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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 6-4-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for June 4, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Man Charged with Sexual Exploitation (MauryCountySource)

A man arrested earlier this year as part of a large-scale, collaborative operation to target online child exploitation and sextortion in Tennessee, called Operation Protecting Tomorrow, now faces an additional charge after child sexual abuse material was found on devices he owns.

Thirty-one year old Cody J. Wilson was one of a dozen people arrested as part of the joint investigation with special agents with the TBI ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) Task Force and the United States Secret Service. Wilson was charged on February 16th with Solicitation of a Minor and Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor – Exploitation of a Minor by Electronic Means. After Wilson’s initial arrest, a search of his electronic devices revealed he had been distributing and exchanging Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) on various online platforms. Some of the material consisted of children as young as infants being sexually assaulted.

Agents with the TBI ICAC Task Force today arrested Wilson, who is originally from the Columbiaville, Michigan, area, and charged him with Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. He was booked into the Maury County Jail with the assistance of US Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Maury County Sheriff’s Office. He is being held on a $75,000 bond.

New Doc at MRMC (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) welcomes Najeeb Ahmed, MD, an interventional cardiologist with Ascension Saint Thomas Heart Columbia, to the medical staff.

Dr. Ahmed received his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica, West Indies. He completed his residency at Western Reserve Health Care System, Northeastern Ohio University in Youngstown, OH, and he began his fellowship in cardiovascular disease at Wright State University, Dayton, OH. He completed his fellowship at Creighton University of Medicine, Omaha, NE. Dr. Ahmed also completed a fellowship in interventional cardiology at the University of AL, Birmingham, AL. He is board certified in cardiovascular disease and interventional cardiology and is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

Ascension Saint Thomas Heart Columbia is located at 1222 Trotwood Avenue, Suite 211, in Columbia, Tennessee. Office hours are Monday–Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To make an appointment, call 931.777.2300.

The medical staff at Maury Regional Health includes 13 heart specialists with expertise in general cardiology, interventional cardiology and electrophysiology. The Heart Center offers a vast array of cardiac services ranging from diagnostic and interventional procedures to pacemaker and defibrillator implants, and recently invested $1.9 million to enhance cardiac services, which included new state-of-the-art technology in its cardiac catheterization labs.

The medical center has been recognized as a Chest Pain Center with PCI by the American College of Cardiology and holds certification in the treatment of heart failure from The Joint Commission. In addition, U.S. News & World Report has recognized the medical center as a high performing hospital for heart attack treatment for 2023-2024.

CSCC Graduates Medical Professionals (CDH)

Columbia State Community College recently recognized 23 emergency medical technicians and 29 advanced emergency medical technicians upon completion of their programs, during the Spring 2024 EMS Pinning ceremony held in the Webster Athletic Center.

“EMS Academy faculty have once again produced an incredible group of skilled clinicians that will be impactful to those they serve,” said Greg Johnson, Columbia State EMS Academy program director.

“I am thankful for the hard work and dedication of these graduates and encouraged by the way this group will impact EMS.”

Traditional Spring 2024 EMT completers achieved a 92% first-attempt pass rate for the national registry. Students in the integrated certificate received a 100% first-attempt pass rate on the EMT national registry.

An EMT provides basic life support at the site of illnesses and injuries, assisting with transport to the hospital. The Advanced EMT provides basic and advanced life support at sites of illnesses and injuries through transport to the hospital. 

The accelerated AEMT path is an academy-style, technical certificate program designed to educate and train students to serve as vital members of a pre-hospital EMS team in a single semester.

Students must complete 144 hours of clinical rotations to earn a technical certificate in AAEMT.

EMT certificate completers also have the option to pursue the General Technology Associate of Applied Science degree by combining coursework from two certificates with general education courses to complete a personalized degree program.

“I regularly hear stories from thankful patients and families about how an EMT or paramedic from Columbia State made a terribly challenging time at least just a little more bearable,” said Dr. Kae Fleming, Columbia State dean of the Health Sciences Division. “The college is known for ensuring the quality, competency and compassion of the EMS teams you hope to never need but are so thankful for when you do!”

