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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for September 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…

Shooting Incident (Press Release)

On September 16th the Columbia police department responded to a shooting incident involving a large group which had gathered in the 800 block of Woodland Street. Officers were on scene as gunfire began to be exchanged between individuals on both sides of the street. Officers detained 20-year-old Te’Kwantarius Dion Johnson who they witnessed firing a handgun in the crowd. Several vehicles and structures nearby were struck by gunfire, but there have been no reports of any person being shot during this incident. One individual sustained a non-life-threatening injury when he was struck by a vehicle as it fled the scene. All other persons involved fled the scene and have not yet been identified.

Te’Kwantanrius Dion Johnson was charged with attempted first-degree murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and is being held at the Maury Count Sheriff’s Department.

This investigation is ongoing and additional arrests may be forthcoming.

Any person with additional information that may assist in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Criminal Investigations Division of Columbia Police Department at 931-560-1670, Maury County Crimestoppers at 931-381-4900, or Columbia Police SAFE Tip Email to SAFETips@ColumbiaTN.Com.


Spring Hill BOMA Expands UGB (CDH)

The Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Monday to amend its newest urban growth boundary (UGB) updates, requesting a coordinating committee to remove a portion of its northwest section.

The updates were first approved in July, which sparked many concerns by the area's property owners, a portion of residents located off Barker Road, which requested not to be included in the new UGB and remain under the rural classification.

Monday's public comments began with Barker Road resident Justin Lanning sharing his and his neighbors' thanks to the BOMA for hearing their concerns and the city's efforts to coordinate with the UGB committee to reflect the citizens' wants.

"Speaking on behalf of the 93% of people who own acres and property in that proposed northwest UGB region, we just wanted to say we appreciate everyone's thoughtful consideration during this process," Lanning said. "We've appreciated all the opportunities we've had to speak and have had a very open process."

The proposed UGB expansion would also affect boundaries in Brentwood, Fairview, Nolensville, Franklin and Thompson's Station, which were last updated in 2001.

Lanning added that data from a Spring Hill public survey also showed 49% of voters were opposed to the overall plan, with 38% voting in favor. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture also determined the area doesn't have any natural flowing water streams, he said.

"There are actually just three dry creeks with a few 'fingerlings,' and upon further looking you may see they all run into retention ponds for livestock," Lanning said.

The BOMA ultimately amended the proposed resolution, which would include a request from the city to the UGB's coordinating committee to remove the plan's northwest section at Barker Road.

"This is for the residents on Barker Road who had made specific requests at the meeting in July ... being smaller parcels that they would not likely be subject to some sort of development activity," City Administrator Pam Caskie said. "This is proposed as an alternative rather than eliminating the whole area."

Caskie added that "this is not an annexation," but would merely make the annexation process easier, if the property owner were to be interested in the future.

"If it is in Williamson County and in no urban growth boundary, there is proposed to be an interlocal agreement that says we couldn't have it. And even if that didn't pass there would have to be a referendum," Caskie said. "If it's in someone else's growth boundary, it doesn't matter where they want to be, they can't go anywhere but in that urban growth boundary."

Once the UGB coordinating committee reaches its final decision, the request would then be sent back to the BOMA for final approval.


GM Poised to Strike (Tennessean)

A third-generation union worker, Telisa Sangster has called the General Motors plant in Spring Hill her home for 15 years.

She takes pride in its legacy.

A tradition that is now at stake.

Sangster is one of more than 3,000 United Auto Workers members at the plant working under an expired contract. They continue to work while anticipating phone calls and texts that could add them to a strike that has garnered national attention.

On Friday morning, about 13,000 of the union's 150,000 members were involved in what the movement is calling the "Stand up Strike" — a sequel to the 1937 "Sit-Down Strike" which was considered the first major labor dispute in the U.S. auto industry. Workers in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri spent the day on the picket lines.

Spring Hill could be among the next plants to strike if a deal isn't reached with automakers GM, Ford and Stellantis.

At the forefront of the dispute are core issues such as pay and cost of living increases.

