City council approves pay increase for employees and elected officials

Sep 19, 2017 91

Employees and elected officials in Columbus will receive a two-percent raise next year. The city council gave its final approval to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) proposals Tuesday night. The first ordinance, proposing only with city employees, passed unanimously. The second ordinance, dealing with a proposed increase for the mayor, clerk-treasurer and member of the city council, encompassed much more discussion.

During the first reading two weeks ago, Councilman Tim Shuffett proposed an amendment to the ordinance, exempting members of the city council from receiving a COLA. He cited an ongoing salary study encompassing all city positions that won’t be ready until later this year. Shuffett argued that council members shouldn’t see a pay increase until the study is finished, meaning that members likely wouldn’t see a pay raise until 2019. That amendment ultimately passed on a vote of 5 to 2.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, Councilman Tom Dell proposed an amendment, reintroducing the COLA for council members. He argued that it is important for city pay adjustments to be consistent. He says that the ongoing salary study may show a large disparity between what council members in Columbus earn, versus those in cities of similar size. Delaying an increase may make it more difficult for Columbus to keep pace with these other cities. Councilman Frank Miller echoed Dell’s sentiments that increases for elected officials need to be consistent. Councilman Dascal Bunch agreed, noting that the increase would amount to approximately $1,050 per year, divided among all seven council members.

The amendment to include city council members passed on a vote of 4 to 3. The final vote approving a COLA for the mayor, clerk-treasurer and council members passed on a vote of 6 to 1.

Semi collides with vehicle on State Road 46

Sep 19, 2017 220

Photo courtesy of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Dept.

Two people were hospitalized after a two-vehicle crash Tuesday morning on State Road 46 East near County Road 300 North.

Sheriff Matt Myers says that Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies were sent to the crash, involving a car and a semi, at 9:20 a.m. While deputies were in route, they learned that one of the drivers was trapped in their vehicle. Myers says that she was ultimately pulled to safety by a passing driver before authorities arrived.

Sheriff Myers says that the investigation revealed that 33-year-old Brandon Murphy, of Dayton, OH, was eastbound on State Road 46 when he lost control of his semi on wet pavement and crossed into the westbound lane. He says that Murphy’s semi jack-knifed and went off the road. This reportedly caused 42-year-old April Johnson, of Greensburg, to crash into a ditch. Johnson was headed west on State Road 46 when the incident occurred. Myers says that both vehicles collided in the ditch, causing the semi’s trailer to become unhitched. The trailer then caught fire. Authorities say that fire crews spent

Photo courtesy of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Dept.

approximately one hour fighting the blaze, which caused the eastbound lane of State Road 46 to be shut down for several hours.

Johnson was flown to an Indianapolis hospital for unknown injuries. Murphy was taken to Columbus Regional Health with abdominal pain.

Six children removed from Jennings County home

Sep 19, 2017 241

Two Jennings County parents are facing charges after police investigated suspected drug activity over the weekend.

A Jennings County Sheriff’s Department spokesman says that on Sunday, Deputy Tom Mellencamp was dispatched to a home on South State Road 7. Deputy Mellencamp says that he spoke to the homeowner and was invited inside to look around. After looking in and around the residence, the deputy says that he was unable to find any drug related items. However, he did report seeing six children, between the ages of six-months and 15-years-old, in “extremely filthy living conditions with trash everywhere.” In addition, authorities say that there was no edible food in the home and one “very young” child was allowed to play near the highway. Deputy Mellencamp says that he retrieved the child because the parents refused to do so.

During the investigation, Deputy Mellencamp reported that one of the children told him that she was looking forward to going to school the next day so she could have a good meal. The Sheriff’s Department called the Department of Child Services, who removed all six children.

Deputies arrested 34-year-old William J. Waltermire and 35-year-old Roberta R. Waltermire, both of North Vernon. The pair are each facing preliminary charges of five counts of Neglect of a Dependent. Authorities say that the Waltermires were each booked in the Jennings County Jail on $1,055 bond.

Sheriff Gary Driver says that tips from the community are an important component in the work of law enforcement. He is using this case as a platform to encourage people to report any situation that may be dangerous for a child. Authorities say that tips and information can be left anonymously.

Columbus Fire seeks poster contest entries from kids

Sep 19, 2017 128

The Columbus Fire Department is looking for young artists to create a poster for next month’s Fire Prevention Week.

Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for the department, explains the theme of this year’s contest is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” .

Wilson said that they will be stressing during Fire Prevention Week that every family should have an escape plan and it should be practiced.

The contest winner will receive tickets to Holiday World and Splashin Safari courtesy of White River Broadcasting.

2017 Fire Prevention week is Oct. 8-14.

Posters must be on 8 1/2 by 11 paper and may be created using pen, pencil, colored pencil, crayon or paint. Children must include their name, age and telephone number on the back of their poster. The contest is open to children 12 and younger.

Posters should be dropped off at the fire department’s administrative offices at 11th and Jackson Streets before October 4th. The offices are open 7-4 Monday through Friday.

Hope’s Yellow Trail Museum to unveil Indiana Bicentennial Barn Quilt

Sep 19, 2017 80

The Yellow Trail Museum in Hope will have two new displays in time for this weekend’s Hope Heritage Days.

The museum, on the northwest corner of the Hope Town Square will be holding an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday to launch the new veterans display and to show the Indiana Bicentennial Barn Quilt.

