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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 4-22-24

WKOM/WKRM RadioSouthern Middle Tennessee TodayNews Copy for April 22, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Semi Truck Fire (MauryCountySource)

A semi-truck, carrying 40,000 pounds of paper caught fire Friday morning.

Shortly after 11am Friday morning, Spring Hill Fire Department crews were dispatched to Saturn Parkway for the fire.

Crews were able to extinguish the fire quickly. The driver was treated for smoke inhalation.

Columbia Fire and Rescue responded as well.

Duck River on Endangered List (CDH)

The Duck River, touching seven counties as the most biodiverse river in North America, joins the list of America's Most Endangered Rivers® of 2024, according to a recent American Rivers report.

The river's endangered status, according to a press release by American Rivers, is due to "excessive development and unsustainable water consumption." The organization says urgent action is needed to safeguard the vital river's ecosystem. 

Through the work of local preservation activists and locally-elected officials, the Tennessee General Assembly approved in 2023 legislation that expands protections for a portion of the Duck River in Maury County. The law classifies approximately 30 river miles of the waterway as a Class II scenic river area.

The designation generally prohibits certain activities like mining, commercial timber harvest or the construction of roads within a certain proximity of the river.

Local Save the Duck group formed and flooded Capitol Hill in Nashville last year, pleading with legislators to protect the waterway after Louisiana-based developer Trinity Group pulled permits to build a solid waste landfill within a couple of miles of the river at the now defunct Monsanto Superfund site.

After the legislation was passed Gale Moore, a Columbia resident who serves on the Save the Duck board, said "the battle is not over."

Four permits to build the proposed landfill by Trinity Group are still pending in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Local leaders as well as Save the Duck remain vigilant to protect the river.

The Duck River ranks as the third most endangered river after those in New Mexico and the Big Sunflower and Yazoo Rivers of Mississippi.

“If we want reliable clean drinking water, and if we want the Duck River to continue sustaining its communities, we must take action now to protect it,” said Anabel Winitsky of American Rivers. 

As the most biodiverse freshwater river in North America, the Duck is recognized as one of three global hot spots for fish and mussel diversity and is home to many endangered and threatened species. It also serves as the drinking water source for nearly 250,000 people and provides water for the region’s growing population and industry. 

"The river is the backbone of the local outdoor recreation economy, with more than 150,000 people enjoying the river and its tributaries each year," the press release states. "Tennessee remains one of the fastest growing states in the nation, and explosive growth in the Mid-State is having a major impact on local waterways, including and especially the Duck River.

"Population and industry growth has led to extreme development pressures, and local water utilities are trying to dramatically increase the amount of water they withdraw from the Duck."

Inadequate long-term management and unsustainable overconsumption of water from the Duck threatens to drain the river during periods of low flow and drought, putting the river’s aquatic inhabitants at risk and threatening long-term water supply for local communities, American Rivers explains in the release.

“Right now, we’re on a collision course. This river is our lifeblood, but poorly planned growth will suck the river dry," Grace Stranch, CEO of Harpeth Conservancy said. "The good news is, we can change course and wisely manage our water to protect the river, our economy and quality of life." 

American Rivers and partners are now calling on Gov. Bill Lee to protect the Duck River by convening a technical working group to develop a comprehensive water use plan and by securing funding for studies to understand the flow needs of the river.

The Duck River flows 269 miles through seven counties in Middle Tennessee. It is one of the top three most biodiverse rivers in the world, home to 22 aquatic snail species, 56 mussel species and 151 fish species. Many species in the Duck are federally listed as endangered or threatened, including some whose only remaining viable populations are found in the river. 

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads.

In recent years, other rivers in the region have been listed as most endangered due to toxic chemical pollution, sewage pollution and excessive water withdrawals. They include the Mississippi River in 2022, and the Holston River and Harpeth River, both listed in 2015.     

American Rivers reviews nominations for America’s Most Endangered Rivers® from local groups and individuals across the country, and selects rivers based on three criteria:  

  • 1. The river’s significance to people and wildlife 

  • 2. The magnitude of the threat to the river and communities, especially in light of climate change and environmental injustice 

  • 3. A decision in the next 12 months that the public can influence 

Over the years, the American River report has helped in the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.    

American Rivers is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has been advocating for 50 years for the protection of "a million miles of river" for waterways across the U.S.

Courthouse Art Competition Winners (CDH)

To mark the 120th anniversary of the Maury County Courthouse, Maury County government applied for and was awarded an Arts Build Communities (ABC) grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. 

The grant funded a juried art competition focused on the Maury County Courthouse, which was conceived in 1904 under the direction of local son, and nationally recognized architect J.E.R. Carpenter.

“This art competition was designed to bring some recognition to one of the most beautiful courthouses in the state. With the opening of a new justice center later this year, many residents have been asking ‘What will happen to our historic courthouse?’ This art competition, opened to all Maury County citizens, allowed people to express their thoughts on the matter through art.”

