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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 14, 2023

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

We start with local news…

House fire (MauryCountySource)

The Maury County Fire Department responded to a reported fully involved house fire on Graham Rd on Saturday, March 11, 2023, at 5:11 PM.

Responding units included Engines 1, 3, 10, 12, Tankers 1, 3, 6, 12, District Chiefs 1 and 3, and the Chief of the Department.

Units arrived to find fire throughout the home and commenced with defensive fire operations. All occupants were able to safely evacuate the home. MCFD operated for more than 3 hours in the rain to extinguish and overhaul the structure.

Snow Plows Named in Contest (CDH)

Whenever the city's roads next need a good plowing due to snow, the trucks used will feature new names created by citizens, four of them local elementary students.

The City of Columbia held a contest to name the four new snowplows. Of the four student winners, the top number of votes went to Serenity Cowan of Highland Park Elementary School, who also received the most overall votes for her entry. It could be that Cowan's entry is typically the first thought on most kids' minds when they see a fresh white blanket of frost outside — "School's Out."

The additional three students selected included Evie Nehlig of J.R. Baker Elementary School ("Bessy"), Reyna Gutierrez of Riverside Elementary School ("Sir Scrapes A Lot") and Sofia Morris of J.E. Woodard Elementary School ("Blizzard of Oz").

All 10 winners were officially announced this week at Columbia City Council. This was not only a chance to be recognized by the mayor, vice mayor and council members in a public forum, but also shed light on just how big of a response the contest received during its first year.

Mayor Chaz Molder commented saying how encouraging it was seeing so many young people not only participate but take the opportunity to learn about an important aspect of their local government.

It was also a chance for the winners to visit City Hall and get the first-hand experience when it comes to what goes on in a public meeting.

"This was really fun to watch ... and I love seeing Public Works contributing community-wide," Molder said. "Again, any time you bring someone young into this building, I think, is a good thing to do, and tonight we saw a lot of them. There's just something special about that."

Public Works Administrative Assistant Donna Osmon said she and the department's staff were blown away by the number of responses once the contest began taking entries in January.

"I had absolutely no idea it was going to take off the way it did," Osmon said. "When we posted this on our social media and started getting the information out we had entries start pouring in. We ended up with over 600 entries, and the schools really showed up and showed out."

Osmon added that the voting process was conducted by Public Works staff, who took part in a "blind vote" where all the attached participant names were removed, leaving only the suggested names submitted.

In addition to having named a crucial piece of equipment in the event of snowy or icy weather, Public Works Director Jeff DeWire said his staff plans to celebrate with the schools once the snowplows are labeled.

"We plan to take those vehicles out to the respective school that won to visit that student, have photos made and so on," DeWire said.

The full list of winning entries include:

Evie Nehlig of J.R. Baker Elementary School - "Bessy"

Serenity Cowen of Highland Park Elementary School - "School's Out"

Reyna Gutierrez of Riverside Elementary School - "Sir Scrapes A Lot"

Sofia Morris of J.E. Woodard Elementary School - "Blizzard of Oz"

Amy Borum - "Sleetwood Mac"

Holly Goats - "The Snow Mule"

Kathy Harper - "Scoop Dogg"

Maureen Galle - "Plow Chicka Plow Wow"

April Paul - "Snow Force One"

Casandra Payne - "Han Snowlo"

Mule Day (Press Release)

The excitement is building only weeks away from MULE DAY, the annual celebration and time-honored tradition held in Columbia, Tennessee the first weekend of April. This year’s family-friendly event, set for March 30 through April 2, 2023, promises to be one of the biggest and best yet, with a lineup of activities sure to excite visitors of all ages. The highlight of the festivities is the world-famous MULE DAY Parade happening Saturday, April 1st, led by this year’s Grand Marshal Mike Wolfe.

Mike Wolfe is an expert forager of American history who created and stars on History Channel’s American Pickers. He has a real heart for preservation and a passion for the beauty and stories behind forgotten objects and places.

