Local Coverage

Changes may soon be coming in how Huntingburg residents make their after-hours emergency calls.

Last night, the Huntingburg City Council heard about 3 options for handling those calls in the future. The changes come after the recent retirement of one of the city’s after-hours dispatchers. The council agreed on an option in the end and Spinner says the next step is to put together a full plan:

Spinner says that full proposal will likely be presented at the council’s next meeting.

The other 2 options that were considered were continuing with the current system and hiring a new employee and having staff at the city’s water plant handle those calls as Jasper currently does.

The city currently uses part-time dispatchers who work from home.

Dubois Strong will soon begin working on a new strategic plan.

Dubois Strong president Ed Cole says the group’s current plan was completed in 2013. Since that time, Cole says several things have changed:

Cole says Dubois Strong has 4 key initiatives that it will be focusing on in the future. These are workforce growth, business growth, entrepreneurial growth and organizational progress. Cole says internet connectivity and transportation remain 2 issues that will be key to moving Dubois County ahead and achieving the 4 key initiatives.

On the transportation front, Cole says the Mid-States Corridor is a project that needs as much support as it can get:

Cole says the Gigacity initiative that Jasper is working on with Smithville Communications will go a long way towards helping Internet connectivity locally.

Cole says solving the transportation issues will also go a long way in recruiting people to Dubois County to fill the many jobs that are available. Dubois Strong says the county created nearly 11 hundred jobs over roughly the last year, but there aren’t enough people locally to fill those jobs.

Cole also says taking the ongoing housing study and making solutions from that data will be key. However, he says that study is taking longer than expected since the study shows that there is enough housing in general, but not enough of the housing that workforce families are looking for.

Cole says the housing study is expected to be complete sometime in May.

Yesterday was the first chance for many to see Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari’s newest attraction.

Media Preview Day allowed various news outlets to get a first hand look at the new Thunderbird steel roller coaster. Thunderbird is the first launched wing coaster in the park’s history.

Plans for Thunderbird were unveiled at an announcement in late July of last year. Holiday World invested 22 million dollars in its construction, which marks the largest investment in any single ride in the park’s nearly 70 year history.

Now Thunderbird has some sentimental value as well. The coaster is the fulfillment of a dream of former Holiday World president Will Koch. Koch passed away in 2010.

Koch’s daughters, 4th generation owners Lauren and Leah Koch say having Thunderbird up and running is a tremendous accomplishment for the park. Leah Koch says the coaster is everything her father dreamt it would be:

Construction got underway early last summer. Thunderbird was completed in 9 months, slightly ahead of its original schedule.

Thunderbird will make its public debut tomorrow when Holiday World opens for the season.

An investigation into a fight at a Jasper Rubber plant that happened last weekend has ended with 2 people facing felony charges after police say they seriously injured another man during the fight.

Police were called to Jasper Rubber Plant #1 at about 8:45 this past Saturday night. Jasper Police say the fight started after an argument between 24-year-old Christopher Barrett of Huntingburg and another Christopher Barrettemployee turned violent. Police say Barrett hit the man in the back of the head. According to police, Barrett then pulled out a knife and repeatedly cut the victim, with most of the cuts on the man’s raised arm. Police say a 2nd person (23-year-old Kelvin Brown of Jasper) hit the man in the back with a pole at some time during the fight.

Police say the victim was able to pull out a stun gun and taze Barrett, which allowed him to escape. Police say the victim fled the plant and was soon located and taken to Memorial Hospital for treatment, including numerous stitches. Jasper Police say the man was released from the hospital after treatment. Kelvin Brown

Meanwhile, police filed arrest warrants for both Barrett and Brown. The 2 men were taken into custody yesterday and lodged in the Dubois County Security Center.

Barrett is charged with a Level 3 felony for Aggravated Battery Resulting in Serious Permanent Disfigurement. He also faces Level 5 felonies for Battery Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Battery with a Deadly Weapon along with a Class A misdemeanor for Battery Resulting in Bodily Injury.

Brown faces a Level 6 felony for Battery Resulting in Moderate Bodily Injury.

The economic future in Jasper now has a bit of a twist to it.

Last night, the Jasper City Council learned that there are actually more jobs available at some companies within the city than what they originally had thought. This was discovered as the council did yearly reviews of the tax abatement plans for several businesses during last night’s meeting.

Mayor Terry Seitz says there are roughly 60-70 full-time jobs that were open among the companies that had abatements reviewed last night. He says another couple of dozen part-time and temporary jobs are also available in those companies.

With this news, Seitz says the city and county’s ability to attract people for the workforce becomes even more important:

Seitz says several companies are now running behind on hiring employees as there simply aren’t enough people available. The council ultimately tabled those reviews until next month’s meeting.

On a related note, Dubois Strong president Ed Cole said yesterday that local leaders will have to get creative in finding workers to fill the jobs available:

Of course, several local companies have announced plans to hire more employees within the last year. These include Jasper Engines and Transmissions, who will be adding up to 100 new jobs in Dubois County and 235 overall by 2017 as part of expanding into the former Jasper Plastics building on Power Drive.

MasterBrand Cabinets is also expanding at their Ferdinand plant. They plan to add up to 262 jobs by the end of next year.

In other business, the council held a discussion about an ongoing lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Southwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council. It stems from a January wage determination hearing where a non-union wage was decided on for a city stormwater project along Worrell Drive.

The initial lawsuit was dropped after the city agreed to hold another wage hearing last month. The storm water board again voted to set the non-union wage and the group filed another lawsuit to have last month’s wage thrown out.

Seitz says the legal proceedings are causing problems as the city tries to move forward on other projects:

Seitz says a pre-trial conference last week led to this lawsuit.

A pair of projects aimed at improving fire and police protections in Huntingburg will soon get underway.

The city will begin expansions of the police station along 1st Street and the fire station along 11th Street within the next month or so. Mayor Denny Spinner says these projects are needed in order to keep up with the city’s expansion:

Work on the police station is expected to take somewhere around 6 months to complete. The police department will be housed in a temporary building while work is going on. That expansion will add on to the back of the building and will bring it up to current law enforcement standards.

Meanwhile, the fire station expansion is expected to more than double the size of the current building. The renovation of the fire station is expected to be done in September of this year.

Spinner says the projects will come in several hundred thousand dollars under budget. He says that will be beneficial in other ways:

Jasper Lumber was awarded the contracts to do both projects. The combined cost of the 2 projects comes in at just under $1.8 million.

The city will also be extending 9th Street from Styline Drive to Monkhouse Drive this summer as part of the Stellar Communities efforts. That extension is expected to be done by the end of the year.

A new learning grant for the Northeast Dubois School Corporation will come in handy.

Earlier this week, a group consisting of corporation superintendent Bill Hochgesang, curriculum director Kathy Klawitter, Dubois Middle School principal Ryan Case and special education teacher Jennifer Wright gave their presentation to the Northeast Dubois school board about the grant. The presentation was the same one that the group gave at the Statehouse for state education officials earlier this year.

The corporation recieved the $86,000 digital learning grant last month from the Indiana Department of Education. Klawitter says the district will use the money to hire a full-time technology assistant for the corporation. The district also plans to buy Macbook computers for its teachers and to bring in technology experts who will hold professional development sessions.

Klawitter says this will be a great investment for the corporation. She says it will also help teachers to be more involved in deciding the curriculum for students:

Northeast Dubois was one of 19 districts that got the funding. 88 school districts in all applied for digital learning grants this year.