Austin Redevelopment group prepares to pay $500,000 for ten Murphy properties PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marty Randall   
Friday, 11 December 2015 10:15

Though some may consider the move controversial, the Austin Redevelopment Commission (ARC) is ready to move on a deal worth $500,000.

In return for all of those dollars, the ARC will take ownership of ten pieces of property around the U.S. Highway 31 South and the West Cherry Street areas of Austin. All of the land is currently owned by Tex Murphy of Scottsburg, a well-known figure around the Austin community. Murphy owns perhaps 50 properties in Austin. Mostly residential, the structures are rented out by Murphy.

According to statistics, the City of Austin is reported to have around 60% of its housing described as rental property. The main goal of the ARC is to support and encourage economic development. By purchasing the ten pieces of property from Murphy, ARC members hope to take a large step toward helping the community to grow economically.

The motion to purchase the properties was offered by ARC Vice President Janie Alexander. It was seconded by Chris Fugate, ARC board member and Austin Clerk-Treasurer-Elect. Like the other board members, Fugate is an Austin native. He felt no hesitancy in seconding Alexander's motion to spend $500,000 at the ARC's specially-called meeting on Friday afternoon, December 4.

“This job includes responsibility to this community. This (purchase) is something we have to do. We've talked about it in the past, and we know there's no reason to wait,” commented Fugate as he offered his second.

In opening the meeting that afternoon, ARC Chairman Richie Buchanan reminded all members – Fugate, Alexander, Councilman Nathan Campbell and Kelly Goodin – that the properties “...have long been on our 'hit list.' We now have the funds available to do this, and it is doable. Now's the time,” he said.

The ten includes:

3 East Main Street, ground on which once stood the community's oldest house. Murphy had the structure torn down several years ago, and it is now a parking lot at the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 31 South and East Main (State Road 256).

• The multi-office structure facing U.S. 31 South commonly known as the Shields Building or Kilburn Building. It is an early example of the more infamous strip mall and has housed professional offices for insurance agents, doctors, lawyers and dentists. A dentist, Dr. Max Middendorf, still practices there part-time. The rest of the building is vacant.

• Several properties behind the Shields Building, including a garage which sits on the smallest piece to be purchased and houses on that section of Cherry St. east of U.S. 31 and on a section of Church Street south of East Main St.

• One house at 93 South High Street and property north of that house.

• Property on the north side of West Cherry St. and east of the house at 93 South High St.

• Houses at 33 West Cherry, 51 West Cherry and 65 West Cherry. All of these structures show the wear and tear they have experienced over the years.

• An additional piece of adjoining property located at the back or south line of the West Cherry St. homes' back yards. It is occupied by a large pile of fill dirt created during the renovation of S.R. 256 West and is reported to contain rebar and chunks of asphalt and concrete as well as soil.

In discussing the purchase with economic development director Bill Sears, the ARC determined that there are two residential renters and Dr. Middendorf. They will be notified of the sale and the need to vacate the buildings. No tenants' rights will be assumed by the ARC.

The vote taken on the purchase was 4-0-1, member Campbell abstaining although voicing his strong support for the action.

The sale is expected to be completed within weeks.

“These ten parcels may not be worth $500,000, but we are in the position to promote for the greater good of this community. Yes, we're going to try to recoup some of that money, but we also want to clean them up and make some nice green space in Austin for the moment. Our first goal is to clean up the properties and tear down the buildings. Then we will address other issues,” stated Buchanan.

Two residents of West Cherry St. were present for the specially-called meeting. Kenny and Barbara Burns were anxious to know exactly what the ARC planned to do and when it planned to do it.

Barbara Burns said she hated to see the ARC spend such a large amount of money on the project. She also wondered why city officials hadn't forced Murphy “...to clean up some of those houses...” Still, the couple seemed pleased that the ARC was taking on the purchase and responsibility of getting the work done.

In other business conducted by the ARC, a contractor had offered a price of $9,430 to correct a sinkhole on North Dowling Drive. That project was previously approved for ARC funding. North Dowling Drive serves a truck stop.

Members also learned that one of the two new patrol cars being purchased by ARC has been received by the Austin Police Department. The second vehicle will arrive in January.

The ARC will not meet later this month as had previously been planned. A meeting date in January will be announced later.

 

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Greater Scott County Chamber of Commerce will soon be saying goodbye to longtime director PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marty Randall   
Friday, 11 December 2015 10:11

 

 

Keith Colbert is retiring for the second time in his professional career.

