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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 26, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Barn Fire (MauryCountySource)

On Saturday, March 23, at 6:13PM, the Maury County Fire Department responded to a reported barn fire on Valley Creek Rd in the Culleoka Community.

Upon arrival, units found an approximate 20 X 50 shop 90% involved with approximately 20 hay bales on fire. A 250-gallon propane tank was engulfed in flames in the rear of the shop.

A Compressed Air Foam System was deployed from a chief officer vehicle to cool the tank and extinguish the fire in the immediate area until additional apparatus could arrive.

Units operated for approximately an hour and a half.

Landmark Ceramics (Press Release)

On Friday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter and Landmark Ceramics UST, Inc. officials announced the company is investing $71.9 million to expand its tile production in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee.


Landmark Ceramics plans to create an additional 78 new jobs at its North Main Street location.


The expansion in Maury County increases Landmark Ceramics’ footprint by more than 400,000 square feet and increases its installed production capacity to 80 million square feet a year.


In addition, the project includes the creation of a new logistics hub, which will be modern, highly automated and equipped with state-of-the-art technology to enhance quality, efficiency, accuracy and precision for all Landmark Ceramics’ logistics services.


A subsidiary of Italian-based Gruppo Concorde, Landmark Ceramics UST, Inc. is a 100-percent American ceramic tile company that specializes in the production and marketing of high-quality porcelain tile from its sole location in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee. 


Since 2020, TNECD has supported nearly 15 economic development projects in Maury County, resulting in approximately 3,400 job commitments and $4.8 billion in capital investment.

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 last Wednesday, but was deferred until March 27th. The Senate measure was to go before the State & Local Government Committee last 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.”

Coach Slaughter Honored (MSM)

Santa Fe Basketball Coach Brad Slaughter was recognized this weekend by the Basketball Coaches Association of Tennessee, which honored him with its Class 1A Don Meyer Award, presented annually to the organization’s coach of the year.

In his sixth season at the helm of his alma mater, Slaughter led the Wildcats to their inaugural TSSAA state tournament appearance and their first-ever state tourney victory, as they edged North Greene 53-50 in the quarterfinals before falling 63-51 to eventual champion Chattanooga Prep in the semifinals to complete a 26-6 campaign.

The award was presented to Slaughter during the BCAT Court of Honor brunch Saturday at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, when the organization also inducted its 2024 Hall of Fame class prior to its all-star games.

Spring Hill Fire Academy (CDH)

Spring Hill Fire Department kicked off its newest fire academy program last 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

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.

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

Maury County Clerk Satellite Office (Press Release)

The Maury County Clerk’s office can now help residents with renewals of license plates or placards each Wednesday from 8am to 3:30pm at the Maury County Senior Center located at 1020 Maury County Park Dr.

Please drive around to the back of the building and look for the car tag renewal sign near the back door.

Forms of payment include credit/debit card or check – no cash.

Any Maury County Resident can use this office.

All other transactions will still need to be done through the main office located at 10 Public Square.

Also, you can renew online at or at kiosks in Spring Hill City Hall or Mt. Pleasant Courthouse.

Mule Kick 5K (Press Release)

Hosted by the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation and presented by First Farmers and Merchants Bank, the annual Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will take place Saturday, April 6, at Riverwalk Park in Columbia.

Proceeds from the 2024 Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot provide funding for Maury Regional Health’s mobile medical unit, which delivers health care services to at-risk and underserved individuals throughout southern Middle Tennessee by providing basic health screenings, education and resources. A portion of the proceeds from the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will also support the Foundation’s Wellness and Aquatics Center Healthy Living Endowment and the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, the Maury County school with the most participation in the event will receive a donation to their P.E. program from the Foundation.

“The Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot is a great tradition for both Maury County and the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation that helps support our mission of providing important health care services for individuals who may not otherwise be able to obtain care,” Foundation Executive Director Joe Kilgore said. “We are excited to host the Mule Kick 5K and look forward to an exciting race!”

On Saturday, April 6, the race will begin at Riverwalk Park in Columbia with an 8 a.m. start time for the 5K and a 9:15 a.m. start time for the 1-Mile Trot. Both runners and walkers are encouraged to participate. Participants may register for the race online at

“First Farmers is pleased to continue our ongoing partnership with the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation for this year's Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot. We are proud to support the vital work of the Foundation which exemplifies our dedication to fostering well-being in our region,” said Brian K. Williams, chairman and CEO of First Farmers.

In addition to presenting sponsor First Farmers and Merchants Bank, sponsorships ranging from $350 to $2,500 are still available for those who are interested in marketing exposure at this event. For additional information, contact the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation at 931.381.1111, ext. 1012.

To learn more about the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation, the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot or to make a direct gift to support the mobile medical unit fund, visit

Justice Center Time Capsule (Press Release)

The Maury County Historical Society has been granted permission by the Maury County Commission to place a time capsule in the new Maury County Justice Center currently under construction. A selection committee has been created and is ready to receive items. If you have something small and Maury County related you would like to donate, contact Eric Previti at (931) 626-9878 or

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

Joyce Ernestine Shelby Cochran, 80, and resident of Duck River, TN, Passed away Friday, March 22, 2024 at Maury Regional Medical Center. 

