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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 21, 2024

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


We start with local news…

New Interim Fire Chief Appointed (Press Release)

The City of Columbia announces the appointment of Chris Cummins as the Columbia Fire & Rescue Interim Chief, effective March 20, 2024. With an extensive career at Columbia Fire & Rescue and background in emergency services and a commitment to public safety, Cummins brings invaluable experience and leadership.

Chief Cummins holds over three decades of experience with Columbia Fire & Rescue. Joining as a firefighter in 1990, he progressed through the ranks, serving as a Fire Engineer/Driver, Captain, Assistant Chief of Suppression, and ultimately as Deputy Chief before retiring in May 2021. After 31 years of exemplary service, his extensive knowledge led to his rehiring in August 2021, in a part-time capacity, where he now lends his wealth of experience to facilitate FEMA/TEMA transitions, conduct training, secure grants, and implement hazard mitigation strategies.

"I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the dedicated men and women of the Columbia Fire & Rescue Department," said Chief Cummins. "Together, we will continue to prioritize public safety, enhance emergency response capabilities, and strengthen partnerships within the community.”

As the interim chief, Cummins will oversee all aspects of Columbia Fire & Rescue, including emergency response operations, training programs, and community outreach initiatives. Chief Cummins will work closely with city officials and department personnel to ensure the safety and well-being of residents and visitors alike.

City Manager Tony Massey stated, “We are fortunate to have a man of Chris Cummins’ abilities and experience to take over the Columbia Fire & Rescue Department at this time. He will do a great job as we begin the process of hiring a new permanent fire and rescue chief for Columbia.”

Throughout Cummins’ career, he has demonstrated his ability to effectively manage crisis situations, implement strategic initiatives, and foster strong relationships. Chief Cummins will serve as the interim chief while the city conducts a comprehensive search for a permanent Columbia Fire & Rescue Chief.

Arrest of Jamie Rucker (WKOM Audio 2:41)

Yesterday, the Maury County Sheriff’s Department made a major drug bust. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy spoke to Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland about the arrest of Jamie Rucker…

Spring Hillians Honored for Saving Life (MauryCountySource)

On Monday, Spring Hill City officials were proud to honor several citizens who saved a life earlier this year.

On January 8, a patron of Longview Recreation Center suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Nearby patrons quickly identified the issue and began life-saving measures, including calling 911, starting CPR, and locating an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED.

After one AED shock, first responders arrived and took over patient care. The patient was breathing and alert before leaving the scene, and we are happy to report that the patient has since made a full recovery!

At this week’s BOMA meeting, Fire Chief Graig Temple and Mayor Jim Hagaman presented Tiago Paula and Jason Wagner with “Phoenix Awards” from the Spring Hill Fire Department for participating in a cardiac arrest save. Tiago helped perform CPR at the scene, while Jason assisted the patient to the ground and directed first responders.

Two other residents also assisted in the save, but couldn’t make it to Monday’s meeting. Zach Topp helped perform CPR, and Longview staff member Chris Redding operated the AED.

Cold Case Team (WKOM Audio 3:12)

The Maury County Sheriff’s Department has created a cold case team, to investigate long-closed crime cases. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy spoke to Sheriff Bucky Rowland about the new team and what their mission will be…

Construction Fee Set to Move (MSM)

A bill set to be heard this week in the General Assembly may be Maury County’s best chance in 2024 to tap into revenue streams from new construction.

House Bill 2426, sponsored by Rep. Tim Hicks (R-Gray), would create a new adequate facilities tax option for five fast-growing counties, including Maury. The measure would allow Maury, Montgomery, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson Counties to increase their adequate facilities tax by 50 percent next year and by 10 percent every four years afterward.

The bill was set to be heard by the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee at its Wednesday, but was deferred until March 27th. The Senate measure was to go before the State & Local Government Committee on Tuesday, but was deferred until March 26th.

County leaders have stated for years that Maury is losing millions of dollars annually in revenue because of its lack of an impact fee charged to new construction.

Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) has carried the fight for Maury County for a number of years trying to get the county the authority to enact an impact fee. Previous attempts died at the subcommittee or committee level.

Cepicky said Hicks’ bill was a good compromise that could add as much as $4 million annually to the county’s budget.

“This is the builders’ compromise, that they have agreed they need to do something to help out here,” Cepicky said. “They have Rep. Hicks running it because (he) is a builder himself. They want to make sure that everyone realizes this is OK, it’s a tax on builders that the builders are OK with.”

Builders and realtors’ lobbying efforts have killed previous efforts to allow counties to enact impact fees. According to the Tennessee Lookout, the Tennessee Association of Realtors has spent $6.4 million since 2009 on campaign contributions, lobbying and other political expenditures, while the Home Builders Association of Tennessee has spent $3.7 million over that time. 

Cepicky said he believed the realtors were “on board” with Hicks’ bill.

