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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-23-24

WKOM/WKRM Radio

Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 23, 2024


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

We start with local news…

Ty Cobb Sues for Hearing (MSM)

Former fire chief Ty Cobb has filed a lawsuit against the City of Columbia, claiming that he is entitled to a hearing before the Civil Service Board.

The lawsuit was filed in Maury County Circuit Court on April 25, 2024, and a hearing was held before Judge David Allen on Thursday, May 16, according to court records. When a ruling will be issued is not known.

Cobb was terminated as chief of Columbia Fire & Rescue on March 12 by City Manager Tony Massey. In the letter of termination, Massey stated allegations that included “a message falsely accusing the chief of police of being involved in an attempted break-in at the apartment of the person who sent the text” and “a message offering to pay for favorable news stories which would benefit your interest.”

The filing in Circuit Court cites the city’s municipal code, stating in part, “The City of Columbia municipal code specifically states the fire chief is entitled to a civil service hearing for anything more than a 10-day suspension…” The filing also claims that Cobb, who had been employed with Columbia Fire since 2000 before becoming chief in 2017, never received any notice rescinding his status as a civil service employee after taking the chief’s position.

The filing also claims that a progressive disciplinary record for Cobb was prepared in October 2023 but not presented to him to sign until Dec, 1, 2023.

A March 12 email from Massey to Cobb, which is among the exhibits listed in the filing, states in part, “Section 7.10 clearly states as follows: ‘All full time employees of the City, other than the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, and all Department Heads, are hereby declared to be Civil Service employees, subject to the conditions, limitations, and requirements of this article 7 and entitled of the benefits there of.’ As a result you are not a Civil Service employee and not entitled to a hearing.”

Cobb officially requested a civil service hearing by email on March 15.

Before filing the lawsuit, Cobb’s attorney, John Mark Windle, sent a letter to the city stating in part, “The City of Columbia Charter and City Code clearly state that the Fire Chief is not a department head and is entitled to a civil service hearing.”

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that Cobb is entitled to a civil service hearing and to schedule such a hearing, along with “such further and general relief to which he may be deemed entitled.”

Neither Windle nor Massey have responded to requests for comment.

Cobb served a 30-day suspension in late October 2023 and most of November. At the time, a memorandum from Massey to Cobb cited “insubordination” and added that Cobb would be on probation for a period of one year after the suspension.

The suspension was announced shortly after Cobb requested that the City of Columbia launch an internal investigation into the city’s response to the May 3, 2023 Central High School shooting hoax. In that request, Cobb cited concern for the safety of his employees.


CPWS Gets OK to Expand (MSM)

Columbia’s Planning Commission gave preliminary approval at its May 8 meeting for the rezoning of property located on Nashville Highway for expansion of a water treatment facility.

“Columbia Power and Water’s number one goal is to preserve the capacity for existing customers and make sure that that system is available and running at all times,” said project manager Mike Harris, representing CPWS.

The request for the property was to rezone from a CD-4C (General Urban Corridor Character District) and CD-3 (Neighborhood Character District) to PUD-MU (Mixed-Use Planned Unit Development) and to approve a preliminary master plan at 806 and 812 Nashville Highway.

Harris said that Columbia Power and Water Systems’ purchase of the former American Legion property “opened the door for expansion of this [water treatment] plant.”

“It’s a very unique site, very unique facility that really wouldn’t fit in any of the zones,” he said, adding that staff had helped the department with these plans.

When asked if the new facility would reach the needed capacity for the new permit, Harris stated that the current plan has a capacity of 17.5 million gallons per day, and the expansion will increase that by about 12 million gallons per day.

Other discussion included a “decorative fence” with brick columns across the front of the property and black coated fencing with barbed wire around the perimeter. Since residential homes are around the property, several on the commission members expressed their concerns about the barbed-wire fence.

Harris said this was something that was enforced for safety purposes after 9/11.

When asked if other options were considered, he said that ultimately the customers bear the costs and this was considered when attempting to balance the costs and aesthetics of the fence.

