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Hagerty touts gun rights during Beretta tour

Republicans in the U.S. Senate plan to oppose efforts to pass increased gun control measures in the wake of two recent high-profile mass shootings, Sen. Bill Hagerty said Monday in Gallatin.

Hagerty, who was elected in November, condemned the killing of 18 people last month while also reiterating his support for the Second Amendment following a tour of Beretta U.S.A.’s firearms manufacturing facility.

“This is a kneejerk reaction by the administration to use… the shootings as an excuse to come in and impose their agenda for more gun control legislation,” Hagerty told the Gallatin News.

Last week, President Joe Biden called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines following a shooting at a Colorado grocery store that left 10 people dead, including one police officer.

His remarks also came less than one week after eight others were killed during a series of shootings at three massage parlors in Georgia.

“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take commonsense steps that will save the lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said at the White House on March 23. “We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again.”

In 1994, Congress passed legislation banning the manufacture, transfer and possession of certain semiautomatic firearms along with large capacity ammunition magazines. The restrictions were allowed to expire a decade later after they failed to be extended.

Earlier this year, the House passed its own pair of gun control bills that would expand background checks and close the “Charleston loophole,” which allowed gun sales to occur without a completed background check if three business days had already passed.

“This is not and should not be a partisan issue; this is an American issue,” Biden said about the proposed legislation. “It will save lives – American lives – and we have to act.”

Hagerty, however, noted the likelihood the legislation will ultimately be approved in the Senate is “extremely low.”

“They are not going to get any support from me or from the Republicans in the Senate,” he said.

As for Beretta, Hagerty said the firearms producer has been “thriving” since opening its state-of-the-art manufacturing and engineering center in Gallatin five years ago.

“Bringing an iconic company like Beretta to Tennessee says a lot about the economic environment here, a lot about our workforce and a lot about our state being a strong proponent of the Second Amendment,” Hagerty added. “I’m very proud of that.”

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Sumner County Courthouse construction nears

Construction of a new Sumner County courthouse in downtown Gallatin is expected to begin later this year, according to officials involved with the project.

As early as this week, demolition work could start on an existing building located on the property at the corner of East Main Street and South Boyers Avenue next to the Gallatin Public Library, added Sumner County Commissioner Leslie Schell, who also serves as chair of the county’s general operations committee.

“It’s exciting to finally see movement going on with the construction of the courthouse,” Schell said. “The county, other than our school system, has never embarked on an endeavor this large, so we wanted to make sure that we took our time and got it right. I have 100 percent confidence that we have done that.”

Once the existing building is removed, crews will spend an estimated three months performing various site work on the property. Without any delays, construction of the new courthouse would begin in late summer and will last for two years.

The five-story, predominantly brick building will feature more than 46,000-square-feet of space and will consolidate all of the county’s courts under one roof once it opens in 2023.

County officials also expect to complete the purchase of property for a planned parking garage nearby within the next 30 days, according to Schell. The property is currently owned by the Gallatin Church of Christ and is located on East Franklin Street directly across from Christian Towers.

“We still have about six months of design work left on (the project),” Schell added. “As soon as they get that done, we’ll move along to construction.”

Gallatin city leaders have previously agreed verbally to partner with Sumner County to bring additional parking to the area. While the multi-level structure is expected to have approximately 370 spaces, specific details about the project and the partnership have not yet been finalized.

In 2017, Sumner County commissioners voted to hire Justice Planning Associates to review the county’s criminal justice and court facilities following several emergency funding requests for building repair projects.

Following the study, the firm recommended building a new courthouse, expanding the jail along with the sheriff’s office and renovating the existing courthouse in downtown Gallatin.

County leaders later voted to issue up to $103.6 million in general obligation school and public improvements bonds in December of 2019. Of that money, $86.75 million would be used to fund the design, construction and equipping of the new courthouse and nearby parking garage.

According to Schell, the parking garage is expected to take between nine months and one year to construct and would open sometime before the new courthouse was completed.

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TDEC: $1 million spent on Town Creek petroleum leak cleanup efforts

As an investigation continues into the source of a mysterious petroleum leak along Town Creek in Gallatin, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) officials say approximately $1 million has already been spent to help reduce foul odors for residents in the area.

