Walter Grills, owner of Air One Heating and Cooling, presents a $2000 check to Colleen Malone, founder of the FLASH program (Free Lunches All Summer Hurrah!). Grills' company ran a special last summer with a percentage of each air conditioning installation to be donated to FLASH. This past summer, FLASH provided free lunches at three sites and had "Our biggest summer ever," reports Colleen. With the contribution from Grills, FLASH is off to a great start in raising the approximate $10,000 needed to feed the children during summer break from school in 2018.-Staff Photo by Barbara King
How much can Jennings County spend on a new jail without raising taxes?
That was the question raised last week by members of the Jennings County Board of Commissioners and Council.
Then late Tuesday, Jan. 16, financial consultant Jeff Peters informed county officials that he estimates that number at $12.8 million.
That amount, which would come from the county's Local Income Tax (LIT) revenue, "is severely insufficient to solve the problem," said Peters in an email.
"This amount also does not address any additional new operational costs or any amounts that the county would additionally appropriate and spend beyond the currently adopted $2.3 million budget," Peters added.
Last year, DLZ Indiana estimated a new jail will cost $23 million to $41 million.
Before this latest bombshell, Matt Sporleder (R-District 3), president of the commissioners and also a jail committee member, said at Thursday's commissioners' meeting that other financial consultants had projected the no-tax-increase figure at $20 million. Wednesday, January 17, 2018
The "spec" building owned by BTWD LLC, one of the Harmon companies, is now off the table as a potential site for a new Jennings County Jail.
So says Matt Sporleder (R-District 1), president of the Jennings County Board of Commissioners and a member of the jail committee, after a stormy meeting Thursday.
"The city is so adamant against it that I can't recommend going forward to try to pursue purchasing the property," Sporleder said. "The city can't stop us from buying it, but they have the final say on how the property is zoned. The land would have to be rezoned (from industrial) to institutional before we could put a jail there. The city (council), not the Area Plan Commission, has the final yea or nay on that."
The building and 12 acres are located at 3205 N. Fourth St./CR 75 West, just south of the SR 750/U.S. 50 bypass, in North Vernon Industrial Park 3. The 50,000-square foot shell structure is unfinished inside and was constructed four years ago by Harmon Construction at a reported cost of $750,000. The North Vernon Redevelopment Commission or TIF (Tax Increment Financing Board) funded $325,000 of the construction with the building to be used to attract an industry to the location. Monday, January 15, 2018
The filing is now underway for candidates tossing their hats into the ring for the 2018 election.
On the first day that candidates can file, several hopefuls converged on the Jennings County Courthouse Wednesday morning to take care of their paperwork.
More are expected in the coming days. Candidates have until noon Friday, Feb. 9, to file for the election.
Midterm election years historically have had depressed voter turnout, but that may not be the case in 2018 predict the chairs of both major parties in Jennings County. They point to President Trump and the sentiments of support and disapproval for him reverberating among local voters.
"The political climate is highly charged right now," said Jeanie Hahn, Republican Party chair. "I'm hearing a lot of rumbling from the grassroots folks who normally don't say a lot. They don't like the liberal agenda being pushed by Democrats."
Jack Gay, Democratic Party chair, agrees that voters are fired up, but for a different reason. Wednesday, January 10, 2018
This year's county fair is tentatively set for June 11-16, three weeks earlier than planned.
That is the week the carnival company, Luehrs' Ideal Rides, told the Jennings County Fair Board it is coming to the Jennings County Fairgrounds. Luehrs is the firm that supplied the midway for the 2017 fair, the first year of a two-year contract.
Last year's fair took place during the first week of July. The 2018 fair dates were also supposed to be the first week of July, but now apparently won't be because of Luehrs.
"They pulled a bad deal on us," said Bob Itell of the Fair Board. "Luehrs said we have to take the (June 11-16) dates."
It was not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition either, according to Itell and others.
"We told Luehrs' people that they are breaching the contract," Itell said. "They said it wasn't (a contract breach) because they had a verbal agreement (for the June dates) with one of our board members."
Fair Board members dispute that, according to Itell. Monday, January 8, 2018
At first, the Jennings County School Corporation was going to have a two-hour delay on Monday because of slick roads, but then as the morning wore on the decision was made to cancel school entirely for the day.
Jennings County officials are setting their sights on a new jail site.
The Board of County Commissioners agreed on Thursday to pursue the purchase of the Harmon shell building and 10 acres of land on the south side of North Vernon Industrial Park 3.
"I think it will work," said Matt Sporleder (R-District 3), president of the commissioners, "and I think it will save the county money."
Sporleder reported that Bill Harmon, president of Harmon Construction, said he would lower his asking price for the property from $1.2 million to $1 million to sell to the county.
"Dan (Dan Zuerner of Garmong Construction Services, the jail project manager) advises we couldn't construct a building for anything close to that," Sporleder said. "He thinks that is a great price and I agree."
The building, located at 3205 N. Fourth St./CR 75 West just south of the SR 750/U.S. 50 bypass, has been sitting vacant for four years after being constructed as a spec building. The interior is unfinished. According to Sporleder, the 50,000-square foot structure is ideal for placing jail cell pods inside, which has been part of the plan for the new jail all along. Friday, December 29, 2017
The new bypass officially opened last week Wednesday, complete with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Until then, only the western part of the bypass, which was completed in December 2013, was open to traffic.
With the opening of the highway's eastern leg last week, motorists were able for the first time to use the new east-west highway to completely circumvent North Vernon on the city's north side.
Although the full bypass is now open, it won't officially become the U.S. 50 route until next summer. The new highway that follows a 7.75-miles route from County Road 400 West on the west to CR 75E/Deer Creek Road on the east will remain with the State Road 750 name until then.
That will change when the state's contract with Dave O'Mara Contracting is complete. The North Vernon firm was the contractor for the $20 million, 3.25-mile eastern leg of the bypass.
The contract will be finalized when several finishing touches are completed, including the construction of retention dams under the new Muscatatuck River bridge and the laying of another layer of asphalt to the road surfaces at the eastern roundabout.
Motorists and others in North Vernon and Jennings County are still adjusting after last week's opening of the full U.S. 50 bypass. It's an adjustment that will take time, even years, according to officials.
Changes in traffic patterns will not take so long, but economic effects are a different story.
Ever since the Indiana Department of Transportation announced plans for the bypass 10 years ago, several have voiced predictions that it would take away business from North Vernon, especially the downtown and uptown areas.
Similar predictions were made 30 years ago in Washington, Ind., a city of 11,000 about 100 miles west of North Vernon and also on U.S. 50. A U.S. 50 bypass opened there in August 1992.
Instead of a bust, however, the opening of that bypass boosted revenue for merchants along old Highway 50, now named Business 50, in Washington. And it also helped fuel an economic upturn for Daviess County, of which Washington is the county seat, according to officials there.
"The business activity on what is now Business 50 (in Washington) has increased over the years," said Ron Arnold. Wednesday, December 27, 2017