Bradford Raths

Officials with the Tri-County YMCA have announced the creation of a new endowment to support programs and operations.

The new endowment is being started with the help of the Dubois County Community Foundation. In a news release, Tri-County YMCA Executive Director Mike Steffe says the Y is setting the stage for future growth. Steffe says the endowment was part of the Y’s strategic plan and gives donors the chance to contribute to the organization’s long-term stability.

Of course, the goal of the endowment is to be a permanent source of funding for the Tri-County YMCA. The endowment will generate a grant to benefit the Y each year forever.

The Tri-County YMCA serves Dubois, Perry and Spencer counties. It focuses on 3 areas, which are Healthy Living, Youth Development and Social Responsibility. The overall mission is to utilize Christian principles which build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

For more information on the endowment or to contribute, you can go online to dccommunityfoundation.org. You can also call (812)-482-5295.

Huntingburg Stellar Communities projects continue their move forward.

The city has advertised requests for qualifications for the Market Street Park project after recent approval of final design reports by the city’s Stellar committee. Mayor Denny Spinner says the city will be hearing back from engineering firms within the next 30 days.

Additionally, Spinner says the city is putting together requests for proposals for the 4th Street Heritage Trail project. Spinner says those will be going out within the next 2 weeks.

Spinner says the recent movement has slightly adjusted the timeline for each project’s completion:

Spinner says the differences in timing are largely due to funding and the organizations involved. The Market Street Park project will be funded through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs whereas the 4th Street Heritage Trail will be funded through the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Of course, design concepts for both the 4th Street and Market Street projects were unveiled back in June. The planning was coordinated by Taylor Siefker and Williams Design Group of Indianapolis.

On a final note, Spinner says the city is also moving ahead with its street department relocation efforts. The city submitted its funding application for that project to the Federal Emergency Management Agency this past Friday. The project also includes a safe room in the event of bad weather, something that Huntingburg currently does not have.

Spinner says the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, who is also helping with funds for the project, considers the project a funding priority. Thus, Spinner and other city officials are hoping to get an answer on funding by the end of this year.

Ferdinand residents are being encouraged to attend a meeting later this week that town officials say will go a long way towards laying out the future.

The Ferdinand Town Council will be hosting the meeting tomorrow night. It will be from 6:30 to 8 pm at the Ferdinand Community Center. Town officials will first go over what has been accomplished in the current comprehensive plan before taking public input on shaping the next plan.

Now the town is looking to put together a comprehensive plan which will cover the next 10 years. It will largely involve making updates to the current comprehensive plan, which was adopted back in 2007. The effort is being facilitated by Kathy Kleindorfer of Evansville.

Of course, tomorrow night’s meeting is the latest of several meetings which have been held so far. Kleindorfer and town council president Ken Sicard have led 3 small group meetings to date. These were with students, businesses, and volunteer/non-profit organizations.

Sicard says though a lot has been accomplished over the last 8 years, more needs to be done, including a more concerted effort to attract young people to Ferdinand and Dubois County. He says it all starts with better promotion:

Some of the early ideas that have come out of the group meetings include more affordable housing, adding sidewalks along Main Street and making a run at the Stellar Communities designation in the future.

Prosecutors locally and statewide are urging state lawmakers to roll back looser drug sentences that have been in place for 2 years.

Up until 2013, the prison timeframe for drug dealing offenses in Indiana was between 6 and 20 years with some circumstances allowing sentences of up to 50 years. Recent revisions to the state’s criminal code set the maximum drug dealing sentence at 12 years and it now takes an extra aggravating factor such as dealing near a school or while armed to provoke a longer sentence. David Powell with the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council says many drug addicts don’t want to be treated and shorter sentences take away leverage from the justice system that could force them to go into treatment.

Of course, the sentencing changes are being felt here in Dubois County as prosecutors work to sentence those arrested in connection with the recently completed Operation Double Trouble. The new sentencing guidelines went into effect after Operation Big Brother was wrapped up last year. Operation Big Brother defendants have been sentenced under the old guidelines.

The changes have left Dubois County chief deputy prosecutor Beth Sermersheim among those frustrated with the state:

Prosecutors are pushing to allow sentences up to 30 years if dealers are armed and working near schools. They also want longer sentences for fatal overdoses that can be linked to specific dealers.

