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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for November 14, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Horse Rescued (MauryCountySource)

On Saturday, MCFD was called to rescue a horse in a sink hole.

When units arrived, they found the horse in the remnants of a pond (which had dried out due to drought).

MCFD members retrieved plywood from the training center for work platforms.

The Maury County Hwy Department was immediately requested for an excavator. Ralph Alexander was called for his response with a backhoe and the Williamson County Rescue Squad was requested for a large animal harness.

A veterinarian also responded from TN Equine and provided care and sedation during the rescue operation.

After 5 1/2 hours of intense work, the horse was successfully removed from the mud!

June Lake Progresses (Tennessean)

Dirt is moving in Spring Hill’s June Lake community, and homes are selling faster than they can be built, officials say.

The Spring Hill-based project, spearheaded by Southeast Venture, LLC, isn’t scheduled to be completed for another two decades, but construction has been happening at the multi-acre site since 2021. 

"While construction has been occurring for a while, it has (mostly) been infrastructure. We only recently started vertical construction," said Southeast Venture Principal Wood Caldwell. But interest in the development is high, officials agree.

When Tudor Homes announced last year that they were starting construction on the development's first 28 residences, emails started flying in, asking when they'd be ready for purchase, according to David Tudor, the company's founder and owner.

Tudor Homes is continuing to make progress on the homes, which range in size from about 3,000 - 3,500 square feet. And while many are eager to purchase, Tudor Homes does not allow homes to be pre-sold, company officials noted. They expect these homes to be listed on the market for $900,000.

Contractor Signature Homes is also building homes for June Lake with pricing starting at $645,000, and according to Caldwell, they have pre-sold 10 homes.

Once the development is completely finished, June Lake will offer buyers a choice of three different neighborhoods. Saddlewalk will feature 400 single-family homes and townhouses, The Preserve will feature 28 single-family homes and Solstice will feature a 227-unit apartment complex.

Besides home construction, work has also begun on a 3-million-gallon water tank that will provide water to June Lake and Spring Hill residents. It is scheduled to be completed by September 2024.

Other plans for the development include 3.9 million square feet of Class A office space, about 1.3 million square feet of retail and restaurant space and 400 hotel rooms. The development has already attracted businesses that are new to Tennessee, including the grocery chain Hy-Vee, which is set to open at June Lake next spring.

Work is also continuing on a new I-65 exit at June Lake, which officials hope will alleviate traffic.

The City of Spring Hill is fully funding the project, but city officials received a $25 million federal BUILD grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to aid in construction.

Continued delays in the interchange's project schedule have caused the anticipated completion date to be pushed to late spring, TDOT announced earlier this summer.

The original completion date was set for this summer. It was pushed to the winter of this year due to permitting and Right of Way delays, but with additional issues in unforeseen weather and unsuitable soil, it was pushed again, TDOT said.

Aerial photos taken of June Lake in September show progress on infrastructure and sitework for the Solstice and Saddlewalk neighborhoods as well as the interchange.

Crews are also making progress on the development's Aenon Creek Greenway.

The greenway is one of several major amenities planned for June Lake, which has been nicknamed the "new gateway to Spring Hill." Others include nature friendly spaces, an 11-acre lake and pedestrian friendly dining and shopping options.

Want to keep up with latest on what's happening at June Lake? Quarterly updates are posted online at junelaketn.com.

MRMC Gets Grade “A” from Leapfrog (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center has received an “A” grade, the highest possible ranking, from The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade for the fall of 2023.

This is a national distinction that acknowledges the center’s accomplishments in protecting patients from preventative harm and errors.

The Leapfrog Group is an independent national watchdog organization with a 10-year history of assigning letter grades to general hospitals throughout the United States, based on a hospital’s ability to prevent medical errors and harm to patients. The grading system is peer-reviewed, fully transparent, and free to the public. Hospital Safety Grade results are based on more than 30 national performance measures and are updated each fall and spring.

“We remain fully committed to the protection and safety of all patients in our care,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “This acknowledgment from The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is a direct reflection of the diligence our employees and medical staff have when caring for patients. I’m extremely grateful for all Maury Regional Medical Center staff members who consistently make this recognition possible.”

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses up to 30 national performance measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to nearly 3,000 U.S. acute-care hospitals twice yearly. The methodology of this process is peer-reviewed and fully transparent with results free to the public.

“I applaud the hospital leadership and workforce for their strong commitment to safety and transparency,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “An ‘A’ Safety Grade is a sign that hospitals are continuously evaluating their performance so that they can best protect patients. Your hospital team should be extremely proud of their dedication and achievement.”

