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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 20, 2024

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


We start with local news…

Spring Hill Fire Academy (CDH)

Spring Hill Fire Department kicked off its newest fire academy program this week to recruit 15 new firefighters into the department, addressing one of many needs facing the department.

As the city and county's population continues to grow, so does the need for additional emergency service resources. This includes addressing SHFD's issues with short staffing, equipment supply needs, as well as the need for a new fire hall.

"Today was an historical day for the Spring Hill Fire Department as we started our first full fire academy with 15 firefighters. Thirteen of those were paid for by the FEMA Department of Homeland Security SAFER grant," Fire Chief Graig Temple said. "They are a very diverse group, including our first two female firefighters in the city."

City Administrator Pam Caskie added that, in regard to local population numbers, that the city's special census is still active, encouraging citizens to participate. In the end, it could save taxpayer money and help fund additional needs like public safety.

"We are slow walking into a property tax increase," Caskie said. "It takes two minutes. If you know your neighbors haven't done it and you see them out on the back porch, ask them, bug them, tell them to get it in. It's not that hard, and it really will mean a lot overall to the city."

To access the Spring Hill special census, simply log onto the city's homepage at www.SpringHillTN.org.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen, during its Monday regular meeting, adopted multiple items related to the fire department. These items included a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant to fund an additional 15 firefighters, as well as a contract to Chris Woods Construction Company for the new Fire Station No. 4 to be located off Duplex Road.

Fire Station No. 4 is scheduled to begin construction later this year, with an estimated completion date in the fall of 2025.

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.

Reunion Wine Bar (WKOM Audio 2:00)

Yesterday, the Reunion Wine Bar opened to the public with a ribbon cutting. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy stopped by the grand opening and spoke to proprietors Trey and Melinda Gunter about their new establishment…

Battle Creek Names Coach (CDH)

The chance to build a program from scratch is an opportunity some coaches hope to do in their careers but few actually get.

Spring Hill’s Paul Lamm will have that chance next season after being hired as baseball coach at Battle Creek High School, which is set to open in Spring Hill this fall. Lamm will finish the baseball season with Spring Hill before moving on to Battle Creek.

“I mean, it was very tough, toughest decision of my professional career,” he said. “(I was a) 26-year-old kid when I took (Spring Hill) over, not that far removed from playing in college and coaching in college for a short stint. And it's crazy to think back, that was almost 20 years ago.

“Change is always hard but, we felt that it was a good move for our family. Once everything gets to that point, we'll be ready to sit down and kind of really map out how we want to attack this thing.”

Spring Hill has started the season 4-0, and upon announcing his decision to the players on Friday, he made sure everyone knew his full focus is still on this baseball season.

“It was a tough, emotional day on Friday when I let my team know . . . but until this season is over and this school year is over, I’m still the head coach of Raider baseball,” Lamm said. “And (I’m) still going to do everything I can, like I always have, and be just as passionate about it as I have been since day one. So, you know, that doesn't change.”

Lamm has been at the helm of Spring Hill baseball for 18 years, revamping a program that had been struggling until he took charge. Since his hire in 2006, the Raiders have made seven state tournament appearances, including a state championship-winning run in 2016.

Lamm was a familiar name to Battle Creek principal Mike Kinnard, a former baseball coach himself. Kinnard had coached against Lamm’s father, Gary — who coached Loretto for more than two decades — in the '90s, and he coached alongside Lamm for a short period while working at Columbia Central.

When the opportunity arose to bring on Lamm, Kinnard didn’t hesitate.

“I've just known through the years and talking with some of his players and parents who've moved on from Battle Creek Middle School to play with him or play for him, that he not only coaches the boys on how to play the game of baseball, but how to live life,” Kinnard said. “He is a good role model for the boys, puts their academics and their behaviors and their citizenship in front of baseball.”

Not only does the position give Lamm the ability to build the Battle Creek baseball program from the ground up, he’ll be able to do it with his family close by. This fall, he will have a son starting high school at Battle Creek, while his youngest son will be across the street at Battle Creek Middle School.

“And my kids' ages, they have something to do with it . . . So it was kind of a perfect storm, if you will, of opportunities and one that we just didn't feel like we could pass up. So a lot of thought, a lot of prayer, a lot of stuff went into it. And . . . we're excited. But we are in a situation where we're trying to focus on the task at hand, which is right now, Raider baseball.”

