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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 3, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Schools Closed Today (Press Release)

Middle Tennessee is under a Severe Weather Advisory, including high winds that will impede the safe operation of school buses. Due to these conditions and to keep all students safe, there will be no school on Friday, March 3, including all Boys & Girls Club locations.

Twelve-month employees use discretion in reporting for work.

Homelessness in Maury (CDH)

Felicia Patrick, mother to son, SJ, sat on her bed at Columbia Inn and gathered herself after describing a happier time. Today, like the many days before, she is not working, though she is willing.

Employers haven’t given her much hope for being an "employable" prospect, she says.

Now it’s just Patrick and her son SJ in a temporary hotel room in Columbia. It's not a home. There's no kitchen to cook a breakfast, little light pours through the small windows and little help doesn't lighten the load of her worries.

On a recent February day, Patrick was preoccupied with the condition of the carpet in her temporary room, where leaks soaked the floor.

Staff showed up to work on the problem. But Patrick had to wait.

Desperate and uncertain, living day to day, seems to be the theme these days.

SJ is just one of 90 students in Maury County Public Schools without a stable home, who might not lay his head on a permanent pillow this evening.

Most stories like Patrick’s remain hidden to protect privacy, but she is ready for others to hear the realities of homelessness. She hopes someone will listen.

Mostly, it means finding a way to provide SJ with his basic needs, most urgently — a home.

Students experiencing homelessness, who are enrolled in MCPS, are connected to services to help the family get back on their feet.

The district’s focus is to help families so that education can continue unimpeded. It's also of the utmost importance for dignity to be maintained, said MCPS Superintendent Lisa Ventura and Federal Programs Director, Katrina Davis.

Patrick’s story tells of a life “on the run” from her son’s father and one traumatic circumstance after another that eventually brought her to the Columbia nonprofit program, Room in the Inn, which partners with Columbia Inn to help those experiencing homelessness get back on their feet again.

“I left regret, pain, plans for the future,” Patrick said. “I left everything. I lost everything.”

As she fought back tears, Patrick’s worry was clearly fixed on her stout, redheaded six-year-old, who lives with Autism.

While SJ happily buzzed around the room in a flurry, Patrick explained why recent years had made their life so challenging.

Getting SJ to school is a priority, but so is being able to work and support him. She has had difficulty finding a job that would work with her schedule.

“Money is tight all around,” Patrick said, explaining she receives a small check for her son’s care.

“Laundry is a big thing because SJ goes through so much with his digestive issues,” she said.

Amid the costs to support her small family, she said, "the money goes very quickly."

The high costs of childcare are a challenge on the national stage, but so is finding a job that will help her pay for it since the work shifts she needs often overlap with after school hours.

“If they do hire me, they have to let me go, because if he is out of school, I have no family or support system, and they say I’m unreliable,” Patrick said.

“It’s a double-edged sword. You can’t work because you have a child to care for, but you can’t care for your child without work.”

Besides childcare, Patrick also struggles with getting vital medical care that SJ needs.

“Sometimes I’m fighting with insurance to help pay for medications,” Patrick said. “There is a lot he needs, like trying to get back into speech and physical therapy.”

The medical needs are many for her child, as Autism demands much attention.

Although Patrick is appreciative of the temporary shelter provided by Rev. Jeff Kane, director of Room in the Inn, she said she doesn’t always know how to find other help.

Securing transportation, food assistance and medical services seems like a full time job, she said.

“I hear so many people tell me about getting help with this or that resource, and I call the numbers they tell me to, but it’s like they don’t know what I’m talking about,” Patrick said. “It feels like a dead end road every time.”  

Her voice began to crack as she quickly deflected her tears.

“This is not me,” she said.

Patrick recalls a time when SJ accidentally caused her to drop her phone, unable to be retrieved, saying that was the longest two weeks of her life due to losing potential job call backs and teacher communications for her son.

According to educators, the weight of the burdens that homelessness causes is, many times, carried with children into the classroom. 

The look of homelessness, as defined by the federal McKinney-Vento Act — legislation that distributes funding to school districts to aid students experiencing homelessness — might be difficult to spot, educators say.