To learn more about MRMC’s commitment to quality — including accreditations, certifications, and recognitions — visit MauryRegional.com/Quality. Visit HospitalSafetyGrade.org for more information about the Hospital Safety Grade, including details on individual hospital grades and rankings.

MRMC Named Level IV Trauma Center (Press Release)

In other Maury Regional News, Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) has been granted provisional designation as a Level IV Trauma Center by the Tennessee Department of Health after a recent onsite review.

 All trauma designations begin with a provisional status for one year. MRMC will submit a report and undergo another site visit after one year. The results will be reviewed by the Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities, and if approved, the medical center will be granted a three-year designation as a Level IV Trauma Center.

 “This designation reaffirms our commitment to providing exceptional emergency care to residents throughout southern Middle Tennessee,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “It wouldn’t be possible without the exceptional care being provided by our intensive care and emergency teams.”

 The Tennessee State Trauma Center Site Visit Team conducted a provisional site visit at MRMC on Oct. 12 to ensure compliance with all criteria required for state provisional designation as a Level IV Trauma Center. The site visit included interviews with key personnel, chart reviews, trauma activation criteria and reviews of various facility and staff resources, capabilities and services.

 Trauma Center designation is designed to identify hospitals that are committed to providing a given level of care for trauma patients. For more information about the state of Tennessee’s trauma care system plan, visit TN.gov.

MidState Classic Announced (MSM)

Reigning Southeastern Conference softball champion Tennessee will return to Columbia for the 2024 Midstate Classic and take on Memphis in the April 2 contest at Ridley Park.

“It hasn’t been officially announced, but it’s been set,” City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Director Mack Reagan said Friday, confirming the date and the foes for what has become the facility’s headline event since its 2011 opening.

This will be the sixth area appearance for the Lady Vols since the event’s 2014 inception, and their third matchup in the game against Memphis. Most recently, UT defeated the Lady Tigers 8-4 here in 2022.

“It’s one of our favorite events every year because we know how much the people of Tennessee support softball,” Lady Vols coach Karen Weekly said. “We know the city of Columbia is going to put on a great event, both teams are going to be treated like royalty and it’s just really fun to come play in an atmosphere where people are so invested and care about what we all do.”

Last spring in Columbia, Tennessee defeated Austin Peay 6-1 on March 15 en route to a 51-10 finish, a sweep of the SEC regular-season and tournament titles and a berth in the Women’s College World Series Final Four.

“Hopefully we’ll be on track for a repeat performance,” Weekly said.

Memphis, in its first season under former Alabama standout and longtime Crimson Tide assistant Stephanie Van Brakle Prothro, went 8-43 in 2023.

“I’m really looking forward to playing Memphis,” Weekly said. “There’s definitely a new look to the program with Stephanie at the helm. I think she’s one of the exciting young coaches in our game. I think it’s going to be really good for both schools.

“She’d reached out to me about scheduling a game with us. This seemed like a really good way to make that happen. When I told her what the event was about, the kind of atmosphere they’d play in, she was all in.”

After defeating Middle Tennessee State 9-8 in the inaugural Midstate Classic, UT has since gone unbeaten with wins over Belmont (16-0) in 2016, Memphis (8-0) in ‘18 and MTSU (8-0) in ‘19. Scheduling issues prevented a contest from taking place in 2015, and the Lady Vols’ 2017 matchup with Auburn was cancelled because of weather concerns. Their 2022 win over Memphis followed a two-year pandemic-related hiatus.

This will be the latest that the Midstate Classic has been played since the 2018 game, held on April 10 – following Tennessee’s fourth conference weekend series. This season, the contest will be preceded for the Lady Vols by SEC weekends against Missouri, South Carolina and Auburn, the latter two on the road.

“A lot of times we try to come over spring break, which is usually the middle of March,” Weekly said. “This year, we’re doing something a little different over our spring break and traveling somewhere to play and try to take our kids for an educational experience up to Washington, D.C. That required us to go (to Columbia) a little later, which I don’t think is a bad thing.

“Hopefully we’ll get a little better weather than we do sometimes.”

In addition to the UT/Memphis game, a District 9-4A high school contest between Maury County rivals Columbia Central and Spring Hill is set for 10 a.m., according to Central coach Jon McDonald. 

“Getting to be the first high school to play at the Midstate Classic was neat,” McDonald said. “Giving those girls that opportunity to play in front of those college coaches was really cool.

“Being a district matchup (this year) adds a little more to it. It helps the county, having two teams playing. It’s going to be great for the community.”

