Hancock County News Archives for 2019-10

New Palestine set to go to the polls Tuesday

Voters in New Palestine will see some familiar names on the ballot, combined with a new name next week when they hit the polls on election day.


Incumbents Jan Jarson and Brandee Bastin, both Republicans, will be joined by Independent Angela Fahrnow and Republican Bill Niemier, who would have to give up his seat on the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County school board should he win. Three of the candidates will be elected.


For Jarson, she has served eight years on council and told Giant FM, she feels like she is just getting started in so many ways.


“We’ve accomplished so much, but there is so much more to do. I enjoy serving my community. I like the people. I like to hear what people think, answer questions, find out what it is they feel would improve our hometown,” said Jarson, who added she would like to continue working to keep the town going in a positive direction.


Bastin has served since January 2017, and she mentioned that while she feels she has learned much, she believes there is still much to learn and give to the community.


“Public service is something that is important to me and my family, and I would like to be involved in continuing to shape the future of our town in this capacity. I enjoy meeting with and talking to our citizens and hearing their concerns and hopes for our community and doing my best to help make their voices heard, as that is what I am elected to do, represent the citizens of New Palestine,” Bastin told Giant FM.


For Fahrnow, her decision to run was a simple one.


“I was surprised when I heard the town council hadn’t had an election in over 20 years. Whenever someone stepped down, another person was nominated to fill the role. The town was changing and it seemed that the council lost touch with the needs of people. I would like the town to provide more communication to its citizens and, in particular, significantly, more details in council meetings. Without such communication, people have a difficult time understanding what town council members truly approved. Everyone deserves to understand the entire context of how the committee is spending the town’s funds and what it means to them. In addition, I would like to see the council embrace ideas centered around modernization and progression. The council needs to be more transparent with how our tax paying dollars are being spent,” said Fahnow, who is a registered nurse.


As for Neimier, serving in an active role is something he says is important to him.


“This is the first time that I am seeking to be elected to the New Palestine Town Council. I am currently serving my second term as the President of the Southern Hancock School Board and I have been on our local School Board for the past eleven years. My children are older now, with my youngest son being a sophomore at Wabash College, and therefore, I believe it is time to allow a parent with K-12 aged children to take my place on the School Board. Becoming a member of the Town Council will allow me to remain in an active leadership position in our community,” he told Giant FM.


All the candidates say there are various issues facing the town they would love to represent.
Fahrnow told Giant FM, she believes New Palestine “lags many of our neighboring communities when it comes to modernization and progression.”


“Though I respect and understand the importance of maintaining our town’s heritage and culture, our town lacks basic advancement in corporate business developments, new restaurants and entertainment facilities. The town is experiencing significant growth, and we need to prepare our community with infrastructure enhancements capable of supporting this needed progression our town citizens deserve,” she said.


Neimier said the town council needs expanding, which voters will have the option to make their voice heard on. Currently there are three members on the council, but voters will decide whether to expand it to five members.


“First, the number of members of the Town Council needs to be expanded from three to five. Recently, a Town Council meeting was cancelled due to a lack of the required quorum. Increasing the size of the Town Council will not only help avoid future quorum problems, but it also will allow for two additional points of view and experiences to help address issues before the Town Council. Second, managing current and future growth is the most pressing issue facing the Town of New Palestine. While serving on our local School Board, I helped develop a long-term strategic plan that added a new school building, improved facilities, and is in the process of renovating and expanding the high school. All without a significant increase in taxes. Thoughtful, fiscally responsible strategic planning is a skill I can bring to the Town Council,” he told Giant FM.


Jarson told Giant FM the big issue she sees is continuing to guide positive growth and maintaining the services the town provides.


“Some examples are keeping up the streets, public safety, sewer service, trails and sidewalks. These are just a few of the things the town takes care of,” she said.


Bastin told Giant FM, New Palestine is a “dynamic, small town with opportunities for growth in many ways.”


“We have to make some tough decisions on how much we want to grow, both qualitatively and quantitatively. We have wonderful places to live, work and play, but we must evaluate what future growth can and should look like without placing undue financial burdens on our citizens. Future commercial growth in our town has great potential, but so does making our community more navigable with expanding our sidewalks and trail systems to better connect our citizens with community resources and everything our town has to offer,” Bastin said.


And, all four believe they truly are the best person for the job.


Bastin told Giant FM she is not afraid to ask questions, seek accountability and is involved in town.


