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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 7-9-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for July 9, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Spring Hill Graduation Prayer Gets Push-back (CDH)

A Spring Hill middle school is receiving pushback after a school official was found mixing religious prayer into official school ceremonies — the second such time the official was recorded doing so.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to protect the separation of church and state, sent a letter of concern to Battle Creek Middle School after a parent at the school told the organization that the school’s principal, Mike Kinnard, was leading students in prayer at a May 23, 2024 graduation ceremony.

This is the second such incident with the same individual, who was called out by FFRF in 2023 for using a number of Bible verses and prayer to conclude an awards ceremony.

After both the 2023 and 2024 incidents, Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura told the FFRF, in identical letters, that she spoke privately with the principal about the misconduct. The organization has posted the letters online.

“I have investigated this incident and spoken with (Kinnard),” Ventura’s letter stated, both times. “The actions of (Kinnard) violated the school district’s policies and procedures. I have issued a private letter of concern, and he has been instructed not to repeat this behavior going forward.”

Ventura also repeated that school administration would receive training to further prevent such incidents.

“It makes no difference how many students want prayer or would not be offended by prayer at their graduation ceremony; courts have continually reaffirmed that the rights of minorities are nonetheless protected by the Constitution,” FFRF Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow Hirsh M. Joshi wrote to Ventura in response to the May graduation ceremony.

Neither Ventura nor Kinnard replied to requests for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down prayers at school-sponsored events multiple times, including public school graduations, including the 1922 case of Lee v. Weisman, which declared clergy-delivered prayers at a public school graduation unconstitutional, and the 2000 case Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, which found that pre-planned prayers at graduation ceremonies are also unconstitutional, even if student-led.

According to 2020 census data collected by the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, Maury County is in the top 10 counties for highest religious diversity in the state, with a score of 0.576 per 96,000 residents.

The index is calculated so that a score of 1 signifies every religious group is equal in size, and a score of 0 indicates a complete lack of diversity and one religious group comprises the entire population of a given county. The average religious diversity score by county in the U.S. is 0.625, according to PRRI.

According to the same data, Maury County is 64% Christian.

Despite the repeat incidents at the school, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said she is optimistic that the school will take steps to ensure adherence to the establishment clause.

“Even as the actions of this principal have continued to violate the Constitution, we will continue to keep children free from such conduct,” Gaylor said. “We’re pleased that Battle Creek will ensure graduation ceremonies going forward will honor the accomplishments of students instead of being misused for religious proselytization.”

Bowling Named to Hospital Board (MauryCountySource)

Maury Regional Health is pleased to announce the appointment of Julie Bowling to its board of trustees. Bowling brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in insurance and employee benefits to the organization and served as a member of the advisory board from 2022-2024.

“Since its inception in 1953, Maury Regional Health has been blessed with strong leadership through its board of trustees. Mrs. Bowling’s service on the board will add to that tradition,” said Maury Regional CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “Her background and proven advocacy for her community will be invaluable assets as we strive towards delivering a clinically excellent, compassionate experience for our patients.”

Bowling serves as general counsel for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Bureau Insurance – Tennessee. She graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a degree in agriculture.

Bowling received her J.D. with high honors from Emory University School of Law in 2006. She practiced law in Atlanta, Georgia for three years, focusing on tax controversy and litigation, before moving to Columbia to serve as assistant general counsel. She later took on the additional role of manager for payroll and benefits. Today, Bowling enjoys working on a variety of legal issues for the Tennessee Farm Bureau and its service companies including employment law, tax issues, litigation, insurance law, and agricultural law. She is licensed to practice law in Tennessee and Georgia.

“As someone who has experienced excellent care from Maury Regional and have seen people I care about receive excellent care, I am honored to join the board of Trustees of Maury Regional Health and look forward to contributing to its mission,” said Board Member Julie Bowling. “Together, I believe we can create a positive impact to health care in our region.”

The board of trustees for Maury Regional Health is comprised of nine members. Beverly Horner serves as chair, Scott Gaines as vice chair, with additional members being Jeff Adams, MD, Greg Martin, Jan McKeel, Drew Parker, Brian Williams and Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD.

Fire Chief Certified (MSM)

Captain Will Craft of Columbia Fire & Rescue has successfully completed the process that awards the professional designation of “Chief Training Officer” (CTO).

The Commission on Professional Credentialing® (CPC®) met on June 15, 2024, to confer the designation. Captain Craft is one of only 12 CTOs in the State of Tennessee.