Colbert is the well-known face of the Greater Scott County Chamber of Commerce, having served as the organization's executive director since March, 1998, when he stepped into the role after the death of the Chamber's first director, Phil Martin.

Who knew he was going to stay so long in this second career? Certainly, Colbert had no idea that, upon retiring from being a successful executive with GE in Louisville after 30 years, he would be taking up a position promoting Scott County that he would not leave for 17 years.

And it's been a pretty exciting 17 years, as Colbert reflected on his years of being a leader in his adopted home community.

He began life in Trimble County, Ky., the son of tobacco farmers. He met his wife, the former Becky Judd, in the early 1960s when he was working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation at a cousin's party in New Albany.

They married, and he began working for GE at the Appliance Park, climbing that company's corporate ladder. They built a new home in Middletown, but, three years later in 1979, Becky's father, Dr. Marvin Judd, died suddenly. They sold their home and moved to Scott County, where they raised their three children and remained close to Becky's mother until her death.

Now, they enjoy being a part of the lives of their six grandchildren ages four to 16. “It's been wonderful to watch them grow,” nodded this fond grandfather.

As his retirement from GE grew closer, Colbert rather wondered what he'd do to keep busy. Well, the job of the Chamber was offered to him, and it's certainly filled the bill all these years.

“It's been so good to work with Scott County people, to get to know so many in the community who only want the best for the county,” Colbert related, adding, “and it's been a lot of fun, too!”

He's worked with six or seven Chamber presidents, each of whom brought new vision, and several administrative assistants. Carolyn Brown stayed with him ten of those years, a credit, he said, to “...her understanding of the role the Chamber plays, and her patience with me.”

Reflecting on programs and highlights, Colbert proudly advised that the Chamber's monthly newsletter has grown from a single page to 12 full color pages. Another growth of which he is proud is the Regional Business Expo. In 2012 when it first began, only 34 businesses participated from the four communities. In 2015, the Business Expo exploded with 108 booths, allowing companies and small businesses in Scott, Washington, Ripley, Jefferson and Jennings counties exposure to fellow businessmen and the public.

He has also encouraged more interaction with children and youth of Scott County. From its Character Counts! program that promotes positive traits to its Dollars and Sense which teaches teens entrepreneurial skills, the Chamber is attempting to prepare the younger portion of the population for the challenges each will face as they take their place in the community as adults.

Businesspeople have also stepped up to make things happen for the Chamber during Colbert's term. Roxanna Bixler organized the Chamber Challenge fund-raiser, which in 2014 brought in a record $13,888 to support the organization's efforts for children and youth.

Thanks to the Challenge's dollars, Colbert is an enthusiastic supporter of the annual Junior Achievement Biz Camp. For the past two years, the Chamber has been able to send 50 students to Biz Camp, an enclosed facility in Louisville where the kids literally operate their own town, operating businesses, electing officials and making day-to-day decisions which will affect their success.

“This is such a great experience for these youngsters. I've had parents tell me how it's made their children realize that, with an education, they can become owners of their own businesses or successfully work for a large company. It's a terrific feeling to know you've help open the world to young people,” he said.

The Chamber has also provided leadership and collaboration for establishment of the facility now known as the Nelson Spaulding Community Clearinghouse; published two volumes of the Millennium Edition of “Scott County: A Pictorial History”; and established a scholarship fund through the Scott County Community Foundation.

Currently, the Chamber has 318 members, not bad for a small county which has certainly faced many hard problems just in the past few years, both economically and socially.

Colbert feels gratitude toward Scott County, for taking him in and making him feel at home. “I'm leaving thankful I have met so many good people who have a desire to see this county get better,” he commented. He is hoping that the next executive director will get the same reception and experience the same willingness to work together as he has.

“We're going to have to look out for ourselves. We're sitting in a prime area for expansion coming from Clark County up here, and we must be prepared to welcome new people with new ideas while maintaining our 'small town' atmosphere of friendliness and cooperation,” advised Colbert.

He said he'll be glad to watch from the sidelines as new leaders emerge. “It's going to be an exciting time,” predicted Colbert.

 

 
County Council sets $2 million as final amount it will allow for old jail's renovation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marty Randall   
Friday, 11 December 2015 10:06

 

It's finally official.

Scott County Councilmen voted Tuesday afternoon, December 8, to provide $2 million to the Scott County Commissioners to finish the jail project.

Not that that amount of money is actually going to finish the project.

