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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-17-24

Maury County is urging citizens to continue abiding by the Debris Management Guidelines that have been set-forth. If you are a resident or volunteer, we are requesting you place debris on the right-of-way so debris removal agencies can begin picking-up the waste. There may be rolling road closures, with the following roads impacted (but may not be limited to) Old Highway 99, Nicholson School House Rd, Blackburn Lane, Newt Hood Road, Hickory Ridge, and Heather Lane.

Until further notice, we will continue to pick up vegetative debris. We need citizens to continue practicing safe techniques while recovering. Please use the correct equipment, wear the correct personal protection equipment, and be mindful of faulty equipment as well. If you need additional assistance, please call the Crisis Clean-Up Hotline at 615-488-1875. Please take note; if you hire a contractor, the CONTRACTOR’s are fully responsible for disposing of their debris. They are not permitted to bring debris to the right-of-way. Also be mindful when hiring a contractor to verify their insurance. If you are unsure of a contractor’s licensure status, you can go to or call the Maury County Sheriff’s Office. As the recovery process continues, please be cautious of citizens at, or around roadways. We are urging for drivers to proceed cautiously through the area. If you need to report reckless driving, or any suspicious activity; please reach out to the Maury County Sheriff’s Office at 931-388-5151.

It will continue to rain intermittently throughout the week; please have any damaged structures covered in order to prevent further damage. We do have a slight risk for severe weather, all modes are possible.

If you are needing resources, or supplies/ want to donate; we have multiple organizations you can contact including (not limited to): New Lasea Church of Christ, The Well, and The Family Center in Columbia. Their numbers will be listed below.

We are requesting that you do not call the Office of Emergency Management’s general phone number. Please call 931-490-6983 for general questions, or call 931-490-6982 for Mental Health Crisis Assistance. Many people have asked about volunteering. Please refer to our website; and go to the tab labeled Disaster Relief. There will be a section about volunteering toward the bottom and will have information you will need regarding recovery.

We have dispatched representatives from the Mental Health Crisis Team to the impacted area and encourage you to use them at your disposal.

Duck River Electric has reported all restorable power is back on. Recovery is ongoing, but the Rally Hill Sub-station is back online, however adjacent facilities will take more time to restore.


New Lasea Church Of Christ: 931-381-7412

Family Center of Columbia: 931-388-3840

The Well: 615-302-9355

Marisa Massey Appointed To Randolph Howell Elementary Principal (Press Release + Main Street Maury + WSMV)

Maury County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Lisa Ventura is pleased to announce the appointment of Mrs. Marisa Massey as the new principal of Randolph Howell Elementary STEM School. Mrs. Massey brings a wealth of experience and dedication to her new role, having served as principal at Marvin Wright Elementary for the past 13 years.

Massey holds a Bachelor of Science from Middle Tennessee State University, a Master’s in Administration and Supervision from Tennessee State University, and a Master’s Plus 30 from Drake University. Her career in education began in Maury County at Highland Park Elementary in August 2000. While at Highland Park, she taught across various grade levels including Title I, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 4th grade. While teaching Title I, Massey became trained in Recovery strategies. She later assumed the role of Title I Facilitator at Highland Park Elementary before transitioning to Marvin Wright Elementary in August 2011, where she served as assistant principal for five years before being appointed principal.

Reflecting on her time at Marvin Wright Elementary, Massey expressed gratitude for her tenure there, stating, “It was a great privilege becoming the principal at Marvin Wright in 2015. I will miss the Marvin Wright community; however, I am very excited and blessed to start my next journey with the Randolph Howell community. I look forward to serving the students, parents, and staff. It is a true honor to continue working in Maury County as I have served many students, parents, and staff members over the past 23 years of service.”

Former principal Dr. Michael Ford announced his resignation on Thursday, April 25, two days after being suspended by Maury County Public Schools. In addition, Assistant Principal Beth Hamilton announced her retirement, effective immediately, on Friday, April 26.

