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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 12, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Spring Hill Mayor Comments on Strike Potential (CDH)

As nearly 4,000 General Motors employees await the possibility of joining their fellow United Auto Workers as part of the union's ongoing nationwide strike, Spring Hill Mayor Jim Hagaman commented on how it could negatively affect workers and the city's economy as a whole.

The national strike among a few states, now in its fourth week, has been a looming possibility when it comes to the 11 million square-foot Spring Hill plant, the largest in North America.

And while the concerns have mainly been a demand for fair pay, retirement and other benefits for workers, another concern is how such a strike could adversely affect families, businesses and other facets of the local economy.

"For our city of Spring Hill, we value 100% the partnership, as corporate citizens, that GM has with the city and the union that supports them," Hagaman said.

"Any kind of work interruption on that scale, when the whole union goes on strike, is significant to not only the workers, but their families as well. Because when they go on strike, it's no work and no pay. They get a $500-a-week stipend, but compared to what they are used to, it's going to hurt them in the wallet, and we don't want that for them."

Hagaman also addressed the effect of a strike on the local economy regarding workers who shop, dine and spend money in Spring Hill.

"They eat, shop and play in Spring Hill. So if they go on strike, especially for a long period of time, that's tax dollars and revenue generators that are not coming into our coffers to provide the things we need to provide for," Hagaman said.

The city's dependence on GM employees to remain at work could also affect the city's overall budget, which includes things like city worker salary pay, utilities and infrastructure needs, as well as capital project spending.

He also addressed GM suppliers, who might be out of work with no union backup.

"It's things like funding our payroll, paying our debts we have in capital projects, things like that. Also, the people that supply GM in Spring Hill, they don't have a union and only work when GM is operating. So, if it's shut down, then it will affect them as well, and they don't have a stipend pay just to get by."

Even though each week since the strike began has not resulted in Spring Hill joining the picket line, preparations have been put in place in the event the Local UAW 1853 chapter is called to action.

This has included coordinating efforts between the city and UAW, as well as local law enforcement, nonprofit groups and other entities to ensure safety and public service to strikers and their families.

"Our encouragement remains the same, and we have met in the preceding weeks to try and keep public safety," Hagaman said. "We have established, with the union mainly, five places in the city where people can strike. We will provide barriers and visuals for passing motorists. If they do go on strike, we ask them to please be in compliance with the plans everyone agreed to so they are as safe as possible.

"GM and our local UAW have been a staple and a mainstay in our city for decades, and we have always honored them and will continue to honor them. We just hope for the best and a quick resolution."

After the contract expired on Sept. 14, the strike has now expanded to about 25,000 workers at 43 facilities across the country. The latest plants to go on strike were Chicago's Ford Assembly Plant and General Motors' Lansing Delta Township Assembly in Lansing, Mich.

The last time the Spring Hill GM plant went on strike was 2019, when tragedy occurred after a picketer died after being struck by a car.

The latest update is expected to occur Friday, which has been the case weekly since the strike was initiated in September.


CPWS Expansion (MSM)

Columbia Power & Water Systems presented the Columbia City Council last week with a request for up to $40 million in funding to expand its water treatment plant, as well as a new raw water intake and other system improvements.

The request was made during the council’s Oct. 5 study session and was only a topic for discussion. No action is expected to be taken this week when the council holds its regular meeting on Oct. 12.

According to a slideshow presented to council members, CPWS is seeking to build five new pumping stations, two 1.5 million gallon capacity storage tanks and over 25 miles of water-mains as part of its short-term program. CPWS’ long-term expansion plans call for a new Duck River intake capable of drawing 32 million gallons of water per day, 16.5 miles of raw water transmission lines and an expansion of the current water treatment plant’s capacity by 12 million gallons per day. Currently the plant is capable of treating 14 million gallons of water per day, according to the city’s website.

As part of the presentation, CPWS told the council that each month of delay adds an estimated $1 million to the project costs and that without the expansion, CPWS could have to stop issuing water availability letters.

