Columbus early voting ends at noon today

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There is still time to vote early before tomorrow’s Columbus city election.

You can cast an early ballot this morning at the Bartholomew County Courthouse, where voting ends at noon.

Many of the races are already decided, with Republicans Jim Lienhoop running unopposed for mayor, Luann Welmer unopposed for clerk-treasurer and Frank Miller, Frank Jerome and Tim Shuffet retaining their seats on the council.

Republican incumbent Dascal Bunch is running against Democrat Chris Rutan, for the first council district seat representing East Columbus. Republican incumbent Ryan Brand is facing Democrat Elaine Wagner in the second district seat representing downtown, Tipton Lakes and Walesboro. There are three candidates for the two at-large seats on the council, Republicans Kenny Whipker and Laurie Booher and Democrat Tom Dell. Whipker was appointed to the seat after Republican Aaron Hankins resigned.

Polls are open tomorrow from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and you will be casting your ballot at one of eight new voting centers in Columbus, which replace the traditional polling places.

Council candidates look back on mistakes (with audio)

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There are three contested City Council races on the Columbus ballot, for the first and second council district seats and for the at-large seats.

We asked the candidates in the contested races what should have been done differently over the past four years.

City Council District 1

In the first district race, incumbent Republican Dascal Bunch will face Democrat Chris Rutan. The district includes the East Columbus neighborhood.

Dascal Bunch says communication should have been much better…

Dascal Bunch looking back

Chris Rutan agrees…

Chris Rutan looking back

City Council District 2

Republican incumbent Ryan Brand is facing Democrat Elaine Wagner for the second district seat representing downtown, western Columbus including Tipton Lakes and the Walesboro area.

Ryan Brand says communication between the Mayor’s Office and City Council should have been better. In addition…

Ryan Brand looking back

Elaine Wagner says the Mayor and City Council should have moved past their differences…

Elaine Wagner looking back

City Council at-large

In the three-way race for the two at-large seats Republican incumbent Kenny Whipker is facing Republican Laurie Booher and Democrat Tom Dell.

We asked the candidates what should have been done diferently over the past four years…

Kenny Whipker says he would have liked to have seen more public-private partnerships, as well as…

Kenny Whipker looking back

Laurie Booher said she’s not out to point fingers…

Laurie Booher looking back

Tom Dell says that more should have been done to cultivate relationships with area organizations…

Tom Dell looking back

Sweepstakes phone scam hitting area

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Deputies are warning of a Publisher’s Clearing House phone scam in the area.

Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox says that his deputies received a report Saturday from a man who received a call that claimed to be from the sweepstakes company and that the resident had won a large prize. The caller had a heavy accent and wanted the resident to send $84 in money orders to two different post office boxes to claim the money.

The phone number appeared to originate from Jamaica, deputies said. The resident had not fallen for the scam but wanted to make a report to warn others.

Property tax deadline approaches

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Bartholomew County Treasurer Pia O’Connor wants to remind you that the fall installment of property taxes are due by Nov. 10th.

A penalty of 5 percent is assessed on bills that are up to 30 days late and after Dec. 10th a 10 percent penalty will apply.

You can:

  • Send in your taxes by mail at Bartholomew County Treasurer’s Office, P.O. Box 1986, Columbus, IN 47202
  • Pay them at Centra Credit Union, First Financial Bank, Jackson County Bank or MainSource Bank.
  • Drop them off in the 24-hour drop box outside the treasurer’s office in the Governmental Office Building at Third and Franklin streets.
  • Pay in person at the treasurer’s office.

You can also pay your bill by credit card or get more information online at www.bartholomew.in.gov.

Semi crash closes northbound U.S. 31 near Taylorsville

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The northbound lanes of U.S. 31 near Taylorsville were blocked after photo (43)a semi crash Friday evening. Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department Spokesperson Judy Jackson says that authorities responded to the one-vehicle crash, at the Exit 76-B off-ramp from I-65, just after 6 p.m.

Jackson says that when Deputies arrived, they found the semi and trailer on its driver’s side. The vehicle was reportedly leaking hazardous material onto the roadway. It was also blocking all northbound lanes of U.S. 31. Jackson says that northbound U.S. 31 was completely shut down during the road cleanup and removal of the semi.

The driver of the semi, 41-year-old Timothy S. Boshears, of Trafalgar, was not hurt. Authorities report that a secondary two-vehicle crash also occurred in the area during the incident. Information on that crash has not been released.

Mayor Brown endorses Rutan for City Council

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Outgoing Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown, a Republican, is endorsing Democrat Chris Rutan in his campaign for Columbus City Council District 1.

Rutan says that in a social media posting, Brown praised his leadership efforts in working with the city to revitalize the Ninth Street Park Area. Mayor Brown, who lost in this year’s Republican Primary to City Councilman Jim Lienhoop, has spent much time, effort and city resources on cleaning up that neighborhood. She has consistently referred to the area as “our most distressed neighborhood and hardest to turnaround.”

Mayor Brown helped to push through a project that saw the demolition of an apartment complex across the street from the renovated Ninth Street Park. The complex was described several times by the Mayor as “ground zero” for the drug and crime problems that were plaguing that area. In its place, quality, affordable housing was constructed, in coordination with the Thrive Alliance and other community groups. Thrive Alliance officials praised the project, noting that “quality, affordable housing is desperately needed in Columbus.” Those officials also expressed hope that the project would help to “jump-start” other, similar, housing efforts.

