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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for September 21, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Judicial Center Topping Off Ceremony (CDH)

Maury County elected officials gathered at the construction site of the future Maury County Judicial Complex for a topping off ceremony on Wednesday.

As a crane lifted a metal beam to be placed on top of the building, over a dozen county commissioners, judges and court staff looked on as construction continues on the facility that will house the county's court system.

The $33.9 million project was approved in 2022 by the county commission. The new courts facility will be located at the old site of The Daily Herald newspaper b[uilding on South Main Street, which was built in 1969 and was demolished last year.

County commission chairman Eric Previti, who was re-elected to serve a second term as chairman earlier this month, said the occasion is the result of hard work by past and present commissioners.

"We will be able to tell our grandchildren that we did this," Previti said.

Previti named Scott Sumners, previous chairman of the budget committee, who did not seek reelection to the county commission, as the "mastermind" behind the funding of the project.

Bell Construction is the site builder, led by project executive Rick Bruining.

"This is a celebration of the hard work that got us to the point where we are," he said. "We are proud of it."

Public defender Travis B. Jones said the new facility will help relieve long-time overcrowding at the historic Maury County Courthouse on Public Square, built in 1906.

“In my years of practice, I have spent many years speaking to clients while sitting on the basement steps of our current, historic courthouse," Jones said. "While a beautiful centerpiece of our community, its adequacy has long since passed with the growth of our county. We sincerely hope the efforts of all involved in this great project will serve this community for many years to come, providing much needed space, privacy, and safety to all who enter seeking justice in both the civil and criminal realms.”

Previous county commission chairman Don Morrow, who advocated for the site on South Main to be the site of the next judicial center, said the topping off ceremony was satisfying and a long time coming.

"I served 16 years [and in 1996, they were talking about it. I first saw plans for the first time in 1996, which was proposed at $40 million even back then and now we came in at less than that," Morrow said.

It's an honor to serve the citizens of Maury County and change the landscape of the downtown area, which is huge, and maybe add to the streetscape downtown. I think everybody is going to like this when we get into it. It will be an asset to Maury County."

Kids Place Ribbon Cutting (WKOM Audio 5:42)

Yesterday, Kids’ Place, a child advocacy center held a ribbon cutting at their new location on Hatcher Lane in Columbia. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the event to learn more about Kids’ Place…

Rose to Retire from Farm Bureau (CDH)

Tennessee Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Rhedona Rose will retire at the end of the year after 37 years of dedicated service.

A Smith County native, Rose worked her way up from intern to executive vice president over almost four decades.

She has served on the forefront of dynamic change, providing unwavering leadership in the agriculture industry during her tenure.

Rose has positively impacted Tennessee Farm Bureau, Tennessee agriculture, American agriculture and much more, according to a Farm Bureau press release.

She has served on numerous boards, committees and advisory councils, including the Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees and the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees.  

“Being a part of the Farm Bureau team has been an absolute privilege," Rose said. "When I embarked on this journey with Tennessee Farm Bureau, I couldn’t foresee how I would be blessed every step of the way. Farm Bureau's success is a testament to the organization’s soul – the many dedicated volunteer leaders across the state and the organization’s heartbeat – the devoted staff.

"I have no doubt the organization will continue to excel in fulfilling its mission.”  

Rose was named executive vice president in December of 2010. In October of 2017, the state board of directors chose her to take on the responsibilities of chief administrative officer, while keeping her title as executive vice president and leading the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.

She began her career with the organization in 1986 as an intern in the department of information before being hired as a research assistant for what is now the public policy division.

She was named director and chief lobbyist in 1995.

“There aren’t enough words to thank Rhedona for all she has done for Tennessee Farm Bureau and Tennessee agriculture over the past 37 years,” said Tennessee Farm Bureau President Eric Mayberry. “She has left an indelible mark and her extraordinary legacy will continue to impact the organization for generations. We will miss her leadership, but we wish her all the best in a much-deserved retirement.”  

Born in Smith County, Rose spent a large part of her youth in Putnam County, where she was active in 4-H competing in the sheep project and FFA serving as state treasurer in 1980-1981.

Rose attended Tennessee Tech University where she majored in agriculture and graduated in 1984.

She was an agriculture educator in Loudon County before receiving her master’s degree from Texas A&M University in 1986.

"She has worked tirelessly to shape policy which benefited Tennessee farmers and rural people and has always been highly respected by lawmakers, industry partners and farmers across the state," the release said.

"Rhedona Rose has sacrificed and served the nation’s largest Farm Bureau remarkably, and there’s no doubt the organization is better because of her nearly four decades of influence."

The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation State Board of Directors have selected Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation Director of Membership Bryan Wright to replace Rose as executive vice president.

Wright began his career in 1993 as an insurance agent in Smith County with Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company. He was hired as Tennessee Farm Bureau’s member benefits coordinator in 2001 and became associate director of organization in 2003.

In 2014, he took over as director of the membership division. As a White County native, Wright graduated from Tennessee Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1992.

He and his wife, Regina, live in the Brush Creek community of Smith County.

