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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 1, 2024


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


We start with local news…

The Drake (CDH)

Construction is underway downtown set to bring multiple projects to life along the East 6th Street, including downtown's first high-rise apartment complex, The Drake.

Anyone who has walked or driven along East 6th Street near the Woodland Street intersection might have noticed construction crews taking residence over the last few weeks. And while construction might create some inconvenience, the combined finished projects aim to add another layer to downtown's growing tapestry of businesses, modern residential options and historic preservation.

The Drake will offer 293 rooms, a parking garage (not public), ground-level retail space, courtyard and other amenities.

Franklin-based Bristol Development is overseeing the project, which is estimated to be completed in early 2026.

"They have closed on their property and submitted all of their building and construction plans to our development services staff, who are reviewing all of that now, but we went ahead and gave them the demo permit to begin site prep and demolition," city manager Tony Massey said. "They didn't waste any time at all getting all of that stuff knocked down and gone."

Adjacent to the apartment project, construction to expand the Maury County Archives has been underway for six months, which should be near completion by the end of September.

The archives expansion will add an additional 18,500 square feet to its current 8,500-square foot facility, which will add a much-needed space to preserve and make accessible, the historic documents of Maury County.

Down one block at East 6th Street and North Main Street two more projects, including new restaurants and a butcher are being constructed, adding to the changing landscape.

There are also plans to construct a museum dedicated to the city's automotive history, though Massey said details of that project are limited at this time.

"I don't know much about that, but that it's going to be next to where the downtown apartments are going," Massey said. "There is a lot of synergy going on downtown right now."

The Drake apartments will consist of four stories, with an additional lower level serving as a basement, with units ranging from one, two and three bedrooms.

In addition to its private garage parking, other Drake amenities will consist of a courtyard area with a pool, dog park and pet spa, a bike lounge, fitness center, as well as a music/podcast studio.

There are also plans to open retail space at the facility's frontage onto Woodland Street.

"It's pretty much got all of the bells and whistles that a modern apartment community can have," Bristol principal Charles Carlisle said. "There are a lot of people that love these little urban areas, and so we always want to attract people that could have bought a home, but want to live in a downtown area, having all of the amenities without having to maintain their own space. That's the target market that we are aiming for."

The Drake will also provide what's called a "co-working space" which is a gathering spot set up like a coffee shop for meetings and networking.

"It feels and looks like a coffee shop, with drinks and coffee available to residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Carlisle said. "There will be tables, chairs and little offices set up where people can come down and either be by themselves, or maybe have a small meeting down there. That's a big deal today with a lot of people working from home."

Carlisle said what attracted his company to build in Columbia was the thriving atmosphere of growth, small businesses and retail, as well as its integrity in maintaining its history and why his company hopes to bring "a new and exciting chapter" to downtown Columbia's continued growth.

"It's about keeping the trend of revitalizing the downtown, and I think this will really enhance that, because people living downtown is a really important thing to have," Carlisle said. "It's really exciting to see."

MCPS Teacher Indicted (MSM)

A Maury County Public School teacher was indicted on Feb. 15 on 16 charges related to child sexual abuse, all of which allegedly occurred on multiple occasions between 2020 and 2023.

According to the indictment, Kenny L. Anderson Jr., 39, of Columbia, is accused of having “unlawfully engaged in sexual contact with a child 13 years of age or older, but less than 18 years of age.”

The indictment further states that Anderson was in a position of authority over the victim.

In total, Anderson was charged with five counts of rape, five of incest, five of sexual battery by an authority figure and one count of aggravated sexual battery.

According to MCPS Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ventura, Anderson was suspended last August pending the investigation.

“Per MCPS School Board policy, all suspensions are without pay,” Ventura said. “MCPS is aware of his indictment.”

Ventura said Anderson is still employed, but did not comment on his current status.

Anderson was booked into the Maury County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 20 and released later that day on a $200,000 bond. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Thursday, Feb 29.

