Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 30, 2023
All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.
We start with local news…
Impact Fee Dead (MainStreetMaury)
The fight for Tennessee counties to be able to levy impact fees on incoming developments failed to pass a House committee vote last week, dealing a crushing blow to Maury County taxpayers and the County Commission.
The bill would have allowed local county commissions to decide how fees would be set up and used to pay for growth from developments moving to the county and increasing the need for more public services.
The bill failed by a 5-3 vote in the Property & Planning Subcommittee after a proposed amendment that would have limited the impact to Maury and Rutherford counties also was defeated. Dale Carr (R-Sevierville), Jay Reedy (R-Erin) and Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova) voted yes, while no votes were cast by John Crawford (R-Bristol/Kingsport), Greg Martin (R-Hamilton County), Kevin Raper (R-Cleveland), Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) and Dave Wright (R-Corryton).
During the committee’s debate, Rudd criticized Culleoka Rep. Scott Cepicky, the bill’s sponsor, for not informing the Rutherford County delegation he planned to introduce the bill.
Known as the Property Taxpayer Protection Act, House Bill 1206 was heavily lobbied by residents and government officials in both Maury and Rutherford counties, which are two of the fastest growing counties in the country. Schools and public infrastructure are struggling to keep up, officials said.
“We raised property taxes 31 cents last year, which really hurt some of the people in our county on fixed incomes and many of our farmers,” Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt said. “They’re not the ones using the new schools, but are being forced to pay for them.”
During the debate, Charles Curtiss, a former state representative and now the executive director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, asked the committee to help fix a problem he helped create. In 2006, Curtiss sponsored a bill that limited the ability of municipalities to increase impact fees via private acts of the legislature.
“I’m the one who carried the bill that created this fiasco,” Curtiss said. “At that time, you could build a high school for $25 or $30 million. Today it costs $100 million+ to build a high school. It’s not adequate anymore.”
A statement to Sam Stockard of the Tennessee Lookout from Sher Powers, president of the Tennessee Realtors, essentially said the proposed wording of the bill is an “incredible expansion of taxes” on housing in the state and would hurt the “dream of homeownership.”
“Tennesseans are already experiencing hardships in finding affordable housing in today’s market between higher interest rates and the increased price of building supplies,” the statement reads. “An addition of an impact fee or development tax will only compound the problem.”
Cities such as Spring Hill, however, have an impact fee associated with development, and it was among the top 10 fastest growing cities in the country in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. Williamson County and several cities in Rutherford County also levy impact fees to help divert infrastructure costs, none of which have slowed growth.
According to former county Budget Committee chair Scott Sumners, there were 994 building permits issued during the first six months of 2022. Assume an average of a 2,500-square foot home and charge a $3/sq. ft. impact fee: the revenue generated is $7.5 million.
“I’ve seen firsthand the opportunities and challenges that the extreme growth in Maury County has created. It’s no secret, but property taxes alone will not support the essential needs of a high-growth county like Maury County,” Sumners said. “The growth caught up with us in a big way last year. Maury Countians are seeing the largest property tax increase in recent history.”
This latest setback is a massive one, as the bill passed the State Senate in 2022 but failed to pass the House. Failing to get out of committee likely killed the bill for this legislative session as well.
“It is a very disappointing day for the people of Maury County regarding this bill,” District 8 Commissioner Gabe Howard wrote on his Facebook page.
“We are asking for the same tools that other Tennessee counties and cities already have,” said Doug Lukonen, Maury County’s finance director. “I hope they will reconsider the bill. Charles Schneider (CEO of Home Builders Association of Tennessee) stated he has some solutions to raise revenue to help us out. My office is open and I’m all ears.”
Cepicky Appointed to Education Conference (MainStreetMaury)
Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, announced last week he has appointed State Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, to serve on the Southern Legislative Conference’s (SLC) Education Committee.
As part of its mission, the committee focuses on educational systems at all levels and examines how Southern states are ensuring their students are properly prepared for college entry and ready to complete in an increasingly global economy. It also considers the importance of developing greater technical skills in state workforces, preparation and retention of effective teachers, the incorporation of new technologies and methodologies in the educational field, and the impact of federal initiatives on state and local educational systems.
“I am honored by the trust Speaker Sexton has placed in me to serve on this prestigious committee,” Cepicky said in a press release. “Providing students of all ages with a world-class education is vital for Tennessee’s future. I look forward to working with other members of the committee to implement meaningful policy changes at both the state and federal levels.”
Cepicky’s term begins immediately and will end on Nov. 5, 2024.