“Again, I meet people where they are at, with an open mind and a willingness to listen, because, as an elected official, it is my job to represent the people of New Palestine. Taking into account my educational and political background, as well as a wide variety of professional and volunteer community roles, I have built a wide network of connections and knowledge base to understand the pulse of our community and feel that I am an ideal candidate to continue serving our community as a member of the New Palestine Town Council,” she said.


Fahrnow pointed to her running as an Independent and the work it took to get on the ballot.


“Running as an Independent, I went door to door and gathered the required signatures of registered town voters in order to be on the ballot. I heard everyone’s complaints and requests from more restaurant choices to improvements to current roads, including adding speed bumps to current housing additions. Others requested more information about current council decisions. I would like to open that door so everyone is heard, everyone has a voice, and everyone is aware of what is happening in their town. I know not everyone can attend town council meetings, but we can make them more accessible, even from the comfort of their own homes. Modern technology has made it possible to live stream these meetings and even have a Q&A available towards the end of these meetings where people can text questions for the board to answer. We are a small town, and we are all in this together,” she said.


Jarnow told Giant FM she hopes the voters and her neighbors have confidence in her ability to continue to fulfill the duties of a town council member.


“I don’t have an agenda. I just have the desire and willingness to continue to serve and give back to our community in my small way. The bottom line is I am there to do a job for my hometown,” she said.


For Niemier, he said New Palestine has been home for 28 years and he and his wife have devoted their adult lives to service in New Palestine.


“From the first day we moved to New Palestine, Michelle and I have both been, and continue to be, very active in our community. Those of you with children our age likely remember me from the many years volunteering and coaching youth baseball, football, softball, soccer, and wrestling. Of all my service, I draw your attention to our schools. Our single greatest asset, second only to the people of New Palestine. For the past 11 years I have served on our local School Board, including serving as its President on two occasions. In this role, I have helped navigate our school system through major funding changes and the challenges of growth. There are four qualified candidates for the New Palestine Town Council. However, my well-honed listening and problem-solving skills set me apart from the other candidates. I am the General Council and Vice-President of Tharp Investments, a local real estate development company. We built the Arthur’s Grocery Store (which is now Needler’s Grocery Store) and the Fifth/Third Bank next to the grocery store. There will be a new development immediately north of these two buildings in the near future. I also operate a sole practice law firm out of my house, and I regularly serve as a judge in several different courts, which has improved my ability to consider differing views while generating creative solutions in the best interest of those to whom I am accountable. I am not running for Town Council because I believe there are problems that need to be fixed, instead it’s quite the opposite. This is a great town, and we have very dedicated and long serving employees and a Town Council that I want to help make even better,” he told Giant FM.

New Pal HS renovation nearing

The bids have been issued and now the clock begins for a construction project that will seriously change the landscape of New Palestine High School.


Earlier this week, officials with the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County granted bids for the first phase, which includes a fieldhouse structure to be built on the southeastern corner of the building.


Wes Anderson, director of school and community relations, told Giant FM the fieldhouse will serve as temporary classroom space during the renovation to the existing New Palestine High School building.


“Additional parking lots and the relocation of the varsity softball field are also included in the first phase of the project. The second phase includes the renovation of the existing New Palestine High School building. Once the first phase is completed and our temporary classrooms are ready for students, which we hope will be sometime in late 2020, the second phase of the project can begin,” Anderson told Giant FM.


Anderson said construction is expected to begin in the next few weeks, and renovations to the current facility will not begin until the first phase is complete. Once the renovations to the New Palestine High School building are completed during phase two, students will move back into the high school and the fieldhouse will be converted into a facility that features three basketball/volleyball courts, a three-lane indoor track and additional locker room and restroom facilities.

 

As for the new parking areas, Anderson told Giant FM, they will allow student drivers to park on the south and southeast corners of the high school, alleviating traffic in front of the main entrance. In addition, the district has set a goal for this project to separate student drivers, buses and car line traffic from each other.


“We believe this will help drivers move in and out of New Palestine High School more smoothly during peak traffic times. Moving students to the south and southeast portions of the building is the first step in this process,” Anderson said.

 

In addition, the varsity softball field will be relocated, with the district creating a new, turf field south of the baseball field and immediately east of the tennis courts.

 

The project comes with a $49 million price tag and will be paid through bonds.


According to district officials, one area that will help with the financing of the project is $34 million worth of 20-year bonds for construction projects will be coming off the tax rolls, and officials have said that money will be applied to the new project without increasing the tax rate.


