Schellinger: State Partnership with Jasper in Regional Cities is Possible in Future

Though there is already a lot of investment in Jasper, officials are pushing for more state partnerships in the community.

As part of his visit to Jasper last week, Indiana Economic Development Corporation head Jim Schellinger discussed the idea of smaller communities such as Jasper being included in Indiana’s newly formed Regional Cities initiative. Of course, that initiative was part of the state’s next 2 year budget that was passed during the most recent legislative session. Its aim is to fund $84 million for major projects across 7 different regions. The southwestern Indiana region is centered around Evansville for now and other cities that are part of the initiative include Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.

Schellinger stated that he and District 63 representative Mike Braun have already begun discussions on how to integrate Jasper and other small cities and towns into the Regional Cities Initiative. He says although that change could very well happen in the future, there are some moving parts involved:

Now much of the attention Jasper is getting from the state is centered around the recent wave of projects that will repurpose old factory buildings into usable spaces. Just this past week, a total of $50 million in investments took steps forward through the Jasper City Council. The most highlightable of those was the newly proposed River Center. That project would invest nearly $30 million to convert the vacant former Jasper Cabinet buildings into a hotel, office space and 75 workforce housing units.

Schellinger says the ideas Jasper is coming up with are right in line with what he’s seeing all around the state:

Schellinger was appointed as head of the IEDC back in late July. He replaced Eric Doden, who stepped down in May to take a job in his home city of Fort Wayne.

McRobbie: IU in Good Position for Future

A special guest made a stop in Jasper on Friday afternoon to tout the success of Indiana University.

IU president Michael McRobbie arrived at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus late Friday afternoon to meet with local media and IU alumni to discuss where the university stands and what it’s doing for the future.

McRobbie focused on several themes during his time in Jasper, including college affordability, IU’s new engineering program and the university’s bicentennial fundraising campaign. McRobbie says he remains concerned with keeping college affordable as many schools across the country struggle with that. However, he says IU is in great shape in that regard:

McRobbie also touted IU’s recent work in reducing student debt. Since the start of the 2012-2013 school year, the university has been sending out letters to students who borrow money to pay for college to tell them what their monthly payments would be after graduation and how much money they would owe. The result according to McRobbie has been a dramatic drop in borrowing among IU students and millions of dollars less in student debt.

McRobbie also took time to discuss the recent approval of an engineering program at IU. That program was approved back in April by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and will be hosted at the School for Informatics and Computing on the Bloomington campus.

McRobbie says the engineering program will play a critical part in helping development all over the state, particularly in southwestern Indiana:

The engineering program will begin taking students next school year. The first engineering graduates will come in 2020, which is IU’s 200th birthday.

Speaking of the university’s big birthday, McRobbie also discussed IU’s recently launched bicentennial fundraising campaign. He says the effort, which is known as ‘For All’, is part of a strong philanthropy base at IU and is another example of what he’s seen around the country:

The ‘For All’ campaign was launched late last month with a stated fundraising goal of $2.5 billion. The university has already raised more than half of that amount with the help of more than 200,000 donors.

TRI-CAP Announces New Family Development Specialist Certifications

Officials with TRI-CAP have announced Family Development Specialist certifications for several staff members.

In a news release, officials say Dawn Allen, Julie Breitweiser, Kendra Brittingham, Justin Collins, Ellen Corn, Neka Doss, Kendra Harmon, Angi Hunt, Stacy Kalebjian, Karissa Krohn, Nikki Lasher, Jenessa Miller, Jamie Poselwait, Jennifer Reinhart, and Carrie Vickers have all earned those certifications recently. They join several other TRI-CAP staff who already are certified as Family Development Specialist.

Of course, family development is one of the key services that is offered by TRI-CAP on a day to day basis. Family Development has a long history in Community Action, originating with the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act. From this act, the Results-Oriented Management & Accountability (ROMA) tool was developed and has since become an integral component of each of the many TRI-CAP service areas.

In order to walk families through this process, appropriate TRI-CAP staff goes to comprehensive training and must meet annual CEU criteria to earn and maintain their Family Development Specialist certification. The 3 day certification process is run by the Indiana Community Action Association and is funded by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. Its designed for case workers that work intensively with clients using family assessment tools and a family development matrix to help families set goals, develop a plan to achieve those goals and empower families to reach self-sufficiency.

Patoka Lake To Start Issuing Firewood Permits Next Week

Officials at Patoka Lake are inviting local residents to help remove hazardous trees from high traffic areas of the lake by buying firewood permits.

The permits will be made available starting next Wednesday November 4th. Permits will be available subject to weather and staff time.

Now lake employees will be cutting down trees that are threatening to fall or lose limbs. Their primary focus area will be the modern campground, the fisherman’s campground and the beach area. Lake officials say many of the trees have been damaged by the emerald ash borer while others have finished their natural life cycle and need to be removed due to their location near buildings or in areas that people frequently use.

