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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 17, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Teens Charged with Terroristic Threats (MSM)

Two juveniles have been arrested and charged with terroristic threats following a disturbing social media post which showed an image of multiple firearms with threats of targeting Columbia Central High School, Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland confirmed in a statement on Monday.

At approximately 10:15 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 15, the Sheriff’s Department announced they had identified and located the two individuals responsible for the post, which had been circulated online. Because they are juveniles, the names were not released.

“Thanks to the quick work of our patrol division, we were able to identify and locate the two individuals that are responsible for the social media post. They have been taken into custody,” MCSD said.

MCPS Communications Director Jack Cobb said the district is thankful that the individuals were located.

“We’re thankful that the Maury County Sheriff’s Department was able to uncover who was behind it and all the students are safe,” Cobb said in a statement.

This is not the first time Columbia Central High School has received threats.

In May, the school went on lockdown after a call came in reporting an active shooter at the facility, which proved to be a hoax.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Columbia Police Department said that call appeared to be part of a pattern of calls taking place across the state.


Strike Update (CDH)

International United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain didn't announce any new strikes taking place on Friday, including the largest General Motors plant in North America in Spring Hill, but said a new strategy will be implemented.

That strategy could mean an unannounced walk out in Spring Hill in the coming weeks.

A surprise call to strike in Kentucky highlighted the fourth week of the UAW strike, and during the Friday livestream update, Fain said going forward, this surprise action would be the new normal.

"We are entering a new phase of this fight, and it demands a new approach. We are done waiting until Fridays to announce the expansion of our strike," he told tens of thousands of viewers across YouTube, Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter.

Fain spoke of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis becoming complacent in negotiations, waiting until the Friday livestream update to bring credible deals to the negotiation table. Ford has already stiffened its bargaining capacity after raising wages up to 23%, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Going forward, little forewarning will come before a plant goes on strike, Fain said.

"Not just Fridays, not just Ford," he said.

Spring Hill's UAW Local 1853 President John Rutherford said the climate locally has been one of "anticipation," but no action will be taken immediately. 

Fain's Friday announcement means Spring Hill could join the fight at any time, Rutherford said.

On Sept. 22, Fain told members of the UAW in the Spring Hill plant – GM's largest plant in North America – to wait to join the "Stand up and Strike" strike. But in his messages since, Spring Hill has not been specifically mentioned.

"It sounds like he's done playing the slow game and ready to ramp things up," Rutherford said. "It can be any day now, any plant. It's nice to see that the men and women up north are playing chess instead of checkers now.

"It will be a roller coaster every day, instead of just on Fridays now. I'm hoping we can get a little heads up so we can get the word out there if it were to happen."

Rutherford added that while Spring Hill is yet to be called on to strike, many of the local workers have pitched in to visit the picket lines in areas like Memphis, which shut down during the strike's second week.

"We've got plans in motion to bring a group to go support Kentucky this week or next weekend," Rutherford said. "The Kentucky plant is one of the largest with more than 9,200 workers, and so they can use all the help they can get."

UAW Benefits Rep. Mike Miller, who has experience in many UAW strikes during his career, called the latest one "one of the most unique of them all, but I kind of like that it's that way."

"This has been a very unique way of negotiations, and I like the way President Fain is going with it, and I believe he's going to get us a good contract. That's what we are all waiting on," Miller said. "My family is a GM family … and everything we do in the UAW is all intertwined. I thought we would go the first week."

A strike has been much-speculated in Spring Hill after a reported 25,000 autoworkers of the union's 150,000 members took up signs, officially walking out of GM, Ford and Stellantis plants across 21 states in the last month.

More than 3,000 United Auto Workers members are employed at the Spring Hill plant and are producing hundreds of vehicles per day under the expired contract.

It has been a month since workers across 21 states and 42 General Motors, Ford and Stellantis facilities are on the picket lines striking for a better contract.

After the first week of the strike, 38 plants were called to join the strike in week two. Fain called for workers at a Ford assembly plant in Chicago and GM's Lansing Delta Township plant to walk out. And on Wednesday night, Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, with an estimated 9,000 more workers, joined the picket lines.

Fain asked all UAW members and supporters to find one of many UAW strike lines on Saturday to picket and offer support for their fight.

"We are here to address decades of unfair treatment of autoworkers," Fain said. "Bring them food, music and solidarity."

During Friday morning's livestream, Fain also addressed criticism for raising UAW members' expectations.

"Our broken economy is what's raising our members' expectations. Our members are right to be angry. Corporate America rebounded after the Great Recession," he said. "Meanwhile, the working class has kept going backwards."


Miracle League Ribbon Cutting (WKOM Audio 3:22)

Yesterday morning, the Miracle League Park, a ballpark designed specifically for special needs citizens, held a ribbon cutting after a successful two year fundraising campaign. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the ceremony and spoke with Miracle League leader Mike Uggla…


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.


CSCC Hosts Leadership Course (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College’s Office of Workforce and Continuing Education will launch a leadership development program designed to benefit new and emerging leaders to help them develop the necessary skills and a toolkit of resources to help them excel as they move into and grow in their leadership roles.

 “I am extremely proud to be bringing this program to our communities,” said Melody Murphy, Columbia State Workforce and Continuing Education director. With ‘Now Hiring’ posted on almost every storefront, it is becoming harder for employers to find and keep good employees. This program is an excellent opportunity for a company to identify dedicated employees' value and hard work and build them up through this program for leadership and supervision roles.”

