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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 2, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Columbia Man Charged with Murder (CDH)

The man charged with killing a Columbia woman in a domestic dispute made his first appearance before Maury County General Sessions Judge Bobby Sands Wednesday via video conference call from the Maury County Jail.

On Sept. 12, Columbia police officers found Carole Anne Coleman, 48, deceased when they arrived on the scene at the 100 block of Woods Drive at approximately 10:30 p.m.

James Edward Davidson Jr., 59, was later charged with first degree murder and aggravated assault resulting in death, according to the warrants.

Warrants were served following Davidson's treatment at Vanderbilt Medical Center for several self-inflicted wounds, police previously said.

According to the Sept. 13 arrest warrant, Coleman, who is referred to as Davidson's "girlfriend" was struck "multiple times with a blunt force object causing severe head trauma," which resulted in death.

Coleman was once crowned Mule Day Queen in 1992, Miss Maury County and Fairest of the Fair in Maury County. Born in Nashville, Coleman was a graduate of Columbia Central High School, where she served as a class officer and entered Belmont University on a cheerleading scholarship as well as attended Middle Tennessee State University.

Davidson faced Sands by a video conference call Wednesday seated in a wheelchair, wearing an inmate uniform with orange and white stripes.

Sands explained he did not set bond due to the severity of the charges, citing that Davidson was on probation involving a previous domestic assault charge when the September incident occurred.

Davidson was appointed an attorney at the public defender's office in the 22nd District in Maury County.

After pleading guilty to a domestic assault charge in July, Davidson entered into a plea agreement of 11 months and 29 days suspended to probation, according to an Order signed by Sands on July 27. Though, bond conditions were "terminated per victim request," the Order said.

The case was set for review July 25, 2024.

"There is a lengthy history of domestic violence on file with the Columbia Police Department, involving Mr. Davidson and Ms. Coleman," a CPD media release said ahead of issuing the present charges.

The next court date is set for Oct. 11 at 1:30 p.m. in General Sessions Court to determine a preliminary hearing.


Spring Hill GM Not to Strike This Week (CDH)

Gathered together in a dimly lit room of the union hall, United Auto Workers Spring Hill president John Rutherford and a few other members waited patiently to hear if the Spring Hill General Motors assembly plant would get the call to strike.

They turned their attention to a small TV bolted high in the corner of the room. After the slight delay of a message delivered by UAW International President Shawn Fain supposed to air at 9 a.m., the workers soon got their answer after building anticipation.

There will be no strike this week.

Spring Hill GM plant workers will not enter the existing UAW strike for the second week in a row, according to Fain, who relayed information to tens of thousands of listeners in a Friday address on social media.

A strike was much-speculated in Spring Hill this week after a reported 18,000 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 two weeks. “They’re ready to fight for the middle class,” Rutherford, president of the UAW Local 1853, said. “Our members are fed up.”

Though, the call to strike still didn't come.

Workers at Spring Hill General Motors plant will continue to work as 7,000 other auto workers join the fight around the U.S. this week.

Friday, Fain called on two more plants — Ford's Chicago assembly plant and GM's Lansing Delta Township — to add about 7,000 people to the picket lines.

"It's the war of the working class versus corporate greed," he said. "We are the new arsenal of democracy. The workers are the liberators, and our strike is the vehicle for liberation."

The core issues of concern to workers are pay and cost of living increases.

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.

The 11 million square-foot Spring Hill GM plant on 2,100 acres, which opened in 1990, builds SUV models, including Cadillac models XT5, XT6, and the all-electric LYRIQ, powered by Ultium Cells batteries, and the GMC Acadia.

In a statement Friday, GM said they had not received a "comprehensive counteroffer from UAW leadership" to their Sept. 21 proposal.

"Calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress," Gerald Johnson, executive vice president of GM, said in a statement. "The number of people negatively impacted by these strikes is growing and includes our customers who buy and love the products we build."

GM said they stand ready to negotiate in good faith, a claim that Fain said during his message Friday morning was not happening.

"Our current record proposal that is on the table offers historic wage increases and job security, while not jeopardizing our future," according to the statement. "We’re here to reach an agreement so we can all get back to work, and that remains our 100% focus. Be safe.”

Peter Loy, a machine repairman at GM’s Spring Hill plant, said he’s surprised Spring Hill hasn’t been called to strike yet.

“They’ve been on a drive for years to produce, produce, produce,” Loy said. “It’s pretty hectic with the new line of vehicles. UPS got a great deal and we can’t even compare to them. Some people have to work two jobs just to keep up with the day-to-day costs.”

