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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for June 9, 2023


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


We start with local news…

County Budget Passes Committee (CDH)

A proposed county budget of approximately $100 million was unanimously approved with little discussion by the Maury County Budget Committee on Monday.

The budget proposal will now advance to the full commission for consideration on June 20.

"We haven't rushed through this," budget committee chair Kathey Grodi said. "We have had many meetings with departments."

Contrary to last fiscal year, the proposed budget does not call for a property tax increase. Last year, the budget committee and full commission faced much scrutiny over a 31-cent property tax increase after approving school capital projects in the amount of $74 million, including the new Battle Creek High School in Spring Hill — a project that could still draw county funds as construction prices rise.

The current tax rate remains steady at $1.91.

The budget committee also voted unanimously last month not to consider a $50 million capital request from the Maury County Board of Education to construct a new elementary school in Spring Hill. The school district will present the amount to the committee again next budget session. However, according to MCPS Superintendent Lisa Ventura, the school board could still move ahead with buying land for the new school.

When the budget committee passed the final amount for the 2023-24 fiscal year, committee members erupted into applause.

Ray Jeter complimented the committee on a smooth process compared to roadblocks last year when Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles vetoed the tax increase and the full county budget because of funds allocated to the library after a Pride Week display he deemed age-inappropriate.

Although, high-priced items met smooth approval Monday, funding for several nonprofits in the amount of $16,000 elicited the most discussion from commissioners.

Previously elected budget committee members recommended not funding new requests by a few nonprofits, including The Well Outreach in Spring Hill ($10,000), Maury County Students in Transition ($5,000) and a $1,000 allotment for Harvest Share food bank.

Commissioners debated the principle of government bodies funding nonprofits in the community.

Commissioner Gabe Howard said he supports funding for the nonprofits, explaining that the minimal amount would not cause the county financial hardship but only benefit the community.

"These are legitimate nonprofits that serve our community in Maury County. I won't be supporting cutting these ... I don't think this is the right thing we need to be cutting," Howard said.

Maury County Commission Chairman Eric Previti agreed.

"Harvest Share gets food to hungry people. The Well provides food to hungry kids who don't have food on the weekends," Previti said. "Maury County Students in Transition helps kids who might be spending the night in the car and might help them get a hotel for the night.

"These nonprofits have established themselves and have met the requirements we have asked for, any nonprofit can come and ask. It is a miniscule amount. Where are they going to get food? It's helping your fellow man."

Committee member Connie Green, District 4, said she doesn't believe the county should support nonprofits.

"It sets a precedent. We will have everybody walking in here ... ," Green said.

Tommy Wolaver, District 10, who in the end, voted to support the nonprofits, expressed concern about how the county decides which nonprofit receives funding over another, leaving the decision to the commission instead of the taxpayers.

"This year, I will support it. Next year, I may not," Wolaver said.

Budget committee member Danny Grooms, District 10, highlighted the discrepancy between higher priced capital projects discussed at an earlier Maury County Building Committee Meeting on Monday.

"We just talked about spending $160,000 more on a building [the county judicial center under construction], and we can't give $20,000 to a nonprofit? There's something wrong with that," Grooms said.

Budget key items include the following:

Highway Public Works Fund: $8.2 million

Highway capital projects: $1.3 million (paving, asphalt and more)

Debt Service Fund: $29.5 million (education, government bonds on capital projects)

Capital projects fund: $2.4 million (jail plant operation equipment, fire vehicles, sheriff's department vehicles and more)

Solid Waste Fund: $8 million (waste pick-up, landfill operations and more)

Central Maintenance Garage Fund: $2.7 million

General Administration: $2.75 million


Justice Center Pricetag 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 Wednesday. “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.


Flag Raising Ceremony (Press Release)

The City of Columbia is pleased to announce the highly anticipated flag raising ceremony to celebrate its first official city flag. The event will take place on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at 8:00 AM at Columbia City Hall.


The flag raising ceremony marks an important milestone in Columbia's rich history as it proudly presents its very own city flag for the first time. The flag design represents the unity, heritage, and vibrant spirit of the city's residents, capturing the essence of Columbia's past, present, and future.


