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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 6-26-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for June 26, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Eleven Plead Guilty to Drug Trafficking (MauryCountySource)

Eleven members of a drug trafficking conspiracy pled guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances in middle Tennessee, according to United States Attorney Henry C. Leventis for the Middle District of Tennessee. Seven of the eleven hail from Columbia. They seven are:

Davontay Holt, 30, of Columbia, Tennessee, pled guilty on April 8, 2024

Khyre McClain, 21, of Columbia, Tennessee, pled guilty on May 17, 2024

Ethan Kimes, 22, of Columbia, Tennessee, pled guilty on May 29, 2024

Jahari Armstrong, 22, of Columbia, Tennessee, pled guilty on May 29, 2024

Jaydan Armstrong, 22, of Columbia, Tennessee, pled guilty on May 29, 2024

Tristain Orr, 24, of Columbia, Tennessee, pled guilty on June 17, 2024


Quortez Duncan, 36, of Columbia, Tennessee, pled guilty on June 18, 2024. The remaining four hailed from California.

According to charging and plea documents, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations were investigating the distribution of methamphetamine, marijuana and counterfeit fentanyl-laced Oxycodone tablets with the inscription “M30” which were being shipped from the Santa Rosa, California, area to Tennessee and more than a dozen other states. Subsequent investigation, including surveillance and the review of social media sites and mobile payment records, identified members of the drug distribution network. Law enforcement officers in Columbia, Tennessee, executed several search warrants of the defendants’ residences and recovered loaded firearms and blue tablets inscribed “M30.”

On July 25, 2022, Homeland Security agents seized a package from a UPS Store in Sebastopol, California, which was destined for Nashville. This package contained thousands of counterfeit fentanyl-laced Oxycodone “M30” tablets weighing over two kilograms. The package also contained more than eight pounds of methamphetamine.

On August 9, 2022, HSI agents intercepted two additional packages from the Santa Rosa area which were destined for residences in Nashville. One package contained 472 grams of the counterfeit fentanyl-laced Oxycodone “M30” tablets and the other package contained approximately four pounds of methamphetamine.

The defendants will be sentenced before United States District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., in the spring of 2025. Four of the Californian and two from Columbia: McClain, and Duncan face up to life imprisonment and a $10,000,000 fine. Holt, Orr, Kimes, Jahari Armstrong, and Jaydan Armstrong face up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a $1,000,000 fine.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration; Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Memphis Field Office, Nashville Resident Agency; and the Columbia Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ahmed Safeeullah and Rachel Stephens are prosecuting the case.

Columbia Infrastructure Work Begins (Press Release)

The City of Columbia is pleased to announce the commencement of the Columbia Infrastructure and Greenspace Improvement Project. This key initiative aims to enhance both the safety and aesthetic appeal of our downtown district. The project is being carried out in partnership with Columbia Main Street, thanks to the GM on Main Street Grant Program. Earlier this year, this program awarded five $50,000 grants to nonprofit organizations and municipal government entities near GM facilities, including the City of Columbia. Work officially began on June 24, 2024, and is expected to be completed over the next several months. City Manager Tony Massey stated, “Ensuring the safety and well-being of our residents is paramount. The Columbia Infrastructure and Greenspace Improvement Project underscores our commitment to enhancing downtown's vitality while prioritizing pedestrian safety.”

Downtown will see significant improvements as a result of this project, including curb extensions at three intersections on the public square, increased greenspace, and two informational kiosks. Curb extensions, an innovative traffic calming measure, will enhance pedestrian safety by reducing crossing distances and slowing motorists. The additional greenspace will offer passive areas for relaxation and enjoyment, while the informational kiosks will provide visitors with details about local businesses, attractions, and Columbia's unique history, fostering a stronger sense of place.

Assistant City Engineer Douglas Toney remarked, “We are excited to begin this project that has been in our imaginations for quite some time, with many city departments being involved in brainstorming, design, and the construction and implementation. The improvements will provide increased safety and beautification to match more recent improvements downtown.”

The Columbia Infrastructure and Greenspace Improvement Project will further enhance Columbia’s attractive and vibrant downtown, making it safer and more enjoyable for the entire community.

OPMobility to Expand (Press Release)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter and OPmobility (formerly Plastic Omnium) officials announced on Monday, that the company will undergo a $3 million expansion at its Spring Hill plant.

The sustainable mobility company's expansion will create 186 new jobs, up from just 18 currently in Maury County and 568 across the state, contributing to the automotive industry, according to the announcement.

