Interstate 65 opens again after damaging fire in Jackson County

Jan 11, 2018 68

The southbound lanes of I-65 in Jackson County have reopened after a three vehicle crash yesterday ended with a chemical fire.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles with the Indiana State Police says that the lanes finally opened at about 9 p.m. last night after being closed almost all day. Because of the heat of the fire, the asphalt was damaged but crews made temporary repairs until INDOT can permanently fix the roadway.

The incident started at about 4:30 a.m. yesterday morning when a semi, driven by 30-year-old  Uche J. Okpeh, of Jacksonville, Florida crashed into the rear of two semis stopped for a previous accident. Okpeh’s truck first hit the rear of a truck driven by Vitali Kriuchkov, age 34, of Orlando, Florida.  Kriuchkov’s truck was forced  forward into a truck being driven by Bobby L. Brand, age 46, of Gadsen, Alabama.

None of the drivers were injured in the crash, but Okpeh’s vehicle was hauling hazardous chemicals including a corrosive liquid weed killer, a caustic acid, an oxidizing solid called dantobrom, and a corrosive liquid glutaradehyde.  The chemicals began spilling and mixing after the collision, Wheeles says.

As crews worked to take care of the leaking chemicals inside the box truck, they noticed smoke at about 10:45 a.m. and the crews retreated. The truck ignited at about noon and burned until about 4 p.m.

A passenger in one of the trucks was taken to Scott County Hospital with injuries that are believed to not be life threatening.

North Vernon solar project continues to move along

Jan 10, 2018 85

Work continues on the North Vernon solar project. While giving an update on the project during this week’s city council meeting, Johnson-Melloh Vice President Kurt Schneider thanked city officials for their patience…


Schneider has been consistent for months that completing individual parcels, as well as the project as a whole, would be impacted by Duke Energy. He explains that the utility has to sign-off on all portions that require a changeover from conventional to solar power. There are 32 components to the project, says Schneider. He notes that while 29 of those interconnections have been approved by Duke, 20 of them only came in the last three weeks.

Schneider adds that he took steps to make sure North Vernon got the best bang for its buck…


As for when the project will be completely finished, Schneider is anticipating by the end of summer.

‘City-County Blood Drive’ set for Thursday at the Commons

Jan 10, 2018 67

The American Red Cross is asking you to take time out of your day Thursday to help with an important cause. Donna Watson is a spokeswoman for the organization. She explains that Thursday is the “City-County Blood Drive” in Bartholomew County, adding that it’s an important one.

Watson says that all are welcome, but you need to make sure that you are physically able to donate.

Watson explains that those who donate give one-pint of blood, adding that a donation will temporarily weaken your immune system.

Thursday’s blood drive will be held at The Commons from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit

Arrest made after battery reported in store parking lot

Jan 10, 2018 75

Sean P. Roberts Jr. Photo courtesy of Columbus police.

A local man is under arrest after allegedly battering a woman in a store parking lot yesterday morning.

23-year-old Sean P. Roberts Jr. of Columbus is facing a charge of domestic battery after the incident at about 10 a.m. yesterday morning in a parking lot in the 1800 block of North National Road in Columbus.

Lt. Matt Harris with the Columbus police says that dispatchers received calls from several women about an ongoing attack in the parking lot. Surveillance video from the store also documented the fight, he says.

Homes being evacuated after Jackson County crash, chemical spill

Jan 10, 2018 76

Photo courtesy of Indiana State Police.

Indiana State Police are now shutting down the northbound lanes as well as the southbound lanes of Interstate 65 in Jackson County and evacuating nearby homes as a chemical spill in the area continues to escalate.

A crash and chemical spill happened early this morning in the southbound lanes about seven miles south of Seymour. Those lanes have been closed while crews worked to clean up chemicals spilling from one box truck.

But now state police say they are evacuating homes within a half mile of the crash site and say the scene is continuing to deteriorate and there is a danger of an explosion. .

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, spokesman for the Indiana State Polices ays the crash happened at about 4:30 this morning, when a semi rear-ended two other trucks which were stopped for a previous accident. That was about seven miles south of Seymour. One passenger was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

We will have more information as it becomes available.

County Council funds public safety needs

Jan 9, 2018 81

The Bartholomew County Council approved an additional appropriation of just over $1.9 million to create a fund to address public safety needs. That money is coming from the increase in the local income tax rate. Barb Hackman, county auditor, explains where this money is going.


Councilwoman Laura DeDomenic explains that in an effort to simplify the budget process, the council chose to fund youth services directly out of a new fund created to capture the proceeds of the income tax increase.

Based on certified figures provided by the state, Bartholomew County is expecting around $2.3 million in additional revenue from the tax increase. New council president Mark Gorbett noted the additional funds received will be going into this newly created fund to tackle future public safety needs. As for what exactly the money will be spent on, he says that the council will need to weigh its options and make additional appropriations this year on a case-by-case basis in the anticipation of budgeting these new funds more accurately in 2019.

Brown County historic site receives $44,000 grant

Jan 9, 2018 466

A historical site in Brown County is receiving a $44,000 grant. The Indiana Historical Society announced the grant on Tuesday, which will go to the Friends of T. C. Steele State Historic Site. The organization, a nonprofit that supports projects and programs at the historic site, received a Heritage Support Grant to recreate the painter’s studio wagon.