Lamm will be joined at Battle Creek by his current assistant coaches, Kenny Henderson and Justin Foster.

The school will open with freshmen and sophomores exclusively, but Lamm plans to have his team compete at the varsity level from the beginning.

Lamm is the second coaching hire made by Kinnard at Battle Creek; Donnie Chambers was hired as basketball coach.

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/.

Mule Day Approaches (CDH)

A Columbia staple dating back nearly 200 years will be marking its 1974 revival's 50th anniversary, an event steeped in local tradition, which continues to draw hundreds of thousands to "Mule Town" each year.

Mule Day is set to kick off the week of April 1-7, bringing back all of the usual favorites starting with the Mule Day Wagon Train rolling into town, capped off with the annual Mule Day Parade in downtown Columbia.

This year marks 50 years since the annual festival experienced its 20th century revival, drawing in thousands of locals, farmers, and out-of-town tourists year after year, only being canceled twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

"Mule Day is a fantastic event in Maury County, and we are very fortunate to have it here," Louise Mills, who has been an organizer of the festival since 1986, said. "A lot of planning has gone into it for so many years, because we started this in 1974, and it's still going on. It's really going strong, and for me it's been fun."

Mule Day Office organizers are currently hard at work making final plans for this year's festivities, announcing this week that country artist and local resident Clay Walker will lead the parade as the 2024 Mule Day Grand Marshal.

"He's a local, and we like to celebrate our local people anytime we can," Mandy Mills, another key organizer for this year's Mule Day said.

This year's Mule Day will also pay tribute to late and longtime Mule Day organizer Dave Skillington, who passed away Dec. 9, 2023. Skillington was given the distinction of this year's honorary grand marshal for his many years of service as a key player in Mule Day's longevity. His family is scheduled to ride in the parade in his honor.

"He did a lot for Mule Day, and his family was here at some of the first, and he worked hard to get Mule Day off the ground," Mills said.

This year's Mule Man, a new title introduced last year, is Bernis White, another longtime Mule Day supporter. Mills said what makes the Mule Man honor so special is that they aren't nominated by the Mule Day Board, but by the public.

"We take nominations, and he's been really involved in Mule Day and the mule community," Mills said. "He brings his own wagon train in, camps and participates in the parade."

Last month, Anissa Grimes of Columbia State Community College was crowned as this year's Mule Day Queen.

As part of her role in this year's events, Grimes suggested adding an additional member to her court, honorary Mule Day Queen Carly McGee.

"This was Anissa's idea, and she will be riding in the parade behind the queen's float," Mills said. "She's been battling cancer for over a year, and this just feels right."

Another new feature this year geared toward students is Mule Day's first $7,500 Mule Day Work scholarship giveaway for students studying in CTE training.

For more information or to register for the Mule Day Work scholarship, as well as the full schedule and other Mule Day features, visit Mule Day's main website at www.MuleDay.com.

"That's something we are really excited about this year," Mills said. "We're going to do three $2,500 scholarships, and of course we are hoping to increase that and be able to help all kids in Maury County. It's open to Maury County students or students in the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club. We always give back to the community, and it's really important people know about this, because we want to invest in the future."

Spring Hill Citizen’s Academy (MSM)

Looking to get more involved in local government in Spring Hill? Want to see how the city operates? Now is your chance — sign up for the 2024 Spring Hill Citizens’ Academy!

This eight-week course will give you the opportunity to interact with your elected leaders and senior city staff while you explore municipal government through presentations, hands-on experiences, and open discussions.

The 2024 City of Spring Hill Citizens’ Academy is open to Spring Hill residents and will meet each Thursday beginning April 4, 2024, from 6-8 p.m. at City Hall. The classes will be taught by your elected leaders and senior city staff. Topics include Legislation, Fire Department, Utilities, Budgeting, Public Works, Capital Improvement Projects, Police, Development Services, Parks & Recreation and Library.

Participants will have the opportunity to speak directly with city officials and ask questions, as well as tour key facilities to gain a new perspective on the inner workings of their local government.

Graduates of the program will receive a certificate and will be introduced at a public meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Registration is required and class size is limited. You must be at least 18 years old and a Spring Hill resident to participate.

