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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for September 8, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Spring Hill Water Update (MauryCountySource)

The City of Spring Hill is lifting irrigation restrictions which were put into place earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the necessary repairs were made within the Columbia Power and Water Systems (CPWS) water distribution system. The irrigation shutoff was continued to allow for the municipal water system to recover.

After a few days, the water system has rebounded, and thus, the restrictions have been lifted, effective immediately. The restrictions were initiated in response to a mechanical issue that arose within the CPWS water distribution system.

On Monday, the mechanical issue was identified, and irrigation restrictions were put into place by Spring Hill officials. At the time, Spring Hill residents were asked to participate in a voluntary shutoff of irrigation systems, while large commercial properties in Spring Hill were placed under a mandatory shutoff.

If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact the City of

Spring Hill at commdept@springhilltn.org.

Doctor Convicted in Spring Hill Fraud Case (TheNewsTN)

A Chicago doctor has been found guilty of conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute for his role in a $9.5 million fraud conspiracy involving a now-defunct Spring Hill genetic testing lab.

68-year-old Benjamin T. Toh was found guilty by a federal jury in Nashville after a two-week trial which also resulted in his acquittal of a charge of conspiracy. He was indicted in 2022.

The multi-state scheme involved nearly a dozen charged co-conspirators who together submitted more than $9.5 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid for "cancer genetic tests" from March to September 2019.

"The defendant ordered thousands of these tests despite never actually meeting the patients in person or via telemedicine and never reviewing test results," the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Toh was then paid kickbacks by co-conspirator telemedicine companies.

"These companies were, in turn, paid by co-conspirator marketing companies that targeted Medicare and Medicaid patients through door-to-door marketing, at senior fairs, at nursing homes, and at other locations, and convinced patients to provide their genetic material via a mouth swab kit."

Those kits were provided to Spring Hill-based Crestar Labs for the testing in exchange for kickbacks paid to them by the lab, which billed Medicare and Medicaid for the tests.  

“The defendant abused the trust Medicare placed in him to enrich himself and his co-conspirators at the expense of Medicare recipients and taxpayers,” United States Attorney Henry C. Leventis said. “The jury’s verdict should serve as a powerful reminder that health care providers who do so will be held accountable.”

Toh faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on Jan. 9, 2024.


CSCC Students attend Student Veterans Summit (CDH)

Columbia State Community College’s Student Veterans Organization students Laura West and Sarah Frazier recently attended the Student Veterans of America Regional Summit in Nashville.

“Student Veterans of America hosts a series of annual Regional Summits to help chapters prepare for their academic year of programming,” said Dr. Ginny Massey-Holt, Columbia State SVO adviser and associate professor of nursing. “We are given the tools and coaching necessary to plan and execute our chapter’s business, build community and develop leaders. Columbia State’s Student Veterans Organization is undergoing a post-Covid revitalization, and we look forward to what our new members have in store for 2023-2024.”

The Student Veterans of America Regional Summit exists for all Veterans Student Association chapter leaders, members, and involved faculty and staff. The summit provides networking opportunities as well as lessons, tools, techniques, and tactics to assist chapters in growing to be more sustainable and successful.

“We did a lot of team-building exercises where we learned about budgeting and recruitment,” Frazier said. “We gained a lot of knowledge and I think we can really use that going forward in order to rebuild the chapter.”

“In addition, there was a lot of networking, camaraderie, and relationship building with different student veterans,” West said. “This was a lot more of an educational and beneficial experience than I anticipated it to be.”

The Columbia State Student Veterans Organization aims to provide camaraderie, a sense of belonging, and leadership opportunities to any student who has served or is currently serving in the military. The organization is open to all students, regardless of current or past affiliation with any military branch. For more information, visit ColumbiaState.edu/SVO.


Spring Hillians Fight Against Development (MSM)

Spring Hill’s planning commission will soon hear a plan for a new subdivision behind Longview Elementary School that could help with a major connection to the city’s pedestrian trails, but would come at a cost some residents believe is too high.

Several mature trees – many larger than 24 inches in diameter – would need to be harvested in order to create the necessary space in the – ironically named – Oak View Cove subdivision. Several reasons, including construction of homes, require the removal of trees, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) also has easements the developer says would prevent planting new trees along the property lines.

