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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 7-10-24

WKOM/WKRM Radio

Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for July 10, 2024


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

We start with local news…

80 Year Old Indicted for Tax Fraud (MauryCountySource)

The Special Investigations Section of the Tennessee Department of Revenue conducted an investigation that led to the indictment and arrest of Jackie Slone.

Revenue special agents arrested Slone, 80, on Tuesday. His bond was set at $10,000.

On Friday, June 28, 2024, the Maury County Grand Jury indicted Slone on two counts of tax evasion. These indictments allege Slone provided false amounts on the registrations of two vehicles to the Maury County Clerk’s Office.

“The Department of Revenue has always been committed to making sure Tennessee’s tax laws and procedures are applied uniformly to ensure fairness,” Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano said.

“We can never allow individuals engaged in fraudulent tax activity to have a competitive advantage over honest Tennesseans.”

If convicted, Slone could be sentenced to a maximum of two years in the state penitentiary and fined up to $3,000 for tax evasion.

The Department is pursuing the criminal case in cooperation with District Attorney Brent Cooper’s office. Citizens who suspect violations of Tennessee’s revenue laws should call the toll-free tax fraud hot line at (800) FRAUDTX (372-8389).

The Department of Revenue is responsible for the administration of state tax laws and motor vehicle title and registration laws, as well as the collection of taxes and fees associated with those laws. The Department collects around 87 percent of total state revenue. During the 2023 fiscal year, it collected nearly $22 billion in state taxes and fees and more than $4.7 billion in taxes and fees for local governments. To learn more about the department, visit www.tn.gov/revenue.

County Adopts Budget (CDH)

The Maury County Commission adopted its 2024-2025 fiscal budget last month, though not without its share of discussion and amendments for additional firefighters and disaster relief due to the May tornado.

The full commission met last month at its regular meeting, which in addition included updates to certain nonprofit funding.

The initial proposed General Budget was estimated at about $50.4 million. However, other funding was considered prior to adoption.

This included a proposal by District 6 Commissioner Cindy Hestla to add $400,056 to fund six new full-time Maury County firefighters. The amendment passed with a 12-9 vote, increasing the general fund to $50,806,520.

Maury County Public Schools will also be receiving a $154,275,178 in general purpose funds, with an additional $10,830,320 in food service funds.

The budget was ultimately approved in an 18-3 vote, but that was only the beginning of the June 17 discussion.

Following the budget item, the commission discussed fixing the county's tax levy, or taxes owed on property.

The county's tax rate stands at $1.91 per $100 of taxable property, which feeds into things like the General Fund, schools and solid waste, as well as parks & recreation, highways and capital projects

While the rates will not change, how the money will be allotted to these various entities will be different.

"We need to move three pennies from the debt service fund to the [general] fund, not necessarily for the additional $400,000 that was just added, but because of the disaster that we had," District 5 Commissioner Scott Sumners said. "I think we need to replenish that."

Sumners replaced District 5 commissioner Vincent Fuqua, who resigned earlier this year.

The Debt Service Fund had previously garnered about $0.36 of the tax rate, while the General Fund received $0.52. Sumners motioned to amend the General Fund amount to $0.55, which passed 20-1.

In addition, District 8 Commissioner Ray Jeter motioned to move an additional $0.05 from the Debt Service Fund to the county's Highway Fund, which currently receives $0.09. Though there was speculation if this would be too much money to take from one fund.

"$420,977, that's per penny, and so if you take $.05 you are talking about moving a little over $2 million out of your Debt Service Fund. With $0.03 you're looking at $1,262,931," Maury County Finance Director Doug Lukonen said. "And you can only do this once a year, so if you do it, you're locked in."

There was some dispute on whether moving money to the Highway Fund would be its best use, or if it would make a great impact. Lukonen said the funds would likely be "diluted" since highway maintenance is typically planned out over a five-year period, meaning that while $2 million would be extra money, it likely won't make an impact.

"There are restrictions for what you can use the fund balance for by law," Lukonen said. "It'll raise it gradually, but once you get four or five years down the road it's forcing you to go up and maintain that funding."

The amendment ultimately failed in a 10-11 vote.


