Hancock County News

New Palestine Town Council says town employee violated COVID-19 declaration

Another meeting, another embarrassment for New Palestine town officials.
 

Recently, town officials acknowledged that its own clerk-treasurer had violated a declaration of local emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak, thus prompting officials to extend the declaration by another 30 days.


In the same month the town council censured Tonii Pyle, the clerk-treasurer, council hit Pyle with an allegation of violating an emergency order, which stated only employees could be inside town hall.


Town council president Brandee Bastin said she sent an email to all employees, stating what the restrictions were.Bastin said the email stated that only employees were allowed inside the buildings and the town’s community room was closed to the public except for town council meetings.


“It’s clear what it means to me,” Bastin told council.
 

Fellow council member Bill Niemier said he thought council was “dancing around” who was in violation and asked how the emergency declaration was not followed.
 

“We had somebody that was public in town hall that was allowed in town hall in two separate occasions where it was stated nobody from public be allowed. We had a town employee allow public access after it was said no public allowed. The executive order was not followed. How is it enforced,” council member Angie Fahrnow said.
 

Bastin dug in her heels on the emergency declaration.
 

“I don’t feel like this order says I can bring my children in here or anyone else in here. I’m an elected official, and I don’t feel like it tells me I have an exception and can bring anyone into the building,” she said.
 

However, it wasn’t clear to Pyle, who, according to council, brought former clerk-treasurer Becky Hilligoss and a small child to town hall on two occasions and allowed them access to her office.

 

Earlier this year, the town council terminated a contract drawn up between Hilligoss and Pyle and made it Hilligoss was not to be allowed back to assist Pyle.
 

As a result, a no trespass notice was given to Hilligoss.
 

“If that person comes back a third time in violation, they would be arrested,” Niemier said.

Greenfield-Central schools busy with renovation projects

Despite school being placed on hold due to COVID-19, it remains full steam ahead for construction and renovation projects at Greenfield-Central schools.


Last year, the district approved plans to spend approximately $13 million to upgrade portions of each of its eight buildings through a general obligation bond.


Superintendent Dr. Harold Olin told Giant FM recently that things are moving.


“Construction is moving along as expected. All in all, we are happy with the progress so far. The Performance Services Team has managed this well so far,” Olin told Giant FM.


On the list are renovations to both Greenfield-Central High School and Greenfield-Central Junior High.


At the high school, work is being done to expand the school’s music classes, along with a new training room, weight room and locker rooms for the athletic programs, and a new greenhouse. In addition, there are plans for a new access road for buses between Franklin Street and a small parking lot next to the greenhouse.


“The high school greenhouse should be finished in the next two weeks. The structural steel is in place for the weight room, training room and coaching offices. The girls and boys locker rooms are a little behind the weight room side, though it is still on schedule,” Olin told Giant FM.


At the junior high, work continues on the auxiliary gym.


“The junior high auxiliary gym has three sides complete, so it is easy to see the footprint for that facility,” Olin said.


Greenfield Intermediate School, Eden Elementary School, Harris Elementary School, JB Stephens Elementary School and Weston Elementary School will all see some renovations, as well.


“We have been doing some chiller work at Greenfield Intermediate, Harris, Weston, JBS and Eden. The parking lots at Eden and the junior high school were not scheduled to be dune until June, though, we may speed up those projects in light of the campus being closed to students until May 1. The JBS roof will still remain a summer project,” Olin told Giant FM.


Olin did say that while COVID-19 has presented some issues, there may be some good to come out of it as it may allow construction crews an opportunity to get more work done without students, faculty, staff and parents in the buildings.


“It is actually one of the few positives related to the students being off-site. It could potentially speed up the bathroom renovations in a few sites,” he said. 

New Palestine Town Council votes to waive late fees and penalties during COVID-19

New Palestine’s elected officials understand times are tough for its residents, who may be financially impacted during the COVID-19 outbreak.  As a result, the town council recently voted in favor of waiving late fees and penalties when it comes to the town’s sewer and utility bills.


Town council president Brandee Bastin told council there were a couple of phone calls that came into town hall pertaining to the situation.


“There are many different opinions as to what is the end date of the public crisis,” Bastin said.


Council member Bill Nieimer told council if a family were struggling with a decision to pay the utility bill or buy groceries, he would want them to buy the groceries.


However, not everyone was sold on the measure.


Councilman Clint Bledsoe accused council of being in favor of allowing residents to not pay their bills.


“You’re agreeing to let everyone not pay their sewer bill until the emergency is over? It’s just like if I’m late on my sewer bill, I have to pay a 10 percent penalty. If I don’t have to pay any penalties, I’m not paying my sewer bill. I don’t like this,” Bledsoe said.


Bastin said the bill would still accrue for the customers, and noted that other agencies that typically help residents are also strapped financially due to the outbreak.


The measure passed 4-1 and will be in place until there is further discussion on when the emergency is lifted by Gov. Eric Holcomb. Bledsoe voted against the measure. 