The council will also take up on second reading of a proposed $20.9 million amendment to the city’s 2023-24 budget. The majority of that amount is carried-over balances in capital outlay projects ($1.7 million in Iron Bridge Project, $1.324 million in renovations to Fire Station #1 and $6.752 million for work on US 31/412). Also included in that budget amendment are various re-budgeting of funds not received by the end of the previous fiscal year.

Also on the council’s agenda are the acceptance of street and drainage improvements in the Baker Landing, Taylor Landing and Valley View subdivisions.

Another resolution will dedicate Columbia Fire Station #3 in memory of the late Barbara McIntyre, who was Columbia’s first female vice mayor from 1974-78 and later the city’s first female mayor starting in 1990. McIntyre passed away in 2016.

The council will take up first reading on a proposed rezoning of 7.49 acres at the intersection of Honey Farm Way and Nashville Highway from PUD-CEG (Planned Urban Development-Commercial Enterprise General) to CD-4C (General Urban Corridor Character District). The concept plans reflect restaurant and retail uses and was recommended for approval by the Planning in September by a 3-1 vote. If approved, a public hearing and second vote will be held in November.


Assistant City Finance Director Named (Press Release)

The City of Columbia is delighted to announce the latest addition to the Finance Department, Jamey Owen, as the new Assistant Finance Director. After an intensive interview and selection process, Owen was selected for the position. In her new role as the City’s Assistant Finance Director, Owen is responsible for planning, directing, and overseeing the day-to-day activities of the finance department. The finance department team includes four personnel involved in accounts payable, purchasing, fixed asset management, risk management, and payroll. In addition to the day-to-day oversight, Owen will play a key role in assisting the Assistant City Manager/Finance Director with budgeting, financial reporting, and special projects.


Owen holds a Bachelor's Degree from Martin Methodist College and her Certified Municipal Finance Officers designation, demonstrating her commitment to education and her dedication to her field. With a background in both the public and private sectors, she boasts nearly a decade of experience as the Finance Director for the City of Shelbyville, TN, and also the City of Fayetteville, TN, where she acquired invaluable knowledge in governmental operations. During her extensive career, she also served as the Finance Manager at Marelli (Calsonic) and many years at Newell Rubbermaid, lastly serving as Senior Cost Accountant, showcasing her versatility in various financial roles.


Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Thad Jablonski stated, “We are glad to bring Jamey aboard the Finance Department. Jamey’s experience, knowledge, and expertise will be well received as the Finance Department begins the implementation of new finance and accounting software. Jamey is a great fit at the City of Columbia, and her professional background lends itself to the department’s commitment to excellence. I do not doubt that her leadership will contribute to the continued success and progress of the department and our community.”


Spring Hill Growth Boundary (MSM)

The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to approve the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) map in Williamson County to send for approval.

By a vote of 8-1, with vice-mayor Kevin Gavigan the lone dissenting vote, the board approved the initial map plan for the area east of I-65 and an amendment to the northwest section of the map to eliminate most of the land north of Barker Road.

Both citizens and Alderman Matt Fitterer called the northwest corner approval a compromise that leaves both sides a little unhappy, but is fair.

Urban Growth Boundaries are designated spaces of land outside of the current city limits of a municipality that could reasonably be utilized for future development. In order for a city to have the ability to annex property in the future, it must be inside the outlined UGB.

What a UGB does not do – despite comments from both citizens and elected officials – is prepare land for use without the consent of the landowner.

“We have absolutely no ability, as a city, to annex property without the property owner’s consent. We have donut holes in the middle of Spring Hill where county residents utilize our roads, utilize our public services, utilize our parks, utilize our library – they get first responders from us through mutual aid,” Fitterer said. “If we had the ability to force annexation, we would have annexed those donut holes years ago. We would’ve annexed GM years ago.

“We haven’t done it because we can’t. This is not a pathway to annexation, state law doesn’t allow it.”

Williamson County District 2 commissioner Judy Herbert spoke during the most recent meeting as a representative of residents in the proposed map.

“They’re not complaining about what you want to do with other citizens’ property, only their own. They want to remain rural in the county. They feel like Spring Hill is setting them up to take their property for eminent domain to build an airport and roadways,” she said.

