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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-9-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 9, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Hazardous Waste Spill Closes Road (Press Release)

Columbia Fire and Rescue has announced this morning that a fuel tanker has overturned on Highway 31 and caused a hazardous materials spill affecting all lanes.

Highway 31 between Baker Road and Carter’s Creek Pike will likely be closed most of the day while crews perform clean up operations.

Drivers will need to seek and alternate route. Bear Creek Pike is open this morning following yesterday’s storms.

Tornado Hits Columbia (CDH)

A tornado touched down in Maury County in eastern Columbia off Bear Creek Pike yesterday evening at around 5:45pm resulting in one death, according to Maury Regional Medical Center.

Four others were injured after a confirmed tornado by the National Weather Service ripped through eastern Columbia as heavy storms brought hail, rain, high winds and flying debris to other parts of Maury County and Middle Tennessee Wednesday.

A shelter station was set up for displaced Columbia families at Riverside Elementary School, 203 Carter St., Maury County Emergency Management officials said at a 9 p.m. media briefing after announcing Maury County Public Schools will be closed Thursday.

At the briefing, Maury County Director of Emergency Management Jeff Hardy said buses were made available to transport affected families and a command post was set up at Maury County Fire Station No. 10, 1520 Lasea Rd., for anyone seeking assistance.

Trees down and debris scattered along Bear Creek Pike, led authorities to close the dangerous roadway from Tom J. Hitch Parkway to I-65, Maury County Office of Emergency Management confirmed.

Columbia Power and Water Services also confirmed the storms knocked out a portion of the city's power grid, which interim Columbia Fire Chief Chris Cummins said at the briefing would likely take "a few days" to completely restore.

Columbia Power & Water Systems reported Wednesday 1,200 people were without power, while Duck River Electric (serving multiple counties that include Coffee, Franklin, Bedford, Moore, Marshall, Giles, Maury) reported 14,600 customers without power.

In the meantime, Cummins asks that residents avoid the affected areas, as well as travelers from out of town coming into the city, while cleanup crews work to assess the damage.

"We do have extensive damage to the power grid, which is another reason we need people to stay out of the affected area," Cummins said.

Cummins added that he and his crews were watching live as the tornado formed and touched down.

"We have a camera on top [of the station] that streams to Tennessee Valley Weather, and we were actually here watching that wall cloud come down," Cummins said.

The Office of Emergency Management confirmed soon after the storms Wednesday that a tornado touched down on Bear Creek Pike in eastern Columbia and swept through Joe Brown Road.

"We are currently assessing the damage caused by recent storms in our area. Emergency crews are on the ground, but we urge everyone to stay out of the areas hit and remain weather aware," Hardy said in a previous media release Wednesday at 7:50 p.m.

Hardy said the office is assessing many reports of damage.

In a press conference this morning, Hardy stated that volunteers are not currently needed, as professional emergency response staff are still working the area, conducting search and rescue and clean-up. “Volunteers will be needed in the coming days. If you would like to donate monetary assistance, you can do so by visiting”

City Manager Tony Massey said the city of Columbia is pooling all of its resources during this time of need.

"We have all of Columbia police out there at this time, as well as our fire department and all personnel to clear the roadways," Massey said. "There has been an extraordinary amount of cooperation from the multi-jurisdictions working together here tonight."

Massey said that, while the damage was swift and will take a lot of work to clear up, other major parts of the city were fortunately spared.

"As bad as this is, it almost touched down in downtown Columbia," Massey said. "When it all started, we were all like, 'This isn't a matter of if, but when.'"

Tennessee Highway patrol has asked citizens to stay away from the affected areas.

WKOM will continue to monitor the situation and we will update you as more information is available.

(Jane Doe Identified (Press Release)

The Maury County Sheriff’s office yesterday, announced that the identity of a Jane Doe from a missing person case from the 1970’s has been identified through the use of modern DNA science.

