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.

The Board of Directors for Jasper-based Kimball International has declared their quarterly dividend for the 2nd quarter of this fiscal year.

The company says the dividend will be 5 cents per share for all outstanding shares of both Class A and Class B common stock. The dividends are payable April 15th to shareholders of record as of March 25th.

Now earlier this month, the company reported more earnings growth and progress on improving its operating margins. Net sales came out to $151.4 million during this past fiscal quarter, an increase of 9% from last year’s 2nd quarter.

The company additionally reported a 21% increase in orders over last fiscal year’s 2nd quarter. The company says increases in orders from the hospitality, government, and other commercial vertical markets were enough to overcome a drop in orders from the finance, healthcare, and education vertical markets.

Kimball International also announced a pair of promotions this morning. Kathy Sigler will be the new vice president of operations for Kimball Office. Meanwhile, Michael Roch will be the vice president of sales for National Office Furniture.

Though there has been progress on economic development in Jasper, mayor Terry Seitz says there is still work to do.

Seitz says he is proud of the work that’s been done on getting things calmed down after the legal battle over the Jasper Power Plant and getting the Downtown Riverfront Master Plan in place. He says the city was ready to move forward on implementing the plan during the last budget session in July, but the city council opted to table that in favor of gathering as much information as possible.

Seitz says funding is not the issue. He says the overall support is there and the Downtown Riverfront Master Plan will eventually come to fruition:

Seitz says the goal is still to use economic development income funds only without having to utilize bonds or other sources. He says that desire has played a role in how fast the downtown riverfront plan is being implemented.

Now the element of the downtown plan that has gotten a lot of attention lately is efforts to repurpose old buildings. The targets of those efforts has continued to be the former Jasper Cabinet buildings and the old Hoosier Desk building. Seitz says though the city has money in reserve to move things ahead in this and other areas, the funds will need to be used responsibly:

The city continues to explore the idea of having the Jasper Public Library and the Jasper Arts Center move into the Hoosier Desk building. The remaining space could then be used for private investment such as housing.

Seitz says other projects on the table include continued work on the Parklands property and potential revamping of the downtown square area.

Today marks the start of another round of change at the former Providence Home in Jasper.

The newly re-branded Cathedral Health Care Center is set to start renovation work on the building this morning. New owner Ide Management will be funding several improvements including a new full elevator for residents and refurbishing the basement level where residents receive care. That area will become the home’s Medicare unit right next to the therapy wing.

Administrator Beau Kellams says the improvements have been in the works since Ide Management purchased the center back in November from the Sons of Divine Providence. He says the work on the building is long overdue:

Kellams says the renovation work will also include ongoing preservation of the historic Mother of God Grotto along with the home’s worship chapel. Kellams says the approach of keeping the home’s Catholic traditions has gone over well with most people so far:

Kellams says preserving the Catholic elements of the home is a key part of why the home was purchased by Ide Management in the first place.

Now another change will involve the artwork of the late Father Thaddeus Sztuczko that once hung on the walls in the building. The artwork was removed and Father Angelo Quadrini gave his blessing to have it auctioned off.

The home is holding a silent auction beginning next Friday at the Dubois County Museum. About 85 of Father Thad’s paintings will be auctioned off to support the aforementioned preservation efforts of the Mother of God Grotto. The auction will run each day that the museum is open beginning next Friday, February 27th.

The auction will continue through Sunday March 15th when final bids are taken.