Columbia, Tennessee earned the title of Mule Capital of the World many years ago. In the days before cars and tractors, people came from miles around to buy, sell, and trade mules in Columbia. Years later, people still gather in Maury County to pay tribute to the long-eared, beast of burden. MULE DAY began as Breeder’s Day in the 1840’s, a single day livestock show & mule market once a year. It evolved into a multi-day festival, and the parade was added in 1934. MULE DAY was discontinued during World War II then the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club revived it in 1974. Since then, MULE DAY has been drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Thursday, March 30th Maury County Park opens at 10am to kick off the MULE DAY festivities. The schedule includes many mule-featured events throughout the day such as the Mule Pull competition, where teams of mules and their handlers compete to see which team can pull the heaviest load. Visitors will also enjoy craft vendors, a flea market, special entertainment and tasty food & drink options. Live Bluegrass music takes the stage at 7pm at Central High School, located next to Maury County Park. 

Friday, March 31st the gates open at 10am with live music on the main stage, an entertaining selection of mule-featured events all day, and a Liar’s contest at 7pm at Central High School.

Saturday, April 1st, the highly anticipated MULE DAY Parade gets underway at 11am in downtown Columbia.  Excitement builds for the arrival of the Grand Marshal, this year’s honored guest, Mike Wolfe, who officially kicks off the parade featuring a colorful procession through the streets of Columbia with hundreds of mules, parade floats, the MULE DAY Queen with her Court, and more. After the parade, activities move to Maury County Park once again for an afternoon of scheduled activities.

Sunday, April 2nd is the final day of scheduled events happening at Maury County Park such as the Riding Mule Show and the Mini Mule Show, not to mention the family-friendly attractions.

Whether you are a longtime fan of MULE DAY or a first-time visitor, this year’s event promises to be an unforgettable experience so save the date, gather your family and friends, and head to Columbia, Tennessee for MULE DAY 2023.

NEED TO KNOW INFO: Admission to Maury County Park MULE DAY activities Thursday through Saturday is $10 per person, Sunday is $5 per person, children under 12 are free. Weekend passes are available for only $20. Admission fee does not include rides. Parking is free.

The MULE DAY parade in downtown Columbia is free and open to the public.

For more information, go online to, email or call 931-381-9557.

Louisiana Dump Company Renews Fight (TennesseeLookout)

A high-stakes battle over a private company’s efforts to bring a large-scale trash disposal complex to a federally-designated Superfund site along the Duck River is heading into yet another round.

Louisiana-based Trinity Business Group first filed an application with the state in June for their proposed 1,300 acre waste complex in Maury County. The company used a permit process that required no immediate public notice, and their plans escaped attention for months.

After an alert local resident noticed activity at the site and discovered the plans, county leaders sprang into action. The 5,000-acre property is the former home of the Monsanto Chemical Company, which mined phosphorus, manufactured fertilizer and, for a time, chemical warfare agents that has since received federal designation as a Superfund site due to hazardous materials lurking under the soil.

The Maury County Commission enacted new zoning rules that limit all industrial activity within 1,000 feet of the Duck River. They also enacted the “Jackson Law,” a proactive measure Tennessee local governments may adopt to exert local control over any new or expanding landfills. Nearby, officials in the city of Columbia reviewed their own records, finding their own Jackson law applied to the rural property. 

Local residents thought the fight was over, but Trinity Business Group isn’t done. 

The company is now claiming that neither county zoning laws nor local Jackson Laws apply to a new, and even larger, plan to install landfills on the rural property, according to a January letter to the county’s solid waste board that – like their original plan – wasn’t made public for months.

“We didn’t know about this until a week ago,” said Gale Moore, a longtime Maury County resident who is among those organizing opposition to the proposal. “It’s scaring us to death. The fact that Trinity believes they can disregard all the rules and regulations is, honestly, making us all crazy.”

The company, which did not respond to a request for comment on Friday, now proposes to build two landfills on the property – one for household trash and a second for construction and demolition waste. Their plan also calls for accepting compost waste, metal salvage, old tires and other waste operations — along with a solar farm.

The company describes plans for the so-called Star Hill Eco Park operation at the former Monsanto property as the ideal location at the perfect time.

“All of Middle Tennessee, including the Maury/Marshall Region, is on the verge of a waste disposal crisis due to facility closures that have either occurred or are soon to occur,” the company’s proposal says.

“The Star Hill Eco Park represents the perfect opportunity and timing to address the looming [landfill] crisis in the Marshall/Maury Region and in Middle Tennessee.” 

Trinity’s new proposal argues that the property is exempt from local control that the Jackson Law imposes because it has long contained a small landfill. The Jackson Law applies to new landfills, new classes of landfills and landfill expansions.

And it argues that the property is exempt from the new local zoning rules keeping operations away from the Duck River because the state’s Non-Conforming Property Act that protects ongoing industrial operations from being subject to new local rules. 

