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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-14-24

WKOM/WKRM Radio

Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 14, 2024


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

We start with local news…

Schools Closed, Reopening Wednesday (Press Release)

Maury County Public Schools will be closed on Tuesday, May 14, as clean-up efforts continue following last Wednesday’s tornado. Twelve-month employees should report to work. Maury County Public Schools will reopen on Wednesday, May 15!  If you live in or near the affected areas, please look out for transportation updates regarding buses on Wednesday.


All graduations, athletics and extracurricular performances will occur as scheduled.  The Boys and Girls Club will be open at Mt. Pleasant and Marvin Wright Elementary schools as well as the BGC Wayne Street and Teen Center locations.


Lookout for Scammers (MSM)

As homeowners begin rebuilding after the devastating storms that crossed Tennessee last week, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance is reminding consumers of disaster recovery tips – including advise on hiring contractors – as they move forward.

Here are some helpful tips:

Remember that a contractor’s license is required before bidding or price negotiations when the total cost of the project is $25,000 or more.

Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Write down the license number and verify that it is legitimate by visiting verify.tn.gov.

Get several bids and check references before committing to a contractor.

Be wary of contractors selling repairs door-to-door and those who use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to make a rash decision.

Generally, do not pay more than one-third of the cost upfront and make sure you have the terms of payment in writing.

If you are dealing with a company or person who promises to remove debris from your property, ask them to list the services they will provide in writing. Ensure that your contract provides for you to make an inspection and approve the work before making the final payment.

Keep a record of your property damage and any repairs made to your property.

Take photos of any repair work you believe was not done correctly.

To file a complaint, visit: www.tn.gov/commerce/resources-services/file-a-complaint.html.


Surivor’s Story (CDH)

In the days following Wednesday's storms, now reporting more than 240 homes damaged, Maury County residents continue to pick up the pieces, while taking comfort in the hope to carry on.

Of the homes damaged by the reported EF-3 tornado, about 40 were considered a total loss initially, especially in some of the most affected areas just off Bear Creek Pike. These included properties on Lasea Road, Old Highway 99 and Blackburn Lane, where one fatality was reported.

John and Valerie Bernhart were among those on Blackburn Lane who nearly lost everything, while also enduring a night of intense fear not knowing if they were going to survive.

"We don't really know what to do, but we are alive and very grateful for that," Valerie said. "We're definitely going to be making a few Walmart runs since we lost everything."

The house currently sits in ruins, with bricks, portions of the roof and other debris in piles, as well as damaged vehicles and all of their household possessions strewn about the lawn. The only piece of the home still standing is a four-walled room where the Bernharts sought refuge as Wednesday's tornado hit.

"We were on the ground in front of the washer and dryer, and that's the only thing left standing," John said. "It was well fortified, but the roof is gone and things were hitting us. We were just sitting there holding each other, and I'd ask her every minute or so if she was alright."

The Bernharts recalled exactly what it was like the moment they realized a tornado was about to strike their home, and having to take shelter immediately.

"We were in the kitchen cooking supper when we heard the first alarm on our phone, but we didn't pay any attention to it, wasn't really worried about the storm and hadn't been through a tornado before," Valerie Bernhart said. "Then I noticed it was getting dark, which seemed off, and then I heard the noise, a very loud noise."

Huddling together in a small four-walled room, they held each other and prayed, all while getting pelted and hit with debris flying through the home.

"He sheltered me and has a big bruise and knot on his neck and back, and I was totally unscathed," she said. "But I was praying constantly, because I felt like we were going to be lifted up and thrown out. It was just so powerful."

Once the storm had cleared, the couple fortunately had not become trapped within the home or suffered any major injuries, despite getting a little roughed up. Mostly, it was the total shock in seeing their once luscious and scenic property now all but destroyed.

"I looked up and said, 'That's the sky,' because I could not believe there was no ceiling anymore and our house is totally destroyed," Valerie said.

"I just about lost it when I saw there was nothing there," John added.

The storm also damaged a nearby electrical tower just across the street, part of which resulted in a mass power grid outage. The tower has since been fully restored.

"We were just sitting there praying, hoping that we'd make it," John said. "We thought we were gone. You just never expect something like that to happen. We are just thankful to God that we were able to stand up and walk out from it."

Of the items damaged and destroyed, Valerie said she was able to salvage some of "the really important stuff" like photo albums and other family heirlooms.