As a result, the tax rate will only be raised on the remaining $15 million.


Should the district’s assessed value grow by at least two percent, residents owning a home with a true tax value assessed at $100,000 would see a projected increase of $56. It raises to $109 on a $150,000 home and $160 on a $200,000 home.


“We are very excited to get this project started. We are grateful for a supportive community who recognizes a need for this project. When this project is done, we believe the New Palestine community will have a modern instructional space that meets the needs of 21st century students,” Anderson told Giant FM.

Fewell talks challenges, expectations for another term as Greenfield mayor

When he was first took over as mayor of Greenfield six years ago, Chuck Fewell had no idea what to really expect.


But he quickly caught on, devising a plan for the town he says has moved Greenfield forward.
“I was chosen by the people of Greenfield to be their Mayor for the past four years. Two years prior, I was caucused in when Mayor Pasco passed away while in office. During the past six years, this administration has moved the city forward,” Fewell told Giant FM.


He will look to continue moving the city forward on election day. But standing in his way, is Democratic challenger and 22-year-old Zachary LaFavers.


Fewell said there are several challenges facing Greenfield, with one of the biggest being housing.
“We need to make sure we have affordable housing in our city. This involves all types of housing – low to moderate apartments available for the younger generation in our area, and upper scale housing for those who already live here and want to upgrade. Housing is needed for those who, we hope, will come with new industry,” Fewell told Giant FM.


In addition, Fewell, who spent two decades in law enforcement, said the opioid problem and other related crime to mental health must be addressed.


“We are continuing to fight the opioid problem. Training our police in Critical Incident Teams to handle mental and domestic issues is invaluable,” he said.


Furthermore, he said traffic congestion also needs a look.


“The public safety issue that we deal with the most is traffic congestion. With only two main arteries to our city, entrance and exit into the city in State Road 9 and U.S. 40, we have to be creative,” Fewell said.


In recent months, Greenfield has been able to attract several new industries to the city, and will look to continue doing so in the future. One reason the city has been able to attract the new industries is due to tax abatements, something Fewell said are “very instrumental to our economic development.”
“Tax abatements are a tool we use for being competitive in the marketplace when new industries are trying to locate or want to locate in Greenfield. We usually do a standard 10-year abatement as an incentive to have the company consider our area. If we did not use tax abatements, I feel, we would not be competitive at all,” Fewell told Giant FM.


Fewell said his experience as mayor, combined with his work as Governmental Affairs Director for the Heritage Group, where he represented Milestone Contractors, and U.S. Agg and Asphalt Materials, makes him the best for the job.


“I believe with what I have stated in answering your questions, and with the credentials I bring, I am the candidate best suited for being the Mayor of Greenfield,” Fewell said.


Voters will have an opportunity to have their voices heard on November 5 as polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

 

LaFavers seeking Greenfield mayor's seat

At 22, Zachary LaFavers knows he has an uphill battle over the next few weeks to win voters over in Greenfield.
 

Especially, when he is running as a Democratic candidate against incumbent and Republican Chuck Fewell for mayor of Greenfield, but LaFavers welcomes the challenge and isn’t shy about saying so.
 

LaFavers told Giant FM that despite having “changes in professional and personal life,” the campaign has been good.
 

“Really what I’ve been hearing most from voters is they want to see change in the local government, they want a new face,” LaFavers said.
 

LaFavers said the biggest issue facing Greenfield pertains to growth.
 

“The biggest issue I see facing Greenfield is ensuring sustained growth and keeping jobs here locally for our middle class workers. Improving our infrastructure would also be a top priority in my administration,” he told Giant FM.
 

LaFavers is currently an apprentice with Heat &Frost Insulators Local 18, a trade union in Indianapolis, and believes voters will turnout for him in November because of his ability to bring new ideas and leadership to Greenfield.
 

“It is time for the next generation to lead the way in progressing our city forward. I believe in opening Greenfield up to any business or industry that is willing to invest in our city,” LaFavers said.
 

He told Giant FM he would be interested in bringing factories, new and popular restaurant franchises and different, localized small businesses to Greenfield.
 

“Not to only create jobs, but sustain jobs. Using tax abatements would be appropriate, if it was done responsibly,” he said.
 

LaFavers, who ran unsuccessfully for county commissioners previously, said the county government has shown how “irresponsibly” tax abatements can be used.
 