Over 40 art submissions were judged by four artist-judges, including photographers Sarah Gilliam and Ross Jaynes, sculptor Jennifer Grisham and painter/sculptor James Spearman. 

There were four categories of winners, including elementary, middle school, high school and adult as well as a grand prize winner. 

With no high school submissions, the winners are as follows:


3rd Place: Baleigh Fowler

2nd Place: Emma Waltman

1st Place: Arlo Schminke

Middle School

3rd Kyndall Atwater

2nd Hadley Tracey

1st Ali Nicholson


3rd Place: Ashley Barnett                               

2nd Place: Mary Lehner

1st Place: David Brady

Grand Prize Winner: Randy Walters

All of the art submitted for the competition will be on exhibition at the Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Community College from May 13 through June 14.  A gallery reception will open the exhibition at 4 p.m. on May 13.

The grant was made possible through the Tennessee Arts Commission, the SouthCentral Tennessee Development District as well as with the collaboration of the Maury County Visitor’s Bureau, Columbia State Community College, and the Maury County Finance Department.

Tennessee Orthopoedic Alliance Opening (WKOM Audio 3:18)

On Friday, Tennessee Orthopedic Alliance, formerly known as Middle Tennessee Bone and Joint, held their grand opening at their James Campbell Blvd. site in Columbia. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting and spoke to Dr. Zach Farr to learn more about what services will be provided…

Bear Creek Development Annexation Denied (CDH)

An annexation request to build the 800-home Columbia Bluffs project was denied earlier this month by Columbia's Planning Commission.

The request, which was brought before planners April 10 after being deferred last month, was to approve annexation of more than 400 acres off Bear Creek Pike. The property would then be zoned as a planned unit development (PUD), or a neighborhood with mixed uses associated with it.

In the case of Columbia Bluffs, this would include multiple types of residential units, a daycare facility and an expansive walking trail. Other amenities would include a clubhouse, dog park and space for community gardening, with more than half of the project designated as green space.

The project, proposed by Gamble Design Collaborative, has gone before Columbia leaders multiple times, spawning differing opinions on both sides in regard to how it would either benefit or burden Columbia's growth issues.

Much of the pushback has come from concerned citizens, mostly centering around the idea of bringing such a massive project to an area already facing infrastructure and roadway needs.

While the Columbia Bluffs project boasts the intention of preserving much of the property's green space, many have voiced concerns about the potential damages to the area's natural landscape.

During the April 10 meeting, many citizens stepped forward to voice their concerns.

Some, like District 1 County Commissioner Jerry Strahan, spoke in favor, saying that the developer, as well as city planning staff, have worked diligently to create a compromise that works. And this is considering Strahan saying he was initially opposed to the original plan, which included approximately 1,400 homes.

"It's nothing like it was a year ago, and I'm amazed to see how these developers and how this planning commission put this thing together in making it a desirable subdivision," Strahan said. "There are issues ... but it's the right thing. Something's going to be put in there, and it could be much, much worse."

City staff was also issued a letter by Richard Klein, another concerned citizen, who in detail writes about the project's effect on The Duck River and surrounding trees and natural areas.

"The 400-acre Columbia Bluffs project would result in the loss of much of the forest on the site," Klein states in the letter. "This forest provides the high-quality groundwater inflow essential to the Duck River aquatic ecosystem. Besides greatly diminishing inflow, intense development of the 400-acre site could release a massive volume of eroded soil and other pollutants into the Duck River."

Hannah Kelly, a resident of Bigbyville Road, touched further on Klein's environmental report, particularly its ability to withstand development in a way that doesn't cause harm.

"The soils of this land are not amenable to either bioretention or infiltration systems," Kelly said. "One of the chief tasks of this commission ... is protecting the Duck River, the thing it can't do for itself."

Much like the citizen comments, city leaders seemed to remain uncertain of the right answer to the project's proposal.

While Columbia Bluffs would provide the need to address population growth and housing needs, is this the right time for it?

Some planners, like Councilman Danny Coleman said, if anything, there is a need to discuss Columbia's growth beyond its downtown districts and existing neighborhoods currently within the river's center.

"Columbia as a whole, obviously, is changing and there are different parts that are changing faster, like restaurants in our downtown area, while other areas are changing slower like the area by I-65," Councilman Danny Coleman said. "I think it's also interesting that it's on the other side of the river, because as you go east you have neighborhoods like Riverside ... and is this river acting as a border, or are we radiating further from the center? Those are discussions worth having."

Planning Chair Charlie Goatz said he was unsure if this was the right time to annex such a large piece of property given the area's current condition. This includes the ongoing upgrades to the I-65 interchange, additional residential and industrial developments, as well as the city's push to widen Bear Creek Pike.

"I don't see in how that area has changed so much that we need to annex a piece of property now and approve it for additional homes. I'm struggling with that," Goatz said. "I don't see the need at this particular moment, when we are busting at the seams, that we need to annex another piece of property in that area for the density that's being requested here today."

Goatz later motioned to deny the annexation request, which was seconded by Commissioner James Shannon.

