News

The push continues for building a new interstate grade highway to connect Dubois County to Interstate 69.

Last night, Mid-States Corridor project leader Hank Menke gave an update on the project to the Jasper City Council. Menke asked the council to kick in some money to help keep things moving with the Mid-States Corridor group.

Menke says the money will go towards having pre-engineering work and a P3 study done in order to assess the costs of the project. He says the work will be done with the help of other groups in Florida and Texas.

Menke says public money can only help the efforts:

Menke also credited the work of new District 63 state representative Mike Braun in keeping things moving. Menke says Braun has had regular discussions about the Mid-States Corridor with Indiana Department of Transportation commissioner Karl Browning.

On the private side, German American Bancorp CEO Mark Schroeder says the highway is needed to keep companies such as GAB viable:

The council approved using EDIT funds that have been specifically designated for the Mid-States Corridor. Menke says the private support will help to keep things going over the next 2 to 3 years. No money for the project has been allotted by INDOT at this point.

Menke says the Mid-States Corridor group is still closely monitoring the construction of Interstate 69. He remains confident that stretch of highway will be finished. Menke also says communities such as Washington are already reaping the benefits of having an interstate with new warehouse and other businesses already locating near the highway.

Menke says a final route and specific locations for the Mid-States Corridor in Southwestern Indiana are still being determined.

Jasper city officials continue working to resolve the future of the city’s former power plant.

Tuesday night, utilities general manager Bud Hauersperger told the Jasper Utility Service Board that the 2nd phase of the environmental assessment on the plant building and property will soon get underway. The first phase of the study was completed last month.

Now the city had put out requests for expressions of interest on the plant late last year. More than 20 were sent out, but only a few of them were returned by the December 1st deadline. Hauersperger says most of the power firms that did return them stipulated that the city would have to buy power from them, which cannot be done since the city has a contract for that through the Indiana Municipal Power Agency. The most viable option for the plant came from salvage companies and the utility service board approved sending out bid packets to the salvage companies at last month’s regular meeting.

Hauersperger says nobody else has expressed interest in using the building as a power plant at this point. Thus he says not much has changed in terms of the options:

Hauersperger also says efforts to revitalize the power plant as a power plant were a good idea that just didn’t work out:

A full report on the environmental study is expected at a later date.

District 48 state senator Mark Messmer says a bill aimed at a new kind of economic development has taken another step towards becoming reality.

Senate Bill 359, which is aimed at implementing a sales tax exemption for data warehouse equipment, passed out of the Senate’s Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy earlier this week. The bill specifically targets investments of $100 million or more in equipment and investments in high technology district areas of cities or counties. The goal is to entice larger companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to consider putting data warehouses in Indiana.

Messmer says these tax exemptions have a track record of success in Colorado, Iowa, and other states. He says there are several different positives to getting this type of investment in the Hoosier State:

Exemption applications would have to be reviewed by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

The bill is now in the full Senate awaiting a vote.

A bill that would remove state superintendent of public instruction Glenda Ritz from automatically chairing the State Board of Education has passed out of the Indiana Senate.

Senate members voted 33-17 yesterday to move the proposal (known as Senate Bill 1) forward. If approved, state board of education members would be able to elect their own chairman, thus Ritz would likely be removed from that role.

Local senators Erin Houchin and Mark Messmer voted in favor of the proposal. Messmer says though the dysfunction on the board has been ongoing for awhile, he is not placing blame on either Governor Mike Pence or Ritz.

Messmer says the bill is not making major changes to anything as has been widely reported:

Now Senate Bill 1 would also shrink the board from 10 to 9 members. The board would then consist of the superintendent, four members appointed by the governor and 1 appointment each for the Republican and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate. Currently, all board members are appointed by Governor Mike Pence.

Supporters say the change is needed to fix the dysfunction on the State Board of Education. Meanwhile, opponents say the measure will disenfranchise voters who elected Ritz to the superintendent’s office in 2012.

The Indiana House approved a similar bill last week.

Well now that the snow is coming to an end, the deep freeze will be setting in across our listening area.

According to our weather partner southernindianaweather.com, high temperatures today will reach the upper teens this morning. At that point, meterologist Michael Wilhite says temperatures will fall through the afternoon and into the evening.

Wilhite says the cold will be historic:

Wind chill readings could fall as low as 25 to 30 degrees below zero this evening. The cold will continue tomorrow as highs will only be in the single digits. Low temperatures tomorrow night will once again fall below zero. We are under a wind chill advisory locally until 7 o’clock tomorrow evening.

Now the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is advising people to take precautions to stay warm over the next couple of days. These are:

Stay indoors. Make trips outside as brief as possible. Wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing, and cover any exposed skin with a hat, scarf, and gloves.

If travel is necessary, make sure the vehicle has an emergency kit that includes an ice scraper, blanket, and flashlight. Try to keep the fuel tank above half full.

Check on your pets and family friends/neighbors as necessary.

For more winter weather preparedness information, visit GetPrepared.IN.gov.

Jasper city officials are among those concerned with the latest news on Senate Bill 309.

The bill, which would ban cities and towns from providing electrical service to any areas that they annex, passed the Senate yesterday on its 3rd reading by a vote of 42-7. Local senators Mark Messmer and Erin Houchin were among those who voted ‘yes’. The bill would be applied to any annexations that are done after May 12th of this year. The electricity would come from rural electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities.

Jasper utilities general manager Bud Hauersperger says several members of the Jasper Utility Service Board went to Indianapolis to testify to the Senate about the impacts of the bill. However, Hauersperger says those efforts proved to be futile:

Hauersperger says cities and towns conceded territory to the REC’s back in 2002 as part of an effort to make things work. He says that only adds to the frustration of the current bill:

Hauersperger says a proposed amendment to the bill did not pass in the Senate. The bill now goes to the House for its approval.

In other business, the board heard an update on a couple of ongoing projects. Hauersperger told the board that the 2nd phase of the environmental assessment for the Jasper Power Plant site is now underway. Hauersperger says the first phase involved initial work such as paint sampling. The 2nd phase will involve more hands-on work and a full report is expected later on.

Finally, Hauersperger told the board that the state Department of Natural Resources has given its approval to move ahead on the Beaver Lake spillway project. However, Hauersperger says he decided to hold off on the project in light of ongoing litigation. The Southwest Indiana Building and Construction Trade Council and a pair of Jasper residents are suing the city of Jasper along with its stormwater board and wage determination committee. The injunction was filed on January 23rd in response to the wage determination for the project that was made during a hearing on January 7th.

On a related note, the Indiana House’s Labor Committee voted 8-4 yesterday to eliminate all boards that set wages for each state or local project.

A Birdseye man was taken to the hospital after an accident near Schnellville yesterday.

At 1:35 pm, Dubois County Sheriff’s deputies were called to Schnellville Road just east of County Road 600 East. Deputies say 25-year-old Dusty Corn was going eastbound on Schnellville Road when his vehicle began to slide on the roadway. The vehicle then went off of the south side of the road, hitting a large wooden fence post with the driver’s side. Corn’s vehicle then went back left of center, coming to rest off of the north side of Schnellville Road.

Corn had to be extricated from his vehicle by Schnellville and St. Anthony First Responders. He was taken to Memorial Hospital by ambulance to be treated for an upper left leg injury. 2 passengers in the vehicle (22-year-old Amanda Smith and 4-year-old Lakota Smith were not injured.

The vehicle was a total loss. Police did not file any charges.

Memorial Hospital EMS and a wrecker from Hasenour Motor Company also assisted.