Greenfield man injured in two-car crash in Tipton Co.; fog probable factor

Wednesday at approximately 9:00 a.m., officers from the Indiana State Police and the Tipton County Sheriff’s Department responded to a two vehicle crash on U.S. 31 at County Road 600 South, in which two Indiana men were injured.

 

The preliminary crash investigation by Master Trooper Lee Williams revealed that Andrew Paschal, 29, Anderson, IN was driving a 2005 Ford SUV westbound on Tipton County Road 600 South, approaching a stop sign at the intersection Of U.S. 31. Paschal allegedly failed to stop for the sign at the intersection, and pulled into the path of a northbound 2019 Chevrolet pickup truck. The Chevrolet, driven by Eric Woker, 42, Greenfield, IN hit the Ford in the driver’s side door.

 

Paschal was transported, via ambulance, to an Indianapolis hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Woker was treated at the crash scene for lacerations and bruising.

 

There was dense fog in the area at the time of the crash.  Also, further investigation revealed Paschal was allegedly driving with a suspended operator’s license.

 

This crash is still under investigation, but at this time neither the use of alcohol nor narcotics is suspected as having contributed to the crash.

 

INDOT to close portion of U.S. 52 to replace bridge; Road to close March 30

The Indiana Department of Transportation will close a portion of U.S. 52 to replace the bridge over West Little Sugar Creek. 

 

After unknown utilities were relocated, the closure is scheduled to begin at the end of the month on March 30.

 

Contractors will close both directions of U.S. 52 between CR S 600 W and CR S 550 W.

 

The portion of U.S. 52 will be closed for 120 days as contractors replace the bridge. 

 

 

During the closure, drivers are encouraged to take the detour route. The official detour will be I-465 NB to U.S. 40 EB to S.R. 9 SB back to U.S. 52. 

Bentley passed away; sparked kids reading program

It’s been said a dog is man’s best friend, and in the case of Bentley, that was absolutely true.


However, there was one main difference – the 94 pound Great Pyrenees was a child’s best friend as he was the Bentley in Bentley’s Buddies and Friends, a reading program aimed at helping children across Hancock County.


Bentley, who was 10, passed away recently, according to his owner, Nickie Scott. Bentley had developed a blood disorder and pancreatitis. Scott and her husband had Bentley for a little over eight years.


After helping to develop another reading program in neighboring Hamilton County, Scott started a reading program at St. Michael’s Catholic School in Greenfield.


“The program didn’t grow like we had hoped in Greenfield, so I left the group. My husband told me if I wanted to continue then he would back me if we wanted to start our own program in Hancock County. So we started out of my home with one dog and four classrooms. Five-and-a-half years later, we are 40 dogs strong and in over 40 classrooms,” said Scott, who guesses more than 10,000 students took part in Bentley’s Buddies and Friends, which is aimed at aiming children with dogs and working on boosting students’ reading skills and confidence.


Scott told Giant FM Bentley “loved everything about his job.”


“He loved dressing up on those special days and stealing marshmallows when nobody was looking. He loved all the pets and kisses he received and loved giving the love back with a gently paced paw on a reader. He loved the animal crackers he would get from a classroom, until he discovered he could hold out and they would give him biscotti cookies,” Scott told Giant FM.


And, he even loved training other dogs to be a reading buddy and reaching as many children as they could.


“He enjoyed making others happy, and that is how he lived his life. The pure joy of watching him interact with the public was pure magic. He never missed a beat,” Scott said.


As for how Bentley will be remembered, Scott said that is easy.


“I think B will be remembered as a furry friend, who believed in you, a leader who changed a community by just being himself and a role model on being kind and treating people with the respect they deserve,” she told Giant FM.


With Bentley’s passing, Scott said there are no plans to discontinue the program.


“Bentley’s Buddies and Friends will go on as long as kids need help reading and reading buddies are available. He has left us a wonderful legacy and path for the future. I will not disappoint him and will strive to make him proud,” Scott told Giant FM. 

Greenfield-Central schools with confirmed COVID-19 case

A Greenfield-Central schools employee has tested positive for COVID-19.


According to the Hancock County Health Department, a teacher at Greenfield Intermediate School has tested positive. The teacher is not a resident of Hancock County and last had contact with students on March 9, according to district officials.


District officials stated they were unable to name the employee nor are they able to disclose further information at this time.


“Health Department officials have noted that concerned individuals should remain in self-quarantine until March 23,” the district said in a letter sent to staff and families.


The health department is asking anyone to contact them at 317-477-1125 as they work to identify anyone who may have come into contact with the employee on March 9.

In split vote New Pal Town Council approves censuring clerk-treasurer.

An already rocky relationship between the New Palestine Town Council and its clerk-treasurer took an even more interesting turn Wednesday night as council narrowly voted in favor of censuring Tonii Pyle, the town’s clerk-treasurer.


Councilman Bill Niemier made the motion, laying out several issues the council has had with Pyle since January, alleging that Pyle has “engaged in conduct and actions that are contrary to, and directly interfere with, the orderly functioning of Town business.”