The program provides students with the necessary didactic and practical training to perform life-saving skills. Additionally, students learn to work alone, as well as in a squad-based (team) environment. 

For more information about the EMS program, visit or contact Johnson at 931-540-2792.

Congressional Campaign Finance (Tennessean)

U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Columbia, spent more than $335,000 on taxpayer-funded constituent communications between January 2023 and March 2024, outpacing the rest of Tennessee's U.S. House delegation as he eyes a competitive Republican primary in the 5th Congressional District.

In late May, Ogles flooded the district with digital ads and a glossy mail piece, touting "records broken" on legislation as a freshman lawmaker. The ad push was made possible thanks to the "franking" privilege, which allows members of Congress to use taxpayer-funded budgets to send communications to constituents.

The communications, used regularly by members of both political parties, can provide an edge to incumbents on the campaign trail.

House members seeking reelection, like Ogles, can dip into their taxpayer-funded office allowances to pay for ad campaigns touting their accomplishments and boosting name recognition without spending campaign funds, though they can't explicitly reference upcoming elections or ask for votes.

Members must receive messaging approval from an oversight committee to spend taxpayer funds on mailers or digital communications. Ogles has received approval this year for 22 different communications before a June 1 blackout period ahead of the Aug. 1 primary. He sought approval for 41 in total last year.

The total costs of the digital ad buys and direct mailers amount to more than three times his current campaign cash on hand, according to his most recent finance disclosures where he reported around $95,000 in his campaign coffers.

"As the freshman Congressman for a brand-new district, I can tell you from firsthand experience that many people in middle Tennessee still don’t know who their Congressman is. With completely different geographical lines in Tennessee’s Fifth, it is important that constituents know who their representative is, how my staff and I can assist with their needs, and the ways in which I’m effecting change on their behalf in D.C.," Ogles said in a statement in a response to an inquiry from The Tennessean.

Ogles said constituent services is the "highest priority" for his office.

Ogles' communications spending far outpaced his Tennessee colleagues in 2023 and the first quarter of 2024, according to House disbursement reports through March 2024. The costs of his most recent ad push will not be publicly available until the next House quarterly report.

Among Ogles' communications were text surveys, such as a Davidson County poll asking for constituent priorities, and digital banner ads signaling Ogles' support for Israel, stricter border policies and other conservative tentpole issues.

In December, Ogles bought four 30-second radio ads on border issues, cost of living and the rising costs of government. None of the ads solicited constituent feedback. Each end with a voiceover stating, "Paid for by official funds authorized by the House of Representatives."

U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, R-Kingsport, received approval for 28 communications this year. She followed Ogles in spending, sending out $245,000 in communications from January 2023 through March 2024. Rep. David Kustoff, R-Germantown, followed behind with about $200,000 in communications expenditures.

Harshbarger last year often sent mailers advertising in-person events like "Coffee with your Congresswoman," in addition to "requesting feedback" on survey questions like, "Do you agree that Congress should DEFUND the weaponized DOJ and FBI?"

In sharp contrast, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, has not spent any money on mass communications since 2023.

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, both spent below $50,000, with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Murfreesboro, spending just over $51,000.

In the middle of the pack, U.S. Rep. John Rose, R-Cookeville, spent about $97,000, and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, around $148,000.

The funds for mass mailings and communications, which are baked into congressional offices annual budgets, are important for elected officials to reach their constituents, experts say. Communications have traditionally been used to advertise town halls and inform communities about important programs, for example.

"We have a representative democracy and the communications with constituents is a very important part of that," said Kent Syler, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Syler also spent more than two decades working in the House of Representatives for former U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Murfreesboro.

Syler noted the use of taxpayer funded communications is not unusual in any legislative body, and the communication methods are readily used by members of all political stripes.

Still, "it is a very significant advantage for an incumbent," Syler said.

Lawmakers must seek clearance from an oversight committee on taxpayer-funded communication language: Any language referring to an election or voters is forbidden, in addition to open political attacks.

