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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-30-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 30, 2024

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

We start with local news…

HCA Tristar Donates $50,000 to Tornado Relief (MauryCountySource)

On Tuesday, HCA Healthcare and TriStar Health announced the donation of $50,000 to support relief efforts for communities in Maury County impacted by the devastating EF3 tornado that hit on May 8th.

“As part of HCA Healthcare, we are committed to creating healthier tomorrows for the communities we serve,” said Mitch Edgeworth, president of the HCA Healthcare TriStar Division. “We are grateful for the opportunity to show our support to those that have been impacted by this storm and are proud to be a provider of healthcare services in this community.”

The $50,000 donation will go to the Maury County Storm Victims Fund which is currently helping support community members who were directly impacted by the storm. Hundreds of homes were damaged and many were destroyed by the powerful winds that swept through the Spring Hill and Columbia communities.

“Our County appreciates this generous donation of $50,000 from the TriStar Division of HCA Healthcare so very much at this difficult time. The money will go directly into the Maury County Storm Victims Fund and will only be used locally,” said Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt. “The fact is that after a disaster such as we experienced on May 8th with the tornado, it takes a strong, resilient community to rebuild houses, lives and homes. This donation will go a long way in helping those with the most immediate needs and those who may have hurdles to cross in rehoming. Thank you, HCA Healthcare and TriStar Health for helping support our community in this way.”

HCA Healthcare affiliates TriStar Spring Hill ER and Pinewood Springs Mental Health and Wellness are both located in Maury County. Hundreds of HCA Healthcare employees also live in the county.

“The residents of Maury County, who were significantly affected by the tornado on May 8th, will be relieved to know that additional funds and support are available as they begin to rebuild their lives,” said 8th District County Commissioner Ray Jeter. “As the County Commissioner for this area, I extend my heartfelt appreciation for this generous contribution. Thank you!”

“On behalf of all citizens of Maury County, I want to express my gratitude to HCA Healthcare for their generous donation to the storm victims of the May 8, 2024 tornado,” said 6th District County Commissioner Kathy Grodi. “Donations from the private sector ease the burden for all to rebuild and thrive. I extend my heartfelt thanks.”

“On the evening of May 8th, I saw firsthand the devastation that our community and those in my district suffered. Neighbors, friends and family were all impacted tremendously by this life changing event,” said 5th District County Commissioner Brandon Nutt. “It’s been a blessing to witness so many people reach out and assist those in need. I know that HCA Healthcare and TriStar Health’s offering will directly help those who, at this difficult time, need it the most!”

Homicide Investigation (Press Release)

On Monday, May 27th, at approximately 7:12 am, the Columbia Police Department responded to a male lying on the ground at 1129 Trotwood Avenue. As officers arrived on the scene, they discovered 51-year-old, Thomas Deon Braden, injured and unresponsive in the parking lot.

Emergency Medical Services attempted lifesaving measures; however, Braden succumbed to his injuries on scene.

Through investigation in was discovered that an altercation occurred between the victim and 39-year-old Gerardo Mendoza Rodriquez at a convenience store a short distance away. As Mr. Braden walked away from the altercation, Mendoza-Rodriquez struck Braden with his vehicle killing him.

Gerardo Mendoza Rodriquez has been taken into custody and charged with 1st degree murder and aggravated assault resulting in death and driving on a suspended license in connection with this incident.

Anyone who witnessed this incident or anyone with information that may assist in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Columbia Police Department at 931-388-2727.

Vape Shop Sues Spring Hill and DA (MSM)

The owners of a series of local vaping stores have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Spring Hill and District Attorney Brent Cooper in response to a series of raids earlier in May.

On Thursday, May 9, the Spring Hill Police Department posted on its Facebook page that local, state and federal officials had conducted court-authorized searches at Old School Vapor shops in Columbia, Franklin and Spring Hill. No arrests were made as a result of the searches.