During the ceremony, city officials and community members will come together to share in this momentous occasion. The program will feature speeches from city leaders, including City Mayor Chaz Molder and flag designee Byson Leach highlighting the significance of the flag and its symbolism to the city's identity. The City looks forward to this event as we celebrate the raising of Columbia's first official city flag.


Scam Alert (MauryCountySource)

The Columbia Police Department has received several calls from concerned citizens about an ongoing scam in the community.

Citizens are stating that they are receiving calls from an individual claiming to be an officer with Columbia Police Department and asking them for money. The caller is stating that you need to pay a sum of money or face arrest.

This is a scam and citizens of Columbia should be aware of this and use precautions when dealing with calls from scammers.

The Columbia Police Department nor any other law enforcement agency will ever demand money in lieu of arrest. Please don’t fall victim to this scam.

If you have fallen victim to this scam and have a monetary loss, please contact the Columbia Police Department or have any questions regarding the scam call 931-388-2727.


FFM Bank Hires Matthews (Press Release)

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation (OTC Pink: FFMH), the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, today announced that Joanna Matthews has joined the bank as a Senior Personal Trust Officer.

“We are pleased to announce that Joanna Matthews has joined our trust and wealth management team at First Farmers as a Senior Personal Trust Officer,” stated Dawn Moore, Chief Wealth Management Officer. “She joins our team of proven professionals with advanced degrees in business and law. We expect her experience as an attorney will be an important factor in assisting our customers with the complexities of their financial, trust and estate planning. She will be a strong addition to our team that remains focused on our hallmark approach of providing individual attention to each client.”

Matthews joins First Farmers with over nine years of experience as corporate counsel at VF Corporation. While at VF Corporation, she provided counsel at the corporate level and to their operations in North, Central and South American regions. She is a cum laude graduate of Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from Tulane University and is admitted to the Bar in Tennessee. Joanna is a Columbia native having graduated from Columbia Central High School. 

Country Star Helps Build Columbia House (MainStreetMaury)

Tyler Hubbard, award-winning singer, songwriter and country music star – and Cornerstone Building Brands’ “Home for Good” project ambassador – recently helped a Columbia family in need achieve their dream of owning a home.

Hubbard joined volunteers on Wednesday, June 7 to help build a home in Columbia, taking time from his busy CMA Fest schedule last week.

“I had the opportunity to come to Columbia… I’m excited to have the opportunity to be out here,” Hubbard said in a promotional video for Cornerstone. “I just met the McClain family. They’re amazing people and it’s an honor to be part of their dream home, where they’re going to raise their family and create memories.”

Hubbard is dedicated to the area, which is the epicenter of country music. His participation in the event, which included attendance by Cornerstone Building Brands CEO Rose Lee, was organized through the “Home for Good” project, the Cornerstone Building Brands initiative dedicated to donating products and resources for safe and affordable housing, with Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury.

Hubbard has been the “Home for Good” project ambassador since July of 2022 in support of providing affordable housing and creating safe homes for families in need, using the unifying force of country music to amplify interest nationwide.

With 21 No.1 singles on country radio, countless awards, and sold-out tours, Hubbard has already had a remarkable career as a songwriter and as one half of multi-platinum duo Florida Georgia Line. Hubbard has now stepped out on his own and Billboard claims “Hubbard’s solo career keeps building,” with the release of his debut solo album, “Tyler Hubbard.” The album, released earlier this year, features Hubbard’s hit debut solo single “5 Foot 9,” which hit No. 1 at radio, was certified Platinum by the RIAA, and has over 440 million global streams. It also features Hubbard’s current single, “Dancin’ In The Country,” which already has almost 163 million global streams and is Top 5 at Country radio. The song spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Canadian Country Radio Chart and hit No. 1 on SXM’s The Highway and the MusicRow chart. Hubbard has made several television appearances as a solo artist, most recently at the CMT Music Awards, and also on Good Morning America, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Today. Hubbard is continuing to write, record and tour the country at fairs and festivals throughout the summer.