“We can use tax abatements, but I would be more in favor of offering our current businesses these incentives to help them stay at 100 percent manpower and operations,” he said. 

Baby Box established in Fortville

A new Safe Haven Baby Box has been installed in Fortville.

 

The baby box is at the Vernon Township Fire Station. A dedication ceremony was held Monday.

 

"All she (the mother) has to do is open the door, place her child inside, shut the door and walk away," says Monica Kelsey, Founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes.

 

An alarm alerts firefighters inside the station so they can get the child out of the box and make sure it gets the care it needs. Baby boxes allow people to drop their babies off safely and anonymously.

 

 

It's the 15th baby box installed in Indiana.

Greenfield-Central School Corp. finances audited for overpay to former employees

A state audit and now a review by the prosecutor's office into the finances of the Greenfield-Central
School Corporation.
 
An audit determined that three former employees, business manager Tony Zurwell, assistant superintendent Christy Hilton and former assistant superintendent Ann Vail were overpaid from 2010 through 2018 by approximately $116, 000 each.
 
Health insurance premiums were also withheld less than they should have been for each employee.
 
The State Board of Accounts has reported a total of $651, 000.
 
Hilton has since resigned from her post.  Zurwell and Vail have retired.
 
The audit is in the hands of the Hancock County Prosecutor's Office to determine if criminal charges are warranted.
 
The Greenfield-Central School Coporation issued the following release on October 18, 2019

Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation continues to fully cooperate with the State Board of Accounts to address payroll issues that the District first identified and brought to the attention of the SBOA in the fall of 2018.

 

In late August 2018, G-CCSC Superintendent, Dr. Harold Olin, became suspicious and discovered an improper allocation of funds. He promptly ordered an independent review and reported the issue to the SBOA office. That external audit, conducted by an experienced school business official, validated the Superintendent’s concerns surrounding overpayment of contract compensation to three district level administrators.

 

In October 2018, almost immediately after completing its own investigation, Greenfield - Central

Community School Corporation took corrective action to avoid similar issues from occurring. The District instituted additional internal controls, implemented increased checks and balances, and simplified contracts to make them more transparent for all stakeholders.

 

“We are committed to being efficient stewards of our community’s tax dollars and doing whatever is

necessary to ensure this won’t happen again,” said Dr. Olin. “As a result of both our internal inquiry and the SBOA’s investigations, we promptly strengthened our internal controls and administrative contract procedures. There is regret this issue occurred on our watch. We are confident that no school programming or staffing was adversely impacted by this matter. In fact, the District continues to expand student opportunities, instructional programs and the teacher workforce. We have maintained a strong financial footing, as recognized by the S&P’s AA+ rating that we received a few weeks ago.”

 

The Superintendent, Board, and select corporation staff members fully cooperated with state

investigators to furnish requested information to the State Board of Accounts and the Indiana State

Police. G-CCSC is grateful for the SBOA’s quick reply and investigation. The Board also wishes to thank the State Police investigators for their thorough approach during the process.

 

Located in Greenfield, Indiana, Greenfield-Central has an enrollment of more than 4400 students and has an annual operating budget that exceeds $50 million. G-CCSC is proud of its three Indiana 4-Star Schools (2018) and National Blue Ribbon Schools designation (2016 and 2017).

 
 
Related story posted by GIANT fm News on September 25, 2018

Without releasing any further details citing personnel concerns the Greenfield-Central school board approved the retirement of its longtime business manager.

The Greenfield-Central school board held an executive session last week followed by the few minutes long public session Monday morning.

Superintendent of Greenfield-Central schools Dr. Harold Olin confirmed to GIANT fm News that the board in a brief meeting early Monday morning approved the retirement of Tony Zurwell. Nathaniel Day was appointed interim business manager.

Zurwell and assistant superintendents Ann Vail and Christy Hilton were placed on paid administrative leave earlier this month.  The assistant superintendents are back at work

 

No criminal findings but Greenfield officer will remain on leave while police department continues its internal investigation

The Greenfield Police Department is currently conducting an internal investigation into an incident involving a Greenfield Police officer allegedly using excessive force during an arrest. The police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave effective August 26. The officer will remain on administrative leave pending the investigation results.

 

Greenfield Police requested the Indiana State Police also conduct an investigation into this matter. The Indiana State Police recently forwarded their findings to the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office.

 

On October 2, the Indiana State Police turned their investigation results of this incident over to the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office. After reviewing the Indiana State Police investigation findings, the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office determined that there is not sufficient enough evidence that an altercation between Greenfield Police Department Cpl. Justin Jackson and an arrestee resulted in criminal activity.