On February 14, 1975 two hunters found skeletal remains on Joe Brown Road in eastern Maury County near I-65. Forensic examination in 1975 by Dr. William Bass at the University of Tennessee, Department of Anthropology determined that the remains were that of a black female between the age of 17-21. The remains have been stored at the University of Tennessee, Department of Anthropology in Knoxville, Tennessee since that time.

Over the years the case has been looked at many times, DNA samples have been taken and examined but no clues to the identity were ever discovered.

In 2012 Lt. Jerry Williams (retired) began looking at the case again and revived efforts to identify the remains. He had more forensic tests done and re-interviewed as many people as possible. Many people that were connected to the case in 1975 are now deceased. Numerous tips and leads were chased of missing persons that fit the description but nothing matched.

In 2019 the Maury County Sheriff’s Department began working with DNA Doe Project. DNA Doe Project is a volunteer driven non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission to identify John and Jane Does and return them to their families. Their donors provided funding for new DNA testing and research by Genetic Genealogists to start work on tracing the genealogy of Jane Doe. It took the efforts of four labs over three years to successfully create a DNA profile which was uploaded to in 2022. A distant match was found of a possible relative and the family tree began to build. Volunteer Genetic Genealogists spent more than 530 hours building the family tree.

In April 2024 DNA Doe Project provided a potential sibling. After making contact with the sibling the Sheriff’s office was able to confirm that she was a full sibling by DNA match. The matching person relayed that she had a sister that went missing in the fall of 1974 but was never officially reported as missing. Her sister was a black female, 19 years old. The family had been searching for her since that time. All other siblings are accounted for.

It has been determined through DNA that the remains are that of 19 year old Annie Carolyn Jenkins of Memphis, Tennessee. She had been visiting with relatives in Chicago and in the fall of 1974 she left Chicago on a flight bound for Tennessee. This was the last known contact with her family. Her remains were recovered in Maury County in February 1975.

Her remains will be returned to her family who have been searching for her for 49 years.

This remains an open homicide investigation.

Sheriff Bucky Rowland would like to extend his thanks to Detective Keith Wrather, Lt. Jerry Williams (retired), Gina Wrather, Genetic Genealogist, and all the other’s that have worked on this case over the years since 1975 and his special thanks to DNA Doe Project, their volunteers and donors who made this identification possible.

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.

Mulehouse to Auction (MSM)

For the second time in less than a year, The Mulehouse is scheduled to be sold at auction.

A foreclosure auction for the Columbia music venue is scheduled for Friday, May 10 at 11 a.m. on the site, located at 812 S. High Street.

The Mulehouse was scheduled to be sold at auction in June 2023, but that auction was canceled after owners Blair Garner and Eric Garner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Garners said at the time that filing was intended to allow for a reorganization.

The bankruptcy case was dismissed in February 2024 at the request of the U.S. bankruptcy trustee after the owners failed to file monthly reports, according to court records. That dismissal also forbade The Mulehouse owners from filing bankruptcy again for a period of one year.

The Mulehouse’s website currently lists no upcoming events, with the last listing being a May 4 concert by an Eagles tribute band.

According to Ron Ramsey & Associates, The Mulehouse venue is scheduled to be sold, as well as a separate brick building formerly used as the church’s education wing.

Columbia to Vote on Budget (MSM)

Initial votes on Columbia’s 2024-25 budget and property tax rates will highlight the upcoming meeting of the City Council this week.

The meeting will take place on Thursday, May 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers on N. Garden Street and is open to the public.

Council members will have the first reading and votes on the city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. If approved, a second vote and public hearing will take place at June’s meeting.

The city’s property tax rate of $0.8251 per $100 of assessed value will remain unchanged from the previous year, according to the city’s website.

Three proposed rezonings will also have public hearings. One would move four lots off W. 12th and Haley Streets to CD-4 (General Urban Character) to allow for the building of townhomes and will be up for a second reading. The Planning Commission recommended approval by a 5-1 vote in March and the City Council gave initial approval in April.

The other rezonings are up for first reading and would move two lots on Galloway Street and a lot on Woodside Street to CD-4 for residential development and were unanimously recommended by the Planning Commission.

