Scipio Elementary School third graders Adelyn Eaton, left, and Cami Harmon are all smiles for the first day of the 2019-20 school year on Tuesday, Aug. 6. Judging by their faces, they were are happy to be back in school and ready to learn after the summer break.-Submitted Photo
With little fanfare, the Jennings County Council on Tuesday rescinded the controversial jail tax.
It was no surprise whatsoever that the vote was unanimous. All seven councilors - Mike Gerth (R-District 1), Mandy Creech (R-District 2), Bob Ellis (R-District 3), Charlie Weber (R-District 4), Howard Malcomb (R-at large), Paul Belding (R-at large) and Dave Woodall (R-at large) - have been voicing their desire for months to abolish the special income tax.
"Obviously we are not going to build a new jail," said Malcomb, the council president, before the vote. "We have a work-release program starting next year (in partnership with Jackson County and the City of Seymour) and there is a new state program that will take the Level 6 felons. Plus, more beds have been added to our jail."
Jennings County's jail tax - which has a rate of .65 percent of gross adjusted income for all county residents - has been in effect since Jan. 1. The tax will go off the books on Dec. 31, by which time $3.1 million in revenue will have been generated. That money will then be transferred to the county's Rainy Day Fund as is required by state law.
"We want to keep that amount locked in the Rainy Day Fund until we approve how that money is to be used," Creech said, making that part of the motion she made to rescind the jail tax. Wednesday, October 9, 2019
The Jennings County Council on Tuesday committed to a $101,000 pledge as part of the matching fund necessary for the Town of Vernon's application for a Next Level Trail grant (see related stories on page 4A).
A recent tabletop disaster exercise keyed on a mock derailment of a freight train in Jennings County carrying hazardous chemicals. Other possible emergency situations were included in the day-long exercise coordinated by the county's Emergency Management Agency (EMA).
Candidates voiced praise for the "greening" of North Vernon with several calling for even more environmental friendly initiatives, including making curbside recycling the next big push.
The 2019 North Vernon Political Forum at the Park Theatre Civic Centre on Wednesday featured 10 of the candidates running in next month's city election. It was a congenial event with candidates agreeing on the issues they discussed.
Incumbents, including Mayor Mike Ochs, talked about the progress made during their terms, noting the solar energy initiative and the development of the new Tripton Park as proof.
"We are now a solar city, as far as I know the first in the state," said Ochs, a Republican running for re-election against Democratic challenger Colleen Malone. "Every city building in North Vernon is powered by solar energy, and that's a big savings to the taxpayer. Once the bond (that funded the solar conversion) is paid for, the city will never have to pay for energy again. We earned a clean climate award from the state for our solar project, which really is a big deal."
Ochs called North Vernon "a going town" and cited his administration's efforts in accelerating progress.
A Jennings County jury of 11 men and one woman found Stephon Moore, 30, of Louisville, Ky., guilty of murdering Donavon Booker, 23, and of attempting to murder his best friend, Larry Evans, in the early evening hours of April 15, 2019.
It took the jury less than three hours to reach the unanimous verdicts and decide Moore was innocent of the attempted murder of Richard Evans, Larry's father, and innocent of stealing a firearm.
Family members visibly reacted in relief, with several shaking their fists downward in a "Yes!" gesture. As court adjoined, they hugged each other and greeted prosecutors with handshakes and hugs.
Several declined comment afterwards, but the victim's sister, Desiree Booker, said "We are happy with the verdict. I think Donovan would be happy."
Prosecutor Brian Belding admitted he was nervous as he waited for the jury to return, and noted he was both "relieved" and "not surprised" when he heard the verdict.
The two counts that Moore was found not guilty of did not surprise this attorney, as evidence was contradictory on the attempted shooting of Richard Evans and there was no evidence presented that indicated Moore knew the gun was stolen or that he actually stole the weapon.
Belding did the yeoman's job in this case, which started Monday, Sept. 23, with jury selection and ran Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and concluded Monday at 11:11 a.m. Wednesday, October 2, 2019
It looked like a scene at the aftermath of a tornado, debris strewn everywhere along a 300-foot long path of destruction.
