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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for May 18, 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 Strategy (MainStreetMaury/WKOM)

The Maury County Commission met in early May for a special called meeting to discuss the county’s growth rate and the steps needed to move forward in order to sustain the growing population, which has led to a surge of new developments and public services.

Commissioners expressed their concern over the General Assembly’s failure to pass House Bill 1206 for a second year in a row. Also known as the Property Taxpayer Protection Act, the bill would have allowed local county commissioners to decide how fees should be used to pay for incoming development.

The bill, which failed by a 5-3 vote in the State House Property & Planning Subcommittee back in March, was lobbied against by both homebuilders and the realtors association.

District 8 Commissioner Gabe Howard, who has long been vocal about his support for the bill, said he doesn’t trust the process.

“I think we’re going to sit through the next year and the homebuilders and Realtors’ associations are going to tell us what to do,” he said.

“This is not about just Maury County,” Howard said. “This is a detriment across the entire state.”

Howard floated the idea of an inter-local agreement between the cities of Columbia, Spring Hill and Mount Pleasant, which would allow the cities to charge impact fees and transfer educational fees back in order to benefit the educational system.

Charlie Curtiss, Executive Director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, who was one of the guests invited to speak, spoke on his own experience as a former county commissioner in White County in which a similar agreement was passed.

“As a general rule, the only thing you can do is what the legislature has authorized you to do,” Curtiss said. “But I can tell you for a fact we did it in my home county, and it worked.”

Eric Previti, chairman of the Commission, reminded commissioners that a sales tax increase was passed two years ago, but the City of Columbia did not give its portion.

Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), who sponsored the bill, was also in attendance for the called meeting. Cepicky said it’s harder to convince legislators to pass an impact fee due to county differences in size and growth.

“This is a bill that you are going to have to convince somebody who goes back home… that they’re trying to justify their vote for a privilege tax,” Cepicky said. “This bill is going to take time.”

State Rep. Kip Capley (R-Summertown), who represents the state’s 71st District, said there needs to be more of an effort going forward.

“That committee room needs to be jam packed,” Capley said. “We need to organize multiple county efforts with the counties that are represented on the committee.”

District 8 Commissioner Ray Jeter recommended forming an ad hoc committee to address the legislation.

“If we have to play their game, let’s play their game,” Jeter said.

In their May 15th meeting, the commission formed a committee composed of County Mayor Sheila Butt, Commissioner Gabe Howard, Commissioner Ray Jeter, Commissioner Kathy Grodi, and Finance Director Doug Lukonen, whose purpose will be to work toward a strategy to convince state legislators and stakeholders that an impact fee is necessary to help cover the costs of education and infrastructure for the fastest growing county in the state.

Warfighters Garden (WKOM Audio 5:35)

Yesterday, Maury County Veterans opened their Warfighter Gardens in Columbia. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the grand opening and spoke to veteran Malachias Gaskin and boyscout Jesse Hood to learn more about how the public garden works…

Local Athlete Selected for Special Olympics (CDH)

Sports are a time in everyone's life to learn foundational values such as friendship, teamwork and discipline. However, there comes a time when certain children or adults hone their athletic abilities and elevate themselves beyond their peers, not only in their town but also in their country and in rare cases, the world. 

25 year old Halladay White, is such a person.

Not only is she a well-rounded athlete participating in alpine skiing, basketball, snowboarding, golf, soccer and swimming, she was also selected to swim in the 2023 Special Olympics World Games. White will participate in the world’s largest inclusive sporting event in which more than 7,000 athletes with disabilities compete in 26 sports over the course of nine days in June.

“I'm more able to socialize, and I'm not as shy when I'm with Special Olympics,” said White, who resides at The Kings Daughters' School in Columbia. “It's like a big family that's there for me at every move. You feel like no matter if you lose, you win, because it's like you don't care about your scores anymore, just having fun.”

The road to get here was not easy for White. She was originally born in Russia with fetal alcohol syndrome and was adopted and brought to the U.S. where she started attending The King’s Daughters' School (TKDS). At the school, she was impacted by those who cared for her such as Shannon Neff, a recreational therapist at TKDS. Neff recognized White's athletic potential.