“The residents of New Palestine deserve better and such deficiencies need to be documented. If Tonii Pyle were an employee of the Town, I would be moving that her employment be terminated, but that is not an available option as she is an elected official. Therefore, my motion, based upon these facts and circumstances, is that the Town Council formally censure Tonii Pyle. Although there may be few practical implications from being formally censured, and the same cannot and does not remove Tonii Pyle from her elected position as the Clerk-Treasurer, such motion does in fact create a formal and permanent record of Tonii Pyle’s failure to properly perform the functions of her elected office,” Niemier said shortly before the vote.


Council voted 3-2 in favor of censuring Pyle. Council members Angie Fahrnow and Brandee Bastin joined Niemier in favor of voting yes, while council members Clint Bledsoe and Jan Jarson voted no.


In laying out his motion, Niemier said Pyle’s behavior is unacceptable.


“Tonii Pyle’s conduct and actions do not meet reasonable standards for acceptable behavior… She has also requested Walker IT to engage in activities that served no town interest and, in fact, were intended to collect evidence to be used in litigation against the Town Council.

Specifically, I am referring to Tonii Pyle requesting security camera footage be retrieved from Bob Ehle’s computer, while Bob was not in his office, for her own personal interests and not the town’s interests,” Niemier said.


Niemier further explained that Pyle’s actions resulted in the town council to adopt a security camera access policy and that Walker IT submitted an invoice for payment and that he believed Pyle should pay for the invoice.


Pyle said she had asked for the information and it was Walker IT who came in with a USB port and said they could get the information.


“I said okay and he downloaded it onto Bob’s computer with his permission while he wasn’t here. And, I followed up with him in the morning, and he explained to me the proper policy and procedures. I was not aware of that, and that is now being followed,” Pyle told council.


Fahrnow immediately countered by saying Ehle was not aware of what was being taken off his computer, and Pyle said she was not going to get into that discussion.


Niemier then asked Ehle if he had received a request to access security footage and was it presented as such. Ehle said no such discussion ever happened.


“No. I was contacted Mr. Robinson that they needed to get there. We had just received quotes for camera systems and he said something about getting footage. I assumed he was talking about the measuring because they were talking about putting different cameras elsewhere. Jim said they needed to get over there, and I informed him one of my officers was next door. So I was already off work. He had left on a run so my door was already locked and secured. It was remote access… When I came in the next morning there was a file folder on my desktop that says for Tonii. I did not know what it was and did not know what the download was,” Ehle said.
Niemier asked had the request of been properly request what would have been Ehle’s response.


“It would have been denied,” Ehle said.

Council voted 3-2 in favor of not paying the invoice and having Pyle personally pay for it. Jarson and Bledsoe voted against the measure.


In addition, Niemier also explained that Pyle has created barriers as to the free flow of information and documentation between her office and to council regarding public records and demanding that council members submit a public records request for all documents.


“Such procedures are not uniformly applied to all document requests. Specifically, council member Angie Fahrnow has requested minutes and contracts regarding the use of our sewer plant and testing performed at our sewer plant and those documents still have not been provided. However, Tonii Pyle requested that at least one town employee, and, perhaps, more than one town employee, search for such documents. Such documents were in fact located and provided to Tonii’s father-in-law, Dave Book, even though he did not submit a public records request in order to receive these documents,” Niemier said.


He continued that Pyle has refused to make changes in a town employee’s salary despite the council passing an ordinance more than a month and a half ago.


Fahrnow said it is now her hope that council and Pyle will be able to co-exist.


“My hope is she will begin cooperating with the council and those involved in a positive, constructive manner. Nobody is perfect, but the key is whether we learn from our mistakes and are able to make things right going forward. My hope is she is able and wanting to take this approach,” Fahrnow told Giant FM.

New Palestine fires town manager amid controversy, investigation

For 30 years, David Book had been an employee for the town of New Palestine.


All that came crashing down Wednesday night with a 5-0 decision by the town council to terminate Book, who has been the center of controversy in recent months.


Book, who has been on medical leave since January, came under fire earlier this year when it was discovered that New Palestine had missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Indiana Department of Transportation due to several of the town’s roads missing from the road inventory.
However, recently, town officials learned Book had been using town equipment and supplies to run a wastewater management business in addition to his duties as town manager. There is no record of Book being granted the opportunity to use the town’s equipment and the Indiana State Police are currently investigating.


Town officials were tipped off about the business when Book asked town employees if they wanted to buy his business for $10,000.


On Wednesday, it all came to a head when councilman Bill Niemier introduced a motion calling for the immediate termination of Book.


In making his motion, Niemier said that Book was in violation of the Town of New Palestine Policy and Procedure Employee Handbook, Section Five, in the following manner: unprofessional behavior while performing job duties; neglect of duty; failure to follow established work procedures and policies; Interfering with the productivity of other employees; conducting personal business while on duty; insubordination; blatant disrespect of town council members and fellow employees; improper use of town property, equipment and employees; providing false or misleading information to the town council; gross misconduct; gross incompetence; and endorsing or recommending a political candidate on town property.


