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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 13, 2023


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


We start with local news…

County and GM Negotiating Deal (WKOM)

After years of negotiations through the county’s Industrial Development Board or IDB, the Maury County Commission will be voting on the next long-term tax agreement with General Motors next week.

In 1985 Saturn(General Motors) negotiated a 60% real property tax discount for 40 years with the Maury County Commission on the then brand new plant in Spring Hill. Currently, General Motors is attempting to finalize negotiations with the Industrial Development Board of Maury County for an extension of the original/amended agreement at a 50% discount until 2045 on the original plant real estate plus the new 1,400,000 square foot paint shop expansion.

These negotiations began on July 7, 2020 when GM officials, John Blanchard and Troy Kennedy, advised then, IDB Vice Chairman Bobby Harris and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles that General Motors was about to spend $2 billion on a plant expansion, so in their opinion, Maury County should extend the original PILOT agreement until 2045.


Now, after three plus years of negotiations, GM and the IDB are seeking termination in year 38 of the 40 year agreement to extend the discounts with a 20 year extension.

There are some dissenting voices in the county who believe that GM should be paying more into the county’s tax coffers. The discrepancy between the land and buildings payments by General Motors versus the payments made by Nissan and Volkswagen are significant. Rutherford County receives $3.9 million from Nissan annually while Hamilton County receives $3.3 million from Volkswagen for plants that are 30% and 73% smaller respectively.

During negotiations in Nashville, then IDB Chairman Jim Parks presented the previous IDB unanimously approved resolution, seeking $5,000,000 annually for the land and buildings real estate tax. GM responded by offering $1million until 2045. The current deal has the IDB seeking county commission approval on $1.2 million for 3 years and $1.5 million for two years, then the IDB would renegotiate via a probable assessment value lawsuit.

According to former Industrial Development Board Chairman Bobby Harris, if you compare GM payments to the other auto plants in the state you can estimate Maury County has been under paid by millions over the last 38 years. At a $3 to $5 million per year shortage, the citizens of the County would lose $60 to $100 million over the next 20 years if the pending deal is approved.

The county commission will vote on this issue on Monday, October 16th. If voted down, the county and GM would go back to the negotiating table to work out a new deal.


County May Hire Lobbyist to Fight for Growth Cost (CDH)

The Maury County Budget Committee unanimously approved $75,000 to hire a lobbyist to fight for a bill that would generate funds from new construction to support growth in Maury County and other fast-growing counties in Tennessee.

The full commission will consider the funding at its next regular meeting.

Elected county officials are laying groundwork to support the bill that would amend the existing state "County Powers Relief Act," passed in 2006, which could help growing counties statewide to secure more funds from new construction.

The proposed amendment would allow high-growth counties, like Maury and others which qualified, to enforce a new adequate facilities tax at $3 per square foot of new development — an increase from the existing $1 per square foot — to solely apply toward school capital expenses such as new school buildings and maintenance costs.

"This is a statewide bill that a high-growth county can use as a tool to help alleviate costs," Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, said. "This would help counties like Haywood County with imminent BlueOval City growth, for example. It's very difficult to pass a bill that's county specific, but this amendment gives ability to other counties to adopt it when they qualify to implement it."

According to a 2007 attorney general's office Opinion, the existing County Powers Relief Act, strives to generate revenue for school capital for counties through adequate facilities tax based on growth criteria and other stipulations.

If passed, once a county hits a certain growth criteria, that county could begin to enact the bill.

The act also says that "no county shall be authorized to enact an impact fee on development, or a local real estate transfer tax, by private or public act," a stipulation that Maury County officials have said hinders its power to enforce any other impact fee-driven legislation.

Cepicky sponsored a previous bill, referred to as the "building impact fee" bill, along with Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, who sponsored its companion bill, which (two versions) failed twice in House committee over the past two legislative sessions in the 113th General Assembly.

The newly-proposed amendment is Maury County government's attempt to try to once again address funding for growth, primarily targeting ways to pay for school capital. School capital costs triggered a 31-cent property tax increase in 2022 in Maury County.

Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt ran on a platform in 2022, vowing to secure funding to support growth in Maury County, the fastest growing county in Tennessee, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

Over the next several years, more than 15,000 new rooftops will be constructed across the county, which city and county leaders have cited during numerous public talks based on the number of new building permits issued in Columbia and Maury County.