Barb Johnson, director of the museum, says that the quilt started in 2015 with artists creating quilt blocks representing old barns in their communities. Each of the state’s 92 counties are represented, including the Bartholomew County quilt block by Peggy Sanqunetti.

The quilt is on loan from the new owner Melba Shilling of Knox, Ind. who won it at the end of last year’s bicentennial activies in an online auction.

The Yellow Trail Museum will be offering a book about the quilt for sale for $10. That is a fundraiser for the Indiana Barn Foundation. In addition to Friday’s open house, the Yellow Trail museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Seymour driver dies after weekend crash

Sep 19, 2017 102

Photo courtesy of Indiana State Police

Photo courtesy of Indiana State Police

A Seymour man died Monday as a result of a weekend crash.

57-year-old James S. Hinton died at an Indianapolis hospital from his injuries in the Saturday afternoon crash, says Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, spokesman for the state police.

19-year-old Justin L. Gudgel was in an SUV, turning left at the intersection of U.S. 50 and U.S. 31, just east of Seymour, at about 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, when he crossed into the path of Hinton’s vehicle, sending that car down an embankment, Wheeles says.

Gudgel was uninjured. Hinton was flown by medical helicopter to the Indianapolis hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.

Phase 1 of State Street project nears completion

Sep 18, 2017 82

Work continues on Columbus’ State Street Revitalization Project. Heather Pope, the city’s redevelopment director, says that work on the bridge over Haw Creek is nearly finished…


Phase 1 also includes tying the gateway nodes to the people trail connection along Haw Creek.

Pope says that Phase 2A is “coming along nicely,” noting that all of the right-of-ways on the south side of the street are in place…


Pope says that work on lighting, landscaping and other architectural elements on the north side of State Street likely won’t get underway until this winter.

County contributes $2 million to railroad overpass fund

Sep 18, 2017 91

The Bartholomew County Commissioners officially signed an agreement with the city on Monday as it relates to the overpass project taking vehicle traffic over the railroad at State Road 11 and Jonathan Moore Pike. The county is set to contribute $2 million dollars over the next three years.

Dave Hayward, Columbus city engineer, explained during Monday’s meeting of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission that the county commissioners signed the pledge that morning. John Dorenbush, a member of the Railroad Community Committee, explained that the county will contribute $1.5 to the railroad fund by mid-November, with the remaining $500,000 paid out over the next two-years.

The cost of the project, estimated at $30 million, will be split between the state and local governments. Of the $15 million local contribution, the downtown Cummins TIF District is expected to contribute $5 million, while CSX and the Louisville & Indiana railroad companies have reportedly pledged to cover $1.5 million. However, Dorenbush says that the city does not yet have a signed agreement from the railroads. Mayor Jim Lienhoop says that the city is working on securing the remaining funds. He, as well as Dorenbush and other city officials, indicated that they were confident that the funding will be in place well before work is slated to begin. The city is scheduled to make a payment out of the railroad fund to the Indiana Department of Transportation before the end of the year.

The Redevelopment Commission also gave its blessing for Hayward to continue his work in negotiating with an engineering firm to serve as project manager for the overpass work. While this will be an INDOT project and the state will have its own project manager, Hayward says it is important for the city to have its own project manager to keep the project moving along and to work on Columbus’ behalf. The commission agreed with Hayward that the position is necessary. Redevelopment Commission member George Dutro, who also serves on the Railroad Community Committee, says that the position is needed to ensure that the overpass is built “the Columbus way.” Don Trapp, another member of the Redevelopment Commission, said it just makes good sense having someone on-site looking out for the city’s best interests. He, as well as other city officials, have stated that the project should be aesthetically pleasing and compliment Columbus’ architecture.

No official action was taken on Hayward’s continuing work to negotiate a professional manager services contract. An update on these negotiations are expected at next month’s meeting of the redevelopment commission.

VA to help veterans sign up for benefits at Columbus campus

Sep 18, 2017 138

The Veterans Affairs administration in Indianapolis will be holding events Tuesday and Wednesday in Columbus aimed at getting veterans signed up for benefits they are entitled to.

Alison Quinn, with the Veterans Health Administration office in Indianapolis explains.

Quinn says that they will be set up on the campus of IUPUC and Ivy Tech from 10 to 4 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday.

Quinn said that it is important to bring a copy of your DD-214, although if you have lost the discharge form, the VA staff will help you fill out the paperwork to receive a replacement. You should also bring an estimate of your annual income, she said.

Pete Scoville, with the Veterans Health Administration office in Indianapolis, says that veterans, especially younger ones, don’t know what their benefits can do for them.


Officer injured in brawl at children’s restaurant

Sep 18, 2017 130

Zach Tillison. Photo courtesy of Columbus Police Department.

A Columbus man was arrested after a brawl at a children’s restaurant over the weekend that injured a police officer.

Police were called to the Chuck E. Cheese on North National Road at about 12:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon after a man was discovered unconscious in a booth with an unsupervised small child in the restaurant.

Police tried to administer Narcan to the man, 33-year-old Zacheriah A. Tillison of Hope, but Tillison became combative says Lt. Matt Harris, spokesman for the city police. During the struggle, an officer injured their knee.

After Tillison was subdued, he was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital to be checked out and then taken to the Bartholomew County Jail. He is facing preliminary charges of resisting law enforcement, public intoxication and child neglect.

The officer was treated for the knee injury and released.

The 4-year-old girl was released to her mother.