“Homes are going to be 100 feet away from the property line and it’s going to be a school. We really need to determine if there is really screening needed when you’re sitting 100 feet away from the property line,” Joe Epps or Anderson, Delk and Epps, the site’s planner. 

Members of the planning commission were adamant that preserving existing trees and planting new trees were important for the project to be both acceptable and compliant with the city’s code.

“We worked on a project in Murfreesboro where we were required to put trees in, but they were more of the ornamental trees. I’m not against some type of fence, but I’d like to see what TVA would allow as some sort of vegetation,” commissioner James Golias said. 

Alderman Matt Fitterer added, “We’re obviously going to remove a large amount of trees and that’s unavoidable, but I would suggest being able to add some species back in under the TVA lines to the extent they allow.”

Citizens, specifically residents whose properties adjoin the new subdivision, spoke at length during a planning study session about their desire to see as many trees preserved as possible. 

“I have lived here for 20 years – my kids and I know those woods inside and out. We counted 31 trees that have orange tags – maybe not all of them are desirable, I understand that,” resident Laura Moritz said. “There are elms, sugar maples, walnut, ash, hackberry, oak, box elder and there is a 49-inch diameter beech in the center. To remove them, we’re disturbing the root system. There are trees on the property line that are ours and significant trees on the other side – how are they going to be protected?

“I have a difficult time seeing how this is going to be accomplished.”

Commissioner Jonathan Duda cited the city’s code, noting that while it may be difficult to preserve trees – doing so is critical to approval. 

“This is a major subdivision. We do have – under the UDC – language that states for major subdivisions that trees are to be preserved to the greatest extent possible. I know you have practical difficulties in some regards, but I also know there have been successful times where trees are preserved. It’s not the easiest, but when they are they create a lot of value,” he said. 

While Moritz’s husband and other neighbors spoke about potential issues to the current neighborhood, city attorney Patrick Carter noted the commission may only vote based on the standards laid out by the city’s Unified Development Code, as the property is zoned for this use.

“I’d like to remind the commission, the decision on this needs to be made by the explicit standards of the UDC and in a clear and objective sort of way. We’ve heard a lot of speculative things about damages, such as real estate values and whether it’s politically toxic or not – those things are not relevant to your review,” he said. 

The development does have its advantages, however, including one that could connect two elementary schools and a major pedestrian trail with proposed plans.

“If we connect Portway, Portview to Burgess, we then have pedestrian facilities all the way to the Peter Jenkins Trail. That’s a significant addition there,” Fitterer noted.

“This property was originally associated with Copper Ridge and I believe phases five and seven have easements that go along the back of the lots for Peter Jenkins Trail to go back there,” Epps added.

Unfortunately, despite the property backing up to Longview Elementary School, Epps said the school system was not in favor of connecting the school’s back entrance to the subdivision. A sidewalk, however, may be appropriate for pedestrian traffic.

“The easement was dedicated to the school system by a previous owner. When we were trying to be rezoned to R-4, the school system did not want the road tied through,” Epps said. “They asked the staff not to do that and said they would block it off. 

“I would think the school system would be OK with the sidewalk tying in.”

Fitterer asked if there could be somewhere in writing the school system asked the connection not be made. 

“At some point in the future, I can see a scenario where we are asked why we didn’t connect and I’d love to have something in our files that says it wasn’t our decision,” he said. “I think pedestrian access is a good addition and would fall in line with Safe Routes for Schools (grant program) and all those programs that are out there.”

Spring Hill has had both issues and success in the past working with Williamson County Schools. Allendale Elementary, which is connected to the Peter Jenkins Walking Trail, caused some issues according to Duda, but chairman Liz Droke noted the relationship between the city and Chapman’s Retreat was positive.

The project proposes 25 lots on the 11.53-acre plot with two cul-de-sacs at either end of the development. 

“I knew this property might be developed one day – we’re realistic. Would I love to keep every tree? I would, I grew up in the woods,” Moritz said. “I would propose building wisely and preserving as many trees as possible and having a neighborhood that – goodness – has character, not just a strip of houses. How many more of those do we need?”


Spring Hill Names Trail After Late Businessman (CDH)

The city of Spring Hill plans to honor the memory and legacy of one of its former business leaders by renaming a multi-use trail located in the Kingsley Place mixed-use development off Old Port Royal Road.

