Firefighters quickly knocked down a blaze Tuesday night in downtown North Vernon but not before three buildings incurred damage.
While not nearly as destructive as the Fifth Street fire three-and-a-half years ago, the blaze still caused extensive damage. And a large number of spectators came out to watch the firefighters work on a unseasonably balmy night.
One of the structures, an old two-story brick apartment building at 9 S. Jennings St. where the fire started, is a total loss, according to North Vernon Fire Chief Mike Cole. The occupants safely got out of both apartment units, one upstairs and the other downstairs, but a dog perished in the upstairs apartment.
"When we got there, the back of that building was fully involved (with fire) and the flames had spread to the rear of another building (at 49 E. Walnut St.)," Cole said. "We made a good stop on the biggest part of the fire, but it took a good while to complete the work."
Fortunately, firefighters got to the fire before it spread to one of the storage rooms in the Walnut Street building containing a large amount of fireworks.
"That building has three compartments," Cole said. "The very back part of the rear compartment is where the fire reached. The center compartment contained a very large quantity of fireworks. We're extremely happy we got to the fire before it reached that part of the building." Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Following the lead of the City of North Vernon, the county will soon be going the solar power route.
The Jennings County Council approved the move last Tuesday night by a 6-0-1 vote with Larry Maschino (D-District 2) abstaining because his nephew works for the Johnson-Melloh Solutions, the firm hired to undertake the conversion of county-owned facilities to solar power electricity.
The Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to proceed the previous Thursday.
The county will save $3.9 million in electrical utility costs over 25 years, estimates Kurt Schneider, vice president of Johnson-Melloh Solutions.
And, as with the city's solar project, where the conversion work is approximately 50 percent completed, the county project will not take any funds from the county coffers, according to Schneider and one of the county's financial consultants, Andrew Lanam.
"I've reviewed the cost analysis and asked (Johnson-Melloh staff) many questions," Lanam said. "I'm satisfied that no money will come out of pocket if you OK this."
While an increase in interest rates could affect the financial terms and President Trump recently increased tariff rates on solar panels made in China, the county will still be able to pay for the entire solar project without dipping into any funds, according to Schneider. All expenses will be paid by what the county saves on what it now pays electrical utilities, including the loan for the project. Monday, February 19, 2018
Howard Malcomb and Paul Belding are the odd men out on the Jennings County Council. Despite being outvoted 5-2 last week on a move that could lead to a special-use income tax to fund a proposed new jail, Malcomb and Belding continue to loudly voice their opposition.
A public meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the Holiday Inn Express, 249 N. Sandy Creek Drive, Seymour, beginning at 6:30 p.m. to provide information and answer questions about Indiana Department of Transportation's $143 million Next Level Roads project on Interstate 65 between Seymour and Columbus.
The Jennings County Council took a preliminary step Tuesday toward setting up a special-use income tax to be used for funding construction of a proposed new county jail.
"It seems to me that this is the smart thing to do," said Mike Kelley (R-District 1), Council president. "We have to build a jail, and we have to find a way to pay for it."
According to estimates, the jail will cost $23 million to $41 million, the total amount depending on the final plans. Even at the minimum, experts say that the county will almost certainly have to raise taxes somewhere to pay for the construction.
The so-called "jail tax" requires approval from the Indiana General Assembly before the Council can enact it. The rate has yet to be determined. Of other counties that have a jail tax, neighboring Decatur County, which enacted one last year, has a jail tax rate of .5 percent. Wednesday, February 14, 2018
After an incident that could have come straight from an episode of the "Bad Boys" reality television show, a Scipio man remains in the Jennings County Jail on multiple preliminary felony and other charges.
Intraparty battles aren't exactly rare in Jennings County but they aren't all that common either, especially when incumbents are on a party's primary ballot.
Republican District 1 Commissioner Matt Sporleder and Democratic Recorder Janice Ramey, both seeking reelection, are facing challenges from others in their own party.
There will also be a GOP primary battle in the sheriff's race this year.
The latest county candidates to file Friday, the last day for individual candidates to sign up for the 2018 election cycle, are Joe Massie, a Republican who is running for sheriff, and Larry Franks, a Democrat who seeks the clerk's post.
Massie will square off against Kenny Freeman for the GOP nomination for sheriff, the winner to take on incumbent Gary Driver, a Democrat.
Republicans will also have a race for the District 1 Commissioner post in the May 8 primary where Sporleder, the two-term incumbent, is being challenged by Jeff Burton. The lone Democrat to file for that post is Nick Megel.
