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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for November 28, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Girls Auto Know Event (Press Release)

To highlight STEM and automotive career paths for middle school girls, Ultium Cells will partner with the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum to sponsor an All Girls Auto Know event at Hampshire Unit School on December 1, 2023.

·       The event will feature career path discussions from a panel of professional women in STEM fields within the automotive industry.

·       Together with teachers from Hampshire Unit School, Ultium Cells team members will lead students in constructing a battery-operated vehicle, which students will race to win prizes.

·       This is Ultium Cells’ inaugural All Girls Auto Know event as the company seeks to establish its STEM promotion presence in the region.

Hampshire Unit School will host the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum “All Girls Auto Know” program for female, middle school students on Friday, December 1, 2023. The event’s sponsor and presenting partner, Ultium Cells, hopes to increase the number of women pursuing STEM degrees and careers in the area.


“I hope our presence here will inspire some of these girls to envision themselves in a STEM field, maybe even one within the automotive industry. Girls need to know early on that they, too, have a place in STEM and automotive careers.”  — Gretchen Murray, Ultium Cells Process Engineer & event organizer.


“One of Ultium Cells’s core values is the Inclusion of All People. Ultium Cells’ presence at Hampshire Unit School is part of the shift to broaden the appeal of STEM and manufacturing such that students, regardless if they’re male or female, can see the full scope of possibilities for their future.”

— Chris Desautels, Plant Director

Activities will begin at Hampshire Unit School at 8:00 a.m. and conclude by 11:30 a.m.

Middle school grade girls will split the morning participating in three parts:

1.        Hands-on build your own battery activity.

2.       Hands-on construction and racing of a battery-powered car.

3.       Panel discussion about education and career paths in STEM fields and automotive industry.

While the event focuses on increasing STEM and automotive career awareness among female students, middle school boys will also receive a hands-on STEM kit to assemble in their classes.

Ultium Cells is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution that will mass-produce Ultium battery cells to advance the push for a zero-emissions, all-electric future. Ultium Cells will provide battery cell capacity to support GM's North American electric vehicle assembly capacity of more than 1 million units by mid-decade, while supporting GM plans to supply other automotive companies and other industries including rail, aerospace, heavy trucking and marine customers. For more information about Ultium Cells, please visit

The Southern Automotive Women’s Forum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the personal and professional advancement of women in the automotive industry. SAWF achieves this mission by collaborating with industry partners to create educational, mentorship, and networking opportunities for its members. Our members serve as strong role models for one another and for young women of all ages who are interested in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) with the hope that they will apply these skills to the automotive industry of the future. Since its inception in 2010, SAWF has also awarded over $443,500 in scholarship funds to young women beginning their careers in STEM and to women seeking to enhance their opportunities. 

Shop Local (CDH)

Maury County shoppers, mark your calendars for shopping opportunities in town that keep dollars spent local.

The annual "Buy $50, get $10" local shopping promotion begins Nov. 29 through Nov. 30. Receive a $10 bonus card for every $50 you spend on Local First Gift Cards, a local shopping initiative launched by Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance.

Accepted at over 50 small businesses and restaurants across Maury County, Local First Gift Cards could just make the ideal stocking stuffer for anyone on your holiday list. Participating business include retail, eateries and services, including bed and breakfasts, breweries, wine bars, hair salons, boutiques, restaurants and more.

"Every penny" stays in the community and supports our vibrant local businesses, according to a recent Maury Alliance newsletter.

Wil Evans, president of Maury Alliance, said the program boosts local pride and fuels the local economy, keeping dollars in Maury County.

"By choosing to shop local, we are not merely engaging in a simple transaction for goods and services, we are fostering growth, creating jobs and fortifying the foundation of our community," Evans said.

"Keeping our dollars local supports the businesses run by our friends and family, by those that support our local nonprofits and by those that, in turn, buy their goods and services from other local artisans and suppliers.

