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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for May 25, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Connect Columbia Event (CDH)

Part of a city's planning goals isn't always what's on the agenda from month-to-month, but in how it plans to shape the community's land use long term.

The heart of the Connect Columbia comprehensive plan, first established in 2018, is based on helping to shape growth for years to come in Columbia. The plan takes a three-pronged approach, working as a guideline for decision-making primarily in regard to transportation, land use and park space. Another key element to the plan is input generated by the public.

The city hosted its second and final public forum for the public this week at Riverwalk Park, the feedback which will be implemented into proposed updates and changes that will be presented to the Municipal Planning Commission and later Columbia City Council.

"This is very important because the first step that happens when somebody comes to us [with a proposal], the first thing we do is open the book and see if it fits the comp plan," Vice Mayor Randy McBroom said. "It has to fit the comp plan if it hopes to move forward."

In addition to city leaders and planners, Tuesday's meeting was attended by several citizens and business owners, many who took advantage of the opportunity to provide input.

"Oftentimes when decisions are being made, strategic decisions, you'll hear someone say, 'Oh, I was never given the opportunity or was asked,' and I feel like the city has done a good job in making us aware. And that's not just as a business owner, but as a citizen," Muletown Coffee Roasters co-owner Chris Coyne said. "I like the idea that they are really trying to be intentional with this."

Tuesday's meeting, which took place at the Riverwalk Farmers Market pavilion, featured multiple stations with maps detailing each element of the plan. One area included ideas to identify new districts within the city, such as the developing Columbia Arts District, Hatcher Lane and Riverside neighborhoods.

"What would you like to see more in those areas, such as more residential, grocery stores and things like that," Columbia Main Street Director Kelli Johnson said. "Like in the arts district, people want to see the road get done, have more walkability and more places to park. They want to see more mixed-use of artists using the commercial space, and finding the right people to invest in it."

Director of Development Services Paul Keltner said the thing to keep in mind is how each aspect of the plan works together, from having enough roadway infrastructure to service certain land uses, as well as how much park space will be dedicated in the process.

"They all interrelate to each other," Keltner said. "Every three-to-five years we want to review this, especially at the fast pace that Columbia is growing, to make sure it is growing with the vision that the community wants to see it. It's a very important document, because all of the technical and sub-documents look to this plan based on what's going to be built there."

Keltner added that input from the public is also of vital importance in shaping the comprehensive plan.

"We work for the public, and so it's their input that helps direct where it's going," Keltner said. "In the end, its their community, and they are the ones telling us how they want to see it. It's our job then to put it into a form that is adoptable by council."

Keltner concluded saying city staff hopes to present an updated plan based on the public feedback sometime in July, when it will go before a planning commission, and later city council for a vote.

Goff Takes Helm at Columbia Central Football (MainStretMaury)

In a follow-up to a story we broke yesterday, citing family concerns, Bobby Sharp has informed school officials and the football team at Columbia Central of his resignation after 15 months as the program’s coach.

Sharp, who accepted the position in February 2022 after winning 280 games over 34 seasons at Lewis County, spoke with Central principal Mike Steele on Tuesday morning and with current team members Wednesday morning.

“There’s some things going on with family. I had a chance to go back to Milan, where my wife’s from, where I started out,” said Sharp, a 2017 Tennessee Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee. “Nothing’s in concrete, but I did get a call about doing an in-school job, which would certainly be a little easier, and just being an assistant coach, maybe slow down a little bit, me and my wife be able to help with family a little bit.”

In confirming Sharp’s resignation Tuesday, Central principal Mike Steele announced that former Lions standout Tra’Darius Goff has been appointed to fill that role on an interim basis.

“For someone like Coach Goff to be available at this time and to have so much love for the school and be surrounded by so many people is a perfect scenario,” Steele said regarding the 30-year old, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Mt. Pleasant.

Columbia Central finished 3-7 In Sharp’s first and only season, with a 14-13 overtime victory against visiting Dickson County in Week 2, a 32-20 decision over Mt. Pleasant in Week 6 and a 23-14 win in the season finale “Backyard Bowl” against Region 6-5A and Maury County rival Spring Hill.

Sharp’s hiring in February 2022 was expected to steady a shaky situation atop the program. Longtime assistant John Moore had led the team through the 2021 season on an interim basis following the July dismissal of Jason Hoath after five years.

Moore, Steele said, will continue as an assistant and serve as a “mentor” to Goff.

“The great thing I feel good about at Central is, we finally got a staff in place that’s going to be one of the better staffs I’ve been around,” Sharp said. “I felt like if I left now, they were in good shape. I think they’ve got the best eighth-grade bunch coming up that’s been through here in a long time. We got everything organized here pretty well. I think they’re in good hands.