The Lady Lions defeated Tullahoma 10-2 prior to last year’s collegiate doubleheader.

Columbia State, which has participated in the Midstate Classic from the beginning, has not had any communication with city officials on the 2024 event, according to both athletics director Katie Willingham and first-year Lady Chargers coach Samantha King. 

Last year, C-State fell to Motlow State 7-0 prior to the UT/Austin Peay clash.

Educators Focus on Growth (MSM)

Local education leaders laid out their priorities for the remainder of the academic year at the annual State of the Schools luncheon, held by the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce in October.

The panel of leaders included Jason Golden, superintendent, Williamson County Schools, Lisa Ventura, superintendent, Maury County Schools, Dr. Janet Smith, president, Columbia State Community College, Mike Whitehead, president, TCAT Pulaski and Dr. James Thomas, president, Columbia Academy.

Unsurprisingly, the conversations centered around growth. As the population continues to grow in southern Middle Tennessee, the need for additional learning space increases.

For Ventura, one of the most important reasons for new infrastructure, such as Battle Creek High School, is school safety.

“My top priority is student safety. Our elementary schools are full, obviously our high schools are full – that’s why we built a new high school – so it hurts my heart when I see students learning in the hallway,” she said. “It hurts my heart as a teacher because of the learning environment, but as a safety aspect if evil enters that building, there are children learning in the hallway.”

Ventura said Battle Creek High School is currently ahead of schedule to open in August 2024, but noted there would need to be a winter without snow to stay on course.

Maury County Public Schools was the first system in the state to have a School Resource Officer in every school, but Ventura said safety measures go even further.

“We have bullet-resistant glass to cameras on buildings to digital access – all of that is expensive technology, but we are committed to spending those funds to ensure the safety of every child and every staff member. We want every person to go home safely to their families, and unfortunately in the world today, that cannot be underscored,” she said.

Population and infrastructure growth wasn’t the only thing Ventura touched on, however, noting the school system’s recent test scores show a significant jump in academic achievement.

“Maury County Public Schools has not been known as a high-flier in academics, and we’re going to change that,” she said. “Our growth scores last year are nothing short of remarkable; all of our schools are growing. We’ve made more than one year’s growth at multiple schools, and I could not be prouder of my schools in the district.”

At Columbia Academy, growth has become more than necessary as the school is currently at capacity with students.

“It used to be that we would pray for more students, but now it’s ‘Send us the right teachers.’ Staffing is a priority and a challenge. We have been blessed, but we’re trying to raise salaries and catch up to folks we can’t quite catch up to right now, but we’re trying to find the best people for the front line,” Dr. Thomas said.

He added the school is amidst a fundraising effort to complete projects within their strategic and campus master plans, which could include more buildings to house classrooms for students.

More than that, though, Thomas said his top priority is simply to continue the mission of Columbia Academy set out in 1979 when the school was founded.

“We have grown as a school a lot. It’s different for us than in the past, but we’re going to stay committed to our mission,” he said. “We want to prepare them for the future academically, and we want them to become Christ-like in attitude.”

Two local higher education institutions laid out priorities for the next year as well, which include building projects to address the growing needs of students.

One of those projects, in conjunction with TCAT Pulaski, is the Southern Regional Technology Center. Dr. Smith said the project has been funded and is in the design phase at this time.

The proposed Southern Regional Technology Center, which will exist on the west side of the Columbia Campus, will be a hub for workforce development. The state-of-the-art facility will provide a central location in the region to meet the educational and training needs of citizens and employers. It will be a major economic and workforce development resource by providing the latest in industry and healthcare training with an emphasis on partnerships through internships, apprenticeships, program development and job placement.

Additionally, Columbia State is adding an Arts & Technology Center to its Williamson County campus that will include new programs.

“Some of the new programs at the Arts and Technology Center at the Williamson County campus are a practical nursing program and we have joined forces with Dickson TCAT to offer the nursing program as well as a digital graphic design program,” Dr. Smith said.

For TCAT Pulaski, growth is the focus as well. The school is adding 31,000 square feet of learning space with a $30 million project that will add additional programs and expand space for existing programs.

“We’ve got 48,000 square feet of training space at the main campus, and we’re adding 31,000 square feet. It’s a $30 million dollar project and adding tech with an electric vehicle component, cosmetology, digital graphic design and we’re doubling our welding capacity and expanding our industrial maintenance capacity,” Whitehead said. “We’re going to use those expansions to serve our five-county area, and this will help us reach more students. Adding those programs will be about 27 percent more students. We run about 300 adult students, so we will add about 75 to 100 more students.”

