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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-8-24

WKOM/WKRM Radio

Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 8, 2024

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

We start with local news…


Spring Hill Vandalism Follow Up (CDH)

As Spring Hill High School resumed regular activities Monday following last week's vandalism incident, it appears that any disciplinary action from here on out will be decided by the Maury County school district.

Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland said no charges or arrests have been made in association with the incident, which occurred in the early morning hours last Friday. The disarray and damages were so extensive that the school was forced to close on Friday.

Rowland added that, based on the initial investigation, he believes the incident involved more than 90 students total as part of a "school event," or "senior prank," though "just a handful" might have taken things a little too far.

"They were having what we were referred to as a school activity or event that got way out of hand, and after we put everything together, it's pretty much in the school system's court, I guess you could say as far as any prosecution," Rowland said. "It was a school event that definitely crossed some boundaries."

This resulted in damages to school property, fluids spilled among the hallways, as well as destroying more than 40 supply packs designated as part of The Well Outreach's JetPack program, which provides food and other necessities to students.

"It was 90-plus students that we identified that had some type of part in the senior prank, but it was a little more than a handful that just took it too far," Rowland said. "That's the thing, if you prosecute one you'll have to prosecute all of them. And it's pretty difficult to do that because it was a school event, one they may need to rethink."

Maury County Public Schools Communications Director Jack Cobb said, as far as the school's side, if any suspects have been identified, as well as whether any further disciplinary action will be taken, is yet to be determined.

MCPS has declined to comment at this time.

And while senior pranks have been a traditional sendoff for graduating students over the years, Rowland said there's never been an incident like this he can recall, especially one that has required local authorities.

"This was something that was kind of new to me until we got into discussion, and apparently there are some schools in our district that do activities like this, but none of them have ever gotten to this extent," Rowland said.

"For us, it tied up a lot of manpower and time, and really it shouldn't have happened."

Fight Over Duck’s Water (MSM)

When Gov. Bill Lee announced the state had lured a General Motors lithium battery supplier to Spring Hill three years ago, it was his largest economic announcement to date:

A $2.6 billion corporate investment; 1,300 new jobs; a major stepstone along Tennessee’s path to become an EV hub — helped along by a then-record $46,000 per job in taxpayer incentives.

The factory deal’s less conspicuous specs — its continuous need for 1.4 million gallons of water per day — is now figuring in a larger battle pitting citizens and conservation groups against state environmental regulators.

Last month, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) granted permission to Columbia Power and Water Systems —which pumps water to the new Ultium Cells plant — to increase its current withdrawals from the Duck River by 60%.

It’s one of eight water companies along the Duck River seeking to dramatically increase water draws to meet rising demands for water in the rapidly growing five-county region southeast of Nashville.

Should the state approve all eight requests, up to 73 million gallons will be drained daily from Duck — one third more than today.

Local residents and conservation groups say that’s unsustainable.

“We’re very, very concerned that development and corporate interests have just taken over,” said Doug Jones, a retired attorney whose family has owned farmland along the Duck for more than a century.

Industries like the lithium plant that are coming to the region are “like monsters, like dragons. We can’t quench them,” he said.

Jones now helps lead Hickman for the Duck, a nonprofit formed among neighbors to wage a legal challenge against TDEC over its approval of Columbia Power and Water’s new permit.

“We’re not fighting Columbia Power,” Jones said. “It’s the governor’s economic development people. It’s these people in suits. They just say ‘yes.’”

Now 72, he has seen the water levels dip alarmingly during his lifetime as droughts have occurred with greater frequency. A sandbar used for family gatherings has extended further out into the river so “you can almost walk all the way across and not get your ankles wet sometimes.”

“Can you imagine how bad it’s going to get if they take more out?” he said.

Randy Head, general manager for the Bedford County Utility District, said his small water company is trying to keep up with a growth spurt in rural parts of the county seeing more residential and business customers as growth spills outside the limits of Shelbyville, the county seat.

A proliferation of poultry farms in the area has also placed greater demands on water resources, he said.

“We’re not seeking to grow and use more water, but we’re simply required to provide water for development occurring in this area,” Head said.

TDEC last month approved a permit for the utility to increase its water withdrawals from the Duck River from 1 million gallons-per-day draw to just over 4 million gallons each day.

The permit is now the subject of a legal challenge by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, which has accused TDEC of poor oversight of the Duck in issuing permits, including a provision that allows utility companies to waste up to 25% of the water they draw through leaky pipes or other accidental discharges.

Head said that wasn’t something the utility company asked for; TDEC set the waste water rate. But he stressed utility companies do not seek to intentionally waste water.

“We don’t want to lose 25%, he said. “We’re not losing 25% now. We find it quite offensive that anyone is implying we want that. We don’t want to misappropriate water.”

“I want to protect the river, too,” Head said. “We’re not in economic development, but economic development has come to us and we’re tasked with providing water for everyone in this district.”

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation is also challenging TDEC’s permits to Columbia Water and Power and the Duck River Utility Commission, along with Bedford County.