"We do our best to build world class vehicles, engines and components," Sangster said. "Based on our J.D. Power scores, it has been accomplished on multiple occasions.

"I support my union leadership's decision. And I pray GM does what's right."

The strike occurs after one month of negotiations failed late Thursday night with GM, Ford and Stellantis, workers, who responded by walking out of assembly plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.

Vanderbilt finance professor Josh White said UAW is showing strength to leverage wins from recent collective-bargaining contracts for UPS and airline pilots. In those deals, unionized workers received significant raises.

"I anticipate the negotiations will unfold prominently in the public eye, which is a tactic unions employ to put pressure on executives," White said.

"I fear that pushing for a steep raise could backfire, prompting companies to relocate production to areas with lower costs or to ramp up automation — both strategies potentially leading to diminished workforce at unionized plants over the long run."

GM CEO Mary Barra said Friday in an interview on "CBS Mornings" the union's demands are unreasonable and would cost more than $100 billion.

The company's offer includes a "record" overall wage increase and strong health benefits, Barra said.

"We've been at the table since July 18," Barra added. "We received over 1,000 demands. We have a historic offer on the table, and we're at the table right now ready to keep going."

In turn, UAW spokesperson Brian Costantino said workers nationwide are ready for action in lieu of more concessions.

Until that call comes, Costantino said Spring Hill workers continue producing around 700 vehicles per day with an expired contract.

But, he emphasized, everything is in place for a strike. And the more than 3,000 workers in Spring Hill are "fired up" and fed up. Contract negotiations have stalled as demands for cost-of-living increases continue.

"The average new hire starts at $16.67 an hour," Costantino said. "They would have to work for 3 years straight to make what our GM CEO makes in a single day."

Said Sangster: "The wage disparities and retirement benefits between us and our CEO is embarrassing."

UAW strike pay is about $500 per week and is available about a week after action initiates.

President Joe Biden weighed in on the dispute Friday, citing record profits for auto companies in recent years.

"Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers," Biden said. "Strong unions are critical for a growing economy. That's especially true as we transition to a clean-energy future, which we're in the process of doing."

Negotiations have been a belabored process since union demands were submitted in July and August. Counter proposals have been underwhelming, Costantino said.

On Sept. 7, the guild responded to GM's contract offer.

"After refusing to bargain in good faith for the past six weeks, only after having federal labor board charges filed against them, GM has come to the table with an insulting proposal that doesn’t come close to an equitable agreement for America’s autoworkers," UAW President Shawn Fain said.

Costantino believes the big three automakers want a strike.

"The Big three delayed everything till the last minute," he said. "They have not met our demands as they continue to give insulting proposals."

But, while pilots and UPS workers recently prevailed after contentious contract disputes, White said autoworkers may have a harder time getting demands met because of the high cost of transitioning to electric vehicle technology.

Cheaper, non-unionized labor in southern states and Mexico has increasingly drawn automakers away from the Midwest as they cut costs to accelerate EV technologies.

"In the case of UAW, the high demand for new vehicles comes with the caveat of already elevated labor costs for heavily unionized companies such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler," White said. "While these firms operate with high labor expenses, competitors have capitalized on cheaper, non-unionized labor. Shareholders will be looking for cost cutting in other areas of the business to offset these investments, which is the opposite of what the unions seek."

Costantino said the transition to electric is seeing both job creation and job loss due to new technologies, but that the union will prevail.

"The UAW isn't going anywhere," Costantino said. "In fact, it's growing with the installation of a new Ford plant near Memphis. Unions are needed now more than ever for the working class, and we will be leaders on that front."


Muletown Hobbies and Games Opening (WKOM Audio 1:57)

Yesterday, Muletown Hobbies and Games opened their doors with a ribbon cutting ceremony. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy stopped by the new hobby shop to see what they had to offer…


Schools Making Progress (Press Release)

The TN Department of Education, Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System or TVAAS released state-wide scores this week. Maury County Schools is happy to share that the district overall increased from Level 1, defined as "significant evidence that the district's students made less growth than expected," to Level 3, described as "evidence that the district's students made growth as expected.”