“Scott Cepicky has been and remains a strong advocate for our students, educators, and schools in the General Assembly,” Sexton said in the press release. “His extensive experiences chairing the Education Instruction Subcommittee and effective partnerships within our education communities make him a great fit to represent Tennessee on the Education Committee at the Southern Legislative Conference. I know Scott will do a great job, and I appreciate his willingness to answer the call to serve in this important role.”
Established in 1947, the Southern Legislative Conference is a nonprofit and nonpartisan member-driven organization that provides southern legislators and government staff with a variety of programs and services that facilitate regional cooperation and encourage the exchange of information. It operates under the Council of State Governments and includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. For more information about the SLC, visit www.csgsouth.org.
Cepicky represents House District 64, which includes part of Maury County. He serves as chairman of the Education Instruction Subcommittee and is also a member of the Education Administration Committee, Education Instruction Committee, Insurance Committee and Insurance Subcommittee.
New Mule Day Events (MainStreetMaury)
For the uninitiated it may be too late, but Mule Day 2023 is upon us in Columbia, and that means the city known as ‘Muletown’ will once again prove its worthiness of the nickname.
In what is expected to be one of the largest crowds in the event’s history, Mule Day 2023 events take place most of the week, but officially begin today. The annual Mule Wagon Train rolled in on Wednesday to Maury County Park.
There will be, of course, the tried and true events taking place, such as log pulling, live music, the arts and craft festival and the anticipated liars contest. Other events, however, are bringing in new show-stopping performers with the Mule Day Pup Stars dog show and cart barrel racing.
“We are so excited to have the dogs as part of Mule Day this year again,” Louise Mills, Mule Day public relations director, said. “They are just such a blessing to have on Thursday.”
Entry fee to the dog show is a bag of dog food to be donated to the Maury County Animal Shelter, and awards will be given to a number of different winners in classes such as Best Dressed, Coolest Trick and Best Kisser.
“It’s just a fun dog show,” event organizer Rebecca Gilbert said. “We did it last year. We have so much fun watching all of the puppies.”
The event begins at 1 p.m. in the old arena at Maury County Park.
The cart barrel race will take place on Friday at 4 p.m. in the main arena with categories for micro mini horse, mini horse, mini donkey and mini mules.
“Come on out for a ‘little’ fun,” event organizers wrote on the promotional posters.
The event, which has run continuously since 1974 – minus 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, brings in an average of 100,000 people to Maury County from across the country looking to put their best mules to the test.
The Maury County Visitors Bureau has previously reported that the event has had an economic impact of between $10 and $12 million in the region. That number could grow exponentially if the expected crowds pile in again.
“We expect this to be a very special year for Mule Day,” said Mills, who was also named honorary Mule Day grand marshal alongside American Picker Mike Wolfe. “Every year is special, but after getting back on our feet last year, this is going to be the best Mule Day in a long time.”
Along with Mills being named honorary grand marshal of the parade, Terry Thompson has been named the 2023 Mule Man of the Year.
Thompson bought his first mule in the mid-1990s for his youngest son to ride, which served as the beginning of his respect and love for mules, according to Mule Day staff. He soon added other mules and bought a team of mules and a wagon. He and his wife went on their first wagon train to Columbia Mule Days in 1999.
He has since been an active part of the wagon train every year except one, when he rode into Columbia on a wagon train with a group from Alabama.
Thompson has won many ribbons and prize money over the years, including the High Point Belt Buckle Award in the fun show on Sundays.
The 69-year-old plans to compete in the timed events again this year. A native of Athens, Ala., he lives with his wife on their farm in rural Limestone County.
Columbia Tree Replacement (Press Release)
The City of Columbia will begin a downtown tree replacement project on Monday, April 3rd, 2023 to remove and replace 58 trees within the downtown area. After a thorough bid process, Tree Worx was awarded the contract to complete the work. The City of Columbia is committed to maintaining a vibrant, healthy tree canopy in the city and this project will help to achieve that goal.
“I am excited to see the implementation of the tree replacement project in the downtown district,” stated Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder. “This project has been a long time coming and is the result of collaboration and communication with interested partners. Another example of moving forward with input from our residents, and solving an issue that has become more pressing over the last few years, while maintaining the beauty and integrity of our historic downtown.”
The City of Columbia Public Works Department will be first on the scene to remove the existing trees each day during the morning hours, working in small sections. Tree Worx will follow Public Works, planting the new trees. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic will remain open during the work process, but parking areas will be temporarily blocked in the sections where work is taking place.
