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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 6-27-24

WKOM/WKRM Radio

Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for June 27, 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 Approved (Press Release)

Yesterday, Maury Regional CEO, Dr. Martin Chaney released a statement concerning the proposed HCA hospital in Spring Hill. He wrote:

On June 26, the Health Facilities Commission (HFC) approved in a 6-2 vote the HCA TriStar certificate of need (CON) application to build a 68-bed hospital adjacent to its free-standing emergency department in Spring Hill. We are disappointed with this decision and believe another hospital in such close proximity to Maury Regional Medical Center and Williamson Health, both highly respected and nationally recognized, will only serve to substantially increase the cost of health care for the Spring Hill and surrounding communities. However, the HFC’s decision does not dampen our commitment to expanding exceptional health services to our entire region, including Spring Hill.

Maury Regional Health was one of the first to bring health care to Spring Hill, opening a primary care practice over 25 years ago in 1998. Since that time, we have significantly expanded our services with a multitude of providers in the areas of primary care, urgent care, physician specialist clinics and physical therapy, as well as partnering with other highly respected health care organizations to offer imaging, ambulatory surgery and oncology in the heart of Spring Hill.

Maury Regional Health remains committed to expanding health care services in a responsible manner in Spring Hill with a strong focus on primary care and physician specialists and is looking forward to continuing discussions with Spring Hill leadership about health care needs of their community and how we can expand our services in ways to best address those needs. By providing wellness exams, screening services and disease management, our aim is to reduce avoidable and costly hospital inpatient admissions that are burdensome to patients.

For those who do require a hospital admission, Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia offers advanced services through the breadth of physician specialists and sub-specialists on our medical staff, reducing transfers to metropolitan hospitals and keeping patients closer to home. This expert team of clinicians and our commitment to clinical excellence has culminated in Maury Regional Medical Center being recognized as the only hospital in Tennessee to receive both the Outstanding Patient Safety AwardTM and Outstanding Patient Experience AwardTM in 2024 from Healthgrades.

With more than 500 medical providers across 60+ specialties and subspecialties, Maury Regional Health provides our region with a level of care that far exceeds what was proposed by HCA TriStar in Spring Hill. We look forward to continuing our expansion plans as we serve the Spring Hill community and larger southern Middle Tennessee region.


North Columbia School Plan Nixed by Commission (MSM)

A divided Maury County Commission rejected a $46 million proposal to build a North Columbia elementary school during a lengthy June 17 meeting.

A resolution was brought forth to the full body by commissioners Gary Stovall and Kevin Markham despite having been rejected by both the Admin Committee and the Budget Committee earlier in the month. It ultimately failed by a 16-5 margin with one abstention.

Kathey Grodi criticized bringing the item back for consideration after having failed twice.

“It seems the system is being worked around, which I’m against,” she said.

Grodi also questioned where Maury County Public Schools would get enough teachers to operate a new school.

“With our scores, I think it’ll be really hard to recruit high-quality teachers,” she added.

Commission Chairman Eric Previti noted that under the body’s rules, an item previously rejected could be brought back if requested by two commissioners.

Markham said deciding the location for a school was not within the purview of the Commission, only the funding.

“Just across Highway 31, Greens Mill Road, hundreds of rooftops have been approved. Just southwest of Columbia, there’s coming before the city planning commission over 400 homes on Trotwood Avenue. We can’t wait until the houses are built to build schools,” Markham said.

Markham also said moving fifth-grade students out of middle schools and back to elementary made the project worth it merely from that standpoint, in his mind.

Gabe Howard said he had received more calls on this issue than any other and that aside from two school board members in favor, the comments were unanimously opposed.

“It’s an incredible amount of time to keep talking about something that the people do not want. We are representatives of the people, we need to vote what they want. In Maury County, they don’t want this,” he said.

Jerry Bridenbaugh said he felt the commission and school board had waited too long to have discussions over the school proposal that should have taken place much sooner.

“We needed to talk two years ago, last year, now. You can’t go out and buy $6 million worth of property and say, ‘This is where you’re going to put the building, give us the money.’ What if we didn’t like the property? What if we didn’t see the need?” Bridenbaugh said. “We behave as though we’re adversaries; let’s quit that junk.”

School Board Vice Chairman Jackson Carter spoke to commissioners during a public comment period, pleading for them to fund the project.

“It’s really easy for us to look at these numbers and get really picky… But what we’re doing here, [is] building a new school on the northern side of Columbia, where one is really needed, at a cost that is nearly $20 million under what our best estimates were from market value,” Carter said.

Carter added that a new school would give Maury County Public Schools “breathing room for the foreseeable future” in northern Columbia. He noted the closure of McDowell Elementary a few years back and that no replacement has been built.

Carter also said a new school had not been built in Columbia since 1989. He said traffic studies indicated that the chosen site – off Carters Creek Pike – had been deemed acceptable by the state.

“We’re building a school that’s going to last for 30, 40, 50 years… We have to look at what’s best in the long term. We can’t cut off our nose to spite our face because we don’t love every little detail.”