A semi-truck went off U.S. 50 and plowed through two buildings in Butlerville at around 4:20 a.m. Thursday, totally destroying both structures. The buildings were still standing but with gaping holes lined up perfectly with each other.
The semi driver, Joshua H. Smith, 26, of Milan, somehow escaped serious injuries.
"This is by far the worst nonfatality accident I've ever seen," said Deputy Thomas Mellencamp of the Jennings County Sheriff's Office. "It is just unbelievable."
Until earlier this year, the buildings were the Campbell Township Volunteer Fire Department station and garage, and housed fire engines and trucks.
The fire department still owns the smaller building, the first one hit by the semi. The accident knocked out the fire department's radio repeater in that building. The truck narrowly missed the radio transmitter tower and an electrical utility pole next to that building as well as the tornado warning siren that was just installed less than two years ago.
After barreling through the smaller building, the semi then smashed through the adjacent building that had been the main Campbell Township's fire station until last January. That building was being used by the new owner, Joe Alcorn, as a garage. A pickup truck parked inside was destroyed, along with a couple of boats, a four-wheeler and other items.
The jury in the Stephon Moore murder case began deliberations Monday morning, with closing arguments ringing in the ears of the jury who will decide whether the Louisville resident shot and killed Donavon Booker in cold blood or whether he shot the 23-year-old in self defense on April 15, 2019.
A semi-truck plowed through two buildings in Butlerville at around 4:20 a.m. Thursday, destroying both structures. Until earlier this year, the buildings were the Campbell Township Volunteer Fire Department station and garage. The semi driver, Joshua H. Smith, 26, of Milan, was taken to St. Vincent Jennings Hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries. No one else was injured. More details in the next edition of The Sun. Thursday, September 26, 2019
Those entering the Jennings County Courthouse Tuesday morning were greeted by the heaviest security this courthouse has ever seen. Armed Jennings County Sheriff SWAT team members kept vigil at the public entrance as other Indiana State Police and sheriff SWAT members, Indiana State Police officers and Jennings County Sheriff personnel made sure the public and staff remained safe throughout the day.
"This is the safest place in Jennings County," presiding Judge Jon Webster commented.
The high security alert was the result of a threat called in to one of the witnesses scheduled to testify at the Stephon Moore murder trial, which opened Tuesday morning. Jury selection was held all day Monday, with one woman and 13 men selected to hear the case.
At the close of the trial, 12 will decide the guilt or innocence of the 30-year-old Louisville man charged with shooting Country Squire Lakes resident Donavon Booker, 23, late afternoon April 15, 2019.
Moore is also charged with two counts of attempted murder as well as theft of the 9-millimeter handgun used in the incident. Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Some of the sweeping changes proposed for the Jennings County Area Plan Commission were welcomed, though not exactly with open arms by its board, while other suggestions drew criticism during a two-hour information meeting last week.
Drainage issues at the city-owned St. Annes Golf Course were discussed at length by the North Vernon Redevelopment Commission (NVRC) on Monday, Sept. 16.
In the end, the Commission - also known as the TIF Board - followed the recommendation of city attorney Larry Greathouse.
"Get the new golf course board involved," Greathouse advised. "Let them drive this project, not the TIF board." Pat York, NVRC president, agreed.
"We are here as the entity to help with the financing on projects such as this one," York said. "It's not our job to do the planning and go into all the details."
The North Vernon City Council earlier this month created and appointed a five-member St. Annes Golf Course Board to oversee operations at the 18-hole course that the city purchased in 2014.
The golf course board includes Mary Jo Bender, appointed by Jack Kelley (R-District 1); Jarrod Daeger, appointed by Trent Wisner (D-District 2); Tony Starkey, appointed by Connie Rayburn (D-District 3); Kathy Eaton-McKalip, appointed by Brian Hatfield (R-District 4); and Phillip Marsh, appointed by Jerry Lamb (R-at large).
The board has yet to meet but will soon, according to Mayor Mike Ochs.
One of the issues they will be dealing with is the poor drainage at the golf course which, in particular, makes it difficult to maintain good turf on the fairways. Monday, September 23, 2019
The smoke is so thick that you, literally, cannot see your hand in front of your face. You're carrying 50 pounds of equipment which keeps you alive as you try to see through the plastic mask in front of your eyes, squinting to make out shapes.