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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for November 3, 2023

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


We start with local news…

Fire Chief Cobb Suspended (CDH)

Columbia Fire & Rescue Chief Ty Cobb has been suspended from his duties for 30 days, which city officials state is due to "personnel issues."

Cobb is scheduled to return to work Nov. 27 following the 30-day leave, Columbia City Manager Tony Massey said. Although no further details or comments regarding the reasoning for the suspension were shared at this time.

"He's been suspended for 30 days for personnel-related issues, and he will return as chief on Nov. 27. He will resume his duties," Massey said.

Massey added that he could not comment further on the issue, but looks forward to Cobb's return to duty following the suspension.

"I look forward to Chief Cobb coming back on the 27th and we can start everything anew," Massey said.

Cobb said he does not wish to comment on the matter at this time.

Cobb was initially appointed as interim chief following the death of former Chief Tommy Hemphill, officially being sworn in July 1, 2017.

In 2022, Cobb was awarded Career Fire Chief of the Year by the Tennessee Fire Chief’s Association.

Since becoming chief, Cobb was also instrumental in obtaining, and maintaining, the department's ISO Class 1 rating, making Columbia Fire & Rescue the first Class 1 Department in the State of Tennessee.


GM and the End of a Strike (CDH)

Excitement still flickered under Marcus Edwards' heavy eyelids Wednesday after a long day of celebration and study at a United Auto Workers leadership meeting in Lebanon.

Now that the Big Three automakers and the heavy-hitting union negotiators have hashed out a tentative deal, those details must be communicated to roughly 400,000 union members before a final vote.

Local union leaders like Edwards — a veteran at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville — are the first line of that communication, and they are fired up. On Wednesday at UAW's Region 8 headquarters, Edwards learned the finer points of the tentative contracts.

"We fought hard to get here and to bring back the middle class," said Edwards, who has built Ford trucks for 24 years. "We gave up everything in 2009. We didn't take the bailout. Now, there will be so much more security going forward when this contract is ratified."

Thanks in part to Spring Hill's massive General Motors facility.

Saturday's surprise strike at the local manufacturing plant spurred a rapid end to negotiations. By Monday, GM and union leaders had agreed to tentative deals following agreements over the weekend with Ford and Chrysler-parent Stellantis.

Not that it was easy.

When UAW President Shawn Fain called Region 8 director Tim Smith to issue the order for the GM Spring Hill plant to strike on Saturday evening, Smith had to work fast. At the time, Spring Hill workers were enjoying an annual Trunk-or-Treat Halloween party.

Spring Hill employs approximately 4,000 workers.

"Kids are everywhere," Smith said, remembering the moment. "But we had to strike. They were ready. In one hour, they were out of the plant and we were on the picket lines."

Union wins include a 25% across-the-board pay scale increase with top pay of $50 an hour, a 10% 401(k) retirement contribution and an end to a tiered wage structure that paid temporary workers as little as $16 an hour for jobs that full-time employees received $30 or more per hour.

Smith cheered major concessions beyond compensation increases, from improved union seniority rights to the ability to organize non-union sites such as the Ultium Cells battery plant in Spring Hill and Ford's Blue Oval City outside Memphis.

"With the wins we have in this contract, Blue Oval down in Memphis will be a UAW plant, OK," Smith said. "In Spring Hill, Ultium Cells will be UAW represented and I'm proud of that. I know that. I believe this is an historic agreement and it's going to pass overwhelmingly."

First, they must seal the deal.

Now that the regional offices have been briefed on the contracts, UAW's negotiating committee will travel the nation, speaking to autoworkers about the deal. Then, workers will vote.

Smith expects the contracts to be approved considering the enthusiasm with which workers joined the "stand-up strike," which called on limited, localized plants to stop work rather than a nationwide shut down.

In late October, union negotiators were working around-the-clock as negotiations ran into the sixth week. Smith said a timely strategy worked to ensure a quick resolution.