OPmobility, headquartered in France, is a global family-led group with 152 plants across 28 countries. The company has operated in Tennessee since 2015 with locations in Chattanooga, Smyrna, Spring Hill and Hendersonville.

Officials say the project is a new opportunity for OPmobility to expand its product offerings for customers and further support electric vehicle production lines, according to the announcement.


“Tennessee has earned a worldwide reputation for being one of the best places to do business, not just in the U.S. but across the globe. I’m grateful that OPmobility has chosen to expand its operations and welcome more jobs and greater opportunity for Tennesseans.” – Gov. Bill Lee

“We’re excited for OPmobility to expand its Spring Hill plant. It’s clear that the automotive industry is booming in Tennessee, and today’s announcement is the latest example. We always appreciate foreign investment in this state, and brands like OPmobility help strengthen our reputation for being a state friendly to those businesses outside our borders.” – TNECD Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter

Since 2020, TNECD has supported approximately 15 economic development projects in Maury County, resulting in more than 3,500 job commitments and nearly $5 billion in capital investments.

McWhorter said the expansion is further evidence of the automotive boom in Tennessee. Maury County alone is home to the largest General Motors plant in North America located in Spring Hill, which is also the location of the multi-billion dollar Ultium Cells battery plant, which supplies batteries for the Cadillac SUV Lyriq manufactured at GM Spring Hill.

“OPmobility is excited by the new challenges given by the overall mobility transformation in the automotive industry.  We are proud to pursue our engagement and industrial excellence in Tennessee with one of the top OEM in vehicle electrification.” – Xavier Maury, OPmobility Operations Director U.S.A.

“I am proud to help announce that OPmobility is expanding its operations into Maury County. The 186 jobs will be a great boost to the local economy, and I look forward to seeing the company succeed.” – Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald)

About OPmobility

OPmobility (formerly known as Plastic Omnium) is a world leader in sustainable mobility and a worldwide technology partner to actors from every mobility sector. Innovation driven since its foundation in 1946, OPmobility has five complementary business groups offering its customers a wide range of solutions: intelligent exterior systems, customized complex modules, lighting systems, energy storage systems, and battery and hydrogen electrification solutions. OPmobility’s customers also benefit from OP’nSoft, its inhouse software development specialist.

With €11.4 billion economic revenue in 2023 and an international footprint of 152 plants and 40 R&D centers, OPmobility relies on its 40,300 employees to meet the challenges of making mobility more sustainable. 

Experience Spring Hill Brought Draws Hundreds (TheNewsTN)

An open house promoting the economy of Spring Hill and the surrounding area drew hundreds of people to Summit High School on Saturday despite temperatures nearing 100 degrees.

Almost 150 local businesses and institutions, from dance studios to apartment complexes to funeral homes, gave out information and freebies during the Experience Spring Hill event. The open house, which is in its 17th year overall and seventh year under its current name, was hosted by TriStar Spring Hill and the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Rebecca Melton, the chamber’s executive director, said last year’s event drew about 3,500 people.

“It’s free for people to come and experience what Spring Hill has to offer and to support local businesses,” she said. “A lot of businesses support our schools and provide so many things to the community. Having a strong economy is important to us.”

Hospitals and other health facilities had a sizable presence, including Williamson Health, Maury Regional Health and Vanderbilt Health. Multiple tourism departments, including Visit Franklin and Experience Maury, also passed out brochures touting other attractions in Maury and Williamson Counties.

Spring Hill employees were also on hand from the police, fire and utility departments, among others, to share information on the city itself. For kids, a scavenger hunt, face painting and volunteers dressed as characters from “Star Wars” and Disney movies kept smiles on their faces.

Local restaurants got in on the act as well, with Rock N Roll Sushi, Aha Indian Grill and Grecian Family Restaurant and Bakery, among others, selling lunch to hungry guests.

Blake Aldrich, branch manager for Liberty Federal Credit Union’s Spring Hill branch, shared information on LFCU’s products and encouraged entries for a giveaway of a cooler full of summer essentials like sunglasses, towels and a toys.

“We want to help the community any way we can,” Aldrich said, adding that it was LFCU’s third year participating in Experience Spring Hill.

One popular attraction came in the form of Goliath, an 8-year-old miniature horse from Freedom Reigns Ranch in Columbia. The ranch provides free therapy sessions for children with 15 horses that have been rescued from abuse and neglect.