The act defines homeless children and youths as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” such as the following:

Staying with friends or relatives due to economic hardship

Living in hotels, motels, trailer parks, or camping grounds without a choice

Staying in emergency or transitional shelters

Living in public spaces such as parks or abandoned buildings

Migratory students

At the state level, a report from the National Center for Homeless Education shows that 20,000 students during the 2018-19 school year were reported as homeless in Tennessee.

However, MCPS officials say the number could be more because some families fail to report their living situation, which hinders them getting needed help and services.

"Even one student living in homelessness is one too many," MCPS Superintendent Lisa Ventura said. “But there are far more than 90 students who are homeless."

Parents are given a registration packet that identifies homelessness, but not everyone fills it out, she said.

“It’s kind of a pride thing. It’s not a big number of people who want to admit those kinds of struggles to the school system," Ventura said. "I think we’ve all struggled in our lives, and living with other family, many don’t realize they are considered homeless by the federal government.

“If I lived with my sister for example, I might not think of that as homeless."

So many are living from one paycheck to the next, putting them only a couple of steps away from falling into a homeless scenario like the one Patrick is facing, Ventura said.

The school district has assigned the position of "homeless liaison" to each affected school to help families on a case-by-case basis.

Derek Green who will soon begin the work of homeless liaison for the entire district said each school has one person, mostly school counselors, who are demonstrating the effort to help where it is needed. His role, beginning next school year, will be to coordinate the efforts of all schools to best alleviate the difficulties of homelessness.

Green said each school in the district has a liaison, whether it’s the counselor or a cafeteria worker.

As Patrick moves forward, she hopes to find people like Green who can help her with her and her son's needs.

Children experiencing homelessness have much more distracted in the classroom, which affects their academic performance, Ventura said.

"Progress in the classroom suffers significantly when a child’s most basic needs are something they are having to constantly worry about," Ventura said.

“The federal government is very clear we can’t provide housing. But we can provide as many meals as we possible. We aim to do everything we possibly can.”

The district also provides toiletries, backpacks along with school supplies, and they are sometimes able to arrange hotel housing for two to three nights at a time.

Still Ventura said, “[hotel stays] are a temporary Band-Aid to a gaping wound.”

Director of federal programs for MCPS, Katrina Davis said the district attempts to remedy problems through an unofficial coalition of churches, businesses, organizations, nonprofits and individuals.

Davis agreed that it creates an "all-hands on deck" approach to meeting the basic needs of the community’s most vulnerable.

Most situations to help homeless students are handled at school levels with the help of principals, teachers, counselors or any staff who notice what Ventura said are “certain patterns.”

If a student shows up to school consistently wearing the same clothes or mentions not getting to eat “at home,” for example, could be signs of a child experiencing homelessness.

The district received a $70,000 grant last Fall to help with

Parents who are looking to find help can reach out to their school’s homeless liaison for access to an application for receiving help.

For more information, visit:

June Lake Progresses (CDH)

The continuing June Lake mixed-use development continues to navigate its way through the approval process, this week addressing one of the project's largest concerns.

And this didn't have to do with residential, retail, hotel or office designs, but what it will take to provide the proper utilities to June Lake residents.

The Municipal Planning Commission reviewed a multi-item proposal to construct a 3.5-million gallon water tank to service the 775-acre Spring Hill property, of which its first initial homes are expected to be completed later this year. June Lake is also adjacent to the site of the upcoming I-65 interchange project at Buckner Road and Buckner Lane, roads which will both also be receiving widening projects.

One of the big issues discussed Monday was how the water tank could potentially hinder some of the property's natural landscape, and if it is in a good location to provide sufficient buffering on all sides, associate planner Jake McQueen said. However, this doesn't seem to be an issue preventing the project from moving forward.

"Staff is recommending approval of the June Lake water tank project," McQueen said.

Don Alexander, representing applicant Southeast Ventures, said the tank will be located approximately 350-feet from Thompson's Station Road and would stand at about 83-feet tall.

"It's significant," Alexander said. "I think this is a sufficient buffer and goes well beyond the 25-foot buffer requirement."

Designs and renderings of the proposed water tank were not provided Monday, although project engineer Jeff Gunner and Alexander said their team is hoping the finished product will blend in with its natural surroundings.