Bill To Strengthen Burglary Penalty (MSM)

A bill sponsored by State Rep. Kip Capley (R-Summertown) would expand the penalty for certain burglaries from a Class E felony to a Class D felony.

House Bill 1978 addresses burglaries of freight or passenger railroad cars, automobiles, trailers, boats, airplanes and other modes of transportation.

“Tennessee Republicans are committed to improving public safety in our state,” Capley said. “Stiffer penalties deter people from committing crimes and this bill will ensure individuals convicted of burglary receive the sentences they deserve. Tennessee is a law-and-order state and we will continue working to find solutions to reduce crime and protect victims.”

There were more than 31,731 reported thefts from motor vehicles in 2022, an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Break-ins and attempted break-ins of delivery trucks are major issues in Tennessee and across the country. A group of people attempted to break into an Amazon semitrailer while it was stuck on the ice in Memphis in January. A month before that, a major transportation company issued a warning to its drivers to stay cautious and secure packages due to a rise in reports of truck break-ins.

House Bill 1978 was scheduled to be heard in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Feb. 27.

Capley represents House District 71, which includes Wayne County and part of Hardin, Lawrence, and Maury counties.

First Farmers Promotes Gordon (Press Release)

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation (OTC Pink: FFMH), the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, announced that J. Dianne Gordon was named Branch Administration Officer of the Bank.   

“Dianne is a 40-year veteran of First Farmers and Merchants Bank and will be responsible for the efficient and effective operations of the Bank’s branch network in her role as Branch Administration Officer,” stated Brian K. Williams, First Farmers’ Chairman and CEO. “Her deep knowledge of First Farmers’ operations and experience across our branch network will be important assets to her successful oversight of First Farmers branches.

“Dianne joined the bank in 1980 and has served in many capacities within our branches.  She was Head Teller at our Main Office, Main Office Operations Manager, Branch Platform Coordinator and a Branch Manager. She also served as Regional Bank Training Manager, Regional Director of Operations/Teller Coordinator and most recently as a Branch Administrator. In her new role, Dianne will monitor the operations of the Bank’s branches with a focus on the achievement of profitability and efficiency goals including the deployment of staff resources. She will provide management oversight and direction for the ongoing development of branch team members. She will also be the primary point of contact for technical issues and problem resolution in the branch network.”

Dianne is a devoted individual who actively contributes to her community through her involvement in her church and managing the family farm alongside her husband of over 40 years. Her unwavering commitment to service and family values is evident in every aspect of her life.

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation is the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, a community bank serving the Middle Tennessee area through 22 offices in seven Middle Tennessee counties. As of Dec. 31, 2023, First Farmers reported total assets of approximately $1.9 billion, total shareholders’ equity of approximately $124 million, and administered trust assets of $5.9 billion.  For more information about First Farmers, visit www.myfirstfarmers.com under “Investor Relations.”

Waxing Columbia Company Opening (WKOM Audio 1:30)

Yesterday, Waxing Columbia Company opened their doors in North Columbia. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy stopped by the ribbon cutting and spoke to business owner Jessica McClellan…

Spring Hill Park Property Purchased (MSM)

The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen has approved an agreement for the purchase of property for future recreational use.

The agreement calls for the city to pay $3.6 million for 33.65 acres at 2841 Hurt Road, which is located in Williamson County.

Also part of the agreement is the clause stating that it, “gives the seller of the property the right to name the park property, including trails, paths, buildings or amenities in recognition of Seller’s family.”

The seller in the agreement is identified as Danny C. Allen Trustee of the Danny C. Allen Trust.

Alderman Brent Murray noted the need for the property from a recreation standpoint, adding that the need is great for all sports and activities.

“At Parks and Recreation they’ve been looking for years,” he said. “This property is a great center point for fields, playground and park amenities as well.”

He added that the city has set aside $1.5 million for park land acquisition, adding that the price for the property is enticing.

