Bradford Raths

The Jasper Clean Energy project is no more.

During last night’s Jasper Utility Service Board meeting, attorney Bill Kaiser informed the board that Twisted Oak Corporation CEO Jay Catasien intended to terminate the lease with the city for the project. The lease will formally end on June 20th.

In a letter to the board and the city, Catasien stated that the project is no longer economically viable for several reasons. These included continued drops in price for alternative energy sources, the closing of other coal fired plants across Southwestern Indiana, and a push by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for greater efficiency among other reasons.

Utility service board chairman Wayne Schuetter says the decision is a result of a review that the board asked for following the January dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Healthy Dubois County. In spite of the project ending, Schuetter has no regrets about the city’s handling of the project:

Schuetter says the electric committee will meet once the lease has expired to determine what the next course of action will be. He also did not rule out continuing to pursue biomass as a way to restart the power plant.

Several people representing HDC were also in attendance last night. Dr. Norma Kreilein, who headed up the opposition to the project, was among them. She says though this project is now over, health effects are still part of the equation:

HDC originally filed the lawsuit back in 2011. The lawsuit alleged that the city violated Indiana’s Open Door Law in six executive sessions. The sessions were held on August 24th, September 13th, September 23rd, and December 20th of 2010 and May 2nd and June 28th of 2011. The lawsuit’s filing occurred one day before the agreement to lease the power plant to Twisted Oak Corporation was finalized.

The body of a Shoals woman missing since earlier this month was found over the weekend.

Just before 10:30 Sunday morning the Martin County Sheriff’s Department recieved a report that a body had been located in the White River just south of the Houghton bridge.

Upon their arrival deputies along with Loogootee police met and spoke with an individual who had found the body who was later confirmed to be that of 41-year old Christine Wright of Shoals. Conservation officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources were called to assist in the recovery of Wright’s body.

The Sheriff’s Department says Wright had been listed as missing since last seen on April 2nd.

An autopsy concluded that Wright had died as the reult of a drowning. Authorities say the manner of death will be determined at a later date and do not suspect any foul play.

Jasper city officials are now looking to add another stop sign along Main Street.

This morning, the Jasper Board of Public Works approved installing a stop sign on Main Street at the intersection with 11th Street. The decision comes after a citizen raised concerns about pedestrians walking along 11th Street and crossing Main Street where cars would be backing out of the parking lot near the library. Jasper police chief Mike Bennett told the board there had only been 3 accidents in the area within the last 3 years and none of those were related to the issue at hand.

Jasper mayor Terry Seitz says safety is the biggest reason for the change:

Seitz says changing traffic patterns at the library also played a role in the decision.

In other business, the board approved a new event associated with the Heartland Half Marathon. The Kids Fun Run will be held on Friday, August 29th as part of events leading up to this year’s third running of the race. Some concerns did arise over the initially proposed route for the 1.1 mile kids run. The original route traversed the square, something that Seitz pointed to as a problem due to the Friday night traffic. The approval of the event thus is contingent on changes being made to the route.

The Dubois County Council is set to look further into what the county is doing with its economic development income tax funds.

Last night, the council decided to table 2 separate proposals for EDIT funds in light of the concerns. The first proposal was for 240 thousand dollars to Dubois Strong this year and 320 thousand over each of the next two years. The second was a request from the Dubois County Airport Authority for 450 thousand dollars towards the construction of a new T hangar at the Huntingburg Airport.

County council president Greg Kendall says its important to ensure that the money is being spent wisely:

Kendall says projects getting EDIT funds going forward need to have some sort of return for the county:

The council met following last night’s meeting for further discussion on that issue.

In other business, the council heard from county corrections director JP Wiseheit concerning shortfalls at the center. Wiseheit stated that there is a good possibility of getting an additional 156 thousand 818 dollars in funding from the state department of corrections, money that would help to alleviate the budget crunch. In the meantime, Wiseheit told the council he would likely need between 40 and 70 thousand dollars per year to make ends meet. After more debate on the issue, the council decided to support the center with the extra money, provided that Wiseheit came before the council at the end of each quarter instead of asking for the money all at once. That idea was proposed earlier in the day at the Dubois County Commissioners meeting.