In September, state contractors concluded a one-year investigation of facilities with active or previously active underground storage tanks along East Main Street and Hartsville Pike, according to Kim Schofinski, deputy communications director for TDEC.

Investigations were also conducted along the greenway and in the nearby residential neighborhood around Perrolee Street, Morton Avenue and Barton Drive.

However, the findings “did not conclusively identify a single source of the petroleum contamination,” according to Schofinski.

“Based on data collected and analyzed to date, there are not any active releases from the former or current (underground storage tank) facilities,” she added. “However, there is evidence of petroleum contamination at two of the current facilities that may be from historic operations.”

Last summer, officials say crews injected activated carbon into the ground to help absorb the petroleum-based products still in the bedrock and reduce the unpleasant odor affecting residents in the area.

The total cost of the remediation work had topped $1 million as of February and was being paid for by TDEC’s Division of Underground Storage Tanks, according to Schofinski.

While there have still been some reports of foul smells in the area, Gallatin Stormwater Utility Manager Lance Wagner said his office has received fewer overall complaints about the issue in recent months.

“To me, the smell is down quite a bit from where it was two and three years ago,” he added, attributing the decline to the work TDEC has been performing in the area.

City officials first started receiving reports of a sporadic foul smell along the greenway in 2016. While the odor continued to get stronger, it took two years until the first seep was located. In the fall of 2018, the investigation was then turned over to TDEC’s Division of Underground Storage Tanks after testing found petroleum constituents present in the groundwater samples.

Officials say they are still not sure how much petroleum still remains underground. However, previous water and air sampling performed by TDEC found that the low concentrations of the substance in the area were not flammable or dangerous to the public.

Additional investigations are still being planned, according to Schofinski. All of the data will then be used to develop a corrective action plan to clean up the affected areas.

In September, new signs were placed along the greenway to inform the public about the ongoing long-term cleanup efforts that are taking place in the area. Approximately 480 letters were also mailed earlier that year to nearby residents regarding the investigation and remediation efforts being conducted by the state.

As more rain occurs in the coming months, Wagner said he expects there will be more reports of unpleasant odors in the area.

“We’ve had less rain than we had in 2018 and 2019… so because of that there is less water flowing through the ground,” he added. “As we dry out in mid-summer into the fall, those (complaints) should go down again.”

For more information about the Town Creek Greenway project visit www.gallatintn.gov/1934/Town-Creek-Greenway-Project or contact the Gallatin Engineering Division at (615) 451-5965.

Mary Hance brings Ms. Cheap to Main Street Media

Mary Hance, better known to Middle Tennesseans as Ms. Cheap, has joined Main Street Media of Tennessee to write a weekly column for its 13 newspapers. Hance retired in January after a 45-year career with The Tennessean and the Nashville Banner. For 27 of those years, she shared her dollar-stretching savvy to the delight of readers. In her new column, Hance will highlight Ms. Cheap’s weekly pick, as well as share her money-saving strategies.

“I’m so excited our readers will now get a weekly dose of the iconic Ms. Cheap,” said Dave Gould, owner of Main Street Media of Tennessee. “Mary is a one-of-a-kind local institution, and we’re thrilled she’s joining our team of local journalists.”

Hance says this new partnership is a bona fide bargain. “I am so happy to be joining Main Street Nashville and its sister newspapers with my Ms. Cheap columns. I love writing about free and affordable things to do, good local sales, fun day trips, good, inexpensive local restaurants and other ways for us to do more with less.”

Hance’s passion for penny-pinching evolved into impactful charitable work. Over the past 12 years, her annual Ms. Cheap Penny Drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee has raised more than $1.3 million.

“I also love highlighting ways for us to stretch our dollars to help others in the community,” Hance said. I’m hoping to continue to connect local people with areas of need in Middle Tennessee by supporting nonprofits like Second Harvest Food Bank and Room in the Inn. I’m also planning to launch a T-shirt drive for the homeless later this spring as my first initiative with my new Main Street partners. So, stay tuned, and as always, ‘Stay cheap!’ ”

Hance says her readers have always shared great cheap tips, and she’s counting on them to continue sharing their wisdom. She can be reached at mscheap@mainstreetmediatn.com.