Cornerstone Building Brands’ “Home for Good” project supports and champions the company’s goal of building stronger communities. Since it began in 2016, the “Home for Good” project has provided more than $3.1 million in exterior building products, such as windows, siding and accessories to build or remodel over 670 Habitat for Humanity homes in more than 90 communities. Universal Music Group Nashville has been a partner in this critical work since the program’s launch, with Tyler Hubbard named as its most recent celebrity ambassador, after partnerships with country music ambassadors Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, Lauren Alaina, Jon Pardi and Luke Bryan.  

Habitat for Humanity has become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability, and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

Cornerstone Building Brands is the largest manufacturer of exterior building products by sales for residential and low-rise non-residential buildings in North America. Headquartered in Cary, N.C., the company serves residential and commercial customers across the new construction and repair and remodel markets.


Summer School (MainStreetMaury)

Roughly 350 students who just completed the third grade have signed up to participate in Maury County Public Schools’ summer learning camps in order to avoid potentially being retained in the upcoming school year.

MCPS’ summer program started June 5 and will run through June 30. Third-grade students participating in the summer program must average 90 percent attendance in order to be promoted to the fourth grade, under state law.

The summer programs are part of measures enacted to comply with a law passed by the General Assembly in 2021 that requires third graders to pass the English/Language Arts portion of annual TCAP testing in order to be promoted.

The Tennessee Department of Education released initial TCAP results in May, which indicated that approximately 63 percent of MCPS third graders did not meet the required standard. Retest opportunities were made available to students in advance of the summer programs.

“Our retake passing rate hovers at 12 percent. There is one more day of retakes, but we have retested over 90 percent of the eligible students. We have approximately 350 third graders enrolled for our summer STARS program.  We will not know until after (June 30) which students attend 90 percent of the required time and their increase in achievement until they retest post STAR program attendance,” MCPS Communications Director Jack Cobb stated.

Parents may also appeal to TDOE if their child scored “approaching” on the ELA test. The May results shows that 37.5 percent of MCPS’ nearly 1,000 third-grade students scored “approaching.” Parents have until June 30 to file an appeal and can ask the school district for assistance if needed. Per the TDOE website, appeals may be filed if the student received a score above the 40th percentile on their spring universal reading screener; or if there was “a catastrophic situation occurred during the days leading up to the TCAP test that impacted the third-grade student’s ability to perform on the test or the retake.”

“The appeal window opened late Tuesday morning and the parent must file the appeal. The LEA cannot do this for the parent. However, our school staff will assist ANY parent that needs assistance, including internet connectivity,” Cobb said.


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

Mr. Clayton “Clay” Morris Neal, Sr., a joint owner and the Executive Vice President of JRN, Inc., passed away peacefully Thursday, June 1, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tennessee.

A Celebration of Clay’s life will be conducted Friday, June 9th at 11:00 am at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Interment will follow at St. John’s Episcopal Church at Ashwood.


…And now, news from around the state…

The Cost of Abuse (WPLN)

Abuse and neglect take an enormous emotional toll on children across Tennessee. Now, a new report estimates the economic impact of child abuse, and finds it’s costing the state billions of dollars each year.  

The effects of childhood abuse can last a lifetime. Victims are more likely to get arrested, spend more on healthcare and earn less money when they join the work force.  

“There’s been research that has shown that people who were mistreated as children, through a variety of pathways, are likely to die at a younger age than people who haven’t been,” said Matt Harris. He co-authored the new report from the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research.

Researchers found that child abuse and neglect cost the state between $3.3 billion and $5 billion a year. And that’s a conservative estimate. 

“That report doesn’t reflect the total human cost of it. That’s a much bigger number,” Harris said.

That’s because the report doesn’t capture the emotional toll of abuse — only the effects that can be linked to an economic outcome. And the report bases its figures off of cases with sufficient evidence to be ruled “substantiated.”

But in reality, child abuse often goes unreported. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that actual cases of child abuse are about three times higher than the number of substantiated cases nationwide.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth partnered with UT for the report. Kylie Graves is a policy specialist with the commission. She’s also director of the Second Look Commission, which reviews child abuse cases and makes recommendations to the General Assembly. 

