Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 2, 2023
All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.
We start with local news…
Protecting the Duck Bills (MainStreetMaury/WKOM)
A proposed bill which would designate the Duck River as a Class II scenic river is now being debated at the Capitol.
The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation classifies scenic rivers in the state. A Class II rating is defined as “rivers or sections of rivers that are free flowing, unpolluted and with shorelines and scenic vistas partially or predominately used for agricultural and other recreational activities which do not interfere with public use and enjoyment of the river and shores.”
The Maury County Commission met last Tuesday, Feb. 21 to unanimously approve a resolution which would further protect the Duck River, the sole source of drinking water for much of Maury County. The bill is now being considered in the Tennessee General Assembly, where it was heard by the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday, where it was approved unanimously and sent to the full committee, and will be heard in the Senate on March 8th.
Sponsored by State Rep Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) and Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), the bill would protect the Duck River from Industrial Park Road Bridge to the Maury County line beyond Natchez Trace River Bridge. Currently, the Duck River is protected from the Marshall County line to Iron Bridge Road.
The bill would require permitting of certain water resource projects in Class II scenic river areas, subject to rules promulgated by the TDEC commissioner.
“The Duck River is something very special to this community,” said District 8 County Commissioner Gabe Howard. “It’s something not every community gets to have. We’ll continue to protect that in any way we can.”
Last October, the County Commission adopted the Jackson Law, which would force future landfill operations to give notice of their intention to develop. The vote followed an application from Trinity Business Group, who requested to build a recycling facility on the former Monsanto Chemical Company, bringing much concern among the community.
Rep. Cepicky encouraged commissioners to show up to the capitol in support of the bill.
“The lobbyists are up there working against your resolution,” Cepicky said. “If you want this bill to pass, we expect to see 22 commissioners up there when this bill goes to committee because this is your bill,” he said.
“We need to show up to say this is important to Maury County.”
Maury County To Receive Opioid Abatement Money (MainStreetMaury)
Maury County will be receiving $290,000 as part of an opioid-related lawsuit. Tennessee’s Opioid Abatement Council announced last week it was making the first payments from opioid lawsuit settlements to counties, totaling more than $31.4 million.
The state began processing the direct payments from the Opioid Abatement Trust Fund to county governments last week.
In accordance with terms of the Distributor and Janssen/J&J settlement agreements negotiated by the Tennessee Attorney General, 35 percent of proceeds went directly to county governments so that local leaders could direct spending on programs to address the effects of opioids on their citizens and communities.
County leaders are able to select activities from a list approved by the Tennessee Opioid Abatement Council at its meeting in September 2022. Approved uses include a continuum of opioid use disorder treatment programs, medication assisted treatment, recovery supports and prevention measures.
“There isn’t a county in Tennessee that hasn’t been touched by the opioid crisis. The funding going to these counties will have an immediate and much-needed impact. We are excited to get this funding out to all 95 counties of our great state, and we can’t wait to see how local leaders put it to good use,” said Dr. Stephen Loyd, Opioid Abatement Council Chairman.
The remaining 65 percent of settlement dollars will be distributed through a competitive grant application process to be established by the Opioid Abatement Council. The processes for applying for funding and scoring applications are on the agenda for the Council’s next meeting at the end of the month.
The first payments to come from the Opioid Abatement Trust fund mark a milestone in the state’s work to address the effects of the opioid crisis. Payments from these settlements, while not as large as this initial payment, will continue annually for 18 years.
“While no amount of money will be enough to completely heal broken communities, funds distributed through the Opioid Abatement Trust Fund will provide further resources toward recovery and assist in bringing this epidemic to a halt. The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office will not let up on holding opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable,” said Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti.
“Our hope for these dollars and all the funding that will flow from the Opioid Abatement Trust Fund for years to come is that Tennessee communities begin to repair the damage that has happened and is still happening due to opioid addiction and that people are able to find new lives in recovery and achieve their full potential,” said Marie Williams, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner. “We are so grateful to Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, former Attorney General Herbert Slatery, and the tireless team at the Office of the Attorney General because we know their efforts on this essential issue will help define how our state recovers from the opioid crisis.”
Tennessee’s Opioid Abatement Council was created by the Tennessee General Assembly in Public Chapter 491 to manage the disbursement of proceeds from lawsuits relating to opioids. The Council upholds the responsibility to ensure the disbursements of these funds go toward funding programs, strategies, expenditures and other actions designed to prevent and address the misuse and abuse of opioid products and treat or mitigate opioid use or related disorders or other effects of the opioid epidemic.