"If you’ve never bargained a contract and don’t know what that’s like, you've got to stay firm," Smith said. "You've got to stay crisp. You may not sleep but two or three hours and you’re back in that bargaining room bargaining with the company.

"It’s a phenomenal feeling when you achieve something of this magnitude."

The willingness of workers to participate helped secure a quick victory, especially once Spring Hill's large workforce walked off the job on Saturday.

"Across the country, workers were ready and eager to hit the picket lines to stand up for their futures and what they rightfully should have: better wages, health care, health and safety rights," Smith said.

Spring Hill's enormous impact made the strike impossible to ignore, Smith believes, as a deal was reached within two days.

"When you are Spring Hill and you build 13 different engines that go across the country, they are going to talk pretty quick," Smith said. "It's no different than in Louisville, where they build the Super Duty series and the Expedition. They don't want these plants to sit very long.

"The company knows their business and we know our capability."


Crossroads to Home Café (WKOM Audio 3:54)

Yesterday, the Crossroads to Home Café held their grand opening. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting and spoke with Crossroads Board Member Joe Kilgore and café manager Kevin Benderman…


Heritage Bank Names New VP (CDH)

Heritage Bank & Trust leadership announced the addition of Shannon Fitzgerald as senior vice president of operations.

She will serve as the newest member of the bank’s management team, according to a bank media release.

Fitzgerald has 37 years of banking experience, dating back to 1986. She began her career with First Farmers & Merchants before working at Community First Bank, Reliant Bank and Tristar Bank.

All those years have been on the operational side of banking, including deposits, retail, and loan operations, the release said with most of those years working locally in Columbia.

A lifelong resident of Maury County, Fitzgerald regularly supports and volunteers with The Well Outreach.

“We are very excited to welcome Shannon to our family,” says Heritage Bank & Trust President & CEO Jim Robinson. “Her years of experience will better enable us to live out our mission of building community relationships with integrity and exceptional customer service.”

Fitzgerald expressed her excitement about the new challenge.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the team at Heritage Bank & Trust," Fitzgerald said. "My roots are in Maury County, and I love being able to serve my community while working with some of the best in the business.”


Smith-Wynd Capital (WKOM Audio 2:47)

Yesterday, a new financial services company, Smith Wynd Capital opened their second location in Spring Hill. WKOM/WKRM’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting to learn more about the what Smith Wynd has to offer…


The Learning Experience (WKOM Audio 2:00)

Yesterday, The Learning Experience, a new day care, opened their doors in Spring Hill. Our own Delk Kennedy attended the grand opening and spoke to Sarah McFall about the brand new facility…


MRMC Hires New Doc (Press Release)

 Shilpa Salpekar, MD, an internal medicine specialist, has joined the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center as a hospital medicine physician.

 Dr. Salpekar received her medical degree at Smt. NHL Municipal Medical College in Ahmedabad, India. She completed a residency in internal medicine at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Easton, Pennsylvania. Dr. Salpekar is board certified in internal medicine.

 Maury Regional Medical Group, an affiliate of Maury Regional Health, provides services for Maury Regional’s hospital medicine physicians. These physicians are specialists who devote their time and expertise to adult and pediatric patients exclusively within the hospital setting. The hospital medicine physicians are trained in internal medicine and pediatrics and can care for patients ranging from infants to the elderly.


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


Mrs. Jean Gwaltney Worley, 96, a long time resident of Dry Fork Road in Hampshire, died Sunday, October 29, 2023 at The Fountains of Franklin. Funeral services for Mrs. Worley will be conducted Saturday, Nov. 4, at 11:00 a.m. at West 7th Street Church of Christ. Burial will follow in the Worley Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Friday from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols, and on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. prior to the service at West 7th Street Church of Christ.


Mr. Charles Henry Fraser, 97, former resident of Columbia, died Saturday, October 28, 2023 at Stone’s River Manor in Murfreesboro. Graveside services will be conducted Saturday, November 4, 2023 at 2:00 P.M. at Arlington Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant. Online condolences may be extended at www.oakesandnichols.com.