In a statement to Main Street Maury, Ventura stated, “The Principal of Randolph Howell Elementary School was suspended pending investigation on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Maury County Public Schools received his resignation on Thursday, April 25, 2024. Specifics regarding personnel matters will not be discussed or disclosed.”

MCPS officials declined to discuss the reason for the departures or the reason for the investigation of Ford. Unconfirmed reports have claimed the suspension was linked to manipulation of test scores.

Ventura sent a letter to Howell parents, dated May 2 and posted on the school’s Facebook page, which stated in part, “All state mandated assessments, TCAP/TNReady, for all grades tested at RHESS have been successfully submitted to the state for scoring. There is NO truth to rumors regarding any student being forced to retake any state assessment due to this investigation.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source with the School Board who was briefed on the situation by the school district’s attorney and superintendent, and a parent whose child was involved, tell WSMV4 that when TCAP testing began, Ford pulled a group of low-performing into a separate classroom.

Both sources say Ford proctored the students’ testing, and they completed the written portion on their own.

However, according to our sources, when it came to the multiple-choice part of the test, Ford allegedly told the students not to fill out their scantron bubble sheets. Instead, the sources say that Ford told the students to mark their answers in their testing booklets, and he would fill out their scantron sheet later.

Those sources tell WSMV4 Investigates that the district found out what Ford allegedly did when a teacher at Howell Elementary blew the whistle.

Ventura expressed her confidence in Mrs. Massey, stating, "Mrs. Massey will be a valuable addition to Randolph Howell Elementary. Her extensive experience and dedication are well-suited to the school's commitment to excellence. Her collaborative approach is expected to inspire both students and faculty, promoting a culture of inquiry, critical thinking, and achievement. Mrs. Massey has a strong commitment to students, parents, and staff. She leaves a legacy of excellence and community at Marvin Wright, and I look forward to that attitude and sense of community permeating the halls of Randolph Howell.”

City of Columbia Welcomes Hanna Miller as New Public Information Officer (Press Release)

The City of Columbia is pleased to welcome Hanna Miller as the new Public Information Officer (PIO). Hanna brings a dynamic skill set and a passion for community engagement to her new role. As the new Public Information Officer, Hanna will be responsible for maintaining transparent communication between the city government and its residents, ensuring that accurate and timely information is readily available to the public. She will assist the Tourism & Marketing Department with a variety of initiatives involving social media, public relations and community involvement.

"Hanna has a valuable skill set that has been and will continue to be an asset to the City of Columbia," said City Manager Tony Massey, “Her dedication to public service and her ability to effectively communicate with the community make her the perfect fit for this role."

Hanna holds a degree in mass communications and began her professional journey in 2012 when she joined Jaynes Media to assist in the production of the local news magazine show, Maury County Now. Her dedication and expertise over the years contributed significantly to the program's success during its airing from 2012 to 2017. Over the last three years, Hanna has been an integral part of the City of Columbia’s Fire & Rescue Department, serving as the Community Risk Reduction and Public Information Officer. In this capacity, she has demonstrated her commitment to keeping the community informed and safe.

"I am honored to take on this new role within the City of Columbia," said Miller. "I am excited to continue serving this wonderful community and to further enhance communication and engagement."

Please join us in welcoming Hanna Miller to her new role as Public Information Officer for the City of Columbia. For more information, please contact Hanna Miller at

Spring Hill woman identified in photo found 71 miles away in storm (WKRN)

The search for the woman whose picture was found more than 70 miles away from her Maury County home is now over.

The severe weather that tore through Middle Tennessee on Wednesday, May 8 destroyed Valerie Bernhart’s home along Blackburn Lane in Spring Hill. She and her husband, John Bernhart, consider themselves very lucky to have survived the storm.