The Maury Alliance Local First Gift Card program provides a similar benefit as other universal gift cards, allowing the user to choose where they would like to shop with the benefit of knowing their dollars are staying in the community, Evans said.

Kara J. Williams, director of the Maury County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is "very proud of the Local First Gift card and the growth it has had over the years."

"These gifts highlight our small local merchants and ensure dollars stay in our local economy. Our small businesses are an integral part of what makes Maury County a charming and thriving place."

Local First Gift Cards are available for purchase year-round at Maury Alliance. Visit for more info and a listing of participating businesses.

Give Where You Live (Press Release)

Today is Giving Tuesday, where citizens are encouraged to donate to local non-profits. Today only, you can take part in Give Where You Live Maury, which is a 24hour online fundraising event held to support Maury County’s local nonprofits and Maury County Public Schools. Give Where You Live Maury is hosted by United Way of Maury County.

This year there are 80 Organizations (18 of which are Maury County Public Schools) participating in the event.

 To Support these wonderful organizations on Giving Tuesday go to:

Donations are open now through Midnight tonight. The donations go directly to the organization/ school chosen by the donor.

Sponsors include Farm Bureau, Heritage Bank and Trust, Maury Regional Health, CPWS, and Wiremasters.

Give today only to the organizations in our community that make a difference in our community. Visit and donate to


Watershed Theater Performances (Press Release)

Watershed Public Theatre (WPT) is hosting two all-ages holiday events in December. The Farm Holiday Bazaar will take place December 2 & 3, and performances of A Special Maury Christmas run December 8-10, 2023.

The annual Farm Holiday Bazaar will take place at the Farm intentional community at 150 Schoolhouse Road, Summertown, Tennessee. Hours of operation are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, December 2, and 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday, December 3. A wide variety of vendors from the Southeast will be set up indoors and outdoors selling jewelry, handmade cards, bath and body products, tie dye clothing, glass art, knit and sewn goods, home décor, books, artwork and more. The free public event will also include food and beverages sold throughout both days. Proceeds raised from the event benefit Watershed Public Theatre’s mission.

 A Special Maury Christmas is a play that takes place in the 1970s as the Murrays are gathering at Grandma Jack and Grandma Sue’s house for their family Christmas celebration, where they share their favorite holiday traditions and sing popular Christmas songs. The original script was developed by the WPT Artist Lab, a cohort of nine local theatre makers working to develop innovative projects for Watershed Public Theatre.

“Watershed shows are a collaborative effort amongst its artists, striving for diversity and equality of creative endeavor,” noted Spring Hill resident Caleb Finley, a member of the Artist Lab. “A Special Maury Christmas is a perfect example, as we (the Artist Lab) have come together from many differing backgrounds to create a show that reflects not only each of us at the table, but also those in the community.”


Along with Finley, the other members of the WPT Artist Lab are Heather Barnard (Lewisburg), David Fonville, Jessica Fonville (Mount Pleasant), Zach Perkins (Columbia), Christian Randell, Katelyn Rust, Tim Rust and McKenna Steel (Spring Hill). Additional contributions to A Special Maury Christmas are provided by director Beverly Mitchell (Columbia) and actors Kay Ayers (Brentwood), Darin Grebel, Lucas McGuire, Daniel Meeks (Spring Hill), Haley Hixson, Kailen Long (Columbia) and Vilah Sartwell (Culleoka).


Performances of A Special Maury Christmas run December 8 and 9 at 7:00 pm, December 9 and 10 at 3:00 pm at Jones Student Center, Columbia State Community College, 1665 Hampshire Pike, Columbia. Tickets are $10 for children/students, $12 for senior adults and $15 for general admission. Cookie decorating kits containing two sugar cookies (provided by B’s Salty and Sweet), icing and sprinkles may be purchased for $6. Beverages will be sold, and a complimentary Christmas themed photo station will also be available for family photos.

For more information about the Farm Holiday Bazaar and A Special Maury Christmas and to purchase tickets, visit or call 931-797-6551.