Niemier also asked that all of Book’s personal belongings to be boxed up and delivered directly to him and that he not be allowed to be present when these items are gathered.


“Finally, I move that David Book be directed to immediately deliver to Bob Ehle, Chief of the New Palestine Police Department, any and all town property of any kind whatsoever, including but not limited to vehicles; keys to any and all buildings, vehicles or any and all types of locks or padlocks; computers and computer passwords; documents, files and records including Sewer Plant bank account ledgers, checkbooks or all other sewer plant documentation and records; access codes; telephones or other electronic devices; and any and all other town property,” Niemier said.


Book was in attendance at the meeting and was asked by council members if he had anything he wished to say.


“No. Wouldn’t do any good,” Book replied before leaving shortly after the vote.


Niemier told Giant FM the meeting was “very tough” for all involved, but was necessary.


“Nobody signed up for this. It was a very tough meeting. Council has to do what’s in the best interest for the town, and sometimes, that is a hard thing to do,” Niemier told Giant FM after the meeting.
Fellow council member Angie Fahrnow told Giant FM all the actions by Book left council little choice.
“There were a number of issues that brought his employment into question, but when he admitted to running a business for personal gain without council approval, that made our options very limited,” Fahrnow told Giant FM.


While Book has been on leave, Jim Robinson has been serving as the interim town manager.
Giant FM asked Niemier if Robinson would be made the permanent town manager in the wake of what happened to Book and Niemier replied, “Council will have to look at what it is we want.”
Council member Jan Jarson said New Palestine has endured a rough period recently.


“This has been a very rough time for all of us. It is very emotional. I don’t know what else to say. I never thought we’d be in this situation,” Jarson said.  

Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen still serving thru carry-out service

With so much uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak in Hancock County, one organization is doing their part to ensure residents are taken care of.


The Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen is ensuring residents in need have food to eat, as they are offering carry out meals Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Patrons can pick up the meals at the east front door and are asked to line up in front of the building. The dining room, as well as the free table and free refrigerator are currently off limits to the general population, according to Jill Ebbert, executive director.


Ebbert told Giant FM the soup kitchen has seen a “steady” line of people all week.


“It has been pretty good. People are adjusting to it. It is not ideal, but people are getting food, and that is what matters,” Ebbert told Giant FM.


Ebbert acknowledged the facility has seen an uptick in need during the outbreak and is glad to be able to help.


“We will do it until it is all over. We have no contact with patrons, and we are keeping our distance and disinfecting everything. Our donors have been phenomenal, and have really stepped up to help us out. For some, this is the only option. I am praying we can continue to serve and have what we need,” Ebbert said.


Ebbert said the soup kitchen is in need of food, cleaning products, paper products and bottled water and can be dropped off between 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m.


“We will get through this, and we will continue to keep people fed until they tell us we can’t,” Ebbert told Giant FM.  

New Palestine closes town buildings

Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, all buildings owned by the Town of New Palestine, including Town Hall, Wastewater Management Plant, and Nichols Building are closed to the public during normal business hours due to the current COVID-19 pandemic until further notice.

 

We ask that members of the public conduct business with town staff via telephone or email during our normal business hours Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm.

 

The telephone number for Town Hall is 317-861-4727.

 

As of now, we will still be holding public meetings as scheduled, but seating may be limited per State and Federal guidelines, including those issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Any events scheduled in our Community Room will be cancelled for the next 30 days and refunds will be issued accordingly. As always, sewer payments can be made and deposited in the secure drop box located in the drive thru lane on the west side of Town Hall.

 

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding during this time.

Sen Crider talks COVID-19, Hancock County

As Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb was announcing the state’s first death from COVID-19, state senator Mike Crider was reminding Hancock County residents of the importance of adhering to warnings surrounding the disease.


“I ask that people take the threat seriously,” Crider told Giant FM.


Crider knows a thing or two about disasters, having run the disaster management system at Hancock Health and having experience pertaining to what a surge in cases could mean.


“I know what a challenge a surge of patients causes, especially when the surge effect isn’t from a local event and is widespread,” he said.


Crider is confident Hancock Health and other hospitals are prepared, should individuals begin showing up in emergency rooms and need care due to a huge outbreak in Indiana.


“All hospitals I am aware of are well prepared to handle mass casualty events and have agreements with other systems to take diverted patients when they are at capacity, but the challenge is respiratory in nature and the infection is widespread, the ability to handle it is extra stressed,” Crider told Giant FM.


Crider told Giant FM it is imperative the flattening of the curve and social isolation are discussions that happen.


As for Holcomb announcing the closure of restaurants and bars and banning in-person large events, Crider said it is part of it.


“The governor has extensive powers during a declared emergency that include both waiving laws like he has done to allow truck drivers to exceed their operating hour limitations by executive order and to restrict activities that will compromise the ability to contain the situation. I think he and others have done a good job,” Crider said.  