Grand Reopening of H1 Auto Care (WKOM Audio 2:00)

Yesterday, H1 Auto Care in Spring Hill held their 5th anniversary celebration. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the event and spoke to the proprietor about the services they offer…

Historic Marker Unveiled (Press Release)

A historic marker was installed at the headquarters of Tennessee Farm Bureau in Columbia, commemorating a century of dedicated service to the community.

Founded in 1921, Tennessee Farm Bureau has played an integral role in the agricultural heritage of Tennessee.

Tennessee Farm Bureau is a leading agricultural organization dedicated to supporting Tennessee farmers and rural communities. It has been a cornerstone of the agricultural industry, advocating for the needs and interests of farmers and promoting the vitality of rural areas across the state. “For a century, Tennessee Farm Bureau has been deeply rooted in the heart of Columbia, working tirelessly to support our farmers and rural communities,” stated Eric Mayberry, President, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.

“This historical marker symbolizes our long-lasting partnership with this great city, and we are honored to have been a part of its growth and success. We are grateful to the City of Columbia for recognizing our contributions and commitment to this community."A nonprofit organization that represents the interests of farmers and rural families in Tennessee, Farm Bureau provides a variety of services to its members, including insurance, financial planning and educational programs.

"The marker ceremony was a momentous occasion celebrating the enduring partnership between Tennessee Farm Bureau and the City of Columbia," a city press release said. "The historical marker, placed at its state headquarters in Columbia, serves as a testament to their unwavering commitment to the region for the past 100 years."

City Mayor Chaz Molder said he looks forward to the ongoing legacy of Farm Bureau's impact on the state and region.

"When I think about the many attributes we have as a city, I always think about the Tennessee Farm Bureau and how fortunate we are that they call Columbia home. It is my hope that this marker will forever be a reminder of our close bond, and will educate all passers by of the importance of this organization in our community," Molder said.

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.

…And now, news from around the state…

TSU Underfunded by State by Billions (Tennessean)

Tennessee and 15 other states were accused this week by the Biden administration of underfunding their historically Black land-grant universities by billions of dollars over the last 30 years.

A letter from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack to Gov. Bill Lee said Tennessee has underfunded Tennessee State University by $2.1 billion dollars. That figure was the highest among all states that received letters. Officials found Ohio and Delaware have met their legal obligation to their HBCU land-grand universities.

"Look at the decades of underfunding, not just in the capacity grants but also in the basic state appropriations, and think about how much effort it took for these schools to produce what they did," said Rep. Harold Love Jr, D-Nashville.

Land-grant universities were created by the Morrill Act of 1862. The federal government gave states land, which they could sell to fund a university that emphasized agriculture and "mechanical arts." Many of these schools, like the University of Tennessee, became the states' flagship public universities. They also did not initially admit Black students.

In 1890, a second Morrill Act required states to either end racial discrimination at their land-grant colleges or create separate schools for Black students. Across the country, 18 states chose to found Black institutions. Tennessee State was created by the second Morrill Act.

If states decided to open separate colleges for Black students, the 1890 Morrill Act required them to give equal funding to their white and Black land-grant schools.

Tennessee, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, underfunded TSU by $2,147,784,704 during the last 30 years.

In 2021, Tennessee's Office of Legislative Budget Analysis calculated that over the last 60 years the state underfunded TSU by $151 million to $544 million, a figure far below what the U.S. government found.

In response, Tennessee approved $250 million in one-time funds for TSU to use for infrastructure.

"There's no discrepancies in the numbers. These are different buckets," said Love, who led the 2021 effort to document the state's underfunding of TSU.

Love noted that the NCES had the staff and the data to more accurately document the extent of state underfunding of land-grant HBCUs.

The letter to Gov. Lee urged Tennessee to provide a "substantial state allocation" to TSU and make a two-to-one match of future federal funds the school receives.

A spokeswoman for the governor said, "As Governor Lee has said, Tennessee State University is a remarkable institution that is vital to our state’s long-term success, and he has proposed significant funding for TSU every year, including an historic $250 million investment last year for strategic initiatives at TSU,"

Gas Prices (MSM)

After declining for three consecutive weeks, Tennessee gas prices are now getting more expensive. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.43 which is still seven cents less expensive than one month ago but twenty cents more than one year ago.  

“Global fuel supplies continue to tighten, which is putting upward pressure on oil prices, and in turn is causing pump prices to rise as well,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The big jumps we’ve seen in crude oil pricing would typically cause a more significant change in pump prices, however, the upward pressure on pump prices has been tempered by much lower demand. For this week, drivers should expect to see continued volatility at the pump.” 

Quick Facts

79% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.50

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $3.19 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.73 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 6th least expensive market in the nation

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Nashville Sounds Foundation is excited to announce the return of its kid-friendly, Halloween-themed Suites-N-Treats event at First Horizon Park on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

For the second consecutive year and seventh overall, the Sounds and their Club Level suite owners will decorate the Club Level suites at First Horizon Park. Participants are invited to trick-or-treat, moving about the Club Level to collect candy and participate in each suite’s festivities.

Tickets are available for $5 each and can be purchased at All proceeds will benefit the Nashville Sounds Foundation. All participants must purchase a ticket to enter First Horizon Park.


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