Tablet drive for special needs children scheduled for Friday

Jan 28, 2015 266

A program to get used computer tablets into the hands of special needs children will be seeking donations this Friday.

David McArdle, a pilot for Cummins is organizing the second annual effort by Tablet ReConnect. McArdle got the idea for the project when a friend gave McArdle’s family a used tablet to be used by McArdle’s son with special needs.

“It was amazing seeing the things that he knew, that we didn’t even know that he knew — identifying letters, numbers, shapes, colors,” McArdle said. “All of these things because he just never spoke. So we got to thinking, ‘Why don’t we collect more of these used iPads and give them to these special needs kids who could really use them the most.'”

He said last year’s event generated 40 tablets that were redistributed to those children in Columbus.

“Just hearing the feedback from parents of how well these kids succeed and learn from the interactions on these tablets, has been amazing,” McArdle said. “That is really some of the biggest benefit that comes out of them.”

This year, the effort is hoping that businesses will get involved and donate old tablets when they upgrade to new equipment.

McArdle said the drive will be for any model of used tablet or used cellphone. They can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at The Commons Mall behind the Chaos sculpture, at the Bartholomew County Public Library, and for Cummins employees, at the Cummins Office Building, the Commons Office Building and the Irwin Conference Center..

Anyone dropping off a working tablet or donating $100 or more will be entered into a contest for an iPad mini. You can find more information at tabletreconnect.com

City officials consider selling Walesboro airport property

Jan 27, 2015 331
A 2006 aerial view by Phil Brooks looking west at the former Walesboro airfield showed that the former runways & taxiways remained in fine shape.

A 2006 aerial view by Phil Brooks looking west at the former Walesboro airfield
showed that the former runways & taxiways remained in fine shape.

Columbus officials are considering selling the city’s Walesboro airport property in the hopes of creating a new industrial park in the area.

Doug Pacheco, a contractor hired by the city to move projects through the city pipeline, told the redevelopment commission last night that the city is working on a request for proposals on what could be done with the airport property.

“I think the city is probably interested in selling that property to a developer, who will come up with a master site plan, that will give us options,” Pacheco said.

City officials have said that the city is running out of large areas suitable for new industrial development.

“Walesboro is the largest and probably the last area of develop-able land of any size in Columbus,” Pacheco said. “The Woodside business park right now is filling up and almost full. So this one has an opportunity to have a rail spur and really promote more of either light industry or research and development. So this is a big deal for the city of Columbus to have an area like that.”

Part of the approval process would be to get state and federal officials to agree that the former airport is not in the flood plain, Pacheco told the Columbus Redevelopment Commission last night.

Columbus hopes to find restaurant tenant

Jan 27, 2015 417

Columbus officials hope to have a tenant signed for the empty restaurant space in the city-owned Jackson Street parking garage by this summer.

The space was formerly occupied by Bistro 310, which closed abruptly in December. Heather Pope, director of the city redevelopment department, is working on a request for proposals for the vacant space. She said the city would likely start seeking proposals by the end of February, and those would be due back in her office by April 17th.

The city is going through an appraisal process now to make sure that the rent range in the request for proposals is neither at the high- or low-end of the downtown market, she said.

City officials hope to find another restaurant to fill the space, Pope said.

“A restaurant or a version that sells obviously food, but maybe there is an alcohol component to it as well,” Pope said. “But we are not necesarily looking for something that is only open five days a week. We want something that is active seven days a week to help draw people downtown.”

She anticipated finding a tenant and signing them to a contract by mid June.

“Our goal is to fill it as soon as possible, obviously,” Pope said.

North Vernon closes in on railroad walkway agreement

Jan 27, 2015 369

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified the type of walkway being discussed.

The city of North Vernon is closing in on an agreement with the Madison Railroad on a pedestrian walkway  over the tracks at O&M Avenue.

Madison Railroad Spokesman Dave Cheatham approached the City Council Monday with a written agreement that would allow a pedestrian footpath to cross over the railroad tracks. According to the agreement, the city would reimburse the railroad for fees, services and the actual construction work. North Vernon would have the final approval of costs. The city would also hold the railroad, the city of Madison and its Port Authority harmless for the work, which would take place at the same time as the crossing replacement on O&M Avenue.

Council members said they were in favor of the proposal, but ultimately tabled it because city officials want language that would would not hinder their ability to reopen Short Street to vehicles.

While Cheatham could not agree to the council’s request on his own, he did indicate that the issue would not kill the proposed agreement.

Council members said that they were hopeful the amended agreement would appear at the next council meeting, scheduled for Feb. 9.

Commissioners to seek more money for annex project

Jan 27, 2015 388

Bartholomew County Commissioners say the $3.25 million budget for the proposed county annex building on State Street is too little money.

Commissioners will talk to the County Council next week about borrowing enough money to take the project closer to $5 million dollars.

Commissioners and County Council wrangled over the amount last year, finally agreeing to the $3.25 million number that would be taken from county cash reserves in the general fund and rainy fund. But based on advice from the architects, the commissioners say that isn’t enough money to build a building large enough to house all of the county offices needed at the facility.

“We did this initial interview and asked the departments to give us their needs,” Lienhoop said. “You might say their needs might be wishlist. I supposed you could tackle it one way and say ‘OK we got your wishlist and we are just going to cut it by 50 percent.’ I don’t know that is the answer to the problem.”

Lienhoop said another unexpected complication adds to the space needs.