A North Carolina congressman was officially sanctioned last year by a bipartisan communications oversight committee for a newsletter blast blatantly attacking President Joe Biden, though representatives are often creative in baking their politics into their messaging.

Members don't have a maximum amount they can spend on constituent communications, but they do have to fit them into their office budget, or Members' Representational Allowance. Each member receives an annual MRA based on a congressional formula that factors in things like district size, though the MRA typically ranged from $1.8 to $2 million this year.

Members must pay salaries and office costs within their MRA, and they have wide latitude to spend differently than their colleagues on different issues.

For example, Green maintains three district offices after redistricting pushed part of Nashville into his district. Green is the only Tennessee representative to staff a Nashville office, though Ogles and Rose both represent part of Davidson County.

Kustoff leads the delegation with four district offices in West Tennessee.

Only Cohen, who represents the smallest Tennessee district in geographic size, and Ogles maintain a single district office.

In a statement, Ogles said his use of taxpayer-funded communications has enabled his staff to provide constituent services on issues like veteran pay.

"Were it not for our level of constituent communication, we might not have had the opportunity to help many wonderful Tennesseans work through some very difficult times," Ogles said.

City Receives Housing Grant (Press Release)

The City of Columbia has received a $750,000 grant from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) under the 2024 HOME Urban Rural Program. This funding will support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of single-family homes for low-income households in Columbia.

City Manager Tony Massey stated, "This funding from THDA is a significant step towards improving living conditions for our low-income residents. It underscores our commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all citizens of Columbia."

The HOME program, funded federally and administered by THDA, focuses on owner-occupied rehabilitation, including reconstruction. This program helps to ensure those most vulnerable in our community are able to live in code-compliant, safe residences. HOME funds can only be used for rehabilitating or reconstructing existing structures. Homes must meet all building codes and THDA standards upon project completion.

Assistant City Manager Thad Jablonski added, "The City of Columbia is continually looking for opportunities to access federal and state grants to provide the most value to Columbia taxpayers. HOME grant funds will allow us to impact Columbia residents at a time of high and rising costs to owning and repairing a home."

The program ensures no discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability, and includes policies to assist non-English speaking applicants.

Maury Regional Recognized (MSM)

Maury Regional Medical Center has been recognized as a 2024 Patient Safety Excellence Award™ and Outstanding Patient Experience Award™ recipient by Healthgrades®, the leading resource consumers use to find a hospital or doctor.

These achievements place MRMC among an elite group of only 79 hospitals nationwide to achieve both awards — and the only one in Tennessee. MRMC was also named among the top 10 percent in the nation for patient safety and outstanding patient experience in 2024.

“This recognition reflects the dedication of our care teams to provide safe, high-quality care paired with a patient-centered experience,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “From using best-practice clinical protocols proven to result in better patient outcomes to our investment in state-of-the-art technology, we are committed to being the trusted source for health and wellness in the region.”

To determine the nation’s premier hospitals for patient safety, Healthgrades evaluated risk-adjusted complication and mortality rates for approximately 4,500 hospitals nationwide. Healthgrades’ analysis revealed marked declines in patient safety throughout the country, particularly among the nation’s lowest-performing hospitals. As a result, patients who seek care at hospitals receiving the 2024 Patient Safety Excellence AwardTM like Maury Regional Medical Center have a significantly lower risk of experiencing one of the four leading patient safety indicators than patients treated at non-recipient hospitals:

In-hospital fall resulting in fracture (approximately 52 percent less likely)*

Collapsed lung due to a procedure or surgery in or around the chest (approximately 56 percent less likely)*

Pressure sores or bed sores acquired in the hospital (approximately 67 percent less likely)*

Catheter-related bloodstream infections acquired in the hospital (approximately 71 percent less likely)*

Similarly, MRMC outperformed its peers — based on feedback from its own patients — in order to achieve the 2024 Outstanding Patient Experience Award. Survey questions focus on patients’ perceptions of their hospital care, from cleanliness and noise levels to medication explanations and staff responsiveness. The measures also include whether a patient would recommend the hospital to friends or family and their overall rating of the hospital.**

“We’re proud to recognize Maury Regional Medical Center for their commitment to ensuring a best-in-class hospital stay for all patients,” said Brad Bowman, MD, chief medical officer and head of data sciences at Healthgrades. “Maury Regional Medical Center’s success demonstrates that patient safety and patient satisfaction go hand-in-hand, and we look forward to their continued leadership in these critical areas of patient care.”