A recent $15,000 study performed by DLZ, the architectural and engineering company that lost this jail project on a 2-1 Commissioner vote in favor of RQAW, indicated that it will at least take $3 million to renovate the current jail into a facility that is complimentary to the new addition. And that amount goes up, depending on what is done.

RQAW officials reckoned that it would take at least $4.5 million. Or upwards to $6 or $6.5 million if the current jail is torn down and a new facility is built to replace it.

But $2 million is what the Council figured could be afforded at the present time, its thinking partially based on figures provided by Councilman Raymond Jones. All of the dollars will be cut out of the Hospital Fund, the money that Scott County received by selling Scott Memorial Hospital to a for-profit company several years ago.

On the plus side, any contingency funding left from the jail addition project will be added to those dollars. On the negative side, the Council was made aware that a change order totaling $115,000 was to be presented to Commissioners at their specially-called meeting on Wednesday, December 9.

Council tempers were slowly rising to a boiling point when members learned about the change order. It was for installation of lines and equipment so that electronics in the old jail can “talk” to the new jail's system and vice versa. Several Councilmen remarked that the work should have been included in the original contract. It left all of the Council wondering what else is not covered in the original contract.

The meeting began with another sticky issue: How many jailers is it going to take to operate the two buildings? According to a study Sheriff Dan McClain requested of a state organization, there are five options, depending on how much the old jail is going to be used. Suggested jail staff ranged from 4.5, the .5 representing a part-time person, to 9.5.

“Can we get by with the two (new) jailers we talked about (earlier this year)? I mean, you brought a paper in here and laid it down on this table and it said two,” Zollman reminded the Sheriff.

Sheriff McClain told the Council that for most of the two terms in which he has been sheriff, the current jail “...has been operating in emergency mode. We are overcrowded and understaffed. We've had a death in our jail. Our jailers followed procedures and they did a good job, but the death happened and it's a well-known fact that we have an overcrowded jail and I understand that's how (the case to be filed over the death) will be litigated.”

Fear of litigation has been a factor in the construction of the new jail block. The Sheriff said the jail population fluctuates from 140 to 150 daily. That's why he told the Council that, anything less than 4½ new jailers “...will leave us understaffed again. I can have another study done, but I can assure you, it will come back with the same figures.”

Councilman Chris Albertson asked, “Have you taken into consideration tearing down the old jail and building a new structure? How would that compare (on the number of jailers needed)?” And that was a question the Sheriff found hard to answer. “When you don't have plans in front of you, it's hard to say until the plans get specific,” he advised.

Councilman Zollman said his understanding of the new structure, one jailer would walk around the facility while a second remains in the locked control room. “How could that get any better?” he asked.

Sheriff McClain pointed out that the old structure, the present jail, “...is labor-intensive because of its design. I can't give you an exact number until I see some plans (of a renovated facility).” At that point, Chief Jailer Doug Herald spoke up, explaining that the new addition requires one person in the control room at all times. “But other staff is going to be needed to work with the prisoners. Currently, we have two per shift. That's low (according to the study submitted),” he said.

Councilman Jones is a man who believes in figures. He hauled out a wheelbarrow full, looking at the estimated income for 2016 Jail COIT (County Option Income Tax), the possible 2016 jail budget, which state officials have yet to approve, plus the estimated cost per employee of $60,516.

He came up with the conclusion after all these figures had been digested that the county can afford to add 4.49 (four full-time and one part-time) jailers. Certainly there are variables. What if state officials chop the county budget? What if Jail COIT doesn't realize the projected income of $900,000? What if Sheriff McClain can recoup some of his expenses by housing state prisoners, Levels 2 to 6 felons, charging the state from $35 to a possible $45 per day?

The Council finally took a vote to approve three full-time jailers and one part-time jailer plus leave in place the one new jailer which it had already agreed on, thus getting a total of 4.5. It failed on a 4-3 vote because salary items must have at least five votes to be approved.

The Council then got into what sort of work should be done to make the old jail workable. There were lots of suggestions, views and unhappiness around the Council table. “It all comes back to liability. Right now, I think liability is going to cost us big time because I think we are being dropped by our insurance company (because of the overcrowding issues),” noted Sheriff McClain.

Eric Gillespie finally remarked, “Definitely, the $115,000 is going to have to be spent, even if the Council agrees to tear down the present structure and replace it. I'm trying to come to some compromise so we don't waste the $115,000, so I suggest we renovate and at least that 'saves' our $115,000 investment.”