Being student-centered is a major focus for both TCAT Pulaski and Columbia State. The biggest priority for Dr. Smith and Columbia State is consistency across the region in creating a “One College” approach.

“We have five campuses, but looking at ourselves as one college and how we work together. So regardless of where a student is they get the same experience, whether it’s instructional or engagement,” she said. “We’re a student-center college. We have always worked to make our students the center of what we do.”

Additionally, Whitehead said they are working to create an active alumni network to keep graduates abreast of what’s happening at the school and calling upon them to encourage current students.

“There are few, if any, TCATs that have that, and we’re excited about the opportunities it will present us to stay connected with our alumni. We’ve had extremely successful alumni and we want to stay in touch with them and keep them a part of our story as we undergo this expansion,” he said.

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

Edna Benefield Lentz, 100, retired owner and operator of Variety Record Shop, died Saturday at the Gardens of Poplar Estates in Columbia. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday at Parkway Baptist Church Burial will follow at Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 12:00 P.M. until the time of service at Parkway Baptist Church.

David Ray Stephens, 76, retired Master Sergeant for the United States Army, and resident of Culleoka, died Sunday at his residence. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday at 10:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 4:00 - 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Paul Thomas Smith, 68, a resident of Lobelville, and former Equipment technician for Vanderbilt died Wednesday, at his residence.

A Memorial service will be held Thursday, November 16, 2023 at 2:00 P.M at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements and condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.

…And now, news from around the state…

Fort Campbell Soldiers Killed (Tennessean)

Fort Campbell soldiers are dealing with another loss this year after five soldiers were killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash overseas on Saturday.

This is the second fatal Black Hawk crash that the base has dealt with in 2023. On Saturday, five members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers, were killed when the MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crashed over the Mediterranean Sea during a training mission Veterans Day weekend.

The first fatal crash happened in March. Nine soldiers were killed during a routine training exercise when two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in the Army's 101st Airborne Division crashed in Trigg County, Kentucky west of Fort Campbell.

No Trash November (MauryCountySource)

Tennessee Department of Transportation’s (TDOT) Nobody Trashes Tennessee announces its third annual No Trash November, a month-long statewide initiative encouraging Tennesseans to participate in cleanup events in their communities. Last year’s campaign included 95 events with over 1,300 volunteers who collected more than 48,000 pounds of litter from the state’s roadways.

“Litter on our public roads has detrimental impacts on safety, the environment and the economy, while also detracting from Tennessee’s natural beauty,” said Deputy Governor and TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley. “We want to ensure our roadways are safe from the harmful effects of litter, especially with the upcoming holidays and increased travel.”

In partnership with Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTnB), Adopt-A-Highway participants, and youth groups including Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts, the initiative encourages residents to join existing public events or host their own community cleanup in November.

“We are grateful for our many partners across the state that are once again coming together in November to help us in our mission to prevent and reduce litter and look forward to reaching our goal to remove 50,000 pounds of litter from our roadways,” said Brittany Morris, transportation program coordinator, TDOT. “By working together to improve and beautify communities across the state, we can make an even larger impact.”

In addition to KTnB affiliate across the state, existing Adopt-A-Highway groups are also invited to participate in No Trash November by conducting one of their four litter cleanups on their designated two miles of roadway during the month. Individuals, groups and organizations that are interested in the free program may visit the Adopt-A-Highway map to view available routes in their community.

To find a local cleanup event and to register your group to participate in No Trash November, visit nobodytrashestennessee.com/events. Campaign tools and resources including a cleanup location map and a trash tracker measuring pounds collected are also available online.

All residents are encouraged to show their support for a litter-free Tennessee by using the #NobodyTrashesTennessee and #NoTrashNovember hashtags in social media and to highlight their litter prevention actions throughout the month. For additional ways to participate in No Trash November, visit: 5 Ways to Participate in No Trash November.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Dolly is everywhere, it seems. Opening a new resort at Dollywood, releasing a rock album, unveiling branded products, even doing podcasts.

Knoxville fans will get a unique opportunity to see the Tennessee icon this coming weekend: Parton just announced on Instagram that she will be at Neyland Stadium to cheer on the Volunteers as they take on Georgia at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 18.

"Well, hello, it's Dolly, and I am so excited to join 101,000 of my friends in the best place for college football, Neyland Stadium," Parton, decked out in Vols orange, said in the Instagram reel. "I'll see you there!"

She then commented, "I can’t wait to cheer on @vol_football this Saturday! See you on Rocky Top 🧡 #GBO"


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