Local Coverage

Part of Jasper’s economic development vision is now one step closer to becoming reality.

Last night, the Jasper City Council approved plans to implement a tax increment finance (TIF) district within the city. The new area covers the vast majority of Jasper’s industrial area. It stretches from an area near the Patoka River to as far north as 36th Street, as far south as the southern city boundary near US 231 and most of the city’s east side.

Now the approval of TIF came after a lengthy discussion on the matter. Citizens and council members offered their opinions throughout the meeting. Councilman Kevin Manley echoed the feeling of many who were at last night’s meeting. He says the area involved in the TIF needs to be re-examined:

Meanwhile, councilman Ray Howard says all of the questions surrounding TIF are similar to those that have surfaced with past city projects. He pointed to the launching of the city’s website and the recent beginning of the tax abatement program as his two examples.

Like those 2 cases, Howard says the city will find a way to make things work:

In the end, Jasper mayor Terry Seitz says creating a TIF district is a fulfillment of the city’s vision. He believes that city officials have answered many of the questions surrounding TIF districts:

The final step of the process is to have the Redevelopment Commission give its final approval. That could come at that group’s next meeting on January 6th. A public hearing on the issue will happen at that meeting before any final decision is made.

The town of Ferdinand has taken the next step in its ongoing phosphorous removal project.

Last night, the Ferdinand Town Council approved using drying beds as a storage method for sludge that would come out of the wastewater plant. The council discussed 3 methods, with the other 2 being liquid land application and belt filter press with landfill disposal.

Now the wastewater plant would need 8 drying beds for all of the sludge the plant would produce. Each drying bed is 200 feet long by 100 feet deep. Sludge from the plant would be transferred to the drying beds, where the sludge would be dried out by heat from the sun before being disposed of. The sludge storage capacity would have to be increased due to EPA regulations requiring new chemicals to reduce the phosphorous levels. The new chemicals create more sludge.

Drying beds turned out to be the most inexpensive option for the council. The drying bed plan would cost the town roughly 1.4 million dollars compared to nearly 1.7 million dollars for each of the other 2 plans.

The main issue for the council now is finding land. A study done by Commonwealth Engineers found that a 10 acre plot of land would be needed. Ferdinand town council president Ken Sicard brought up a 76 acre plot that is for sale that the town could look into. Another option that could be explored would be land on the north side of Ferdinand. That area has been discussed as a future site for a new wastewater treatment plant should that time come.

Sicard says building a wastewater treatment plant on the north side in the future is not a bad idea:

The council directed town manager Chris James, wastewater superintendent Roger Schaeffer, and town attorney Bill Shaneyfelt to explore the town’s options for buying the 76 acres. The town would have to have 2 appraisals done on the land along with a title search before the property could be bought.

In other business, Sicard expressed his concerns about an effort in the state legislature related to rural electric companies and annexation. State legislators will consider a proposal from state senator Mike Crider which would prohibit Indiana’s municipal electric companies from taking territory away from rural electric cooperatives or investor-owned utilities during any annexation.

Sicard says the new legislation would cause more problems for Ferdinand:

The council discussed a past incident when the town annexed an area near Interstate 64 that is now the south side of Ferdinand. That area had been served by Tell City’s electric department. The two sides later settled in court and Ferdinand’s electric department began serving that area.

As for the state proposal, Indiana Energy Association president Mark Maasel has stated the plan is an attempt by REC’s and investor owned utilities to level the playing field since those groups currently are not allowed to take territory away from the municipal electric departments.

A Shoals woman ended up in jail on OWI charges after she ran her car off into a ditch just north of Jasper yesterday.

Just before 1:50 yesterday afternoon, Dubois County Sheriff’s deputies were called to US 231 just north Ashley Harrisof County Road 500 North. Deputies say 29-year-old Ashley Harris was going southbound on US 231 in that area when she went off of the west side of the road and into a ditch. Her Jeep wound up getting stuck in the ditch.

A deputy that responded to the scene found that Harris was showing signs of being intoxicated. Harris told the deputy that she had taken a couple of prescribed medicines about an hour prior to the crash. The deputy then did field sobriety tests on Harris. She did not pass any of them.

After being taken to Memorial Hospital for a blood draw, Harris was lodged in the Dubois County Security Center on preliminary OWI charges.

Damage to Harris’ vehicle was estimated at less than 1 thousand dollars.

The Sisters of St. Benedict are now working on a new initiative aimed at helping local immigrants.

The Sisters are currently working with the Board of Immigration Appeals to open an immigration office on the campus at the Monastery of Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand. Currently, there is no such office in Dubois County. Local immigrants have to go to Evansville to resolve any issues they may have.

Town council president Ken Sicard has put together a letter of recommendation for the Sisters. Sicard says the Sisters are well qualified to help local immigrants. He says having the office would be a win-win for everyone:

The town council will look into any potential zoning issues just to make sure all would be well with having the center on the Monastery campus.

Students from across Dubois County who are seeking summer work will have the opportunity to talk with local companies this upcoming week.

Coming up on Tuesday, December 30th, the Dubois County Student Career Fair will be held on the Vincennes University Jasper Campus. The event will be held from 1 til 4 pm at the Ruxer Gym.

Students who attend are asked to dress in business casual attire. Students should also bring resumes to pass out to companies that they plan to talk to.

There will be more than 15 local companies taking part. These will include Memorial Hospital, Kimball, Jasper Engines and Transmissions, and Wal-Mart among others.

For more information, you can call Austin Fisher at 623-203-2874.

Well another day and another round of accolades for the town of Santa Claus.

The town has been listed as one of CNN’s “12 Best Places to Spend Christmas” in 2014. In a news release, Spencer County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Melissa Brockman says being included on the list for the 2nd straight year is an exceptional honor for the town. She says the town loves welcoming visitors from both near and far.

Other communities to make the list include New York City, Barcelona, Spain; Nuremburg, Germany; and Strasbourg, France.

Now this is the 3rd major recognition for the town of Santa Claus over the last month. Santa Claus was also named to Travel Channel’s Best Holiday Attractions list and to Budget Travel’s holiday fun list.

Longtime Jasper Chamber of Commerce executive director Nancy Eckerle has announced her plans to seek the Republican nomination for 1 of 2 at-large seats on the Jasper City Council.

The 57-year-old Eckerle previously served on the council from 1996-1999 and represented District 5. Eckerle says though she’s been out of politics for a little while, the forward movement of the city is prompting her to run for office once again.

Eckerle says she is hoping to continue the city’s recent momentum. She says doing that will take a lot Nancy Eckerleof effort from everyone.

Eckerle currently serves as president of the Jasper Strassenfest Board of Directors. She is also a board member of the Redevelop Old Jasper Action Coalition and Dubois Strong. Eckerle co-founded the Dubois County Substance Abuse Council and serves as its co-chairperson. She has also organized the Summer Riverwalk Concert Series, Jasper’s O’Tannenbaum Days and the Patoka 2000 Beautification Project. She is also on numerous other boards and committees.

Eckerle has led the Jasper Chamber since 1987. She graduated from Jasper High School in 1976 and earned degrees in social work from Vincennes University and Indiana State University.

Eckerle was honored with a Young Hoosier Award from the Jasper Jaycees in 1993. She was nominated for the first Athena Award from the Rotary Club of Jasper back in 2012 and she was named a certified professional by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Association last year.