Hancock County confirms its first COVID-19 case

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Hancock County has occurred.


Hancock County Sheriff Brad Burkhart and the Sheriff’s Department confirmed the news via a press release Thursday.


In the release, the person diagnosed is a jail staff member and is currently home and in self-quarantine.


According to officials, the employee was last at work on March 8 for a short period of time and notified by an acquaintance that the acquaintance tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member reported the positive result and left work with a mild cough as the only symptom.


“The staff member has been in self-quarantine since that time. On the evening of Wednesday, March 11, the staff member was notified the test result was positive for COVID-19. The staff member remains home with only a mild cough,” the release states.


Officials said the employee was assigned to a post where the staff member was not in direct contact with any inmates at the Hancock County Jail. Furthermore, two other staff members who were in direct contact with the employee are also at home in self-quarantine as a precaution and have exhibited no symptoms.


“The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department is working closely with the Health Department, public health officials, agency heads and the judicial system to take appropriate action. Precautionary steps have been taken to limit inmate movement to and from court, limit visitors to the jail and temporarily suspend in jail programs hosted by outside counselors. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department will continue to monitor the situation and take all necessary steps to protect the staff, inmates and the citizens of Hancock County,” the release said.

 

Southern Hancock schools take proactive approach to threat of coronavirus

While there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County or Hancock County, district officials are not taking any chances.
As a result, the school corporation rolled out new procedures “out of an abundance of caution” to prevent any potential coronavirus or influenza outbreaks.


Effective immediately, the district will send students home from school if they have a temperature greater than 99 degrees or any respiratory symptoms, such as cough, wheezing or shortness of breath. Parents are asked to keep students home if they have any symptom and they must be fever free for 24 hours without medication.


Furthermore, visitors to any district building should be prepared to answer questions about how they are feeling and any recent travel they may have completed. Visitors who are symptomatic will not be permitted inside the buildings.


The district urges all families to double check their emergency contact information in PowerSchool, and the district will also send devices home with all students daily through spring break.


“This is only a precaution for the event one or more of our schools will need to be closed. If this were to happen, E-Learning Days will be utilized. Devices will also be sent home on the final day before spring break, Friday, March 20, 2020. This is a precautionary measure in case school would need to be closed after spring break,” superintendent Dr. Lisa Lantrip said.
In addition, the custodial staff will continue to disinfect and clean the buildings with an additional focus on disinfecting high touch surfaces like desks, handles, knobs, faucets, light switches and drinking fountains.


“The district is evaluating whether to continue with field trips, extracurricular events, and competitions at this time. We are seeking guidance from public health officials at the local, county, and state levels. These will be decided on a case-by-case basis based on the age of the students and any potential risks at the destination. In the event of a canceled field trip, notifications will come from your student’s principal or teachers. If you have concerns regarding your student’s field trip or wish for your student to not take a field trip, please contact your school,” Lantrip said.


As a result, Friday’s elementary fine arts festival has been cancelled as a precautionary measure. It is the district’s hope to reschedule some of the events, and each school’s principal will be sending information to parents regarding the rescheduling of some festival events.
Lantrip and the district are also asking parents to re-examine spring break travel plans.
“We are asking all families to re-evaluate any potential spring break travel based on the risk level at their destination. Please see the guidance from the CDC regarding areas where travel is inadvisable. The U.S. State Department has asked all U.S. citizens to refrain from traveling to any destination via cruise ship,” Lantrip said.


The district is also asking anyone traveling outside the United States to fill out a voluntary form to help officials understand the potential for transmission once break is over. 

Eastern Hancock schools close again amid flu outbreak

Eastern Hancock Schools are closed for a second day in a row because of concerns over an outbreak of the flu among students, teachers, and staff.

 

Classes were last held Tuesday where Superintendent David Pfaff says about 25-percent of the students at the high school were called in sick.

 

Bryan Weiss is a parent of an Eastern Hancock student and he says he's glad the school district is being "proactive" with efforts to keep others from getting sick. Weiss said he's also glad the closures did not have to do with the coronavirus.

 

The following message was placed on the Eastern Hancock Facebook page Wednesday afternoon:

 

Good afternoon Eastern Hancock Parents,

 

Due to student and staff illness concerns, Eastern Hancock will cancel classes tomorrow, Thursday, March 5 and have an eLearning day for all students. We are continuing our cleaning measures in the schools and buses and believe an extra day for students to stay home will prove beneficial.

 

All events for tomorrow (Thursday) are cancelled. More information will follow.

Southern Hancock school corporation issues release on coronavirus

While health and state leaders believe the risk of coronavirus is low, one Hancock County school district is taking every precaution necessary to ensure its staff, students and families are prepared.
Officials with the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County are urging all to be on alert and take precautions to limit the risk of the virus.


“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana State Department of Health and Hancock County Health Department believe the risk to our community is low at this time,” the district stated in a release.


