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
While the Jennings County Council voted unanimously last week to rescind the jail tax, it's not legal yet.
The council will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, where its members are expected to again vote unanimously to eliminate the special income tax.
When the council voted last Tuesday, its members did not realize that any change to the jail tax had to be done after a public hearing that had been advertised in the local newspaper of record, per state law.
That will obviously be a mere formality as members of the council have no intention of changing their previous vote on the controversial tax.
"This process has been a shabby one, but in the end I think we will get it right," said Councilor Charlie Weber (R-District 4). "With so many of us going through our first year (on the council), we are learning a lot and have made some mistakes along the way. I know that excuse is coming to a very quick end, and it should. But we are the wiser for them."
The jail tax, with a rate of .65 percent of gross adjusted income for all county residents, has been in effect since Jan. 1. Provided the council votes, as expected, to abolish the tax before a Nov. 1 deadline, it will end on Dec. 31.
By the time the tax is formally abolished, $3.1 million in revenue will have been generated. That money will then be transferred to the county's rainy day fund as required by state law.
Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness on Thursday announced 229 Indiana cities, towns, and counties received a combined $99.2 million in state matching funds for local road projects through the Next Level Roads: Community Crossings Initiative.
With little fanfare, the Jennings County Council on Tuesday rescinded the controversial jail tax.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.