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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 6-20-24

WKOM/WKRM Radio

Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for June 20, 2024


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

We start with local news…

BOMA Questions Mahlon Moore Development (MSM)

There was much discussion at the June meeting of the Spring Hill Board of Mayor & Aldermen concerning a request to rezone approximately 126.47 acres of property on Mahlon Moore Road from rural residential (R-R) and agricultural district (AG) to single-family district (R-1).

“We hear from our citizens every day about ‘You guys are not doing responsible growth,’ and the more that we add, we do not have the infrastructure to support,” Mayor Jim Hagaman said during the meeting.

He went on to list roads, water and sewer as examples, saying, “I believe we do not have the infrastructure to support another 200 homes.”

“We are really far ahead of ourselves,” Alderman Matt Fitterer said. “What’s in front of us now… is really the question of whether or not single-family homes is appropriate for this piece of property next to some schools. It’s certainly not appropriate for it to be industrial or commercial.”

Joe Epps, with Anderson, Delk, Epps & Associates, said that the developer is requesting R-1 zoning for 213 20,000-square foot lots.

“I think it is going to be a benefit to the city for the expansion of the sewer system,” Epps said, adding that the developer would be “putting some money into the sewer system,” and that there would be 53 acres of open space.

Hagaman said that he agreed with Fitterer about usage around the school, but that “the timing of this project is not a win for the citizens, because of the real issues we have with infrastructure.”

The board also discussed the risks of use by right.

“I cannot put something in the pipeline that eventually I believe that we will not have any control of if we do this now,” Hagaman said. “We are putting ourselves in a position where we will not be able to stop it because they will have use by right.”

There were also some citizen comments concerning this property.

Bridget Ward said that she and other Jackson Road residents had concerns about the use of the road on which they reside. She went on to say that Jackson Road is behind the above-mentioned property and is a “small country road,” only 10 feet wide and 0.8 miles long.

Ward said that she had spoken with the county road superintendent, who said the developer should design a different route and exit road, and that the residents are asking for the board to establish that the road not be used for construction vehicles or equipment, as a secondary point of access, or emergency access.

“In my opinion, it is a fatality waiting to happen if it is used,” Ward said.

Another Jackson Road resident, Montie Ann Swafford, asked that the board vote “no” to any through traffic.

Alderman Trent Linville asked if there was an alternative to using Jackson Road as a second entrance.

“We think that we have that problem worked out as far as the ingress and egress,” Epps said.

Matthew Wright, a Jackson Road resident who said he had a background in geoscience, said three flood plains are coming into this property. Wright said that the developer needs “to put in flood mitigation to prevent additional flooding into the school system, additional flooding downstream, and additional property damage to the

county.”

Hagaman said that he would “not support even a rezone on this.”

“I believe when we grow our city this would not meet responsible growth, because we have enough,” Hagaman said.

A vote was scheduled for the next BOMA meeting.

The board unanimously approved the consent agenda, which included resolutions to correct duplicate resolution numbers; authorize the purchase of a vehicle on government contract for administration; a master development agreement with Buckner Lane Partners, LLC and the City of Spring Hill for the development of June Lake; designate property located at 3035 Reserve Boulevard as a historically significant site; designate property located at 2468 Depot Street as a historically significant site; designate property located on Alex Drive (commonly known as Newton Cemetery) as a historically significant site; award a contract for the renovation of office furniture for the courtroom at city hall and approve carryover of budgeted funds for the courtroom renovation; and to authorize the disposal of city vehicles and forfeited vehicles awarded to the police department.

The council approved 7-0 the second and final readings of four items, including Ordinance 24-07 to amend water rates; Ordinance 24-08 to amend sewer rates; Ordinance 24-09 to amend water connection charges and Ordinance 24-10 to amend sewer connection charges.

In other business during its June 3 meeting, the board:


Groups Join for 4th Festivities (MSM)

Join the Breakfast Rotary, Noon Rotary and Kiwanis of Columbia for the 10th anniversary of the clubs’ 4th of July celebration.

The clubs will be sponsoring this free event on Thursday, July 4, at the Kiwanis shelter located in Maury County Park.

“We honor citizens that day that have done just an outstanding job to our community,” Noon Rotary member George Vrailas said, adding that three such citizens will be receiving a “Great American Service Above Self Award.”

The Honoring Ceremony will be at 8:30 a.m. and the Kid’s Bike Parade will follow at 9:15 a.m.

“Everyone comes out in their colors – red, white and blue – and decorations and just has a good time,” Vrailas said.

He said that “everyone is welcome,” but bikes are for younger children, “like elementary school kids,” and if they need help decorating their bikes, red ribbons will be provided.

