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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 29, 2024

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


We start with local news…

Moore Resigns as Columbia Central Coach (MSM)

Megan Moore considers the members of her Columbia Central girl’s basketball team over the past three years as family.

The coach also has a couple of younger family members, though.

“The only reason I’m stepping away is my kids needing me more right now,” said Moore, referring to her daughters – 8-year-old Karter and 5-year-old Harlyn – as she confirmed her resignation.

“There’s been a lot of prayer, leading to playing the title of ‘Mom’ most of the time right now. I’ve been thinking about it a little while, only because my kids are extremely active. Right now, we have softball five nights a week. They play basketball, so we do the same thing in the fall. Just being able to give them more of my time is something they need right now.”

Since taking over the Lady Lions program prior to the 2021-22 season, Moore has posted a 52-36 record – leading Columbia Central to a District 12-4A tournament title and a Region 6-4A tourney semifinal berth in 2023. This past season, Central spent time in the Associated Press statewide Class 4A Top 10 rankings and finished 23-9, the program’s first 20-win finish in 10 years.

“What we’ve been able to accomplish in the three years I’ve been here, … The culture, the environment, the integrity, the expectations have completely shifted from what it was when I first took over,” the 2004 Spring Hill graduate said. “This is a program the young women are extremely proud of. It’s something future Lady Lions are looking forward to coming into.

“It’s a credit to the players that bought into the vision I had when I came into the program. It attests to them having the same vision. They just needed the right person to come in and implement something they were wanting all along. Because we shared an equal vision, all of us together have been able to accomplish that.

“What we have accomplished here is the only thing that makes it OK in leaving, knowing where the program is at.”

Columbia Central principal Mike Steele anticipates that the recent success will create a deep pool of prospective successors to Moore, who will remain in the building as a physical education teacher and as assistant athletics director.

“I’m very excited for Coach Moore in her future plans and her future journey,” Steele said. “I’m assuming I’m going to get a lot of interest in that position. She’ll be a part, along with some of the young ladies, of the hiring process.

“I’m looking for some really good applications and some people that are excited. She was very passionate about that team and coaching that team. They’re used to a high level of intensity and expectations.”

Led by a senior group of Tionna Davis, Kayla Crawford, Symira Angus and Brooklyn Duke, the upcoming Lady Lion edition is poised to continue trending upward.

“These seniors were freshmen when I came in,” Moore said. “They understood what it took to come into a program, the way it should look. They have experience and success. I know that whoever we bring on as the new coach, you’re going to have a group of girls that has been there, done that, knows what the program should look like and can help that coach implement it the same way I had these seniors now help with that when I first came on.”

Moore insisted that while roles may have changed, connections have not.

“The relationships I have with these young women – the conversation I had with them was, our titles are going to change at some point in time. At some point I’m not going to be their coach, at some point they’re not going to be my player,” she said. “But regardless of when those titles change, the relationship we can continue to have never changes. 

“I made sure I emphasized that, who we are as a family doesn’t change.”

Gather Kitchen Mercantile/Woven (WKOM Audio 2:19)

Yesterday, two businesses held celebrations. Gather Kitchen Mercantile held their grand opening, and Woven celebrated their one year anniversary. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy spoke to Gather proprietors Adam and Katherine York as well as Abby Youngblood from Woven…

Mt. Pleasant Seeks Grant (MSM)

Mount Pleasant’s City Commission approved during its March 19, 2024, meeting an application to the United States Department of Agriculture for a water loan or grant.

Mayor Bill White said the funding would be used “for generators at the (water) plant and City Hall.”

“This is money that’s available through USDA that has no match to it,” City Manager Kate Collier told the board. “We don’t have a generator at the water plant and the one at City Hall is very, very old.”

Prior to the vote, Collier reported that the city had received a letter from CPWS in which the utility had agreed to double the amount of water it provides Mount Pleasant, from 100,000 gallons per day to 200,000.