…And now, news from around the state…

Christmas Tour at Governor’s Residence (MSM)

Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee are inviting Tennesseans to celebrate the Christmas season at the Tennessee Residence with 2023 Christmas tours.

Beginning on Friday, Dec. 1, Tennessee’s historic home will be decorated for Christmas in this year’s theme, “Heaven and Nature Sing.” The decorations will portray the larger-than-life magic experienced in the delight and merriment of the holiday season, the beauty of Tennessee’s natural landscapes and the joy of the coming of Christ and the salvation of the world.

“The Lord has continually poured out His favor upon our state, and the heart of Tennessee’s treasure lies in the creation He has gifted us with,” said First Lady Maria Lee in a press release. “Each year, Bill and I look forward to sharing in the joys of the holiday season with our fellow Tennesseans, and we invite them to join us in reflecting on the blessings of life and celebrating the beauty that surrounds us daily.”

In partnership with the First Lady’s Tennessee Serves initiative, the Governor and First Lady are continuing their Christmas tradition of encouraging guests to participate in giving back during the holiday season by bringing requested items to support the work of five select nonprofits from across the state. This year’s nonprofits include Birthright of Memphis, Creative Aging Memphis, Dismas House, Jonathan’s Path and Sevier County Food Ministries.

Christmas tours will be available Friday, Dec. 1-Sunday, Dec. 3 and Thursday, Dec. 7-Sunday, Dec. 10. All tours are self-guided, free to the public and require a reservation.

To schedule a tour or for additional information and requested donations, visit the Tennessee Residence website at www.tn.gov/residence.

Giles County Store Shut Down (NewsChannel2)

A Giles County businessman, whose store was just shut down for being a “public nuisance” could be facing even more serious charges, according to District Attorney Brent Cooper of the 22nd Judicial District, whose office worked with officers to investigate the case.

On Oct. 26, Giles County deputies shut down the Honeysuckle Market in Pulaski at 715 North First Street.

News 2 obtained video of the moment. It shows deputies inside the store, intercepting Adel Basta inside his own store, informing him that his business is being shut down.

The shutting down of the market, now surrounded by crime tape, comes after months of investigation into the alleged sale of vapes and alcohol to underage buyers.

In August, News 2 showed Giles County undercover video of an underage person buying alcohol and vape products from the market.

Investigator Mike Thomason spearheaded the investigation. “[Basta] went before the Pulaski beer board and they pulled his license for 30 days and fined him $10,000 and he just goes right back to doing his criminal activity,” Thomason said.

According to Thomason, 53-year-old Basta had been receiving shipments of THC vapes from California through the US Mail. He said some products, with 88% THC were kept at his home.

“The cost of these THC vapes from California are $45 apiece. He instructs the clerks to ring these up on the register as newspaper. $45 newspaper. That way it is not taxed. And he is laundering his money on this drug stuff through his business.”

Cooper told News 2 that charges against Basta are forthcoming, pending lab results and finalizing the investigation. Thomason confirmed that federal investigators are also interested in this case.

In a statement to News 2, Cooper wrote, “The illegal sale of vapes and cannabis products have become rampant in this district. Hopefully, this case will serve as notice that law enforcement is not turning a blind eye to it.”


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

As the holiday season continues to pick up, it'll be a great opportunity to get early gift shopping done, as well as having a little fun in the meantime.

November's First Fridays kicks of from 5-8 p.m., bringing all the usual monthly fun to downtown Columbia.

Shops will stay open late, live music will spill out into the streets and a whole lot more.

Chief Smiley Ricks & The C-Town Specials will perform their monthly Barber Shop Jam at Daniel's Barber Shop on the Square starting at 7 p.m.

Maury Alliance will also host its Strolling on the 6th block party along West 6th Street, featuring food trucks, music and vendors.


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