In years past, along with the bikes, Vrailas said that children have been in wagons and strollers and dogs have also been in the parade that begins at the Kiwanis shelter, located next to the Kid’s Kingdom, and goes around the back of the playground and ends back where it started.

Along with the ceremony and parade, there will also be a children’s essay contest “on what the 4th of July means to them,” Vrailas said.

There will be free drinks and snacks for children, and they are also invited to participate in other activities (face painting and charactures) as well.

Vrailas included that the event is intended to “give honor to our veterans and local community heroes that have served our community well and to inspire patriotism in our youth.”

The celebration is expected to wrap up at 11:30 a.m.


County Leaves Tax Rate Alone (MSM)

Maury County’s Budget Committee voted to leave the county’s property tax unchanged at $1.91 during a long meeting on June 10.

At the Admin Committee meeting the previous week, it had been suggested to cut the property tax rate by 10 cents, noting that the county’s general fund and debt service funds had each produced surpluses totaling nearly $13 million during the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Scott Sumners of District 5, who had proposed cutting the tax rate, said he was still in favor of giving money back to the people.

Finance Director Doug Lukonen noted that the county had put $3.2 million into disaster relief as a result of the May tornado and that the total could rise to as much as $6 million.

“I think it’s important at this time to stay at our tax rate, we can redistribute it… If we have more cash on hand… if we ever have to raise taxes, the interest revenue can offset some of that,” Lukonen said.

Lukonen said the debt service fund could pay off some bonds early, which would create more capacity. He suggested $12.25 million for HVAC funding in 2014 and 2015-16 payments on EMG for school debt as two possible bonds that could be paid off early.

“It frees up your debt capacity for the next five years… so that big number, we can start to do some things with it,” Lukonen said.

District 10 commissioner Danny Grooms suggested moving some pennies from debt service into the highway department to help with road projects in Maury County.

Sumners concurred and moved to move four cents from debt service into the highway department. A penny of property tax brings in just over $420,000, according to Lukonen. The amendment failed by a 4-3 vote.

The budget resolution keeping the rate at $1.91 was ultimately advanced by a 5-2 vote, with Sumners and Chad Brothers in opposition.

Commissioners also advanced to the full Commission a budget amendment of $222,000 as a match for a $2 million Connected Community library grant received from the state.

Questions were raised on how the grant could be considered for Maury County when only the Columbia library would benefit.

“I’m sick and tired of every dollar that gets spent on the library being spent in Columbia,” said Grooms. “Something doesn’t seem right about this.”

Commission Chairman Eric Previti countered that the Maury County Library Foundation, which made the application for the grant, was “a group of people interested in gathering money for the Columbia branch only. That’s their charter… Their entire world is finding money for the Columbia library, and that’s what they did.”

Previti recommended that the Mount Pleasant library create its own foundation to seek grants, as the Columbia branch did.

The grant is intended to cover renovations to the interior of the library, adding a telehealth kiosk, adding a kitchen area for cooking classes and other ways to increase the library’s educational outreach programs.

A budget amendment providing $1.111 million in funding to 14 different nonprofit organizations, including the Maury County Fire Department, was hotly debated but ultimately moved forward by a 6-1 vote, with Connie Green in opposition.

Commissioner Jerry Strahan (District 1) questioned “whether the county should be in the charity business” and criticized one of the groups, whose name he did not mention, for including diversity and LGBTQ issues on its website, which he called “obnoxious.”

“I think there are organizations that can deal with those type of charities,” Strahan said. “My district elected a Christian commissioner and that’s where I stand.”

Sumners and Kathey Grodi also questioned the propriety of the county choosing what nonprofits to donate to. Grodi noted that some of those would not be able to apply for grants if they did not receive county funding.

Gabe Howard spoke in favor of the nonprofit funding, “This money is directly touching, helping, supporting, nourishing, protecting the kids and people in Maury County. A lot of the decisions in here don’t get to change lives.”

Howard said it was better to let the organizations’ various boards decide what causes to serve and added that any nonprofit had an opportunity to present to the committee and request funds.

The Budget Committee also failed to advance a resolution to fund six full-time firefighters for the Maury County Fire Department at a cost of $400,056. A motion to approve by Grodi failed for lack of a second.

“We’re talking about buying properties, throwing money all around… and I’m talking about saving lives. I can’t believe… we don’t want to help our fire department,” Grodi said.


Water Rates to Increase (MSM)

Increases for water rates and impact fees received approval on first reading at the Columbia City Council’s monthly meeting on June 13.

Columbia Power and Water System (CPWS) made a request to increase the water rates it charges for large volume customers.

The rate increase is part of a proposed two-year rate plan in which the customer charges for residential customers would increase by $5 and customer charges for commercial/industrial customers will increase by $10.

The new usage rates are broken out into two areas — Urban and Suburban. 