To break down the gains from a level one to level three growth, MCPS had five schools receive a Level 5, three a Level 4, and five a Level 3. In a message to the district, Superintendent Ventura shared that it takes EVERYONE in schools doing their jobs to make growth gains. I am humbled and proud to be your leader and know how hard-working and dedicated everyone is at every school!! Every single school has something to be proud of!

Schools that achieved Level 5 for 2022-2023!

• Spring Hill Middle School

• Battle Creek Middle School

• Highland Park Elementary School

• Mt. Pleasant High School and

• Santa Fe Unit School

Level 4 for 2022-2023!

• Hampshire Unit School

• J.R. Baker Elementary School and

• Marvin Wright Elementary School

Level 3 for 2022-2023!

• J. Brown Elementary School

• Virtual Academy of Maury County

• Columbia Central High School

• J.E. Woodard Elementary School

• Mt. Pleasant Elementary School

In a statement to the community, Superintendent Ventura shared, "I am so proud and pleased with the hard work and dedication of our schools, teachers, and families. We have more heavy lifting to do, but with growth comes achievement."


Farm Bureau Annual Meeting (WKOM Audio 3:57)

Yesterday, Farm Bureau held its annual meeting at the 4-H Center. Among the topics covered was a survey of farmland loss in Maury County over the past decade conducted by the Center of Farm Management with the University of Tennessee. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the meeting and got to speak with guest speaker, Kevin Ferguson…


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

Mr. Jerry Lee Bell, 77, former resident of Columbia and former inspector for Union Carbide, died Friday at Savannah Health Care & Rehab Center in Savannah, Tennessee.

Funeral services will be conducted Thursday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.


Mrs. Bobbie Claire Johnson Jones, 88, Retired L.P.N. for Maury Regional Medical Center and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, September 16, 2023 at NHC Columbia.

No services are scheduled at this time. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements and condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.


Amazon Affordable Housing Initiative (Tennessean)

Families of four making up to $120,000 a year could qualify for a below-market-price new home and 1% down payment in Nashville, thanks to a new Amazon housing initiative.

Amazon announced plans last week to roll out a $40 million program focused on increasing home ownership in Nashville, Seattle and Arlington, Virginia — three cities that house its headquarters campuses. The Housing Equity Fund initiative is part of a long term $2 billion program to preserve or create 20,000 affordable housing units.

"Those who are able to own homes are more likely to experience long-term economic stability, while those who can’t are more likely to struggle financially," Amazon Housing Equity Fund Managing Principal Senthil Sankaran said. "This new initiative will allow us to explore ways to help more moderate-income households realize their dreams of homeownership and, in turn, help build wealth that can pass on to the next generation."

The tech giant partnered with The Housing Fund in 2021 to administer affordable-housing programs in phases for working-class and moderate-income families in the Nashville region.

Since then, it paid property tax bills for 844 homeowners and 103 landlords — who passed savings onto Nashville tenants. Most of the local beneficiaries earn below 80% of the area median income, which is about $80,000 for a family of four in Nashville.

The new program will expand to focus on increasing home ownership via shared-equity deals that provide below-market homes at 1% down payment. Applications to enroll in its programs are available at TheHousingFund.org.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Columbia High School Class of 1953 held its 70th Class Reunion on Sept. 13 at Legends restaurant with 30, 88 year-olds in attendance.

"Some said, 'Impossible. It can’t happen. They would all be 88 years old. No one would be there after 70 years,'" John Wagster, president of the class, said about those skeptical of the class reunion.

But it did happen.

"No one can recall any class having a 70th reunion," he said.

According to Wagster, 175 people graduated in 1953. The class has kept careful records.

There are known to be 59 members of the class still living scattered throughout the country. Half of those made it back after 70 years, with their wheelchairs and walkers, and with the aid of their grandchildren. The class graduated when the high school was on West Eighth Street in the middle of town, and all football games were played at Pillow Park.

Mr. Wagster stated, "This year, the meeting was at lunch, because 88-year-olds cannot drive at night if they drive at all.”


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