Residents countered with arguments on whether a new school was the best use of county resources, along with concerns over traffic congestion and the effect on the rural Carters Creek area.

“My concern is that the citizens of Maury County are being asked to spend more than $46 million on a facility that will bring an investment return of 28 percent student literacy,” said Kathy Mikula of Spring Hill. “There appears to be a greater problem in the school system that needs to be addressed before more taxpayer dollars are invested without proof of quality educational return.”

Dave Grodi said he did not believe the growth of student population required a new school, citing numbers from the May budget meeting.

“I’m not seeing the need for this school based upon the number of students coming in year after year,” he said. “The school board needs to focus on getting the literacy rate up; a new school is not going to help the education of our children.”

Also at the full commission meeting, Commissioners gave approval on first reading to the county’s 2024-25 proposed budget and the property tax rate, which is remaining unchanged from the previous year at $1.91 per $100 of assessed value.

The budget projects $50.8 million in costs in the general fund, $2.091 million in parks & recreation, $11.079 million in the highway fund, $154.275 million for schools, $29.3 million in debt service, $3.449 million in the capital equipment fund and $5.726 million in the solid waste fund.

Commissioners chose to move three pennies of property tax out of debt service into the general fund to shore up the fund balance.

A motion to move an additional five cents from debt service into the highway fund failed by an 11-10 margin.

During debate on that amendment, County Attorney Daniel Murphy cautioned commissioners that moving money into the highway fund would increase the county’s maintenance of effort in that department. Maintenance of effort is a state mandate that certain departments receive the same amount of overall funding per year.


Columbia Infrastructure Work Begins (Press Release)

In case you happen to see a few extra construction teams in downtown Columbia, it's because the city has begun its latest project to enhance the Columbia square.

The Columbia Infrastructure and Greenspace Improvement Project was made possible via a $50,000 national GM on Main Street Program Grant. It was also accomplished through the city's partnership with Columbia Main Street. who were one of only five nonprofit organizations and municipal government entities to receive the grant.

Columbia City Council previously voted to accept the grant in March.

Construction for the project began Tuesday and is expected to be completed over "the next several months," according to a City of Columbia press release.

"Ensuring the safety and well-being of our residents is paramount," City Manager Tony Massey said. "The Columbia Infrastructure and Greenspace Improvement Project underscores our commitment to enhancing downtown's vitality while prioritizing pedestrian safety.”

The project's details include several significant improvements to the downtown district, such as curb extensions at three of the four intersections, as well as increased green space. The curb extensions will serve as an innovative traffic calming measure aimed to increase pedestrian safety by reducing crossing distances and slowing downtown motorists.

"Basically, we are designing the curb out into the white-striped no parking area," Columbia Tourism and Marketing Director Kellye Murphy said in March. "It extends the view for the pedestrians trying to cross the street. They will be able to go further out into that area, and it's traffic calming for the cars that are coming through the square as well."

There will also be two information kiosks to provide visitors with details about local businesses, restaurants and attractions. Increased green space will also offer more areas to gather and relax.

“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.”



Mt. Pleasant Library Seeks Grant (MSM)

Mount Pleasant commissioners moved forward with their own application for a grant to benefit the town’s library during their June 18 meeting.

The resolution authorizes the city to request up to $2 million in funding with a 10 percent local match for a Connected Communities grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The Columbia branch of the Maury County Public Library has already applied for and received such a grant, and it was pointed out that the Mount Pleasant branch needed to apply for its own grant.

“We’re kind of mirroring what the Maury County Library did, where we’re going for a new roof, new doors and a lot of improvements to the facility,” said City Manager Kate Collier. “But we’re going to add programs that allow employees to maybe have a health kiosk, where they can come and have their blood pressure taken.

“Our goal is to expand the kitchen where we can do cooking classes. Everything has to be tied to broadband, so if we do cooking classes, it’ll be on the internet so people can see it.”

The grant is funded through federal dollars via the 2021 American Rescue Plan, which have to be spent by next year.

The group also approved on second reading the city’s FY 2024-25 budget, which totals $15.023 million and has no tax increase.

In her report, Finance Director Shiphrah Cox said the city was working to improve its billing system to get away from postcards.

“The amount of calls we get, people not receiving bills, the amount of people who get two bills at the same time, the amount of people who get wrong bills… we started the research process on this about a month ago,” Cox said, adding that she hoped a new system would be in place within two to three months.

Mayor Bill White noted that he himself had a problem with his bill not arriving on time during June.

Collier noted how people were responding to the downtown construction that began in early June as part of the Downtown Improvement Project, and that the bridge work was supposed to begin in August.

Collier also reported on ongoing wastewater projects, saying that Rainey Street sewer improvements were near completion. The wastewater treatment plant had an issue, she said, because “the contractor did not get the state inspector to come in and inspect the electric.”

“They’re probably going to have to dig up some of their work to look at it because they should have gotten the station inspected before they covered it up,” Collier said.

The trunk line project which rehabilitated roughly 4,300 feet of sewer pipeline was also complete, according to Collier.