Urban Residential/Commercial customers with monthly usage from 0-8,000 gallons will pay $3.30 per 1,000 gallons. Those using 8,001-20,000 gallons per month will increase to $3.80 per 1,000 gallons. Users over 20,000 gallons per month will pay $4.05 per 1,000 gallons.

Suburban Residential/Commercial customers with monthly usage from 0-8,000 gallons will pay $4.30 per 1,00 gallons. Those using 8,001-20,000 gallons per month will increase to $4.80 per 1,000 gallons. Users over 20,000 gallons per month will pay $5.05 per 1,000 gallons.

A second year of rate changes is also part of the CPWS proposal, but has not yet been considered or approved.

The ordinance establishing the new rate schedules passed on first reading. A public hearing for the ordinance has been set for July 11, prior to the next voting session of the city council. Second and final reading is expected to be on the agenda for that meeting as well.

Another CPWS proposal, also passed on first reading last week, increases the water impact fee on new water customers in an effort to serve the demand for water system capital facilities and public improvements.

“The resolution recommends three impact fee increases of $500 per single family unit (SFU) equivalent, and CPWS would desire to implement the first $500 increase on Aug. 1, 2024, after two readings with the City Council and a 30-day notice period,” a memo concerning the impact fee proposal states. “The next two fee increases would occur on July 1, 2025 (FY26), and July 1, 2026 (FY27).”

The memo goes on to explain that the increases proposed are on the cost of a three-quarter inch meter service, which represents one SFU equivalent. Larger meter costs, it goes on to explain, are normalized to the number of SFU equivalents it can serve. A table of the costs for meter sizes from three-quarter inch ($5,500) to 10 inch ($1.577 million) is included.

“I would like to thank CPWS and the board for what they’ve done,” councilmember Danny Coleman said. “It will help improve things, but also having growth pay for growth.”

The ordinance establishing the new impact fee rates passed on first reading. A public hearing for the ordinance has been set for July 11 prior to the next voting session of the city council. Second and final reading is expected to be on the agenda for that meeting as well.

In other business during its June 13 voting meeting, the Columbia City Council:

• Approved a bond issuance not to exceed $80 million to be used to finance wastewater system improvements for the city.

• Held a public hearing and approved on second reading an ordinance on second reading approving the appropriation of funds for the 2024-25 fiscal year. The city’s general fund budget estimates revenues and expenditures for the year starting July 1, 2024, at $47.2 million. The city’s fund balance is estimated to remain at just under $52 million for the year.

• Held a public hearing and approved second reading of a 2023-24 budget amendment to include $3.5 million in general, sanitation and wastewater funds.

• Held a public hearing and approved on second reading setting the city’s property tax rate at $0.8251 per $100.

• Held public hearings and approved second readings on three zoning/rezoning ordinances.

• Approved on first reading zoning/rezoning ordinances on properties at 1201 Mapleash Avenue and Honey Farm Way.

• Approved/confirmed the mayor’s appointments and re-appointments of Walker Vining to the Board of Public utilities; Tom Yorton and Whitney Herrington got the Columbia Arts Council; Greg Martin to the Maury County Airport Authority; Sarah Harris Barry to the Columbia Housing and Redevelopment Corporation Board; and Charlie Goatz, Christa Martin and Danny Coleman to the city Planning Commission.

• Items approved by the city council included April disbursements of $6.7 million; a work order with Crowdriff for $17,000 for the Crowdriff ‘Creators’ Platform;  the purchase of three police vehicles for $133,215; and the United Waste Haulers price increase for disposal of garbage and bulky items at a cost of approximately $238,000.

The Columbia City Council’s July study session has been moved to Tuesday, July 9 because it would normally fall on the July 4 holiday. The next voting session will be Thursday, July 11.


FEMA Money Available for Tornado Damages (CDH)

A disaster declaration has been made for several Middle Tennessee counties affected by severe storms, flooding and tornadoes between May 8-9.

According to a statement from FEMA, public assistance via federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis.

Montgomery, Cheatham, Sumner and Maury Counties are among the counties available for FEMA assistance, according to the declaration from President Joe Biden. Cannon, Giles, Hamilton, Jackson, Macon, Polk, Smith and Warren Counties are also eligible for funding.

Deadly tornadoes ravaged Columbia in Maury County leaving one dead and a two-mile path of destruction.

Multiple rounds of strong storms brought heavy rains, damaging winds across Middle Tennessee including flooding that caused the death of Asher Sullivan in Rutherford County.

Federal funding for hazard mitigation measures is available statewide.


Maury Democrats To Hold Debate (Press Release)

The Maury County Democratic Party (MCDP) announced there will be a debate on Monday, July 8, 2024, at 6 p.m. between two Democratic candidates running for the Tennessee State House of Representatives in District 64.

