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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 20, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Chief Cobb Calls For Internal Investigation (MSM)

According to emails obtained by Main Street Maury, Columbia Fire Chief Ty Cobb has requested an internal investigation into the city’s response to the May 3, 2023, Central High School shooting hoax, during which an alleged unauthorized individual responded to the scene carrying an AR-15 rifle in full tactical gear.

“The safety of my employees and the people of Columbia is my top priority,” the email from Cobb reads.

Cobb declined to comment, citing the investigation.

As previously reported, former Columbia firefighter Roy Brooks, who was terminated last year by the city, was indicted by a grand jury in August on the charge of carrying a weapon on school property. He was booked into the Maury County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 25 on a $10,000 bond and released that day.

Cobb’s concern for the safety of his employees may stem from two separate incidents allegedly involving Brooks and Columbia Fire Department employees. 

Both employees spoke with the Columbia Police Department about each alleged incident, but police reports could not be obtained through a public records request and no evidence exists that reports were filed.

According to a dispatch report made in July 2023, an employee reported a “traffic incident” to police involving Brooks. 

The report states the employee was leaving a friend’s residence off of Nashville Highway when a driver, alleged by the employee to be Brooks, “crossed over all lanes of traffic to turn next to him, causing people to go around the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle then made multiple hand gestures.” 

Columbia police responded to the scene of the incident and obtained surveillance footage showing the incident, but while the employee did not pursue charges, there is no evidence any traffic citation or other charges were filed. 

In April 2023, a similar incident was reported by a different city employee, which was recorded on video. According to the dispatch report’s narrative, the employee was traveling home in his vehicle when he observed Brooks.

According to the report, “As he was on his way home, (employee) observed former CFR employee Roy Brooks drive past him and flip him off. He pulled behind Brooks and was going home. Brooks continued down the same road then slowly drove by the residence,” the dispatch report reads. “He continued down the road as (employee) pulled into his driveway. (Employee) felt Brooks may have become angry when seeing (employee) and went by (employee)’s residence to intimidate him. (Employee) did not feel anything would come from the incident, but he did want it documented in the event something occurred.”

The employee reportedly told police he was unsure if any laws were broken during the incident but wanted to document the event. 

Main Street Maury has also requested Columbia Police Chief Jeremy Alsup’s emails pertaining to the May 3 incident. However, no such emails from Alsup were provided. 

Both Alsup and City Attorney Tim Tisher declined to comment, citing the federal lawsuit Brooks filed against the city in May.

Brooks is scheduled to make his first court appearance on the weapons charge on Nov. 8.


New Upscale Residential Moves Forward (Fox17.com)

A six-story residential building with 4,000 square feet of commercial retail space is in the works for downtown Columbia.

The Drake, which has already been approved by the City of Columbia, will be nestled on 2.78 acres one block east of the historic downtown square. The structure will go up at the corner of Woodland Street and East 7th Street.

Bristol Development Group plans to build 293 luxury apartments inside The Drake. Each unit will be equipped with balconies, quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, and more. Residents will have access to a yoga studio, podcast studio, pet spa and urban dog park, pool, fitness center, co-working space that features locally sourced coffee, bike storage, and 24/7 package delivery.

In addition to housing, The Drake will offer commercial space for bakeries, coffee and sandwich shops, and similar stores.

“Since the neighboring Williamson County strictly regulates residential growth through substantial impact fees and increasingly restrictive zoning policies, it is inevitable that any new development would find its way into Maury County and the city of Columbia, in particular,” Bristol Development said.

“The key ingredient currently absent from downtown Columbia is an upscale multifamily residential development to provide luxury accommodations in this thoroughly charming historic setting.” -Bristol Development Group

Construction for The Drake is set to begin later this year or early 2024. It's estimated to take around 30 months to complete.


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


Lung Cancer Screening at MRMC (Press Release)

In recognition of National Lung Cancer Screening Day, Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) will offer convenient Saturday appointments for computed tomography (CT) lung cancer screenings for those who qualify on Nov. 11 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 National Lung Cancer Screening Day is in its second year as a partnership between the American Cancer Society National Lung Cancer Roundtable, American College of Radiology, Radiology Health Equity Coalition and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The goal of the initiative is to increase access to lung cancer screenings that help detect lung cancer in its earliest stages.

 Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, accounting for an estimated 127,000 deaths in the U.S. this year alone. Early detection is vital to successful treatment, and Maury Regional Health recommends screenings for those who qualify.

 Patients who qualify for a CT lung cancer screening may schedule their exam by calling 931.380.4044. Screening appointments are available at MRMC on Saturday, Nov. 11, for National Lung Cancer Screening Day in addition to being available throughout the year Monday-Friday. To qualify for a CT lung screening covered by most insurance plans, patients must meet the following criteria:

Be 50-77 years of age

Have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer

Have a tobacco smoking history of at least 20 pack-years (one pack-year = smoking one pack per day for one year; one pack = 20 cigarettes)

Be a current smoker or one who has quit within the last 15 years

Receive a written order from your physician

Patients who don’t meet the above criteria can opt for a self-referral CT screening of the chest/lung area without a physician’s order for a self-pay price of $100. To schedule, call 931.380.4044.

 For those who are unable to attend the National Lung Cancer Screening Day event at MRMC, Maury Regional Health also offers screenings Monday-Friday at MRMC, Marshall Medical Center in Lewisburg, Spring Hill Imaging Center in Spring Hill and Wayne Medical Center in Waynesboro. For more information, visit MauryRegional.com/Lung.



Spring Hill Passport (Press Release)

On Monday, October 16, 2023, the Spring Hill Chamber launched its 2023 Think, Shop, Explore Local Passport presented by Groove Life, encouraging residents to explore the local community and its businesses through November 17, 2023.


Residents who collect at least 15 stickers from participating businesses will have a chance to win a grand prize featuring gifts from local businesses worth thousands of dollars.


"Empowering our community with a local passport program is not just about promoting business; it's about promoting community pride through local discovery," said Rebecca Melton, executive director of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce. "With the opportunity to win a generous grand prize from some of our local businesses, the passport program offers an exciting way for residents to explore the community's assets and make new connections."


Passports are available at all participating businesses and the Spring Hill Welcome Center located at 5326 Main Street, Suite G in Spring Hill. The Welcome Center will also serve as the official drop-off location for all completed passports. A list of business addresses, a map with directions, grand prize details, and passport rules can be found at springhillchamber.com/passport.


The local passport includes thirty-three stops, encompassing various local business types and community photo opportunities.


This year's community photo opportunities include Spring Hill Public Library, Walnut Street Skate Park, and Cannon Hill. Participants can take photos at these locations and share them on Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #SHPassport23 or complete the entire passport to earn extra entries in the grand prize drawing.


Manufacturing Day (Press Release)

JC Ford, Fuel Total Systems, and GCP Applied Technologies will host 120 Advanced Manufacturing, Mechatronics, and STEAM Engineering students from Maury County Public Schools for a Manufacturing Day event on October 27th as part of a national effort to showcase the reality of modern manufacturing careers and connect with America’s future workforce. During the lunch hour (sponsored by Maury Alliance) a team from Ultium Cells will present to the students and they will have an opportunity to tour the Engineering Systems Technology Program at Columbia State Community College.

 

The three manufacturers were selected to highlight the diverse industry opportunities available in Maury County. JC Ford is a leading manufacturer of high-speed corn tortilla production equipment. They also manufacture flour tortilla production lines, tortilla chip production lines, fryers to produce tortilla chips and corn-based snacks, and complete systems for processing corn into masa. Fuel Total Systems, located in the Cherry Glen Industrial park, manufactures automotive plastic fuel tank systems and related automotive components, focusing on development, design, and manufacturing. GCP Applied Technologies is a leading global provider of specialty construction products technologies, such as PREPRUFE® PLUS – a waterproofing membrane that protects building infrastructure.

 

The Manufacturing Day events have been coordinated via a collaborative effort between Maury County Public Schools, Columbia State Community College, and Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance.