The commission approved the request with its own request for the applicant to have some additional options of fencing for the City Council to consider. The City Council will ultimately have to approve the proposed rezoning.

In other business during its meeting May 8, the Planning Commission:

• Deferred consideration for architectural elevation modifications to the proposed 115 single-family homes in the previously approved PUD master plan for the McClure Farms development, off Nashville Highway. The commission asked to defer so drawings could be revised. Some of the modifications included using less brick and using stone veneers, as well as changes to the porch depths.

• A favorable recommendation was to Agathos’ request to rezone approximately 17.5 acres from CD-2 (rural character district) to CV (civic district at 1201 Mapleash Avenue.

• A request was approved from Permit Solutions, Inc. for a mixed-use planned unit development master plan for an approximately 1.34-acre portion of the Honey Farm development, located at 2248 Nashville Highway.

•  Ray Pace was recognized for serving on the Planning Commission for 12 years.

“He served on this board with distinction,” Mayor Chaz Molder said, adding that Pace always “did his homework.”

Pace was asked to come to the podium and was presented with a joint proclamation from Molder and previous mayor Dean Dickey.

Nancy Williams had been confirmed by the city council to replace Pace on the Planning Commission and was serving in that capacity for the first time that night, Molder said.


Roy Brooks Case Dismissed (CDH)

The case against former Columbia firefighter Roy Brooks in connection with a May 2023 incident, which involved Brooks carrying a firearm onto Central High School's campus will not go forward.

District Attorney Brent Cooper, 22nd District, issued a statement Tuesday.

"After doing an in-depth review of the facts of the case and the applicable law, I came to the conclusion that a jury may find reasonable doubt as to Mr. Brooks' guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt," Cooper's statement reads. "Therefore, the ethical action was to submit an order of Nol-le Pro-se-qui, meaning that the State chooses not to proceed further with the case."

The charges stemmed from a May 3, 2023 incident in which a false active shooter call was made to the school.

Brooks, having experience as a military veteran, first responder and tactical trainer, responded to the scene wearing tactical gear and carrying a fully loaded AR-15 rifle.

Brooks was later indicted on Aug. 17 by a Maury County grand jury, with charges of carrying a firearm onto school property while not being an official member of law enforcement or any authorized dispatch team, a Class E felony.

Brooks was set to face charges of carrying a weapon onto school property while not on authorized duty, with the court date set for Wednesday, as well as the possibility of facing up to two years in jail.

This follows Brooks' denial of a plea deal in November last year, which would have included a year of probation that would have eventually been wiped from his record.

At the time of the November hearing, Brooks' attorney Dave Christensen said the denial was due to "basically, we don't think he did anything illegal," while Columbia police officers were on the school's campus at the time and did not deem Brooks a threat.

"He wasn't in the S.W.A.T. team at the moment, but he had been in the past. Everybody knew him, and he was there, and so they put him in Team 2," Christensen told The Daily Herald, citing that footage exists showing the incident.

At the time of Brooks' indictment in August, Columbia Police Chief Jeremy Alsup stated he had seen the May 3 footage, and that while Brooks was not deemed a threat, he was not officially part of the responding team.

"I've seen video where he is around our S.W.A.T. team members. There was a discrepancy because we had some guys out there training and people thought he had arrived with us, since he arrived at the same time," Alsup said. "But he is not on our S.W.A.T. team nor was he representing our S.W.A.T. team at the time.

"At the time, our main focus was the safety of the children and the teachers in that school."

Brooks had also previously filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city after being fired in May of 2022, though that case was dismissed in January.

The suit claimed Brooks was terminated following multiple reports made to his superiors regarding alleged issues within the department, though the official reason filed by city attorneys was that the termination was due to "numerous policy violations," and that the dismissal was made without prejudice.


June Lake Interchange Nearly Done (MauryCountySource)

The new I-65 Buckner Road Interchange in Spring Hill has been in the works since 2020 and it’s almost time to celebrate its completion.