“I’d rather do that than go out when it’s rock bottom. They’re in a new region that they’ll be greatly competitive in. I’m going to be excited for Columbia.”

With the infrastructure that had been put in place for the upcoming season, Steele wasn’t uncomfortable with the latest development.

“I was more thinking this would happen next year, after the season. (But) I was not shocked at all, I was not surprised at all,” he said. “I’m not bothered at all by the timing. I’d have been bothered if it were late June, early July, for the sake of the team.

“Bobby’s a fantastic individual. I’ve been honored, really, to have spent this year with him, just as a man. I wish him the greatest amount of success and peace and happiness, and I think he’s excited, too, for the next part of his journey. I think it works out for everybody.”

Goff, a crucial member of Columbia Central’s 2010 Class 5A state championship team – he was named offensive and defensive most valuable player in the title game – was lauded as a “legend” by both Steele and Sharp as the transition looms.

“They’re not going to find anybody that’ll work any harder than him,” Sharp said. “Being an alumnus, nobody’s going to love the program more than him. I think he’s going to do everything he can to make sure Columbia Central’s successful.

“He’s probably got the best connection of any coach on this staff with these kids. There’s a tremendous amount of respect for him. When he tells them they’re doing something wrong, they probably listen to him better than any other coach on this staff. That certainly gives him an advantage. These young men have been looking up to him for a long time. He’s got a great deal of influence on them.”

Sharp offered Goff a position upon his arrival at Central, but it wasn’t until this past offseason that he and teammate Dre Hall returned to their alma mater as assistants.

“I’ve played a lot of ball throughout my life, played for some great coaches, high school and college,” Goff said. “Being with Kit Hartsfield and Andrew Holcomb (at Mt. Pleasant) these two years, I was able to sit back and observe and soak everything up like a sponge. Coach Sharp was the same way; he was willing to pour everything into me that he had.

“Also, the way I relate to the kids and am able to motivate them to go hard, that makes up for the lack of experience I have. They give me their all. I plan on surrounding myself with good coaches that are going to be loyal to me and have the best interests of the program at heart. Everything’s going to be a challenge, but that’s just life. There’s nothing in life that’s easy.”

Having Sharp sign off on his new assignment, Goff said, “means the world”.

“Being the coach he is, I’d go to these clinics with him in the short time I’ve been back, and every coach in the building knows who he is,” Goff said. “It just speaks to the type coach he is, the type man he is. He cares about the kids and will do anything for the kids.

“He’s a Hall of Fame coach. It means a lot having his stamp and him thinking I’m the man to carry the torch.” 

Mt. Pleasant Growing Pains (MainStreetMaury)

After what has been a growing and thriving downtown over the last several years, Mount Pleasant is beginning to see some of the luster wear off, according to some business owners. Three businesses have shut their doors for good or moved to other locations and two more will soon be moving on as well. 

The reasons are many, but one common theme among those business owners is concern surrounding the upcoming Streetscape project.

Donna Morency of Mount Pleasant Main Street knows it won’t be easy to navigate. 

“Honestly, it’s going to be a tough year,” she said. “Most cities that have gone through this – they get through it, and we can too, but we have to be purposeful about it.” 

One business owner said she was very excited about what downtown would look like when the project is completed and that as a resident she is excited, but as a business owner she’s worried.

“I can’t wait to see what it looks like when they’re done, but right now I’m losing sleep over what’s going to happen when they start working on the road,” Cleo Lemberg, owner of Pinch of the Past, said.

Morency agreed, “The end result will be positive – not only for businesses, but for shoppers and residents of Mount Pleasant. 

The Streetscape project will include a massive sewer system replacement that’s simply necessary for the city to continue to grow, according to Mayor Bill White. The project will run from Mt. Pleasant Grille to Church Street but will be done in small sections, so as to not disrupt everything at once. 

“‘Digging Downtown’ is a social media approach to help businesses by sharing what to expect during the construction, use signage to steer customers to parking locations and which entrances are easily accessible,” city manager Kate Collier said. “Mount Pleasant is not the first city to undergo construction in their downtown area. There will be some growing pains and the Main Street program, along with the city, wants to provide assistance.”

According to Collier, the engineering firm the city is using also designed Franklin’s streetscape over 20 years ago, something she hopes will encourage those business owners during this process.

“It is all doable and we will get through it as best as we can,” she said.

The city is in desperate need of an upgrade to its sewer system, which is what spurred the initial conversation about construction around the town square. White and the city council agreed that if the need was already there to dig up those existing lines and replace them, why not replace other utilities as well for a cleaner look?

“We were going to have to dig up the street no matter what,” he said. “This felt like the perfect opportunity to not only fix what can’t be seen, but also what can be seen.”