On Monday, May 20, Litson PLLC filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court on behalf of clients Old School Vapor and SAK Wholesale for what it called the “illegal seizure of $1.35 million worth of legal hemp products by the Spring Hill Police Department.”

The warrants authorizing the searches of the stores reportedly did not allow for the seizure of hemp products, which are legal under federal and Tennessee law as long as the Delta-9 THC levels are not more than 0.3 percent of dry weight. The lawsuit also claims that there was no warrant issued to search SAK Wholesale’s Columbia warehouse.

“The illegally seized hemp was fully compliant with federal and Tennessee law, and our clients presented third-party laboratory test results to law enforcement indicating that the products were within legal limits,” Litson said in a press release announcing the lawsuit.

Named in the lawsuit are Brent Cooper, the District Attorney General for the 22nd Judicial District; Spring Hill Police Chief Don Brite; Spring Hill PD Sgt. Andrew Burdett and the City of Spring Hill. The lawsuit also names 10 “John Doe” defendants whose identities were not available to Old School Vapor: assistant district attorneys for the 22nd Judicial District, Spring Hill police officers, including its Drug Unit, members of the Columbia Police Department’s Drug Unit, agents with the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security and deputies from the Maury County Sheriff’s Department. The “John Doe” defendants were all said to have been present when the hemp was seized.

The lawsuit alleges that the warrants did not allow for the seizure of hemp products, but that law enforcement seized over $1 million of hemp products anyway after being directed by the District Attorney’s Office that it was the “same damn thing” as marijuana.

Old School Vapor reportedly presented third-party lab results to law enforcement stating that the products were within legal limits. The lawsuit alleges that law enforcement conducted its own tests, which reached the same conclusion, but ignored the result.

Deputies with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department reportedly refused to seize any hemp products from Old School Vapor’s Franklin location because hemp was not mentioned in the warrant.

The lawsuit seeks damages of over $1.35 million and attorney fees, as well as a finding that the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs were violated.

A motion for preliminary injunction was filed on May 22 seeking the return of the hundreds of pounds of hemp, so that it would not be ruined while in police storage. According to the filing, improperly stored hemp can increase its amount of Delta-9 THC and become illegal marijuana.

Lucas Wright, spokesman for the City of Spring Hill, declined to comment when contacted by Main Street Maury, citing the pending litigation. Cooper also declined to comment.

A date has not yet been scheduled to hear the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Nashville.

City Parking Garage Project Delayed (Press Release)

The City of Columbia announced yesterday that due to recent inclement weather, the completion date for the City of Columbia parking garage improvement project, originally set for the end of June, has been delayed by one month. Renovation crews are working diligently to ensure this project is completed as soon as possible.

Local Military Leader Receives Legion of Merit (MSM)

A Culleoka man has been awarded with the Legion of Merit, a military award that is given for exceptionally meritorious service, while serving as Command Chief Warrant Officer for the Tennessee Army National Guard.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 David Ward, who has 39 years of military service, was recently presented the award by Tennessee National Guard Adjutant General Major General Warner A. Ross III.

Ward said he’s honored to have received the award, which he said is usually given to brigade commanders.

“I was shocked when they gave one to me but I’m very humbled by it,” he said. “The award is not given to Warrant Officers that much. It’s a special award for me because when I was Command Chief we just did very well.”

CW5 Ward served on active duty for three years after high school before transferring to the TNARNG. After he graduated from college, Ward went on to Warrant Officer School.

Ward’s background includes working with M-1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.

Ward said his grandfather, who was in World War II, inspired him to join the military.

“He was a sergeant also. He fought in the Third Army with Patton in Germany, Luxembourg and France,” Ward said, adding that his great-grandfather was in World War I. “He taught me to go into the Army.”

Ward’s many services include a deployment to Iraq from 2007-08, where he was a Detachment Commander, and working during emergency programs such as Hurricane Katrina and COVID-19.

From 2021-24, Ward was the Command Chief Officer for the state where he worked for the Adjutant General. “That means I was over all the warrant officers in the state of Tennessee. There were 240 of us. I was the No. 1 Chief in the state, so I worked with him directly,” Ward said.