Leaders say that the growth will continue and believe the county should capture revenue to support that continued growth for the future.

"I never thought I'd sit here and support a lobbyist," Maury County Commissioner Gabe Howard, District 8, said on Monday.

But after his experience supporting a bill last legislative session expanding the Duck River's scenic status, he said he realizes the need.

"There would have been no way for the Duck River bill to pass without a [lobbyist and activist groups] and Scott Cepicky's hard work," he said. "It's the only way for Maury County to be represented in the sausage-making process."

Butt agreed that a lobbyist could help secure bipartisan support for the imminent bill.

"They [lobbyists] are able to allow both sides to see the benefits of the bill," she said.

Since the first of the year, Rep. Cepicky has been meeting with the commission (during special-called May 3 meeting) and other various groups periodically to discuss the make-up of the draft bill, crafting it in a way that has the most potential for drawing bipartisan support for passage.

The Maury County Commission summed up the purpose of pursuing state legislation in a previous 2022 resolution.

"Counties that are in high growth areas especially in certain parts of Tennessee are at a disadvantage and the cost of growth are being placed upon individual taxpayers rather than the development paying its fair share of the increased costs," the resolution states. “Cities in the state of Tennessee are allowed to collect funds from developers that are related to growth and are allowed to have additional impact fees, but counties have been limited from doing so."

"This is still a very heavy lift. Sometimes you have to keep whacking away at it. This seems like something counties can get behind," Cepicky said.

The next session of the Tennessee General Assembly will convene on Jan. 9.


Maury Regional Gets Blood Pressure Gold Seal (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Group (MRMG) has been recognized by the American Heart Association and American Medical Association for its commitment to improving blood pressure (BP) control rates, earning Gold Plus level recognition as part of Target BPTM.

 The Gold Plus award recognizes practices that demonstrate a commitment to measurement accuracy and in which high blood pressure is controlled in 70% or more of the affected adult patients. Maury Regional Medical Group scored 78%, making it one of only four providers recognized in Tennessee.

 Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., and stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and preventable death.

 There are 121.5 million U.S. adults living with hypertension. Unfortunately, less than half of them have their BP under control, making both diagnosis and effective management critical.

 “Addressing blood pressure management is key for better cardiovascular health — and critical today, when heart disease and stroke continue to be leading causes of death for adults in the U.S.,” MRMG President Nathan Miller said. “High blood pressure is a leading risk factor of heart disease and stroke that can often be prevented or managed if diagnosed and treated properly. Maury Regional Medical Group is committed to helping our patients better control their blood pressure, and that commitment has resulted in this recognition.”

 Target: BP is a national initiative formed by the American Heart Association and American Medical Association in response to the high prevalence of uncontrolled blood pressure. The initiative aims to help health care organizations and care teams, at no cost, improve blood pressure control rates through an evidence-based quality improvement program and recognizes organizations, like Maury Regional Medical Group, that are committed to improving blood pressure control.

 “By committing to helping more people in southern Middle Tennessee control their blood pressure and reduce their risks for future heart disease and stroke, Maury Regional Medical Group is taking a key step to helping more people live longer, healthier lives,” said Yvonne Commodore-Mensah, PhD, MHS, RN, FAHA, Target: BP advisory group volunteer and associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. “Maury Regional Medical Group’s participation in the Target: BP initiative shows its dedication to turning clinical guidelines into lifelines for patients and their families.”

 To learn more about Maury Regional Health’s FQHC practices, visit MauryRegional.com/FQHC.


Duck River Jam (Press Release)

Duck River Jam, a community event intended to raise awareness and funds to fight a proposed landfill along the Duck River, will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5, at Cherry Theater at Columbia State Community College.

 

The event, which will feature performances by local musicians as well as a silent auction, is being organized by the concerned citizens' group Protect the Duck River. 

 

The group has advocated against plans by Louisiana-based Trinity Business Group to build a 1,300-acre trash disposal complex as close as 1,000 feet from the Duck River at a former Monsanto phosphate processing site in Maury County. The property contains multiple Superfund sites and is mandated for EPA rehabilitation because of hazardous waste contamination. 