District officials state it is important to listen to facts and not respond to fear.


“Currently, there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Indiana…. However, transmission of the virus in other countries has raised our level of concern. We are preparing for the possibility of person-to-person transmission in our area. The measures put in place should local person-to-person transmissions begin will depend on the number of individuals affected in our schools and the severity of illness we experience in our community,” the statement reads.


Officials with the district state they will continue to monitor the situation and community any impact to school and the New Palestine community.


In addition, they offer the following tips:


Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve
Wash your hands regulary
Avoid touching your face
Avoid close contact with those who are sick


“There are no plans to close schools at this time. This is an extreme measure that can be disruptive to day-to-day life. Any decision to close school will be at the direction of public health experts, including the State Department of Health,” the district’s statement said. 

USDA designates nine Indiana counties as primary natural disaster areas; Hancock County eligible

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue designated nine Indiana counties as primary natural disaster areas. Producers who suffered losses caused by three separate disaster events may be eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans.

 

This natural disaster designation allows FSA to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.

 

Excessive Rain

Producers in Hamilton, Lake, Perry, Porter, Spencer, and Tipton counties, who suffered losses due to excessive rain that has occurred since March 1, 2019, are eligible to apply for emergency loans.

 

Producers in the contiguous Indiana counties of Boone, Clinton, Crawford, Dubois, Grant, Hancock, Howard, Jasper, LaPorte, Madison, Marion, Newton, Starke, and Warrick, along with Cook, Kankakee, and Will counties in Illinois; and Breckinridge, Daviess, Hancock and Meade counties in Kentucky, are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.

 

Excessive Rain, Flash Flooding, and Flooding

Producers in Floyd and Harrison counties who suffered losses due to excessive rain, flash flooding, and flooding that has occurred since March 1, 2019, are eligible to apply for emergency loans.

 

Producers in the contiguous Indiana counties of Clark, Crawford, and Washington, along with Hardin, Jefferson, and Meade counties in Kentucky, are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.

 

Excessive Rain and Flooding

Producers in Vanderburgh County who suffered losses due to excessive rain and flooding that has occurred since March 1, 2019, are eligible to apply for emergency loans.

 

Producers in the contiguous Indiana counties of Gibson, Posey, and Warrick, along with Henderson County, Kentucky, are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.

 

The deadline to apply for these emergency loans is Oct. 19, 2020.

 

FSA will review the loans based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

 

FSA has a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster. FSA programs that do not require a disaster declaration include: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; Emergency Conservation Program;Livestock Forage Disaster Program;Livestock Indemnity Program; Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; and the Tree Assistance Program.

 

Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at farmers.gov/recover.

One minor injury as New Pal teen drives into Greenfield nail salon

No one was seriously injured when a teenager drove into a nail salon in Greenfield on Wednesday.

 

John Jokantas, director of communications for Hancock County, said a 16-year-old boy from New Palestine crashed into V.I.P. Nails Salon while multiple people were inside.

 

The salon is at 184 East New Road.  Greenfield Police and Greenfield Fire responded to the scene.

 

Only a 63-year-old woman was taken the hospital to be checked out after she said she was experiencing pain, no one else was hurt.

 

Police have not said what lead to the boy crashing into the salon.

The time is now to add officers to the Fortville Police Department

It began with three words at the end of a presentation – We need help.


Those were the words, again, of Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer.


I say again because for the third or fourth consecutive year, Knauer walked to the podium, gave his annual report to the Fortville Town Council, and, sadly, ended it with a plea for more officers.


In case you were wondering, Fortville currently has nine officers on its roster, not counting Knauer. Current data, forecasts and studies have told Knauer, town council and the general public that is not enough and 15 full-time road officers are required.


That is the easy part.


The hard part, which nobody has been able to find an answer to either through neglect of searching or just because there is no solution, is how to fund one officer, much less six more.


Trust me, I get nobody wants to pay higher taxes, especially after residents in Hancock County were forced to pay for a new jail after telling their elected officials no through a referendum.


I also understand wholeheartedly that the timing couldn’t be any worse, as Fortville officials dumped trash fees and service back onto the residents after absorbing the cost for years.


However, I also know that with three more subdivisions set to come online this year, a school district has seen record growth and continues to project growth and Amazon’s facility nearing competition, something has to happen.


Regardless of what any public official feels or will tell you publicly, public safety is not something that you can stick your head in the sand and ignore, and it is not something that can be privatized.


Trash service? Okay.


Utilities. Fine.


Public safety? You’re kidding yourself.


When there is a fire or a disturbance, residents expect emergency personnel to respond, and, while Fortville’s police department has done an outstanding job of working with the hand they’ve been dealt, that hand is starting to grow tired.


All one has to do is look around at the news and see we have a public safety crisis in neighboring communities that will boil over into Fortville and surrounding areas before too long.


I maintain the botched robbery turned homicide a few years ago at the Dollar General in Cumberland should have served as a wake up call to Hancock County officials that their area is not immune to serious crime.