Jim Grimes, who formerly owned AutoBody Advantage, served the city for more than 15 years, including his work with The Well Food Pantry, Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce, and as chairman of the Economic Development Commission, in addition to contributing to several community events, groups and programs. This includes restoration of the Spring Hill Fire Department's antique Fire Belle truck in 2014.

Grimes' life was tragically cut short April 19, 2021 when he was murdered at his Lynnville home.

"He was a very loving person who was taken from us in a very violent way, and we want his love for this community to be what stands, and our love for him," Spring Hill Chamber Executive Director Rebecca Melton said.

A request to dedicate the multi-use trail in Grimes' honor was brought before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday, where it received a unanimous vote of approval. The trail in question will be located directly across the street from his former auto-body business.

"[Mrs. Dawn Grimes] is an incredible human being who has been through a lot, but we stand by her, support her and appreciate this being taken into account," Parks and Recreation Director Kayce Williams said.

Melton added that the trail's proposed dedication is a "great way to honor Jim."

"He was part of the team that hired me seven years ago, and was a good friend and trusted advisor, which he was to so many," Melton said. "We've been working with the family in a way to honor him, his legacy and what he did for this community as a business owner, a philanthropist and so many more things. We really wanted to have his name attached to something in the community he loved and served."

Local financer Will Tenpenny, who also spoke Tuesday, said the dedication will serve as a positive conclusion to a tragic event.

"It's been a hard few years, and this community lost a giant," Tenpenny said. "We need to remember those giants that helped build the city, and Jim and Dawn are both those kinds of people who helped do so much. This is an unbelievable opportunity for us to be able to name something after Jim, for what he did for this community."

Mayor Jim Hagaman concluded Tuesday's discussion by saying, while he did not know Grimes personally, he certainly understands the impact he had on Spring Hill during his life.

"In this position as mayor, as I went around the city shortly after this tragic event happened, he had a legacy and a statement in this community that is just a testament to who he was," Hagaman said. "Blessings to his wife, and for coming here and staying strong."


Dallas to Run for State Senate (Press Release)

– James Dallas, current chair of the Maury County Democratic Party, announced this week that he is organizing a campaign to contest the District 28 Tennessee State Senate seat next year.

“It’s time for a change, y’all, and whether you live in Pulaski, Lynnville, Lewisburg, Chapel Hill, Hohenwald, Summertown, Mt. Pleasant, Culleoka, Columbia, Spring Hill, or Thompson’s Station, you deserve better representation,” Dallas said in a video posted to the campaign website, dallas4tn.com. “And that is why I am going to seek the Democratic nomination for State Senator in District 28 next year, 2024.”

Dallas resides in Columbia and works as a database administrator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston Law Center.

In his announcement video and on his campaign website, Dallas emphasized the need for reform in Tennessee, specifically contrasting his views on gun control, civil liberties, and social services with those of the incumbent, Dr. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald).

Dallas, a progressive Democrat, will issue detailed position statements as the race progresses and invites southern Middle Tennesseans to inquire about specific issues. He says that he was particularly inspired to enter the race at this time due to the failure of the Republicans in the General Assembly to pass significant gun control legislation during a Special Session last month, and the inability of local legislators to pass a bill allowing Maury County to enact impact fees on new development over the past several sessions.

The 28th District covers all of Giles, Lewis, Marshall, and Maury counties, as well as parts of Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station in Williamson County. A Democratic candidate has not challenged Dr. Hensley since 2012.


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.


Feek Starts Series (MauryCountySource)

Singer, songwriter Rory Feek will host a new series called ‘Songs or Stories’ this fall at Homestead Hall at Hardison Mill.

On Fridays, Rory will share an evening of songs and music, and on Saturdays, he’ll spend the evening with the audience sharing intimate stories, thoughts, and observations from his life.

Mark your calendars for September 8 + 9, October 20 + 21, November 17 + 18, and December 14 + 15.

“These weekends will give me the opportunity to share two parts of storytelling that I love: the songwriter/singer side of me… and also the author/writer part, which I’ve never had the chance to share live before. Although different, they complement each other and I think for the folks who decide to come for both nights, I think will be a unique, life-giving experience for all of us,” writes Feek.

Homestead Hall is located at 4544 US-431, in Columbia.


Boys & Girls Club Gala (MSM)

Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Tennessee will host its third annual Great Futures Gala from 5-8:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22 at Puckett’s Downtown Columbia.