Work will begin on West 7th Street, moving east to the Public Square, continuing down South Main Street and back to the Public Square. Work will continue around the Public Square to North Main Street and back, ending on the northwest quadrant of the Public Square.
A mix of three urban-tolerant species of trees will be planted. These trees are well-suited to the urban environment and will provide shade, beauty, and environmental benefits. The dedication plaques that are currently in place beside some of the existing trees will be secured in their same place with the newly-planted trees. The replacement project is estimated to be completed in 7-9 days.
The City of Columbia would like to thank the residents and downtown businesses for their patience and understanding during this project. The new trees will be a beautiful addition to downtown and will provide many benefits for years to come. Questions can be emailed to email@example.com
Mule Day Auctioneers Contest (MainStreetMaury)
Auctioneers from across the country will gather in Columbia on Friday, March 31 for the 2023 Mule Day Auctioneer Championship.
Held in Columbia’s Livestock Sale Barn, Joshua Houston of College Grove was named the grand champion at the 2022 event and received $1,000 in prize money and a 2022 Mule Day championship belt buckle and plaque. Einard received $300 and a reserve champion belt buckle and plaque.
Twenty-two auctioneers from eight different states took part in the 2022 championship. Each auctioneer was judged in five categories, Initial Command, Voice Quality, Bid Catching, Execution of Sale and Would You Hire, with points ranging from 1-20. The judges then totaled up the scores before determining the top 10. Judges scored the auctioneers based on additional items they brought.
The event, which has been held since 2012, is hosted by the Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club. Chartered in 1997, the club makes various contributions to the community with a financial impact of over $441,000 to date.
All money raised from the event go to the Rotary Club’s college scholarship fund. Scholarships are awarded to students from Santa Fe, Culleoka and Hampshire, as well as four current college students and one planning to attend Columbia State Community College, for a total of $8,000. In total, the Rotary Club raised $13,800 at the 2022 championship.
“Our goal was, if a student wanted to reapply, they could get a second, third year scholarship. With the success of the auctioneer championship, we were able to start doing that five years ago,” said Eddie Ables, a past president of the Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club who helps chair the club’s scholarship program.
Ables said the Columbia Breakfast Rotary has awarded roughly $65,000 in scholarships since founding its program.
Where’s Maury the Mule? (MainStreetMaury)
The Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance kicked off their annual shop local passport adventure, “Where’s Maury the Mule?” last week. This event, presented by Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, encourages people to discover, explore, and support small businesses across Maury County.
Maury Alliance launched this event in 2016 to support local businesses and provide a fun activity for families during spring break and Mule week. “Where’s Maury the Mule?” is just one initiative from the Maury Alliance to help support the small business community, but it is one that both people and businesses look forward to each year. The event has grown every year since its inception and is now a two-week event with 35 participating businesses.
“I’ve lived in Maury County my whole life and discovered many new businesses while participating in Where’s Maury the Mule last year. It was my first time to participate in that event and me and a friend went to 30 businesses in a single day!” said Marvin Russel, the 2022 grand-prize winner.
Those interested in joining the search for Maury the Mule this year can pick up a passport from event sponsor Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, Maury Alliance, or any of the 35 participating businesses. Once you have a passport, visit as many local businesses as possible, find the Maury the Mule image hidden at each business, and get your passport stamped or signed by an employee.
Visiting at least five businesses will enter you into a participation drawing for Local First gift cards.
Visiting 20 businesses qualifies you for the grand-prize drawing. If you visit 25 businesses, you will get a double entry into the grand prize drawing, and if you visit 30 businesses, you will get at triple entry into the grand prize drawing.
To be entered into the grand prize drawing, passports must be turned in at the Maury Alliance office by Tuesday, April 11 at 5 pm. Winners will be randomly selected on Tuesday, April 12. Two lucky people will win the Grand Prize – which is $450 in gift cards from participating businesses. Maury Alliance’s Local First Gift Cards will also be given away.
Visit mauryalliance.com/wheresmaury23 for more information.
Clement to Speak at Clement (Press Release)
Columbia State Community College will host former congressman Bob Clement for a special presentation on March 30 at 4 p.m.
“Like his father, Congressman Bob Clement has enjoyed a remarkable life and career in public service,” said Dr. Barry Gidcomb, Columbia State professor of history. “Because it was Governor Clement and his commissioner of education, J. Howard Warf, who created the community college system in Tennessee, we thought it fitting to invite the congressman to speak at Tennessee's first community college and in Columbia State’s building named for Governor Clement.”