When the discussion surrounding eLearning days first began at schools in Indiana several years ago, there was some confusion as to what the state actually wanted public school corporations to do. In Jennings County and other school districts, eLearning Days are utilized on snow days where students do their school work at home on laptop computers provided by their schools. Jennings County began using eLearning days last year but some confusion remained until recently. For example, the state guidelines note if a corporation had three days of eLearning, students had to return to school to make up for the fourth regular school day missed. If they didn't return on that fourth day, that school day has to be made up during the school year. However, that's not always the case. "When I talked to the Indiana Department of Education, they said that was a guideline only," explained Teresa Brown, Jennings County School Corp. (JCSC) superintendent. "Originally when our school board adopted that policy, they thought the state gave the three-day guidance but that was not the case." Instead, according to Brown, it is actually at the discretion of each local school corporation as to what policy they want to set. Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Fixing a hole has its challenges. Just ask Russell Vaught. An emergency repair to a sanitary sewer line under West Walnut Street left a gaping hole of nearly 20 feet deep Tuesday afternoon. "We had hoped to have the road open then," said Vaught, North Vernon city utilities manager. "We were planning to place a steel covering over the hole until we could patch it, but I didn't think that would be a good idea with the snow coming. I could just see one of those big INDOT snow plows crashing through the plate into the hole overnight." Vaught said the hole is being filled and patched Wednesday. By afternoon, Walnut Street, which is also the U.S. 50 route, will reopen to traffic, he noted. Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Steve Schoettmer says severe gerrymandering during the 2011 redistricting process may have seemingly made it a safe district for Republicans, but he is undeterred. The Elizabethtown man recently filed as a Democratic candidate for the office. While some may say Schoettmer's quest is a long shot, he does not see it that way. "If you go out and campaign hard, present yourself and tell the truth to voters, that there is a better way, they will listen," he said. Schoettmer, 62, learned that lesson 20 years ago when he was elected president of the Indiana Postal Workers Union. "The outgoing president told me there was no way I could win the state election because the other candidate had much more connections than I did," he said. "I ended up winning by a landslide." A retired postal employee, Schoettmer is banking on that and other experiences in elected union leadership posts - including as president of the local Postal Workers Union that covered North Vernon, Seymour, Madison, Greensburg and Columbus; and as a national arbitration advocate - in making his first run for public office. District 69 includes most of Jennings County, including North Vernon; most of Jackson County, including Seymour and Brownstown; four townships in Jefferson County, including Dupont; and one precinct in Bartholomew County.
A North Vernon man reportedly battered his girlfriend and fired a gun inside their home Monday night, prompting the woman to flee with her two children and seek help from police. Ryan W. Gootee, 35, the suspect, literally drove himself to jail afterwards. He faces preliminary charges of criminal confinement with a deadly weapon, a Level 3 felony; intimidation with a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness, both Level 5 felony counts; and domestic violence, a Level 6 felony. Felisha L. Humes, 33, told Jennings County Sheriff's deputies that Gootee hit her and then fired a gun inside their home on County Road 250 East in Vernon Township. She said she was able to get outside quickly with her two children, ages 7 and 13, and into her car, then called 911 as she drove to the sheriff's office, according to police. There, Humes reported the alleged crime to deputies Garrett Hoppock and Drew Heilers. "While Deputy Hoppock spoke to Humes, Deputy Heilers drove to the area near the residence to see if Gootee would leave in a vehicle," said Lt. Mike Mowery. "After a short time, Deputy Heilers observed Gootee's vehicle leave the residence. Wednesday, February 7, 2018
The flu epidemic that has resulted in numerous deaths nationwide this winter has not bypassed Jennings County.
While there have been no reported deaths here, the influenza illness has affected many in the county according to Pam Petry.
"We've had lots and lots of flu cases," said Petry, Jennings County Health Department nurse. "The number of illnesses started growing just before Christmas and has continued at a high rate ever since."
Petry's advice to those who have not done so yet this season is to get a flu vaccine.
"For anyone who has not gotten a flu shot yet, it's not too late," she said. "I highly recommend that everyone get vaccinated."
Flu seasons typically extend into spring, and the vaccine protects not just the person who receives a shot, but also the vulnerable people around them, Petry noted.
Those most vulnerable are the elderly and the young, according to Petry and others. This year, the flu has hit hard throughout the nation, leading to an unusual number of deaths involving relatively healthy and young individuals, especially children.
The number of influenza-related deaths in Indiana this season has reached 136 as of Friday, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.