"The photo albums were in an office behind the front wall, which is still there. It shielded some of them," Valerie said. "So most of my photo albums were saved, which is wonderful."

Though they have been longtime Maury County residents, the Bernharts said they had only lived at their Blackburn Lane home for about a year.

John said the home, which encompasses seven acres, was meant to be a place to "relax, walk through the woods and have a nice, quiet piece of land to retire."

"This was her grandfather's farm and this was to be our retirement home," John said. "It was my hobby just going out, cutting trees and clearing paths, finding ways to get around out here."

While the home is considered a total loss, there is hope to rebuild once again, though it will likely take a long time between insurance, damage assessments, recovery and construction. In the meantime, the Bernharts say they are staying with relatives, and are looking to move into a townhome or apartment for the time being.

"We've got insurance, though the price of the house has gone up since we built it, which took about two years," John said. "So it might come up a little short on the house, but we've got enough personal property insurance that I think if we can do without some stuff we had, we can come out okay and get ahead."

The Bernharts, like many other affected families in the community, also continued to receive support over the weekend. This included donations of food, water and other supplies from local churches, volunteers and neighbors.

"There are all kinds of people driving around now that they can get in, and we've got a lot of people helping us," John said. "It's the most terrifying thing we ever saw, and we hope we never see anything like it again. You hear about it all the time, but until you sit there and go through it, you just don't understand, seeing your whole life gone."


School Board Approves Raises (CDH)

The Maury County School Board approved last week, raises for all employees to be reflected in the budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

A 2.5% raise for all employees, and a 50-cent raise for those who it would benefit more, was considered by the school board, amounting to $154.1 million.

Some board members voiced concern, particularly Michael Fulbright, who said he was not a fan of doing different raises for different groups of employees.

“I think we’re just setting ourselves up for a lot of mass confusion, and potentially some hard feelings from employees,” Fulbright said.

The alternative would be a flat 2.5% raise across the board for all employees.

School board vice chair Jackson Carter concurred with Fulbright.

“You’re looking at the 2.5% and the 50 (cents), and I think that’s just setting the stage for people to wonder: ‘Why’d I get this and not this?’ And that’s a lot of math that we’re going to have to explain,” Carter said.

“We preach equality and equity behind this board pretty frequently, and I think that we have the option to do this and create confusion or within a couple of pennies do something that is the same for everyone that is equitable, is equal and I just think that’s probably what we ought to do.”

School board chair Will Sims voiced his support for the measure, pointing out that someone making $14.62 an hour would only receive a raise of 36 cents under the flat 2.5% raise.

“They’re at the bottom, and they’re gonna get the bottom portion of the raise again. And the gulf widens with that straight percentage raise,” Sims said. 

The vote passed.

Four "nays" came from board members Austin Hooper, Jackson Carter, Michael Fulbright, and Steve McGee.

Next the board voted on the food services budget separately, including the raises in question. The first motion was to approve a 2.5% flat raise for all nutrition employees.

Board member Austin Hooper justified his decision to put the motion forward. While he acknowledged it was a difficult decision, he reminded the board that they’re already running at a deficit, and are now choosing to run an even larger one.

“I’m not opposed to raises, but I am opposed to spending money that we don’t have,” Hooper said.

The vote did not pass. Board members Bettye Kinser, Jamila Brown, Kristen Shull, Michael Fulbright, Wayne Lindsey and Will Sims voted nay.

Another motion was introduced to approve instead a 2.5% increase or a 50 cent increase in wages for all nutrition employees, depending on which would better benefit the employee in question. The motion passed with three nays coming from board members Hooper, Carter, and McGee.

The full school operational budget as well as wage increase proposals will go to the county commission for approval.

The commission can either send the budget forward, or be sent back to the school board for further adjustment.


Spring Hill Fire (MauryCountySource)

Spring Hill Fire Department responded to a reported apartment fire early Saturday afternoon.

The fire was contained to the balcony of the affected unit. Investigation found that discarded smoking materials in a flowerpot started the fire which spread to a plastic rocking chair.

Fire was held in check by the sprinkler system until SHFD Units arrived to complete the extinguishment.

No extension into the building or other hazards were found.


Maury Regional Healthgrades (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) announced today that it has been recognized as a 2024 Patient Safety Excellence Award™ and Outstanding Patient Experience Award™ recipient by Healthgrades®, the leading resource consumers use to find a hospital or doctor.