The presentation is an opportunity for the community to visit with and listen to the former congressman, who has a unique connection to Columbia State.
“We're looking forward to hearing what Congressman Clement has to say about his life and career and the legacy of his father,” Gidcomb said.
The presentation is free and open to the public. It will take place on March 30 at 4 p.m. in the Ledbetter Auditorium located in the Clement building on the Columbia Campus.
…And now, news from around the state…
Headmaster Hailed as Hero (Fox17)
The Headmaster killed during The Covenant School mass shooting is being hailed as a hero for trying to stop the attack.
Head of School Katherine Koonce was among the victims during Monday's mass shooting which claimed the lives of three 9-year-old children, a custodian, substitute teacher, and Koonce.
Metro Nashville Councilman Russ Pulley who represents the area of Green Hills where the shooting took place, confirmed with a witness that Koonce was on a Zoom call when the shots started ringing out.
The witness told Pulley when Koonce heard the shots, she abruptly ended the meeting and left her office and headed towards the shooter.
The witness account, which Councilman Pulley says he has verified, aligns with statements from Metro Nashville Chief of Police John Drake during a press briefing, who stated "I did see the head school person and she was in the hallway by the office."
Chief Drake added "She was in the hallway by herself. There was a confrontation I'm sure. You can tell the way she was laying in the hallway."
The account adds Koonce to the list of heroes being revealed in the aftermath of the heinous shooting. Metro Police officers Rex Englebert and Michael Collazo have also been hailed as heroes for their actions in running towards the gunfire and engaging the shooter, putting an end to the threat.
The shooting has rippled throughout the city and state, even touching the family of Governor Bill Lee who said substitute teacher Cindy Peak was "best friends" with First Lady Maria Lee.
Congressional Term Limits (WKRN.com)
A resolution from the Tennessee House of Representatives will now head to the Senate after passing easily in the House this week.
HJR 0005 by Madison County Republican Rep. Chris Todd calls for a constitutional convention for the purposes of instituting term limits on U.S. Congressmembers.
“[T]he General Assembly hereby makes an application to Congress, as provided by Article V of the Constitution of the United States, to call a convention limited to proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to set a limit on the number of terms to which a person may be elected as a member of the United States House of Representatives and to set a limit on the number of terms to which a person may be elected as a member of the United States Senate,” the resolution reads in part.
Todd stated that when he filed the legislation that he felt the lack of a term limit “created bad policy” for the country. “It’s created bad direction in the country.”
The resolution saw bipartisan support but also saw members of both parties vote against the measure on the House floor during debate on March 23.
Bolivar Democrat Johnny Shaw asked of Todd on the floor, “Don’t we really have term limits now? In other words, every two years, voters have an opportunity to vote us in or out, and of course at the same limit on the federal level.”
Shaw asked why the resolution was necessary, given that it “takes two or three terms” to know how the legislative process works.
“Congressional term limits is probably the most popular issue in America right now, with about 82% support in the public right now,” Todd said in response. “And this is bipartisan support.”
Todd argued that Congressional term limits would be “effective public policy that will solve much of the dysfunction in Washington.”
“Unlike states, there’s no pathway for an individual with private sector success to serve meaningfully in Congress without fully abandoning their private career for 15 or 20 years; therefore, Congress has become a haven for those who only have political experience,” Todd said.
Term limits, he further stated, could allow successful business leaders to run for office “for a short time” and then return to their private sector work, which would provide “diversity of experience” to a Congress that “severely” lacks it.
The resolution ultimately passed the House 66-27-3, with nearly all Democrats and Speaker Cameron Sexton (R—Crossville) opposed. House Leader William Lamberth (R—Portland) was a “present not voting” along with Reps. Paul Sherrell (R—Sparta) and Kevin Vaughn (R—Collierville).
The bill now moves to the Senate chamber, where it will have to go through committee.
Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)
McCreary’s Looking for Acts (Press Release)
McCrearys Irish Pub & Eatery of Columbia is beginning their process of booking acts for Thursday nights.
The pub does traditional Irish/Celtic music on Fridays and Saturdays but is planning to open space and a stage to other genres on Thursday nights.
If you have a band you might think will fit a casual fun pub vibe, send demo links and reels to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 30, 2023, the pub will have local band Cochise County playing at 7pm. Trivia will be every Tuesday night at 7pm with gift card prizes to the top 3 teams.
McCrearys Irish Pub & Eatery has also renovated its patio and will be open every evening and all day Fridays and Saturdays.