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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 4-26-24

WKOM/WKRM Radio

Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for April 26, 2024

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

We start with local news…


Commission Approves Hospital Sale for Hotel (MSM)

The Maury County Commission approved at its Monday, April 15 meeting the sale of 6.5 acres for approximately $2.95 million by Maury Regional Medical Center to eventually build a hotel.

The sale of the property, which would be located on Trotwood Avenue, was originally presented to the county’s Health and Environment Committee on April 1.

Pursuant to the Private Acts of 1996, the commission must approve by a two-thirds vote any sale or disposition of real property by Maury Regional that exceeds $1 million.

Commissioners were largely in favor of the sale of the property, though some expressed concerns over parking, traffic and foundation money that has been put into The Retreat, a hospitality house that provides daytime accommodations for cancer patients.

“This has been a very thoughtful process on the part of the hospital,” said Dr. Martin Chaney, CEO of Maury Regional. “It was the parking concern and the retreat that were somewhat of the questions and holdups.”

Chaney said a phased approach will be used for the parking growth plan.

“This is a total revamp of our parking in front of Maury Regional that will gain an additional 189 parking spaces,” he said. “We’re completely reorienting the parking spots, so that we will get a lot better access, including a road that will run all the way in front of all of our facilities to guide access to each of our buildings in a controlled way, yet allow parking to be expanded.”

Chaney said the positioning of the parking deck, ambulatory care and medical building would prevent reasonable access from a road standpoint from the main campus onto the property.

“To use the property for parking would mean we would either have to create a service road along Trotwood, or any parking would have to go out on Trotwood Avenue to access into this property,” he said, adding that the James Campbell Trotwood parking lot would bring 114 spaces.

Additional spaces would include a row of parking by urgent care along Trotwood, which would gain 28 spaces.

When speaking on The Retreat, which the hospital has owned since 1982, Chaney said several contingency plans are in the works, including building a new retreat with foundation support. The second option would include allowing patients to stay in the new hotel.

“The interim will be the challenge,” Chaney said. “We are looking to find an alternate place if the property sells and the hotel is being built.”

Commissioner Ray Jeter expressed his support for the proposed hotel, stating the opportunity for additional revenue to be brought back into the county.

“That’s the reason I support this measure and I appreciate the hospital doing this,” Jeter said. “It doesn’t benefit them in any way to own this property.”

Commissioner Connie Green said she was concerned over the increase in traffic.

“If you’re going to have a hotel, you’re going to have laundry service, a pool and a restaurant,” Green said. “You’re going to have semi-trucks coming in and out of that property, plus the guests.”

Chaney said part of the hospital’s plan is to improve ingress and egress of the campus.

“We are doing what we can on our side of the fence so to speak to improve the traffic on Trotwood,” he said, stating that there will be a single entrance onto the campus.

The hospital also plans on applying for a stop light at the Blythewood intersection, which Chaney said would be contingent across the street where the new entrance will be.

“We do have a plan to address the traffic in front of the medical center,” he said. “I don’t necessarily have the traffic plan if it becomes a hotel, but I have seen some options there.”

Commissioner Gary Stovall stated his support of the project.

“People of Maury County, traffic is already here, so we don’t need to be worrying about it.”

The Commission ultimately passed the resolution in a 19-1 vote.

Conservationists Try to Preserve Duck (CDH)

A Middle Tennessee treasure, the Duck River touches seven counties and is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world. 

But as the region sees explosive growth, the river is also one of the nation’s most endangered. 

Residents and environmental groups are now fighting against a plan by local water utilities to drain 19 millions gallons from the river, for a total of 73 millions of gallons pumped daily. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, this week filed an appeal against state-issued water permits that the group says will cause long-term damage to the river’s health.

Eight utility companies are petitioning to drastically increase the amount of water they take from the river. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) in March issued permits to three of the eight utilities approving their requests for more water, according to the law center.

The law center argues that the newly-approved permits are insufficient and do not include enforceable flow restrictions that regulate how much water is pumped during low flow or drought periods. It says TDEC should have better protections.

“Relying upon surface water from smaller rivers in Middle Tennessee is a failed long-term strategy for growth, our great outdoors, and the Tennesseans who rely upon the Duck,” Mike Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. “We can improve these permits, and start the discussion for a regional solution that meets water needs and protects the Duck. What we do now, with these permits, will decide the fate of the Duck River for generations.”

The center says the permits also allow utilities to leak up to 25% of the water daily, if all permits are approved. 

TDEC in a statement said it has long recognized the river’s value and has been taking proactive measures to ensure its protection while balancing the needs of a growing region. The agency said it has a comprehensive permitting process that includes public meeting and input from stakeholders.