Sheriff McClain told the Council, “I'm not an engineer, but I have been informed it's going to cost at least $4 million to renovate it.”

Chief Jailer Herald pointed out, “No matter what we do, we have to run the old jail because it's going to take another year or 18 months to get the old part done.”

Zollman had about reached the end of his fuse by then. He said, “In a 2012 study, it said it would take $999,000 to remodel the old jail. You tell me how that figure got to be $3 million. But that's in the past and I've learned what's been said in the past doesn't pertain to anything now. So now it's going to be $17 to $18 million of taxpayer money for this jail. I am all for having enough staff to keep everyone safe, but I am definitely not for spending $3 million to renovate that old building.”

Later in the discussion, Zollman told his fellow councilmen, “I think I have made my position absolutely clear. This (project) has been a fiasco. As a councilman, I would be an absolute fool to turn over that amount of money to Commissioners. I cannot vote for this. I am not going to appropriate another dime. We gave (Commissioners) $11.4 million. The only way to keep control is to say no.”

The issue, giving $2 million toward the renovation, eventually passed on a 4-3 vote, Albertson, Zollman and Gillespie opposing.

Re-addressing staffing needs, five Councilmen voted in favor of allowing funding for 3½ new jailers, leaving the one new jailer already approved in place, thus giving a total of four full-time people and one part-time person who will work 24 hours a week.

Zollman did vote in favor of that, but Albertson and Gillespie voted against it; thus, the vote was 5-2.

Council President Iva Gasaway also asked for a motion that any money the Sheriff can make keeping federal or state prisoners and getting reimbursed by the Indiana Department of Corrections be placed in Jail COIT so that the money can be used to maintain the jail.

She got that motion and the vote was 7-0 in favor.

“So how do we keep control of what (Commissioners) spend the $2 million on?” asked Councilman Ab Watts. Gasaway suggested, “Have them submit a plan of action.” Councilman Jones added, “And require them to submit regular reports on how the project is going and where the money is being spent.”

To that end, Jones offered a motion requiring Commissioners to present a written scope of work to be done using the $2 million appropriated with an estimated time of completion which will make the facility “workable.” And that the plan be submitted before any of the $2 million is spent.

Commissioner Kelley Robbins, who had been present for the meeting, pointed out that “...you can't get a price until you take bids. There's no way!” He left wondering aloud how the Council expected Commissioners to create an accurate plan.

With Councilman Raleigh Campbell Jr. being called out of the meeting a few minutes earlier, the vote on this motion ended up being 5-1, Albertson apparently agreeing with there was a problem with the motion and voting against it.

 

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I-65 Southbound Lane Closures South of Scottsburg PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcus Amos   
Friday, 11 December 2015 10:05

SCOTTSBURG, Ind.—The Indiana Department of Transportation will close single lanes along southbound Interstate 65 at two locations next week south of Scottsburg for asphalt pavement repairs. Both restrictions begin Sunday night (DECEMBER 13) at 9 p.m. Both restrictions will be lifted by 6 p.m. Friday (DECEMBER 18).

  • I-65 southbound right lane will close Sunday night at mile marker 28.0. Repairs and corresponding restrictions will advance through the week to mile marker 26.0.
  • I-65 southbound left lane will close Sunday night at mile marker 24.0. Repairs and lane closure will advance through the week to mile marker 22.0.

The opposing southbound I-65 lane at both locations will remain open to traffic—restricted to eleven feet in width.

E & B Paving is INDOT’s contractor for this $12,385,500 Seymour District project that is repairing and repaving I-65 from 0.5 miles north of S.R. 160 to 0.43 miles north of S.R. 56 in Scott and Clark Counties.

The project includes replacement of twin bridges at Brownstown Road. A cross-median traffic shift is in effect at the 22.0 mile marker where bridge construction continues.

Stay informed.  Updated information and a map of the closure are available on the Indiana Department of Transportation TrafficWise service at indot.carsprogram.org. Roadway information is also available by calling 1-800-261-ROAD (7623) or 511 from a mobile phone.  Follow @INDOTSoutheast on Twitter at www.twitter.com/INDOTSoutheast and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/INDOTSoutheast.

 

 
Madison woman found‘staggering’ on S.R. 56 now charged in jail attack PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marty Randall   
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 08:45

A Madison woman found on State Road 56 near State Road 203 on November 26 has now been charged in an attack on a local jail officer.

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