He said he would like to see the union make progress on better retirement benefits. He’s on the cusp of retirement after a 32-year career at the plant.

Loy said he’s prepared to take a pay cut if there’s a strike. But he doesn’t have high hopes for a great outcome because he said recent strikes haven’t been very beneficial for employees.

“The game GM is playing is they keep you out of work long enough and then they will throw some money at you,” Loy said. “The union is still keeping us in the dark about exactly what they’re asking for. They only gave us some highlights.

“But if we go on strike, I can stay out as long as they want me to be out.” 

While the strike won't come to Spring Hill this week, workers are going to meet others on strike in Tennessee.

"We've got people going down to Memphis to help support the workers that are on strike there, walk the picket line with our brothers and sisters," Mike Miller, a Spring Hill UAW benefits representative said. "We are family, whether it's here or across the country. This is my 48th year and my 10th contract."

The UAW strike has been anticipated as potentially the largest strike in the union's history, with its most-recent company-wide walkout occurring in 2019.

And this strike is different, Miller said.

"This contract feels totally different because, as someone who has gone through this so many times, I don't know what [UAW President Shawn Fain] is doing," he said. "We usually pick a target, negotiate that target … and then go to the other two companies and bring it to them. It's different because with this one pretty much nobody knows, and we could go on strike tomorrow for all we know."

"Corporate greed" has been the root cause of all the woes within the auto industry, Fain said Friday. Striking is the only way to establish the status quo, he said.

"For decades, it's been the same story," he said. "Unchecked corporate power disappearing worker power. The result is massive inequality across our society."

When Miller first started in the industry, he was able to buy a home, a car and his wife was able to stay home with their child. Long gone are those days, Miller said.

"What happened was greed, and it all started during the Ronald Reagan era when things started to trickle down," Miller explained. "And if I had a billion dollars, there wouldn't be anything trickling down because there's a word that comes into play, and that's greed."

When the call didn't come for Spring Hill Friday, Rutherford said it only adds to the anticipation.

"They're ready to fight for a good cause and get everything back. It does make everything a little more nerve-wracking, given we've bought things like lights, propane for heaters to get everything ready, and now we don't know if we're going on strike and can use them," he said.

Previously, UAW spokesperson Brian Costantino said workers in Spring Hill were "fired up" and fed up" when the initial walk-out began a couple of weeks ago.

Since that time, all eyes have been on Spring Hill's GM plant, the largest in North America, and whether it would also join the "Stand-Up Strike" for better wages and opportunities for employees.

"We're the ones who are going to be going down to strike pay, sacrificing health care, and that's a temporary loss," Rutherford said. "By going on strike and fighting for a better contract, that's going to trickle down to the community, the more money we're going to spend on local businesses."

The situation is a bit of a catch-22.

"It's a happy medium, I'd say. Because on one hand, we are ready for the fight and want to support our brothers and sisters on strike, but it's also nice being able to still make a full paycheck and to keep working," Rutherford said.

"I'm a little nervous, but excited."


Kiwanis Honors Two (Press Release)

The Kiwanis Club of Columbia honored two former Club Presidents, Bobby Harris and Travis Jones, with the George F. Hixson Fellowship.

The George F. Hixson Fellowship was established by the Kiwanis Children’s Fund in 1983. It is named for the first President of Kiwanis International and is one of the highest honors given by Kiwanis. It recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to Kiwanis’ history of generosity and for their dedicated service to their Kiwanis Club and their community.

Bobby Harris is a native of Maury County and is a graduate of the Maury County Public Schools and Columbia State Community College. He received a degree in accounting from The University of Memphis.

His professional career began at the corporate office of Holiday Inn in Memphis. After 20 years in the hotel industry and receiving his Certified Public Accountant designation, Harris joined the financial services industry with Merrill Lynch and later Edward Jones where he became a Certified Financial Planner. He completed his career with Edward Jones where he was honored to attend their Top Producers annual conference seven times.

Harris served on the Board of the Kings’ Daughters’ School for nine years and twenty years on the Maury County Industrial Development Board. He served as a Maury County Commissioner and President of the Little League, Columbia Swim Team and Central High Band Boosters.

He joined the Kiwanis Club of Columbia in 1993 and served as the 81st President of the club during the 2001-2002 Kiwanis year.

Travis Jones was born in Columbia and attended Brown Elementary, Whitthorne Middle School and graduated from Battle Ground Academy. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee.

He became an Eagle Scout at the age of 16 with Columbia Troop 111.