The challenge accuses TDEC of assuming a “lax approach to protecting the Duck River” and claims that state environmental regulators have ignored long-term consequences for a river that is both prized for its beauty and biodiversity and also serves as the only source of drinking water for a quarter of a million people in the region.

“There’s a significant threat that if people take too much water from the river during drought, we will cause the ecosystems in this incredibly thriving river to collapse,” said George Nolan, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

“It’s the backbone of the local recreational economy and, for many reasons, it’s worthy of protection and these permits don’t really do anything other than kick the can down the road as far as drought management and water planning is concerned.”

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation has questioned details in the permit allowing the utility companies to not only increase water withdrawal, but to leak as much of 25% of the water they draw – even in times of drought. Collectively the eight permits would allow as much as 18 million gallons of water per day to be wasted.

Some waste is inevitable as pipes leak or break, but Nolan noted that Columbia Power and Water had previously been limited to leaking 12% of its water takes.

TDEC has also directed the utility companies to follow a decade-old drought plan developed by the Duck River Development Agency that sets benchmarks for triggering water conservation measures and releasing water from the Normandy Reservoir to sustain the river’s levels.

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation is challenging that component, too, saying the plan is outdated and the agency, which is funded by utility companies and has no mandate to seek public input on drought management plans, should not setting guidelines.

“We are challenging the fact that TDEC is illegally attempting to delegate its responsibility to enforce our water quality laws to an entity that is not set up for that purpose and is being paid for by the industry that’s being regulated,” Nolan said.

TDEC did not respond to a request for comment about the legal challenges on Friday.

Doug Murphy, executive director of the Duck River Agency, pushed back against concerns that permits were allowing too much water to be withdrawn from the river at one time.

Permits outline peak-day demands, making it unlikely that on any given day all 73 million gallons of water be withdrawn by all eight utility companies should TDEC approve each of their requests, Murphy said.

“The information I’m seeing out there is that these water systems are going to drain the river and take 70-plus million gallons out every day, but that’s not true,” Murphy said “For all the water systems to hit the same peak day at the same time would be some crazy odds.”

Treated wastewater is also routinely returned to the river, he said, helping keep levels stable.

The agency is currently updating a regional river plan to account for the unanticipated growth in the region over the past two years, he said. The plan will include a drought management component that water utilities granted the new permits will be required to follow.

The plan will offer guidance but, he said, “we don’t have the authority over this. All we are is visionaries developing plans of how to protect the Duck River and meet growth needs. The regulatory agencies will have to decide if that’s doable.”

The river is already low for this time of year, John McEwan said as he skipped rocks from a rocky beach behind the 1860s-era home his forebears built in Maury County.

McEwan, a real estate broker, had grown up skipping rocks on the same stretch where he stood. He said he was troubled by the changes he had already seen.

At its shallowest bordering his family’s property it dipped to three or four feet deep – areas that now stood less than two feet.

The real estate market has been extremely healthy, in large part because people want to own property on or near the Duck River, he said.

“I just wish there was more concern for the diminishing quality of this river, which is the main reason people come here,” he said. “Eliminating that resource to fuel growth is just short-sighted.”

 

Wired Masterminds Pitch Competition (Press 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 2023-2024 Wired Mastermind Group is comprised of five local Entrepreneurs and CEO’s 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).

Find a link to the application by visiting www.mauryalliance.com.

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.

CFR to Host Car Seat Safety Event (Press Release)

Columbia Fire & Rescue will be hosting a Car Seat Safety Event in collaboration with General Motors and the Maury Regional Healthcare Foundation, on Friday, May 17th, from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm at Fire Station 2.

According to research conducted by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Adminstration nearly half (46%) of all car seats are installed incorrectly! To address this alarming issue and ensure the safety of

our local young passengers, Columbia Fire & Rescue will be offering parents and caregivers the opportunityto have their car seat checked by one of our nationally certified child passenger safety technicians!

In addition to car seat safety checks, Columbia Fire & Rescue will be offering free car seats to parents who are unable to provide an appropriate seat for their child. We will have free car seats available for all ages and stages of development! All attendees will be treated to a complimentary Hawaiian shaved ice cone as a token of our appreciation for coming out to learn more about child passenger safety! This

event is designed to educate, empower, and protect our community's most vulnerable members.

It's important to note that the child must be in attendance in order to ensure the seat is fitted properly. No free seats or inspections will be provided if the child is not present.

Columbia Fire & Rescue extends its sincere gratitude to General Motors and the Maury Regional Healthcare Foundation for their generous support, which has made this essential program possible!

Don't miss this opportunity to ensure your most precious cargo is traveling safely! Join us at Fire Station 2 located at 711 Lion Parkway on May 17th, from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm for Car Seat Safety Checks and

Shaved Ice!

Mt. Pleasant Touch-A-Truck (Press Release)

Buckle up, young readers and families, for an exciting adventure awaits at the Mount Pleasant Touch-a-Truck event on June 1st. In celebration of the upcoming Mount Pleasant Library Summer Reading Program, this interactive and educational event will bring the community together for a day of hands-on exploration with a variety of vehicles.

