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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 16, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Two Bills Debated in Legislature (WKOM Audio 6:25)

Two important pieces of legislation concerning Maury County were due up in House and Senate committees yesterday. The first was related to reclassifying a portion of the Duck River as a scenic waterway. The second bill was related to increasing building fees to alleviate the tax burden on growth. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy went to the capitol to follow the bills’ progress and got to speak with State Representative Scott Cepicky…

Columbia Fire & Rescue Receives FEMA Grant (MainStreetMaury)

Columbia Fire & Rescue received a grant of $514,050 last week through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide funding directly to fire departments to increase emergency response staffing in communities nationwide.

According to, the SAFER grant, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, was created to fund fire departments and volunteers to increase the number of trained front-line firefighters.

U.S. Representative Scott DesJarlais said in a press release, “The Columbia Fire Department has some of the finest public servants working on behalf of their community. In 2018, I voted to secure more funding for the Columbia Fire Department so they would have the proper resources to serve the men and women of their city. I thank all first responders for the many sacrifices they make to ensure our safety.”

DesJarlais represents Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District, which included parts of Maury County until the most recent redistricting.

The $514,050 award amount will cover both salary and benefits for three new emergency response staffers for three years through March 2026, coming at no cost to the City of Columbia.

Fire Chief Ty Cobb said his department has seen an increase in emergency response calls on the north side of the city, specifically at Fire Station 5 in Neapolis and Fire Station 3, located off of Bear Creek Pike. With the new Ultium battery plant site in Spring Hill, Cobb said emergency calls will only increase.

“With the recent increase in local development comes the increase in demand for emergency response,” Cobb said. “This grant allows for us to continue to provide the best possible emergency response for our citizens as we adjust to accommodate future growth.”

Spring Hill Publix Approved (CDH)

Spring Hill planners approved final development plans for a new Publix this week, which would be located in the Town Center district near the upcoming I-65 interchange at Buckner Lane.

The proposed Publix site will consist of about 7.2 acres on Jim Warren Road.

Philip Pearcy representing applicant Catalyst Design Group said the current design has been updated to address previous issues, such as parking, building materials and water and sewer. The grocery store will also be built out over multiple phases, the first addressing roadway improvements to the area.

The Publix will consist of the typical aspects of the popular grocery chain, such as a main grocery store, drive-thru pharmacy, as well as 13,000 square feet of additional retail space.

Josh Rowland of Kimley Horn design group said he expects all parts of phase one to be completed by the first quarter of 2024. He added that he hopes the Publix will be completed prior to adjacent multi-family developments coming to the area. That way the new residents will have a place to shop once they move there.

"The intent is to both complete the infrastructure before it is needed for the development, and to make sure you have those big ticket commercial items ahead of the multi-family," Rowland said.

Publix's final development plans were ultimately approved Monday in a unanimous vote.

Spring Hill Fireworks Debate Settled (MainStreetMaury)

The long-debated topic of fireworks displays in Spring Hill has come to a conclusion with a vote last week to allow fireworks to be displayed on Christmas, while adding the potential for permitting on certain religious holidays, but restricting them on Memorial Day.

The vote was part of a larger fire code update, which also included much needed safety updates that outline the standards that are otherwise not addressed in other city codes.

According to the city staff memo, revisions were necessary due to several section and subsections containing outdated material and references that were no longer valid.

The section on the public display of fireworks, however, was a hotly debated topic for several meetings, prompting at least one citizen to speak publicly about the matter.

Spring Hill resident and retired Air Force veteran Vince Reed, who works with veterans through the V.A., spoke about the effects of fireworks among veterans during the meeting. He noted how veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder can be adversely affected by the noise, sights and smells from fireworks. 

Reed told the story of a Marine veteran who moved into his neighborhood and confided in him about his PTSD, but moved away from his home in mere months due to a problem with fireworks in the community.

“It wasn’t just an explosion, it was a party,” Reed said. “Every year around New Year and July 4 and – most alarmingly – Memorial Day, my neighborhood blows up for days on end. My introduction to it happened on Memorial Day 2019. I was shocked to hear fireworks on this day meant – not for celebration, but for solemn remembrance for those who gave their lives in combat for our freedom. 

“Memorial Day is not a day for celebrations, it is a day for remembering. It is not the first day of a summer blowout at the expense of the peace of your neighborhood.” 

Reed said celebrations with fireworks are out of control in the city.

“Especially if you have one immature and inconsiderate neighbor who invites a hundred nonresidents to their house for a big block party,” he said. “For the people it is their American birthright and freedom to do as they please, my response is that your freedom ends at your property line, and certainly at mine.”

Reed advocated for a centralized display of fireworks sponsored by the city, but an amendment proposed by Alderman Trent Linville passed to remove Memorial Day from the approved days, while still allowing for display on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, July Fourth and religious holiday exceptions. 

Food Truck Ordinance (CDH)

Establishing a proper ordinance for food trucks and mobile vending took a step forward this month, updating the City of Columbia’s current codes in a way that government and business owners can agree.

The subject of having an official city ordinance to regulate these mobile businesses has been a subject of contingency for several years, mostly because the food truck boom hit Columbia before any regulations were on the books. In other words, the city was navigating in uncharted territory.

