Local Coverage

Thursday night was a night for recognition in Huntingburg.

Last night, the Huntingburg City Council took the time to recognize former city employees Carolyn Bartelt and Angie MacDonald. Both were after-hour on call dispatchers for the city, with Bartelt serving for 20 years prior to retiring earlier this year. MacDonald worked as an on-call dispatcher for Huntingburg for 11 years.

Now back in April, the city began investigating options for handling after-hours emergency utility calls and other issues. The council decided to contract the service out and the city is now working with Jasper and Ferdinand on a new unified alert system which would notify residents by email and text message when there was an emergency in their city.

Despite these changes in protocol, mayor Denny Spinner is thankful for Bartelt’s and MacDonald’s efforts:

The other 2 options that were considered for Huntingburg were continuing with the current system and hiring a new employee and having staff at the city’s water plant handle those calls as Jasper currently does.

Dubois County’s annual tax sale was a huge success.

The sale took place yesterday and was led by county auditor Kathy Hopf and county treasurer Chad Blessinger. In all, Blessinger says 83 parcels of land had all taxes, penalties and costs paid in full. The county was able to pull in some $261,692.44 from those sales.

Now 12 other properties did not sell yesterday. Blessinger says the county commissioners now have tax liens on those parcels and can put them up for sale to the public at a later date.

In a news release, Blessinger says tax sales continue to be a necessary function of county government. Blessinger says its only fair to people who pay their property taxes every year to go after those who don’t pay.

The sale was coordinated by SRI Incorporated of Indianapolis on behalf of the county. SRI conducts tax sales in 83 counties across Indiana, Michigan and Colorado.

For more information on property tax sales, visit www.sri-taxsale.com.

A Dubois County farmer was among those recently honored for efforts to protect Indiana’s natural resources.

Paul Steckler was honored with the River-Friendly Farmer Award from the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Steckler was one of 48 Hoosier farmers to receive the award.

Steckler was nominated for the award by the Dubois County Soil and Water Conservation District. Award nominations are made based on farm management practices that protect Indiana’s rivers, lakes and streams.

The River-Friendly Farmer Award has been presented by the IASWCD and sponsored by the ninety-two local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. since 2000. This year’s group of award winners brings the total number of River-Friendly Farmers in Indiana since the award’s beginning to 809.

Steckler recieved his award last Wednesday August 19th during the Indiana State Fair.

Ferdinand town manager Chris James has announced a new intern at Town Hall for this fall.

18-year-old Whitney Hulsman will serve as this semester’s intern for the town. Hulsman is currently a senior at Forest Park High School.Whitney

In a news release, James says Hulsman is continuing the strong tradition of Forest Park students who have interned with the town. He is hopeful that the experience will help Hulsman make decisions about her future plans. Hulsman is hoping to go into business after graduation from Forest Park, but has not decided on an exact major or college at this point.

Hulsman is the daughter of Steven and Tricia Hulsman of Birdseye. Her brother, Zach is currently enrolled at the University of Southern Indiana.

Hulsman is part of the state champion Forest Park Dance Team. She’s also involved with National Honor Society, the National Beta Club, Students Against Destructive Decisions and Peers Educating Peers among other groups.

The investigation into the suspicious deaths of 2 people in northern Martin County has led to the arrest of a Shoals man on murder charges.

During the overnight hours of Tuesday into Wednesday, Martin County sheriff’s deputies were searching for 52-year-old Tom Tharp of Shoals. Tharp had been reported missing earlier in the day by his family. Nathan Baker

Just before 10 o’clock yesterday morning, a deputy went to a residence in the 8000 block of Fred Sims Road in Shoals trying to locate Tharp. While checking a detached garage, the deputy found the body of 82-year-old Alan Sims of Shoals. Police say Sims suffered a single gunshot wound and his death appeared to be a homicide.

Martin County deputies and Indiana State Police soon identified 33-year-old Nathan Baker of Shoals as a person of interest. Police found that Baker had previously lived on Sims’ property until he was asked to leave. Sims had also been on the property several times within the last few days according to police.

Now state police had previously dispatched for officers to be on the lookout for a green 1997 Pontiac Sunfire belonging to Tharp. The vehicle was found in Lawrence County just after 2:15 pm and deputies there tried to pull the vehicle over. The driver did not stop and led Lawrence County deputies on a pursuit to State Road 158, where he crashed.

Police immediately found that Baker was driving the car. He was arrested shortly after 2:30 yesterday afternoon. During his arrest, officers found a shotgun that investigators say was the murder weapon. Meanwhile, Tharp’s body was found a short time later during a 2nd search of Sims’ property. Investigators say Tharp also suffered a gunshot wound.

Baker was booked into the Martin County Jail, where he is currently being held. He is facing 2 counts of murder, which are Level 1 felonies.

A Michigan man is facing charges in Dubois County after his online attempts to solicit sex from a Jasper Middle School student.

Yesterday afternoon, Jasper Police obtained warrants for the arrest of 44-year-old Michael Paul Van Houten of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Van Houten was wanted on a Level 5 felony for child solicitation.

Now the charges stem from a nearly 5 month long investigation. JPD says Van Houten had been having online chats with a girl he believed was 14 years old and a student at Jasper Middle School. Police say during those chats, Van Houten tried to solicit various sex acts from the girl and made plans to meet with her on two separate occasions. Those meetings never materialized.

Grand Rapids Police took Van Houten into custody yesterday afternoon. He will be extradited to Dubois County to face the felony child solicitation charge.

Huntingburg Police, the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department, the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office and Grand Rapids Police all helped with the investigation.

Dubois County employees will soon have the chance to register their opinion on how things are going at work and what can be done better.

First year county council members Craig Greulich, Charmian Klem and Becky Beckman are among those leading an effort to introduce a countywide employee satisfaction survey. Officials say results from the survey could lead to changes in county policy and salaries as well as departments.

Now this survey stems from the county council’s long debate over whether or not to do a salary study for county employees. That idea was put on hold last year amid the county’s ongoing budget shortfalls.

Beckman says one of the biggest goals will be resolving any inconsistencies with salaries among other things:

Meanwhile, Klem says the biggest goal is to hear concerns that county employees may have:

The study will be put together by John Siebert with Jasper-based Siebert Consulting. Klem says there will be about 30 questions with topics ranging from work environment to family friendliness.

The study is still subject to approval from the Dubois County Commissioners. The issue will be discussed at the commissioners’ meeting next week.

If all goes well, the survey could be administered starting in October. Beckman and Klem say their preference would be to have the survey done online though nothing is set in stone yet.