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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 19, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Math Education Bill Heading to Legislature (MSM)

A bill aimed at increasing math scores for K-8 students is scheduled to be introduced into the state legislature during the upcoming regular session in January.

Created by Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), who is also the chair of the Education Instruction Subcommittee, the bill would require summer school or tutoring for K-8 students who do not perform well on their TCAP test or universal screener. Cepicky said the bill is not similar to the third-grade retention law, a state law passed in 2021 which requires third-grade students to repeat the grade or receive additional interventions if they are determined not to be proficient in the English/Language Arts section of the TCAP.

“Students that don’t perform well on the TCAP test or the universal screeners, we’re not going to retain them, but if you’re not on track, we’re going to require you to go to summer school to get the necessary help you need to get caught up in math,” Cepicky said.

“If you’re still behind, then we will make available tutoring for you the following year when you go on to the next grade level, so you can continue to get the support you need and get on grade level, and once you’re on grade level, to stay on grade level.”

Cepicky said there will be several components to the intervention bill, which would also require K-8 math teachers to receive a statewide mathematics certification. Teachers would then be broken up according to their grade-band, such as early elementary, late elementary and middle school.

“Those teachers will have individual grade-band level professional development that is targeted to how they need to teach and deliver the standards, curriculum, and information for the students,” Cepicky said.

“You can’t have the same delivery in first grade as sixth grade because it’s a different level of math and a different level of student.”

The final two components include seeking out how to best deliver mathematics to students pursuing educational degrees and reporting back to the Tennessee Department of Education to make any corrections to the program.

Cepicky said statewide math scores have been stagnant at around 30 percent for over a decade. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, the 2022 Nation’s Report Card from the National Center of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that 36 percent of fourth grade students were proficient in math, a four-point drop from 2019. Meanwhile, only 24 percent of tested students in the eighth grade tested proficient in the same subject, dropping eight points.

Maury County Public Schools faired even worse. According to the 2022-23 School Year Scores Review, the average percent of MCPS students in grades 3-8 who tested proficient in math were all below the state average.

To see how each individual school compared to the state average, visit www.mauryk12.org/cms


GM PILOT Passes Commission (CDH)

The Maury County Commission approved Monday a resolution that would terminate an existing tax incentive agreement with General Motors in order to enact a new agreement, a decision that sparked controversy among commissioners.

The resolution passed, 13-2, a simple majority with six commissioners abstaining, terminating the existing 60% abatement as part of a Payment in Lieu of Tax with GM in place for 38 years. However, upon termination, a new PILOT agreement will now go into effect extending stipulations of the original agreement, plus a tax break on the new GM paint facility and a separate PILOT with Ultium Cells.

Ultium Cells, a branch of South Korean company LG Solutions, leases property located at the GM plant, visible from Hwy. 31.

Commissioners debated about whether to terminate the old agreement for over an hour.

Some commissioners agreed that the new agreement, devised and approved in 2020 by the Industrial Development Board and state officials, should be upheld whether current commissioners like it or not, based on a legal perspective.

“The train has left the station,” commissioner Gabe Howard, District 8, said.

Several commissioners agreed.

“This is not how honest people work,” Ray Jeter, District 8, said. “I don’t like the deal either, but the deal is done. l thought this is not the greatest deal that’s ever been done, but it does bring in money to the county.”

Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt conveyed a firm warning to commissioners about the consequences of not terminating the existing agreement.

“We have worked this over the coals for a long time now,” Butt said, adding she doesn’t "love" the agreement either.

“The fact of the matter is we have made agreements. … They [GM] have invested billions on the [IDB’s] word. Going back on that, will only cost us exponentially in court … It’s not just about this business … we have given the authority to the Industrial Development Board on this, and the answer is yes.”

Previously, the county commission gave the Industrial Development Board the authority to make decisions regarding tax incentives for companies. In 2020, the GM deal was devised by the IDB and state economic officials.

“We are making a bad mistake if we decide to take back what we’ve already given,” Butt said. “If you don’t want any more growth and industry over the next years, [we won’t get it if this doesn’t pass].”

Commissioner Kenny Morrow, District 7, said he wishes the terms of the original contract could be severed.

“Forty years is long enough,” Morrow said, who explained he supports a tax break for the new GM paint shop and Ultium Cells but not the extension of the 38-year incentive contract with GM.

“I can’t in good conscience vote for this because I have too many constituents who want this to end."

Commissioner Aaron Miller, District 7, agreed.

“That’s part of the job [to face a lawsuit or not], we need to be voting on the merits as we see them. … I don’t like the thought of locking this in over several more decades."

Kevin Markham, District 9, addressed previous IDB board members speaking out on the issue, which was an action permitted by the budget committee last Monday.

“They lost their opportunity to argue their point when they resigned from the IDB,” Markham said.

After asking for clarification on the resolution Jerry Bridenbaugh, District 9, also agreed with staying the course by advocating for the approval of the termination.