Broadband Groundbreaking (WKOM Audio 5:30)

Yesterday, a groundbreaking was held for Project Unite a broadband initiative to bring high speed internet to the rural areas of Maury County. County Mayor Sheila Butt, County Commission Chair Eric Previti, and representatives of United Communications and Duck River Electric spoke at the event…


Johnston Gets Police Endorsement (Tennessean)

Metro Council member Courtney Johnston has won the endorsement of five Tennessee Fraternal Order of Police lodges in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional district, the campaign announced Tuesday, a significant step in the heated Republican primary days ahead of the start of early voting.

Johnston is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Columbia, in the August 1st GOP primary. The district spans from parts of Wilson County, covering southern Davidson County, and includes parts of Williamson, Maury, Lewis and Marshall counties.

“It is critical that the voters send a proven leader to Washington D.C. that will work hard to solve the various issues we are facing today and promote policies that will keep American communities safe,” the Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement. “Courtney has a proven track record as a legislator of responding to the needs of her community and providing real solutions to the challenges they face. She has been a strong advocate for the law enforcement professionals in Nashville and has advanced countless pieces of legislation that work to keep us all safer.”

The following lodges endorsed Johnston:

Andrew Jackson Lodge #5, Nashville

James K. Polk Lodge #26, Maury County

Morris Heithcock Lodge #41, Williamson County

Cedar City Lodge #83, Lebanon

Sam Houston Lodge #71, Wilson County

“I always have and always will support law enforcement and their mission to keep us safe,” Johnston said. “I am honored to have support from the Fraternal Order of Police’s Middle Tennessee Lodges and I’m so thankful they’re supporting me.” 

Ogles, who is in his first term, has been a vocal critic of the Biden administration, and sponsored more than 100 bills and amendments. None of Ogles’ bills have become law so far. Four have moved to committee, according to a congressional legislation tracker. 

Ogles has been a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump and has received his endorsement in the race.

During her campaign, Johnston has attacked Ogles as a “do nothing” politician, who has sought media attention instead of meeting constituents’ needs.

This week, Johnston announced a $700,000 fundraising haul during her first quarter, with nearly all coming from inside the state. She has $500,000 cash on hand remaining, according to a news release. Federal financial disclosures are due next week. 

“This strong financial backing is a clear indication that the people of Middle Tennessee are ready for new representation that truly reflects their values and priorities," she said.

Johnston, a realtor who set aside her career to focus on representing her Metro Council district, has served on the Metro Council since 2019, opposing a significant property tax increase in 2020, and working to authorize a countywide license plate reader program to support police efforts. Johnston is running as a principled candidate who can get real results. She touts her successes working within a progressive majority on the Metro Council, pointing to her work on license plate readers, and shutting down a homeless encampment in her metro council district, connecting people there with social services they needed. 


Rose Hill Cemetery Needs Help (MSM)

Last September, the Rose Hill Cemetery Association released an urgent plea for assistance. Although several donations were received, the total amount was far short of the $80,000 needed to fund the annual maintenance of the cemetery.

Last week, the balance of the cemetery’s operating fund reached $4,000. Unless a significant number of donations arrive within the next few days, the cemetery’s governing board will have to terminate its mowing contract, meaning that the cemetery will not be mowed for the rest of the year.

“Mowing is a large part of the budget,” said Kayla Southern, Association President. “But, this also means we won’t be able to remove downed trees or have paid trash removal. We’re going to depend on families to take care of their family plots.”

There is no safety net. The perpetual care fund was liquidated years ago — only the operating fund remains. The cemetery can expect no assistance from the local governments, as the cemetery is owned by the Association. The only sources of income available to the cemetery are sales of plots and donations.

Donations can also be mailed to the Rose Hill Cemetery Association, PO Box 1511, Columbia, TN 38402.

Rose Hill was established in 1853. Among the 13,000 internments at Rose Hill are U.S. Senators, veterans from every U.S. conflict from the Revolution to Desert Storm (including a Confederate general and a recipient of the Medal of Honor killed in World War II), and thousands of men and women who have descendants still living in Maury County today.  

To reach Southern, call (931) 797-3316.


Columbia 101 (Press Release)

The City of Columbia is pleased to announce the launch of Columbia 101, an innovative program designed to engage residents with local government and community services. Participants in Columbia 101 will have the unique opportunity to interact closely with city officials and staff, gaining firsthand knowledge of how municipal services are delivered and learning about avenues for community involvement and advocacy.