Another ordinance up on first reading would revoke the Planned Unit Development overlay on a property on Baker Road and rezone it to CD-3L (Neighborhood Large Lot Character District) and CD-2 (Rural Character District). The CD-2 zoning is consistent with the new Hillsides and Natural Spaces future land use designation in the updated Connect Columbia plan that was adopted earlier this year. The new concept plan reflects 65 lots, which is a reduction from the previously approved Colter Place Planned Urban Development Master Plan of 144 lots.

The classification and compensation plan for city employees for the 2024-25 fiscal year will be up for a first vote. This year’s plan adjusts the salary ranges by five percent and adds a number of new positions, including a GIS Analyst in Development Services, an Engineer I & Engineer II in Wastewater, a System Administrator in MIS and a Staff Accountant in the Finance/City Recorder’s Office. Other changes include making the Administrative Assistant in the City Manager’s Office full time.

Budget items up for votes include two amendments to the 2023-24 budget: $32,308 for a 2024 JAG Grant in Police and $698,678 in Fire for air packs. Columbia Fire & Rescue has requested approval for the acquisition of a 2024 KME K180 Rescue/Pumper truck for $750,000, after the council approved up to $900,000 in 2023.

Engineering services for the Royal Oaks Sewer Basin Improvement Project ($74,000) and the relocation of gravity sewer mains at Bear Creek Pike and Nashville Highway ($100,000) will also be up for approval.

The council will also vote upon an agreement between the city and Waste Management for the disposal of bio-solids from the Wastewater Treatment Plant at the Cedar Ridge Landfill in Marshall County. The new rate will be $55 per ton.

Columbia Fire & Rescue is also seeking approval for the lease of a Safe Haven Baby Box to be placed at Fire Station 1 on S. Garden Street. A Baby Box is a safety device provided under Tennessee Safe Haven Law and legally permits a parent in a crisis to safely, securely and anonymously surrender his or her newborn. The box has an exterior door that automatically locks upon placement of a newborn inside and an interior door which allows a medical staff member to secure the newborn from inside the building.

Similar boxes have been placed in other Tennessee cities, including Nashville and Hendersonville.

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

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

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…

Blackburn Celebrates REPORT Act Passage (TheNewsTN)

Tennessee's senior U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn is celebrating President Joe Biden's signing into law the Revising Existing Procedures on Reporting via Technology (REPORT) Act, which will strengthen online safeguards for children.

The law updates requirements for tech companies, including social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, to report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) when they become aware of violations involving the online sexual exploitation of children.

Specifically, the legislation also increases the amount of time — from 90 days to one year — that a provider must preserve the contents of a report. It also requires providers to “report apparent violations involving the sexual exploitation of children to instances involving child sex trafficking or coercion or enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution or any other illegal sexual activity,” as well as increasing fines for providers who fail to submit reports.

Blackburn said that social media companies will be subject to “regular reviews” to ensure that the new law is being followed.

“In talking with judges and prosecutors in Tennessee, we realized that there were some changes that could be made to broaden the way this information was kept and transmitted, and that length of time, and it would be helpful to getting these people prosecuted, and then getting them imprisoned,” Blackburn told reporters in a virtual press conference on May 2.

The REPORT Act earned endorsements from NCMEC, as well as from the International Justice Mission, ECPAT-USA, Fraternal Order of Police, ChildFund International, the End Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Coalition, Wired Human, Raven, and Internet Works.

Biden signed the legislation into law on Tuesday, just over one year after the legislation was introduced on Capitol Hill and championed by both Blackburn and Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department will launch Chalk the Walk at Riverwalk Park on May 23rd from 2:30 PM to 4PM.

All ages are welcome.

Come on down to the Riverwalk Park Splashpad to celebrate the end of the school year. Get your graffiti art vibes flowing with sidewalk chalk all around the splashpad.

Riverwalk Park is located at 102 Riverside Drive

For more information, check out Armory Recreation And Fitness on Facebook or call Christina Walls at (931)698-0088


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