The event will be held at Macedonia Recreation Center, 501 Armstrong St., Columbia, and is open to the public. It will begin at 6 p.m. and will last for approximately one hour.

Eileen Longstreet and Alex Pierce will participate with Justin Kanew of the Tennessee Holler moderating.

Alex Pierce is from Columbia and Eileen Longstreet is from Spring Hill.

House District 64 includes the eastern part of Maury County. The seat is currently held by Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka).

James Dallas, MCDP Chair said, “We are excited to offer voters in House District 64 an opportunity to learn more about our candidates.”


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

Robert Hardison "Bobby" Walker, 97, of Lewisburg, TN, passed away peacefully on Monday, June 17, 2024.


Mr. Walker is best known as the longtime president of Walker Die Casting, Inc., which he founded in 1958 and presided over for many years.

The funeral service for Mr. Walker will be held at the Lewisburg Methodist Church on Saturday, June 22, 2024, at 11:00 am. Visitation will be at the McKnight Center in Lewisburg on Friday evening from 4:00 until 8:00 pm.


Linda Roberts Harris, 83, died Sunday, June 16th at Vitality Living in Franklin. Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, June 22 at 11:00 AM at West Seventh Street Church of Christ. Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be Saturdayfrom 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM at the church.


Shelly Clark Stuart, 69, of Columbia, TN passed peacefully on June 14th. A memorial service will be held Friday June 21 at 4:00 PM, at Oakes and Nichols Funeral Home. Inurnment will follow at Rose Hill Cemetery. Visitation will be held at the funeral home between 2:00-4:00 PM Friday.


…And now, news from around the state…

Suspension for Teacher Assault (Tennessean)

When former Maplewood High School teacher Mark Hayes walked into work one December morning in 2021, the last thing the 24-year Metro Nashville Public Schools veteran expected was to be assaulted by one of his students.

But that’s what happened in the hallway after class when an 18-year-old student shoved him hard, knocking him down onto the concrete floor.

“I didn’t see it coming, so I didn’t even brace for it or anything. It knocked me off my feet on my back on the floor in the hallway on the concrete,” Hayes told The Tennessean in an interview. "In 24 years I never had an incident close to resembling this."

Hayes notified school administrators, and filed assault charges against the student with the school’s SRO the day of the incident. The student was later found guilty in court.

But at the time, after a three-day suspension – which involved only one missed day from his classroom due to class scheduling – school administrators expected Hayes to return to the same classroom and continue teaching the student who assaulted him – while his criminal charges remained pending until the following June.

Hayes said the lack of consequences for the student, and lack of support from school and district leadership eventually drove him to resign.

"I just cleaned out my desk, my filing cabinet, my room, packed it up, and left. That was my last day at school — 24 years in the same building," Hayes said. "It was either do what I did and walk away or continue to teach a person that assaulted me and be face-to-face with them when there was pending legal action."

"If the same thing happened to me not in a school, but out in public, ... the judge would have some form of a restraining order against that person, at least until it was adjudicated," he said. "In my situation, I felt like why should that be any different because you're inside a school building?"

This year, Gov. Bill Lee signed a new law requiring a one-year suspension for students who assault teachers at school. Students can still take classes online or in an alternative learning environment, but they will not be allowed to return to school property for classes, extracurricular activities, sports events, or graduation.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Raper, R-Cleveland, and Sen. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro, who are both former teachers.

Under the new law, which took effect last month, each school district and charter school is required to advise the employee of their rights as a result of the assault, and requires a one-year suspension for the student. Exceptions are included for special education students, and further exceptions to the suspension requirement may be made by the director of schools. While the law allows superintendents to modify the expulsion requirement on a case-by-case basis, there would not be a blanket policy to prevent a one-year suspension at MNPS.

The new law follows a measure passed last year which requires school districts to pay teachers their full salary and benefits if they are absent from work due to a personal injury caused by an assault at work.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Tennessee State Parks will hold work events at 33 parks across the state in June for Tennessee Promise scholars to fulfill their community service hours.

Most parks will hold their events on Saturday June 22. Radnor Lake State Park will have two sessions on Friday, June 21, and Roan Mountain State Park will welcome students on June 22-23 as part of its 77th annual Rhododendron Festival.

Details for all the parks involved can be found at www.tnstateparksvolunteer.galaxydigital.com. All participants must register on the website. The parks also accept help from any other volunteers who wish to participate.

“We welcome everyone to these events, and we are excited to be part of the Tennessee Promise program each year,” said Commissioner David Salyers of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). “We have found that many visitors are eager to help maintain our state parks, and this is an excellent opportunity to do that.”

For more information on the Tennessee Promise program please visit www.collegefortn.org/tnpromise.

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