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GOOD MORNING MIDDLE TENNESSEE 6/16/21

Updated: 2 days ago

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

Southern Springs Annexation (CDH)

Spring Hill planners voted this week on a proposed annexation, which would add nearly 200 new homes to the Del Webb Southern Springs community, with a recommendation it be denied.

The item will now move to the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen, who will have the final say on whether the proposed 52.7-acre annexation off Denning Lane moves forward.

The proposed annexation by Thomas & Hutton has drawn many mixed opinions since first being introduced in December, which was followed by multiple deferrals. Prior to Monday's vote, developer Pulte Homes requested the item be deferred a third time, and that it would use the extra time to "find common ground" among current Southern Springs residents.

The motion to defer, however, failed in a split 3-4 vote.

Monday's meeting also included nearly an hour of comments from Southern Springs residents, who also stated there have been nearly 100 emails sent to city staff, the majority of which included pleas to deny the proposal.

The concerns stemmed from a range of issues, including a lack of adequate amenities, the need for a second entrance to provide emergency access, water and sewer needs, as well as the fact that additional homes would increase the total number of units to more than 1,000, nearly double the 600 homes included in the original plans.

Some residents voiced their support for the annexation, stating the parcel should be developed as an addition to Southern Springs. If it doesn't, there's a chance the parcel could one day become something that goes against the 55-and-up aesthetic, like single or multi-family homes, apartments or commercial space. By keeping it in Southern Springs, it would keep the theme and vibe residents were hoping to get when they moved there.

The discourse over the annexation has also driven a wedge between residents, making it a somewhat hostile environment lacking the sense of unity such retirement communities are intended to provide.

"The rhetoric that developed over several months became increasingly negative in tone, and impractical with its demands, and I felt like it was pulling the Southern Springs community apart," Frank Saitta, another Southern Springs resident, said.

When it came time for discussion, some commissioners voiced their reasons for not supporting the requested deferral.

Others, as well as city attorney Patrick Carter, addressed the "proper practice" and legalities regarding the item, which included the fact it had already been deferred multiple times.

When it came time to vote, the board voted 6-0-1 to submit a denial recommendation to the BOMA, with Alderman Ballard abstaining due to being a Southern Springs resident.

Criminal Victims Assistance (CDH)

The Maury County Commission’s budget committee plans to divide $44,000 in county funds between four local nonprofit organizations that assist local families and children as part of the county's funding for criminal victims assistance programs.

The county’s budget committee unanimously approved the change during a special called session on Tuesday for the first time dedicating a portion of the funds to the Kid’s Place Child Advocacy Center.

The Lawrence County-based nonprofit organization specializes in serving child victims of sexual abuse and severe physical abuse and their non-offending family members in the 22nd Judicial District, which include Lawrence, Giles, Wayne and Maury counties in Southern Middle Tennessee.

In Maury County, the organization works directly with the Maury County Sheriff's Department, the Spring Hill Police Department the Columbia Police Department and the Mt. Pleasant Police Department.

"Those detectives do not have the training to interview child victims," said Caleb Bayless, an assistant district attorney, during the Tuesday meeting. "They also work with people with learning disabilities."

He said the organization's investigators can pursue a case through questioning without the process being an interrogation of the victim.

"If there is a slice of pie to get, I think they are very deserving," Bayless said. "They help make our community better for child victims."

The organization uses a multidisciplinary approach that includes working with the Department of Children’s Services, the District Attorney General’s office to provide forensic medical exams to law enforcement, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security.

“I know how well they operate and how well they do it,” said Brent Cooper, the district attorney for the region.

The county funds will be shared equally between the Kids’ Place, Columbia’s Center of Hope, the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Maury County (CASA) and The Family Center with each organization receiving an $11,000 contribution from the local government.

Center of Hope serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking, providing services that include counseling, emergency shelter, court advocacy, transitional housing and support groups.

CASA of Maury County is part of the national organization of volunteers who advocate to help children, who are victims of abuse and neglect navigate the legal system.

The Family Center, also known as The South Central Family Center Inc., is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals to break the cycle of poverty by offering a food bank and other assistance programs to help families reestablish stability.

“Thank God all of you are here,” said commissioner Matthew White to the leaders of each organization attending the meeting.

“You are serving our most vulnerable, and we are very thankful for that.”