The final vote approved the denial 4-2, which Coleman, Mayor Chaz Molder, Shannon and Goatz voting in favor, while former Vice Mayor Christa Martin and Commissioner James Sloan opposed.

Though the request was ultimately denied, Coleman commented saying this is a good opportunity to learn how citizens, developers, as well as local leaders can work together. Even if it doesn't pan out in the end, there is still an opportunity to learn.

"I do think that this developer would like to co-create something in this community. I don't know whether or not that will happen, but other developers are going to come along," Coleman said.

"This has been coming before us for four years, so it's going to come back again. When it does, we need to consider that it is going to get developed, and so, if we are going to do this how can we co-create something that will work?"

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

Deborah “Debbie” Lee Husted Farrell, 68, a resident of Columbia, passed away Friday, April 19, 2024 at Maury Regional Medical Center.


Funeral services will be conducted Tuesday, April 23, 2024 at 12:00 P.M. at Zion Presbyterian Church. Burial will follow in Zion Churchyard. The family will visit with friends Tuesday, April 23, 2024 from 11:00 until service time at Zion Presbyterian Church. Online condolences may be extended at

And now, news from around the state…

State Budget Passes (TheNewsTN)

State legislators passed the approximately $52 billion budget in both the House and the Senate on Thursday.

The House and Senate adopted Gov. Bill Lee's amended budget first and then adopted their own amendment before discussing the changes in full.

The House took up the budget first, with Democrats proposing amendments that would reallocate the funds for Lee's franchise tax and the education scholarships (school vouchers) in several other ways. None of the amendments were considered timely filed. As such, sponsors had less time than otherwise to present the amendments. However, the outcome would likely not have been much different with all amendments voted down from consideration along party lines. After Democrats further expressed their discontent with the budget, the House voted to pass the legislation 78-18.


Not long after the budget legislation passed, some citizens shouting from the gallery were ordered to be removed by House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). Some reports have said a woman was taken away by law enforcement and driven off the Capitol grounds in a patrol car.

The Senate took up the House bill and Democrats proposed many similar amendments as their representative counterparts. Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said it is not unusual for the budget to be passed while other legislation that could impact funds is still being worked out. He added if the budget passes with more funds that end up not supported by legislation, those funds will rollover into future years to be appropriated.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) pointed out that the funds in the budget do not cover the projected growth of either piece of legislation for the education scholarship fund. If none of that legislation passes, he said leaving that money on the table seems irresponsible since legislators have stressed constrained spending because of a decrease in the overall budget.

Johnson highlighted that the budget takes on no new debt for the state. Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixon), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said the legislature has proposed spending 36 percent less in its amendment than fiscal year 2024. The Senate passed the budget 26-4.

UAW Organizes in Chattanooga (Tennessean)

When the news was announced Friday night that the United Auto Workers had successfully organized Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, the supporters gathered at I.B.E.W. Local 175 jumped, cheered and hugged.

The results were hardly in doubt from the moment the first tally was posted. The union lead by more than 70% and kept that lead throughout the night.

In the end, 73% of the eligible VW workers voted to join the union, according to the National Labor Review Board, which oversaw the three-day election. Of the 4,326 workers eligible to vote, 3,613 cast ballots.

The historic victory is the first step in the UAW's campaign to grow its membership in the South, a region that has been historically anti-union.

"They said Southern workers aren’t ready for it. But you all said, watch this. You all moved the mountain," UAW President Shawn Fain said to cheering VW workers after the victory.

The UAW’s win follows big successes for the organization that staged a successful strike last year against the three largest U.S. automakers. The UAW is now concentrated on influencing the growing number of foreign auto plants and newer companies like Tesla and Rivian across the South.

Today more than two-thirds of Americans express support for unions in the most recent Gallup poll. That supportive environment fades somewhat in Tennessee, according to the newly released poll by the Beacon Center, a conservative-leaning think tank. It found that 44% of likely voters in the state have a positive view of the UAW’s effort to organize VW, 19% had a negative view and 21% were neutral. 

In February, the union’s board unanimously voted to spend $40 million on its organizing efforts — mostly targeted for campaigns in the South.

It will get another chance in a mid-May vote to organize workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Country music superstar Brad Paisley was honored with ‘Tennessean of the Year- Music’ by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee during the CEO Roundtable Series 2024 held at the Governor’s Residence. The private event honored Tennessee’s brightest in business and innovation poised to spotlight the accomplishments of Tennessee’s most innovative and influential leaders.

“What a privilege it is to be among this great group of people who all believed that with community, ideas could prosper,” shared Paisley.

Additional honorees include ‘Innovator of the Year’ Bob Higgins, ‘CEO of the Year’ John Ingram. ‘Changemaker Award’ to Dr. Adrienne Battle, ‘Tennessean of the Year – Business’ FedEx/The Fred Smith Family, and ‘2024 Tri Star Award’ Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, celebrated by Ron Harris and April Lomax. An independent selection committee selected / named the awards.


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