Funeral Services will be conducted Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at 12:00 PM at Highland church of Christ. Burial will follow at Stand Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 10:00 AM until 12:00 PM at Highland church of Christ.

…And now, news from around the state…

Governor Signs ELVIS Act (MauryCountySource)

Governor Bill Lee was joined by legislative leadership and music industry professionals on March 21, as he signed the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act, which is first-of-its-kind legislation updating Tennessee’s Protection of Personal Rights law to include protections for songwriters, performers, and music industry professionals’ voice from the misuse of artificial intelligence (AI).

Tennessee’s music industry supports more than 61,617 jobs across the state, contributes $5.8 billion to our GDP, and fills over 4,500 music venues.

“From Beale Street to Broadway, to Bristol and beyond, Tennessee is known for our rich artistic heritage that tells the story of our great state,” said Gov. Lee. “As the technology landscape evolves with artificial intelligence, I thank the General Assembly for its partnership in creating legal protection for our best-in-class artists and songwriters.”

While Tennessee’s preexisting law protected name, image, and likeness, it did not specifically address new, personalized generative AI cloning models and services that enable human impersonation and allow users to make unauthorized fake works in the image and voice of others. Artists and musicians at all levels are facing exploitation and the theft of their integrity, identity, and humanity. This threatens the future of Tennessee’s creators, the jobs that they support across the state and country, and the bonds between fans and their favorite bands.

The ELVIS Act builds upon existing state rule protecting against the unauthorized use of someone’s likeness by adding “voice” to the realm it protects.

“Once again, Tennessee is leading the nation. Today, the ELVIS Act becomes the first-of-its-kind law to protect musicians from AI-generated synthetic media. The rapid advancement of AI is exciting in many ways, but it also presents new challenges – especially for singers, songwriters, and other music professionals. I was proud to work with Gov. Lee and my colleagues in the General Assembly to modernize our laws to ensure AI does not threaten the unique voices and creative content of Tennessee musicians.” -Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin

“The ELVIS Act puts in critical safeguards to protect the humanity and artistic expression of Tennessee innovators and creators. While we support the responsible advancement of this technology, we must ensure we do not threaten the future livelihood of an entire industry. This legislation is an important step in maintaining public trust and advancing ongoing efforts to protect and inform Tennessee consumers.” -House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland

“This incredible result once again shows that when the music community stands together, there’s nothing we can’t do. We applaud Tennessee’s swift and thoughtful bipartisan leadership against unconsented AI deepfakes and voice clones and look forward to additional states and the US Congress moving quickly to protect the unique humanity and individuality of all Americans.” -Mitch Glazier, Recording Industry of America (RIAA) Chairman & CEO

Additional industry groups that supported Gov. Lee’s artificial intelligence legislation include Academy of Country Music, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), The Americana Music Association, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), Church Music Publishers Association (CMPA), Christian Music Trade Association, Folk Alliance International, Global Music Rights, Gospel Music Association, The Living Legends Foundation, Music Artists Coalition, Nashville Musicians Association, National Music Publishers’ Association, Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC), Songwriters of North America (SONA), The Recording Academy and Tennessee Entertainment Commission.

Franklin Rodeo (WilliamsonHerald)

Tickets for the 73rd Franklin Rodeo that’s happening later this spring have gone on sale.

The cowboys and cowgirls, bulls and horses, will be making their way to the Williamson County Ag Expo Park May 16-18 for plenty of rip-roarin’ action, according to a press release from the rodeo’s producer, the Franklin Noon Rotary Club.

Fans will see the best in rodeo action, plus this year’s entertainment, said Devin Gilliam, rodeo chairman. 

“Join us as we welcome back fan favorite Dusty Myers as rodeo clown, and watch Rider and Bethany Kiesner entertain crowds with death-defying rides and jaw-dropping whip and rope skills,” he said. “Who knows, we may have a few lasers and some pyro to boot!” 

 The Franklin Noon Rotary Club donates funds from the rodeo’s profits to organizations across Middle Tennessee.

“Our rodeo is very proud to support our community, with all of our net proceeds going to those who could use a hand up, all with no paid employees.” 

Gilliam stressed that tickets should only be purchased on the rodeo’s official website ( Any other websites selling tickets are secondary market sites, often charge much higher prices for the tickets, and are not endorsed by the rodeo.

Tickets are $25-$45 for adults and $15 for children. All seats are reserved; tickets can be purchased online while supplies last. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate, unless they are sold out before rodeo time.

The rodeo starts at 7 each night.

 For more information, visit the website

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The President James K. Polk Home & Museum is hosting a special women’s history tour.

This tour will take guests behind the scenes, around the property and through the Polk Home on a one-hour tour exploring the women of the Polk Home.

This engaging tour will delve into the stories of Sarah Polk and her time as First Lady; Ophelia, the troubled sister who lived in the Sister’s House on the property and Jane, the First Mother who outlives most of her children.

Visitors will also learn about Matlida, an enslaved woman and cook for the Polk family who died from the same cholera outbreak that killed James.

This tour is free for Polk Association Members, and regular ticket fees apply to all other visitors ($14 for adults, $8 for children). Reserve your spot online!

The President James K Polk Home & Musem is located at 301 W 7th St, Columbia.


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