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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for September 26, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Strike Update (Tennessean)

Workers at the Spring Hill General Motors plant didn’t join the strike last week as negotiations continue between three auto manufacturers and the national United Auto Workers union.

However, parts distribution centers for GM have been called to walk out, affecting centers in Memphis and dozens of other parts centers in the U.S., following a Friday address by UAW President Shawn Fain.

Earlier in the week, a Spring Hill GM plant strike was much-speculated after a reported 13,000 autoworkers of the union's 150,000 members took up signs, officially walking out of GM, Ford and Stellantis plants in three states — Ohio, Michigan and Missouri.

More than 3,000 United Auto Workers members are employed at the Spring Hill plant.

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

Fain addressed more than 50,000 people Friday morning on a Facebook Live event. Ford, he said, has made positive efforts at the negotiating table, but Stellantis and GM continue to play hardball.

Fain called on all parts distribution facilities — 38 factories between GM and Stellantis — to walk out. While that doesn't include the Spring Hill plant, it does include one in Memphis that employs about 200 employees.

"Stellantis and GM are going to need some serious pushing," he said. "Both of those companies have rejected all of our job security proposals. Both GM and Stellantis have rejected our profit sharing proposals, and both companies have rejected our proposals to convert temps."

During his talk, Fain addressed the Spring Hill plant, saying workers are still prepared to strike if more negotiation demands aren't reached.

Earlier in the week, UAW spokesperson Brian Costantino said workers in Spring Hill are "fired up" and "fed up."

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.

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.

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


Preservation Park Underway (MSM)

Seeing construction equipment on West 7th Street in Columbia might make some city residents nervous, but the small equipment working at the corner on High Street is creating another gem for the downtown district.

According to the city’s report from Tourism and Marketing Director Kellye Murphy, the Polks at Preservation Park is a strategic planning objective undertaken by the City Council. The site was identified as an appropriate location for the proposed park across the street from the President James K. Polk Home and Museum at the corner of West 7th Street and North High Street. The property is owned by Maury County, the parking lot adjacent to the Maury County Tourism and Visitors Bureau offices.

The lease agreement was approved by the Maury County Commission at the Nov. 18, 2019 meeting, but the project was postponed due to the pandemic resulting in the amended lease agreement with a 2023 start date. This agreement proposes a lease term of 25 years with 10-year options beginning at the end of the first 25 years with rent payments totaling $1 per year.

“There are a lot of things about the project I am excited about, but one is it represents a city-county partnership. We are excited to have this as a welcoming point to our downtown,” Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said.

The downtown area has little greenspace, and this project will inject some greenery into the district while paying tribute to the city’s history through statues of both James K. and Sarah Polk.

Sitting directly across the street from Polk’s ancestral home, the two will be forever cast in bronze for visitors to see. Murphy said she hopes the park and their statues will encourage visitors to take a tour of the home and learn more about the city and our nation’s history.

“This will elevate the tourist experience overall,” Murphy said. “It’s a beautiful park across from the Polk Home, which will bring added attention to the experience there. We really hope when people experience one, they will then experience the other – it seems natural.”

The statues have been created by a local artist, Jennifer Grisham, who has sculpted the former president at five-foot-eight inches tall and the former first lady at five-feet-two inches.

Though the project has been ongoing since 2019, the delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent Streetscape project on West 7th Street allowed the city to hone in on the design and features it wanted to highlight.

“The outcome is going to be a better project than it would have been because of some of the delays,” Molder said. “With the expansion of the two sculptures, we’re also going to have that beautiful fountain operational. It’s been there from the beginning, but it’s not worked for several years.”

The project, which is estimated to cost around $200,000 and is funded through tourism dollars, is nearly a half-decade in the making, but is slated to be mostly completed by November of this year. The cost could have been much higher, as the statues make up the majority of the cost, but one of the cost-saving measures of the project is that Columbia’s public works department is serving as the general contractor on the project.

“I have to give a shout out to our public works department for being able to take care of a lot of the construction on this. They aren’t able to do it all, but having them do the work they’re doing is a big help and saves the taxpayers money,” Molder said. “We’re getting a nice, new product that we believe will reap rewards for years to come.”