“We will continue to meet with stakeholders, be responsive to the public’s interest in the Duck River, and utilize the checks and balances within our regulatory authority to ensure this precious resource remains protected and utilized appropriately,” the agency said.

The agency in the coming months could issue final water withdrawal permits to the remaining utilities.

The river, which flows 269 miles across Tennessee, has been recognized as the most biodiverse freshwater river in North America and is home to more than 200 species of snails, mussels and fish. Many are federally endangered or threatened. It also provides drinking water for roughly 250,000 people.  

This year, the river was named as the country’s third most endangered river by American Rivers, due to growing demand and overconsumption.

Among the efforts to protect it, the Tennessee General Assembly last year passed legislation that expands protections for 30 miles of the river in Maury County.

Tripp’s Ace Hardware (WKOM Audio 2:58)

Yesterday, Tripp’s Ace Hardware held a grand reopening after a big renovation. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the event and spoke to owner Tripp Stoltz to see what the store is now offering its clientele.

Prime and Pint (CDH)

Sometimes the most important ingredient for a good meal is in knowing where your food came from — that it's fresh and prepared with care.

That's one of quite a few visions founder Gabe Howard and his staff carry forward at Prime & Pint, Columbia's newest fusion restaurant, bar and butcher shop at the corner of North Main and East 6th streets.

Prime & Pint recently opened its doors after months of renovations to transform the former Marcy Jo's Muletown into the modern decor restaurant and butcher shop customers see today, and it's only the beginning for the downtown corner stop.

"I'm just a big foodie, and I love food," Howard said. "And it's just about wanting to give back to our community, a community that I believe in, that I believe shouldn't have to leave Columbia to get a nice big tomahawk steak. But part of our mission is also not being known as the place that's 'too expensive for us.'"

Howard, who also serves in many capacities locally, such as a Maury County Commissioner, said his main goal in creating Prime & Pint was to provide a high-end option that didn't require a trip to Nashville, and that (within reason) could be affordable to locals.

It's also a spot that can provide premium, locally-sourced products from local farmers, and with a quality you likely won't find in the supermarket.

"For me, when we first started this, it was about filling a void in the community. When Tallgrass closed, we felt the community was at a loss when it comes to where we get meat," Howard said. "Secondarily, are we supporting our local farmers. All of our products, our beef and other proteins, you'll know where it's coming from."

One thing customers will notice when dining at the Prime & Pint is the open-room setup of the kitchen, allowing guests to watch the staff work while preparing each meal.

Howard said this not only creates a certain liveliness to the atmosphere, but also presents another level of transparency, since you are literally watching the food you are about to eat being prepared before your own eyes.

The open kitchen also provides a certain aromatic flare to the experience, with the smells of cooked meats and other flavors wafting out of the kitchen as guests anxiously await their meal.

Chef Paul Sellas oversees the kitchen operations and has had a lifelong passion for preparing food which goes back generations in his family. Though he technically arrived in Columbia from Nashville, Sellas said he has made a career cooking "just about everywhere from the East Coast to the West Coast and beyond."

"One thing that's always been a big focus for me, as far as cooking goes, is having a very local and seasonal focus, work with as many local farmers as we can," Sellas said.

"My dad was a chef and my folks owned French restaurants, and back in the day we had open kitchens like we have here. It's always been something that's a focal for me, interacting with people, because they always have tons of questions. That's something I like a lot, people can see what we are doing, see the product that we are using. That's important to me, to have good, simple, clean cooking."

Prime & Pint's menu has also been carefully curated to suit just about any taste. While a good steak with mushroom sauce might be a top menu item, there are also options ranging from burgers to chicken, seafood brunch options like crab cake Benedict and more.

And that's just the food. Dining guests can also enjoy craft beer and spirit selections from the restaurant's bar, boasting many local and regional brews, coffee and other beverage options.

Of all the items featured on the Prime & Pint menu, Howard said the best seller has been a bonified classic with the restaurant's Prime Burger, which is handmade daily by head butcher Chef John Newman.

"We have tried to have something for everyone on our menu, because even in our own lives sometimes it's a chicken menu, maybe it's a steak menu," Howard said. "And our No. 1 item is the Prime Burger ... which is hand-ground filet cuts and is truly a 'butcher's blend' for our Prime Burgers."

The dining experience while visiting Prime & Pint is only the tip of the iceberg, as they say.

The establishment also operates as a full-service butcher shop, while also selling items such as farm-fresh eggs, handmade crafts and other items, many of which come from local venders at the Columbia Farmer's Market.

Newman oversees the main butchery operations, having spent more than two decades in the business and forming his own vision of what butchery in the modern world should be. Having been given the opportunity at Prime & Pint, he said, is a way to truly see that vision through.