“We are referred to as ‘the Maury County Commission,’” Bridenbaugh said, whether now or in 2020. “We are obligated to honor that contract.”

He also pointed out that at one time GM implied that all buildings would be hidden “behind the hills,” criticizing the massive presence of the Ultium building on Hwy. 31.

Jerry Strahan, District 1, defended GM’s presence in the community.

“I can’t complain about them [GM] being in this community and supporting families for generations,” he said. “ … Mean old General Motors spent a whole lot of money based on an agreement.”

After over an hour of debate, there was a motion calling for the question to cease all discussion to vote on the resolution, but that motion failed.

County finance director Doug Lukonen emphasized that GM is considered the top taxpayer in the county, and if the company “looks weaker” it could hurt the county’s overall Moody’s credit rating and interest rate.  

“If GM looks weaker, if GM looks stronger, it affects our interest cost,” Lukonen said. “The fight that would come is cost of litigation … What we could lose is much more than what they could lose.”


Maury Economy in Good Shape (CDH)

The current state of economic development appears to be in good standing, according to a quarterly report presented by the Maury Chamber and Economic Alliance.

Maury Alliance President Wil Evans presented the latest data to Columbia City Council earlier this month, discussing topics such as job growth, major pipeline projects and economic projections over the next year.

Starting off, Evans acknowledged a recent "fantastic win" for the city with the announcement regarding SGB Enterprises relocating its headquarters to Columbia, as well as expanding the company's design and manufacturing operations.

"The company specializes in designing and manufacturing procedural training systems, like flight simulators, maintenance trainers and other simulated avionics and control components for the aerospace industry," Evans said. "They are investing $1.7 million to create 40 new jobs. The best part of this announcement is that it hits right in that sweet spot of our recent strike zone ... which is high wages or high-quality jobs, industry diversification and appropriate use of site and infrastructure."

Mayor Chaz Molder added that a big reason SGB's announcement can be considered a valuable win is that it not only will bring new jobs to the area, but quality jobs which also pay well.

"Of course, we like job announcements of all kinds, and we certainly celebrate them, but in this market we are currently in, sometimes the quality is just as important as the quantity," Molder said. "It's just truly a win-win that should be noted. Columbia will certainly benefit from it, as well as the county as a whole."

Evans continued saying the city's current project pipeline "remains strong," with a lot of current projects focusing on expansion of existing businesses.

"Everything is kind of on par, though the unemployment rate has kind of ebbed and flowed between low 3% to high 2% rates over the last two years," Evans said. "The median rent is also up from $1,381 last year, though the home price has decreased 8% from this time last year. Nothing to be alarmed with, but that's where we've seen some of the most notable changes."

October is also recognized as Manufacturing Month, and to celebrate, Maury Alliance will partner with Maury County Public Schools and Columbia State Community College for an opportunity to teach career and technical education (CTE) students. This year's event will take place Oct. 27.

"The CTE students will tour various manufacturing facilities across the county, specifically JC Ford here in Columbia, as well as GCP Applied Technologies and Fuel Total Systems in Mt. Pleasant," Evans said. "This will give them close interaction with the manufacturing operations of today. We will also be hosting a lunch at Columbia State with Ultium Cells, where they will talk about the types of jobs that are available out there."


Breakfast With The Mayor (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance for their next Breakfast With The Mayor event October 31st at 8:00am at Puckett’s Restaurant on the Square in Columbia.

For this session, Maury Alliance is enhancing their quarterly Breakfast with the Mayor event by featuring a City of Columbia panel discussion with Mayor Chaz Molder, Tourism and Marketing Director Kellye Murphy, and Development Services Director Paul Keltner.

Tickets are $25 for members and include breakfast.

To submit a question or topic in advance, email nperry@mauryalliance.com. 

For more information, visit www.mauryalliance.com.


New Fire Station Named After Late Mayor (CDH)

City leaders voted this month to rename one of its fire stations after former Mayor Barbara Earwood McIntyre honoring her many years of service as a leader and influence.

The Columbia City Council was joined by McIntyre's surviving family members on Thursday to vote on the resolution, which would rename Fire Station No. 3 just off Bear Creek Pike at 705 Firefighters Drive after her.

"This happens to be something even more meaningful for the former mayor, someone who I was fortunate enough to know as a kid," Mayor Chaz Molder said. "Mayor McIntyre in a large part was the reason where, when I was a kid, I had that seed planted to want to get involved in public service."

McIntyre's life of service to Columbia began in 1963 after she became the first general manager of Holiday Inn, the largest hotel chain in the U.S.

McIntyre was later elected as the city's first female vice mayor, serving from 1974-78. In 1990, she was elected as Columbia's first female mayor, and was reelected in 1998 serving two more terms.