Carissa Ramsdell, Freedom Reigns’ founder and executive director, said Goliath has brought joy to Experience Spring Hill guests for the last three years.

“We like to say that he gives away free smiles, and he’s really good at it,” she said. “It’s a really fun event. We love seeing lots of people.”

Spring Hill resident Jeff McKernan brought his parents and son to the event for the first time on Saturday.

“It’s a nice day and we thought we’d check it out,” he said. “There’s a lot of good stuff, good food, and it’s crazy how many health places we have.”

Battle Creek Names Coaches (MSM)

As he began assembling the coaching staff for Battle Creek High School, Mike Kinnard had an idea of what he wanted his athletic leaders to embody.

And early in the process, he hired that embodiment in the form of Paul Lamm – after 18 years and a state baseball championship at Spring Hill – who became one of the new school’s first two coaches, along with boys basketball coach Donnie Chambers.

“He would be a great model to put everybody up against, and that’s pretty much what I did,” Kinnard said as he has secured nine of the 10 coaches that will lead the Grizzlies onto the fields and courts for the first time in about six weeks.

“It’s a load off my mind: All my faculty is on board. The only one clearing (human resources) is our softball coach and math teacher.”

Joining Lamm and Chambers, previously boys basketball coach at Battle Creek Middle School, will be:

• Football coach Justin Burum, who most recently served as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Hardaway High School in Columbus, Ga.;

• Volleyball coach Jay Bennett, who previously served as an assistant at Columbia Central;

• Girls soccer coach John Spencer, who will serve on a non-faculty basis after previously spending time as a boys assistant at Richland while attending UT-Southern; 

• Cross country coach Jessica Holtz, who also comes from Battle Creek Middle School;

• Girls basketball coach Dan Langeland, most recently a women’s assistant at Trevecca Nazarene University after five years as coach at Eaton Rapids (Mich.) High School; 

• Boys soccer coach A.J. Smith, who previously served in the same role at Summit and will be at Battle Creek on a non-faculty basis; and

• Track and field coach Josh Trahan, also a non-faculty coach who has worked with the program at Independence.

Of those (golf, wrestling and tennis will compete on a co-operative basis with Spring Hill), only one has a state title to their credit.

“He has so many qualities I was looking for in a coach – not only the ability to build a program and build a winning program, but also build a program that builds the kids and contributes to not only their athletic success through wins or growth, but also their academic success,” Kinnard said of Lamm, a 400-game winner at Spring Hill.

“That’s the type person I’ve looked for in all these people, and I feel like I can honestly say as I look at every one of these head coaches, they all emphasize both areas of the student-athlete. They’re going to help them grow both as competitive athletes and as contributing members of society. That was the main thing I was looking for and I’ve found that in every one of these.”

Heading into the two-week TSSAA-mandated dead period, which began last Monday, with his staff completed – besides softball – was a bonus for Kinnard.

“I don’t think it’s ever easy to find the right people,” he said. “I probably could have done it in a whole lot less time than I did, but I’ve been trying to be as patient as I could be to find the right people. … I’ve looked at over 800 applications from different people for different things.

“Trying to take the time to get the right people, I think, was the hardest part. Not that there aren’t a lot of good people out there; I probably turned away some really good people. But I feel like I have filled this building with some amazing people.” 

City Parking to Reopen (MauryCountySource)

The City of Columbia has announced that the free parking lot directly behind City Hall will reopen to the public on Monday, July 1, 2024.

A small handful of parking spaces near the Columbia Police Department will remain closed temporarily to allow for the completion of additional repairs.

The City of Columbia Downtown Parking Garage remains under construction after the completion date, originally set for June, was delayed by one month.

The 3-hour parking enforcement downtown will also resume on July 1st.

Athenaeum Fundraiser (Press Release)

The Athenaeum, one of Columbia’s premier historic sites, will be hosting the Annual Membership Meeting and Bean Supper/ Auction this Saturday, June 29th, at the Athenaeum Rectory, located at 808 Athenaeum Street. Supper begins at 5 followed by the meeting and Auction. There will be many items to choose from. Please join us and help with the upkeep of the historic Athenaeum Rectory.

Run for The Well Outreach (Press Release)

Join The Well Outreach on July 4th at Summit High School in Spring Hill, for an action-packed day of fun in support of your local food pantry! Lace up your shoes and choose from a Timed 5K or Color Fun Run (complete with a FOAM pit!). There is a 1 mile turnaround option for those young ones who still want to get in on the fun!