Parks Non-Compliant (CDH)

Maury County’s landfill at Chickasaw Trace Park has again left the local park’s department unable to receive grant funding.

Members of the commission learned on Monday that the Maury County Parks Department was ineligible to receive a $500,000 grant because of the landfill, which is currently closed for inspection, located near the Duck River and neighboring county park.

Al Ray, the department’s director, told county commissioners the local government will continue to remain ineligible to receive funding as long as the landfill's closing process continues, contradicting a sentiment shared by leaders in 2020, stating that the county was in compliance with the state.

Ray said it was the first grant application that the parks department has been denied.

“We will get the ship righted,” Ray said. “We have a lot of good things going on, and we will get them done. Things change, but as of today, we are out of compliance.”

He explained the situation as the county’s budget committee reviewed a plan to spend more than $230,000 to purchase a plot of land to be used to establish the first county park in Culleoka.

The committee continued to move forward with the acquisition during the Monday meeting. The item will be reviewed by the full commission on June 21. Although covered, the landfill is expected to be officially deemed as closed by Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation in 2022 when the site could be opened to the public.

The landfill currently remains in an extended closure process, while the site is being observed for any potential signs of leachate or any liquid that, in the course of passing through the site, could contaminate the surrounding area.

With runoff from the dump previously detected as recently as 2019, studies of the neighboring Duck River water indicate the water remains clean.

In November 2019, a motion to rescind a 2018 decision to close the landfill, and continue pursuit of a more than 20-acre expansion of the dump into the county park, failed before the commission, ahead of the board's decision to move forward with permanently closing the site.

Since 2018, the county has shipped its waste to a site in neighboring Marshall County sending about $1.5 million shipping waste out of the county each year.

The Local Parks and Recreation Fund, the state body that offers grant funding to the county parks department has previously withheld funds due to the landfill.

In 2019, the opening of Maury County’s Yanahli Park, a 474-acre expansion of Maury County Parks and Recreation with more than two miles of trails, was delayed due to an ongoing debate in the local county government to either expand the landfill or close it.

Under the current conditions, Ray said the county will be ineligible to participate in the state's biennial grant cycle.

Because of the situation, the department was unable to make a request during the 2018 grant cycle.

“We have pushed them to the edge,” Ray said. “We have continued to pursue a course of action that would lead to nothing but this.”

CSCC Enrollment (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College is offering in-person drop-in days for students who need assistance with fall enrollment.

Students can stop by any Columbia State campus on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 7:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. If evening services are needed, students can drop by the Columbia Campus Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 7:45 a.m. and 6 p.m.

No appointments are necessary for students who need in-person assistance with admissions, financial aid or help scheduling an advising appointment.

Virtual advising via Zoom is also offered every Wednesday between 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. or 3 – 5 p.m., and logging into: https://columbiastate.zoom.us/my/columbiastateadvising. No appointment is necessary, however, students will be assisted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Students must apply for fall admission by August 6. In an effort to transition safely back to campus, the college is increasing the number of in-person classes offered this fall. Fall registration closes August 17. Fall course schedules will include a mixture of instructional formats: in-person, live-streaming Desktop Video Conferencing (DVC) via Zoom, online, and hybrid.

Upon acceptance, new students must schedule an appointment with an adviser to register for classes and attend an online orientation session. Columbia State advisers are ready to help students with the registration process, answer questions and create a plan based on their individual needs.

Applications are currently accepted online at www.ColumbiaState.edu/Apply.

For more information about applying or registering, visit the Columbia State website at www.ColumbiaState.edu, call (931) 540-2790, or email Admissions@ColumbiaState.edu.

Experience Spring Hill (Press Release)

The Annual “Experience Spring Hill” event will take place at Spring Hill High School on July 24th. Doors open from 10 am - 2pm, with interactive outdoor activities outside starting at 9am. This event promises to deliver something for everyone while promoting the concept of “Shop Local”.

Created to allow local residents to encounter all that the city has to offer, it also provides local businesses the chance to build relationships in the community. “Experience Spring Hill” perfectly showcases the local economy all under one roof, and without the traffic!

The event, presented by Liberty Financial, aims to offer residents, both longstanding and new, a glimpse into the growing businesses that are committed to serving the community.

There will be a variety of SHOP, EAT, PLAY, vendors at this year’s event. Attendees will be able to interact with over 70+ businesses throughout the venue represented in areas mimicking Spring Hill, such as “Main Street”. Families can meet kid friendly businesses and sign up for upcoming events and classes.