“It’s a lot of space for not a lot of money,” Murray said. “It’s a great opportunity to provide something that’s a need here in our city.”

Other aldermen agreed about the opportunity to purchase the land and the need for the recreation space.

City Administrator Pam Caskie said the city has a due diligence period as set forth in the agreement. She said the city has money available for the purchase of the property once the proper amendments and transfers are made by the board.

The board voted 8-1 to approve the purchase agreement, with Alderman Kevin Gavigan voting against. Gavigan had expressed his concern that the purchase agreement was included on the board’s agenda as a consent item even though there had not been much time for public discussion and for the board to get familiar with it.

Annexation request

An item discussed by the board at its Feb. 20 meeting as part of its work session, but not voted on, was the requested annexation of the Caldwell Farms area.

The annexation request came to the board with a favorable recommendation from the Planning Commission and includes a rezoning request.

Mayor Jim Hagaman acknowledged the developer of the project in question has produced a quality development in Spring Hill, which he added is something the city government wants.

He praised several aspects of the design of the proposed development.

“My issue is that I strongly believe the issues we have on us, specifically to water and sewer capacity, this would not support my philosophy of responsible growth,” the mayor said, noting the he believes the city should avoid adding to those issues. “Your company is fantastic, but I can’t, as a representative of the citizens, support anymore growth that does not allow us to move forward with the issues we have upon us.”

Several aldermen agreed:

• Alderman Trent Linville noted that he was the one vote against the annexation on the planning commission. He pointed to the fact that all the areas surrounding the property in question are single family homes and the development includes multi-family townhouses.

“I don’t think it meets the public benefits standard we should have for development in Spring Hill,” he said. “As a board we need to decide do we want to reserve sewer capacity for residential development or to help diversify our local economy. We are really heavily weighted toward residential.”

• Alderman Vincent Fuqua, however, said that although he agrees with what the mayor said, he believes the city can service the area.

• Gavigan also expressed his appreciation for the work the developer has done in Spring Hill, but he pointed to the work the city has done on Buckner Lane and the impact more residential development would have there.

Election Task Force

After a Citizen Election Task Force spent a year working on alternatives to the way board members are elected based on changes in the state law, the board found out on Feb. 20 that those efforts may not be necessary now.

Caskie and City Attorney Patrick Carter explained that approximately a week after the CETF made its recommendations to change Spring Hill’s board elections to wards rather than at-large, an advisory came down from the Tennessee Municipal League that the way the elections were previously held may be legal.

The Municipal Technical Assistance Service has informed the board they have three options: 1. continue as voting has been historically done and make sure the state agrees it is legal; 2. implement the CETF recommendations or 3. do what has been done with state approval and rebalance the wards from which aldermen are elected.

Caskie said the wards need to be rebalanced in order to make sure each ward has near the same number of people.

Caskie also stressed the importance of Spring Hill citizens filling out the special census, explaining that it will help with ward balancing and help the city get more money from the state.

The concensus among board members was much like Alderman Matt Fitterer’s comment that while he appreciates the work the CETF did, the reason for putting the task force together was all based on a premise that there was a mandated change.

He added that he believes the system Spring Hill has been using works well and makes sure all of the elected officials are accountable to all citizens.

Carter said he would follow up with TML to make sure the city is in fact following state law. He noted that a lot of cities got the same MTAS opinion across the state.

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

Douglas John Tracy, 67, and member of First United Methodist Church in Columbia, died February 26, 2024 at his residence in Hampshire.

The family will visit with friends Saturday, March 2, 2023 from 3:00 PM until 7:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Online condolences may be extended at www.oakesandnichols.com.

Mary Charles Redman Berwind, 77, resident of Columbia, TN, and retired clerk for Tennessee Farm Bureau, passed away Thursday, February 29, 2024 at Green Hills Center for Rehabilitation and Healing. 

Graveside services will be conducted Monday, March 4, 2024 at 2:00 P.M. at Mount Hope Cemetery in Franklin, TN with Brandon Cochran officiating. The family will visit with friends Monday, March 4, 2024 from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. 

