HIV / heroin problem affecting neighborhoods

Apr 20, 2015 1138

The HIV and drug problem affecting the southeastern portion of Indiana seems to be moving north and west, but it doesn’t yet appear to have reached Bartholomew County.

Last week, we reported that the North Vernon Police Department has seen a marked increase in the number of discarded hypodermic needles throughout that city In that piece, Police Chief James Webster noted that the needles were not concentrated in any particular area(s).

We have reached out to the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department (BCSD) and the Columbus Police Department (CPD) to find out if they have noticed anything similar. BCSD Captain Dave Steinkoenig says that his department has not seen an increase in calls about found needles. CPD officials have not responded to our requests for comment.

With the increased availability of cheap heroin, there have been cases where local law enforcement officers are administering a drug (Narcan) to save the lives of those believed to be dying from a drug overdose. In Bartholomew County, there have been four cases so far this year where Narcan was used by an officer. We asked law enforcement what happens after Narcan is administered and the subject survives.

BCSD Capt. Steinkoenig says that when Narcan is used, a report will be completed. He notes that it is unlikely that an arrest will be made on the spot due to the immediate medical emergency. However, Steinkoenig says that report will be sent to the Prosecutor’s Office and/or Probation for review of charges. The information will also be given to the Drug Unit. If there are criminal charges filed, he says that is the only way the department can be reimbursed for the cost of the Narcan. Even then, says Steinkoenig, that money would go in to the county’s General Fund.

The Columbus Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

City Councilman objects to architects’ bill

Apr 20, 2015 1023

What is usually a mundane afterthought of business for the Columbus Redevelopment Commission turned into a heated discussion and a split vote.

Near the end of Monday night’s session, the body was reviewing and approving claims. Commission member Frank Jerome, who also serves on the City Council representing District 3 and is in a primary fight for re-election with fellow commission member, Russ Poling, took offense at one bill. At issue was a $4,800 fee for architectural drawings that Mayor Kristen Brown ordered for the proposed riverfront people trail.

The Mayor called for a vote to approve the claims, which seemingly passed on a vote of four-to-zero, with Jerome not voting. As Mayor Brown was about to call for a motion to dismiss, Jerome proclaimed, “a point of order,” and asked to look over the packet of claims. Both the Mayor and Commission Attorney Stan Gamso initially indicated that the vote was a done deal, but ultimately relented.

Jerome took offense to the architects’ bill, opining that these expenses should be approved by the entire commission before the work is done. Mayor Brown noted that as Mayor and the President of the Redevelopment Commission, she is allowed some discretion over certain budgetary matters, but commission members have the ultimate say over whether or not the bill gets paid. Poling then pointed out that the Redevelopment Commission only meets approximately once per month and that if business was done in the way that Jerome suggested, there would be constant gridlock and little progress.

The commission ultimately approved paying the invoice on a vote of three-to-two. Jerome and Laurie Booher were the “no” votes.

Hope car event raised money for Alzheimer’s awareness

Apr 20, 2015 544

A senior project by local teens drew about 30 hot rods and classic rides to Hope on Saturday.

Justin Cuneo, a senior at Columbus Signature Academy, is one of the organizers of the event called Cars for a Cure. He said the project raised money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Our goal was originally $1,000 and we got well over $1,700,” Cuneo said. “All of the money that we are donating and all of this is to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s.”

Donations are still being accepted for the cause through the events Facebook page at Cars for a Cure.

City still looking for properties to help with cleanup

Apr 20, 2015 524

There is still time to sign up to receive help or to take part in the City of Columbus’ neighborhood cleanup program on Friday and Saturday this week.

Hundred of volunteers from Cummins, First Christian Church and other organizations will be out helping their neighbors in need take care of their properties Friday and Saturday in Columbus.

The city’s annual spring greenup will be taking place in neighborhoods ranging from 11th and Washington Street, to the Ninth Street Park area, to Central Avenue and East Columbus.

Chris Schilling, spokesman with the city’s office of community devleopment, said that twice a year Mayor Kristen Brown has held a neighborhood cleanup program.

“Mayor Brown kind of started on it when she took office and it focuses on some of the more challenged areas in the community… It really helps folks who could use some assistance in getting their properties cleaned up,” Schilling said.

Community volunteers will clean up debris, do yardwork, remove old sheds and other property-improving work.

Schilling says there is still time to sign up. You can call First Christian Chruch to get on the list for help or to be a volunteer. That number is 812-379-4491.

Columbus police arrest truck driver

Apr 20, 2015 490

Columbus police arrested a Greenwood truck driver Sunday morning on Interstate 65 after the driver crashed into a guardrail.

Sgt. Matt Harris, spokesman for the Columbus Police Department, says authorities received reports of a speeding semi on the interstate and an officer was waiting at the Columbus exit as the vehicle went past at just before 6 a.m.