Foodies will be thrilled to know that the “Food Garden” is back with even more lunch options and signature samples from local restaurants.

New this year, attendees will have the opportunity to interact with a variety of vehicles, including a “Touch-An-Emergency-Truck” station, outside the main entrance. Inside, attendees can expect LIVE demonstrations at the FUN ZONE. Additionally, all attendees can expect to learn Fun facts about Spring Hill and register for prizes throughout the event.

“We are so proud of our community, especially the businesses, and everything they were able to overcome last year”, said Executive Director Becca Melton. “Experience Spring Hill is the perfect opportunity for the return of ‘normalcy’. I’m thrilled that our residents will have the in-person opportunity to learn more about Spring Hill and to engage with the businesses that serve the area. I’d encourage everyone to come out and discover how you can support local!”

For more information about “Experience Spring Hill”, please contact Kelli Johnson at 931-486-0625 or email kmessmer@springhillchamber.com.

The Spring Hill Chamber’s mission is to positively influence business culture to create a better Spring Hill. The Chamber provides professional development, networking opportunities, and support services for local professionals interested in building relationships and growing their business. In addition, the Chamber serves the local business community by helping our members thrive while being a connector and trusted resource to the Spring Hill community.

Good Morning, Middle Tennessee and welcome back to your live news on WKOM/WKRM radio, that’s 101.7 and 103.7, your front porch to news and information in Southern Middle Tennessee. I’m your host, Tom Price.

Cepicky Calls for Patience (Williamson Homepage)

Tennessee House Rep. Scott Cepicky spoke before the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday evening and suggested to both the board and city residents that they practice patience as two major road projects on I-65 are about to commence.

Those two projects are Spring Hill's own I-65 interchange at Buckner Road, and the Bear Creek Pike interchange project in Columbia. Construction on the Buckner Road interchange has already commenced and is expected to be completed by 2024, whereas construction on the Bear Creek Pike interchange will commence in about a month.

With both projects expected to be completed around 2024, Cepicky urged Spring Hillians to be patient as the two major road projects get underway simultaneously.

"Sen. [Joey] Hensley, myself and others are very concerned about the Bear Creek Interchange project starting about the same time Buckner is going to start; you're going to have two major road construction projects on I-65 for roughly three years," Cepicky said. "We need to start telling everybody you've got to be patient for a while."

Cepicky said that he and Hensley are "constantly" making phone calls with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) about getting road projects underway in Maury County. Among the topics discussed between the parties was the potential impact to traffic on I-65 for the next three years.

To Cepicky's surprise, TDOT representatives told him that they do not expect traffic flow to be disrupted whatsoever over the next three years, despite the two major construction projects.

"I pray they're correct," Cepicky said.

Alderman Hazel Nieves also asked Cepicky if there were any updates on the U.S. 31 widening project, which is expected to commence no later than 2022.

"We constantly make phone calls, we just take turns every week between Sen. Hensley and myself calling TDOT and saying 'hey, did you ever hear about this road called 31?'" Cepicky said.

"We know the economic impact and just the viability that expanding 31 has to happen. We know that for Maury County to thrive and succeed, Spring Hill has to be able to have commerce and people getting in and out of it. We are well aware, we make calls all the time."

In 2019, the U.S. 31 widening project was placed on the state's three-year transportation plan, with the project's functional layout draft being released earlier this year.

…And now, news from around the state.

Migrant Children

Gov. Bill Lee is asking the U.S. Senate to investigate the arrival of unaccompanied migrant children in Tennessee, a request that comes as the Republican governor continues to slam the Biden administration over a lack of transparency on the issue.

Lee and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a fellow Republican, sent the letter on Thursday to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley in April requested that Senate Democrats hold hearings to discuss the influx of migrants at the southern border since President Joe Biden took office.

"Both Iowa and Tennessee have faced a series of disturbing incidents involving the transport of unaccompanied children into our states, under the cover of darkness, with no advance notification," the governors wrote in the letter.

So far this fiscal year, which began in October, 1,111 unaccompanied children have been released in Tennessee, according to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Lee's office has not elaborated on the process by which they learned of unaccompanied minors arriving in and being connected with sponsors in prior years. They have criticized the Biden administration after local media in Chattanooga reported last month that flights of migrant youth had landed at Wilson Air Center, taking particular issue with the late-night timing of the arrivals.