"Our preference is that it is maybe like a forest green and blue, something that tries to blend in with the tree canopy, and does not stand out," Alexander said. "We'd prefer it to disappear as much as possible.

James Blooming, a Spring Hill resident, spoke out against the proposed project, saying that it while its intent is to address the water capacity issue at the site, it could end up costing the city more than it anticipates.

"When you take control of a tank that large, which is 10 stories wide and eight stories high, and you go to paint it ... it's very, very expensive," Blooming said. "And it has to be done right, and the qualifications you have to do to paint it is very expensive."

No votes were cast this week on the item, which actually appears under two items on the planning commission's agenda. The water tank will reappear on the commission's regular meeting, scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 13.

Balloon Shop (MainStreetMaury)

While Columbia’s downtown square has undergone quite the revitalization over the last several years, there are some staples that have continued to thrive for decades, such as A Balloon Shop.

A Balloon Shop has graced the city for more than 40 years, and much of the reason for its success is their support of the community that supports them.

Owner Vickie Kelley purchased the shop in 2014 after she retired for what her daughter, Shana Jones, called “something fun to do and keep her busy.” Shana stepped in to help the family business when her dad was in an accident, but that only further solidifies the nature of their family and the business.

That’s why when a family friend suffered a brain aneurysm, the family was undoubtedly going to help in any way possible.

While under Kelley’s ownership, the shop has become known as a place to grab a quick salad, sandwich or hot dog for lunch – especially for those at the Maury County Courthouse. Additionally, though, the shop’s ice cream selection has garnered a lot of attention.

A Balloon Shop proudly serves Maury County-made ice cream from Country Churn. Charlie and Judy Morton provide all of the ice cream to the shop, something Jones said she is proud of when it comes to supporting other local businesses.

“It’s been a big hit,” she said, noting it continues to be a hit no matter the weather. “We sell just as much ice cream on a cold day as if it were 90 degrees outside.”

Morton and his family began making ice cream a little more than a decade ago when Charlie and Judy’s son began making small batches. Charlie and a partner bought the business and took it to the next level.

“We bought expensive equipment, built a shop with a commercial kitchen and bought a trailer to take ice cream to shows, fairs and other events,” he said. “We would sell 8-10,000 bowls a summer.”

Now, the brand is exclusively a wholesaler to local shops and restaurants.

The dynamic duo will team up on Saturday to benefit Tammy Jamison from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. where all proceeds from ice cream sales will go to the family.

Tammy and Shana’s dads were friends while the two grew up, making them close friends as well. Jamison’s first surgery post-aneurysm was a success initially but the shunt is no longer doing its job, meaning she’ll need to undergo the surgery a second time.

Jamison’s husband, Tony, has been providing around-the-clock care because she cannot be left alone, Jones said.

“We are doing all we can to help their family out,” Jones said.

For the folks at A Balloon Shop, though, this is not only about helping out a close family friend, but also giving back to the community that has stepped up to help in their own time of need.

“My youngest nephew was burnt in a fire three years ago,” Jones said. “This community came together like no other and helped with him. This community supported us and my parents 100% and we want to see the same thing happen for Tammy.

“That’s what this is all about – friends and family coming together.”

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.”

CSCC Performance Series (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College welcomes Appalachian Road Show to the Cherry Theater on March 16 as part of the First Farmers Performance Series.


Appalachian Road Show is a visionary acoustic ensemble, bringing new-generation interpretations of traditional Americana, bluegrass and folk songs, as well as offering innovative original music, all presented with a common thread tied directly to the heart of the Appalachian regions of the United States. Appalachian Road Show invites us to come and sit a spell on its porch as the band shares its dynamic musicianship through songs and stories emanating from the mountains and hollers of North Carolina and Virginia to the coal mines of West Virginia and Kentucky. 

“We are excited to welcome this talented group of musicians to our Performance Series,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation. “Their authentic bluegrass sound is beloved by many, and tickets are selling fast! Don't miss the opportunity to join the celebration of genuine Appalachian music.”