“I think they’re going to meet our long-term needs of 500,000, but it will involve some infrastructure that we already know we’re going to be a part of. That’s really good news,” Collier said.

It was not stated when the city would find out if the grant was approved by USDA.

The board also approved a resolution naming the Gardenia Clarke Park Pavilion in honor of Celestine Griffith Wilson, who helped secure the land for the park in the 1960s.

Commissioners also approved a cooperative endeavor between the city and Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Tennessee to run through October 2024.

“This is to understand if this is going to work out for everyone involved,” White said.

A change order of $42,800 for wastewater system improvements was also approved. An inspector from the engineering company is having to stay on site an additional 49 days, Collier said, requiring the expense.

Finance Director Shiphrah Cox stated that the city was starting the process of putting together its 2024-25 budget and that commission meetings in that regard would be held April 23-26.

Commissioners also reappointed Justin Robinette to the Mount Pleasant Power System Board.

The board also recognized longtime coach Dewitt Whitaker, who has coached junior high football, junior high basketball and boys basketball in Mount Pleasant and later coached girls basketball at Columbia Central.

Capley Proposes Tougher Penalty Legislation (MSM)

State Rep. Kip Capley (R-Summertown) proposed legislation enhancing the penalty for assaulting police officers from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony.

House Bill 1881 would make the offense of assault against a law enforcement officer a Class E felony punishable by a mandatory minimum 60-day sentence and a $10,000 fine.

“Police officers put their lives on the line every day and they deserve our respect, honor and support,” Capley said. “Threatening and assaulting law enforcement is a villainous act and should be punished as such. This bill holds some of the worst among us accountable for their actions and will hopefully make people think twice before attacking police officers in this state.”

Over the last five years, there was an average of 440 arrests for simple assault against law enforcement officers, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

If approved, House Bill 1881 would take effect July 1.

Capley represents House District 71, which includes Wayne County and part of Hardin, Lawrence and Maury counties.

Maury Regional Hosts Coaches Clinic (Press Release)

Maury Regional Health athletic trainers will host a coaches clinic for all sports coaches in the area to learn more about preparing athletes for their season.

The clinic will be held April 13 at 9 a.m. at the Maury Regional Annex, which is across the street from Maury Regional Medical Center at 1223 Trotwood Ave. in Columbia. It is meant for coaches of any age group (youth, middle school, high school, college or volunteer) or for anyone else who wants to learn about coaching, leadership, athlete safety and more.

 A group of speakers are slated to present, including:

·         Brigadier General Steven Turner, assistant adjutant general with the Tennessee Army National Guard will present on leadership, ownership and mentorship.

·         Andrew K. Nielsen, MD, a specialist in internal medicine and pediatrics with Maury Regional Medical Group Primary Care & Pediatrics, will present on nutrition and hydration.

·         Andrea Bain, PT, a physical therapist with Maury Regional Medical Center, will present on proper warm-up techniques and injury prevention.

·         Amanda Cothran, MSN, RN, CEN, the stroke, trauma and chest pain center coordinator for Maury Regional Medical Center, will present on pre-hospital management of athletic injuries. 

 After the speaker session, CPR training will be provided for anyone interested. It will not serve as a certification course though it will count toward Bronze-level CPR/AED training for the Tennessee Safe Stars Act. Coaches from Maury County Public Schools will also receive in-service credit for attending.

 The clinic is free to attend. Registration is not required, but anyone attending is asked to RSVP by emailing dhightower@mauryregional.com.

Justice Sentenced (MSM)

A former corrections officer with the Maury County Jail, James Stewart Justice, was sentenced on Friday, March 15 to 15 months in prison and one year of supervised release. A federal jury previously convicted Justice of falsifying a record in a federal civil rights investigation for a report he wrote in response to allegations that he had sexually abused an inmate in his custody.

