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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for November 22, 2023

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

We start with local news…

House Explosions (

A second “house explosion” has been reported in Maury County, according to fire officials.

According to Maury County Fire Public Information Officer Savannah Maddison, a Dry Creek Road house exploded around 8 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21.

Two people were transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Maddison said.

Officials believe it may have been caused by a propane blast, due to the extent of the damage. People were living in the home at the time of the blast.

The Maury County Sheriff and state fire investigators were all on the scene.

This is second home explosion in Maury County this week. Sunday night another home on Trousdale Lane also experienced a blast that caused drywall damage throughout all three levels the house. No injuries were reported in that blast, according to fire officials. At that time, the Maury County Fire Department said the homeowner did “exactly right” when he smelled the gas by turning off the propane at the tank.

“Any time we do see multiple incidents occur over a short time period that is suspicious,” Maddison stated.

UAW Ratifies Deals (Tennessean)

The United Auto Workers announced Monday that members working for the "Big Three" — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — voted to ratify their new contracts. Across the three companies, 64% of voting members voted in favor of the agreements said the UAW.

The ratification comes over two months after the strikes began. On Oct. 28, the plant at Spring Hill, GM's largest assembly facility in the country, walked off the assembly line and joined the strike.

“The members have spoken. After years of cutbacks, months of our Stand Up campaign, and weeks on the picket line, we have turned the tide for the American autoworker,” said UAW President Shawn Fain. “The Stand Up Strike was just the beginning."

"The UAW is back to setting the standard," he said. "Now, we take our strike muscle and our fighting spirit to the rest of the industries we represent, and to millions of non-union workers ready to Stand Up and fight for a better way of life.”

The 150,000 UAW auto workers at the Big Three have won cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), annual bonuses for retirees and the elimination of wage tiers among others.

What will auto workers be receiving?

Raises from at least 33% to over 160% - After COLA and compounded wage increases, members will receive raises of at least 33% with some of the lowest-paid workers receiving raises of up to 160%. Tens of thousands of autoworkers will see immediate raises of over 40% upon ratification.

Faster progression to top pay - Workers will no longer need to wait eight years before seeing wage progression, the union was able to secure a three-year wage progression to the top pay rate.

Blazing the path to a just EV transition - The UAW won commitments at all three automakers that will bring thousands of electric vehicle (EV) and battery jobs.

Improvements in retirement security for all active and retired members - For the first time in 15 years current retirees will receive annual bonuses, a $1.25 billion boost in their benefits. Across all three companies, workers hired before 2007 won an increase to their pension multiplier.

401K contribution increases - Although workers hired after 2007 did not win defined benefit pensions, the employer contribution to their 401(k)s increased by 10%, which will double many members’ annual 401(k) contributions over the life of the contract.

UAW Region 8 Director Tim Smith, who represents the Local UAW 1853, said the contract will mean not only better wages and COLA for workers, but pave the way for better jobs.

"The Ultium Cell battery plant will fall under the master, and whether it winds up being 800, 1,000 or 2,000 jobs, they are going to be UAW jobs," Smith said. "We're going to have close to 6,000 workers in that whole complex who are UAW. We are very proud of that."

The GM contract specifically grants a 25% increase in base wage through April 2028 and will cumulatively raise the top wage by 33%, compounded with estimated cost-of-living adjustments to over $42 an hour.

Smith also said he consistently pushed Spring Hill to take part in the stand-up strike "from the beginning." While the Local 1853 picketing line only lasted a few days, it moved the needle just enough.

"They were glad to be a part of it, because these are historical contracts with the wage increases, the COLA and everything else we were able to achieve," Smith said. "It's just historical, because where do you see anybody get 11% right out of the gate?"

Following the news of the official ratification, all three automakers announced they look forward to continuing to deliver products to customers.

GM CEO, Mary Barra, said in a statement, “We are pleased our team members have ratified the new agreement that rewards our employees, protects the future of the business and allows us to continue to provide good jobs in communities across the U.S. We can now move forward as one team doing what we do best — delivering great products for our customers and winning together.” 

BOMA Questions TDOT (MSM)

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) officials visited the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting earlier this month to present a new thought process going forward with road projects across the state.