About Watershed Public Theatre

At Watershed Public Theatre, they believe that theatre is the ultimate collaborative art and work to bring together arts professionals, volunteers, students and patrons to share in the illumination that only live performance can provide. They maintain their focus on nurturing community and practicing social and environmental responsibility while striving for the highest quality of artistic and educational experiences.


For more details or to join WPT’s mailing list, visit,

The Well Feeds 1000 For Thanksgiving (CDH)

More than 1,000 families were served through Spring Hill's The Well Outreach food pantry in July reaching two consecutive months of serving 1,000-plus, a number that has spiked over the past few months, according to The Well executive director Shelly Sassen.

Throughout the Thanksgiving season, the number of those in need continues to rise.

On Sunday, volunteers at The Well's Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway served over 450 local families in need, donating all the fixings, including turkey, pie, and sides.

Thompson Station Church sponsored the giveaway event, sending over 100 volunteers to help, plus community volunteers also donated their time on Sunday to hand-deliver Thanksgiving dinners to families.

"You were all the hands and feet of Christ today walking alongside those in need," Sassen said after the giveaway. "It is such an honor to be part of such a giving community. God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving from our Well family to yours."

Throughout the Thanksgiving season, The Well is providing groceries to over 1,600 families that would otherwise go without.

"This is only possible because of the generosity of volunteers and supporters sacrificing their time and resources so that those facing hunger in our community know the gift of food this holiday season," Sassen said.

June Lake Features St. Jude Home (CDH)

The ongoing June Lake mixed-use development, which will feature a variety of homes, businesses, office space and hotels, will in addition feature the 2024 St. Jude Dream Home.

The approximately 3,278 square-foot home is estimated to cost an estimated $386,500 and will be located in what will be known as the Saddlewalk subdivision, according to a Spring Hill city staff report. This will also be the first St. Jude home built in Spring Hill.

Signature Homes, the company overseeing the St. Jude Home brought the project before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen this last seeking a waiver to the home's building permit and other related fees, which would total about $5,855. This would include things like grading, blasting, plumbing and mechanical permits, adequate facilities tax and June Lake assessment fees.

"Signature Homes has been chosen to build the St. Jude Dream Home again this year, and we have not only enthusiastically accepted, but will be donating 100% of our overhead and profit of this home," Signature Homes Project Coordinator Heather Pace stated in an email to city staff. "There is a tremendous amount of community support for St. Jude in Southern Middle Tennessee."

In addition, Signature Homes requested a waiver of fees associated with a traffic impact study, as well as water and sewer tap and reserve fees.

The latter two fees may not be waivered, according to the resolution, but the city would allocate funding equal to $3,361 for the traffic study and $3,335.65 for water and sewer.

"Signature Homes' primary goals in partnering with the St. Jude Dream Home program is to build the home at the lowest possible cost, and help to raise childhood cancer awareness," Pace said. "This will allow us to maximize the amount of money that will be sent to St. Jude."

The request was ultimately approved by BOMA members, but came with a few amendments, particularly regarding the traffic study and water and sewer funding by the city.

City Administrator Pam Caskie said the reason the traffic, water and sewer were listed separately is due to the state law preventing them from being waived. The proposed city funds would then be used to pay for the fee instead, Caskie said.

"In this case, what we are proposing to do is to basically take revenues we were going to spend out of the appropriate fund on legitimate traffic, water and sewer impacts anyway and divert them through the impact fee on behalf of the St. Jude's Home, thus fulfilling their commitment to being paid," Caskie said. "This is an acceptable approach, and probably the only legal way to do it."

Alderman Trent Linville said he had no issue with the legal aspect of this approach, but described the intention as being the city taking an "affirmative action" to a particular organization, when there are many others who do not receive a subsidy from the city.