Meanwhile, Larry Landis is with the Indiana Public Defender Council. He argues the code revision was done to keep the state prison system from being overrun by drug offenders, thus leaving space for violent criminals.

Landis says drug offenders took up 2/3rds of prison beds statewide when the new criminal code went into effect. He says longer sentences would be a step backward, putting the state back where it was 2 years ago.

Dubois County Community Corrections can finally move ahead with its new director.

After a lengthy debate, the Dubois County Council voted 4-3 in favor of allowing Dubois County Community Corrections to transfer $5,768 from its administrative assistant role to fund the salary of new director William Wells. Wells was originally hired back in June, but held off on formally starting the job because he would’ve taken a pay cut from his most recent job as case manager and director of Dubois County Substance Abuse Services.

Now Judge Mark McConnell was on hand at last night’s meeting. He told the council that DCCC is trying to be competitive, but they are largely funded through state and federal grants whereas the county is funded by taxpayers. That was countered by several members of the council, who questioned why the corrections center wanted to make Wells one of the highest paid employees in the county while other employees at the center were among the lowest paid in the county. McConnell stated those employees are paid in line with state statute.

Of course the council voted 4-3 against the idea of raising Wells’ salary last month. Council president Greg Kendall, who voted in favor of Wells’ raise both times, says for him it came down to more than just one salary:

The decision to raise Wells’ salary drew the ire of Sheriff Donny Lampert. Lampert called the council’s decision a “major injustice” for his department and deputies. He also told the council that the decision made him lose faith in county government and he threatened to file a lawsuit if something is not done to increase financial support for his department.

With the new school year more than a week underway, issues with newly established bus routes and the amount of time kids are spending on the bus have some parents of Greater Jasper students upset.

Concerned parents are contending that their children are picked up too early and dropped off too late. Last night several parents within the district addressed the Greater Jasper School board about these concerns. Now although most buses have been arriving and departing on time, some parents have been bothered by the times their children were picked up in the morning and the times they were delivered home after classes have ended early this year. In some cases, the first students on the buses are picked up at about 6:30 a.m. and the latest drop-offs are supposed to be at around 4:30 pm.

Three groups of parents were allowed to speak on their’s and other parents behalf, but not before Greater Jasper Superintendent Dr. Tracy Lorey addressed both the parents and the board to explain the school corporation’s bus policies. One of the many factors Lorey pointed out was that at the beginning of every school year, school officials work to accommodate the hundreds of requests for changes in where children are picked up and dropped off:

Lorey also says school officials have been working to address capacity issues, timing issues, and tweaking travel patterns to create more efficiency. She says the corporation has already added shuttles, shifted routes and adjusted travel patterns. Lorey says within the next week the changes should help to improve the timing with bus routes.

Lorey along with members of the Greater Jasper School Board assured parents that everyone from school officials to bus drivers will continue working with parents to help find the best possible solution for students who ride the bus to school.

Dubois County once again is in sole possession of Indiana’s lowest unemployment rate..thanks to a strong month of July.

Local numbers released this afternoon by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development show Dubois County’s unemployment rate at 3.3% for July. That’s down 2 tenths of a percent from June’s number. Dubois County leads Indianapolis suburb Hamilton County by just a tenth of a percent.

Elsewhere in our area, Daviess County’s unemployment rate came in at 3.8% for July. Spencer County continued its strong run of late as they close July with 3.9% unemployment. Martin County reported 4%
unemployment last month as did Warrick County. Meanwhile, Pike County unemployment came in at 4.2%. Perry County was at 4.8, Crawford County 5.4 and Orange County was highest in area unemployment at 5.7%. Vermillion County once again had the state’s highest unemployment rate, which was reported at 7.1%.

Of course, the news is also good for state employment. Indiana saw its unemployment rate drop down to 4.7% last month, down 2 tenths from June and the lowest rate since November of 2007. The state also added 4,800 private sector jobs in July. That pushes Indiana above its historical peak level of employment, which was achieved back in March of 2000.

The state has added almost 292,000 private sector jobs since July of 2009, which was Indiana’s low point of employment.