Early returns from an ongoing housing study in Dubois County have greatly surprised some local officials.

This evening, Dubois Strong president Ed Cole told the Dubois County Council that project firm Development Concepts Incorporated of Indianapolis has found there is, in fact, no shortage of available housing units in the county. Cole says instead, the firm has concluded that many of the available houses and apartments don’t fit with the type of housing that many people are interested in.

Cole says this revelation will change Dubois Strong’s future approach when it comes to housing development:

Cole says the study will also lead to a closer look at how many units of workforce housing are needed in the county and where those should be implemented. He says local participation was excellent as more than 1,100 workers completed surveys that were conducted as part of this study.

Cole told the council that the findings will push the completion of the study back a little bit as the data that was collected will need to be studied a bit further. Cole says Design Concepts Inc. will now likely conclude its work in early May rather than in mid-April.

The cost of the study was originally expected to end up somewhere around $35,000.

Ongoing work on the 9-1-1 communications upgrades in Dubois County hit a minor funding snag within the last couple of weeks.

This evening, the Dubois County Council heard that county attorney Art Nordhoff recently recommended an investment into a performance bond as insurance for the communications system work. The council decided to approve that recommendation, though there was reluctance from some members to do so. The bond adds a little over $44,600 to the original cost of the project, bringing the project’s total cost up to around $860,000.

Now law enforcement and other emergency personnel across the county maintain that the project is an important one. Sheriff Donny Lampert says the impact of the upgrades will be felt in several different areas:

The rest of the funding for the project was approved at January’s council meeting. Advanced Radio Communications is working on this project with help from Digital Sky Wireless.

Once completed, the new system will allow for 95% of the county to be covered by emergency communications. Officials say that is significantly better than current coverage levels.

Dubois County’s unemployment rate remains low after a large decrease in the month of February.

Numbers released this afternoon by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development show that Dubois County still has the 2nd lowest unemployment rate in the state. That rate came in at 4.2% for February, down 6 tenths of a percent from January. Hamilton County retains the top spot at 4.1%.

Among other local counties, Daviess County is tied for the 4th lowest unemployment rate at 4.7%. Warrick County came in at 5.2%, Pike County 5.3%, Martin County 5 and a half percent, Spencer 5.8%, Perry 5.9%, Orange County was at 7.8%, and Crawford County came in at 8.4% for February. Vermillion County again had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 9.7%.

Now statewide numbers released on Friday show that the state’s unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percent down to 5.9% for February. Spokesman Joe Frank says the state‘s economy added 1,700 new jobs led mainly by private educational and health services, manufacturing and the leisure and hospitality sectors. Indiana‘s unemployment rate remains higher the national rate of 5.5% for February. Frank says that‘s because in the past few years, Indiana has seen a big increase of about 80,000 people returning to the labor force.

Frank says that‘s an indication that people are more optimistic about their job prospects…..

Frank says the state has added about 268,000 private sector jobs – 90,000 in manufacturing – in the past few years following the economic downturn back in 2008.

Indiana remains among the top ten states for job creation. Frank says they expect the labor force and private sector job growth trends to continue.

The search continues for the nesting site of a bald eagle they say died from injuries after being shot in northwestern Dubois County.

Indiana Conservation Officers say the search efforts have included using aircraft and drones to search Eagle Search 1nests in the area. Conservation officers say 3 nests that are closest to where the eagle was found have been ruled out, as all 3 turned out to be 2 parent nests.

In a news release, Indiana Conservation Officer Kenny Tincher says the amount of phone calls and help recieved from citizens so far has been almost overwhelming. Tincher says local agencies and the Dubois County Sportsman’s Club have donated money to cover costs of using the aircraft and drones.

Now this story began back on March 19th when conservation officers were called to an area in northwestern Dubois County near the Pike County line after getting a report of an injured eagle. Conservation officer Joe Haywood said last week the eagle’s actions suggested that something was wrong:

The eagle was found in flooded timber and was taken to a federal wildlife rehabilitator. Haywood says rehab efforts stalled when the bird could not keep food down. The bird was later taken to the Indiana Eagle Search 2Raptor Center in Nashville after bullet fragments were found during X-rays.

The bird died enroute to the Raptor Center.

In spite of recent accomplishments and challenges, there is opportunity in the city of Jasper.

That’s the message which was delivered by mayor Terry Seitz during this morning’s State of the City addresss. Seitz touched on 14 accomplishments from last year, including the adoption of the Downtown Riverfront Master Plan, a new unified development ordinance, and repurposing of the former JOFCO building into workforce housing.

Seitz also talked about many of the challenges his administration has overcome since taking office in 2011. He says the biggest challenge that lies ahead will be continuing to shape a vision:

This morning also featured speeches from the Dubois County Council and the county commissioners. Council vice president Jerry Hunefeld delivered the council address. Hunefeld stated that 4 out of 10 commissioners and council members are new this year. He says the change can be positive:

Hunefeld also touched on the change that the council has undergone since he was elected 40 years ago. He says the council mostly reviewed budgets at that time, but has since grown to be an entity that partners with local communities on projects for the good of the county as a whole.

County commissioners president Randy Fleck also spoke during this morning’s event. The event was put on by the Jasper Chamber of Commerce and was held in the classroom building on the Vincennes University Jasper Campus.

District 48 Senator Mark Messmer says the Senate Committee on Public Policy had a busy week last week..including legislation to regulate e-liquids and “vaping”.

Messmer says House Bill 1432 is designed to establish regulations on the e-liquid industry. He says the liquids, which are used in vapor pens for “vaping”, are currently unregulated in Indiana.

Messmer says the bill is about added protection for Hoosiers:

Messmer says HB 1432 passed out of both his committee and the Senate’s Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy. The bill will now be considered by the full Senate.

Meanwhile, House Bills 1053 and 1540 were also considered by the Public Policy Committee this past week. HB 1053, which allows farm wineries, microbreweries and artisan distilleries to serve their liquor at the same service bar without needing separate service areas, is now on its way to the governor after passing the House unanimously and by a 45-5 vote in the Senate.

HB 1540, which allows riverboat casinos to move onto land they already own that is adjacent to their boat docks and within their existing footprint, passed out of the Public Policy Committee. The bill would also allow for live dealers on table games at the state’s 2 racinos. The bill passed out of committee unanimously and has been reassigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Applications are now being accepted for this year’s Ferdinand 175th pageants.

Applicants are being sought out for the Little Miss and Mister pageant as well as for the Queen’s pageant. The Little Miss and Mister contest is open to children between the ages of 5 and 8 years old as of June 14th. Contestants also have to live in Ferdinand Township. Applicants for this contest are limited to the first 20 boys and the first 20 girls.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s pageant is open to young women between the ages of 16 and 20 years old (again, as of June 14th) who live in Ferdinand Township. Applications will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis. First prize is a $500 scholarship while the runner-up will get a $150 scholarship.

The application fee is $15 for the Little Miss and Mister pageants. Its $30 for the Queen’s pageant, though contestants are encouraged to find a local business sponsor to pay that fee.

Questions may be directed to Erin Schroering at (812)-639-8973 or Becky Troesch at (812)-367-2118. The application deadline is Saturday, April 25th.

Both pageants will take place on Sunday, June 14th at the Forest Park High School Auditorium. The Little Miss and Mister Pageant will be held beginning at 2 pm and the Queen’s pageant will take place beginning at 6:30 pm.