Cooking oil fire threatens Columbus home

Jul 19, 2017 129

A kitchen fire threatened a Columbus home last night on Coovert Street.

Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for the city fire department, says that cooking oil ignited on the stove and the fire quickly spread to the range top and nearby cabinets. The resident tried to fight the fire with a fire extinguisher, but when that didn’t work, fled the home and called firefighters at about 8:10 p.m. last night.

Wilson says firefighters used extinguishers to put the fire out and were able to contain the flames to the kitchen area. Firefighters used large ventilation fans to air out the space.

He estimated damages at about $15,000.

No one was injured in the fire and working smoke alarms were found in the home.

Hope adopts Town Square improvement plan

Jul 19, 2017 131

The town of Hope has adopted a revitalization plan for the area round the Town Square.

The Town Council approved the non-binding plan at its meeting last night. Susan Thayer-Fye, the director of the Hope Main Street organization said that that adopting the plan means that the town can now apply for more funding from state and federal grants to actually put the ideas into action.

Thayer-Fye said the Town Council paid for the plan and the associated study because they see the need.

The plan includes many suggested projects around the square. Those range from simple fixes like standardizing the benches, flower beds and trash receptacles around the town square, to more ambitious projects like revamping and re-roofing the shelterhouse and the bandstand in the park.

Thayer-Fye said that the plan is just a suggestion and those suggestions are non-binding on the council. If any additional funding were approved, the council could decide which projects to tackle.

But ultimately the direction will depend on the volunteers who wish to take the lead.


North Vernon police looking for armed robbery suspect

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Travis J. Groce. Photo courtesy of Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

Note: This story has been  updated throughout with new information.

A North Vernon man is under arrest, accused of an armed robbery yesterday morning where a victim was held at gunpoint.

Authorities say that 35-year-old Travis J. Groce was booked into the Jennings County Jail at about 10:30 last night. Police in Jennings and Jackson counties had been looking for Groce after yesterday morning’s incident.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department says that Groce allegedly held a gun to to the back of a man’s head yesterday morning, took the victim’s wallet and then fled. Local police were searching for Groce after the incident.

The jail staff reports that Groce was arrested by Indiana State Police last night on a parole violation and on preliminary charges of possession of methamphetamine, auto theft and resisting law enforcement.

County Council says “no” to capital development fund

Jul 18, 2017 164

One proposed tax increase designed to help build and maintain county facilities is off the table, at least for another year. Bartholomew County has lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements from the state because it does not have a Cumulative Capital Development Fund. Councilman Matt Miller says that this tax increase could hinder efforts to battle the area’s drug problem…

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Council member Evelyn Pence says noted that the council is made up of Republicans…

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Councilman Mark Gorbett took his fellow council members to task for not doing more to strengthen the county’s finances…

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Gorbett says the council recently spent over $30,000 on a consultant that determined that the county needed to increase revenue to better staff departments throughout county government.

Other council members said they wanted to wait to see how this year’s budget hearings play-out before they commit to a tax increase. The body will be considering an increase to the local income tax rate later this year to better fund public safety.


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The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) is investigating the abduction of three children from Indianapolis.

Lyle Daniel is a two-year old black male, 2 feet 7 inches tall, 28 pounds, with black hair, and brown eyes. It is unknown what he is wearing.

Evan Daniel is a three-year-old black male, 3 feet 5 inches tall, 35 pounds, with black hair, and brown eyes. It is unknown what he was wearing.

Bryce Young is a seven-year-old black male, 4 feet 3 inches tall, 55 pounds, with black hair, and brown eyes. It is unknown what he was wearing

The children were last seen at 3 p.m. in Indianapolis and are believed to be in extreme danger. IMPD believes the children were likely abducted by their mother, Mekielle Yaneek Pullins (also known as Me Me) a 22-year-old black female, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 143 pound with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a gray shirt and black pants.

The suspect vehicle is unknown at this time.

If you have any information on these children, contact the IMPD at 1-888-582-6237 or call 911.

Air Quality Action Day issued for Wednesday

Jul 18, 2017 74

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has issued an Air Quality Action Day and is forecasting high ozone levels for Wednesday in our area. This includes Bartholomew, Jackson, Brown, Johnson, Morgan and Shelby counties.

IDEM is encouraging you to take the following steps to reduce ozone:

• Walk, bike, carpool or use public transportation
• Avoid using the drive-through and combine errands into one trip
• Avoid refueling your vehicle or using gasoline-powered lawn equipment until after 7 p.m.
• Turn off your engine when idling for more than 30 seconds
• Conserve energy by turning off lights or setting the air conditioner to 75 degrees or above

Health officials say that those sensitive to changes in air quality may be affected when ozone levels are high. Children, the elderly and anyone with heart or lung conditions should reduce or avoid exertion and heavy work outdoors.