"I've seen success in this in small towns and large towns, and I've seen some failures too," Brian Matthews, owner of Jefferson's restaurant with 23 years of experience in the mobile vending business.

"The failures are due to the fact there is a lack of communication among the individuals who operate those trucks. But the vast majority of the successes have been because small business owners are passionate about what they are doing."

Earlier this month, the city's planning commission revisited the current ordinance, discussing several proposed updates. Proper hours of operation, size restrictions on trucks and days of the week trucks can operate are among the proposed updates to the ordinance.

"We just want something that is respected and is good for both sides," Abe Everett, founder of Abe's BBQ Smokehouse and Mule Town Pizza, said at the meeting. "There are a few things we can always improve on."

The proposed changes city staff was in favor of include:

Eliminating size restrictions for vehicles

Eliminate plot plan requirements

Eliminate permission letters to operate, unless a dispute arises between the vendor and property owner

Allow food trucks to operate in the downtown district or public areas, listings which would be published every 90 days by the city

Properly defining what a food truck is

In addition, food truck vendors also provided a few suggestions for changes. However, city staff said they weren't in favor of them. Food truck vendors have previously advocated for: eliminating the four-day operating rule, eliminating hard surface requirements and allowing for vending in residential areas.

Everett said the four-day rule in particular can have a negative impact on certain businesses that operate on the same property, such as Loosewheels food truck, which sells their famous smash burgers in the alley by Briarworks pipe factory.

He also stressed the importance of being able to operate in residential areas for events like fundraisers, which have proven successful in the past.

"If it wasn't for the residents in this community, we wouldn't be here today as a business," Everett said. "I can say that very definitively. The people of Columbia are why I am here."

The item was ultimately deferred until the planning commission's April meeting due to a lack of information regarding mobile kitchens, which city leaders hope to include in the final proposal.

Once the final vote is taken, it will then move on to Columbia City Council, which will make the final decision on any changes wished to be made to the ordinance.

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

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.

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.

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…

Lethal Injection Drug Debate (TennesseeLookout)

Legislation to allow the public to understand how Tennessee buys lethal injection drugs is floundering as the state correction department lobbies against it behind the scenes. 

The legislation — House Bill 870 — would remove an exemption in Tennessee public record law, which allows the state to hide how it procures drugs for lethal injection. The exemption allows the state to protect the names of pharmacists and the manufacturers of the drug cocktail used in implementing capital punishment. 

The bill comes on the heels of intense public scrutiny over Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol. Last year, the state halted executions because it failed to appropriately test the execution drugs.

“If the department of corrections has nothing to hide, its new commissioner should allow the public to see these records,” said Deborah Fisher, the executive director of Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. 

Lawmakers passed the lethal injection records exemption after several drug manufacturers banned pharmacists from using their drugs to carry out capital punishments. 

Fisher said by shielding these records the public can’t know if a pharmacist is following the drugmaker’s rules.

“If the compounders are using drugs in violation of the pharmaceutical companies, and they need the state to pass a law to keep it secret, that’s wrong,” she added. “The state doesn’t need to be potentially enabling fraud.”

Rep. Justin Lafferty, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, are sponsoring the bill. The legislation was taken off notice in a House committee, meaning its chances of passing are slim. 

Lawmakers are also debating whether to add firing squads as another form of carrying out the death penalty. The legislation — House Bill 1245 — is moving through the state House but has so far stalled in the Senate. Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, and Sen. Frank Nicely, R-Strawberry Plains, are sponsoring the legislation.

Gov. Bill Lee ordered an independent investigation into the state’s execution protocol after halting all executions last year. The state hired former U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton to lead the probe and released it in December. 

It found just one pharmacy in Texas was willing to create the execution cocktail, and the Department of Correction relied on one staff member to procure the drugs while providing them little “professional guidance.”

Tennessee law requires lethal injection as the primary method of execution, but those convicted and sentenced before 1999 can choose electrocution. 

MTSU STEM Camp (MauryCountySource)

Registration for the second Middle Tennessee State University College of Basic and Applied Sciences summer STEM camp will begin Wednesday, March 15.

This summer, from June 19-23, the college will triple the number of participants and increase the number of faculty and departments involved with the camp highlighting science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Students entering grades 9 through 12 can come to the camp and receive a taste of biology, chemistry, math, science education, physics and engineering technology through fun activities and events with actual professors in a college setting.

The in-person camp will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Registration before April 15 will be $200 per person and include meals, activities, trips, supplies, T-shirt and more. The fee after April 15 will be $250.

The registration deadline is May 15. To register, visit

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Nashville Zoo is transporting guests back in time with its new prehistoric adventure DinoTrek. It features a wooded trail and more than 20 life-size animatronic dinosaurs. The exhibit runs between now and July.

The dinosaurs come in all shapes and sizes, and even spit. The newest one is a whopping 23 feet tall. The dinosaurs made their grand return last year after nearly a decade.

This year, visitors can spot a Tyrannosaurus Rex egg along the trial that is expected to hatch sometime soon. The zoo is inviting guests to guess the date and time of its hatching — with the winner receiving a free household membership to the zoo.

Admission to DinoTrek is $4 per person. Children under 2 years old are free. Tickets will be available for purchase at the Zoo's Entry Village and at the entrance to the exhibit.

Learn more at


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