Today, Ward still works full time in the TNARNG as a CW5 maintenance manager for the defense maintenance department in Nashville.

“We were the first state in the nation to do that,” Ward noted.

He resides with his wife Jennifer on a farm in Culleoka. Ward also has a home in East Tennessee, where he and his wife often host military couples who are having a hard time and just want to get away.

“We like to give back and help people,” he said.

Korean Veterans Honored (MSM)

A Veterans Ceremony of Honor was held last Monday, May 20 at The Goldton at Spring Hill to honor 11 Korean War veterans.

During the ceremony, The Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1140, in collaboration with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Brigadier General Richard Winn Chapter, presented 11 veterans with Quilts of Valor, each individually handmade by members of the DAR.

The men honored were: George Thomas Andrews, James David Bawcum, Pat Humphrey, Paul Leslie Lund, Michael David Wiggins, Glenn Layton, Robert Hyatt, Randall Shaw, Gerry Sernau, Stanley Holgate and Richard Bealmear. Each also received a certificate of appreciation.

Speakers at the ceremony included Morley Levine of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1140, Spring Hill Mayor Jim Hagaman and State Rep. Scott Cepicky.

Levine, a Vietnam Veteran, spoke on the Korean War and how it is often overlooked.

“From 1939 to 1945, our country was at war. Just a few short years later on June 25, 1950, our country was drawn into another conflict. It was known as the Korean conflict,” Levine said.

“These soldiers that we’re honoring today are known as the forgotten soldiers. People don’t want to talk about Korea, but it happened,” he said of the war, which saw almost 40,000 men die and 100,000 wounded.

Cepicky, whose father served in World War II, also made comments during the ceremony, stating that the sacrifices made by his father and all veterans is a debt owed that “we really never repay.”

“We do our best to honor you on specific days in this country, but in all due respect we should honor you daily for allowing me to live the life that I get to live to represent you fine people in the great state of Tennessee,” he said.

Hagaman, who served 21 years in the Air Force, said he would go back and repeat his life if he could.

“When I talk to veterans of all branches of the service and all decades, one of the things that we have in common is we love our country, we love to do the things we do and have done for the people we have served,” he said.

“I want to say to the Korean and Vietnam veterans and any branch of the service or era you served in, I truly am thankful for your service so that everybody has the life they are living right now.”

Rezoning in Spring Hill (MSM)

A rezoning of approximately 126.47 acres of Mahlon Moore Road for the construction of 213 single-family homes moved a step forward last Monday, May 13, following a vote from the Spring Hill Planning Commission.

The item was recommended for approval with a recommendation for the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen to consider Rural Agricultural instead of the proposed Residential single-family district.

Residential single-family permits 20,000 square-foot lots, whereas Rural Agricultural District with a conservation overlay does not have limits on the size of the lots or the density.

The property is currently zoned Agricultural District and Rural Residential.

The development would be located west of Mahlon Moore Road and east of Jackson Road.

Citizens took to the microphone to express their concerns over traffic and road conditions, including John DeCuir, who lives in the Stonegate subdivision.

“The road is falling apart and we’re proposing to put another 126 acres but approximately 200 houses on that development,” DeCuir said. “We have three new schools in that area. I worry about the safety of the road.”

Resident Bridget Ward requested that Jackson Road be limited to emergency requests and residents’ vehicles only.

“Most of the road is in Maury County, but if I’m correct, a small section of Jackson Road behind the property was designated as an emergency entrance when the property was annexed in 2017,” she said. “The residents of Jackson Road are requesting nothing to do with the subdivision.”

Commissioner Jonathan Duda questioned why the applicant is requesting residential-based zoning as opposed to Rural Agricultural.

“What has stayed the same is our UDC and the tools we use for zoning,” Duda said. “Would a lesser-intensity zoning as a base zoning, that still permits what you’re trying to accomplish with the planned development, not be desirable for all involved?”