In final notes, the council heard about minor changes being made to the proposed health and wellness program for county employees. The council heard that a “grandfather” clause would be eliminated if the new program were to take effect. They also heard that either employee premiums or the maximum out of pocket cost for health care to employees would have to be raised in the future. The council approved 18 thousand dollars towards starting up health screenings for county employees. The screenings will cost the county 37 dollars per employee.

Another Jasper business is seeking a tax abatement.

Cash Waggner & Associates plans to renovate part the former JOFCO building in Jasper and move its companies in the facility, all of which depending on the approval of a tax abatement from the city.

The Jasper Economic Development Commission agreed Monday morning to recommend that the Jasper Common Council approve the tax abatement request from the engineering and land surveying firm.

Nathan Waggner, co-owner of Cash Waggner and Testing & Inspection Services says plans call for the investment of a quarter of a million dollars plus equipment into the building located at the corner of East 13th and Vines Streets.

Waggner says the company wants to renovate 10,000 square feet and move Cash & Waggner and Testing and Inspection Services into the renovated space.

Meanwhile, Jasper mayor Terry Seitz says the abatement is important for that area:

The nine-year abatement requested will cover 70,000 square feet of the building, which the company will work with in the future.

The common council will consider the abatement request at its meeting set for Wednesday evening at 7 o’clock at Jasper City Hall.

Indiana’s unemployment numbers continue to improve and Dubois County just missed having the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

Data released by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development shows that Indiana’s unemployment rate dipped down to 5.9%. That marks the lowest rate since July of 2008. The state unemployment rate has dropped by 2 percent over the last year, marking the third largest decline nationwide.

The state’s labor force also increased again in March for the 6th consecutive month. Officials say the state workforce has grown by more than 25 thousand during the first quarter of 2014. In all, Indiana added 32 hundred private sector jobs during March. Since the low point of unemployment in Indiana back in July of 2009, the state has added 215 thousand 500 private sector jobs. That is good for eighth in the nation.

Now locally, Dubois County came in at a rate of 4.4%, trailing 1st place Hamilton County by just 1 tenth of a percent. For other counties in our area, Daviess County was third lowest in the state at 4.5% unemployment. Martin County was at 5.5%, Pike County 5.7%, Perry 6%, Spencer 6.1%, Orange 6.9%, and Crawford at 7.9%.

Vermillion County once again had the state’s highest unemployment rate. That came in at 9.8%.

Indiana’s unemployment rate is once again the lowest among nearby states. It is also 8 tenths of a percentage point lower than the national average.

Meanwhile, Jasper Chamber Director Nancy Eckerle says Dubois County as a whole is in a good spot:

Eckerle says continuing to get people to move to the county while still providing jobs for people living in other counties would also be a big benefit in the future.

The Huntingburg Police Department was recently honored with a grant.

The department received 1 thousand dollars from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The grant money is part of the Rural Demonstration Project (RDP), which is a project aimed at increasing seat belt usage in rural areas.

To be eligible, counties were selected based on a rate. That rate was developed by using the county population and the number of car crash injuries due to folks not wearing a seat belt over the last 5 years. That rate also accounts for the observed rate at which folks wear their seat belts. Huntingburg Police say the enforcement period began back on Friday and concludes on Thursday, May 8th.

Now the grant will allow the department to spend an extra 45 hours on seat belt law enforcement between now and May 8th. The extra patrols will be done at various times and locations across Huntingburg, though the department will mainly focus on locations where accidents frequently happen. They will also focus on locations where residents have complained about drivers speeding.

Questions on seat belt and/or child restraint regulations may be directed to the Huntingburg Police Department at 683-4111.