Individual tickets are on sale for $30 each plus tax for adults and $20 each plus tax for Columbia State students. To charge tickets by phone using a major credit card, call 931.540.2879 or purchase them in person in Room 113 of the Pryor Administration Building on the Columbia Campus, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

On the night of the performance, the box office opens at 6 p.m. in the Kenneth and Ramona Cherry Theater, located in the Waymon L. Hickman Building on the Columbia Campus. Theater doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7 p.m. The Columbia Campus is located at 1665 Hampshire Pike in Columbia.

For more information, visit

…And now, news from around the state…

PA’s Hope to Loosen Criteria (Tennessean)

Tennessee's physician assistants want state lawmakers to loosen regulations on their practices, essentially allowing them to be independent of the doctors who have traditionally supervised them and, the argument goes, help ease the state's shortage of medical practitioners.

The proposal comes as states are increasingly expanding the role of nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, and telehealth services to ease the continuing shortage of health care providers. This trend accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic when states, including Tennessee, eased medical practice rules to allow patients more access to health care.

North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have already approved similar measures.

But physician groups, including the Tennessee Medical Association, say that permanently ending such regulations would allow physician assistants to practice as doctors without having attended medical school or gone through supervised residency programs.

This, doctors say, could lead to poorer health outcomes for patients.

Two bills are now before the General Assembly to expand the authority of physician assistants' practice. And, last week, several hundred physician assistants and PAs in training in white coats showed up at the state Capitol to lobby on their behalf.

Seth Weathersby, a physician assistant who owns three urgent care centers in Murfreesboro, was among them. He argues that PAs are well-trained and are ready to fill the many gaps in the state's medical care, without all of the "red tape" that's currently required of them.

"Everyone hears all the time about how underserved we are from a primary care (medicine) perspective, from an internal medicine perspective and how it takes forever to get in to see your doctor, and everybody has a great relationship with urgent care now," Weathersby said. "But preventative medicine has fallen so far off people's radar because access to care is so incredibly limited."

Yarnell Beatty, the Tennessee Medical Association's senior vice president and general counsel, said the existing regulations help prevent overprescribing of opioids and "over-utilization of health care resources" by PAs.

"Changing state laws to allow PAs to sever collaborative relationships with physicians and practice beyond the scope of their education, training and experience would essentially be giving them licenses to practice medicine (do what doctors do) without having attended medical school or undergone a supervised residency program," Beatty wrote in an email. "Tennessee needs more integration in health care, not less."

Tennessee law requires physician assistants to work in partnership with a supervising or, as the law puts it, "collaborating" licensed physician and to notify the state of who that person is. Prescriptions provided by physician assistants must be monitored by the state's board of medical examiners and board of physician assistants, including site visits.

The law also requires collaborating physicians to visit sites at least once a month. Their co-signatures are required for at least 20% of patient medical charts each month. Doctors are not required to constantly be on-site but must be available for consultation or make arrangements for a replacement doctor for any such needs, the law further states.

The proposed change would take doctors out of the equation altogether for PA-owned practices. Staff would answer directly to clinic owners. Medical reviews of practices and prescribing would be under the direct jurisdiction of the board of physician assistants.

Tennessee law already allows physician assistants to prescribe Schedule II through V drugs. Schedule II and III drugs (which include addictive painkillers) are usually limited to a 30-day supply. Physician assistants are not proposing to change that.

The United States faces a projected shortage of up to 124,000 physicians in the next 12 years, according to the American Medical Association. While the AMA calls for more funding for physician training, physician assistants say cutting red tape is one easy solution.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Here’s an opportunity to purchase items that belonged to Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker.

An auction will be held on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4 at Johnny Cash’s Bon Aqua Farm at 9676 Old Highway 46, Bon Aqua.

This auction will provide an opportunity to acquire original 1940’s era building components from the historic Colonel Tom Parker Management Office from Madison, Tennessee. Included will be wrought iron doors, entry gates, wood paneling, tile, a vintage intercom system, album/record cabinet, wood doors, original windows, limestone and much more.

Other estate furnishings from Johnny Cash, Minnie Pearl, Waylon Jennings and Donna Summer will be available as well.

Johnny Cash Farm access will be at 10:00 AM on the 3rd and the 4th. Viewing hours are 10AM to 5PM.

Find all the latest information at


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