If not that, then the SWAT standoff at the Stonecrest Apartments in Fortville where officers recovered drugs and other items that should not be in an apartment, should serve as a wake-up call.

 

Or, what about when Fortville officer Matthew Fix was shot in the line of duty?


Still not convinced?


Maybe, Knauer’s words that there is only one officer to patrol the town during the night will serve as a wake-up?


Or, the fact that every day, Fortville’s bravest are dealing with an ever increasing mental health issue with its residents?


The time has come for actions and solutions.


No longer can public safety be kicked down the road, especially when the town council has fallen over itself to wrap its arms around a riverfront district to hand out more liquor licenses in the near future.


Members of the town council have said they are serious about working with Knauer and solving this issue.  I would sincerely hope that is the case, and residents should do their part to hold their elected officials accountable to ensure this happens.


The safety and security of the residents of Fortville is the foremost responsibility of government and they keep dropping the ball.


Enough is enough. 

McCordsville's Geist Montessori Academy combines two facilities

Growing and thriving is exactly how Cindy Schuler describes Geist Montessori Academy.


And, after recently moving into a brand new facility those two words could be spot on, as Geist Montessori Academy recently opened its doors at a new location – 6058 W. 900 North, McCordsville.


“Bringing our two school families into one school home has been very exciting and unifying. There are now so many more opportunities since we are all in one building.  Montessori education is meant to be fluid, where children feel just as much a part of the whole community as they do in their own homes,” Schuler told Giant FM.


Schuler said with the new facility, which combined facilities in both Hamilton County and McCordsville, gives the opportunity to do more and better serve the school’s students and families.
“We now have opportunities for children in the upper elementary to come into the lower elementary classrooms to practice giving lessons to younger students and for the younger students to share their new learning with the older children.  This piece of their education allows them to become leaders and see themselves as something bigger than just themselves. Geist Montessori Academy is a growing and thriving school community that was outgrowing its former two smaller campuses.  Being able to have the space to accomplish our shared vision and goals has been satisfying and fulfilling, for we are truly Better Together,” Schuler told Giant FM.


For those not familiar, Montesorri focuses on a student’s concentration and independence, while providing a nurturing and caring community.


“The Montessori philosophy believes that all children are creative, capable, and inquisitive, and when given the freedom to choose their own learning activities, learning is real, relevant, and rewarding. This allows children to see all of the opportunities to explore and develop their inner passions, to truly be the very best that they can be,” Schuler said.


Schuler told Giant FM each child is valued for their unique gifts and talents, while providing a nurturing and caring community.


“Each child is valued for his/her unique gifts and talents and is given the opportunity to truly explore and develop his/her potential.  The Montessori philosophy is child-centered, individualized, and utilizes multi-sensory materials to deepen and enrich the learning experiences. This allows children to learn at their own level and at their own pace. Further, it encourages creativity and feeds children’s innate curiosity, which feeds their hunger for lifelong learning. The Montessori Method also exposes students to a wide variety of cultures and encourages children to broaden their thinking about the world. Parents, the natural environment, and the community are also an integral part of the Montessori Method. All of this enables children to see school as an extension of the home and the world, where learning is boundless and the support and inspiration is all around,” Schuler said.
And, the students are also very vocal with the education and facility, as was evidenced by the middle school students helping lay the foundation for the new facility.


“What an amazing accomplishment for our older students.  It is an absolute joy to announce that our very own middle schoolers truly helped lay the foundation for our new school.  One of the cornerstones of Montessori education is authentic learning experiences for the students. 

 

Empowering them to help be a part of the new campus was critical in ensuring that their voice and choice was heard. In addition, it allowed the physical space to better support their learning,” Schuler said.


Schuler said the middle school students were “instrumental in ascertaining that a retractable wall be placed between the two middle school classroom”."


“This allows the rooms to transform into a huge collaborative space.  In addition, lockers were not budgeted in the original building plans, so the students investigated the best type of lockers, based on the wall dimensions, the number of lockers needed, and their color and style preferences.  They applied their math and business skills to pitch their ideas, and ultimately their favorites were purchased.  They also used their business class funding to support the purchase and showed further ownership by crafting their own locker rules.  When students engage in real learning experiences, they are able to synthesize multiple skills, which allows the students to understand the value and impact of their knowledge. This is the effort of Montessori education, to involve children with the world around them, so that they can truly become lifelong learners,” Schuler told Giant FM.

New Palestine schools agree to PR help for the town of New Palestine

The town of New Palestine will get some help in telling positive stories around the town thanks in part to New Palestine High School.

 

At its most recent town council meeting, council members heard from Wes Anderson, community and school relations director for the Community School District of Southern Hancock County, who proposed a partnership between his office and the town.


“I am interested in trying to serve more kids and help more kids get into marketing, public relations, graphic design, things of that nature,” Anderson told the council.


 

In his proposal, Anderson said he would select an unpaid intern, who is a high school student, to help with whatever the New Palestine’s officials may need.