Concierge Ride TN Opening (WKOM Audio 4:55)
Concierge Ride Tennessee, a new transportation service in Spring Hill opened yesterday in collaboration with Worldwide Stages. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy paid a visit to the grand opening to learn more about the new service.
Maury Regional Partners with People’s Table (Press Release)
Maury Regional Health (MRH) has found a new way to make the most out of its food not consumed by patients and staff on a daily basis.
Starting in January, the organization has used a partnership with The People’s Table to feed those less fortunate in the community. The idea was born out of an initiative through Morrison Healthcare, a Compass One Healthcare company that partners with MRH to provide food and nutrition services.
The People’s Table is a local soup kitchen organized by a collective of local churches and held each Tuesday and Friday at Columbia First United Methodist Church. The organization makes weekly visits to Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) to collect meals that would otherwise go to waste.
“The process has worked really well so far,” said Jerry Coulter, director of food and nutrition at MRH. “We’re thrilled that we can help our community members who are less fortunate. Our employees really have taken this initiative on in full force.”
The MRMC Food & Nutrition team packages food for families of four, as well as individual plates, in tin containers that are picked up by The People’s Table. The tin containers allow the food to be placed right into the oven, and the meals are labeled by what’s included and who prepared it. The People’s Table takes any excess meals to Harvest Share, a food pantry in Columbia.
“We’ve increased from providing probably 135 meals to about 165 meals weekly with the help of Maury Regional,” said David Barnett, director of The People’s Table. “It’s really awesome because it helps our meals go further and helps more people in our community.”
Not only does MRH get the satisfaction of helping the community, but it’s also turned into a learning tool for the Food & Nutrition team. Employees can track what foods they are donating most often, teaching them where they can cut back and what they can use more of in the future.
“It really is a win-win situation for us, and we’re so happy to be able to help our community,” said Kevin Kimmel, assistant director of food and nutrition at MRH. “We use it as a learning tool to discover what foods are left over most often while at the same time helping a local organization that is doing a lot of good for our community.”
In addition to handling meals for patients and operating the cafeteria on the ground floor of the main hospital building and the Java Junction coffee shop on the first floor, the MRMC Food & Nutrition team also oversees the Maury Regional Food Pantry. Since it was established in 2012, it has served more than 4,600 families, now helping 60-70 families per month.
The cafeteria is open daily from 6:30-9:30 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for lunch Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. for lunch Saturday and Sunday. The Java Junction is open from 6 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Menus, catering options and more information on the dining options at MRMC, Marshall Medical Center and Wayne Medical Center can be found at MauryRegional.com/onsite-dining.
Classic Car Dealership to Open (MainStreetMaury)
Car culture in Middle Tennessee is getting a mighty boost as an expansive, brand-new classic automotive dealership will be opening in Columbia in the near future.
Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage (JHG) has announced that groundbreaking has begun on a vast, 22,000-square foot facility, and while the permanent location is taking shape, the dealership will be opening on a smaller scale in a freshly renovated building – also in Columbia.
“I’ve been a collector of classics and sports cars for a long time,” said Jason Johnson, the visionary and owner behind the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage brand. “It’s something that has always interested me, and it’s something I enjoy sharing with others. Car culture in this part of the country is flourishing, and it’s something that brings all types of people together. We see the JHG dealership as another positive addition to the community, and we’re looking forward to opening the doors to the public with an assortment of really unique vehicles available for purchase.”
Johnson has a long history in the automotive industry that began in auto salvage, auctions and high-quality rebuilds, and over the years, his eye for the best has become increasingly sharp. The brick-and-mortar dealership showroom will offer ever-evolving inventory that speaks to the demand of the market, and Johnson and his team will actively seek the best offerings across the country to populate the JHG dealership with thoughtfully selected vehicles. The facility is set up to offer distinct and ready-to-cruise vehicles including classic cars, modern muscle cars and sports cars and trucks.
The community can also expect an up-close look at vehicles from the dealership as they are on display at local car shows and meet-ups in Middle Tennessee. Once the initial location is open to the public, JHGarage.com will allow those outside of the area to peruse the current inventory and arrange purchase.
“This dealership has been a dream for a long time, and to finally be breaking ground and moving forward on it is very exciting,” said Johnson. “To be able to build something like this in Columbia and contribute to the growth of this town makes it even better.”
Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage expects to open the doors of the initial location in mid-spring of 2023, with the permanent location slated for a 2025 opening.
Ascend Federal Credit Union Helps Duck River (MainStreetMaury)
Ascend Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in Middle Tennessee, announced last week that it has donated $50,000 to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Tennessee. The gift will support TNC projects to improve the water quality and connectivity of the Duck and Elk Rivers in Middle Tennessee.