 

Protect the Duck River was previously involved in successful efforts to convince state lawmakers to pass legislation designating that segment of the Duck River as a Class II scenic river. In April, Gov. Bill Lee signed the new law requiring certain water resource projects to be permitted.

 

Trinity Group filed a lawsuit in May appealing the Maury-Marshall Solid Waste Regional Planning Board's rejection of its landfill application. Funds raised at the Duck River Jam will help defray legal fees for opponents of that appeal. 

 

"The Duck River is the most biologically diverse river in North America as well as the source of drinking water for more than 300,000 people in this community," said Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder. "The Duck River Jam is an opportunity for Middle Tennessee residents to support this precious, fragile resource while enjoying a great day of music and fun." 

 

For more information about Duck River Jam or to purchase tickets, please visit duckriverjam.com.


CSCC Graduates Techs (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College recently recognized 11 emergency medical technicians and 22 paramedics upon completion of their programs during the Summer 2023 EMS Pinning ceremony held in the Cherry Theater.

“EMS Academy faculty are exceptional at producing competent practitioners and I am thankful for the work they do for our students each day,” said Greg Johnson, Columbia State EMS Academy program director. “We are also fortunate to have an incredible group of clinical partners that pour into our students on each clinical experience they attend. The EMS Academy at Columbia State continues to deliver an outstanding job at readying practitioners each semester for the communities in our service area.”

Summer 2023 EMT completers achieved a 100% first-attempt pass rate for the national registry. The success of these students is phenomenal when compared to a national average first-attempt pass rate of 70% as of last year. The paramedic class also had a 100% first-attempt pass rate on the paramedic national registry psychomotor exam, compared to the national average of 72% as of last year.

“This makes several cohorts in a row with a 100% first-attempt pass rate on the EMT National Registry cognitive as well as two paramedic cohorts within the last three years with a 100% first-attempt pass rate on the Paramedic National Registry cognitive exam,” Johnson said. “These student cohorts continue to show the quality of a Columbia State education.”

EMT certificate completers also have the option to pursue the General Technology Associate of Applied Science degree by combining coursework from two certificates with general education courses to complete a personalized degree program, of which nine graduates completed.

An EMT provides basic life support at the site of illnesses and injuries, assisting with transport to the hospital. Paramedics are health care professionals trained in the advanced skills needed for rendering care to the critically ill or injured patient in the pre-hospital, industry or emergency room setting. Paramedics perform all of the procedures described for EMTs, plus give oral or intravenous medications, read EKGs (electrocardiograms), do endotracheal intubations and use additional complex equipment.

Each program provides students with the necessary didactic and practical training to perform life-saving skills. Additionally, students learn to work alone, as well as in a squad-based (team) environment.

“These new EMTs have demonstrated the ability to achieve academically and become valued emergency services team members,” said Dr. Kae Fleming, Columbia State dean of the Health Sciences Division. “Being an EMT from Columbia State is a source of pride! In the paramedic program, highly motivated students and exceptional faculty spend an intense year together, ensuring completers are paramedics that everyone is thankful to see in response to emergency situations. The program’s effectiveness is confirmed by a 100% first-attempt pass rate for the national registry and 100% in-field employment rates.”

Students who complete the one semester EMT-Basic certificate are promptly hired for entry-level EMT positions and have the option to continue at Columbia State for Advanced EMT and Paramedic credentials. Students who complete the 12-month Paramedic certificate are in high-demand for exciting positions with great earnings potential. 

For more information on attending Columbia State as an Emergency Medical Services student, please visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/EMS or email EMS@ColumbiaState.edu.

Columbia State also honored 20 radiologic technology graduates at the pinning ceremony in the Cherry Theater. 

“The class of 2023 has a bright future ahead of them,” said Rose Hobby, program director and associate professor of radiology technology. “Our amazing clinical partners helped provide the graduates with hands-on training, allowing them to gain critical thinking skills necessary to be a competent and efficient member of the health care team. Our graduates are ready to serve the patients of Middle Tennessee; many accepted positions prior to graduation. Our program faculty are happy to call each of these graduates an alum of Columbia State as they will represent our college well.”