“We went to the laundry room, and we had just gotten there and about that time, it hit. We huddled in a corner, I put that blanket over me, John shielded me, we felt the debris pelting us in the back. He’s got a big bruise on his back where he was pelted. And I was just huddled there, praying constantly, ‘Lord, please help us,” Valerie recalled.

Valerie said they heard their house being ripped apart. When the storm passed, their laundry room was all that was left of their home.

Meanwhile, a photo of Valerie ended up in a Putnam County field. Terrie Van Curen found the picture on her farm along Little Indian Creek in Buffalo Valley, and she reached out to News 2, hoping to identify the woman.

Before traveling 71 miles away, that photo was in the room next to Valerie’s laundry room. She considers this picture one of the few things left of her home after the storm.

“I was shocked! Somebody emailed us or called us, and I said, ‘What?!’ And then my next thought was, ‘Okay what picture? Was it a good picture,'” Valerie said as she laughed. “But it was a family portrait. I could tell that my family was standing around me. You can’t see the rest of them, but that’s just incredible…It’s torn and everything, but yeah, let’s get it back, just as a souvenir! I’ll frame it and say ‘the tornado picture!'”

Now a look at your hometown memorials, brought to you by Oakes and Nichols Funeral Home…

Mr. Clifford McEwen Brooks, 68, employee of AutoZone, retired bus driver for Maury County Public Schools, and resident of Columbia, died Friday, May 10th at Maury Regional Medical Center.Funeral services will be conducted Monday, May 13, 2024 at 2:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Morrow Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Monday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the funeral home.

Jason Daniel Slayman, 43, resident of Columbia, died Wednesday, May 8th at Maury Regional Medical Center. A graveside service will be conducted Monday, May 13th at 2:30 p.m. at Chessor Cemetery in Centerville.

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, 2024 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

and now news from around the state…


The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency responded to a missing person call at Saundersville boat ramp on Old Hickory Lake at approximately 11:15 a.m. on May 15, 2024.

The initial investigation indicated that Mervin Johnson, Jr., 76, of Goodlettsville, had been at the boat launch area when his boat drifted away from the courtesy dock. According to an eyewitness, Johnson jumped in the water and was attempting to swim the boat back to the dock when he disappeared.

Emergency crews searched the area and recovered the body of Mr. Johnson, the victim of an apparent drowning.

This is the fifth boating related fatality in Tennessee for 2024. The victim was not wearing a lifejacket. This incident remains under investigation.

Governor Lee, Commissioner McWhorter Announce New Funding for Nuclear Education (Release)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter announced today that the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Roane State Community College will receive funding from Tennessee’s Nuclear Energy Fund.

The institutions will use the additional dollars to support existing nuclear programs as well as develop and implement new nuclear education curriculum.

“Our administration created the Nuclear Energy Fund in partnership with the Tennessee General Assembly to support and expand the state’s nuclear ecosystem,” said Gov. Lee. “Tennessee has the right assets in place to become a top state for energy independence, and we are proud to partner with the University of Tennessee and Roane State Community College to upskill our talented workforce and better prepare Tennesseans to enter the nuclear field.”

The University of Tennessee will establish a new program for non-nuclear engineers to obtain a minor in nuclear engineering at its Knoxville campus. The additional degree will better prepare these engineers entering the nuclear energy field and will shorten the time needed to provide extensive training by their employers.

“This is indeed an exciting time for nuclear growth in Tennessee, and we are eager to offer this nuclear power engineering minor to better prepare our engineering graduates to meet the growing needs of the nuclear community,” said Dr. Wes Hines, Nuclear Engineering Head, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Our expertise in these areas, combined with access to top-notch facilities, will provide students with an educational opportunity they can’t get anywhere else and put them in a position to be immediately sought after by industry for their skills.”

Separately, funding will also be used to support Roane State Community College in purchasing laboratory equipment for its inaugural nuclear technology program, which launches in the fall of 2024.