“I saw a little shy girl that didn't want to really be involved in anything and was scared of lots of things,” Neff said. “I push her like I do the other kids to try different things and to step outside of their comfort zone in that no matter what happens, I'll always be there whether they fall or succeed, I'll be there to help pick them up and encourage them to do better every time.”

In the months and weeks leading up to the world games, White practices every week outside of Nashville with a team of coaches and other swimmers selected to participate. She has also attended a training camp in Texas and participated in Zoom calls with her coaches to check in on her progress.

White also holds a part-time job at Thrift Love, a nonprofit thrift store that employs adults with special needs and disabilities and gives them a competitive and sustainable wage. White, who loves thrifting, loves her coworkers more and always finds ways to give back to those she works with, like purchasing a succulent plant for one of her coworkers.

Through it all, White has proven that she is a highly capable, adaptable and caring individual, who has gained confidence through the Special Olympics program. And although she does still get nervous, she doesn’t let it overshadow her excitement to visit new places and return back to a continent she once called home.

“I don’t remember living in Russia, and I don’t remember visiting Germany as a kid,” White exclaimed. “I can’t wait to see what it looks like and to try new things and meet new people.”

Above everything else, White's focus is to spread the mission of the Special Olympics and what it has done for her both as a person and as a member of the community. In February, Halladay went to Washington, D.C. to represent Special Olympics Tennessee as a part of Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day, where she spoke with eight representatives and legislators from Tennessee about her story and what the organization means to her.

“I think we were all nervous, but she had confidence and told her story and answered their questions,” said Victoria Mehren, Middle Tennessee Region Manager for Special Olympics Tennessee, who will be traveling with White to Germany. “I think she really left a positive impact on those office staff members.”

White encourages all youths with disabilities to take the chance and join an organization that means so much to her and believes in the impact that a community can make especially to those who feel alone in their struggles.

“Before I joined Special Olympics, I didn’t like talking to people," said White. "I was kind of in the back corner not really wanting to even try. Special Olympics got me out of that shell and showed me that meeting people and talking to them really helps you through life and having fun while learning those things is amazing.”

Columbia Proclaims Public Works Week (CDH)

It takes a large and dedicated teem to pull off some of Columbia's downtown events both big and small, but a lot of the work that goes into it typically happens behind the scenes.

This includes keeping the streets clean, ensuring the large crowd remains safe and that, by the end, the streets are once again cleaned up and ready for another day. And it all occurs while most of us are either sleeping or moving on to the next thing after events like First Fridays, Mule Day and the Columbia Main Street Christmas Parade have wrapped up.

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Columbia's Public Works Department, which was recognized this month declaring May 21-27 as the 63rd National Annual Public Works Week, which was made official with a proclamation from Mayor Chaz Molder and Columbia City Council.

"One thing we take for granted when we have large downtown events is, number one, the preparation that goes into those events, and number two the cleanup that happens after those events. A lot of man hours are put into that," Molder said. "But that's not all they do, and so many things that are important to the overall governmental operation."

This year's Public Works Week theme, according to the American Public Works Association, is "Connecting the world through Public Works," as a way to showcase the dedicated professionals employed in departments across the country, including Columbia.

Public Works Administrative Assistant Donna Osmon and Sanitation Supervisor Josh Moore accepted the proclamation on the department's behalf.

"I do want to thank the council for recognizing Public Works, our employees and the work that they do," Osmon said. "We have also a lot of programs we have started throughout the city, and so you'll see us out and about at schools and community events. We invite everyone to come up and say, 'hi.'"

One of Public Works' newest programs was the recent Name a Snow Plow contest, which Osmon said will make a return later this year.

"We had so much fun with that. Just the interaction with the public was outstanding, and from the school children it was even better," Osmon said.

Pigg Scholarship at CSCC (Press Release)

The Columbia State Community College Foundation recently established a new scholarship endowment in honor of Charles and Gail Pigg.


Santa Fe United Methodist Church, the beneficiary of a portion of the estate of the late Charles Pigg of Santa Fe, endowed the scholarship in honor of Charles and his late wife, Gail. Charles was a former electrician for Maury Regional Medical Center and Gail was a clerk at the Santa Fe Post Office. Together they restored the Pigg Schoolhouse, originally built in 1884, on their farm.

“We are most appreciative of the members of Santa Fe United Methodist Church for putting this endowed scholarship into place as it will continue to bless lives while honoring the memory of Charles and Gail Pigg's lives in this community,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation.