Residents will be able to cut up and haul away the firewood for $10 a pickup truck load. Again, permits will be required and can be obtained at the property office between 8:00 am – 3:00 pm on weekdays beginning next Wednesday as mentioned. Days, hours and access to specific areas for cutting will be determined by weather conditions and availability of downed hazard trees. You can call the park office at 812-685-2464 for updates.
Purchasers of this firewood must agree to comply with any quarantine requirements for ash they may cut and remove. Under the current EAB quarantine, ash firewood movement is allowed in Orange, Dubois, and Crawford County to all adjoining counties, as all those counties are quarantined and EAB infested.  

All funds received from the firewood permits will be designated for resource management efforts in the property.

Longtime Councilman Schmidt Receives Sagamore of the Wabash Award

(left to right): Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, Tom Schmidt, and Schmidt's wife Carol

(left to right):Sue Ellspermann, Tom Schmidt, and Schmidt’s wife Carol

Longtime Jasper city councilman Tom Schmidt is leaving the council at the end of the year..and he now has the perfect retirement gift.

This morning, Schmidt was surprised with the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash Award. The award was presented to Schmidt by Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann in front of family, friends, and city officials at Jasper City Hall.

Now Schmidt originally came to City Hall for a “meeting” about a city stormwater issue as he currently serves on the Jasper Stormwater Management Board. He was then escorted to the council chambers where the award was announced.

Schmidt says the award was the surprise of his life. He says he’s thankful for many things:

Schmidt is celebrating 40 years on the city council this year. Of course, he opted earlier in the year to not seek re-election this fall.

Schmidt says as his tenure on the council winds down, he has many fond memories to look back on:

The 76-year-old Schmidt has served with 4 Jasper mayors. They are Robert Parker, Chick Alles, Bill Schmidt and Terry Seitz.

Schmidt has been involved with other Jasper city entities in addition to the council. These include the Board of Public Works, the Park Board, the Dubois County Substance Abuse Committee and the Jasper Planning Commission. He also continues to run the business that he owns, Schmidt Contracting Inc.

Schmidt and his wife Carol have 3 adult children, 10 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

Traffic Chief Concern About Railroad Overpass for Huntingburg Residents

Huntingburg residents got their first look at proposed designs for a new railroad overpass to be built on the city’s west side.

Last night, city officials and engineering firm DLZ Indiana LLC unveiled their first renderings of where the new overpass would be. The proposed plans have the bridge spanning the Norfolk Southern Railroad and 12th Street. A new stretch of road would be built from 14th Street and would go south-southwest to connect with Styline Drive just north of 9th Street. A short stretch of Industrial Park Drive would also be re-routed as part of any construction effort.

Now last night’s meeting saw about 30 people show up, something officials with DLZ were happy to see:

The biggest concern to come from those on hand was the potential for traffic issues on and around the overpass. Some on hand called for changes to make it easier for people to get from the overpass area back to State Road 64.

DLZ officials say the public comment period will continue for a couple of weeks. After that, DLZ will meet with the city to discuss the public input. The input will then be forwarded to INDOT for a final design report and the approval of the necessary environmental documents.

Of course, the overpass project has been on the state’s radar since the summer of 2013 when it was announced. The project is still on schedule as of now with bid letting to begin in December of next year. Construction will begin in the spring of 2017 with the project expected to be completed sometime in 2018.

The overpass project will cost around $9 million in all. 80% of that is being funded by state and federal dollars. The remaining 20% will come from city and county local matches.

Level 3 Trauma Center Designation Big Goal for Memorial Hospital

Jasper’s Memorial Hospital and Healthcare Center is continuing to work on improvements, particularly when it comes to trauma care.

Hospital president and CEO Kyle Bennett says Memorial is currently working towards being designated as a Level 3 trauma center in the state of Indiana. Level 3 is the first designation in the state’s trauma center scale with Level 1 and Level 2 trauma centers able to handle the most serious of injuries.

Bennett says the designation is a big need for the region as it would allow the hospital to handle more trauma patients than it currently does:

Currently, there are 8 other hospitals across the Hoosier State working on a Level 3 trauma center designation. The state’s goal is to have every Hoosier be within a 45 minute drive of a trauma center in the event of serious injury. In our area, there are no major trauma centers though both Deaconness Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital in Evansville have the Level 2 trauma center designation. Patients from this area who have suffered serious injuries or trauma often are taken to one of the Evansville hospitals or to Louisville for treatment.

Bennett says Memorial Hospital has been working on getting this designation for about a year now. He says the hospital is expecting to get an “In-Process” verification from the American College of Surgeons sometime within the next few months.