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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 19, 2024

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


We start with local news…

SHFD Saves Pets (MauryCountySource)

The Spring Hill Fire Department responded swiftly and effectively to a morning fire at a third-floor apartment at Worthington Glen Apartments, where they rescued a dog and two cats. Thanks to the rapid response and the assistance of the sprinkler system, the fire was contained, preventing any casualties.

The fire was dispatched at 11:21am Monday morning, and fortunately, broke out while no residents were present in the apartment. However, the presence of beloved pets left behind, prompted firefighters to take immediate action to ensure their safety. Firefighters managed to locate and safely evacuate the pets, much to the relief of the owners.

The sprinkler system played a crucial role in containing the fire, minimizing its spread to neighboring units. While the third-floor apartment sustained fire damage, the lower apartments experienced water damage as a result of the sprinkler system’s activation. Damage to the building is estimated to be around $150,000. The Fire Marshal determined one of the cats possibly turned the stove on and started the fire.

Worthington Glen is taking proactive measures to assist affected residents. Management is relocating residents to other available apartments within the complex to ensure their comfort and safety while repairs are underway.

City Receives Grant (CDH)

Downtown Columbia is about to receive even more upgrades thanks to a $50,000 grant to enhance and improve three of the square's four pedestrian crosswalks.

The city council began its Thursday regular meeting by voting to accept the grant, which is funded by General Motors to assist in downtown beautification and traffic-calming measures.

The improvements will include installing curb extensions at the crosswalks, while also upgrading landscaping and adding an information kiosk.

"Basically, we are designing the curb out into the white-striped no parking area," Columbia Tourism and Marketing Director Kellye Murphy said. "It extends the view for the pedestrians trying to cross the street. They will be able to go further out into that area, and it's traffic calming for the cars that are coming through the square as well.

"We are thrilled to work with GM, our community partner on this, and it is administered through the National Main Street Center."

This project comes in the wake of many other recent downtown improvements, which have included two phases of upgrading many of the historic building facades, as well as the current renovations to the North Main Street parking garage that has been well underway since late January.

Lorie Fisher, of South Central Tennessee Development District, wrote the initial grant application and said this was a great opportunity for the district to partner with Columbia.

"We are always excited to work with the city of Columbia, to help you with your community and economic development needs," Fisher said. "As a resident here, I'm especially excited when projects get funded in Columbia, and this will be such a worthwhile, highly visible project. It will make a nice difference to downtown."

Columbia Main Street Director Kelli Johnson said the city was also the only community in Tennessee to receive the grant.

"I think there were only five [U.S. cities] that were able to receive the grant, and so for Columbia to receive the grant this year, that's exciting for us," Johnson said.

"It's really going to make a difference, really make the square more cohesive and it's really going to reflect what we already have coming up on 6th and North Main Street. Our downtown is about to be totally transformed in a great way. I'm excited to say we actually got it done, which is going to be happening this year. We'll see the results by the end of the year."

Murphy said that part of the project's estimated swiftness is due to using the city's Public Works Department, which would cut down on time and cost.

"Being able to draw on them to help us complete this project is a game changer for us," Murphy said.

Where is Maury the Mule (Press Release)

Maury the Mule is LOST in Maury County and we need your help to find him!

Find Maury the Mule hidden in businesses across Maury County for a chance to win $500 and other great prizes.

Maury Alliance’s annual “Where’s Maury the Mule?” shop local passport adventure starts on Tuesday, March 26th. The rules are simple: pick up a passport, find Maury the Mule hidden in as many businesses as possible, and turn your passport in at the Maury Alliance office by 5:00 pm on Tuesday, April 9th. Share your adventure on social media using #maurythemule so everyone can follow along!

This year’s event was made possible by the generosity of Harmon Scrap Metal in Columbia, TN. Harmon Scrap Metal is a premier scrap metal recycling company and has been family owned and operated since 1985. Learn more at https://www.harmonscrapmetal.com/.

Survive to Arrive Safe Driving Program (WKOM 2:53)

Yesterday, Columbia Fire and Rescue partnered with Maury Regional Foundation and General Motors to sponsor the Survive to Arrive Safe Driving Program. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the event and spoke to Hannah Miller of Columbia Fire and Rescue and Brian Goetz of Columbia Police Department to learn what the program was all about…

Joint Chiropractic (WKOM Audio 4:07)

Yesterday, a new chiropractic clinic opened in Spring Hill. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting of The Joint Chiropractic and spoke to Dr. Jenny Lumpkins, and Managing Partner Antonio DeCristo to learn more about what the new clinic offers…

Bright Apple (CDH)

The future of Bright Apple is even brighter with the help of Ford of Columbia and Hyundai of Columbia.

Chris Alexander, Dealer Partner and General Manager, and Patrick Robertson, Assistant General Manager, recently signed on to partner with Bright Apple to help provide healthy snacks for students in Maury County schools.

“I cannot thank Patrick enough for taking the time to meet with me last October to learn about what we do through Bright Apple,” said Lisa Ciesliga, Director of Development for Bright Apple.

“He knew that our mission aligned with Chris’ vision for the dealerships and got us connected. Their response to support Bright Apple was immediate and their contribution is making a huge impact in helping us serve the children in our community.”

Bradd Kimes, Charity Kimes and Michael Baker co-founded Bright Apple in 2019 on the belief that no child should go without food, including a snack during the school day to help them stay focused and achieve academic success.

Bright Apple currently serves more than 1,500 students in Maury County Schools each school day.

Since 2019, more than 750,000 snacks have been served through Bright Apple with the help of supporters and partners like Ford of Columbia and Hyundai of Columbia. Their greater goal is to bring Bright Apple to schools across the United States.