The company’s letter also reminds the Marshall/Maury County Municipal Solid Waste Planning Region Board that it only has the authority to deny the plan if it is inconsistent with a master solid waste planning document. The company argues that its plan is consistent, citing the need outlined in the master plan for future waste disposal options for county residents.

The protracted dispute comes amidst ongoing questions in counties across Middle Tennessee about what to do with trash going forward. A battle in Rutherford County over Middle Point Landfill, which accepts household trash from a third of Tennessee’s 95 counties, leaves uncertain where cities and counties will send their household trash in the future. A separate dispute between operators of Southern Services Landfill in north Nashville and city leaders has limited the destinations for construction debris.

For local residents, who rely on the Duck River for drinking water, agriculture and recreation, the efforts to establish a 1,600 acre waste site in rural Maury County has raised environmental concerns.

“I don’t want 38 counties worth of trash being trucked into Maury County to a Superfund site next to the Duck River,” said Stephanie Sparks-Newland, a public school teacher who has lived in Maury County for three decades. “I get it. They see where the gold is and it’s garbage, but we just don’t want to be poisoned.”

Meanwhile a bill in the Tennessee Legislature would designate the stretch of the Duck River that includes along the Monsanto property a Class II scenic river, a state designation that includes prohibitions of certain developments along its banks. Among them is a landfill.

Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, said the effort had nothing to do with any proposed plans along the river, but would simply extend the “scenic” designation already in place along parts of the Duck even further.

“That’s my intent with this bill, to protect water for future generations,” he said.

Dutch Bros. Coffee (CDH)

Columbia residents will soon find another option for coffee as well as energy-boosting drinks to help fuel the daily grind.

Dutch Bros Coffee, one of several new stores in Tennessee, is now being constructed on James M. Campbell Blvd. — a drive-thru only store — where popular burger joint Fat Mo’s used to sit. A future Dutch Bros location in Spring Hill was also approved by aldermen last month.

Offering craft coffee and colorful customizable energy drinks, Northwest-based Dutch Bros Coffee, founded in Oregon by brothers, has a running tally of 671 locations across 14 states.

Designated “broistas” serve up a menu of more than 10,000 drink combinations with names like Rainbro, the Aftershock and the colorful Shark Attack with sugar free options.

Espresso bar offerings will include popular choices like the German Chocolate Mocha.

Dutch Bros does not have a known opening day set at this time, according to Columbia Development Services Director Paul Keltner, though construction is nearing completion on the 975 square foot building.  

The new drive-thru coffee shop would serve to spread out the early morning coffee dash and likely bring some relief to other James Campbell coffee locations, Starbucks, Cabin Coffee and the licensed Starbucks store inside the nearby Kroger. 

Those who prefer Fat Mo’s can still find a juicy burger at the restaurant's new location at 502 South James Campbell Blvd. 

Future Dutch Bros locations are "coming soon" to Murfreesboro and Smyrna. 

Changes continue for the commercial area on the boulevard as the former Silver Screen Videos building across from Kroger is in the process of demolition. Keltner said that a Take 5 oil change shop will be constructed in its location.

The Dutch Bros website has a link to job opportunities. For more information, visit

Breakfast With The Mayor Series (Press Release)

Maury Alliance is kicking off their 2023 Breakfast with the Mayor series in Spring Hill with Mayor Jim Hagaman. This series will feature a different Mayor each quarter on their home turf for a Q&A led by Maury Alliance President, Wil Evans.

 The event with Mayor Hagaman will take place in the Dining Atrium at Worldwide Stages on Wednesday, March 22nd at 8am.

 To submit a question or topic in advance, email

Tickets are $20 for members and include breakfast.

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

Mrs. Catherine Lindsey Bolton, 89, a resident of Trotwood Avenue, died Saturday at Brookdale. Funeral services for Mrs. Bolton will be conducted on Wednesday at 11:00 A.M. at First United Methodist Church in Columbia. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends on Tuesday from 4:00 P.M.- 8:00 P.M. at the funeral home and on Wednesday from 10:00 A.M. until service time at the church.

Mr. Samuel Jesse Beddingfield, 90, retired employee of Bellsouth and resident of Columbia, died Sunday, March 12, 2023 at Brookdale Assisted Living. Funeral services for Mr. Beddingfield will be conducted Wednesday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home. Graveside service will be held Wednesday at 4:00 P.M. at Kirkland Cemetery in Lincoln County.