“In your house, you have a hallway that you absolutely can’t do much with, but you have got to have it,” Lienhoop said. “You have a few square feet in there that are occupied by walls — walls physically taking up square footage. It ends up that figure, in a public building, can be up to about 20 percent.”

Commissioners said they wanted to avoid a situation like the county jail, which was too small when it opened because of cost-cutting. About 15 years later, the county had to add an even-more expensive jail expansion. Commissioner President Larry Kleinhenz said that building and materals costs go up and up, meaning the later expansion is even more costly than the original construction.

Commissioners said they were investigating some options to find more money in the budget, including considering refinancing the county’s jail debt at a lower interest rate.

The current annex building houses the county health department’s nursing program and the Purdue Extension office.

Commissioners approved about $97,000 in architects fees for the initial planning and study phases of the project. The money will be paid by the Cummins architectural program.

Traffic stop leads to discovery of fake credit cards

Jan 26, 2015 450

A traffic stop near Seymour last week led to the discovery of more than 170 fake credit cards and the arrest of two men on fraud charges.

Indiana State Police are reporting that a state trooper saw a vehicle made an unsafe lane change near the 49 mile marker of I-65, just south of Seymour Thursday afternoon. The trooper pulled the vehicle over and became suspicious. The driver allowed the trooper to search the vehicle, where the trooper allegedly discovered the credit cards. The U.S. Secret Service was called in to assist and authorities discovered that the cards had stolen credit car numbers on them. 

29-year-old Rene Perez and 24-year-old Brian Diaz, both of Louisville, Ky., were arrested on preliminary felony charges of fraud and were taken to the Jackson County Jail. The investigation is ongoing.

City to begin search for Bistro 310 replacement

Jan 26, 2015 437

The city of Columbus will begin seeking proposals for the vacant restaurant space in the city-owned parking garage at Fourth and Jackson streets.

The space was formerly occupied by Bistro 310, which closed abruptly in December.

The city had just finished renegotiating a new lease for Bistro 310, which would have substituted a fixed monthly rent increase of $1,650 per month to the $3,650 base rent, instead of continuing to take a percentage of the restaurant’s sales above $600,000.

The previous contract was one of those negotiated by Columbus Downtown Inc., a not-for-profit set up by the previous city administration.

Heather Pope, director of redevelopment for the city, will ask the Columbus Redevelopment Commission to approve the wording of the new request for proposals at 6 p.m. tonight at Columbus City Hall in the Council Chambers.

Hope town marshal’s trial continues this week

Jan 26, 2015 419

The trial of suspended Hope Town Marshal Randy Bailey continues this week, with Bailey scheduled to take the stand to defend himself.

Bailey is facing a felony charge of official misconduct and a misdemeanor charge of false informing in a case dating back to Memorial Day weekend of 2012. Bailey is accused of falsifying charges against Anthony Paul after Paul showed up on Bailey’s doorstep early Saturday morning of that weekend and the men got into an argument. Bailey called in officers to arrest Paul, accusing him of a death threat, but Paul recorded the conversation on a digital recorder and no threat was heard, leading to charges against Bailey instead.

On Friday, the defense called an audio expert who demonstrated how such a recording could be edited and then put onto a digital recorder without being detected. An audio expert testifying for the prosecution disputed that demonstration.

The trial was only scheduled to last through Friday in Bartholomew Circuit Court, but will continue this week, likely through Wednesday said Judge Stephen Heimann. One of the six jurors has a scheduling conflict this week and was released from service. An alternate juror was promoted to the jury for the rest of the trial.

Bailey was originally scheduled to testify in his own defense Thursday night, and on Friday, but was delayed both days because of the length of the audio expert’s testimony. He is now scheduled to testify when the trial reconvenes on Tuesday.

Bullet hits vehicle on U.S. 31

Jan 26, 2015 332

A vehicle on U.S. 31 was hit by a stray bullet shot from a makeshift firing range Friday evening.

According to the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, Michael Kleinhenz of Lagrange, Ky. was driving northbound at about 6:08 p.m. Friday when he heard something strike his vehicle. When he stopped to inspect the damage, he saw that a bullet had penetrated the door and lodged into the door just below the driver’s seat.

Deputies located a makeshift firing range near the intersection of County Roads 150 S and 300 E. Deputies said there was no criminal intent, but Sheriff Matt Myers is warning you to be responsible if you are firing weapons and only to fire them in a safe direction.

Florida runaway, boyfriend arrested after car theft, crash

Jan 26, 2015 445

A 12-year-old runaway girl from Jacksonville, Florida and a 19-year-old man were arrested early Saturday morning in Bartholomew County after allegedly stealing an SUV and crashing it near Mill Race Park.

According to Judy Jackson, spokeswoman for the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, Columbus police were called to the scene of a crash on Interstate 65 at about 4:20 a.m. A good Samaritan had stopped to assist the accident victims and instead had his SUV stolen.

Deputies began pursuing the vehicle, which left the interstate, and came down U.S. 31. Officers stopped the vehicle in Taylorsville, but the driver took off again, ran over stop sticks placed by Columbus police near Lowell Road and eventually crashed at the roundabout near Mill Race Park. The man and girl allegedly tried to flee through the Mill Race Center parking lot where they were arrested.

19 year old Rodolfo Gonzales Ramirez, of West Palm Beach, Florida was arrested on preliminary felony charges including auto theft, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and resisting law enforcement with a vehicle. Misdemeanor charges include criminal recklessness involving the use of a vehicle, resisting law enforcement and leaving the scene of an accident.