Applicant Eric Olson with Anderson, Delk, Epps & Associates said he was open to making changes.

“If we can still do this plan we could look at that,” he said.

Duda made a motion to amend the commission’s recommendation to a base zoning of Rural Agriculture, which he ultimately withdrew.

“I don’t think we have any ability to change or strike the zoning that the applicant is asking for,” Alderman Matt Fitterer said. “I think we have the duty to give a yes-or-no answer if the zoning being requested meets the standard in the code. It is inappropriate for us to change the applicant’s application this evening.”

Duda then recommended a more consistent based zoning, such as Rural Agriculture, by expanding or exploring approval standards in the staff report.

“If this is the path that we’re going to go, it has to be Residential sent to the Board of Zoning Appeals, I think it makes good sense to forward something that is consistent fully with our land use plan under Rural Agriculture Planned Development and find that the Residential requested zoning is not consistent and that there’s an alternative,” he said.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will meet to discuss the item, including the next steps, on Monday, June 17.

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, 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…  

Mr. Paul Dean Smith, 89, passed away peacefully at his home in Columbia, TN following a brief illness. A memorial service for Paul Dean Smith will be conducted Friday, May 31st at 2:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery with Military honors provided by The United States Navy. The family will receive friends beginning at 1:00 p.m.

Ms. Lisa Lynn Elliott Ashley, 46, resident of Columbia, passed away Monday, May 27th surrounded by her loving family at her brother’s residence. A memorial service will be conducted Friday, May 31st at 6:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the funeral home.

Mr. David Marshall Watkins II, 77, retired engineer for MARTA, former resident of Gallatin and resident of Columbia, died Monday, May 27th at NHC Columbia. A Funeral Mass will be conducted Saturday, June 1st at 10:30 a.m. at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. Inurnment will follow in Zion Cemetery with military honors provided by Herbert Griffin American Legion Post 19. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at St Catherine.

Mr. Walter Henry “Hank” Keller III, 46, of Columbia, Tennessee passed away at his home on May 5th.  The family will visit with friends on Saturday, June 1, 2024 from 11 until 1 at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home, with a graveside service immediately following at St. John’s Ashwood.

…And now, news from around the state…

From Highschool to Realtor (Tennessean)

The Tennessee Real Estate Commission is offering something new to high school seniors in 2024.

TREC is partnering with Kaplan Real Estate Education to offer recent high school graduates the chance to study real estate and earn a license through the new Tennessee High School Senior Real Estate Licensing Program. Did we mention that this is a free program?

The program is designed to give recent graduates a jump on their careers. This could be an option for students who don't yet know what they want to do after school.

There are six primary requirements for the TREC's newest program. The only people who are able to apply to the Tennessee High School Senior Real Estate Licensing Program are high school seniors that graduated in 2024. Other requirements include:

Students must be 18 years or older to submit a licensing application after passing the licensing exams. Exams may be completed prior to turning 18.

Submit fingerprints for a background check.

Provide proof of a high school diploma or equivalent certification.

Provide proof of completion of 60 credit hours of education before sitting for the PSI exam and have completed the 30-hour new affiliates course before applying for a license. Kaplan will provide you with completion certificates.

Successfully pass the state and national portions of the real estate exam. Both exams must be taken and passed within 6 months of each other and submitted to the TREC.

Students can apply at for the program.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Join Spring Hill Parks for a fun-filled evening with their Movie at the Park Series featuring Lilo & Stitch!

Date: June 14th, 2024

Event Starts: 8:00 PM

Movie Starts: When it gets dark

Location: Evans Park (575 Maury Hill St)

Lilo & Stitch is a heartwarming tale about a young Hawaiian girl named Lilo and her unusual pet, Stitch, who is actually a genetically engineered extraterrestrial. Together, they navigate the challenges of family, friendship, and adventure. This beloved Disney classic is perfect for all ages, combining humor, action, and touching moments that everyone will enjoy.

Enjoy a night out with a Movie at the Park.


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