Fill out your information at www.springhilltn.org/FormCenter/Communications-13/2024-Citizens-Academy-Application-115. If your application is accepted, you will be contacted by City Staff.

Courthouse Commemorating 120 Years (Press Release)

Maury County Government has been awarded a $5,000 matching grant from the South Central Tennessee Development District.

The Arts Build Communities, or “ABC,” grant will help the county commemorate the historic Maury County Courthouse as it celebrates 120 years of service to the community in 2024.

The grant will fund a community juried art competition open to Maury County citizens of all ages.

According to a press release, the theme will focus on "What does the courthouse represent to its citizens?" Citizens are invited to use their artistic abilities to design an original piece of art (all genres are welcome) that interprets what the Maury County Courthouse means.

“The Maury County Courthouse is an iconic and historic structure for the state of Tennessee.”

“Built by local architect J.E.R. Carpenter, before he went on to great fame as one of the leading architects of luxury high-rise living in New York City, this building has been the central focus of Maury County since it was built in 1904. It symbolizes much to our community. This grant is a wonderful opportunity to allow the citizens of the county to interpret and express what the building represents.”

Maury County citizens will have from now until March 22nd to submit their artwork to the Maury County Archives' temporary location at 1446 Oak Springs Drive, Suite 100 (the far end of Muletown Rec).

Art will be juried in four age categories: elementary, secondary, high school and adults ages 18 and over. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place for each category, and one grand-prize winner will be announced during Mule Day on April 6, 2024.

Rules for artist submissions include:

Artwork must be original.

All art intended for wall-mounting (drawings/paintings etc.) in the 18+ category must be submitted in a frame and wired for hanging.

All submitted art must be accompanied by a card with the artist's name, contact information, category, title and medium.

All art must be submitted by 3 p.m. Friday, March 22.

Art will be juried by five esteemed artists which include local photographers Sarah Gilliam and Ross Jaynes, as well as painters James Spearman and Margaret Warfield and sculptor Jennifer Grisham.

The winning submissions will be displayed at the courthouse during the 2024 Mule Day festivities. All submitted artwork will be placed on display at the Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Community College from May 13th-June 14th. The exhibit will open with be a gallery reception on May 13th.

For more information about the contest, contact the Maury County Archives at (931) 375-1500.

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

Joyce Lois Morton Crowe, 93, retired service manager for Sears, Roebuck and Company, died Tuesday, March 19, 2024 at her residence.

Funeral services will be conducted Friday, March 22, 2024 at 2:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Joe Macer and Eric Swann officiating.  The family will visit with friends Friday from 12:00 PM until 2:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.  Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens.  Online condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.

Mrs. Nancy Hamilton Fitzgerald, 89, resident of Murfreesboro and the wife of Freddie Fitzgerald, died Monday, March 11th at Alive Hospice in Murfreesboro. A memorial service will be conducted Saturday, March 23rd at 2:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 12:00 noon until time of the services at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Gas Prices (MSM)

Gas prices across Tennessee moved higher over last week, but at a much slower rate compared to recent weeks. Over last week, gas prices moved two cents more expensive, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.09 which is 11 cents more expensive than one month ago but a penny less than one year ago.  

“Pump price increases slowed down over last week, but that trend may not last long,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Both gasoline and crude oil futures rose again last week, which means it’s likely drivers will see prices at the pump fluctuate higher again this week.”

Quick Facts

40% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.85 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.40 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 6th least expensive market in the nation

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival is set to return for its highly-anticipated 10th anniversary at The Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, TN, on September 28-29. Ahead of the official lineup announcement, fans can lock in the best ticket prices today, March 20, during the early bird presale beginning at 10 a.m. CT. A limited quantity of 2-Day GA weekend passes selling at $219 will be available here, so snag them while you can. Find tickets at www.pilgrimagefestival.com/tickets.

This year, the festival will celebrate ten years. Over the past ten years, Pilgrimage has brought performances from Chris Stapleton, Justin Timberlake, Willie Nelson, Zach Bryan, Dave Matthews Band, Foo Fighters, Jason Isbell, and more.

Sign up for updates at PilgrimageFestival.com, and stay tuned for upcoming 2024 festival announcements!


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