"I think St. Jude is an incredible organization with an amazing charitable purpose, but we can say that about hundreds, if not thousands of other organizations that we currently don't subsidize," Linville said. "I would support the waiver of the fees, but not the city taking those affirmative actions to essentially pay money on behalf of St. Jude. This would be the city affirmatively putting money toward the project, rather than us simply waiving and not accepting the fees."

Linville later moved to amend the resolution to remove the traffic, water and sewer funds, which passed 7-1 prior to the final vote, which was approved unanimously.

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

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

Mr. Waymon Logan Hickman passed away peacefully at home on November 25, 2023 at the age of 89. Funeral services will be conducted on Wednesday, November 29, 2023 at 12pm at Columbia First United Methodist Church. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 10am until the time of the service at Columbia First United Methodist Church. There will be a private family burial.

Boyd Cecil Gilliam, 96, a lifelong resident of Maury County, and retired warehouse manager for Charles C Parks Co., died Friday, November 24, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, November 30, 2023 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 3:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M. and on Thursday from 1:00 P.M. until the time of service at the funeral home

…And now, news from around the state…

Toll Lanes Coming to TN (MSM)

Tennessee’s Department of Transportation met with Gov. Bill Lee’s budget team last week but its larger long-term plan is on schedule to be released in December, Commissioner Butch Eley said.

The December plan announcement for the state’s Transportation Modernization Act implementation will include a proposal to spend $3.3 billion in state funds for road work given to the department last year along with the proposal to implement toll lanes into highway plan.

The toll lane plan will allow the department to negotiate deals for private companies to add lanes to Tennessee highways and make those toll lanes, with the private company collecting tolls to recoup their portion of negotiated project costs.

Eley said the budget meeting was a huge change from a year before, when his department talked about how it was at a critical funding juncture.

“We were facing unprecedented congestion, we were facing a revenue stream or funding stream that is unsustainable and, frankly, it was taking us way too long to get projects completed,” Eley said.

The one-time state funding increase skewed the department’s budget from $6.1 billion in overall funding in fiscal year 2024 to a proposed $2.8 billion in fiscal 2025.

That includes a proposed $31.3 million in federal funding increase and a $3.3 billion drop in state funding along with $1.5 million less from local taxes.

Department leadership said that it also starts projects believing there is federal funding potential so that the project is eligible if funding becomes available.

“Should federal money become available, either in the form of a formula dollars or a grant, we’re ready to be able to put that on a project,” said TDOT Chief Engineer Will Reid. “We want to maximize what we get from the feds.”

Reid added that, while overall federal funding hasn’t significantly increased, the department is seeing double-digit increases in road-building materials, from guardrail components to asphalt, and large increases in labor costs as fewer individuals go into those trades for a career.

TDOT collected $1.1 billion in user fees including gas tax and vehicle registration fees in financial 2022 that dropped 8% to $1.0 billion in financial 2023 with a one-year suspension of passenger vehicle registration fees. That bill carrying that moratorium had estimated a $121.6 million total impact.

Eley said that the department would move as quickly as possible to start the toll lane program, hoping for a commercial close to the first deals by November 2026.

“We are going to be as aggressive as we can be and move as quickly as we can,” Eley said.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Maury Christmas Home Tour a long-standing tradition in Maury County, Tennessee. The event started in 1951 as the “Majestic Middle Tennessee Tour of Homes” and was held annually in the Fall. Over the years, it has evolved into the Maury Christmas Tour of Homes held yearly during the first weekend in December.

The 2023 tour hours are 9am – 4pm on December 1st and 2nd.

A variety of public and private homes will open their doors to guest during this weekend event.

One $25 ticket gives tour-goers access to all the tour sites. The tour is a fundraiser for the Athenaeum historic site in Columbia.

The proceeds of this tour ensure that the Athenaeum will be able to operate for another year. Typically, the proceeds of this tour are enough to fund the historic site’s yearly operating costs, with a few dollars left over for ongoing restoration work.

For tickets and to view this year’s home tour sites, visit


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