Cowboy Up Fundraiser

Cowboy Up, Inc., a local suicide awareness non-profit in Maury County, is hosting their annual Light Up The Darkness Walk which will be held on Thursday 09/28/2023 at their office located at 604 N. High Street, Columbia.

Music starts at 6:30pm followed by a short awareness walk and candle lighting service in memory of those lost to suicide.

Approximately one young person dies from suicide every 1 hour and 45 minutes in the U.S. Suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. Research tells us that almost 70% of the people who attempt suicide express their intentions to someone.

Cowboy Up, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Columbia, Tennessee, that focuses on the prevention of youth suicide through educational programs. Cowboy Up was originally started as a service project of Junior Auxiliary of Columbia in 2005 until becoming its own nonprofit in August 2020.

For more information, visit Cowboy Up’s Facebook page.


Athenaeum Tour (Press Release)

The Athenaeum, one of Columbia’s premier historic sites, will be hosting a Candlelight Tour on Sept. 30 at the Athenaeum, located at 808 Athenaeum St. from 7-9. Tours will begin approximately every 20-30 minutes.  The cost is $5 per person. Come learn the Mourning Traditions of the Antebellum South. All proceeds from the tour will benefit the Athenaeum. For more information, call Phyllis Moore at 931-446-0539 or email mybusylife.pm@gmail.com 


Fall Fest (Press Release)

Columbia Main Street and the Kiwanis Club of Columbia are excited to announce the first annual Fall Fest, a community festival happening in the heart of downtown Columbia on Saturday, September 30th from 3pm to 7pm.

 The event will feature a variety of activities and attractions, including:

The Kiwanis Chili Cook-off where guests can pay $10 to sample chili from competing teams & vote for their favorite;

Food trucks: Mostarda Catering, Hot Dog Mafia, Loco Lemon, Holy Smoke BBQ, D's Kettle Corn, and Bri's Homemade Ice Cream;

A fun zone with games and activities for kids of all ages;

Live music from Majestic - a Journey tribute band, Classic Vinyl, and Chief Smiley Ricks & the C-Town Special;

A craft marketplace featuring over 40 vendors selling candles, hats, jewelry, plants, clothing, desserts, and more.

 

"We are excited to partner with the Kiwanis Club to bring Fall Fest to downtown Columbia," said Kelli Johnson, Columbia Main Street Manager. "This is a family-friendly festival with everything from food trucks and craft vendors to live music and the Kiwanis chili cook-off. What a great way for families to kick off the fall season and celebrate the community. We hope to see everyone there!"

 Admission is free for Fall Fest and all are welcome to attend, while a fee is charged to participate in the Kiwanis Chili Cook-off. For more information, please visit the Columbia Main Street’s website www.ColumbiaMainStreet.com or the Kiwanis Club of Columbia Facebook page www.facebook.com/kiwanisofcolumbiatn.


Schools in Need of Staff (Press Release)

Although they are in a much better position in terms of staffing than the last two years, Maury County Schools are still looking to fill a number of positions. They are in need of teachers…especially math and special education teachers, school nutrition associates, and bus drivers. Want to be a bus driver, but don’t have your CDL? No problem! Training will be provided. For more information on job openings and how to apply, visit www.mauryk12.org.


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

Mrs. Virginia Ruth Priestley Lamb, 93, resident of Columbia, died Saturday, September 23, 2023, at Maury Regional Medical Center surrounded by her family. Funeral services for Mrs. Lamb will be conducted Thursday at 2:30 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Mr. Steven Lynn Hay, 42, died Thursday, September 21, 2023 at his residence in Columbia. Funeral services for Mr. Hay will be conducted Friday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Friday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.


…And now, news from around the state…

New Nashville Mayor Sworn In (Tennessean)

Freddie O'Connell and his daughters had a breakfast of doughnuts and blueberry muffins on Monday morning. It was a special occasion.

He took the oath of office at 7:37 a.m. to become Nashville’s mayor, capping off a 16-month journey to the city’s highest office. His two daughters and partner looked on with beaming smiles.