After serving as president and general manager of Jones Home Furnishings in Columbia for ten years, he enrolled in the Nashville School of Law where he graduated in 2012.

Governor Bill Haslam appointed Jones to serve as the Public Defender for the 22nd Judicial District. He was elected without opposition in 2020 and 2022.

He has served on the Board of Governors of the University of Tennessee Alumni Association, President of Leadership Maury Board, President of Graymere Country Club and a member of the Tennessee Public Defenders Conference Executive Committee. He serves as co-chairman of the Steering Committee for the new Maury County Judicial Center.

Jones joined the Kiwanis Club in 1998 and was the 88th President of the club during the 2008-2009 Kiwanis year.


Heffington Named Circuit Judge (CDH)

Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday the appointment of Columbia attorney Julie Heffington to 22nd Judicial District Circuit Court Judge, one of three key judicial appointments for newly-created state courts.

Heffington, who was raised on a farm in Summertown, currently serves as an attorney and partner at Middle Tennessee Law Group.

The 22nd Judicial District covers Giles, Lawrence, Maury and Wayne counties.

"I am honored to have been selected as Circuit Court Judge to serve the people of the 22nd Judicial District," Heffington said. "I had the privilege of growing up on my family’s farm in Summertown, where my family still resides. My upbringing instilled a love for and understanding of this community – a community I look forward to serving in this new role."

Heffington, a partner at Wolaver, Carter & Heffington, practiced in the areas of insurance litigation, divorce, adoption, property disputes, wills and estates.

She earned her bachelor’s degree at Middle Tennessee State University and juris doctor at Nashville School of Law.

The new judicial position was created by the Tennessee General Assembly through Public Chapter No. 396, enacted May 11.

“I am proud to announce the appointment of these highly qualified individuals and value the significant experience they will bring to their respective roles,” Lee said. “I appreciate their leadership and am confident they will serve Tennesseans with integrity.”

Prior to attending law school, Heffington was a Registered Nurse for 14 years, specializing in labor and delivery, recovery and pediatrics. She earned a nursing degree from Middle Tennessee State University and juris doctor degree from Nashville School of Law, where she also received the Moot Court Award. 

She remains licensed in the State of Tennessee and is active in promoting the nursing profession. She also is a part of the Maury County Bar Association and Tennessee Bar Association.


June Lake Update (TheNewsTN)

On Thursday, Southeast Venture announced updates in the June Lake development plan's progress, including the commencement of framing on the development’s first homes and significant strides in the construction of essential infrastructure to support June Lake.

Following delays on the June Lake Interchange completion in August, September saw Tudor Building Group commence the framing of the first homes at June Lake. The community, named the Preserve at June Lake, will showcase 28 residences, offering eight distinct floor plans. The homes will boast custom build finishes, interiors spanning from 3,000 to 3,500 square feet, and a starting price of $900,000.

"We are thrilled to announce the commencement of framing on a number of homes at The Preserve at June Lake," said David Tudor, President of Tudor Building Group, in a news release. "This marks an important step forward in bringing our vision to life and providing residents with an exceptional living experience that seamlessly integrates with all that June Lake will offer."

Additionally, significant progress has been made on essential infrastructure to support the development. Construction on a 3-million-gallon water tank began this month, with an anticipated completion date of September 2024. This project will ensure a reliable and sustainable water supply for both June Lake and Spring Hill residents, improving the community's water storage capability for years to come.

Also, the first 3,000 feet of the greenway along Aenon Creek is now underway and will be open in anticipation of residents moving to June Lake. Upon its full completion, the two-mile greenway will provide residents with connection to the future June Lake Town Center, lake, and park.

"These achievements represent our commitment to creating a harmonious living environment at June Lake. We are excited about the positive impact these projects will have on our community,” said Don Alexander, project manager for Southeast Venture.

Over the next two decades, June Lake is poised to feature 2,900 residential units, 3.9 million square feet of Class A office space, nearly 1.3 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, and 400 hotel rooms. 


Maury Regional Airport to Get New Terminal (MSM)

The Maury Regional Airport Authority is set to build a new terminal following a vote by the county commission to provide $4.615 million in funds towards the project.

The Commission was voted on and approved the expenditure during its Monday, Sept. 18 meeting.

In August, an interlocal agreement was made between Maury County and Maury Regional Airport to pay for the construction, with the airport agreeing to pay the county back with annual funding through the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The funds will go towards both the rendering and construction of the new terminal.