Spring Hill board members questioned representatives on the exclusion of State Route 6 – or U.S. 31 (Main Street) – from the most recent three-year plan, as well as on the potential issues facing Spring Hill drivers once the June Lake interchange is completed.

TDOT officials claim a change in its thought process has shifted the way its lists are compiled going forward. Previously, the department released three-year plans for projects that were funded through the first phase, but not through completion. Moving forward, the department plans for 10-year plans to include projects that are funded through at least two phases.

“We used to put projects in the three-year plan but it wasn’t really ready to deliver. Now, we’re making sure those projects are deliverable,” TDOT Assistant Chief Engineer Joe Deering said. “We are working on a plan that once a project goes into (environmental study), five years later you’ll see it out for construction.”

That shift in thought process, along with a variety of other logistical and financial issues, left Main Street out to dry, but without any answers from the state to local residents or even elected officials.

Alderman Matt Fitterer asked for more transparency from TDOT going forward.

“It’s still frustrating not to be able to give answers to citizens when they ask basic questions,” he said. “That’s the frustrating thing to taxpayers here locally is the lack of communication or transparency or reasoning. We get asked and we have no answer.”

Deering said he could not answer where the city fell short on the criteria for the project to continue.

“You’re not the only place that’s happened to. You’re one of 95 counties that are fighting for that same dollar. There’s a thousand (U.S. 31s) across the state of Tennessee,” he said.

Jay Klein, Legislative Director for TDOT said, “We want to call our (new motto) ‘What we start, we finish.’ I think that should be important to this body, particularly in light of that project. Previously, we’ve had two iterations of our three-year plan that have been generated with this philosophy in mind. This project did appear on the three-year plan prior to that change in philosophy.”

Klein said the Main Street project could cost $110-120 million dollars in construction fees alone, not including right of way acquisition or utility movement costs.

“We’re told we’re doing everything right, our legislators are told they’re doing everything right and we’re left at the end of the day with debt on roads that aren’t finished and no funding to construct anything,” Fitterer said.

The June Lake interchange open date has been pushed back to April 2024, barring a rough winter, officials said. Bell Construction is being assessed a $15,000 per day fine until the project is completed.

Where all the money collected from the fine goes, however, is – apparently – unknown, according to Deering. Some of the money would be to repay the department for the staffing costs.

“I don’t know where the rest of it would go. They will get some of the fine back because the project was delayed by a third party,” Deering told the board.

Spring Hill City Administrator Pam Caskie noted the state isn’t the only entity with ongoing costs at the site.

“I understand that you have costs – I would hope they’re not $15,000 per day – but I would like to point out that you’re not alone,” she said. “We have onus representation out there because of our involvement in the project. While you’re collecting the dollars, our citizens are funding the extra cost without any remuneration.

“I would ask for you to at least consider in your discussion that if you’re getting your cost back, maybe we ought to get our cost back, too.”

Alderman Trent Linville noted concerns of congestion on the interstate at the new interchange, but TDOT’s Shaun Armstrong said the idea is for traffic to be spread out enough between drivers using I-840 and Saturn Parkway, in addition to the June Lake interchange, that it will relieve congestion.

“Yes, the new interchange is going to bring traffic to and from I-65, but that same traffic was using Saturn Parkway, 840, Lewisburg Pike,” Armstrong said. “Yes, it does draw more to that intersection, but it should relieve these other interchanges where they’re all getting hit. It should facilitate and spread the regional traffic out.”

Alderman Vincent Fuqua said the state missed an opportunity to widen at least from I-840 to the new interchange to remove the bottleneck north of the city.

“While we appreciate the partnership of TDOT on the interchange, we really missed an opportunity in this construction process to – at the very least – widen the bridges that go over 431,” he said. “That would have made us more competitive with the Berry Farms to attract those businesses and those tax dollars the governor is looking to get into the state.”

Klein said widening the interstate is a key component of the future plans for TDOT, as most surrounding states have three lanes of interstate beginning at their state line. Funding, however, is the main hurdle.

“Interstate widening is a huge piece for us. That’s one of the challenges with the state not taking out any debt. Our construction budget is revenue based, but it’s about $1.2 billion dollars each year. Because we do have potholes and other challenges, we have to take half for maintenance. That leaves us about half a billion for major projects like an interstate widening,” he said.