Organizers say that Steele used his wagon to work as he traveled through Indiana with his family. Acquired in 1896, the wagon had a small cooking stove and large windows that Steele could look through while painting.

“The original studio wagon burned in a fire in 1913,” said Cate Whetzel, project manager and program developer at the historic site. “The new studio wagon will be a permanent outdoor exhibit at the T. C. Steele State Historic Site, open to visitors three seasons of the year. We hope to welcome guests to an unveiling party by the end of the summer.”

IHS officials say that this $44,000 grant is the first awarded to a Brown County organization and one of 13 bestowed statewide as part of IHS’s fourth round of Heritage Support Grants. These grants were made possible by Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Indiana Supreme Court to look at case involving a discussed bombing of Seymour High School

Jan 9, 2018 148

The Indiana Supreme Court will decide whether a teenager who made violent threats against his school can be adjudicated as a delinquent for both attempted and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery after it hears oral arguments in the Jackson County case this week. is reporting that the high court has granted transfer to B.T.E. v. State of Indiana and will hear oral arguments in the Seymour juvenile delinquency case on Thursday. In the fall of 2015, two Seymour High School students, identified only as B.T.E. and M.V., began planning an attack on their school on April 20, 2018, the anniversary of the Columbine shootings.

The court says that the students discussed their strategy, which included making pipe bombs and a diagram of the school targeting a specific student’s assigned seat, on social media. They also shared their plans with classmates. One of those classmates reported the threats to the school, which lead to an investigation by the Seymour Police Department.

After police interviewed the students and examined their Facebook accounts, M.V. was adjudicated, or found guilty by a judge, as a delinquent for conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, while B.T.E. was adjudicated for conspiracy to commit and attempted aggravated battery. But a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned B.T.E.’s adjudication on the attempt charge, finding his actions constituted only preparation for the attack, not a “substantial step” toward carrying it out.

The justices will consider B.T.E.’s adjudications at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

North Vernon against potential jail site favored by county

Jan 9, 2018 259

Jennings County officials are reportedly giving strong consideration to building a new jail on property in North Vernon and city officials aren’t happy about it. The city council went as far as passing a resolution Monday night essentially condemning the county’s pursuit.

City officials say they have issues with the proposed property, approximately 12 acres inside the North Vernon Industrial Park. That property is part of the city’s Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) District. The council’s resolution states that the city’s redevelopment commission “made a substantial financial investment for the sole purpose of creating economic growth and opportunities within the community which should result in a substantial return on the investment in the way of job creation and additional tax revenues.” Using property within the TIF district would result in the redevelopment commission failing to make any return on its investment, says the city. The resolution notes that both the city and county would lose future revenue as government facilities don’t pay property taxes and that utilizing this property will take away from private businesses that would bring new jobs and tax revenue with it.

Council members also noted their displeasure at what they perceive to be an unwillingness of county officials to work with them to address a number of longstanding issues that affect both government entities. During the last quarter of 2017, Mayor Mike Ochs and members of the city council spoke several times about the need to collaborate with the county and instructed their attorney, Larry Greathouse, to help facilitate discussions. One of the items to be discussed in the coming weeks was the issue of the jail. Council members say they wanted to work with the county to help locate a site that would benefit both sides. That meeting is now cancelled. “They slammed the door on us,” said an exasperated Ochs. He again decried the lack of communication, noting that he found out about the county’s plans by reading the news.

The city council passed the resolution unanimously on a vote of 5-0. Members say the vote will hopefully get the attention of Jennings County Commissioners and encourage them to accept the city’s offer to try to work together to address the numerous issues affecting both units of government.

Jennings County sues opioid manufacturers and distributors

Jan 8, 2018 258

Jennings County Commissioners have filed a lawsuit against the opioid manufacturers and distributors. The officials are seeking damages for the county for the ongoing opioid crisis. The commissioners say that manufacturers are liable for part of the problem which they say has “devastated Jennings County residents and placed a heavy burden on emergency response, social services, and other resources.” The lawsuit seeks to recover funds to address the overwhelming financial burden that the opioid crisis has placed on the county.

The manufacturer defendants are Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco, Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt PLC, Allergan PLC, and Watson Pharmaceuticals. The lawsuit alleges that these manufacturers deceptively marketed the appropriate uses, risks, and safety of opioids.

The opioid distributor defendants are AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and McKesson Corporation. The lawsuit alleges that these distributors failed in their duty to report and stop suspicious orders of opioids that flooded Jennings County.

The lawsuit alleges conspiracy among the manufacturers and distributors of opioids and seeks monetary damages, as well as reimbursement to the county for expenses related to fighting the opioid epidemic. In addition, the suit is seeking an “abatement fund” to help fight the opioid epidemic. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. Federal Court.

“Jennings County took an important step today in the battle against the opioid crisis,” said Matt Sporleder, President of the Jennings County Commissioners. “It’s time for those responsible for this crisis to be held accountable.” Lynn Toops of law firm Cohen & Malad, LLP, says that the lawsuit is “another tool for Jennings County to use in the war on opioid addiction that’s so greatly impacting the community.”