Date: June 1st Time: 10 AM until 1 PM Location: Haylong Ave and the Square in Mount Pleasant, TN

The Touch-a-Truck theme is about community heroes and lots of different trucks lining the street for kids to check out and learn about their community heroes that help us every day! This unique opportunity will allow children and families to get up close and personal with an array of vehicles, from fire trucks to construction equipment, police cars, and more. This free family-friendly event not only promises a day of fun and excitement but also serves as the perfect kickoff for the Library's Summer Reading Program.

The event is designed to inspire a love for reading and learning in children while offering a memorable experience that fosters a sense of community. Participants will have the chance to climb aboard and explore the various vehicles, interact with local community heroes, and even learn about the roles these vehicles play in our daily lives.

"We are thrilled to present the Touch-a-Truck event as a dynamic kickoff to the Mount Pleasant Library Summer Reading Program. It's an opportunity for families to engage with the community, spark curiosity in children, and promote a love for learning," said Haverly Pennington, Director of Main Street.

In addition to the vehicle displays, the event will feature entertainment, food trucks, and activities. Mount Pleasant Main Street, Mount Pleasant Library, Heritage Bank, First Farmer’s Bank, United Community Bank, Southside Baptist Church, Norman’s Body Shop, and Staggs Simple Shine have joined forces to make this day unforgettable, ensuring a festive atmosphere for all attendees. Families are encouraged to bring their children, explore the trucks, and discover the joy of reading. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information about the Touch-a-Truck event and the Mount Pleasant Library's Summer Reading Program, please contact Haverly Pennington, Main Street Director, at haverly@visitmoutpleasanttn.com

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

Kimberly Lee Elliott Brown Brewer, 67, resident of Columbia, died Friday, May 3, 2024 at her residence.

A celebration of life will be held on Thursday, May 9, 2024 from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

The family suggest memorials may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105. Online condolences may be extended at www.oakesandnichols.com.

Frank Everett Sealey, 82, retired truck driver for Consolidated Aluminum, and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, May 4, 2024 at Magnolia Healthcare and Rehabilitation. 

Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, May 9, 2024 at 11:00 a.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Rev. Steve Swango officiating. Burial will follow in Jones Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the funeral home. 

Ty David Smithson, 33, resident of Spring Hill, died unexpectedly Sunday, May 5, 2024 in Williamson County.

Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, May 11, 2024 at 4:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Pastor Eric Nichols officiating. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 12:00 P.M. till the time of service at the funeral home. Condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.

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.

…And now, news from around the state…

MLB Not Coming Anytime Soon (Tennessean)

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred made one thing clear: An MLB expansion team is not coming to Nashville — or anywhere — anytime soon.

Manfred said during his annual meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors group at MLB offices Monday that he anticipates having an expansion process in place by 2029, when his term as commissioner ends.

Add in the time needed for the process to play out, time for a stadium to be built or brought to MLB standards, and you're talking at least another couple of years beyond 2029.

Manfred balked when asked specifically about the viability of Nashville as a candidate for expansion.

"I have never identified particular cities as targets," he said. "We need an Eastern time zone and either a Mountain or Western time zone (city), just in terms of making the format work in the best possible way.

"I truly believe we're going to have multiple candidates in both categories."

Nashville is in the Central time zone, which already includes eight MLB franchises — Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.

That's not to say Nashville is out of the discussion by any means when MLB decides to add two teams.

"It's just not fair for me to focus on one individual city," Manfred said. "I'd like to leave (it) at, I think we're going to have multiple strong candidates in both categories, including Nashville."

During the December winter meetings in Nashville, a few general managers shared their feelings about the potential of MLB in Nashville.

Manfred said he has never "identified particular cities as targets."

But in 2018, he told the sports talk show "First Things First" that MLB had a "real list of cities, that I think are not only interested in having baseball, but are viable in terms of baseball."

Those cities?

"Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada," Manfred said. "We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.”

What are biggest hurdles potential franchise cities face?

Manfred said there are three:

Finding a strong ownership group.

The market itself

Availability of a stadium or ability to get one built.

There are only so many billionaires to go around, and one, Bill Haslam, is in the process of purchasing a majority stake in the city's hockey team, the Nashville Predators. Again, that's not to say an ownership group won't emerge.

The market also has to be able to sustain another professional franchise.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

With CMA Fest just around the corner, this year’s Fan Fair X inside Music City Center is packed with more Country star power than ever before! From one-of-a-kind panels, special performances, meet-and-greets, partner activations and a vendor marketplace, Fan Fair X is a must-see for every Country Music fan. Fan Fair X takes place Thursday, June 6 through Saturday, June 8 (9:30 AM-5:00 PM) and Sunday, June 9 (9:30 AM-4:00 PM). Venue doors open daily at 9:30 AM.

This year, global superstar Dolly Parton will kick off Fan Fair X on Thursday morning, welcoming Country Music fans from around the world to take part in a very special conversation on the CMA Close Up Stage. Fans also won’t want to miss Parton’s ALL ACCESS! Pop Up Experience at Fan Fair X, open every day. 

A limited number of single day ($10) and four-day ($25) Fan Fair X tickets can be purchased now at CMAfest.com/FanFairX.

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