 

 

Both council members Clint Bledsoe and Angela Fahrnow welcomed the addition with open arms, saying it is a great idea.


The council approved the measure with a 4-0 vote.


“Thank you so much for proposing this to us, we appreciate it,” council president Brandee Bastin told Anderson following the vote.  

 

Two Columbus officers arrested on charges related to ghost employment

Detectives with the Indiana State Police arrested two Columbus, Indiana police officers on charges of ghost employment, official misconduct, and theft.

 

The investigation by Detective Jason Duncan began in November 2018 when the Columbus Police Department requested the Indiana State Police to conduct an investigation into allegations of possible criminal activity against two of its employees.  The request was made following an internal investigation by the Columbus Police Department.

 

     

 

During the investigation, it was determined that Lieutenant Dan Meister and Sergeant Ron May allegedly worked an off duty job providing security at Columbus Regional Hospital while on duty with the Columbus Police Department.  The investigation indicated that between February 2015 and August 2018, Meister and May allegedly worked overlapping shifts for both Columbus Police Department and Columbus Regional Hospital.  Both officers were paid by CPD and CRH for the same hours worked on numerous occasions.

 

 

Investigators found that Meister had overlapped hours worked on 52 separate occasions.  May was found to have overlapped hours worked on 62 separate occasions.

 

At the conclusion of the case, the investigation was turned over to a special prosecutor that was assigned in this case.

 

Today, warrants were issued for both Meister and May on charges of Official Misconduct, Ghost Employment, and Theft.  They were both arrested this afternoon without incident and remanded to the custody of the Bartholomew County Jail.

 

Both will soon face initial hearings in Bartholomew County.

 

The Indiana State Police was assisted by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.

Flags to half-staff for Hancock County's Nicholas Gulling

Governor Eric J. Holcomb is directing flags in Hancock County to be flown at half-staff to honor former state representative Nicholas Gulling.

 

Flags should be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on the day of his funeral, Saturday, February 22.

 

Gov. Holcomb also asks businesses and residents in Hancock County to lower their flags to half-staff on Saturday to honor former state representative Gulling and his service.

It'll be a few years but U.S. 52 bypass approved for New Palestine

The good news – Hancock County and Southern Hancock County will get some relief along U.S. 52.


The bad news – the relief is still five years out.


Hancock County engineer Gary Pool confirmed to Giant FM that a bypass road off County Road 500 West, south of U.S. 52, was approved by INDOT this week.  The bypass project comes with a price tag of about $750,000. The state will cover 80 percent of the project, while Hancock County will have to fund the rest of the project.


Pool told Giant FM the relief, while not major, will still help residents and motorists.


“The majority of the relief will be during school arrival and departure, as well as sports and community events. Five to 10 percent improvement in safety and capacity. It’s not earth shattering, but will definitely make the cost worth it,” Pool told Giant FM.


Initial drawings had the bypass extending from West Stinemyer Road from County Road 550 West to County Road 500 West. There had also been discussions of a road near the Southern Hancock County school district bus garage on County Road 500 and going through land designated for an expansion of the New Palestine Cemetery to County Road 550 West. Under that proposal, the town of New Palestine owns half of the land in that route, thus causing the price to be lower.


Pool told Giant FM there is not a decision on the exact location. However, Pool did tell Giant FM one option is off the table.


“The cemetery is not going to dedicate right of way, so we won’t be going the southern route as there is no incentive to have the taxpayer buy land and build a quarter million dollars worth of road there. If I have to buy the land, I have better routes with better benefit but that is a year out on design,” Pool said.


He did say the route may be a direct connection to Stinemyer and then either an east-west running road or tying into one of the school entrances.


“Either way, it will take some time to sort that out,” Pool said.  


Officials with Southern Hancock Schools also welcome any relief a new road could bring.


Wes Anderson, community relations director for the district, told Giant FM the more ways traffic can get onto the New Palestine High School campus, the better it is for relieving congestion on U.S. 52.


“This road addition to 550 West will be a great asset to the families that live southwest of New Palestine High School. We also want to make navigating our campuses as easy as possible for parents and student drivers. Keeping them off 52 as much as possible will help us do that,” Anderson said.


In addition, the school district is considering adding more access points with its renovation plans for New Palestine High School.


“While we haven’t finalized the renovation plans, we are hopeful to be able to include another access point to campus from 450 West. Keeping traffic off of 52 as much as possible is a goal for us in how we change of these parking logistics around New Palestine High School,” Anderson said.


Regardless of what the renovation plans look like, Anderson said the goal remains the same.


“Our main goal for the layout at New Palestine High School is to separate bus traffic, student driver traffic, and parent carline traffic from each other. We think this is safer for all three of those groups. Our rough concept includes moving bus parking to the north end of the New Palestine High School lot. In this plan, we would close the 52 entrance to all other traffic during the school day. We hope that will reduce congestion on 52 and make traffic flow more smoothly around campus,” Anderson told Giant FM.