There is an increasing demand for highly skilled professionals in the manufacturing sector who can design, program and operate technology. Over the next decade, manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs. Organized by The Manufacturing Institute—the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers—MFG Day (established in 2012) is designed to introduce young people and others in the community to the thriving manufacturing industry to change perceptions of manufacturing and highlight the high-tech and innovative companies that are solving tomorrow’s challenges today. More information is available at www.mfgday.com.


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.


And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by 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…

No One Trashes TN Patch (Press Release)

The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s (TDOT) Nobody Trashes Tennessee litter prevention campaign is partnering with Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee (GSMIDTN) to offer a new Nobody Trashes Tennessee patch.

 Troops of all ages have multiple ways to earn the patch including participating in litter cleanups in their community, coordinating their own cleanup in their neighborhood or school grounds, or through Girl Scout camp beautification projects. For Girl Scouts ages 12 and older, the Adopt-A-Highway program is an opportunity to earn both a patch and a roadway recognition panel for committing to quarterly pickups. Younger scouts may earn a patch by completing Nobody Trashes Tennessee educational worksheets. Patches are provided by Nobody Trashes Tennessee and do not cost the troop or individual scouts.

“Girl Scouts are dedicated to making a difference in their communities as reflected in one of our core values to put service above self,” said Pam Self, Interim President/CEO, GSMIDTN. “By participating in a litter cleanup service project, we are also living the Girl Scout Promise of helping people at all times.”

Girl Scouts are encouraged to participate in the upcoming third annual No Trash November, a month-long initiative encouraging Tennesseans to participate in cleanup events held across the state. Last year’s No Trash November campaign included 95 events with over 1,300 volunteers who collected more than 48,000 pounds of litter from the state’s roadways. This year, with the help of GSMIDTN, the initiative’s goal is to remove 50,000 pounds of litter from Tennessee roadways.

In addition to No Trash November, troops may participate in community cleanups or coordinate their own events in observance of the Great American Cleanup (Mid-March - Mid-June), Keep Tennessee Beautiful Month (March), or Earth Day (April 22, 2024).

“Our shared values make this a perfect partnership as we strive to prevent and reduce litter on our state’s roadways and waterways,” said Brittany Morris, TDOT Transportation Program Coordinator. “By working together to improve and beautify communities across the state, we can make an even larger impact.”

All residents are encouraged to show their support for a litter-free Tennessee. To find a local cleanup event, visit nobodytrashestennessee.com/events and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Big Pharma Funds Research at Meharry (Tennessean)

A group of international pharmaceutical and genetics companies announced Wednesday they will invest $80 million to create a scholarship and major genetics research program at Meharry Medical College to address the severe shortage of minorities involved in medical science.

The New York-based Regeneron Genetics Center, United Kingdom-based AstraZeneca, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk and Switzerland-based Roche are launching an initiative called "Together for CHANGE" (Changing Healthcare for People of African Ancestry through InterNational Genomics & Equity) to address such inequities.

Their investment at Meharry will include the creation of a genetics research center — The Diaspora Human Genomics Institute — and new educational programs to encourage Nashville-area students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (so-called STEM subjects).

This is not merely about minority representation in the fields. Research shows that minorities are under-represented in clinical drug trials, a fact that may affect the efficacy of certain pharmaceuticals and limit the development of new drugs.

Meharry Medical College, a historically Black college, was the first medical school that accepted African Americans in the South.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

We've got an event-filled weekend this week with the return of Bleu 32's Big Blue Pickin' Party.

Bleu 32's flagship event featuring all sorts of "junk and other stuff" to explore and discover returns this Saturday to downtown Columbia.

The Big Bleu Pickin' Party will start off with its flea market opening at 9 a.m. Saturday, featuring nearly 50 vendors and artisans. The assortment of items includes just about everything from clothing to repurposed antiques, handmade art, food, jewelry, you get the idea.

There will also be live music and food trucks.

Additional vendors will also be set up at the Columbia Arts Building, 307 W. 11th St. in the Columbia Arts District.

The Big Bleu Pickin' Party is also happening in conjunction with Columbia Cars & Coffee's final event of the season, which begins at 8 a.m.


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