The CTO designation program is a voluntary program designed to recognize individuals who demonstrate their excellence in seven measured components: experience, education, professional development, professional contributions, association membership, community involvement and technical competence. In addition, all applicants are required to identify a future professional development plan.

The program uses a comprehensive peer review model to evaluate candidates seeking the credential. The Commission on Professional Credentialing awards the designation only after an individual successfully meets all the organization’s stringent criteria.

Fire Chief Chris Cummins remarked, “Captain Craft’s dedication and hard work exemplify the highest standards of our profession. This designation is a testament to his unwavering commitment to training excellence and the safety of our community.”

This professional designation is valid for three years. To maintain the designation, recipients must demonstrate ongoing growth in professional development, contributions to the field, active association membership and community involvement. Additionally, they must adhere to a strict code of professional conduct.

The Commission on Professional Credentialing, an entity of the Center for Public Safety Excellence, Inc., administers the Designation Program. The CPC consists of individuals from academia, federal and local government and the fire and emergency medical services profession.

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.

MRMC Adds Surgical Suite (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) is thrilled to announce the launch of a newly renovated hybrid vascular operating room, an investment of nearly $2.5M. This surgical suite combines advanced imaging and surgical capabilities in one space.

 “This operating suite was specifically designed to do two things. First, enhance vascular surgeries through the implementation of new state-of-the-art imaging capabilities and, second, provide additional operating space for other growing service lines, such as general surgery,” said CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “Building this surgical suite is a significant investment toward meeting the surgical needs of patients from Maury and surrounding counties.”

Minimally invasive surgical procedures are complex and technically demanding, requiring high-quality, flexible imaging capabilities. A clinical trend toward minimally invasive procedures is driving demand for hybrid operating rooms. Vascular procedures are a type of surgery that treats blood vessel and heart flow complications – such as aortic aneurysm, stroke or blood clots. More specifically, vascular procedures that can be accomplished in the new space include endovascular, laparoscopic, aortic, carotid, dialysis access, vascular fistula creation, transcarotid artery revascularization and percutaneous nephrostomy surgeries. However, this space is not limited to vascular surgeries and can be leveraged for many other operations.

“The operating room incorporates sophisticated technology from floor to ceiling,” said Brian Kendrick, MD, a board-certified vascular surgeon on the medical staff. “It’s a game-changer in our field, enhancing our capabilities to treat even the most complex vascular conditions.”

The advanced Azurion imaging system from Philips supplies high-quality imaging, achieving excellent visibility at low X-ray dose levels for patients of all sizes. Specializing in hybrid operating rooms, Getinge’s state-of-the-art operating tables work seamlessly with Philips’ imaging systems and support a wide variety of patient positions that are suitable for any imaging and surgery.

The hybrid vascular operating room also includes Ten Medical’s Skytron Indigo-Clean ceiling light system. Essentially, Indigo-Clean leverages the visible light spectrum to transmit a wavelength (405nm) that kills harmful bacteria and viruses, such as C. diff, MRSA and SARS-CoV-2. The Skytron lights are top performers for brightness and shadow control, giving every angle optimal viewability.

“As a vascular surgeon, safety is paramount in every procedure we perform,” said Patrick Yu, MD, a board-certified vascular surgeon on the medical staff. “Our new hybrid vascular operating room offers greater precision and visibility, ensuring we can deliver the highest standard of care to our patients.”

All these technologies in one room make MRMC’s new surgical suite one of the most advanced and safest in the state of Tennessee. MRMC is the only hospital in Tennessee to receive the excellence in patient safety and outstanding patient experience awards from Healthgrades® in 2024. Maury Regional Health also has invested in four da Vinci robotic surgical systems, which enhances surgical vision, precision, dexterity and control.

MRMC offers 16 surgical suites, on-site pathology capabilities, an endovascular lab and a digital imaging system that enables physicians to view diagnostic images such as MRIs during the surgical procedure. In addition to surgical services available at MRMC, convenient locations for surgery are in Lewisburg, Spring Hill and Waynesboro. Maury Regional Health recently held a groundbreaking ceremony on May 30 to launch construction of the Orthopedic Surgical Institute on the MRMC campus. More than 50 physicians on the medical staff perform surgical procedures and all the anesthesiologists on our medical staff are board-certified. 

Training Helped Prepare County for Tornado (MSM)

Just weeks before the May 8 tornado, Maury County participated in an All-Hazards Incident Management Team (A-HIMT) exercise in collaboration with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), the City of Columbia and multiple statewide and local partners focusing on tornado response and recovery. This proactive initiative aimed to bolster the team and county’s preparedness and response capabilities ahead of the tornado season.

