school security measures into law during the 2023 legislative session – include significant funding to support placing a full-time, armed school resource officer (SRO) at every public school and make physical security improvements at public and non-public schools across Tennessee.

“Nothing is more important than making sure that Tennessee students and teachers return home from school safely each day,” said Gov. Lee. “This year, together with the General Assembly, we made significant investments to secure schools across Tennessee, and we’re now inviting local law enforcement agencies and schools to partner with us by applying for these historic funds.”

Local law enforcement agencies and schools across Tennessee are invited to apply for the following grant programs to further strengthen school safety:

Statewide School Resource Officer Grant

The FY23-24 budget includes $140 million to place a full-time, armed SRO at every Tennessee public school.

Local law enforcement agencies are eligible to apply for a Statewide School Resource Officer (SRO) Grant, not to exceed $75,000 per year, per school for which they are responsible for providing SRO services. Applications are being accepted and reviewed by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security on a rolling basis.

Public & Non-Public School Security Grants

Additionally, the FY23-24 budget dedicates significant one-time funding to strengthen security at Tennessee schools, totaling $40 million for public schools and $14 million for non-public schools.

The grant funding, administered through the Tennessee Department of Education, can be used to support a variety of school security efforts, including improved physical security, emergency operations planning, violence prevention programs, conflict resolution and safety training for staff members.

Public School Security Grant

Public school security grant applications must demonstrate a connection between requested funding and the vulnerabilities identified in the school’s yearly safety assessment, developed by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Non-Public School Security Grant

Non-public schools must submit an “Intent to Apply” through the Tennessee Department of Education by August 4. Final grant applications are due no later than October 27.

Learn more about Gov. Lee’s enhanced school safety legislation and commitment to strengthen security at Tennessee schools each year since 2019 by visiting www.tn.gov/governor.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

There's nothing like cooling off on a hot summer day with a dip in the pool, and that includes the family pup.

United Farm & Home Co-op, 975 Riverview Lane, will host a Pup Pool Party from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, inviting all pet parents to bring their little fur buddies for a wet and wild good time.

The event will feature multiple pup pools, agility training, as well as a few freebee giveaways and other prizes for you and your dog.

Also be sure to share your Pup Pool Party photos on social media using the hashtag #UFHCPupPoolParty.


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