“When you’re dealing with something as hard and heavy as child abuse, turning it into economics feels cold almost at times,” Graves said.

But she said having data like this can help convince lawmakers to invest in prevention strategies. Those policies could look like increasing financial support to families, expanding mental health resources and offering targeted interventions for at-risk families.

“But like we said, all of this comes with an economic toll,” Graves said. “So the purpose of this report is to really look at what’s the toll of not doing that, and it’s shocking.”

She adds that the study could help fiscal analysts at the state legislature quantify the cost of inaction as they assess the price tags of legislative proposals that could prevent child abuse.

“As the next legislative session starts, and bills have fiscal notes, I think this is a really valuable resource.”


Titans Set Preseason Game Schedule (Tennessean)

The NFL announced the dates and times for the Tennessee Titans' three preseason games this fall, including their one matchup at Nissan Stadium against the New England Patriots.

The Titans will visit the Chicago Bears on Saturday, Aug. 12 at noon and face off against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. before returning to Nashville for a Friday, Aug. 25 against the Patriots at 7:15 p.m. The Titans have already announced they will pair with the Vikings for joint practices in Minnesota ahead of the second preseason game.

There will be a two-week gap between the third preseason game and the start of the regular season, which for the Titans begins on Sept. 10 in New Orleans against the Saints. The Titans' home opener is on Sept. 17 against the Los Angeles Chargers.


The Great Tennessee Airshow (MainStreetMaury)

The Great Tennessee Air Show returns to Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport on June 10 and June 11 with the first female pilot of a Navy Blue Angels fighter jet joining the event.

The Smyrna airport, once Sewart Air Force Base, has been hosting air shows since the 1970s.

The precedent-breaking pilot is Navy Lt. Amanda Lee, from Mounds View, Minn. Lee enlisted in the Navy as an Aviation Electronic Technician. She joined the six-person Blue Angels fighter jet demonstration squad in September of 2022, and has more than 1,400 hours and more than 225 carrier landings since then.

Lee, who uses the call sign “Stalin,” made her historic Blue Angels debut as the Left Wing pilot in the No. 3 jet last March. She is currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 and recently completed a deployment aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.

Other female pilots have worked with the Blue Angels team, which is more than 50 years old, including Marine Maj. Katie Higgins, who flew the team’s C-130 Fat Albert transport plane for three years beginning in 2014. Lee is the first female to serve as a fighter jet demonstration pilot.

The Blue Angels are now flying the F/A-18E/F “Super Hornet” military aircraft, which is a redesign of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, the Blue Angels previous ride. The Super Hornet is approximately 25 percent larger, can fly 40 percent farther and carry more weapons than the Hornet.

Each Blue Angels aircraft can be transitioned back to combat-ready status in less than 72 hours.

The Blue Angels flight leader and commanding officer is Navy Commander Alex Armatas. He has more than 4,100 flight hours and 911 carrier landings.

Other aircraft and performers scheduled for the Smyrna event include the Air Force F-22 Raptor, the Navy F-35 Dual Aircraft Performance, the Air Force Heritage Flight, the Navy Legacy Flight, the Special Operations Command parachute team, and private and commercial pilots.

GREAT TENNESSEE AIR SHOW

Where: Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport, 278 Doug Warpoole Rd., Smyrna

When: June 10-11. Gates open at 8 a.m. each day. Performances end at 4:30 p.m. each day. Schedules for specific performances will not be released in advance.

Tickets: Tickets are sold online only at greattennesseeairshow.com/tickets/

Parking: General parking is free. VIP Parking is optional and available for purchase.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

If you're not one of the thousands that'll descend on Nashville for CMA Fest this weekend, there will be plenty of fun to be had here in Maury County.

Saturday kicks off with a mix of good food and the best Columbia's Farmers Fresh Market has to offer with this year's Farmers Market Food Truck Mixer.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Riverwalk Park, 102 Riverside Drive.

Featured food trucks include Joey's Italian Ices, Real Smoke BBQ, Wing 1-1, Mostarda Kitchen & Event, Web's Carnival Treats, Buns on The Run, La Tapatia LLC and M&L Food Truck.


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