 Not a runner but still want to support the Well? Opt for the Sleep In Option and still grab some awesome event merchandise!

 Plus, don’t miss the Bicycle/Stroller Parade (hosted by Spring Hill Parks and Recreation), perfect for the whole family!

Come and be part of this unforgettable event as we Run For Hunger in Middle Tennessee! Sign up today as spots will fill up fast!


Your participation can make a difference to help feed families in need in Middle Tennessee!

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

Mrs. Kathleen Fay Akin Coates was born in Columbia, Tennessee on April 25th, 1939 and passed away on May 20th, 2024 at the age of 85. 

A memorial service will be held at Riverside United Methodist Church at 11 AM on June 29th. The family will visit with friends prior to the service at the church. A private inurnment will be held at Polk Memorial Gardens Mausoleum.

Mrs. Barbara Ann Head Duvall, 76, retired educator for Maury County Schools, and resident of Columbia, died Thursday, June 20 at her residence. Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, June 29 at 2:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Hardison Cemetery on Joe Brown Road. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the funeral home.

Mrs. Cathy Lee Sellers Cullum, 66, retired elementary school teacher for Columbia Academy, and resident of Columbia, died Monday, June 24 at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services will be conducted Sunday, June 30 at 2:00 p.m. at West Seventh Street Church of Christ. Burial will follow in Lasting Hope Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

…And now, news from around the state…

TCAP Recap (Press Release)

On Monday, the Tennessee Department of Education released the 2023-24 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) state-, district-, and school-level results, which include both fall 2023 end-of-course (EOC) exams and spring 2024 exams in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and social studies, with the exception of math EOC data, which will be available later in the fall pending the standards setting process. 


Full 2024 TCAP assessment data is available on the department’s Data Downloads webpage. The data files can be found in the State Assessments section under the Assessment Files tab. 


Together, district and school leaders, educators, families, and elected officials have made tremendous efforts to support students in recovering from pandemic-related learning loss and accelerating learning. The 2023-24 TCAP results demonstrate student performance remains steady or shows growth and improvement across tested grades and subjects. 


"Tennessee's strategic education investments have resulted in steady growth for students across the state," said Gov. Bill Lee. "As we continue our work to ensure that all Tennessee students are learning on grade level, we remain committed to supporting teachers and empowering families with multiple pathways to achievement so every student can thrive in their academic journey."


Here is a 2023-24 Spring TCAP State-Level Overview: 

English Language Arts (ELA): Overall, 39% of all students are meeting grade level expectations, with proficiency gains in most tested grades, and elementary and high schools continuing to out-perform pre-pandemic levels. 

Math: In grades 3-8, 40% of students are meeting grade level expectations in math, with a nearly three percentage point gain for 5th and 7th graders. 

Science: Overall, proficiency rates held steady for science, with an increase of one percentage point in overall student proficiency. 

Social Studies: Results show a one percentage point gain for all students tested in social studies, showing continued improvements over the last three years.   

“Our annual TCAP assessment provides valuable data to inform strategic decision-making to best support Tennessee students,” said Lizzette Reynolds, Commissioner of Education. “Through the dedication of our teachers, schools, and districts, we are pleased that student performance continues to build on a strong foundation, improving outcomes for future success.” 


In July, individual student data will be available in the TCAP Family Portal. Families can use the portal to obtain additional information to better understand their students' individual score reports and next steps for supporting their students' academic progress.  


The State Report Card will be updated with this data later in July.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The extravagant all-day Independence Day celebration returns to Music City on July 4. It will feature family-friendly activities and musical performances in the Amazon Family Fun Zone and Jack Daniel’s Broadway main stage performances, with multi-platinum artist Chris Young headlining. 

Live music will commence at Music City Walk of Fame Park between 11 a.m. and 4:55 p.m., and the evening main show will continue from 4 p.m. to 9:20 p.m. 

Festivities will continue at Ascend Amphitheater, where the Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony will synchronize a live performance with the anticipated fireworks show at 9:30 p.m.

“The fireworks show for Let Freedom Sing! Will be one of the largest in the country,” said Deana Ivey, president and CEO of Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp, in a written statement. “And for the first time this year will feature an accompanying drone show.” 

The drones and fireworks will synchronize with a live musical performance by the Nashville Symphony. 

Four hundred drones will soar 400 feet over downtown Nashville and eight-inch fireworks shells will skyrocket 800 feet in the sky. More than 1,000 flares will illuminate the Cumberland River, while ghost shells will appear in the sky “as if by magic,” according to Ivey.


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