City of Spring Hill leaders and other leaders around the state will officially celebrate the grand opening of the new June Lake Interchange at the end of this month. The tentative date to have the road open is May 31, according to TDOT Regional Communications Officer Rebekah Hammond.

The major feature of this design is the “Diverging Diamond Interchange” — the second such interchange in the State of Tennessee. The design is meant to help ease the flow of traffic to and from I-65.

Prior to this project, there was only one I-65 access point to the city of Spring Hill, and that was through the Saturn Parkway Exit. The interchange at Buckner Road will give the City a second access point and should help the flow of traffic to new developments in the area.

The I-65 Interchange will provide direct access to the June Lake Development, which is situated along Buckner Lane. June Lake is a mixed-use development that will be home to 3.9 million square feet of commercial office space, 1.3 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, 2,900 homes, and 400 hotel rooms.

The Interchange at Buckner Road has been in the works since 2020 when a Request for Qualification was submitted. In 2021, the contract was awarded to Bell Construction.


TN Flight Training (MSM)

Humans have always had some innate desire to see the world from a new perspective and there is no better way to do that than to be thousands of feet in the air.

The Tennessee Flight School campus in Mount Pleasant held an open house for all who yearned for the skies on Tuesday, May 14. The event was in partnership with National Learn to Fly Month and focuses on introducing people to the concept of learning to fly.

Chris Erlanson, the President of Tennessee Flight School and the co-founder and marketing director of Elite Flight Academy, spoke on the need for the event and all that the Tennessee Flight School offers. Among the concepts that Erlanson wanted to address are the common misconceptions about learning to fly. He said one common misconception is that people believe most pilots learn to fly in the military and then move on from there.

“I think it’s a just a common misconception that the general public doesn’t have the ability to learn to fly, and so that’s part of what we’re doing. We’re helping people understand, yes, you even you and can learn to fly and learning to fly is a life-changing event,” Erlanson said.

Erlanson also brought up the amount of job opportunities that are out there for those who take the chance and soar among the skies.

“We have a significant shortage of pilots in our industry right now. Boeing went and did some calculations, and it’s calculated that over the next 20 years, we need 689,000 additional pilots in our industry, which equates to about

32,000 a month, about 85 new pilots every day, is what our industry needs to keep up with the demand for air travel,” he said.

Erlanson cited the rate of pilots retiring from positions at major companies like Southwest, Delta and American Airlines.

One of the biggest clienteles that were drawn to the event are those looking for a possible career change. People from all career paths walk into the Tennessee Flight Training School looking for a new avenue in their life. Erlanson said he has seen various established professionals walk into the offices of the training school, ready and excited to learn a new skill. These people stick with the program because they know in their first year out of the two-year training school, they can be making over $100,000 a year and within five years they could be looking at over $300,000.

Erlanson said, “I love seeing the way that somebody walks in with a dream, and our job is we help make dreams come true.”

The Tennessee Flight School has an extensive catalogue of information on its website at www.tnflighttraining.com, which gives people access to a vast FAQ page and information on various camps for individuals who are seeking the chance to hit the skies. For more information, call (931) 774-8380.


Blood Assurance Asks for Donors (MSM)

The summer season is almost here, and Blood Assurance is calling on community members to donate before the holiday weekend to help keep supplies from dropping to critical levels.

The time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer.” During this time blood donations typically drop, but the need surges because of an increase in traumatic car crashes. This can create a strain on the blood supply, and lead to a critical need for donations. More than 540 volunteer blood donors are needed every day in order to have an adequate supply for the hospitals Blood Assurance serves.

“We need everyone who is healthy and able to step up and donate this summer,” said Dr. Liz Culler, the President and CEO of Blood Assurance. “We understand people have busy schedules and vacations, but please remember those in urgent need of blood transfusions. Your one donation can help save up to three lives.”

Donors who give now through May 31 will receive a special Memorial Day T-shirt while supplies last. You can visit www.bloodassurance.org/schedule, call 800-962-0628, or text BAGIVE to 999777, to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins will be accepted.