…And now, news from around the state…

Green Back in the Race (Tennessean)

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, will seek reelection despite his “strong desire” to leave Congress this year, a quick reversal from his retirement plans he announced two weeks ago.

Green’s initial retirement announcement took many by surprise, though it came amid a slew of similar retirements by high-ranking House Republicans.

The congressman’s office earlier this week confirmed he was reconsidering his decision, as reports simmered that some Tennessee Republicans had asked him to rethink his plans.

In a statement, Green said former President Donald Trump was among those encouraging him to seek reelection.

“While my strong desire was to leave Congress at the end of this year, since my announcement, I have received countless calls from constituents, colleagues, and President Trump urging me to reconsider,” Green said in a statement. “I was reminded of the words of General MacArthur on a statue at West Point: ‘Duty, honor, country.’ I realized, once again: I had a duty to my country to fulfill. I will be running for re-election so I can be here on Day 1 next year to help President Trump end this border crisis once and for all."

Green's retirement would have left the Republican primary in the 7th Congressional District wide open. Green had never faced a primary challenge for the seat.

Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, a Democrat, announced in December she would seek the Democratic nomination in the 7th Congressional District and challenge Green for the seat.

In a statement, Barry slammed Green's reversal, saying he's decided to run for a job that "just two weeks ago he said he didn’t want - just because his party bosses told him to."

South Central Tennessee Tourism Initiative (Press Release)

Executive Director Ryan French, South Central Tennessee Tourism Association, announced today the launch of the Tennessee Tourism Investment Project, a 501(c)(3) organization established to expand SCTTA’s philanthropic capabilities. Tourism professional Dominic Gialdini will serve as executive director of the non-profit. 

 

The mission of The Tennessee Tourism Investment Project is to secure funding, develop sustainable tourism projects and implement programs that enhance tourism throughout the South Central Tennessee Tourism Association’s realm of influence.

 

“This is a great day for tourism in Tennessee, the 2nd largest industry in the state,” French said. “This initiative gives business leaders and entrepreneurs a solid path to help fund great projects in the region so we can continue to build sustainable tourism for future generations.” 

 

Tennessee Tourism Investment Project is designed to create educational, professional, and transformational tourism opportunities that contribute to a culture of tourism entrepreneurship in south central Tennessee. It is a mechanism to fundraise for meaningful, positive interventions that advance ongoing programs, create innovative initiatives that strengthen the tourism workforce and contribute to asset development in the fields of art, outdoor recreation and heritage tourism. 

 

As a 501(c)(3) Tennessee Tourism Investment Project relies on the financial support of sponsors whose values align with the mission to enhance tourism and create opportunity in and around the south central Tennessee region. The program’s four cornerstones include: education, job creation and workforce development, grant support, and transformational projects/asset development. In addition to the project fund, the Endowment Fund, an extension of the program, is structured to provide long-term funding for ongoing activities.

 

“Having an educational and professional background in sustainable tourism development, I am acutely aware of opportunities and setbacks to navigate when it comes to creating new initiatives to bolster our efforts,” Gialdini said. “I’ve had the pleasure of developing relationships with tourism professionals throughout south central Tennessee and am confident we will be able to work collaboratively to enhance the region at large. We are excited for the launch of Tennessee Tourism Investment Project and look forward to partnering with our colleagues on this endeavor.” 

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

This weekend marks the start of a new month, which means it's time for another First Fridays in downtown Columbia.

As always, the main First Fridays events will run from 5-8 p.m., with shops staying open later than usual, music around the square, food trucks and more.

The Mulehouse, 812 s. High St., will host a special Locals Live concert featuring many local artists and songwriters.

The show is set to start at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and will feature sets by The Grove Trio, Smith & Gone, Cochise County and Lockwood Barr.

Tickets are $15 and are available at www.TheMulehouse.com.


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