Columbia Christmas Tree Lighting (Press Release)

Columbia Main Street Corporation, in partnership with the City of Columbia, will host the 37th Annual Columbia Main Street Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting on Saturday, December 2, 2023, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM in Columbia’s Historic Downtown.

With a record number of over 120 participants this year, the parade begins at 6:00 PM and marches east down West 7th Street into Downtown Columbia. At the conclusion of the parade, festivities kick off for the lighting of Columbia’s 40-foot Christmas tree topper around 7:15 PM on the courthouse steps, hosted by DJ Amped. This year’s parade & tree lighting is made possible by our generous community partners and Grand Marshal Sponsor Stan McNabb Chevrolet Columbia.

The parade lasts about an hour and features holiday-themed illuminated floats, marching bands, holiday characters, scout groups, dance troupes, local churches, businesses, civic groups, non-profit organizations, and an array of construction vehicles, tractors, and classic cars. Retired Colonel Ashley Brown leads this year’s parade as the Grand Marshal in honor of his commitment to the Maury County community through his years of civic and professional accomplishments. After the parade, the tree lighting ceremony takes center stage with Santa lighting the Christmas tree topper, musical entertainment by DJ Amped, an original song by Marta Albarracin, and the presentation of trophies for the “best of” parade winners.

Columbia Main Street Manager Kelli Johnson stated, “Kicking off the holiday season with the Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting truly warms your heart and puts a smile on your face. I am thrilled for the community and businesses to be a part of this annual event because it shows how magical and unique our town truly is! I encourage all to come early and stay late for this festive event that takes place in the heart of Historic Downtown Columbia.”

“I am so excited for this year’s Columbia Main Street Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting celebration–37 years and going strong,” stated Mayor Chaz Molder. “I can’t wait to welcome our residents and visitors alike in what will be a magical night in Columbia. I am also excited for this year’s Grand Marshal, Ashley Brown, one of the best-known, well-respected individuals in our community.”

A rain date is set for December 9, 2023. Find all of the information regarding the Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting at

No Trash November (Press Release)

Keep Maury Beautiful collected 520 pounds of litter from Cleburne Road on Nov. 11 as part of TDOT's No Trash November initiative and is encouraging residents to get involved to keep the county litter free.

Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee announced 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 Keep Tennessee Beautiful affiliates 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 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.

McDonald’s Donates to Schools (MSM)

Local McDonald’s owner-operator Gina Wolfe donated $1,608 to Maury County Schools last Monday, Nov. 13 as part of the “Fries for School Supplies” fundraiser. The schools included Highland Park Elementary, J.R. Baker Elementary, Spring Hill Elementary and Mt. Pleasant Elementary.

The fundraiser, which was launched by the McDonald’s Greater Tennessee Valley Owners-Operators Association (GTVOA), began in 2021. Over 230 McDonald’s restaurants across the Business Unit participate by donating 10 percent of proceeds from sales over a week to local schools or school districts. Each owner-operator chooses the school or school district to donate proceeds.

David Robbins, PR Account Executive for McDonald’s, said the funds will be used to meet the immediate needs of the local of the local schools and educators, such as providing hand sanitizer, whiteboards, or markers for students.

“Gina Wolfe (Owner-operator) is grateful for the opportunity to support her community and the teachers who make a difference in the lives of students,” Robbins said.

In total, this year’s Fries for School Supplies fundraiser raised over $84,000 for local schools across the Greater Tennessee Valley region, with funds benefiting local schools and teachers to fund classroom supplies.

King’s Daughters Christmas Drive (CDH)

The King’s Daughters’ School and Heritage Bank & Trust are once again seeking help to make many Christmas wishes come true with the 23rd annual Santa's Mailbox gift drive.

The annual drive will kick off Wednesday, Nov. 22 and run through Thursday, Dec. 14.

Wish letters can be picked up from Santa’s Mailbox at Heritage Bank & Trust branches in Columbia and Mt. Pleasant. The letters are from disadvantaged King’s Daughters’ students and state-custody kids who will be spending Christmas on campus.

Students have written down their Christmas wishes in letters to Santa.