Mr. Virgil Haney, 87, a resident of Sunset Lane, died Saturday, March 11, 2023 at his residence. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday at 1:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Allen Cemetery in Caney Springs. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 5:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

Ms. Grayson Carol Mabry, 55, retired counselor for J.E. Woodard Elementary, died Saturday, March 11, 2023 in Nashville. Funeral services for Ms. Mabry will be conducted Thursday at 3:30 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 4:00 P.M.- 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

Mr. Darrell Vinson, 69, former resident of Columbia and a resident of Roswell, Georgia, died Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Georgia. Funeral services are incomplete and will be announce later by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors.

…And now, news from around the state…

Dr. Fiscus to go to Trial (

A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by the state’s ex-vaccine chief against two of Tennessee’s top health officials will go to trial on May 8.

The ruling on Friday clears the way for a jury to consider whether the reputation of Dr. Michelle Fiscus – former medical director of the state’s Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization Program – was deliberately smeared by state officials amid political backlash over her efforts to provide guidance around vaccines for children during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The jury will have one key question to decide: whether Fiscus is entitled to a name-clearing hearing at which she and state officials will have a public airing about the circumstances leading up to her firing in July 2021. It’s also possible the case could be settled before then, Chris Smith, the attorney representing Fiscus, said after the hearing. 

In ordering the case set for a five-day trial, Chief District Judge Waverly Crenshaw, Jr. denied competing requests from Fiscus and the state for summary judgment — declining to rule on the case from the bench, with the legal filings already before him. 

There are too many facts in dispute, Crenshaw said.

Fiscus filed suit in September 2021 against her former bosses, Dr. Lisa Piercey, then head of the Tennessee Department of Health, and Dr. Tim Jones, its medical director. Piercey has since left state government.

The lawsuit initially sought monetary damages, a claim the judge later dismissed after finding state officials have qualified immunity as a result of their official positions. 

The lawsuit focuses on the set of circumstances leading up to Fiscus’ firing. 

Fiscus had circulated a memo to the state’s healthcare providers in the weeks before she was fired about the state’s so-called “Mature Minor Doctrine,” outlining when healthcare providers are allowed to give vaccines to adolescents without their parent’s permission. Soon afterwards, Republican leaders contacted the department to complain.

Days after her firing, health department officials made her personnel file available to news outlets in response to public records requests. The file contained a memo that pointedly criticized Fiscus’ performance with allegations that her attorneys called “false, slanderous stuff” in court. The memo suggested Fiscus had improperly directed state funding to a nonprofit she created and circulated the memo about the Mature Minor Doctrine without permission from her bosses.

The nonprofit, Immunize Tennessee, was similar to those already operating in other states, did not include Fiscus on its board or its payroll and Fiscus had previously been praised by her boss for taking the initiative to create it, court filings said. The Mature Minor memo was created with the assistance of a health department lawyer on the department’s senior leadership team, court documents noted.

The Fiscus termination memo, which was widely reported, subjected Fiscus and her family to public scorn, angry social angry media posts and voicemail messages, including one played in court Friday.

If not for state officials’ decision to create the memo and then place it in Fiscus’ personnel file —a public record under Tennessee’s law — “we wouldn’t be here,” Smith said in court.

State attorneys on Friday contended the termination memo contained only factual statements and noted it was not “voluntarily published” — a legal requisite for a name calling hearing to be convened. The memo was made public only after reporters requested copies of Fiscus’ personnel files following her firing.

Stephanie Bergmeyer, senior assistant attorney general, reasserted the state’s argument that the Mature Minor memo was circulated without senior health department officials’ approval and disputed claims that Fiscus had suffered any reputation harm, noting that Fiscus had received job offers after her termination and that she currently holds a position in Virginia.

The examples produced in court of community backlash — the voicemail and a  critical tweet — “is clearly not indicative of the community,” Bergmeyer said.

Neither Fiscus nor state health department officials were present in U.S. Middle District Court on Friday.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Darius Rucker will tour this summer ending in Nashville at Ascend Amphitheater on October 14th.

Starting Fires Tour, will be kicking off June 15 in Virginia. Special guests will be Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, with rising star Drew Green as direct support on select dates.

Tickets go on sale to the general public beginning this Friday, March 17. For more information and a listing of all dates, please see below or visit


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