"It was an exciting morning," O'Connell said after the swearing in. "It was very nice to start the school day in a way that still lets the girls get to school on time, but now we'll go downstairs and get right to work."

Davidson County Circuit Court Judge David Briley, himself a former mayor, swore in O’Connell at a private ceremony in the Historic Metro Courthouse. A public inauguration is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Public Square Park.

O’Connell secured his place as the 10th mayor of Metro Nashville on Sept. 14 in a landslide runoff victory over Alice Rolli, drawing wide support as the race’s most progressive candidate. Given a short two-week window between his election and the transfer of power, he got off to a quick start preparing for his transition to the office.

The day after he was elected, O’Connell announced a three-person leadership team to oversee the transition: former Metro COVID-19 response leader Dr. Alex Jahangir, author and consultant Christy Pruitt-Haynes and attorney David Esquivel, a partner at Bass, Berry & Sims.

The three co-chairs are each tasked with focusing on one area of his transition: How Nashville works, moves and grows. Those ideas — improving government responsiveness, bolstering public transit and effectively managing Nashville’s growth — were all key messages throughout his campaign.  

Another thing on O’Connell’s to-do list as mayor is deciding who in former Mayor John Cooper’s administration will stay and who will go. He said on Monday that he anticipates Metro Finance Director Kelly Flannery will be leaving the position and Metro Legal Director Wally Dietz will be staying.

"We will probably have some key staff announcements coming soon," O'Connell said. "We have some good folks joining us and some good folks staying."

O'Connell on Monday said one of the biggest challenges the city faces is the tense relationship between Metro and the state. The state passed several laws this year directly impacting the operations of Metro government, including a law to cut down the size of the Metro Council. A lawsuit is currently challenging that legislation.

O'Connell said communication with the governor's office and state legislators will be key for his administration.

"Those conversations will continue because I think as we re-engage in the conversation of regionalism we know that not just Nashville but all of Middle Tennessee needs to be successful," he said.

He said that won't happen if the city and state are viewed as "two warring factions." Instead, he said, they need to be "key partners."

O'Connell said he hopes to get together with Gov. Bill Lee soon to discuss the relationship. Talks are in the works to get a lunch set up, he said.

O’Connell has set ambitious goals for the start of his term. He has outlined a list of “15 fixes” he hopes to make on day one, including pushing for later high school start times — a move that would require the backing of the Metro Schools board — embarking on an initiative to move Metro buildings to 100% solar power, encouraging a review of the city’s 25-year plan and creating a Metro office dedicated to housing.

In the meantime, O’Connell has also made several appearances at community events, including a town hall on violence hosted by the Metro Department of Public Health and the groundbreaking of the site of a new Percy Priest Elementary School last Monday and Tuesday.


Tennessee’s Rejection of Federal Ed Money (Tennessean)

Legislative leaders appointed a 10-member panel on Monday to determine whether Tennessee can reject $1.8 billion in federal funding for education, and recommend a strategy for how to do so before the legislature reconvenes in January.

Tennessee receives $1.8 billion in Title I, IDEA, and other federal program funding each year, which support low-income students, students with disabilities, and school lunch programs. 

Tennessee would be the first state to undertake a rejection of federal education funds, if lawmakers move on the panel’s recommendations in January.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, repeatedly expressed interest in rejecting federal education funding during the legislative session earlier this year, citing federal mandates attached to the funding such as standardized testing like the TCAP.

Appointing a working group is a first step toward the possible move.

The Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding appointed Monday by Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, will review what funding state and local governments in Tennessee receive from the federal government, how the funding is used, whether the state could provide the same services, and whether it would be feasible to reject the funds. 

“The education of our youth is one of the essential responsibilities of our government,” McNally said. “Federal dollars and the various mandates and restrictions that come with those dollars affect the way Tennessee’s children are educated. Due to our state’s excellent financial position, this is a worthy subject of examination and study.”

Working group members are tasked with recommending a strategy for how to reject the federal funds by Jan. 9 – the day the legislature is scheduled to return to session next year. 