The Commission also approved nonprofit appropriations of $1,500 for the Mount Pleasant-Maury Museum of Local History, $25,000 for the Mount Pleasant Forward Foundation/Main Street and $1,500 to  the Mount Pleasant Senior Citizens.

Commissioners also approved the reappointment of Jacqueline Johnson to a three-year term on Mount Pleasant’s Board of Zoning Appeals.


New Columbia Central Principal (CDH)

Former Spring Hill Middle School principal Shanda Sparrow-Lang has been named the new principal of Columbia Central High School for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year.

Over the last 10 years, Sparrow-Lang served as principal of Spring Hill Middle School.

As an educator for more than 23 years, Sparrow-Lang carries a distinguished career in leadership, most recently earning her the title of 2023-2024 Maury County Schools Principal of the Year. She was also previously named the 2018-2019 Principal of the Year.

"Shanda Sparrow-Lang is an inspiration to the faculty, staff, and students of Maury County Public Schools. She illustrates the role of dedicated principal; she is wholly committed to the highest ideals of public service and quality education for all,” MCPS Superintendent Lisa Ventura said. “We are confident that her selection as the principal of Columbia Central High School will bring continued excellence and inspiration to the students and staff.”

Sparrow-Lang holds an associate degree from Walters State Community College, a Bachelor of Science degree from Tennessee State University and a Master of Education degree in Special Education, along with aneducational specialist degree in administrative leadership from Middle Tennessee State University.

“I'm excited about this new opportunity and very thankful that Ms. Ventura and her staff have instilled their faith and confidence in me to support and lead one of the best high schools in America," Sparrow-Lang said.

During her tenure at Spring Hill Middle, the school accomplished the highest rating in areas of academic growth and achievement. This year, the school was designated an “A” by the state of Tennessee.

"It has been an honor to serve the students, parents, staff,, faculty, and the community of Spring HillMiddle School for 10 years," Sparrow-Lang said.

"I look forward to beginning a new journey with the CHS family. As the Lion family, we will continue to provide students with a learning environment that is safe, engaging, and forward-thinking while utilizing the active support of our teachers, parents, and community."


Commodity Distribution

The South Central Human Resource Agency announced that they will be conducting a commodities distribution through the US Department of Agriculture. The food distribution will take place from 9-10am on Monday, July1st at Graymere Church of Christ, located at 1320 Trotwood Avenue in Columbia.

This food distribution is intended help with food insecurity in the community and will be distributed on a first come-first serve basis to those who are eligible. Eligibility will be based on total household income that is within the income guidelines. Anyone receiving aid from SNAP, Families First, SSI, LIHEAP or proof of residency in public housing are eligible for USDA Commodities.


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!


SIGN UP AT: thewelloutreach.org


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…

Oracle Changing Nashville (Tennessean)

Healthcare and technology are two of the largest industries in Nashville and, at their intersection, stands software development giant Oracle. 

Co-founder Larry Ellison announced earlier this year that his company’s forthcoming downtown, riverfront campus will be a “world headquarters,” further cementing a reputation some have been working toward since the late 1990s. 

Nashville isn’t just Music City, it’s also a leading healthcare hub. 

As the city aims to continue the monumental growth it’s seen over the last decade, Oracle brought together hundreds of Nashville business leaders across industries Tuesday to focus on one topic: How their companies are working together to solidify the city’s future success.

The all-day conference hosted by Oracle, called "Business Grows Here Nashville," took place at the Conrad Nashville Hotel on Tuesday.

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter said he would like for Nashville to eventually become the city with “the most software engineers per capita.”

San Francisco currently holds that title, but with the high numbers that Oracle plans to bring into the city in the coming years, it could be a possibility.

"We're excited about Oracle in Nashville," McWhorter said. "I think it's a great partnership for our state and for Nashville. We look at this as a long-term commitment and want to make sure you have all the things you need to be successful."

The tech giant already has around 700 employees in the state, and its goal is to employ 8,500 people at its Nashville campus by 2031. Many of these employees are and will be investing their time in innovations like the newly launched NetSuite SuiteSuccess Healthcare Edition, which allows companies to utilize a data cloud and artificial intelligence while maintaining HIPAA-compliant. 

"We want these global companies to invest their (research-and-development) dollars in our state," McWhorter said. "Whether its headquarters or financial services companies or other advanced manufacturing, anything that requires software engineers that write code. What can we collectively do to get ourselves in position in Nashville and Middle Tennessee to have the most software engineers per capita?

"I believe the opportunity for innovation is enormous."


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Post Malone announced his F-1 Trillion Tour, a 21-show outing with stadium, festival, and amphitheater performances around the U.S.

The tour will stop at Nissan Stadium on October 19th.

Last week, Post released “Pour Me A Drink” featuring Blake Shelton, while also announcing that his debut country album F-1 Trillion will be out on August 16th. His first single off the upcoming album and mega-smash “I Had Some Help” with Morgan Wallen continues to dominate the charts.

General onsale tickets will be available beginning Monday, July 1 at 10am local time on livenation.com.

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