"The nuclear renaissance is real here in the heart of East Tennessee, and this region will lead the country in developing a clean, reliable source of power for the future,” said Dr. Chris Whaley, President of Roane State Community College. “The rapid growth in this technology requires a new labor force of educated, trained and skilled employees committed to this new industry. These dollars from the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Fund will allow Roane State to establish a state-of-the-art program and laboratory for experiential learning."

Both campuses, which are in close proximity to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will play a vital role in attracting nuclear companies to the region with the enhanced curriculum and equipment.

“With assets like Oak Ridge National Lab, East Tennessee is our state’s focal point for nuclear energy, so it is important that we support our existing institutions with the tools needed to prepare a workforce that is ready to enter the nuclear energy field,” said Commissioner McWhorter. “These workforce projects are the first of many that will build out Tennessee’s nuclear sector by attracting new investment and high-quality jobs to the region.”

The Nuclear Energy Fund was in Gov. Lee’s recommended 2023-2024 budget and approved by the Tennessee General Assembly. The $50 million fund aims to expand Tennessee’s nuclear development and manufacturing ecosystem.

The fund assists nuclear power-related businesses choosing to relocate or grow in the Volunteer State and supports the state’s universities and research institutions in further developing their nuclear education programs.

The projects announced today were vetted and recommended by the Education and Workforce subgroup, part of the 22-member Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council.

Plane crash in Williamson County kills three (AP)

Three people are dead after a small plane crashed on Wednesday in Williamson County, local officials confirmed.

Williamson County Chief Deputy Mark Elrod told reporters that the plane had left Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was headed to Louisville, Kentucky, but crashed in Tennessee near Leiper’s Fork, about 30 miles (48.28 kilometers) south of Nashville, around noon local time.

“It does appear that the plane did break up in the air,” Elrod said.

Elrod added that the debris field is more than a mile long, but no structures have been reported damaged.

Giselle and Jean-Luc Doucet, children of Dr. Lucius J. Doucet III, died in the crash.

"This is heartbreaking for the LSU community, but especially for those who know and love these two students, and those were expecting to share graduation with them," LSU said in a statement.

Jill Burgin, spokesperson for the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency, said they received a 911 call at about 12:05 p.m.

“He just said a possible plane crash, but he didn’t have a lot of details,” Burgin told reporters during Wednesday’s news conference “He just heard a sound and saw debris so that’s all the information he gave.”

The Federal Aviation Association has identified the plane as a single-engine Beechcraft V35.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Maury Alliance, Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce launch second WIRED contest (Release)

In 2021, Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance and Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce launched WIRED – A Mastermind Group for local entrepreneurs and CEOs. WIRED Mastermind is designed to foster growth and development through the sharing of experiences, lessons learned and game-changing moments. The 2023-24 Wired Mastermind Group is comprised of five local Entrepreneurs and CEOs that were selected through an application process.

The group of five local leaders have been meeting monthly over the course of the year, learning from one another and developing a deeper understanding of themselves. Each participant committed their time, resources and expertise to the group and now it is time for them to host the finale, the WIRED Pitch Contest, a pitch competition for early businesses poised for growth in Maury County/Spring Hill. The group will decide which business is deserving of a grant valued up to at least $5,000. The individuals will also commit to mentoring the chosen business as needed.

The WIRED Pitch Contest is funded by WIRED Mastermind’s annual fees. Local entrepreneurs are encouraged to complete the application by June 1, 2024 in order to be considered to participate in the pitch competition on July 23, 2024. Chosen applicants will pitch their idea in front of the WIRED Mastermind group and the group will determine which businesses warrant investing and the amount invested. The WIRED Mastermind group will then serve as mentors to the chosen entrepreneur(s).

All Maury County businesses are encouraged to apply. The application is anonymous and will only be shared with the WIRED Pitch Contest reviewing committee. Participants are selected without regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, veteran, or disability status.


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