In addition to her career as a public official, McIntyre also served on numerous boards and committees, including the Maury County Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Municipal Leage, Tennessee Commission on Aging & Disability, Leadership Maury, Center of Hope, Boys and Girls Club of Maury County, Duck River Agency, South Central Tennessee Development District, Maury County Family YMCA, Maury Regional Healthcare Foundation, Maury County Tourism Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Maury County and the Governor's Task Force Board for 911 dispatches.

McIntyre was also the recipient of many distinguished awards, including the Liberty Bell Award, the Lucille Queener Courtney Service Award, the Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Women's Club, Governor's Award for Community Service, the Eagle Wings Award for Government, a Paul Harris Fellow by the Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club and the George F. Hixson Fellowship by Columbia Kiwanis Club.

McIntyre died Aug. 9, 2016.

Other council members shared their memories of knowing McIntyre, including Councilwoman Debbie Wiles, who said this dedication is not just for her, but the impact the family has had on the community.

"This honors the longevity of this family in this community and contributes to the very reasons why we love it so much," Wiles said. "I cannot tell you the joy this brings to me. Barbara was a wonderful lady."

Vice Mayor Randy McBroom said some of his fondest memories were being young and gathering with friends at the Holiday Inn on the weekends. McIntyre was also responsible for appointing him to his first board.

"I went from the advisory board for construction to now being up here as vice mayor, and I always remember she treated me so nice and kind," McBroom said. "She always had a smile on her face and I love this family."

McIntyre's son-in-law John Earwood concluded by thanking the council for its tribute.

"We appreciate this, and I've often said that if everybody had a mother-in-law like Barbara, there wouldn't be any mother-in-law jokes," Earwood said. "We really appreciate this."


Podiatrist Joins MRMC (Press Release)

Dr. Jeffrey S Hurless, DPM, a specialist in podiatry, has joined the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center.

He is associated with Advanced Foot & Ankle Care Centers in Columbia.

Hurless received his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree at California College of Podiatric Medicine in San Francisco, California. He completed a podiatric medicine and surgery residency at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Clara, California. Hurless is board-certified in foot surgery and has practiced podiatry for over 20 years.

Advanced Foot & Ankle Care Centers is located at 1503 Hatcher Lane, Suite 100, in Columbia. Hurless’s office hours are Monday–Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (931) 388-9922.


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.


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…  

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.

Mr. Gary Ronald Willis, 71, retired owner of Columbia Construction and successful cattleman and farmer, died Tuesday, October 17, 2023, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Funeral services for Mr. Willis will be conducted Wednesday at 10:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 4:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. at the funeral home.


…And now, news from around the state…

TN Taxpayers May Be Able to File For Free (Tennessean)

A new IRS program may make filing taxes a bit easier for some Tennessee taxpayers in 2024.

Tennesseans may be eligible to participate in the 2024 Direct File pilot, a new service that will provide taxpayers with the choice to electronically file their federal tax return directly with the IRS for free. This new pilot program was announced this week and only includes 13 states.

The eligibility for this new program will be limited to a few taxpayers and as the filing season progresses, more and more eligible taxpayers will be able to access Direct File to file their 2023 tax returns.

"This is a critical step forward for this innovative effort that will test the feasibility of providing taxpayers a new option to file their returns for free directly with the IRS," said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. "In this limited pilot for 2024, we'll be working closely with the states that have agreed to participate in an important test run of the state integration. This will help us gather important information about the future direction of the Direct File program."

Only certain taxpayers will be eligible to participate in the Direct File pilot.

Eligibility is limited due to the program only supporting certain types of filing based on taxpayers types of income, tax credits and deductions. Taxpayers who fall outside the pilot's eligibility limits will be unable to participate in the pilot in 2024.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Ever dreamed of having a star-studded birthday party at a glitzy club and hiring one of your all-time favorite musicians to sing you "Happy Birthday"?

That exact dream came true recently for Leslie Liautaud, when her husband Jimmy (founder of the Jimmy John's sandwich chain) threw her a private birthday party at Nashville's Twelve Thirty Club and surprised her by hiring her favorite musician, Sir Elton John to play.

The Rocketman played a 12-song set on the stage of the venue's Supper Club to a star-studded crowd that included Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Eric Church, Theo Von, Caleb Presley, Jake Owen, Emeril Lagasse, DJ Irie, and Sam Fox, who co-founded Twelve Thirty Club with Timberlake.  

After dinner, guests were treated to an intimate performance by Sir Elton, who took the stage after dinner. He opened with “Your Song” followed by other favorites including “Tiny Dancer”, “Candle in the Wind”, “Rocket Man”, “Philadelphia Freedom” and ending with “I'm Still Standing," which he dedicated to the birthday girl before singing Happy Birthday to her.

The estimated price to hire John for a private party, according to luxury wedding planners Scarlet Events, is $1 million. Liautaud, whose wealth Forbes.com estimates at $1.7 billion, is an investor in the Twelve Thirty Club. He and Leslie are residents of Nashville and frequent the club often.


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