The town applied for – and was awarded – several grants for the project. TDOT awarded the city $1.25 million in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant funds in 2018 for the pedestrian improvements. As part of the grant agreement, the City must provide a minimum match of 20 percent to receive those funds. 

Phase I of the Downtown Revitalization Project will include new accessible sidewalks, ADA-compliant pedestrian ramps, new pedestrian lighting and amenities including benches, trash receptacles and bike racks. 

The city bid out the project and opened bids May 11, and the sole bidder came in at more than $6 million, while the estimated cost from the engineers was $3 million. The city is working with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the engineers to determine what the next steps will be. There may be additional grant money or the city may bid the project out a second time.

Once that process is complete and work begins, Morency said it’s more crucial than ever to continue to support small, local businesses downtown. 

“Eat at the Mt. Pleasant Grille, get a coffee or sandwich at Towne Coffee,” she said. “It may take you five minutes longer, but it will be worth it to keep our small businesses thriving during that time.”

Santa Fe Celebrates Centennial (MainStreetMaury)

Santa Fe Unit School marked 100 years with a parade held Saturday, May 20 at the school. A proclamation was also read to mark the special day, with May 20, 2023, being named “Santa Fe School Day.” 

“It’s been said that Santa Fe School is the best kept secret in Maury County,” the proclamation read. “Students that attend Santa Fe School often share how they have a sincere bond that makes them unique.”

Various speakers addressed the school’s history and its impact on the close-knit Santa Fe community. The festivities ended with an alumni basketball game in the school’s gymnasium.

The school, which opened in 1923, has roots dating back to the 1880s, according to the proclamation. Classes first began in the Masonic Lodge Building and the Cook School house. Prior to the school’s opening, the location served as Santa Fe College.

After suffering from a tragic fire in 1922, a brick building was built one year later. This building became Santa Fe School.

The K-12 school, which currently serves 600 students, first began as a two-year high school going through the 10th grade, with only four students graduating in 1924. In 1938, lavatories were added to the building for both girls and boys, and the first annual yearbook was published and named. In 1964, the school was again destroyed by fire. The following year, students moved into the newly constructed building that is now known as Santa Fe School.

In the fall of 1976, the school was recommended for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. While both Santa Fe and Spring Hill received the honor at the same time, due to alphabetical order Santa Fe became known as the first K-12 school in the South to receive the accreditation.

For the 2018-19 school year, Santa Fe reached the honor of being named a State of Tennessee Reward School.

The parade saw past alumni of all decades gather to mark the occasion, including 93-year-old Colleen Baker-Hargrove, who graduated in 1947.

“Santa Fe is a good community to be in,” Baker-Hargrove said. “Never forget your roots. I love the community, my school and my teachers.”

Lisa Ventura, MCPS Superintendent of Schools said she was grateful to attend the centennial celebration.

“Not every superintendent gets to celebrate something like this,” Ventura said. “Today we celebrate not only the longevity of this school, but the success of the school and the community that it calls home.”

Ventura said all of Maury County Public Schools look at Santa Fe as an example of community involvement and partnership.

“We can all be proud of the hard work and dedication that has enabled us to reach this milestone,” she said.

Blue Star Highway Dedicated (MainStreetMaury)

The City of Columbia rededicated a portion of U.S. 31 on Saturday as a Blue Star Memorial Highway with a ceremony at Columbia Fire Station No. 5 in Neapolis.

County Commissioner Gabe Howard and Columbia firefighter Chris Chumley spearheaded the project to move the plaque from behind the fire station on Old Nashville Highway to the front of the station where it can be seen along the main road.

The former monument – dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 1965 – was unfortunately in disrepair, but through the efforts of Howard and Chumley, enough money was raised to have a new monument sign created – but it wasn’t an easy process.

“We applied and were approved to move the new plaque from Old Nashville Highway to its new home. With the help of many friends, the hands-on project took just six days, but the applications and paperwork took over 11 months,” Chumley said. 

Chumley’s dedication to completing this project – and getting it done in time for the service on Armed Forces Day – didn’t go unnoticed. 

“Chris didn’t point out that without his leadership and energy dedicated to this project, it wouldn’t have happened,” Columbia mayor Chaz Molder said. 

When Chumley asked Howard to help with the project, he didn’t hesitate, but there was a small problem with his agreeing without much thought.

“When I was asked to be a part of this a year ago, I wasn’t sure what a Blue Star was, but I said yes – Marines tend to do that,” he said. “I am humbled, honored and proud to be part of this remarkable presentation.”

The Blue Star program honors all men and women that have served in the United States Armed Forces. This program started with the planting of 8,000 dogwood trees by the New Jersey council and garden clubs in 1944 as a living memorial to veterans of World War II. 