“Basically, our airport terminal is old, outdated, and small,” Commission Chairman Eric Previti said of the airport, which was established in the 1950s and built with bricks that were left over from construction of Maury Regional Hospital.

“The good part about this is that by offering better services at the airport, we should get more customers which will increase our revenue.”

The initiative comes on the heels of a recently completed $8 million runway rehab project, which included new energy saving LED lighting and strengthening, which will allow heavier commercial and freight aircraft to land on the runway.

Greg Martin, Maury Regional Airport Commissioner, spoke on the economic impact the airport has on Maury County and Southern Middle Tennessee.

“With the level of service we offer, we are able to increase commercial traffic to support the manufacturing industry in southern Middle Tennessee,” Martin said. “The airport is one of the first welcome mats for manufacturing and service industries considering this area for new operations or expansion.”

Located in Mount Pleasant, Maury Regional Airport serves both private customers and large corporations such as General Motors and Love’s Travel Stop, and it is currently the largest airport between Nashville and Huntsville.

Martin said once the construction drawings and bids are received, the airport will have a better idea of when the new terminal will be operational.

“Now that we have the funding, the first step is to work with the engineers and architects,” he said. “I could have the drawings done by the end of the year, but because it’s a public project it takes longer. We would be fortunate to break ground in 2024. We’re being intentional about it.”


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

Mr. John Mallory Church, 88, retired realtor and auctioneer and resident of Columbia, died Friday, September 29, 2023, at Poplar Estates. Funeral services for Mr. Church will be conducted Wednesday at 11:00 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. until 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home.


…And now, news from around the state…

Andean Bears At Zoo (Maury County Source)

Last week, The Nashville Zoo announced the arrival of a 10-year-old male Andean bear, Pinocchio, from Salisbury Zoo in Maryland.

He arrived in July and underwent a standard quarantine period and has slowly been acclimating to his new habitat. Nashville Zoo was selected to receive this male bear as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Andean Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP)® and he will eventually be introduced to Nashville Zoo’s female Andean bear, Luka, as a breeding partner. The Andean Bear SSP® helps to ensure genetically diverse populations of this species in human care.

Pinocchio was originally rescued as an abandoned cub from the rural countryside of Ecuador and was ultimately deemed unfit to be released back into the wild. He arrived at Salisbury Zoo in 2017 and successfully fathered three cubs during his time there. Nashville Zoo is excited to continue the conservation efforts for this vulnerable species and hope to replicate Pinocchio’s prior breeding success.

Andean bears (Tremarctos ornatus) are native to the Andes and outlying mountain regions in South America and are the only bear found on this continent. Andean bears are considered vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature due to deforestation. In recent decades, Andean bear populations have been on a rapid decline mainly because of habitat loss and there are an estimated 18,000 bears in the wild.

Learn more at www.nashvillezoo.org


Powerball Over $1B (MauryCountySource)

The Powerball® has crossed the 1 billion mark with an estimated $1.04 billion jackpot, for the next drawing on Monday night. The jackpot has a cash value of $478.2 million.

The Powerball jackpot was previously won on July 19, when a ticket in California matched all five white balls and the red Powerball® to win a $1.08 billion jackpot. Since then, there have been 32 consecutive drawings without a grand prize winner.

The prize ranks as the game’s second-largest jackpot this year and the fourth-largest jackpot in the history of the game.

If a player wins the jackpot on Monday night, they will have the choice between an annuitized prize worth an estimated $1.04 million or a lump sum payment estimated at $478.2 million. Both prize options are before taxes. If the winner selects the annuity option, they will receive one immediate payment followed by 29 annual payments that increase by 5% each year.

The overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 24.9. The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Because actualizing his greatness required music industry evolution, Ronnie Milsap — though a 2014 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and Grand Ole Opry member with four Male Vocalist of the Year trophies — is perhaps underrated.

On Oct. 3 at Lower Broadway's Bridgestone Arena, an all-star lineup including Kelly Clarkson, Little Big Town, Parker McCollum, Justin Moore, Scotty McCreery, Sara Evans, Breland, The Band of Heathens, Charlie McCoy, Tracy Lawrence, Randy Houser, Lorrie Morgan, Neal McCoy, Terri Clark, Phil Vassar and more will honor the 42-time chart-topper at an event billed as the blind, 80-year-old performer's "Final Nashville Show."

Overall, Milsap's reflection on his career highlights that soul music's heart-borne authenticity forever connects it to country music.

Milsap said he's particularly fond of the work that artists like Kelly Clarkson have done to continue country music's soulful pop expansions.

"When good singers sing great songs, amazing things happen," he said.


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