This consecutive two-day program will be open to all City of Columbia and Maury County residents and offered twice per year, with the official kick-off occurring on September 17th and September 18th. Participants can expect to begin each day at City Hall before learning more about all 12 city departments and touring select city facilities, such as the Fire & Rescue and Public Works Departments.

Applications for Columbia 101 are available now and will close on Friday, August 9th at 4:00 pm. Learn more and apply today at https://www.columbiatn.com


Maury County Clerk Satellite Office (Press Release)

The Maury County Clerk’s office can now help residents with renewals of license plates or placards each Wednesday from 8am to 3:30pm at the Maury County Senior Center located at 1020 Maury County Park Dr.

Please drive around to the back of the building and look for the car tag renewal sign near the back door.

Forms of payment include credit/debit card or check – no cash.

Any Maury County Resident can use this office.

All other transactions will still need to be done through the main office located at 10 Public Square.

Also, you can renew online at TNCountyClerk.com or at kiosks in Spring Hill City Hall or Mt. Pleasant Courthouse.


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

Mrs. Jean Rodgers Smith, 89, a former resident of Columbia, died Thursday, July 4th at her residence in Lebanon. Funeral services for Mrs. Smith will be conducted Thursday, July 11th at 1:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 11:00 AM until 1:00 PM at the funeral home.


Mrs. Betty Sanders Haynes, 83, of Culleoka, passed away peacefully on Friday June 28, 2024. A memorial services will be conducted Friday July 12, 2024 at 12:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends on Friday from 10:00 AM till 12:00 PM at the funeral Home.


Mr. William Daniel “Danny” or “Dunk” Duncan, 70, retired truck driver for Martin Transportation Systems, and resident of Columbia, died Sunday, July 7, 2024 at Life Care Center of Columbia. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date, Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


Now, news from around the state…

Music Census (Tennessean)

On Monday, the Greater Nashville Music Census went public with some of its initial findings and data, announcing a record-breaking amount of participation compared to sister cities.

In January, Nashville joined a cohort of cities hoping to find data-driven solutions to fuel their music industries, announcing a census that opened in March and ended in April.

Other cities participating in the census project, deemed "Music Friendly Cities," include Minneapolis, MN, New Orleans, LA, Chattanooga, TN and Charlotte, NC.

Nashville's census set a national record with 4,265 people filling out the census. Originally, Austin, TX held the throne in city-wide participation.

Nashville also broke records in eight additional categories, leading with the percentage of individuals working in the music industry, the average income earned from music, the average annual events per venue and the total annual events.  

Participants were also able to voice their main concerns as well, of which initial analysis showed citizens are most worried about how the current state of parking costs and policies impact the city's music industry.

“From incredibly expensive private lots and garages to new street parking policies that actively work against musicians, venues, and fans, participants voiced their concerns loud and clear,” said Chris Cobb, the Board President of the Music Venue Alliance Nashville.

He added that it is important to find solutions to these parking issues in order to make downtown more friendly to the music community and local fans.

The census' team continues to sift through thousands of survey entries and stories, preparing to go public with its full findings in early September.

From there, the census will have an unveiling event to show the public a new data dashboard alongside video and infographics. Afterwards, the census plans to have a variety of community engagement sessions.

Parters who made the census possible include the Community Foundation of Middle TN, Music Venue Alliance of Nashville, Visit Music City, CMA, AMA, the TN Entertainment Commission and over 100 other community engagement partners.

In order to stay up to date with music census findings, visit musiccitycensus.com. 


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Nashville Zoo recently welcomed six one-month-old skunk kits!

Named after cheeses, Cheddar, Feta, Havarti, Brie, Fontina, and Munster, are destined to become the big cheese in educational programs as ambassador animals at other zoos.

At the Nashville Zoo, there are three adult skunks, Rosemary, Parsley, and Nutmeg, who are ambassador animals in educational programs. Skunks are crucial in the local environment as natural pest controllers, feasting on ticks, termites, wasps, and more!

They prefer to use their striking stripes to ward off predators rather than wasting energy on spraying. So, if you encounter a skunk in the wild, stay calm and simply walk away.

For more information on the zoo’s skunks and all the animals you can see, visit www.nashvillezoo.org.

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