In 1995, the National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted this program and began a Blue Star highway system that covers thousands of miles across the country. 

“The Blue Star was adopted because it became an icon during WWII. It was seen on flags and banners in the homes of sons and daughters who were away at war,” Chumley noted. 

Molder said the Blue Star memorials are special in a way because while there are a number of events and holidays to celebrate veterans and those who died fighting – this honors a different group.

“To me, the Blue Star is honoring those who were serving actively abroad on our behalf. There are thousands of members of our Armed Forces serving to protect us and to protect our freedoms, and that’s what this means to me,” he said. 

Honoring those individuals was important to both Howard and Chumley, which is why they took this project on.

“Being a Marine – even though I served a short period of time in the Marine Corps – honoring the sacrifices that military families make. Especially here in our community, to get behind those missions and those people and to honor them,” Howard said.

“I’ve always surrounded myself with mentors and those that I look up to,” Chumley added. “Many of those are veterans, and being able to appreciate and support the men and women who stand up for my family’s safety and our freedoms in this country. 

“To be able to give them a new dedication and a new memorial to look at when they pass Columbia Fire Station No. 5 means the world to me.”

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

Mr. Everett Akin Grimmitt, 83, retired owner and operator of Grimmitt Home Inspections and resident of Columbia, died Monday, May 22, 2023 at NHC Columbia. Funeral services for Mr. Grimmitt will be conducted Saturday at 11:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Cedar Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Friday from 4:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Roadwork Suspended for Holiday (Press Release)

Road Construction will not delay motorists as they travel Tennessee's highways this Memorial Day weekend. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will suspend all construction-related lane closures on interstates and state routes beginning at noon on Friday, May 26 through 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 30. This will provide maximum roadway capacity for motorists expected to travel in the state this Memorial Day weekend.


"Suspending construction-related lane closures during the Memorial Day weekend will lessen congestion and delays on Tennessee's major highways," said Commissioner Butch Eley. "We want to do our part to help everyone have an enjoyable and safe holiday weekend and keep traffic flowing as smoothly and efficiently as possible."


Motorists may still encounter some lane closures or restrictions while traveling through long-term construction projects. In addition, drivers should know that reduced speed limits will be in effect in work zones. Drivers convicted of speeding through work zones where workers are present face a fine of up to $500, plus court fees and possible increased insurance premiums. 


AAA predicts 751,000 Tennesseans will hit the road for Memorial Day weekend. That’s 40,500 more than last year during the long holiday travel period.

Gas Prices (MainStreetMaury)

Gas prices are trending slightly lower as over 751,000 Tennesseans are forecast to take a road trip over the Memorial Day weekend. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.12 which is 21 cents less expensive than one month ago and $1.17 less than one year ago.  

“Tennesseans planning a holiday road trip this weekend will spend a dollar per gallon less at the pump than they did last Memorial Day, ” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “It’s likely that gas prices across the state will continue to fluctuate this week, however, it looks like most of the expected changes should be favorable for drivers. The even better news is that it is highly unlikely prices will come anywhere near last year’s state average of $4.27 per gallon for the holiday weekend.  

Quick Facts

33% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.88 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.50 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 6th least expensive market in the nation 

National News

New Population Statistics (Tennessean)

Watch the South grow. The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data on the fastest-growing cities in the nation and Southern cities dominated the list.

Of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the nation according to Vintage 2022 Population Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week, nine are in the South. Signaling a growth spurt in larger southern cities, but also in increase in smaller communities around the South. Six of those nine cities were in Texas alone, but North Carolina also made it onto the list at number 15 with Charlotte.

Here's a look at the growth in cities and towns across the Southern region.

America continues to be a nation of small towns.

Nearly 40% (129.6 million) of the United State's population lived in 4.1% (798) of cities with populations of 50,000 or more. But growth still came for small town U.S.A., especially in the South.

On average, small towns experienced uneven growth across the different regions:

Small towns in the South grew by 0.4%.

Northeast small towns declined by 0.4%.

Midwest small towns declined by 0.2%.

Western small towns saw the largest growth from 2021 to 2022, with an increase of 0.5%.

What are the most populous U.S. cities?

New York

Los Angeles





San Antonio

San Diego, California



Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Maury County Public Schools’ Summer Meal Program will offer free meals to anyone 18 years of age or younger this June.

The program runs June 1 – 30 and will offer breakfast from 7:30am – 9am and lunch 11am – 12:30pm.

Adults can buy  breakfast for $3 and lunch for $4.

Sites serving meals:

Brown Elementary

Randolph Howell Elementary

Mt. Pleasant Elementary

Riverside Elementary

There are no forms to fill out.

Learn more at


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