“Corrections officers are entrusted with immense power over the inmates in their care. The vast majority of them carry out their important jobs with honor and integrity,” said United States Attorney Henry C. Leventis for the Middle District of Tennessee. “This prosecution, and the sentence imposed last week, however, should serve as a reminder that we will not hesitate to hold corrections officers accountable when they violate the law and the public trust.”

“This defendant abused his authority as a corrections officer to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Law enforcement officers who oversee our jails and prisons have a responsibility to protect people in their custody. Officers must treat allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and document them carefully. We will continue holding officers accountable when they abuse their position of power to cover up their unlawful conduct.”

“This sentence is the result of relentless efforts by the FBI to bring to justice corrections personnel who abuse their position of trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas S. DePodesta of the FBI Memphis Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners to ensure the physical safety and civil rights of all individuals and ensure that any public servant who abuses their authority is held accountable.”

According to court documents, the defendant, formerly known as James Stewart Thomas, wrote an official report for the Maury County Jail in response to allegations that he had sexually abused an inmate he had guarded in a hospital room while the inmate recovered from major surgery. In his report, Justice falsely claimed that he had reported to two Maury County Jail supervisors that an inmate had made sexual advances toward him while the inmate was in his custody at the hospital, falsely claimed that those two Maury County Jail supervisors both advised him not to write a report about the inmate’s alleged sexual advances and omitted a claim he later made to criminal investigators that he had a sexual relationship with the inmate after the inmate’s release from custody.

The FBI Memphis Field Office, Nashville Resident Agency investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda J. Klopf for the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

Spring Hill Historic Development Plan (CDH)

The city's Town Center Redevelopment Committee, a group formed in 2019 with the intent to revitalize and preserve one of Spring Hill's oldest districts, presented its latest findings and updates to the city's planning commission Monday.

The committee discussed three different character areas in Spring Hill and how to connect them with "common threads."

"When we started this project, we realized that we had three distinctive character areas, which contained a different part of our history," Spring Hill Historical Commission Chair and committee member Alisha Fitts said. "Old Towne is essentially from Kedron to Duplex, with a block or two to the west side. Town Center, which is where we are at now, is chapter two."

The third character area encompasses what will become the Kedron Square mixed-use development located at the former Tennessee Children's Home property.

"The concept is that we have these different parts of our history, and if we can find a way to connect them with common threads ... then it doesn't quite look so crazy," Fitts said. "Old Towne probably has the most challenges, since it is the oldest part of our town."

The group's latest project has been developing a long-term development plan, which was done in partnership with CT Consultants in 2022.

One of the initial goals regarding Town Center's long-term plan is getting other city departments involved, Fitts said.

"Part of what we are trying to do in looking at stakeholder information is tying it together, like for example with Parks and Rec and having a greenway ... which feeds into the pedestrian, walkability kind of setup," Fitts said.

Options for funding could include applying for grant funding.

"I think the group understands that the community does want a place to gather, want it to be safe and can promote economic development," Town Center Committee Chairman Bill Benedict said. "After living in Spring Hill for 20 years, I can say that I know where its soul is, but just don't know where its heart is."

While the heart of the project lies along the Main Street corridor, as a district, improvements would also be focused on side streets, such as School Street, Spruce Street and McLemore Avenue, and local neighborhoods. Improvements would include street lighting, retail space, parking, underground utilities and signage.

The city is also in talks to purchase the Ferguson Hall property for future restoration, which Fitts said would "provide a proper anchor" for the district.

"This plan is intended to be fluid, and there will be a lot of things happening over time in this area," Fitts said. "This plan is intended to give us guardrails and to be flexible enough to tweak it as things modify in the Old Towne area."

When it came time for feedback from city planners, the general consensus was supportive, but also that more work lies ahead.

"I'm really encouraged by what's been put together. It's really trailblazing work, very good work and I am impressed," Commissioner Jonathan Duda said.

Duda added that adopting an official revitalization plan puts the city in good standing for grant eligibility through resources like the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

"You are demonstrating that you've got the political will of the body and that their funds can be put into action, whether that's further design or working with other aspects," Duda said.