Maury County students and, specifically, Santa Fe High School graduates attending Columbia State that meet the scholarship criteria are eligible for benefits from the Charles and Gail Pigg Endowment.

The Columbia State Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports and partners with the college to positively impact student success and the communities in which it serves.

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

Mr. William Lee “Jack” Barron, 88, retired educator and a resident of Columbia, died Saturday, April 15, 2023 at his son’s residence in Manchester. A celebration of life service for Mr. Barron will be held at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Saturday, May 20, 2023 at 12:00 noon. The family will receive visitors from 10:00 A.M. until 12:00 noon at the church.  Burial was at Polk Memorial Gardens on April 22, 2023.  Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Mr. Douglas Milton Taylor, 87, retired Pharmacist for over 60 years and resident of Columbia, passed away on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Funeral services for Mr. Taylor will be conducted Sunday at 2:00 P.M. at North View Church of Christ. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery. Visitation will be held on Saturday from 4:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Tennessee a Tourism Boom (Tennessean)

Dignitaries recently gathered in Pigeon Forge to celebrate a record year for Tennessee tourism in 2022.

Gov. Bill Lee, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell, and Sevier County tourism leaders announced that last year a record $27.5 billion was spent on travel in Tennessee.

According to preliminary data from U.S. Travel and Tourism Economics, Tennessee was the fastest-growing state in travel spending and sits at 11th in the nation, up from 14th.

The report also showed travel spending in Tennessee during 2022 was 12.3% above 2019 levels and 13.8.% above 2021. The leisure and hospitality industry employs more than 352,000 Tennesseans, according to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. As the state’s second-leading industry, tourism is a significant source of tax revenue for Tennessee contributing $1.8 billion in state sales tax collections in 2022.

And local businesses are feeling it as well.

“2022 has been our highest-grossing year to date since opening in 2017," said Oak Steakhouse Nashville Area Director Gabriel Raven. "We gained 8,000 more diners than previous years — a 14% increase.”

Commissioner Ezell said in a release that Tennessee's tourism, leisure, and hospitality industry is leading the nation.

"We are grateful to our hardworking industry for making these historic new milestones possible," he said. "Visitors come for our incredible scenic beauty, dining, and world-class attractions and keep coming back for our unmatched hospitality. There’s nowhere better to live, work and play than Tennessee.”

Travel spending includes lodging, food and beverage, recreation, shopping, and local transportation.

Jeff Crabiel, chief hospitality officer of Castlerock Asset Management, said 2022 was a year of unprecedented growth for Bobby Nashville and The Westin Nashville hotels, which Castlerock owns and operates.

“After setting revenue records in 2021, both hotels achieved remarkable year-over-year increases, with Bobby Nashville experiencing a 4% rise and The Westin Nashville boasting an impressive 6% boost compared to the previous year," he said.

Gov. Bill Lee spoke in Pigeon Forge, saying tourism is a top driver of economic growth and job creation across the state.

"As we celebrate another record year for tourism in Tennessee, we’re committed to ensuring that our state remains a top destination for travel,” Lee said, according to a release.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Trisha Yearwood’s Brentwood home on Concord Road is for sale.

The estate is listed for $4.5 million dollars, which Yearwood purchased in 2000. The home was also the location of Yearwood’s Emmy-winning culinary series, “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” for 11 of 17 seasons, and 149 episodes.

Located in Brentwood, the home sits on 4.4 private fenced acres. The home boasts 5 bedrooms and 7 full baths, and an extended chef’s kitchen. There are multiple sitting rooms for gathering with friends or family, making this the perfect home for entertaining. The park-like grounds, with over 100-year-old trees, include a swimming pool and pool bath with a kitchenette. Two gated entrances make access both private and easy.

Yearwood has also hosted guests including Reba McEntire, Kelsea Ballerini, Ashley McBryde, Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, Lauren Alaina, Kristin Chenoweth, Ricky Skaggs, Caylee Hammack, Food Network Stars, Jeff Mauro, Geoffrey Zakarian, athletes including Danica Patrick, Nashville Predators and Harlem Globetrotters at this home.

The Brentwood home was the setting for 3 out of 4 of Yearwood’s New York Times Best Selling Cookbooks.

Find all of the details for the home at


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