Eminent domain, however, is a moot point if a property isn’t located within the city limits, but could still be used by other agencies if necessary, no matter where the boundary lies.

“When the state widens Duplex Road – which is a state road – and when the state widens Lewisburg Pike – which is a state road, they’ll use eminent domain whether that property is in a UGB, city limits or anything else. Eminent domain has nothing to do with this conversation,” Fitterer said.

During his comments, Fitterer harkened back to a pair of attempts by the City of Spring Hill to bring a standalone emergency room to the city that was met with resistance from Williamson County.

“In both occurrences, the paperwork filed (by Williamson Medical Center) with the state and with the courts, stated that providing medical services in Spring Hill was unnecessary and would negatively impact their business,” Fitterer recalled. “Back in 2006 and in 2010, the county had an interest in protecting their economic investment – their hospital – and they were willing to deny Spring Hill medical services in order to do so.

“I look at this as largely protecting our economic investment and the $80 million we’re putting into roads, especially connecting the interchange to (US) 431. I don’t understand why the county thinks it’s appropriate for them to protect their investment, but inappropriate for us to protect ours.”

According to Fitterer, the city has annexed only 1.5 square miles of land in the past 20 years, with most of that coming from land around Battle Creek schools, Northfield and Rippavilla.

Both Fitterer and Alderman Vincent Fuqua noted the criticism the city has taken over the years for poor planning – much of it deserved, Fitterer conceded – but said this is an opportunity for the city to be able to plan ahead in the event future landowners have different viewpoints.

“I hope that every single one of your properties remains in your families. That cattle is raised, that corn is grown, swapped out with soybeans every year, and the growth that we’re planning for never occurs,” Fuqua said. “We have been scrutinized on planning, and my option is A just in case this city can plan and blend out. It’s not my goal to say a Shell station or a shopping mall will be on your land.

“This is to plan for 20-30-50 years down the road that you, as landowners, sell that to a developer so that we can react and say what that’s going to look like and have some integrity behind it.”

Alderman Trent Linville added, “Growth is coming to Williamson County. What we have to decide is if we want to react to the growth or plan for the growth.”


Nelson House to be Restored (MSM)

Columbia’s historic Nelson House Hotel is set to undergo an exterior renovation with plans to eventually turn the 1828 building into a boutique hotel.

During its Sept. 20 meeting, the Columbia Historic Zoning Commission unanimously approved a request by property owner Brian Peterson to repair and restore the exterior west wall of the building, located at 704 N Main Street.

This is the second request to renovate the historical building within the last year. In September 2022, the board approved a similar proposal, but the work was never finished by the applicant.

“Our plan for this property is for this to be the gem of downtown Columbia,” Peterson said. “We will be doing a $3 million plus renovation of this property to restore it into a seven-room boutique hotel, a fine dining restaurant on level one, the back parking lot of the property which is now all asphalt will be a botanical garden when we’re done, and the left-side parking lot will be a ceremony garden with beautiful landscaping structure.”

According to the project description, the operation would include exterior repair and restoration of the west wall by cleaning, tuck pointing and sealing existing brick. The description also states the need to remove and reinstall bulging bricks, which pose a safety issue.

“I’ve seen buildings in the past that have had the same issues, and we certainly don’t want that building to suffer any further damage,” development services planner Robert Archibald said. “I think it’s imperative that this be brought before us and to have a structural engineer involved as well.”

Peterson said funding for construction has already been approved while he awaits a formal letter of financial support from the Tennessee Historical Commission.

“We hope to close on the construction loan give or take at the end of October and start as soon as we can,” Peterson said of the first phase of the project. “We’ll start the first half in November on the front exterior project so we can get that taken care of before the weather changes.”

Peterson said he expects to complete the first phase within the next six months, after which he will apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the full project.

“We have every intention of starting the day after we close on the construction loan. Hopefully have it complete by the end of the year,” he said.

“Our goal is to fix the front and by the end of the year, jump straight into the project.”