No votes were taken Monday regarding adopting the Town Center long-term plan. The plan will be presented to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at a later time, who will hold authority over the final vote.

Monday's Town Center discussion, which lasted about an hour, can be viewed in full online via Spring Hill's homepage at www.SpringHillTN.org.

…And now, news from around the state…

New TSU Board Appointed (Tennessean)

Within hours of lawmakers vacating Tennessee State University's board, Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed the legislation into law and issued his appointments to reseat a new board.

The move came after House Republicans passed legislation to vacate the existing board, reneging on a deal made in committee last week to preserve at least three existing members. House leadership on Thursday suggested a deal had been struck with the board that fell through, leading them to align with the Senate GOP plan to strike the entire board.

Lee has appointment power over eight seats on the 10-person board, which also includes a faculty appointment and a non-voting student member.

“Tennessee State University is a remarkable institution and my administration, in partnership with the General Assembly, is committed to ensuring students are being served,” Lee said. “I’m pleased to appoint these highly qualified individuals who will work alongside administrators and students to further secure TSU’s place as a leading institution.”

Lee appointed the following group on Thursday evening, noting in a press release that all are TSU graduates:

Trevia Chatman, president, Bank of America Memphis

Jeffery Norfleet, provost and vice president for administration, Shorter College

Marquita Qualls, founder and principal, Entropia Consulting

Terica Smith, deputy mayor and director of human resources, Madison County

Charles Traughber, general counsel, division of real estate, retail and financial services at Bridgestone Americas

Dwayne Tucker, CEO of LEAD Public Schools

Kevin Williams, president and CEO of GAA Manufacturing

Dakasha Winton, senior vice president and chief government relations officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

TSU leaders and students criticized the General Assembly's aim to wipe the board clean, arguing it will destabilize the university as it undergoes a presidential search. Legislative Democrats had pushed for a compromise to maintain a few members on the board for institutional knowledge and stability.

"This is unprecedented, unfortunate, and uncharted waters for any public university in the state," TSU said in a statement after the House vote Thursday. "We believe this legislation will disrupt our students’ educational pursuits, harm the image of the University, and remove a Board that had achieved success in its enhanced governance of TSU." 

TSU also noted the chronic underfunding the university has faced.

"TSU would undoubtedly be in a different position today if it had received the funds promised by the state over the course of the last three decades," TSU's statement said. "While we are very disappointed by today’s vote, we will continue to work with the General Assembly and the Governor’s office to pursue options, both in funding and governance, that allow TSU to continue the momentum it has achieved in enrollment, research, academics, and providing great opportunities for students."

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

This Easter weekend will have many fun events for the family, including egg hunts, photo ops, petting zoos and a whole lot more.

Northside Baptist Church, 127 Theta Pike, will host its Easter Picnic & Egg Hunt starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. The event will include free food, games and other family-friendly activities.

Knob Creek Baptist Church, 2054 Knob Creek Road, will host its annual Easter Egg Hunt starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Lunch will also be served during the event.

Rolling Hills Community Church, 6111 Cayce Lane, will host its Easter Jam from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The event will include food, pony rides, love music, bounce houses and an Easter egg hunt.

In Mt. Pleasant, the city's Parks & Recreation Department will host its 34th annual Easter Egg Hunt starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at 501 Gray Lane. This is Mt. Pleasant's longest running event, which includes eggs, games, prizes and maybe even a visit from the Easter Bunny.

In Santa Fe, Mingo Branch Farm, 4719 Mingo Branch Road, invites animal lovers to its Easter on the Farm event starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. Guests will have the opportunity to interact with many of the farm's animals, including bunnies, chicks and ducks.

There will also be an Easter egg hunt, and the farm's market will also be open selling items such as local honey, farm-raised eggs and more. The animals are also available for purchase, which will include a detailed manual to help owners care for their new animals.


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