 These achievements place MRMC among an elite group of only 79 hospitals nationwide to achieve both awards — and the only one in Tennessee. MRMC was also named among the top 10% in the nation for patient safety and outstanding patient experience in 2024.

 “This recognition reflects the dedication of our care teams to provide safe, high-quality care paired with a patient-centered experience,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “From using best-practice clinical protocols proven to result in better patient outcomes to our investment in state-of-the-art technology, we are committed to being the trusted source for health and wellness in the region.”

 To determine the nation’s premier hospitals for patient safety, Healthgrades evaluated risk-adjusted complication and mortality rates for approximately 4,500 hospitals nationwide. Healthgrades’ analysis revealed marked declines in patient safety throughout the country, particularly among the nation’s lowest-performing hospitals. As a result, patients who seek care at hospitals receiving the 2024 Patient Safety Excellence AwardTM like Maury Regional Medical Center have a significantly lower risk of experiencing one of the four leading patient safety indicators than patients treated at non-recipient hospitals:

In-hospital fall resulting in fracture (approximately 52% less likely)*

Collapsed lung due to a procedure or surgery in or around the chest (approximately 56% less likely)*

Pressure sores or bed sores acquired in the hospital (approximately 67% less likely)*

Catheter-related bloodstream infections acquired in the hospital (approximately 71% less likely)*

 Similarly, MRMC outperformed its peers — based on feedback from its own patients — in order to achieve the 2024 Outstanding Patient Experience Award. Survey questions focus on patients’ perceptions of their hospital care, from cleanliness and noise levels to medication explanations and staff responsiveness. The measures also include whether a patient would recommend the hospital to friends or family and their overall rating of the hospital.**

 “We’re proud to recognize Maury Regional Medical Center for their commitment to ensuring a best-in-class hospital stay for all patients,” said Brad Bowman, MD, chief medical officer and head of data sciences at Healthgrades. “Maury Regional Medical Center’s success demonstrates that patient safety and patient satisfaction go hand-in-hand, and we look forward to their continued leadership in these critical areas of patient care.”

Where you are treated matters, which is why Healthgrades is committed to providing the most scientifically accurate information about doctors and hospitals — with data insights not available anywhere else. To learn more about how Healthgrades measures hospital quality, visit healthgrades.com.


County Mulls New Admin/Ed Building (CDH)

The Maury County Commission and Maury County School Board met this month to discuss the possibility of opening a future facility to serve as a central office for both entities.

The Maury County Commission currently holds its meetings and main operations at the northeast corner of the downtown Columbia square, while the Maury County Public Schools headquarters at 501 East 8th St. and conducts meetings at the Horace O. Porter School at College Hill.

"Having a central office is a need of ours, and something that we've needed for a while because we are out of space," school board Chair Will Sims said. "We are in an old building that's been retrofitted to work, and we make it work, but it's not exactly what we would build to house a central office."

The idea to combine county and school operations under one facility has been a topic of discussion going back many years. This was the first time both boards could join together in more than a year to discuss how, or if, a project like this could be accomplished.

This would not only involve locating the right property, but also coming to a mutual agreement that this would indeed be the best solution for both parties, as well as the community.

"There is a really strong desire to move forward with this," School Board Vice Chair Jackson Carter said. "I think it benefits everybody in the community for us to do something somewhere, and it makes an insane amount of sense to place our school and county offices in close proximity. That way if someone has business, you know where to find us."

Board members spent much of the meeting discussing the potential benefits in addition to having county and school under one building.

For one, the new facility would address the county's current office space issues and allow for an estimated 26 additional classrooms for students, Maury County Superintendent Lisa Ventura said.

"These are employees that are county wide, but we don't have any space for them at our central office," Ventura said. "They have classroom space that we are using as offices, sometimes with multiple people in those classrooms. Other than Highland Park and Baker, I can't think of a building that does not house a county-wide staff member that we wouldn't pull up into this complex."

Commissioner Ray Jeter added that, much like MCPS, the county also operates in an older building that "we've made work," but that ongoing maintenance is becoming much harder, not to mention expensive.

"I think this is a great idea and has the potential to save a lot of money," Jeter said. "We are going to have to build these buildings in Maury County at a certain point and time in its history, a very soon history. Whatever it looks like, it's a benefit to the county, a benefit to the people of Maury County."

No votes were taken during Wednesday's meeting, but a few properties were considered, such as the former McDowell Elementary School at 714 W. 7th St.

Another issue was whether the facility should be one building or split into two, with one serving for the county and the other for schools.