The Nelson House one of the oldest buildings in Columbia’s Downtown Historic Business District. The federal style, three-story building served as an inn throughout the 19th century. Pleasant Nelson sought Nathan Vaught, the “master builder” of Maury County to construct the building. It was considered to be the most fashionable place to stay and dine. Tragedy has also taken place in the building. In 1838, William Hawkins Polk, brother of then Speaker of the House James K. Polk killed Nashville lawyer Richard Hightower Hayes following an argument at the inn. Drama took place again in 1863 when Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest murdered Confederate Lt. Andrew Gould during a dispute.


Artists Wanted (Press Release)

The City of Columbia is inviting professional artists to submit their qualifications for the creation of public sculpture installations to be permanently displayed outdoors in the Columbia Arts District and in historic downtown Columbia, Tennessee.

These public sculptures serve to inspire further development of the arts, culture, and tourism in Columbia.

Copies of the solicitation (#999-1023-28) are available at 700 North Garden St, Columbia TN 38401 or by contacting the purchasing agent at 931-560-1580.

Sealed qualifications are due no later than 2:00 PM CT, Monday, November 6, 2023.


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

Mr. Philip Andre Gelinas, 62, material handler for Landmark Ceramics, died on Monday, October, 9, 2023. A gathering of Mr. Gelinas’ friends and family will take place Saturday, October 14, 2023, from 5:00 P.M.- 7:00 P.M. at Towne Coffee in Mt. Pleasant, his favorite coffee shop.


…And now, news from around the state…

New TPAC (TNLookout)

The State Building Commission is set to give the nod for $200 million in state funds to construct a new Tennessee Performing Art Center at Nashville’s East Bank, moving out of the building at the corner of Deaderick and 6th streets.

Funding for the project, which is a key ingredient of Metro Nashville’s East Bank effort and $2.1 billion Tennessee Titans stadium project, is included in the state’s fiscal 2023-24 capital improvements list.

State officials have been angling to move the performing arts center for at least two years. It’s an integral part of former Metro Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s vision for the east side of the Cumberland River. TPAC was founded in 1980 and operates in the James K. Polk Cultural Center across from the War Memorial Plaza.

An analysis of Metro’s project by The Fallon Company shows the 20-acre tract contains areas for office space, TPAC and parking, which led to a reduction in the number of housing units to 745 from 1,500, only 200 of which would be considered affordable housing. Advocates for affordable housing have opposed the former mayor’s East Bank plan because of the lack of space for affordable housing.

New Mayor Freddie O’Connell, who opposed the Titans stadium project, is charged with handling a project he didn’t support.

The Building Commission also will consider approving the start of work on a $130.4 million renovation project for the Old Library and Archives and Supreme Court Building next to the State Capitol. The current state budget contains $7.3 million for the job.

The state will use a construction manager/general contractor, which will be involved in design because of the complexity and historic nature of the project.

In addition, the commission is to consider approving the early design phase of Lindsey Nelson baseball stadium renovation and expansion at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, at a total cost of $95.8 million. Some $85 million is to come through the Tennessee State School Bond Authority, and $9.3 million is coming from gifts to the university.


Tennessee Crafts Festival (MSM)

The 45th Annual Fall Tennessee Craft Fair returns to Nashville’s Centennial Park on Oct. 13-15 at the Great Lawn near the Parthenon.

Event hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. On Saturday and Sunday, visitors can park in the HCA lots on Park Plaza and catch the free shuttle that runs in 15-minute loops.

The popular Demonstration Tent will feature local artists from The Clay Lady’s Campus, the Tennessee Association of Woodturners, Louise Nuttle and Aja Bain. Appalachian Center of Crafts’ new Mobile Glass Unit will allow visitors to see live glass blowing.

The Kids’ Tent provides opportunities for young fairgoers to make their own artistic creations to take home.

Artists who are just starting out in their craft careers will be featured in the Emerging Makers Tent, an opportunity in which mentors shepherd emerging artists through the craft fair process, from set up to chatting with patrons to selling their work.

Go to tennesseecraft.org/fallfair for more information.


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