"It would allow us to create an education system that fits the Tennessee model and allow teachers to teach without the federal government trying to tell us what to do," Sexton said in February, adding that the state would cover the $1.8 billion in programs funded federally, if it chose to reject the funding. "The state will pick up the cost and still fund those things, but we will be free of the federal regulations."

“This working group will help provide a clearer picture of how much autonomy Tennessee truly has in educating our students," Sexton said in a statement Monday.

Announcement of the working group comes after the state reported a modest dip in revenue amid tax holidays last month.

Democrats roundly criticized Sexton’s proposal to reject the federal funds when he first floated the idea. House Minority Caucus Chair John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, said the move would be “a fiscally irresponsible decision that would directly jeopardize the integrity of our public school system.” 

Elizabeth Johnson, a spokesperson for Gov. Bill Lee indicated that the governor is not opposed to rejecting federal education funds.

"Gov. Lee looks forward to reviewing the legislative working group's findings and remains committed to working with the General Assembly to ensure all Tennessee students have access to a high-quality education, while pushing back on federal overreach," Johnson wrote in an email to The Tennessean.

House and Senate Education Chairs Debra Moody, R-Covington, and John Lundberg, R-Bristol, will co-chair the committee. Other members include our own State Senator Joey Hensley.

Copperhead Season (Tennessean)

The days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler and snakes are getting ready to start slithering around Tennessee.

While you might be under the impression that all types of wildlife give birth in the spring, state officials say that mid-October until November marks baby copperhead snake season.

The Tennessee Valley Authority typically issues a warning in the second week of October, posting, "It is baby copperhead snake season. If you are hiking or walking, be sure to look carefully where you step or place your hands. Baby copperheads are small and like to hang out in damp places like logs on the trail or flowerpots in your yard. Look for the yellow/green tail tip as an additional way to spot them. Let’s respect their boundaries and co-exist safely!"

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, young copperheads "wiggle the bright yellow tip of their tail to lure prey within striking distance, a behavior known as caudal luring."

Copperheads are typically born between August and October, and mother copperheads give birth to between one and 21 baby snakes during this time.

Adult copperheads usually measure 24-36 inches in length and eat mice, small birds, lizards, snakes, amphibians and insects. In most of its range the copperhead favors deciduous forest and mixed woodlands. They are often associated with rock outcroppings and ledges.

Copperheads have a pair of fangs that inject venom when they bite, and even newborn copperheads can give a venomous bite, as they are fully as venomous as the adults when born, according to Snakes of Tennessee. Here are some best practices to stay safe on the trail:

Keep a sharp eye open for snakes while outside.

Watch where you step (especially when wearing sandals or flip-flops).

Avoid reaching into weeds or bushes.

Keep a close watch on nosy dogs who might poke their snouts into spots where copperheads like to rest.

If you see one, leave it alone.

Copperhead bites are the most common of the venomous snake bites, probably due to the copperhead's wide range. Left untreated, a venomous bite can be very damaging. One bit of good news: Very few deaths occur as a result of copperhead strikes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following measures:

Call 911. Driving oneself to the hospital is not advised because people with snakebites can become dizzy or pass out.

Take a photograph of the snake from a safe distance if possible; identifying the snake can help with treatment.

Keep calm.

Lay or sit down with the bite in a neutral position of comfort.

Remove rings and watches before swelling starts.

Do not apply a tourniquet.

Do not slash the wound with a knife or cut it in any way.

Do not try to suck out the venom.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Legendary baseball manager Rick Sweet added a page to the Nashville Sounds history books in the season finale. With Nashville taking an 8-4 win over the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Sweet became the winningest manager in Nashville Sounds history with his 321st victory at the helm.

Across four seasons (2014, 2021-23) at the helm, Sweet has posted a 321-248 record. His win surpassed Trent Jewett’s win total of 320 set across five seasons with the Sounds.

The Nashville Sounds are the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers and play at First Horizon Park. Season ticket memberships for the 2024 season are on sale now. For more information call 615-690-4487 or e-mail tickets@nashvillesounds.com.


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