MLK Jr. Day performance set for Commons this afternoon

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The Columbus Area Arts Council will be hosting a performance called “Struggle For Freedom” today in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The event is a live theatrical performance by the Bright Star Theater group that will celebrate King’s words and deeds.

Today’s performance is sponsored by the African American Fund of Bartholomew County and the City of Columbus.

You can download a family study guide and program at the Arts Council’s website at

The free performance is at 2 p.m. today at The Commons.

Bartholomew County Democrats ready for election season

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Bartholomew County Democrats are gearing up for election season. Officials say that more than 100 people gathered at party headquarters on January 6th to hear their party slogan for the 2018 campaign, as well as announcements from candidates.

The party’s campaign slogan is “Government that Works for All of Us!” Party Chairman Bob Hyatt says that Democrats are opposed to the Republican idea that government is the problem. He says that Democrats “understand that government has provided important solutions such as Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act that have rescued the lives of millions of Americans.”

Democrats say that they will be focusing on:

– Supporting comprehensive healthcare and a fair tax system for everyone at the national level;
– Supporting public education;
– Taking care of our children and seniors;
– Outlawing hate;
– Establishing a fair redistricting system at the state level;
– Ending one-party government;
– Tackling issues that affect families at the local level.

Candidates making announcements at the event included:

– Ross Thomas, candidate for District 41 State Senate;
– Steve Schoettmer, candidate for District 69 State Representative;
– Dale Nowlin, candidate for District 59 State Representative;
– Hanna Omar, candidate for District One County Council;
– Lynne Fleming, candidate for District Four County Council.

Hyatt says that several others are considering running for office. If you think you might like to run for office as a Democrat, you are invited to an open house on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at party headquarters, located at 1417 Chestnut Street in Columbus.

Arts Council to mark MLK Jr. Day with special program

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Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Columbus Area Arts Council will be celebrating with a special event. Kathryn Armstrong explains the performance is called “Struggle for Freedom.”

Armstrong says that all members of the community are welcome.

For more information about Arts Council programming, visit

Refinancing allows BCSC to pursue new projects

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A new year means new financial opportunities for Bartholomew Consolidated Schools, according to Superintendent Dr. Jim Roberts.

He says that the district was able to refinance bonds that will free up $13 million for other projects.

Roberts says that some savings will be used to continue work at Columbus East, Columbus North and the construction of a soccer complex that will be able to handle the needs of both high schools.

Roberts says that the idea of the soccer complex is to include two fields and be large enough to fulfill the neads of both high schools.


The plan is for drawings and cost-estimates for the projects to be ready in the spring, bidding in the fall and completion of approved projects in August of 2019.

More counties declare travel restrictions due to weather

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Emergency officials have declared a travel watch in several area communities due to the deteriorating road conditions including Bartholomew, Brown, Jennings and Johnson counties. During a travel watch only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended.

Jackson County is under a travel advisory, the lowest level of traffic alert.

State officials say that they activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center at about 7 this morning to monitor the storm conditions across the state. The center is staffed by the Department of Homeland Security, INDOT, The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, State Police, the National Guard, Red Cross and other agencies.

Staff will monitor conditions across the state, and will coordinate the assistance to local communities when needed.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, spokesman for the Indiana State Police in our area, says in a Twitter video this morning to be careful out there.

Wheeles also suggested that you should keep an emergency kit in the car. He said that in bad weather, emergency workers are stretched thin and it can be some time before they can reach your vehicle if you become stranded.

State troopers, Bartholomew County deputies and Columbus police are all reporting accidents in the area due to the weather conditions.


Bartholomew County officials urge you to stay off the roads

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Bartholomew County emergency officials have declared a travel watch in the community due to the deteriorating road conditions. The sheriff’s department is asking that you only travel if necesary today and use caution.

During a travel watch only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended, and emergency action plans should be implemented by businesses and other organizations.

The sheriff’s department reports that the roads are being treated but they are ice-covered and slick.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is reporting that all of its plow trucks are out there this morning in southeastern Indiana, trying to deal with the storm. The agency said that all of its plows were deployed in advance of the winter storm. There are 27 trucks from Columbus, 28 from Bloomington, 33 from Madison and 31 each from Aurora and the Sellerburg area.

INDOT says that the highways and interstates are being treated continuously with salt during the rush hour today.

They suggest that you should be careful out there, leaving early, driving slowly and staying alert for icy patches and black ice.

Statehouse races taking shape as Smith plans retirement

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State Rep. Milo Smith, a Columbus Republican, is announcing his retirement from the Indiana House.

Smith has served six terms in the statehouse. He was most recently in the news for a plan to require the Colts to offer refunds to any game attendees offended by players taking a knee during the National Anthem. Our news-gathering partners at The Republic are reporting that Smith will not seek re-election.

Former Bartholomew County Councilman Ryan Lauer, also a Republican from Columbus, has filed to run for the District 59 house seat.

State Rep, Jim Lucas, a Seymour Republican who represents part of southern Bartholomew County in Indiana House District 69, is facing a primary challenger. Lucas filed for re-election yesterday.

Lucas has advanced some controversial measures, including legalizing medical marijuana, licensing journalists and pushing to make Indiana a “constitutional carry” state for firearms.

Lucas is facing a primary challenger in Charles Johnson. Whoever wins the Republican nomination will face competition in the general election, as Steve Schoettmer filed to run for the seat as a Democrat.

Potential candidates for elected office have until Feb 9th to file in their county clerk’s office or at the statehouse for state level candidates.

Two arrested after North Vernon police chase

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Photo courtesy of North Vernon police

Clarence Howard III

North Vernon police arrested two people after a chase yesterday morning.

An officer noticed a driver recklessly passing a garbage truck in the city at about 11:43 a.m.  When the officer tried the stop the vehicle, the driver did not pull over until a tire blew out, and the car went off the road near a pond at Muscatatuck County Park, police say. The driver and a passenger then both allegedly tried to run away.

The Jennings County Sheriff’s Department helped catch the two.

The driver,  27 year old Clarence Howard III of Butlerville, was allegedly carrying a syringe and heroin. He is facing preliminary drug possession charges along with resisting law enforcement with a vehicle, criminal recklessness with a vehicle and criminal mischief. He was also wanted on a warrant.

Elbert Howard Jr.

The passenger, 25 year old Elbert Howard Jr. of North Vernon is facing a charge of resisting law enforcement and an outstanding warrant.

Candidates line up early for first day of filing

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Updated 11 a.m.: State filings added.

Several familiar faces were among the first in line yesterday at the county courthouse for the start of election filing season in Bartholomew County.

County Clerk Jay Phelps explains that there were eight people in line waiting when the office opened yesterday morning.

The first three at the counter were County Council District 4 Councilman Jorge Morales, County Commissioner Carl Lienhoop, filing for re-election, and County Auditor Barb Hackman who was filing to run as Treasurer.

Other candidates filing on the first day included Laura DeDomenic who is running for re-election to the County Council District 2 seat, County Treasurer Pia O’Connor who is running for auditor this year, and Marcus Speer who is also running for the council District 1 seat. All of those who filed yesterday are Republicans.

At the state level, former County Councilman Ryan Lauer filed to run for the district 59 seat in the statehouse representing most of Bartholomew County, while Charles Johnson filed to run for District 65, which includes part of the county. Both are Republicans. Democrat Steve Schoettmer filed to run in District 69.

Potential candidates have until Feb. 9th to file for election. Phelps says there are about four pages of forms that need to be filled out.


He said you can get a head start on filing by going  to the election section of the county clerk’s website at