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

Mary Susan Berry Kennedy, wife of Delk Kennedy, passed away Friday, May 17, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Funeral Services for Mrs. Kennedy will be conducted Thursday, May 23, at 3:30 P.M. at St. Peters Episcopal Church.

Kristi Lyle Vanderburg, 45, resident of Columbia, TN, died Saturday, May 18, 2024 at her residence. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the funeral home. A private graveside service will be held at Longtown Cemetery in Crenshaw, Mississippi with family and friends serving as pallbearers.

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


…And now, news from around the state…

Governor Calls for Poll Workers (Press Release)

In preparation for the Aug. 1 State and Federal Primaries and the Nov. 5 State and Federal General Election, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett today urged all Tennesseans meeting eligibility requirements to consider becoming poll workers for the 2024 election cycle. 

“Poll workers are essential to conducting elections in Tennessee, and I hope all eligible Tennesseans will consider answering the call to serve our fellow Tennesseans,” said Secretary Hargett.

During early voting and on Election Day, poll workers help polling sites run smoothly by conducting various tasks — including greeting voters, answering questions, explaining how to cast a ballot, and counting votes at their community locations. They are paid for their work and for attending required training sessions. 

Most Tennesseans are eligible to work at polling locations, regardless of their political affiliation. The minimum age for poll workers is 16. Anyone over 18 must be a registered voter in the county they desire to serve.

Other qualifications include:

Be able to read and write in the English language.

Cannot be a candidate or close relative of a candidate.

Cannot be supervised by a county or municipal elected official on the ballot.

 

All City, County, and Metropolitan government employees (unless working directly under the supervision of an elected official on the ballot) are eligible, as are state employees. Federal employees should consult with their individual Human Resources Departments to determine eligibility. 

“Poll workers are an essential part of the electoral process, and Tennessee would not be able to hold successful elections without them,” said Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. “By serving as a poll worker, citizens can help voters in their communities confidently cast a ballot, so all registered Tennesseans know our results are accurate and Tennessee elections are secure.” 

Tennessee has been ranked number one in election integrity for three consecutive years; the Secretary of State’s office is also the trusted source for all election information. For more information about becoming a poll worker, please visit https://sos.tn.gov/pollworkers.


Gas Prices (MSM)

Pump prices across the state continue to decline ahead of Memorial Day weekend. The state gas price average fell seven cents over last week. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.16 which is eight cents less expensive than one month ago but four cents more than one year ago.  

“Those that are taking a road trip over the holiday weekend will likely be able to benefit from falling prices at the pump,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Last year, Tennesseans paid $3.19 per gallon for gasoline on Memorial Day. Fluctuation in prices cannot be ruled out due to ongoing geopolitical tensions, but if there are no major shifts in the market ahead of the weekend Tennesseans can likely expect to pay about what they did for last year’s holiday, and in some cases maybe even less.” 

Tennessee is seventh least-expensive state in nation for gas prices


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

To celebrate 14 years of partnership with Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization that provides families of fallen or disabled U.S. service members and families of first responders with scholarships toward educational opportunities, Budweiser and the iconic Clydesdales are embarking on a cross-country tour -and one of their first tour stops is in Nashville.

Notably, the Budweiser Clydesdales will be appearing ahead of the Rock ‘N Jock Celebrity Softball Game on June 3. In addition, Rocky Sickmann, Folds of Honor member and U.S. military hero, will be throwing the first pitch at the game and will also be available for interviews at the event.

The dates and locations to see the Budweiser Clydesdales include:

May 30, 3pm

Kroger, 123 Northcreek Blvd, Goodlettsville, TN 37072

June 1 & 2, 11am 

Nashville Zoo, 3777 Nolensville Pk, Nashville, TN 37211

The Clydesdales will appear at the Zoo’s Festival Field.

June 3, 4:30pm 

Rock ‘N Jock Celebrity Softball Game

First Horizon Park – 19 Jr. Gilliam Way, Nashville, TN

The Clydesdales will be participating in a pre-game parade.

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