A move to a new facility would also open up real estate on the downtown square, which could open opportunities for new businesses and expansion, especially as the new Maury County Judicial Center continues to develop.

"To me, I'm really concerned as we make decisions moving into the future of selling this 25% of the square, and what it does to our downtown businesses," Commissioner Gabe Howard said.

"It's 35,000 square feet sitting on 23 acres, and if you're really good at throwing a baseball you can from three of the largest schools in Maury County," Howard said. "It also has a pool system that is primarily used by schools in Maury County."

"While I'm all in on selling the 25% of the square, we need revenue-generating businesses That's property tax, that's sales tax, personal/tangible property, lots of tax revenue generated on the square. Hopefully, we can get a boutique hotel here on our downtown district."

Howard added that another potential property to consider could be the Muletown Rec facility at 1446 Oak Springs Drive.

At the meeting's conclusion, board members took a poll for three suggested locations, though no official vote was cast. However, all school board and commission members said they would be in favor of the project in general.

Potential sites proposed included the former McDowell Elementary School, the county parking lot at the intersection of East 7th and Woodland Streets (Motor Alley) and a portion of property located off Tom J. Hitch Parkway.

The McDowell property was clearly the winner with 22 members voicing in favor, while two members were in favor of the county parking lot and one for the Tom J. Hitch property.


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

Mrs. Cheryl Denise Hickman “Nannan” Lovett, 67, retired from Stan’s Restaurant, and resident of Spring Hill, died Wednesday, May 8, 2024 in Maury County. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday, May 15, at 3:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Jones Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the funeral home.


Kenneth P. Lord III, 81, resident of Williamsport, passed away on May 1, 2024.

A Memorial Service will be conducted Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 2:00 PM at Williamsport United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Williamsport Cemetery with Military Honors provided by the U.S. Army. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 1:00 P.M. until the time of service at the Church.


Billy Gower Dial, 83, of Brentwood, Tennessee, formerly of Culleoka, Tennessee passed away at Somerfield Health Center on May 10, 2024. 

A short graveside service will be held Friday, May 24th at 1pm at Friendship Cemetery in Culleoka. Visitation will be on Saturday, May 25th from 12:30 to 2 followed by a Celebration of Life at 2 p.m. at Brenthaven Church, 516 Franklin Road, Brentwood.   


Jonathan Patrick St.Clair, 49, a resident of Culleoka and an employee of Adient in Pulaski, died Saturday, May 11, 2024 in Decaturville, Tennessee.

The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.   Graveside service will be conducted Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 10:00 AM at Friendship Cemetery in Culleoka with Pastor Rick Blevins officiating and military honors provided by Herbert Griffin American Legion Post 19.  


…And now, news from around the state…

Educational Pathways to Success (Press Release)

Today, the Tennessee Department of Education is highlighting the multiple pathways available to support 3rd and 4th grade students who may benefit from extra learning supports. Additionally, new and updated resources are available to support districts and schools as they work with families in determining the best pathway for their student.  

 

“As districts and schools begin to have essential conversations with families of students who are not yet proficient, we will continue to provide resources and supports so they can make informed decisions about their student’s education,” said Lizzette Reynolds, Commissioner of Education. “I appreciate the dedication of Tennessee’s districts, schools, and educators to providing families and students with the best pathway to set them up for future success.”  

 

In 2021, Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly passed two key pieces of legislation to ensure all students have the support they need to read and perform on grade level. Third grade students who score “approaching expectations” or “below expectations” on the English Language Arts (ELA) section of the TCAP assessment are able to get essential learning supports from their school for free to ensure they are ready to move on to the 4th grade, including the TCAP retake opportunity, free summer camp and/or tutoring in the upcoming school year. 

 

Additionally, the law was updated this year to provide families of 4th grade students who participated in free summer camp and tutoring with an additional pathway to be promoted to the 5th grade. 


For additional information about Tennessee’s 3rd and 4th grade acceleration strategy, visit https://www.tn.gov/education/


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Rapper, singer, actor and producer Childish Gambino has announced his return to the global stage with a 2024 "New World Tour." He will be stopping in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday, Sept. 1.

Musician Willow Smith, who uses the stage name Willow, will accompany Gambino on his North American tour dates.

Gambino has not globally toured since 2019, when he hit the road to support 2016's "This is America."

Tickets go on sale to the public on Friday, May 17 at 10 a.m. CST at thenewworldtour.com

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