First Farmers & Merchants Bank is the presenting sponsor for the 2023 Great Futures Gala. The event will feature a cocktail hour, live music, online auction, a wine pull, elegant dinner and moving performances from Club youth. This year’s event theme is “Growing Bright Futures,” with Gale Courtney Moore and Julian Pierre-Griffin serving as committee co-chairs in planning the event.

“I would like to personally invite you to one of the most exciting evenings in Columbia,” Moore said. “The Gala provides an opportunity to have an action-packed evening while benefiting one of our most important community resources – our children. When Boys & Girls Clubs brighten our kids’ futures, we all benefit.”

The exciting auction item lineup includes a 14K white gold diamond pendant necklace donated by local Tillis Jewelry, vacation stays and getaways, autographed Nashville Predators memorabilia and a two-year lease on a 2023 GMC Acadia from Parks Motor Sales in Columbia.

“We are super excited to partner with Boys & Girls Clubs again this year,” said Robert Rogers, Parks General Manager. “We’ve been doing the car lease giveaway for a long time, and we are glad to do it again this year. It’s one of the best causes in town, I think your money goes the furthest with the kids who need it the most at the Boys & Girls Club. That’s why we support this great mission.”

Gala tickets are $260 each and tables for 10 are available for $2,500. Limited space remains, so contact Missy Naff to reserve your table or tickets today! Email mnaff@bgcsctn.org or call (931) 490-9401, ext. 2604.


…And now, news from around the state…

CMA Award Nominees (Tennessean)

The rise of Lainey Wilson from camper trailer-dwelling, small-town Louisiana native to Nashville-based, nine-time Country Music Association award-nominated artist is complete.

That was one of many takeaways as the nominees for the 57th annual CMA Awards were revealed Thursday morning. The awards ceremony will be hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning and broadcast live from Lower Broadway's Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 8 from 7-10 p.m. central on ABC.

Wilson tops the list with nine nominations, while first-time nominee Jelly Roll has five nominations.

Luke Combs and HARDY each have four nominations, while Jordan Davis, Ashley McBryde, producer/mix engineer Joey Moi, songwriter/producer Jordan Schmidt, Chris Stapleton, Morgan Wallen and musician/producer Derek Wells have three nominations apiece.

The night's pinnacle prize, Entertainer of the Year, will see Combs, Stapleton, Wallen and Wilson in competition against Carrie Underwood.

Wilson, the CMA's reigning Female Vocalist and New Artist of the Year, has become the only artist to top the nominations list in her first two appearances on the ballot. Those nine nominations tie her with Merle Haggard and Miranda Lambert behind Alan Jackson's 10 nominations in 2002 on the all-time list.

Wilson's nominations showcase the success of her 2022 album "Bell Bottom Country," plus the 31-year-old artist's three top-10-selling singles in the past year. In addition to Entertainer of the Year, she is nominated for Single (for HARDY duet "wait in the truck" and her own "Heart Like a Truck"), Album, Song, Female Vocalist, Musical Event (for "wait in the truck" and Jelly Roll collaboration "Save Me") and Music Video.

Back-to-back reigning Entertainer of the Year Combs is now a four-time Entertainer of the Year nominee in a year when worldwide touring coupled with his unlikely crossover chart-topping success with a cover of Tracy Chapman's 1989 classic "Fast Car." Overall, Combs has received 22 nominations since 2017.

Nashville native Jelly Roll, who merges country, pop, rap and rock, walked the red carpet as a first-time invitee in 2022. Now he's joined the likes of Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Maren Morris, Willie Nelson and Gretchen Wilson as a five-time nominee in his first year of consideration. Jelly Roll is up for Single, Male Vocalist, Musical Event, Music Video and New Artist.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

One of Columbia's original favorites is returning for an all-out kitchen takeover for local veterans with a hankering for smoked meats.

Hearty Hog will host its annual Veteran BBQ Camp this weekend, which will include a BBQ kitchen takeover at The Tilted Mule, 102 Depot St.

The takeover will be from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday and feature full platters and sides, with proceeds from each purchase supporting Veteran Camp attendees.

Hearty Hog's annual BBQ camp is celebrated every year, not just with great food but the therapeutic nature of cooking "low and slow." It's also free to all veterans to participate and grows bigger, not to mention tastier, every year.


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