Rutan described the unsolicited endorsement as “exciting and totally unexpected” in his challenge to first-term Republican incumbent Dascal Bunch. “You don’t usually expect officeholders from the opposite party to endorse you over a Republican opponent,” Rutan said, “But I can agree with the Mayor that we have made great progress in the Ninth Street Area due to the cooperation and team spirit of everyone involved.”

Mayor Brown’s endorsement of Rutan comes after a first-term that has been racked with dissension, frustration, anger and communication problems between the Mayor’s office and members of the City Council. Incumbent Bunch, who was swept into office in 2012 in an historically Democrat district, has had his own issues with the Mayor. He has stated on a number of occasions that that Brown would act with little, to no, consultation with the council. Mayor Brown has said that Bunch has been a hindrance to progress in the district and was more concerned with fighting her than doing the work needed to improve the First District.

Veteran’s Court program being implemented in Bartholomew County

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Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge Jim Worton announced that he will preside over Bartholomew County’s first problem solving court for Veterans beginning in 2016. Judge Worton says that he, along with Chief Probation Officer Brad Barnes, has been developing the program since January of this year. He adds that a number of other community leaders have helped to develop the program.

Judge Worton says that military veterans sacrifice much to ensure our freedoms. He says these veterans sometime return to civilian life with conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse problems and other mental health issues. Judge Worton says that these conditions can lead to involvement with the criminal justice system. He says that Veteran’s Court uses resources through the Veteran’s Administration, local mental health agencies, the Probation Department and other veteran’s assistance agencies to deal with the very unique problems that some Vets are dealing with.

Judge Worton said, “The ultimate goal of this type of problem solving court is to rebuild and restore the lives for those veterans suffering from service related substance abuse and mental health issues. This program is very intensive and should not be mistaken as any sort of get out of jail free card for anyone. The program will provide the ongoing treatment and supervision necessary to help the veteran re-find their mission and restore them back to productive members of society, while still holding them accountable for their actions. What’s more, we are starting this program with no additional costs to the local tax payers.” He adds that future grant funding from the state is possible.

Judge Worton’s office says that participation in the program is voluntary and each referred applicant must be screened, evaluated and approved by a committee chaired by the Judge. He notes that the program consists of several phases that require treatment and other standards be met to pass through each stage, up to graduation from the program. The program, which reportedly takes approximately 18 months to complete, also helps with employment and housing issues for veterans.

The Veteran’s Court will also include a Mentor Program, under which each participant is assigned a volunteer mentor, who is also a veteran. Judge Worton said, “The mentor program is vital. The mentor gives the veteran participant a go-to person to help them navigate the program and someone to turn to in a time of need.”

Those charged with major felonies, serious violent offenses, and/or sex offenses are not eligible for this program.

Worton’s office says the program is currently in the finalizing stages for provisional certification through the Indiana Judicial Center. Superior Court 1 will still hear all of the types of cases that it is currently assigned, along with the Veteran’s Court docket.

Early voting still available today, Saturday, Monday

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There is still time to vote early, before Tuesday’s election.

In Columbus, Donner Center will be open for early voting until 7 p.m. tonight. Saturday, there will be four voting sites open including the Bartholomew County Courthouse, Donner Center, Mainsource Bank on Jonathan Moore Pike and Grace Lutheran Church. Those are all open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

And you can still cast an early ballot on Monday morning at the courthouse. Voting ends there at noon.

Most of the races on the Columbus ballot are uncontested, with Republican Jim Lienhoop to become the next mayor of the city, Clerk-Treasurer Luann Welmer to continue her role; and City Council members Frank Miller, Frank Jerome and Tim Shuffett unopposed in their re-election bid.

There are three contested races on the Columbus ballot, for the first and second City Council district seats and for the at-large seats.

In the first district race, incumbent Republican Dascal Bunch will face Democrat Chris Rutan. Republican Ryan Brand is facing Democrat Elaine Wagner for the second district seat representing downtown, western Columbus including Tipton Lakes and the Walesboro area. And Republicans Kenny Whipker and Lori Booher are running for the two at-large seats against Democrat Tom Dell.

Columbus man arrested on alcohol charges, again

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A Columbus man is under arrest, for the fourth time in less than two months, on alcohol related charges after an incident early this morning on Union Street.

Columbus Police Officer Courtney Plummer said police were called the 2000 block of Union Street on a report of a suspicious person who had allegedly been on the front porch of a home, knocked on the back door and then started going through a shed. When the residents confronted him, he allegedly threatened them.

Police found 27-year-old Justin C. Eddelman near the intersection of 25th Street and Home Avenue. He was acting erratically. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication

Pump house property clears first hurdle towards receiving tax abatement

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The developer who wants to turn the former pump house in downtown Columbus into a brewpub has cleared the first hurdle in getting a tax abatement on the property. Moravec Reality, who also restored Zaharakos in downtown Columbus, is asking the city to approve an Economic Development Target Area designation for the property, which would open it up for the possibility of a tax abatement.

Moravec has purchased the site on Lindsey Street from the city. The company is partnering with Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington.

Community Development Director Carl Malysz says that requests like this are unique for retail establishments. However, he noted that the property is unique, noting a letter provided to members of the Columbus Economic Development Commission from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources which states that the building could qualify for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. That factor, Malysz says, is covered in statute which allows these types of buildings to be included in economic development efforts.

The Columbus Economic Development Commission approved the request during its meeting Thursday afternoon. It is expected to go before the City Council on Wednesday evening.