The exercise, conducted just weeks before the devastating tornadoes of May 8-9, 2024, provided Maury County leadership with critical insights and practical experience in managing severe weather incidents. Participants from numerous county and local departments, emergency services, and partner agencies engaged in a series of realistic scenarios designed to test and enhance their coordination, communication, incident management, and decision-making skills.

“Engaging in this comprehensive exercise was invaluable,” said Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt. “It allowed our team to identify strengths and areas for improvement in a controlled environment, ensuring we are better prepared to protect our community in the event of a real tornado.”

City of Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder also emphasized the importance of the exercise, stating, “The AHIMT exercise was an essential step in strengthening our city’s emergency response framework. It provided us with a clearer understanding of how to manage tornado-related emergencies and reinforced the necessity of coordinated efforts to protect our residents.”

During the exercise, participants navigated simulated emergency operations, including initial response efforts, damage assessment, resource allocation, debris management, volunteer coordination, public information dissemination, and inter-agency collaboration. This hands-on experience equipped Maury County officials with a deeper understanding of the protocols and procedures necessary to manage an effective disaster response.

“The timing of this exercise could not have been more critical,” remarked Maury County Emergency Management Director, Jeff Hardy. “The knowledge and experience gained directly influenced our real-world response efforts, enabling us to address the tornadoes that followed more efficiently and effectively.”

The collaboration with TEMA and the All-Hazards Incident Management Team program underscores Maury County’s commitment to enhancing its emergency management capabilities. The exercise is part of a broader strategy to integrate advanced training and preparedness measures to safeguard residents and infrastructure from natural disasters and emergencies.

“The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is dedicated to supporting local jurisdictions as they prepare and bolster their readiness and crisis management capabilities,” stated TEMA Director Patrick C. Sheehan. “Maury County’s and the City of Columbia’s proactive approach and participation in the AHIMT exercise demonstrates leadership commitment and a steadfast resolve to community resilience.”

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency recognizes the incredible value in the development of local and state partnerships, and the AHIMT exercise provides an opportunity to develop those relationships and capabilities. With local administrators, emergency management personnel, and state AHIMT members working together, the state can continue to strengthen our emergency readiness.

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

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…

Nashville Area Top 10 for National Growth (Tennessean)

The Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area has been named one of the fastest growing areas in the country for 2024. The report comes from Exploding Topics, which drew its data from the most recent US Census (2020), worldometers,,, and related sources. Exploding Topics is a site which determines trends using a combination of data analytics, machine learning, and human analysis.

Nashville claimed the No. 10 spot, behind metro areas in Texas, Arizona and Florida.

In 2023, the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area — which includes Davidson, Murfreesboro and Franklin — increased by approximately 86 people a day, said the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce in March. The rise in population occurred through natural population changes as well as more people coming from other parts of the country.

More recently, information from the U.S. Census Bureau highlighted how Tennessee's population changed between 2022 and 2023. According to the data, between July 2022 and July 2023 Tennessee saw a 1.1% change in population.

The Middle Tennessee area saw the biggest increases with Clarksville and Spring Hill each seeing spikes of more than 2%. Surrounding areas also saw population increases including Murfreesboro, up by 1.9%, Smyrna, up by 1.6% and Franklin, up by 1.3%.

The report from Exploding Topics attributed the expanding growth to tourism, the healthcare industry and multiple businesses setting up headquarters in the Nashville Area. For example Bridgestone Americas Inc., Nissan North America, Tractor Supply and pretty soon — Oracle Corp.

Here are the top 20 fastest growing Metro areas, according to the report.

Austin, Texas

Raleigh, N.C.

Orlando, Fla.

Charleston, S.C.

Houston, Texas

Sarasota, Fla.

San Antonio, Texas

Dallas, Texas

Phoenix, Ariz.

Nashville, Tenn.

Charlotte, N.C.

Denver, Colo.

Las Vegas, Nev.

Seattle, Wash.

Jacksonville, Fla.

Tampa, Fla.

Atlanta, Ga.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Oklahoma City, Okla.

McAllen, Texas

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Bring your boards to Walnut Street Skate Park on Saturday, July 13 at 10 a.m. for the 3rd annual Skate Jam, hosted by Spring Hill Parks & Recreation!

There will be categories for skateboarders of all ages, plus an additional category for the overall best trick. Entry into the competition is free and you will have the chance to win prizes donated from local skate shops and sponsors!

To participate in the 2024 Skate Jam, you must sign a Participation Form. If you are under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian must complete the form for you.

You can find more information at


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