"It's about the path of wanting to continue some old-school kind of craft, showing people that you really don't need to be buying these things from the grocery story, how the USDA operates with a lot of smoke and mirrors in the cattle world," Newman said. "But when you are dealing with a local farmer that you've known for years that has a good product, a good family and just a good operation, you don't have to deal with that kind of stuff."

Another aspect Newman wants to bring is the ability to interact with customers, provide information on certain cuts, where the meat came from and customizing each order to their needs. And this doesn't only mean your filets, T-bones or strip steaks, but also items like sausages, prime burger patties, chicken, even packets of truffle or garlic butter.

"That's the part I like, when I hear stories from people who come back in, how everything was fantastic. That's what it's about," Newman said. "But also, this is about the continuance in the education of the practice of butchery and why we should never let that go away, how it benefits local farms and us, and just supporting a good business."

Newman added that he understands providing the freshest and highest-quality product to customers might end up costing a few extra dollars than you would spend at the store. However, the cost supports a local farming family, is fresh and without preservatives. In a lot of ways, one could call it a true "farm to table" experience you might not get most places.

"Some people get 'sticker shock,' but once they get a burger and find out that it's ribeye and filet, even if it might cost a little bit more than you'd see at the grocery store, you know that it's been ground here today, has a backstory that is very transparent, and we can even call the farmer if they have any questions," Newman said. "It just adds to the quality."

Prime & Pint's butchery and market hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with happy hour "Prime Time" from 3-5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with $2 off draft beers. Dinner hours are 5-9 p.m. Thursday through Satuday.

To make reservation, call (931) 350-0000.

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

Mr. Randolph “Blinky” Armstrong was born to Willis Armstrong Sr. and Geraldine Johnson Armstrong on June 13, 1948.

Randolph graduated from Carver Smith High School in 1966. He was elected Superlative for Most Studious, he was a member of the Science Club, Math Club, Baseball Team, Marching Band and Choir.

Randolph attended Tennessee State University, where he studied Engineering, until he was drafted into the military. He served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War.

A memorial visitation was held on Thursday, April 25, at Heritage Funeral Home.

James B. “J.B.” Shepard passed away peacefully at the age of 96 on April 19th, surrounded by his loving family. A private graveside service will be held at Polk Memorial Gardens. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Willadeen Baker Wood, 92, died Sunday, April 21 at her residence.

A private graveside service will be held at Polk Memorial Gardens. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Nashville Transit Plan (Tennessean)

Nashville Mayor Freddie O'Connell's vision for better transit in Nashville includes purchasing land for housing or other community benefits near some of the dozen new transit centers proposed in the "Choose How You Move" plan.

O'Connell announced the details of the $3.1 billion transit improvement program Friday. Revenue from a new half-cent sales tax bump would provide funding for the program's multitude of projects, including 86 miles of sidewalk, upgrades, nearly 600 traffic signals and the expansion and improvement of the WeGo bus system.

Should Davidson County voters approve the sales tax increase on Nov. 5, Nashvillians would also see the construction of 12 neighborhood transit centers by 2032, according to city documents.

Beyond creating "mobility hubs" with amenities for bus users, pedestrians, cyclists and others, the transit centers would open up possibilities for Metro to secure about 26 acres of adjacent land and partner with developers to provide housing or other community spaces with easy access to the bus system. That's a scenario favored by federal housing grants, as housing and transit are typically a household's largest expenses.

"Living close to transit allows households to save on the cost of transportation," O'Connell said Friday. "Already today, Nashville households close to transit lines spend $200 less per year. So when we talk about building transit centers and park and ride facilities, we're not just talking about transportation infrastructure, we're talking about affordable housing, too."

Fish Stocking (Press Release)

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be stocking channel catfish in community fishing lakes in late April. The locations include Cameron Brown Lake in Germantown, Cedar Hill Lake in Nashville, Dickert Pond in Chattanooga, Greenbelt Lake in Maryville, and Fountain City Lake in Knoxville.

The regulations for the catfish are 5 per day. In addition to the catfish, other species and their limits are bluegill and redear (20 per day), black bass (1 per day), crappie (30 per day), and trout (5 per day). There are no size limits. The locations will be stocked again in May and June.

A fishing license is required at these locations. Children under 13 years of age are not required to have a license. For more information on where to fish, videos on how to fish, and fillet a catfish, visit https://www.gofishtennessee.com/.           

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

It's that time of year for getting outdoors, especially those with a green thumb and an opportunity to upgrade the home garden.

The Factory at Columbia, 101 N. James M. Campbell Blvd., will host a special Antiques & Garden Market this weekend, taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The market will feature a carefully-curated collection of patio and garden antiques, as well as professionals on-site to provide all kinds of horticultural education and items.

Learn more by visiting www.factoryatcolumbia.com.


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