“Lisa presented us with this opportunity to make Bright Apple a focal point of our ‘why’ in what we do every day,” said Robertson. “We want to know that we can make a real impact in our community. It is amazing how far the dollars can go with Bright Apple to make a huge impact! Both of our families are committed to being financial supporters as well. It’s personal to us. We believe in it.”

The healthy snacks Bright Apple provides help close the achievement gap, allowing children to be able to focus on things other than necessities. Many students have lunch at school but don’t eat again until the next day.

Hungry children cannot focus on learning during the school day. Studies show that if students are behind in reading by third grade, most never catch up and many will not graduate high school. Bright Apple’s mission is to focus on feeding children so they can focus on learning.

“My personal experience in school makes Bright Apple’s mission even more near and dear to me,” Alexander said.

“I had a teacher in 6th grade, Mr. Strickland, who literally changed my life. I wasn’t doing very well in school. My family is not an educated family. My dad has a third-grade education, and my mom is Japanese and doesn’t speak English very well. Our work ethic is second to none, however. I don’t remember ever hearing my parents complain about having to work seven days a week. Luckily for me, Mr. Strickland invested in me and had a major impact on me. I went from being in the 30th percentile in school to taking honors classes.

"I eventually went on to get a four-year degree. I know just how much someone caring can make a difference.”

The simple act of caring is exactly what Bright Apple brings to life for children in the community each day.

“A snack is really a way of saying, ‘we care about you, your future, and your ability to learn and grow in the classroom setting,’” Charity Kimes said. “Partnering in this endeavor as a community makes us all stronger. The children that we can serve because of this dealership’s generosity will change lives by providing hope to those in need.”

The team members at Ford of Columbia and Hyundai of Columbia are all aware of the partnership with Bright Apple and what it means. The mission gives their workdays even more meaning. Their families are part of the mission as well.

“We are invested as a team,” said Alexander. “We don’t want to just say what we believe; we want to show it. It’s about having a vision and a why, then having consistency in working toward those. We talk about our wins, but the numbers are just a by-product of how we do business.”

Alexander teaches his team to focus on five fundamentals: faith, family, finance, fitness and fulfillment.

“These are the fundamentals of everything we do in life, and we need to make additions or deductions to these to live a full and balanced life,” Alexander said. “Mindset is the toughest person in the room. If you have a strong mindset, you can keep pushing forward.”

The partnership with Bright Apple is setting the stage for the dealerships to make education initiatives even more of a focus going forward.

“This is still infantile as far as what we will be able to accomplish together and what Bright Apple will be able to do,” said Robertson. “This is our give-back moment. It’s just a small piece of what we want to do long term.”

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

James Samuel “Jim” Voss, Jr., 86, retired employee of Monsanto Chemical Company and lifelong resident of Columbia, died Saturday, March 16, 2024 at NHC Maury Regional Transitional Care.

Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 2:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.  Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery with military honors provided by Herbert Griffin American Legion Post 19.  The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.  

…And now, news from around the state…

Vouchers and Homeschooling (Tennessean)

Gov. Bill Lee's proposal to expand a program offering taxpayer-funded vouchers for families to offset private schooling costs in Tennessee has some homeschoolers concerned over how it may affect them.

Some members of the homeschool community have opposed the idea of vouchers including them, worrying that it would extend government control into their homes — even if they don’t accept the vouchers. Others see no harm in including homeschools in the plan.

The state House and Senate versions of the bill supporting Lee's plan are vastly different, including when it comes to homeschools, which has added to some of the confusion and concern over vouchers.

The House version specifically excludes all homeschool students from qualifying for vouchers under the proposed Education Freedom Scholarship Act. That includes those who attend church-related homeschools — something added to the bill after an amendment was adopted last week.

"Homeschoolers are totally written out of this bill," Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, who chairs the House Education Administration Committee, said last month.

But while the Senate version includes language that disqualifies students who are enrolled in homeschool from the voucher program, it does allow students enrolled in church-related schools. Since Tennessee allows homeschools to operate under church-related schools, that means some homeschool students could qualify for vouchers under the Senate bill.

Conversation about that provision surfaced as the Senate advanced its version of the bill this month. Several homeschooling families were present during the Senate Education Committee hearing on March 6 to oppose the bill. They were concerned it would apply state testing requirements to their students.

Senate Education Committee Chair Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said homeschool students would only be subject to testing requirements if they opt-in for state funds.

"If you don’t want the funds, there is no change," Lundberg said.

Tiffany Boyd, who founded the organization Free Your Children, spoke at a Feb. 27 House K-12 Subcommittee hearing on the bill. The organization’s website lists Boyd as a homeschool advocate, former public school teacher, consultant and speaker.

Boyd said she worries the proposal would dictate what homeschools teach and how they test learning. She also worried the language could later be amended to apply requirements to all homeschoolers, even if they don’t accept the vouchers. She said true private education can't exist in Tennessee if the government gets involved in it.

"The public was told the bill would not come with strings. It does," she said. "We know and understand that what the government funds, it runs."

Candyce Roberson said she appreciates both sides of the argument over including homeschools in the bill. She previously homeschooled her children while dividing her time working as a public school teacher and now teaches at a private school, where her children also attend.  

“I think that, speaking in general, homeschool parents prefer less legislation in relation to homeschooling, not more,” she said. “However, in this case ... I don’t see the downside for homeschool parents who choose not to participate.”

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Baxter’s Mercantile will host The Mule Day Queen’s Tea on Friday, March 29th from 3 PM to 7 PM. Join past and present Mule Day Queens and enjoy tea, snacks, after-hours shopping, and some really fun surprises!

EVENT DETAILS:

The Mule Day Queen’s Tea

March 29, 2024

3pm – 7pm

Baxter’s Mercantile

808 S Garden St, Columbia


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