Program graduates must take and pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists board licensure exam in order to secure employment. Currently, the five-year average first-attempt pass rate for Columbia State is 90 percent, which is above the five-year national average pass rate of 87 percent.

“A strong job market, exciting careers, and endless opportunities await these new radiologic technology graduates,” said Dr. Kae Fleming, dean of the Health Sciences Division and professor of radiologic technology. “Each of these future radiographers will make an immediate impact on patient care and outcomes!”

Columbia State’s radiologic technology program is a rigorous 22-month program in which students learn imaging science in order to become a radiographer and work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, doctors’ offices and other health care facilities.

Upon completion of the program, graduates are qualified to produce images of patients’ internal structures for use in diagnosing medical problems.

Columbia State’s radiologic technology program is accredited by the Joint Review Committee in Radiologic Technology.  For more information about applying to this competitive admission program, please visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/RadTech.


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…

Law Enforcement Training Center (TNLookout)

Tennessee is hiring nearly 20 contractors to build a massive $415 million law enforcement training center on state property in Cockrill Bend.

State officials broke ground recently at the 600-acre site, located near Riverbend Maximum Security Institution where Death Row inmates are housed in north Nashville, joined by law enforcement leaders from across the state. 

Department of Correction and Department of Safety and Homeland Security offices will be housed there, along with training facilities for state troopers and officers, including dorms, a driving track and K-9 kennels.

“This site represents one of the best examples of inter-agency cooperation Tennessee has ever seen,” Brandon Gibson, chief operating officer for Gov. Bill Lee, said at a recent ceremony. “It represents the future of law enforcement training in Tennessee, and this site represents the governor’s and the General Assembly’s dedication to law enforcement in this state.”

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, both members of the State Building Commission, supported the project, and Gov. Bill Lee credited their backing with helping fund it. Sexton noted it provides a “long-term vision” for the future of law enforcement training.

Lee said he started touring law enforcement training facilities statewide to check on conditions after he took office nearly five years ago.

“I remember walking through facilities where tiles were missing and 40-year-old bathrooms and bunk rooms that I wouldn’t want to stay in, and I got a vision that day, almost four and a half years ago that we needed to do something different,” Lee said.

Besides the law enforcement training center, the Lee Administration put $150 million into a violent crime prevention fund, $60 million toward state trooper bonuses and funding to hire 200 more highway patrolmen.


Nashville Tourism Bounces Back Post-Covid (Tennessean)

Nashville's booming tourism industry launched it into a prosperous, post-pandemic recovery that eclipsed all other major U.S. cities, according to a new national report on the health of America's urban cores.

The study, authored by Philadelphia's Center City District, names Nashville as the most-improved U.S. city since 2020 in terms of workers, residents and visitors.

The results of "Downtowns Rebound: The Data Driven Path to Recovery" were presented this month at the International Downtown Association's annual conference in Chicago.

The 72-page report analyzes 26 downtowns, finding that most of the economies have not recovered to 2019 levels. Nashville, meanwhile, has achieved 100% recovery, returning Music City to 2019 economic levels.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

With Halloween just a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to snatch up that perfect pumpkin for carving.

And there will be plenty of opportunities to score your next Jack-o-Lantern in Columbia this weekend.

Hidden Bee Farm, 753 Carters Creek Pike, will have its annual pumpkin patch open for customers starting at 9 a.m. every Thursday-Sunday through Oct. 29. Admission is free, and also includes hayrides, mazes, pumpkin painting, an escape room and opportunities to interact with the Hidden Bee's rescued farm animals.

Sattewhite Farm, 3005 Sheegog Lane, will host Pumpkin Paradise from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Friday-Sunday through Oct. 29 starting this weekend. Pumpkin Paradise will feature many fall activities, including swings, slides, a hay maze, a gravel pit and much more, including a hayride where you can learn about farm animals and life as a farmer.

Maury County Parks and Recreation will also continue its annual Pumpkin Hunt at Maury County Park, 1018 Maury County Park Drive, through Oct. 23. The hunt will include a series of clues to be found around the park, which is estimated to take between an hour and an hour-and-a-half. The first clue is located at the Kids Kingdom Playground.

For more information about this year's hunt and how to submit clues online, email emcclain@maurycounty-tn.gov. Winners will receive a large pumpkin and free goodie bag.


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