Where you are treated matters, which is why Healthgrades is committed to providing the most scientifically accurate information about doctors and hospitals — with data insights not available anywhere else. To learn more about how Healthgrades measures hospital quality, visit

*Statistics are calculated from Healthgrades Patient Safety Ratings and Excellence Award Methodology, which is based primarily on AHRQ technical specifications (Version 2023.0.1) to MedPAR data from approximately 4,500 hospitals for years 2020 through 2022 and represent three-year estimates for Medicare patients only.

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

Mrs. Beverly Johnson Pigg, 95, long-time resident of Columbia, retired real estate agent for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and widow of William H. “Dub” Pigg, Jr, died Monday, May 27th at Brookdale Assisted Living. A memorial service for Mrs. Pigg will be conducted Wednesday, June 5th at 5:00 First Presbyterian Church in Columbia. The Family will visit with friends From 3:00 p.m. until the time of service at the church. Following the service a reception will be held from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at James K. Polk Memorial Gardens located at the James K. Polk Home.


Mrs.  Joyce Anne Duckworth Parks, 84, retired employee of Farm Bureau, and widow of Douglas R. Parks, Jr., died Saturday June 1, in Manchester, TN at the residence of her Daughter where she had made her home for several years. Funeral services for Mrs. Parks will be conducted Saturday June 8th at 1:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until the time of services at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Governor Signs Age Verification Bill (Tennessean)

Tennessee has joined a growing list of states that are requiring websites with adult content to age-verify viewers, a move that is raising alarm from some First Amendment advocates who warn the law may have wider-reaching impact than initially expected.

Gov. Bill Lee signed the Protect Tennessee Minors Act into law on Tuesday following overwhelming, bipartisan passage in the legislature earlier this year. No lawmaker voted against the measure.

According to the law, websites that are accessible in Tennessee that have one-third or more content that could be considered “harmful to minors” must verify the age of each user who attempts to access the site every 60 minutes through uploading a state ID or other methods, as well as retain seven years of anonymized data on users who access the site.

Similar laws have passed in 19 other states and are under consideration in seven more, but Tennessee is the only one with felony penalties. In two states, the laws are either tied up in state and federal court.

Mike Stabile, director of public affairs at the Free Speech Coalition, an organization that represents adult sites on First Amendment issues, is part of the legal challenge to a law in Texas and said the intent of the measures are not proving successful.

“These bills are a failure at protecting minors,” he said. “The (online) traffic has just shifted away from legal, responsible sites to illegal and pirate sites overseas.”

Last year, David Hudson, a professor at Belmont University’s College of Law and a First Amendment expert, said an age-verification law aimed at content that is "harmful to minors" could withstand legal challenges.

But he said the concept of obscenity is controversial. “There is such a narrow range of material that's not protected by the First Amendment — that's only sexually explicit content that has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value — and again, that’s the ‘eye of the beholder’ situation.”

Still, lawmakers — both Republicans and Democrats — pushed through the new law, which takes effect Jan. 1.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

CMA Fest is just around the corner taking place June 6th until June 9th. After all the day events on Broadway have ended, the nighttime shows at Nissan Stadium begin, taking place Thursday night through Sunday night.

June 6th’s performances include: Jordan Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ashley McBride, and Thomas Rhett

June 7th will feature Kelsey Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Cody Johnson, Parker McCollum, and Jon Parti

June 8th will include Jelly Roll, Old Dominion, Keith Urban, The War and Treaty, and Lainey Wilson

And June 9th will feature Brothers Osborne, Hardy, Megan Maroney, Carly Pearce, and Bailey Zimmerman

Get tickets at


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