Reynolds' office has also raised questions in recent weeks about which federal agency was responsible for transporting unaccompanied children after learning about a plane that landed in Des Moines in early May, according to the letter to Grassley.

While Lee's office has said they have received little to no communication from the Biden administration about the issue, in the letter, they note that Tennessee Department of Safety Commissioner Jeff Long spoke by phone with HHS officials May 25 after sending an email the day before requesting information.

Lee's office previously stated Long did not receive a response from HHS to the email inquiry.

"HHS noted that 'flights should not be happening in the dead of night' yet provided no clarity around how the process would function moving forward," the governors wrote about Long's call with federal officials.

Both Lee and Reynolds previously declined a request by the federal government to provide housing for unaccompanied minors, such as using Tennessee National Guard facilities.

The governors wrote that they are seeking answers to multiple questions, including whether "recent flights and placements of unaccompanied minors" began taking place "after states declined to use state resources to house them."

HHS has not responded to questions from media outlets about its current or previous protocols for transporting children to sponsors and how they communicate with states about doing so.

Schwinn To Visit Schools (Tennessean)

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn is launching a bus tour to highlight summer learning and "celebrate" a job well done this school year.

Starting June 14, Schwinn is hitting the road to visit 50 school districts over the course of three weeks, the state education department announced last week.

The “Accelerating TN” bus tour is meant to spotlight summer learning programs and school districts' efforts to bolster student achievement after a year of disruption related to the pandemic.

“After countless disruptions caused by a global pandemic, Tennessee is focused on implementing innovative and student-focused learning opportunities that will help accelerate student achievement,” Schwinn said in a news release. “The Accelerating TN bus tour will support the important work happening this summer — highlighting best practices, facilitating key discussions and connecting the many stakeholders who want to help all Tennessee students succeed."

School districts across the state are hosting summer programs this year — some for the first time in years, Schwinn said.

The summer programs are required under a new state law to tackle pandemic-related learning loss and prepare students for the upcoming school year. States across the country are launching extended learning programs this summer to help students recover after schools spent months opening and closing because of the pandemic.

Funded predominantly through federal coronavirus relief funds, most districts have already launched their summer programs for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Under the new law, districts are required to offer four- to six-week programs featuring six-hour days and extensive instruction in reading and math. Some districts, like Metro Nashville Public schools — which launched its own "Promising Scholars" program Monday — also extended summer learning opportunities to high school students.

The tour, Schwinn said, is not meant to assess how districts are implementing the new programs, but rather to celebrate.

"It's less about an assessment of the work and more about a celebration and commitment to kids," Schwinn said. "This year especially, people need that congratulations and recognition of a good job going forward, so this is as much as a celebration and encouragement program as it is anything else."

Other education department staff, state and local elected officials and community partners will take part in the bus tour.

On several visits, the commissioner will also meet with district leaders and attend roundtables to discuss local plans for using federal stimulus funds as well as the launch of the state's new Reading 360 literacy program.

Commissioner Schwinn will be visiting Maury and adjoining counties on June 29th.

Community College and Trade Schools Cost More (WPLN)

The Tennessee Board of Regents is weighing a small tuition and fee increase for the next academic year. The governing body over the state’s community and technical colleges will vote on the increase on June 18.

The Board of Regents’ business committee, which made the recommendation, says it’ll help offset cost-of-living adjustments for college staff members.

The increases, according to the board, would equate to $24 per trimester at trade schools and $42 to $45 per semester at the community colleges.

This means there will be a slight increase in what some students pay for a credit hour.

“What we are recommending is a $3 increase in the hourly base rate [at community colleges],” says Danny Gibbs, who heads the board’s Office of Business and Financial Operations. “So that would take the rate from $168 to $171.”

Tuition and fee revenue from the 2020-2021 academic year is down nearly $40 million because of COVID — although colleges did receive federal CARES ACT funds.

The board will also vote on whether to temporarily suspend fees at colleges that charge extra to take online classes.

Final Story of the Morning (Tennessean)

Plans are underway to celebrate Juneteenth in Nashville and Middle Tennessee as legislation passed last session designating it a "special observance" day.

Juneteenth is the cultural holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the United States.

In Nashville, the National Museum of African American Music is hosting three days of events starting with a Celebration of Legends benefit concert, honoring the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and ending with a Juneteenth Block Party from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.