Officer Marc Hutcheson pulled the semi over about three miles to the north and in the process, the driver hit the guardrail. The driver, 48-year-old Eric S. Jones, allegedly failed several roadside sobriety tests and refused to take a breath test, Harris said.

He was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital to have his blood drawn and then was arrested on a preliminary charge of driving while intoxicated.

Hamilton Ice Arena open house

Apr 17, 2015 698

An event celebrating the preservation and renovation of the Hamilton Center Ice Arena is set for Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Chris Schilling, with the city’s Office of Community Development, says the city and the Columbus Park Foundation have invested more than $3 million from a public-private partnership to preserve and update Hamilton Center. Mayor Kristen Brown identified the need to restore the ice arena as part of $5.4 million in deferred maintenance to parks facilities.

“Hamilton Center is one of our most cherished community treasures, and it was in desperate need of a makeover,” Mayor Brown said. “It is our responsibility to preserve and maintain our invaluable community assets. We greatly appreciate the generous private donors who partnered with the City of Columbus to return Hamilton Center to its stunning glory.”

Schilling says that the recent improvements were the first major renovations to Hamilton Center since 1975 when the original outdoor ice rink was enclosed and expanded to a regulation-size hockey rink and practice area.

Improvements included replacing the building’s roof, new refrigeration equipment, expanding rest rooms to make them ADA accessible, electrical upgrades and repairing the exterior granite. Schilling notes that the City also used $1.4 million in private donations raised by the Columbus Park Foundation to update the community room, patio, locker rooms and restrooms, refurbish the ice rink and install the original lighting planned for the facility.

TIEM to request tax abatement

Apr 17, 2015 915

Toyota Industrial Equipment Mfg, Inc. (TIEM) is going before the Columbus City Council Tuesday night to request a tax abatement.

A letter from the company to Mayor Kristen Brown indicates that the forklift manufacturer plans an investment of $26.3 million in new manufacturing an IT equipment at its campus at 5555 Inwood Drive. Company officials say the investment would improve work flow and efficiency and will necessitate the modification of existing facilities to the tune of $5 million.

TIEM is requesting a 10-year tax abatement that they say would allow for the retention of all 1,025 jobs currently on the payroll. The company is based on a previously designated Economic Revitalization Area.

Narcan used to save man from drug overdose

Apr 17, 2015 577

Columbus police used an anti-narcotics drug to save a man’s life yesterday afternoon — the fourth time this year Narcan has been used in a drug overdose situation.

Sgt. Matt Harris, spokesman for the police department, says that officers were called to the 2600 block of 22nd street at about 5:30 p.m. on a report of an 20-year-old man found unconscious, likely from a heroin overdose.

Officers gave the man a single dose of Narcan and Columbus Regional Hospital paramedics then gave him two more doses. Harris said the man was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital where he regained consciousness.

The police department finished equipping all of its officers with the anti-overdose medication and trained them in its use in January, Harris said.

Newspaper delivery driver dies on route

Apr 17, 2015 2229
A newspaper delivery driver died early Friday morning while on a route. A heart attack is suspected.

A newspaper delivery driver died early Friday morning while on a route. A heart attack is suspected.

A newspaper delivery driver died this morning while on a route, according to the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

80-year-old Robert Roberts went unconscious while driving in the 12000 block of Sunland Road at about 4:38 a.m., according to Judy Jackson, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department. Deputies were called to the scene on a report of an accident with personal injuries.

Deputy Nick Martoccia found an SUV rolled onto its side on Sunland Road and a passenger, Eric Lawson, said that Roberts passed out while they were delivering papers and then was not responsive.

Deputy Teancum Clark got inside the vehicle and administered CPR to Roberts to no avail, Jackson said. She said a heart attack is suspected.

Roberts and Lawson were taken to Columbus Regional Hospital.

Columbus police tie Indy arrest to local robberies

Apr 17, 2015 650

Columbus police say that a suspect arrested in a string of robberies in Indianapolis and central Indiana is also believed to be responsible for two robberies here at a check-cashing business.

Sgt. Matt Harris, said that information provided by Columbus police to investigators in other communities helped lead to the arrest of a man yesterday in a string of robberies. A 32-year-old is accused in more than 20 robberies around the central area of the state.

The Check-n-Go in Eastbrook Plaza was robbed in August and again in March.

Harris said that Columbus police were able to pass along the description of a maroon SUV that was involved in  the Columbus case to other area authorities. Columbus police released photos of the suspect vehicle.

“That picture really gave the investigation some traction and got the case moving forward,” Harris said.

Harris said that Columbus police will be meeting with Indianapolis and federal authorities next week to see how the arrest ties into local cases and what the next steps might be.