“This is what happens, you’ve got to continue to be resolute in what you’re trying to do. People realize there’s a problem here, let’s solve the problem so we can move on. It looks really good for Mr. Hicks’ bill. Hopefully next week it’s on the House floor to be voted on and we can get it over to the Senate.”

Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt said she was hopeful HB 2426 would pass but noted that it would not completely resolve the need for impact fees in a high-growth area like Maury County.

“The current legislation impacting Maury County is HB 2426, which would allow fast-growing counties to opt into the County Powers Act and would allow the County Commission to increase the current Adequate Facilities Fees for Maury County from $.50 per square foot on residential building up to $1.50 per sq. ft. The commercial fee could be increased from the current $.30 per square foot up to $1.50. However, the assessment would only be on areas that are heated and cooled. The high-growth counties must continue to fall into the high-growth parameters set in the legislation or fall back to their current adequate facilities rates. The assessment would be paid before the Certificate of Occupancy was granted. The fees could only be used for school-related expenses,” Butt said stated.

“If this legislation passes, it certainly is not a huge windfall that will cure the ills of the exponential growth in Maury County. It is one tool in the toolbox… Hopefully, HB2426 passes this General Assembly and we will continue working toward other options that require growth to pay for growth.”

HB 1629, proposed by Cepicky and which would return a portion of the real estate transfer tax back to the counties, was placed behind the budget in February, meaning it cannot be taken up until the General Assembly passes a budget. The bill is not dead, Cepicky noted.

“Everybody likes the real estate transfer tax bill… Members really like that one because it treats everyone the same across the State of Tennessee. We just have to wait to see what our financial outlook is like next year. That bill alone would return about $5 million a year to Maury County.”

Cepicky also referenced financial incentives placed within the governor’s school voucher bill that he said would benefit Maury and other counties. The bill increases the state’s portion of teachers’ health insurance from 45 to 60 percent and includes a $75 per student allocation to be used for school maintenance and upkeep.

Cepicky noted that the added health insurance funding does not have to go toward insurance costs but does remain under the control of the school board.

“For Maury County, those two parts are going to generate another $4 million; that’s recurring every year,” he said.

Another bill Cepicky said would be coming up, sponsored by Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), would return an extra 2.83 percent of sales tax revenue to the state’s 11 fastest-growing counties, which would include Maury. That bill has also been placed behind the budget, according to the General Assembly’s website.

“That’s a five-year pilot (program) but potentially that could return another $2 million to Maury County,” Cepicky said. “When you add them up, you’re getting about $12 million to $13 million a year, which we believe will help out the County Commission to where they can stop raising taxes on the people of Maury County.”

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.

Mr. Jack M. Westmoreland, 92, retired from Monsanto and a resident of Culleoka, died Tuesday at his residence. Funeral services for Mr. Westmoreland will be conducted Saturday at 10:00 AM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Friendship Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Friday from 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM at the funeral home.

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…

Pilgrimage Festival Lineup Announced (CDH)

The lineup for the 10th anniversary of the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival includes headliners Dave Matthews Band, Noah Kahan, Hozier and NEEDTOBREATHE.

Additional performers slated for the weekend-long festival include Lukas Nelson, Allison Russell, Stephen Sanchez, Better Than Ezra and Grace Bowers & the Hodge Podge.

Set for Sept. 28-29 once again at The Park at Harlinsdale in Franklin, Tn., this year's festival was a special one for event producer Kevin Griffin.

"For the 10th anniversary, we wanted to be forward-thinking and look at what the festival is now and will be in the future, but with an eye toward the past," Griffin told The Tennessean. "We wanted to have some artists who had played Pilgrimage before, like Dave (Matthews) who played in 2021. He’s part of the family, so it made sense to have him again.”

Griffin added that Hozier was slated to play Pilgrimage in 2018, the year the festival was rained out.

“To be able to also add newer artists like Stephen Sanchez, Chance Pena and Miles Smith is super exciting,” he said.

In addition to working on his ideal lineup of musicians, Griffin and event co-producers W. Brandt Wood and Michael Whelan are also working to revamp several areas of the festival. He said festival goers can expect to see improvements to the children’s Fun Farm area and the VIP experience.

“We heard people loud and clear with the VIP experience,” he said. “We’re putting so much more into the VIP area. The first few years we were like with your ticket you get free alcohol and wondered why we were going in the red every year. It was great but we can’t afford to do it. But we overcorrected a bit. We heard that people love the VIP opportunity, but they felt they were not getting enough. We’re learning every year and the 10th year we are getting the VIP experience right.”

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Don’t miss this opportunity to stock up on clothes for your family, toys and more.

The Children’s Treasure Consignment Spring/Summer Event takes place March 20 – 24, 2024 at The National Guard Armory (844 N. James Campbell Blvd, Columbia).

Items to be at the sale include:

Clothes – men, women’s and infant sizes through junior sizes

Shoes

Baby equipment

Toys for all ages

Boutique Items

More information at ctsale.com


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