Local Coverage

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana wildlife officials say bobcat sightings are increasing and the state could someday allow a limited fur-trapping season for the wildcats.

Bobcats were classified as endangered from 1969 until 2005, when they were removed from Indiana’s endangered species list.

WRTV reports (http://bit.ly/11tVG0l ) the state Department of Natural Resources has been tracking an increase in bobcat sightings around Indiana. The agency this week posted on its Facebook page a photograph of a young bobcat struck and killed by a car in central Indiana’s Tipton County.

The DNR says Indiana’s bobcat population is expected to continue growing in areas with good habitat.

The agency says it’s possible there may be a limited trapping season for bobcats in the future, especially in their strongholds in southern and northeastern Indiana.

As we near Christmas, folks in Santa Claus are getting ready to kick off holiday festivities in style this year.

On December 1st, Santa and his elves will be making this year’s special Christmas postmark available to the public. It will be available from 5 to 7 o’clock central time that evening inside of the Original Post Office at the Santa Claus Museum and Village.

Kids who are wanting to write letters to Santa this year are also invited to stop by the post office and visit with Santa. He’ll be helping kids of all ages to get their Christmas lists finished up. Letters have to be received by December 20th in order to get a response from Santa and the elves.

Now this year is extra special for Santa Claus. This year marks the 100th year for the Santa’s letters program.

Pat Koch says the program has thrived over the years thanks to the help of many people:

The first 20 visitors on December 1st will get a free commemorative pin in honor of the anniversary. Postmaster James Martin and Santa Jim Yellig are featured on the pins. Martin was the postmaster who started the letter program back in 1914. Meanwhile, Yellig was the original Santa who put in many hours to answer children’s letters.

Now volunteers are still being sought to answer letters this year. Koch says this year will likely be another busy year for answering letters:

For more information or to volunteer, you can go online to santaclausmuseum.org. You can also call 812-544-2434.

Koch and Greg Martin (James Martin’s great-grandson) will be signing copies of the book Santa Claus on December 1st as well. Koch says the book contains many historical photos and local stories, including how the town was named.

Copies of the book are available for purchase at the Santa Claus Museum gift shop.

A St. Meinrad monk has received special recognition from the National Religious Vocation Conference.

Earlier this month, Father Anthony Vinson, OSB, was honored with the 2014 Recognition Award. Father Anthony has served 2 terms on the NRVC’s national board.

Fr. Anthony has also served on several different committees, including time as chair of the finance committee. He was one of the NRVC’s site coordinators for the English-speaking venue at the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Fr Anthony is credited with strengthening the collaboration between NRVC and the Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry during his time on the board. That collaboration played a role in NRVC’s successful participation in the National Catholic Youth Conference. He also served on an advisory group designed to study establishment of a fund to help religious institutions in welcoming candidates who have student loans. That group work led to the development of the National Fund for Catholic Religious Vocations.

Father Anthony will be the secretary-treasurer for the new fund’s board of directors.

Currently, Fr. Anthony serves as administrator of St. Meinrad (St. Meinrad, IN) and St. Boniface (Fulda, IN) parishes and as the director of pastoral formation for Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. He also serves as a chaplain at St. Xavier High School, Louisville, KY.

LEBANON (AP)- A Wisconsin-based retailer plans to shut down its central Indiana distribution center and eliminate nearly 100 jobs.

Shopko Stores Operating Co. has told state officials it will permanently close its Lebanon distribution center next year. The company says its first layoffs will start in mid-January, with the shutdown expected to be completed by the end of September.

The Green Bay, Wisconsin-based company says it has more than 300 stores in 21 states, but none are in central Indiana.

Shopko previously had stores in Loogootee, Petersburg, and Bloomfield here in southwestern Indiana. Those stores were closed this past summer.

Productions at Jasper’s Astra Theater could be coming soon.

This morning, officials with the Dubois County Community Foundation announced a 100 thousand dollar signature grant to go towards the restoration and preservation of the old downtown theater.The grant was given to Next Act Incorporated. Next Act is a not-for-profit group that formed specifically to head up preservation of the Astra.

50 unrestricted endowments from the foundation will be participating. The grant is the largest that the Foundation has ever given. CEO Brad Ward says being able to give this grant is a dream come true for the foundation:

Several other local officials took part in this morning’s announcement, including Next Act chairwoman Leslie Hamby. Hamby says the Astra project will be more than just the preservation of history:

After it reopens, the theater will be managed by the Jasper Arts Commission. Even with the grant, Next Act will still have to raise 465 thousand dollars towards its efforts. Part of that money will go to purchasing the building while the rest will go to restoration efforts.

Jasper Arts executive director Kit Miracle also spoke this morning. She says the Astra is a central part of a planned expansion of the Arts in Jasper. She says the arts are a logical choice to manage the Astra once it reopens:

Miracle says the arts is looking at other projects as well. These include downtown office space among others.

Other people who spoke were Dubois Strong president Ed Cole, Jasper mayor Terry Seitz, and Community Foundation president Bill Kaiser.

The Astra originally opened in 1937. It was closed back in 2002 and had been up for sale since then.

State funding for schools is on the minds of many educators, including those in the Northeast Dubois School Corporation.

Last night, the Northeast Dubois School Board signed a resolution supporting changes to the state’s school funding formula. The resolution states that only changing the formula can keep schools from needing to cut teachers and programs, thus leading to more students in each class.

Superintendent Bill Hochgesang says the way schools are funded now makes it tough for the Northeast Dubois district to get by. He also has a couple of ideas to make the formula work for all schools:

Hochgesang says the resolution is similar to one that the Southeast Dubois school board signed at their meeting earlier this month.

At the state level, school funding has been mentioned as a priority for this year’s legislature. Republicans are calling for increases in funding to suburban and rural schools. However, Democrats argue that such a change would take money away from available funding for urban schools.

Also last night, the board talked more about the first snow day of the year on Monday. Hochgesang says the school’s response to the first snow day went really well, thanks in large part to the school’s Remind text message and email system. That system allows for anyone that signs up to get a text or email message when the district delays or closes school. You only have to sign up one time to be in the program and you get the messages until you unsubscribe.

Hochgesang says for now, there are few concerns about the number of snow days built into the calendar. However, he says the school is working on other plans in case there are more snow days:

The makeup day for Monday’s snow day will be Monday, December 22nd.

The Northeast Dubois school calendar for the 2015-2016 school year was also approved. School will start on August 7th of next year, a day later than this year. School is scheduled to end on May 25th, 2016.

2 people sustained minor injuries in an accident on Jasper’s south side yesterday.

Just before 3:45 yesterday afternoon, Jasper Police were called to an area along US 231 near Wernsing Road on a reported 2 vehicle accident. When they arrived, police say 47-year-old Daniel Schmitt of Jasper had been going northbound along US 231 and had stopped at the intersection with Wernsing Road to turn west once the southbound traffic along US 231 had cleared. At the same time, police say 61-year-old Edwin Chandler Jr of Huntingburg was following Schmitt’s vehicle and didn’t notice that he had stopped. Chandler’s vehicle then ran into the back of Schmitt’s vehicle.

Schmitt complained of head pain while Chandler complained of neck pain. Chandler was taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital for treatment. Schmitt declined to be taken to the hospital.

Damage to Schmitt’s vehicle was estimated at 4 thousand dollars while Chandler’s vehicle sustained 10 thousand dollars worth of damage. Chandler was cited for following too closely.

Memorial Hospital EMS also assisted.