The Columbia State Leadership for Operational Excellence program nurtures success and provides participants with the skills and resources for them to excel as leaders within their organizations.

Topics covered will include leadership styles, generations and teams, employee engagement and productivity, communication and leading your team, business finance and budgets, presentation skills and networking as well as delivering outcomes and managing change.

“Many of us have seen firsthand how promoting internally for these positions based on performance can be problematic, because doing a job and leading others to do a job are very different things that require somewhat different skill sets,” Murphy said. “This program aims to give participants the necessary leadership skills to be successful leaders.”  

Registration is now open for the program, which consists of eight full-day sessions with two full days conducted back-to-back. Participants should plan to attend all sessions, which will take place at Columbia State’s Williamson Campus. The program begins in 2024 with the dates of January 11 – 12, February 8 – 9, March 7 – 8 and April 11 – 12. Cost is $2,995, with lunch and coffee provided.

To register, please visit https://www.campusce.net/columbiastate/course/course.aspx?catId=23.

For more information, please contact Murphy at mmurphy19@ColumbiaState.edu.


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

Mr. William Royal Dickson, Sr., 88, retired maintenance supervisor for Monsanto, died Saturday, October 14, 2023, at his residence in Columbia. Funeral services for Mr. Dickson will be conducted Wednesday at 2:00 P.M. at First Family Baptist. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 11:00 P.M. until service time at the church. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Mr. Patrick John “PJ” Carson, 43, passed away at home on Friday, October 13, 2023. Funeral services for Mr. Carson will be held Wednesday at 6:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 4:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Mrs. Frankie Albright Church, 85, died Sunday, October 15, 2023, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Funeral services for Mrs. Church will be conducted Friday, October 20, 2023 at 11:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in St. John’s Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Thursday, October 19, 2023 from 5:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Mrs. Martha Kinzer Lord, 81, passed away October 12, 2023 after a long illness. A memorial service for Mrs. Lord will be conducted Sunday, October 22, 2023 at 3:00 P.M at Williamsport United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Williamsport Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Sunday from 2:00 P.M. until the time of service at the Church. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

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.

"I have a lot of reasons to think that downtown Nashville is No. 1, but it’s certainly nice for it to be verified and reinforced in the company of so many great American cities," said Nashville Downtown Partnership President Tom Turner. "Our property owners and businesses, along with Metro government, the Convention & Visitors Corp, Chamber and so many others work together to build a clean, safe, active and attractive downtown."

The study was undertaken to shed light on the best practices for metropolitan governments and local business organizations to improve the economy and community services in light of the staggering impacts of COVID-19's stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closures.

"Urban policymakers, mayors, business leaders, property owners and downtown managers now confront basic questions," Center City District President Paul Levy wrote in the report. "Can recovery be accelerated to restore sidewalk vitality and the tax revenues that support municipal services? Can transit systems restore service levels before federal relief funds expire?"

The report provides a list of key areas to focus on for success — primarily maintaining a "clean and safe" atmosphere; a diversified mix of office, residential and commercial uses; and the ability to repurpose empty old office buildings.

In terms of overall recovery over the last three years, Nashville is followed by California cities San Jose and San Diego — U.S. cities that also enjoy popular hospitality sectors.

Nashville, Memphis, San Antonio, Texas and San Jose experienced the highest rate of jobs returning to downtown areas, but those jobs were most likely to be in-person and not conducive to remote work. San Antonio and Nashville took the top two spots, respectively, for the highest share of leisure and hospitality employment.


Gas Prices (MSM)

Gas prices across Tennessee have now declined for four consecutive weeks. Over last week, Tennessee gas prices fell 10 cents, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.14 which is 30 cents less expensive than one month ago and 24 cents less than one year ago.  

“We’re continuing to see prices at the pump drop here in Tennessee, mostly thanks to falling crude oil prices,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Right now, we have one metro area in Tennessee (Clarksville) with a metro gas price average just below $3 per gallon. If current market conditions persist, we may see more metro areas follow suit in their gas price averages.”

Quick Facts

80% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.25 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.85 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.58 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 8th least expensive market in the nation


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

While spooky attractions began to gain popularity with the opening of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in the 1880s with its Chamber of Horrors, according to history.com, the first place that had dim lights and disembodied wailing was opened in 1919 by a British amusement ride manufacturer.

Early haunted houses were often created by neighborhoods to amuse the local kids, then they became fundraisers for community non-profits. It was not until the opening of Disney’s Haunted Mansion in 1969 that anyone thought of them becoming a for-profit venture. Now they are part of the Halloween industry that brings in more than $12 billion per year.

Here are two local haunted attractions that are sure to give a rousing Halloween fright. They are both open through the end of October.

1. Miller’s Thrillers

1431 Carter’s Creek Pike

Columbia, Tennessee

Fridays and Saturdays through October 28, and October 31

https://www.millersthrillers.net/ 

A longtime favorite, it offers a haunted woods, zombie hayrides, game area and a bonfire. Tickets start at $15.

11. Creepy Hollow Haunted Woods

2311 Joe Brown Road

Spring Hill, Tennessee

Friday and Saturday through October 31, and Halloween.

https://www.creepyhollowwoods.com/

Three attractions, a zombie maze and more. Tickets are $35 for all three attractions.


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