News

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.

A retired Indiana University professor says the Hoosier State is moving towards becoming 2 states.

During his speech at yesterday’s Dubois Strong annual luncheon, Professor Emeritus of History James Madison laid out his theory that we may see 2 Indianas in the future. In his argument, Madison points out that he is already seeing the shift to 2 states. The first Indiana is doing quite well and is advanced deep into the 21st century. Madison says the other Indiana is not doing so well and is stuck in the 1970s way of thinking, which shows up in many small towns that are dying out.

Madison says education is at the core of the state’s problems. However, he says many around the state are starting to take notice:

Madison says the problems with leadership often begin at the polls as voter turnout remains low. However, he points out that many Hoosiers don’t know what’s going on in education, thus they don’t turn out to vote.

Madison says the solution is to have more engaged leaders:

Madison cited Hamilton County among others in the Indianapolis area as an example of a thriving community and one that is in the 21st century. He points to several counties in Southern Indiana as examples of areas that are still stuck in the 1970s and are not thriving.

Madison says from what he’s seen, Jasper and Dubois County are on the right track when compared with other areas:

Madison has written several books on the subject, including his most recent release “Hoosiers: A History of Indiana.” He presented a copy of the book to Dubois County Library director Christine Golden as a gift to the library in place of accepting a speaker’s fee from Dubois Strong.

2014 was a strong year for economic development locally, but several challenges lie ahead.

This afternoon, officials with Dubois Strong laid out some of the biggest accomplishments of 2014 at the group’s annual luncheon at KlubHaus 61 in Jasper. Among the successes were workforce housing projects like the former JOFCO building, nearly 11 hundred new jobs added, and shovel-ready sites.

Dubois Strong president Ed Cole says today was a day not only to reflect, but also to look forward:

The keynote address for today’s event came from Indiana University History Professor Emeritus James Madison. Madison talked about a movement towards 2 Indianas, one that is thriving and one that is stuck in the 1970’s.

On that note, Madison spoke well of Jasper and Dubois County:

Today also featured a unique moment. Instead of a speaker’s fee, Madison chose to donate a copy of his recently released book to the Dubois County library system. The book, which was released last year, is titled “Hoosiers: A History of Indiana”.

Library director Christine Golden was on hand to accept the book.

Local unemployment numbers for the month of March have been released for Indiana and for the third straight month Dubois County has maintained it’s position as the county with the state’s second lowest unemployment rate.

The county’s March rate came in at 4.1 percent, a drop of 1 tenth of a percent from February and only 1 tenth of a percent behind state leader Hamilton County.

Statewide Indiana’s up-then-down unemployment rate declined slightly in March.

Yesterday the Indiana Department of Workforce Development reported Joblessness fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.8 percent. It was the second month for a modest decrease. The rate was 5.9 percent in February.

At the same time, there were 800 fewer people in private sector jobs. According to the report, 5,200 jobs were loss in the professional and business services sector but was partially offset by an increase of 1,900 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, as well as a bump of 1,300 manufacturing jobs.

Despite the conflicting results for March, officials point out the more than 274,000 private sector jobs that have been added since July 2009, the lowest point of employment.

Workforce Development commissioner Stave Braun says Indiana’s economic indicators in 2015 remain positive on the whole. Braun adds that continued claims for unemployment insurance remain at their lowest levels in 15 years, which he says is also an encouraging trend entering the spring and summer months.

Now locally as mentioned Dubois County’s March unemployment rate fell one tenth of a percent to 4.1 good for second best. In fact all of Dubois’ neighboring counties saw some improvement.

Daviess County was tied for fourth after seeing a drop of 2 tenths of a percent at 4 and a half. Pike County was at 4.9 percent down 4 tenths. Martin County 5.3 down 2 tenths, Spencer 5.4 down 4 tenths, Perry dropped 2 tenths at 5.7, Orange was down 2 tenths at 7.6, and Crawford County’s March unemployment rate fell 1 tenth of a percent at 8.4 percent.

Once again Vermillion County had the state’s highest unemployment last month at 8.8 percent.

Indiana’s unemployment rate remains higher than the U.S. average of 5 and a half percent and is second highest among neighboring states. Illinois had the highest rate at 6 percent and rates in Ohio and Kentucky were the lowest at 5.1 percent.

Concerns are growing among local school officials as this year’s ISTEP+ test approaches.

Northeast Dubois School Corporation curriculum director Kathy Klawitter says the district has run the test through its computer system 4 times already. These included 2 stress tests of the CTB McGraw-Hill software that ISTEP+ uses along with 2 practice tests to help students get ready.

Klawitter says the last of the 4 tests was completed on Monday. She says all 4 of the tests were complete failures due to various issues with the system:

Klawitter says frustration with the test runs district-wide as teachers and staff have also worked on the test, only to run into the same problems. Klawitter says the only thing that can come out of this is more frustration:

Now the news about the testing issues also caused much concern among members of the school board. Superintendent Bill Hochgesang told the board that he has been attempting to talk with someone at the state Department of Education offices, but nobody has returned his calls to date. The idea about potentially boycotting the test was also floated, but Klawitter told the board that would likely have serious consequences for the district in terms of state accountability and federal funding.

The testing window for Northeast Dubois schools is set to open on Friday. However, school officials say they probably will not start testing until next week in light of all of the problems.

Officials with Purdue Extension of Dubois County say recent changes in farm payments at the federal level should help local farms.

The newly proposed rules through the US Department of Agriculture would eliminate payments to anyone designated as a farm manager, but not involved in farm operations. Purdue Extension ag agent Ken Eck says that change was aimed at large farms and corporations, thus leaving money from the program for the smaller local farms:

Eck says these changes, which are part of the Farm Bill that was passed by Congress last year, will help these smaller farms to keep from going under and thus hurting local economies.

Now there are some concerns that the proposal doesn’t go far enough. Officials with the Center for Rural Affairs say there are still a lot of loopholes in the proposal. They also say having more than 1 rule in effect would create confusion for farmers and thus more problems.

The USDA is still seeking public comment on the proposal. Those comments can be submitted at regulations.gov.

The deadline for comments is May 26th.