Local Coverage

Last week was momentous for the ‘Friends of Otwell Elementary’ group..and its leader is hoping for even greater things as time goes on.

Bob Rhodes has been leading the ‘Friends of Otwell’ group for the last month or so. During that time, the group has become more organized, including this past week’s election of a Board of Directors. That board consists of 7 members including Rhodes, who is continuing as chairman. The other 6 are Mike Houtsch, Josh Byrd, Travis Troutman, David Jochim, Hannah Hill and Elizabeth Luff. Luff, who is an attorney in Velpen, will also help with legal concerns that the group may have.

Rhodes says with new leadership also comes a slight change in focus:

Now Rhodes stated last week that the charter document is nearing its completion. He says the group is still working its way through a first draft of the charter, thus its only a matter of time before it’s done.

Of course, the group will soon vote on a mission statement and put together letters of endorsement to help the charter school effort. Rhodes, who has served in the military and taught for 10 years at Washington Catholic High School, also discussed the strengths of a small school to help people come up with what to write in their letter of recommendation should they put one together.

Rhodes says saving Otwell Elementary would be a victory for small schools, many of which he says impact students as much or even more than the larger schools:

Now Otwell Elementary is using the recent efforts of Duggar Union, which successfully reopened this school year as a charter school, as inspiration for their work.

The next ‘Friends of Otwell Elementary’ group meeting is set for next Tuesday, October 6th.

Local residents interested in learning more about Indiana’s tax amnesty program for this year will get the chance to do so this upcoming week.

The Indiana Department of Revenue is partnering with the Jasper Kiwanis Club to conduct a free Tax Amnesty 2015 Seminar this upcoming Tuesday, September 29th. The seminar will go from noon to 1 pm at the Jasper VFW Post along North Newton Street.

Now Tax Amnesty 2015 is a limited-time opportunity for both individuals and businesses to pay past-due taxes free of penalty, interest and collection fees. All tax types managed by the Indiana Department of Revenue for periods ending prior to Jan. 1, 2013, are eligible for the program.

The free seminar will provide an overview of Tax Amnesty 2015, including:

Eligibility requirements;
Participation benefits;
Tax warrant expungement;
Payment plan options; and
Additional taxpayer resources.

Additionally, attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions of an experienced department representative.

District 48 senator Mark Messmer is among those who supported the tax amnesty, which was put in place this past legislative session to raise money for the state’s new Regional Cities initiative along with funding to support Amtrak’s Hoosier State rail passenger service between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Messmer says the tax amnesty is a great opportunity to get out from under your tax burden:

For a complete list of scheduled Tax Amnesty 2015 seminars, go to www.in.gov/dor/amnesty/5382.htm.

This year’s Huntingburg Herbstfest is in the books and officials have announced the winners from this year’s parade.

OFS Brands took home this year’s Herbstfest Queen’s Choice Award. Meanwhile, Shared Abundance took home Best Walking Unit, RG Mechanical was named as Best Car; Eagles Kid’s Club was chosen for the Mayor’s Choice Award; the Grand Marshal’s Award went to Central Christian Church; the Duckville Purple People Eater took home Best Float honors and the Huntingburg Volunteer Fire Department was awarded for having the Best Fire Apparatus.

Of course, the parade marked the official end of the Huntingburg Herbstfest. It got underway at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon along 4th Street.

A Warrick County man was jailed over the weekend after an investigation into aluminum that was taken from a Jasper business.

Back on September 17th, officials at Jasper Rubber Products contacted Jasper Police to report that aluminum items worth nearly $4,000 was stolen from one of the company’s facilities. JPD says they were able to develop 48-year-old Danny Saddler of Tennyson as the suspect throughout their investigation. Saddler was a Jasper Rubber employee and worked at the facility where the aluminum was stolen from according to police. Danny Saddler

Jasper Rubber officials then called police early Saturday morning to report that Saddler had several other items belonging to the company in his vehicle. After arriving on scene and taking Saddler into custody, police say they found another $500 worth of aluminum items inside of his vehicle.

Saddler was booked into the Dubois County Security Center. He faces a Level 6 felony count for theft.

Jasper Police are investigating credit card skimming devices that were found at a pair of local gas stations.

JPD says one of the devices was found at the Huck’s gas station along Hoffman Road in Jasper at pump #15. The 2nd device was found on pump #3 at the Huck’s location along 3rd Avenue.

Now JPD says the devices are believed to have been placed on the pumps back in July. Authorities found the skimmers yesterday.

Police are warning anyone who used those pumps between July and now to be particularly vigilant when it comes to the security of their credit or debit cards. Hucks is cooperating with authorities in this investigation.

The proposed Jasper Cultural Center is continuing to gain traction.

Earlier this week, the Jasper City Council expressed their support for the idea. Councilmen Tom Schmidt and Ray Howard went on record as being in favor so long as a new building would be built on the current Hoosier Desk site and the current building would be torn down. The remaining council members on hand expressed support as long as the city could afford it and a referendum could pass for the site. Councilman Greg Schnarr did not register an opinion at Wednesday’s meeting as he was not at the meeting.

Of course, the Jasper Arts Commission went before the council Wednesday night to start the discussion on funding for their portion of the cultural center. Mayor Terry Seitz says that effort is still a work in progress, but it can be done:

Seitz says the arts commission will likely have to do some fundraising on their own to cover some of the cost.

Now the Jasper Cultural Campus could be done at a combined cost of $12.6 million dollars. The Jasper Library and Jasper Arts Commission would share the building and each would kick in roughly $6.3 million. The cost of purchasing the building is around $864,000.

The Jasper Library Board voted last week to move to the Hoosier Desk site pending the passage of a referendum in 2016.

Yesterday marked a big day for TRI-CAP.

TRI-CAP board members along with city, state and federal officials were on hand as the organization held a ribbon cutting for their newly renovated south side Jasper facility. The renovation had been ongoing for several years on the building, which formerly housed Dippel’s Food Store and TRI-CAP has been in the building for a couple of months now since work was completed.

TRI-CAP Executive Director Joyce Fleck says the work began back in September of 2012 when she approached USDA officials about potential funding. The USDA ultimately kicked in funding through its Community Facilities loan program. In the end, TRI-CAP was able to purchase the building and took ownership of it last summer.

Fleck says she’s happy with how everything turned out. She says the biggest addition has been the new training room, which is making a huge difference in routine costs for TRI-CAP:

The new training room holds about 80 people.

Meanwhile, Phil Lehmkuhler is the state director for USDA Rural Development of Indiana and is from Jasper originally. He says the renovation fit exactly what his agency looks for:

The renovation cost around $600,000 in all. Work was done by Seufert Construction of Ferdinand.