“From the day Ascend was founded 72 years ago, we have always believed it is our duty to support organizations that are making our great state a better place to live and raise a family,” said Ascend President and CEO Caren Gabriel. “The streams and rivers in Middle Tennessee are not only a beautiful part of our landscape, but they are also among the most biodiverse in the world. We are pleased and honored to support The Nature Conservancy’s work to preserve and restore the Duck and Elk Rivers for the enjoyment of current and future generations.”
“We are truly grateful for Ascend’s support to help us further our mission to protect the lands and waters of Middle Tennessee,” said Britt Moses, interim state director and director of philanthropy for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. “Contributions from organizations like Ascend are the foundation upon which The Nature Conservancy can continue to deliver sustainable, nature-based solutions to improve our environment, protect our state’s rich biodiversity and provide clean water for Middle Tennesseans.”
Ascend and its members have contributed nearly $1.2 million since 2011 to fund TNC initiatives. The two organizations are bound by a similar history and values. Both were founded in 1951, are non-profit enterprises with a volunteer Board of Directors, and both are focused on improving the lives of the people they serve. Ascend’s Gabriel also has been a member of TNC’s Tennessee Board of Trustees since 2014.
The rivers and streams of Tennessee and other Southeastern states support two-thirds of our country’s fish species, more than 90 percent of its mussel species, and nearly one half of our planet’s crayfish species. These waterways are threatened by pollution and the many dams and road crossings that disrupt water quality and the natural flow and connectivity of vital wildlife corridors in the region.
Ascend’s gift will help TNC secure significant additional federal matching funds for the following projects:
Duck River research: TNC is partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Tech University to conduct extensive studies to help define the water flow requirements for numerous federally endangered species, including freshwater mussels that are found nowhere else on Earth. The studies will help leaders make better decisions about the amount and locations of drinking water withdrawals from the river.
…And now, news from around the state…
Changes to TennCare (Press Release)
Due to legislation ending the Medicaid continuous enrollment requirement related to the COVID-19 pandemic on April 1, those receiving TennCare or CoverKids benefits will be required to reverify their eligibility status for the first time in three years.
TennCare is the state of Tennessee’s Medicaid program and provides health insurance to more than 1.7 million Tennesseans, according to the Tennessee Division of TennCare. It’s imperative that all members update their contact information and respond to all TennCare communication to avoid a gap in health insurance.
Every TennCare member’s eligibility will be reviewed over a 12-month period and, where approved by state or federal rules, available data sources (Internal Revenue Service (IRS) income data and Supplementation Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) information) will be used to automatically renew members. If a member can’t be automatically renewed, they will receive a pre-populated renewal packet by mail or a notification by email, depending on the selected preference.
Members will be selected for review when their renewal dates naturally fell. For example, if they were due to renew in June 2020, their renewal date would be in June 2023. Members will be able to complete the renewal packet through a variety of ways, including online; by phone, mail or fax; or at any county Department of Human Services (DHS) office.
For members no longer eligible for TennCare or CoverKids benefits, their information will be sent to the federal Health Care Marketplace, as required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), where alternative health insurance options are available.
CMS is opening an Affordable Care Act (ACA) special enrollment period from March 31, 2023, to July 31, 2024, for those losing health care coverage after the end of Medicaid’s continuous enrollment provision. Those eligible will have 60 days after they submit their application to select a HealthCare.gov Marketplace plan. Coverage starts the first day of the month after they select a plan.
TennCare Connect, the online portal where members can update their information and renew their coverage, and the new mobile app have been updated and improved to help make renewal easier. Members should log in to TennCareConnect.tn.gov or call 855-259-0701 to start the process.
More information on TennCare and the renewal process can be found at tn.gov/tenncare/renewals.
Maury Regional Health also has certified financial counselors available to answer questions. For more information, call 931.381.1111, extension 7262, or go to MauryRegional.com/TennCare.
Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)
March is a big month for concerts in Nashville. On March 15th, you can find Laney Wilson playing. The reigning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year and New Artist of the Year — who broke out with the 2020 chart-topper "Things A Man Oughta Know" — plays a club gig in Music City on the tail end of her "Country With A Flare Tour." $1 from each ticket donated to non-profit We Are Moving The Needle. Buy tickets at brooklynbowl.com.
March 18: Buddy Guy will perform at Ryman Auditorium
Is the blues great really quitting the road? Look no further than the name of this trek: "The Damn Right Farewell Tour." Time will tell if this is the last time Guy, 86, holds court at the Ryman — either way, it's an opportunity not to be missed. Learn more and get tickets at www.ryman.com