Fundraising page set up to help after Lafayette Ave. fire

Jul 18, 2017 86

White River Broadcasting photo.

A fundraising page has been set up to support a Columbus family who lost most of their belongings in a weekend fire on Lafayette Ave.

Firefighters fought the blaze Saturday afternoon that started in an upstairs scrapbooking room near an electrical outlet. Columbus firefighters say the cause of the fire is undetermined but it was accidental.

The family and three of their four children live in the home in the 1100 block of Lafayette Ave. Chris McCawley is an Indiana State Police trooper and his wife, Misty, is a nurse at Columbus Regional Hospital. The fire did $100,000 damage to the structure and an estimated $50,000 damage to its contents. That includes damage due to heavy smoke and due to the water used to extinguish the fire.

No one was at home at the time of the blaze, but a neighbor noticed the fire and called for help.  All four of the family’s dogs were rescued, along with three cats and a guinea pig. One cat is still missing.

You can help the family by donating at and searching for Misty McCawley.

Schools to offer Spanish immersion program

Jul 18, 2017 82

Families with students in Bartholomew Consolidated Schools will have a new choice for a pathway for their children — one that includes classes taught mostly in Spanish.

The school board approved the new Two-Way Immersion program last night.

Dr. Laura Hack, Director of Elementary Education for the school district explains that young minds are more easily able to learn two languages. The program would launch next year at Clifty Creek Elementary with two pre-k classes and two kindergarten classes.

Each class would be a 50/50 split between native Spanish speakers and English-speaking students.

In the early years, 80 percent of the day would be taught in Spanish and 20 percent in English. But as students progressed through grade levels that would increase to a 50/50 ratio, Hack said.

Although the program will start at the very lowest grade levels in its first year, the plan is for it to expand with its first students, eventually offering an entire 12-year-education within the immersion program.

To get into the program, there will likely be a lottery system for applicants much like the school district does with the Columbus Signature Academy programs.

School officials said Clifty Creek was chosen because it had room for the classes. The district would work to provide transportation for families who want to participate but who live outside of the Clifty Creek Elementary zoning.

Hack said that the program would be entirely voluntary. It also will not replace the existing English as a Second Language classes.

Sheriff’s Department not liable in death of inmate

Jul 17, 2017 136

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department officials who interacted with a man who died in the county jail. is reporting that In November 2013, Dennis Simpson reported to the Bartholomew County Jail to serve a weekend of confinement as part of his punishment for an earlier drunken driving violation. When he arrived at the jail, Simpson’s blood alcohol content was found it to be 0.23 percent. Later, when jail staff believed Simpson to be sober, the inmate was moved to a cell with bunk beds. That night, Simpson fell from the top bunk and hit his head on the concrete floor after experiencing an alcohol withdrawal seizure. He later died from his injuries.

Simpson’s son and sister filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in 2015 against the five officers who attended to Simpson and former Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett, alleging they were deliberately indifferent to Simpson’s medical needs and that they subjected him to inhumane conditions. Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker granted summary judgment to all defendants on all claims.

The 7th Circuit then determined Simpson’s estate provided no evidence that he was still drunk when he was given a bed after 13 hours in a holding cell. Additionally, the appellate court said the estate failed to show how jail officials could have provided care or additional care for Simpson’s obesity or chronic alcoholism.

Jennings County looking for substitute teachers

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The Jennings County School Corporation is looking for substitute teachers for the upcoming school year. An orientation meeting for those interested is set for Thursday, July 27, at Jennings County Middle School from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. School corporation officials say the orientation meeting will be for both current and prospective substitutes.

Substitute teacher rates for 2017-2018 are:
Level I – $60.00 per day for high school graduates;
Level II – $65.00 per day for holding an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or higher degree;
Level III – $70.00 per day for holding a valid Indiana Teacher’s License;
Level IV – $80.00 per day for retired teachers holding a valid Indiana Teacher’s License.

Jennings County School Corporation officials say they have modified requirements to include persons who have graduated from an accredited high school and have documented educational experiences. In addition to attendance at this meeting, prospective substitute teachers are also required to submit updated credentials and complete employment applications.

Jennings County School Corporation will be offering additional orientation meetings at the Central Office on the first Wednesday of each month at 9 a.m.