"Santa’s Mailbox should be easy to spot when you walk into a Heritage Bank & Trust lobby. Each letter contains one Christmas wish item for a student," a press release states.

“We are so grateful to Heritage Bank & Trust for their support of our Santa’s Mailbox program. Many of our students cannot go home for the holidays, so the contributions of the bank, their customers, and our entire community make their Christmas wishes come true,” KDS Executive Director Shauna Pounders said.

Once gifts are returned, they will be wrapped by the King’s Daughters’ staff members and placed in Santa’s bag ready for delivery at the KDS campus Christmas Eve.

"The school and bank members thank you ahead of time for helping make Christmas special for each and every child at KDS," the press release states.

Heritage Bank & Trust is resuming hosting duties this year as a continued valued partner to KDS.

"Heritage Bank & Trust is proud to be a part of the wonderful work being done by The King's Daughters' School," says Shelli Golden, KDS Board Member and EVP, Chief Risk Officer of Heritage Bank & Trust.

"Over the years, I have served on the Board of Directors of The King's Daughters' School, and I continue to be impressed with the care and compassion given to each student to make their lives the best that it can be. Heritage is honored to partner with an organization making such a great impact on our community." Santa’s Mailboxes are located in two Maury County Heritage Bank & Trust lobbies: 217 South James Campbell Blvd., and 109 South Main St. in Mt. Pleasant.

The King’s Daughters’ School is a nonprofit residential school that has provided academic, vocational, and life-skills training to students with developmental delays for over 60 years.

…And now, news from around the state…

Nashville Tops Investors List Again (Tennessean)

Whatever your take on Nashville’s meteoric rise among U.S. cities, its reputation continues to thrive.

In fact, after years of breakneck growth, Music City’s future seems brighter than ever. Nashville commands the top spot as the nation’s all-around best market to invest in for the third consecutive year, according to a leading real estate industry report released in November by Urban Land Institute and PwC. The report, “Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2024," highlights the diversity and strength of the Nashville region's business environment.

Nashville is the first city to be named a top market for three years in a row in the report's 45-year history.

The ranking reflects stability across Middle Tennessee's industry sectors, and in downtown Nashville's continued ability to lure massive crowds. Suburban growth is also a strong point continuing to fuel high population and job growth.

After Nashville, the top ten markets with the best prospects, according to the Emerging Trends in Real Estate report, are Phoenix, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Atlanta, Austin, San Diego, Boston, San Antonio, Raleigh/Durham and Seattle.

Gas Prices (MSM)

After fluctuating a few cents higher in the middle of last week, Tennessee gas prices are once again moving less expensive ahead of Thanksgiving.

Today’s state gas price average is two cents cheaper than last Monday’s. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $2.93 which is 17 cents less expensive than one month ago and 28 cents less than one year ago.  

“Even though we saw some slight fluctuation in our gas prices last week, gas prices are now moving less expensive – which is great news for the 1.2 million Tennesseans expected to take a holiday road trip over Thanksgiving,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Drivers will likely see the cheapest prices at the pump for Thanksgiving since 2020.”

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel

Most Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destinations. AAA predicts 1.2 million Tennesseans will take a road trip of 50 miles or more. That’s over 28,000 more Tennessee drivers (+2.3%) than last year.

Last Thanksgiving, the Tennessee state average for gasoline was $3.16 per gallon. Today’s state gas price average of $2.93 is 23 cents less than what drivers were paying last Thanksgiving. It’s likely that drivers will see the cheapest prices at the pump for Thanksgiving since 2020, when gas prices were $1.89 per gallon in Tennessee. 

Quick Facts

77% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.65 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.43 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 10th least expensive market in the nation

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The new North American tour of hit musical HAIRSPRAY, helmed by original director Jack O’Brien and original choreographer Jerry Mitchell, makes its Nashville return to Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Jackson Hall June 11-16, 2024.

HAIRSPRAY is the story of 16-year-old Tracy Turnblad in 1960s Baltimore as she sets out to dance her way onto TV’s most popular show. Can a girl with big dreams (and even bigger hair) change the world? 

HAIRSPRAY premiered at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater in June 2002. The show was a smash hit when it transferred to Broadway, winning eight 2003 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Tickets are available now at TPAC.ORG.

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