 

Due to the Indiana State Police criminal investigation into this matter, the Greenfield Police Department internal investigation had to cease until the Indiana State Police investigation was concluded. With the Indiana State Police investigation now being concluded, the Greenfield Police Department will resume their internal investigation into whether any departmental policies and/or procedures have been violated during this incident involving Cpl. Jackson.

 

Cpl. Jackson will remain on paid administrative leave until the conclusion of the internal investigation.

Greenfield PD officer investigated for report of excessive force

The Greenfield Police Department is currently conducting an internal investigation into an incident involving a Greenfield Police officer allegedly using excessive force during an arrest.

 

The police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave effective August 26, 2019. The officer will remain on administrative leave pending the investigation results.

 

The Greenfield Police Department has requested the Indiana State Police also conduct an investigation into this matter. The Indiana State Police recently forwarded their findings to the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office. The Greenfield Police Department is currently awaiting further information from the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office at this time.

 

The Greenfield Police Department cannot comment any further on the matter at this time in order to ensure the integrity of the investigation.

Trash talk on Fortville Town Council docket tonight

After plenty of discussions about trash, officials in Fortville are one step closer to a resolution when it comes to trash service.


Recently, officials voted in favor of first reading on an ordinance changing who will pay for trash service.


In the past, Fortville provided the pickup and collection of trash as part of its regular government services, but the cost of providing trash service has increased. While the fees increased, officials continued to absorb the cost, opting not to pass it on to residents.


"Historically, the town made the budget decision in past years to pay for trash pickup out of general revenues. The town made the decision to stop paying for the trash pickup because the trash pickup contract has gotten more expensive as the town grows since the cost is tied to number of houses," councilman Mike Frischkorn told Giant FM.

 

Frischkorn said this year alone, the cost for trash pickup is approximately $211,000, which is up from approximately $179,000 in the past. 

 

Town manager Joe Renner told the council that in order to offset the costs, it is necessary to finally enact a fee. The fee will be included in resident’s utility bills.

 

 

Councilman Robert Holland reminded those in attendance at the recent council meeting that the primary reason for the fee being passed on is because the fee to the town increased.


“We absorbed that, and the growth has just compounded this. We choose at that time to absorb cost and not pass it along, but it is something we need to address,” Holland said.

 

Under the resolution, the town will now charge $10.86 and do away with recycling containers, something Frischkorn noted has been wrongly used recently.


“Unfortunately, town staff spends hours a week cleaning up the trash in that area. Also, those dumpsters are being used by people who are not Fortville residents and people are dumping trash there. We have had couches, tires, tvs, etc. dumped at the recycling dumpsters. It has become a burden so we decided to move away from it," he said.

 

Town council president Fritz Fentz has a simple solution for those still wanting recycling.


“If you want recycling, you have to pay for it on your own. Outside residents are using it, all that trash blows into the creek. They are throwing everything in there,” Fentz said.


Under the new ordinance, the trash collection fee will be prepared, billed and collected monthly and may be billed to the tenant or tenants occupying properties served. Furthermore, all trash collection fees not paid by the 17th of each month will be declared delinquent and be charged a penalty of 10 percent of the first $3 of delinquent fees and 3 percent on the remaining delinquent balance.


The issue of trash will be another focal point Monday evening during the town council meeting, as a public hearing will be held concerning trash fees.


The town council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 714 East Broadway St., Fortville.

Fortville PD warns of scam

The Fortville Police Department is warning all citizens of a scam that has hit the city.

 

The department learned Wednesday that someone is calling citizens from a number disguised as the town's main line in an attempt to scam you out of money. 

 

The unknown caller is making threats that you have unpaid tickets and or bills and if you don't give them money, you will be arrested. 

 

According to officials, the Fortville Police Department will never call in attempt to collect money or threaten to arrest if someone does not pay. Anyone with questions is asked to call 317-477-4400.

Riley Festival opens Thursday in Greenfield

For 49 years, citizens and guests have convened in Greenfield to honor one of its native sons, James Whitcomb Riley. 

 

Riley, a famous poet, will again be remembered this weekend with the Riley Festival, which is in its 50th year. The festivities begin Oct. 3 and last until Oct. 6 and the theme for this year is one that many festival goers will know well, “The Old Swimmin Hole.” The poem was the first that brought Riley success and was used as the first official theme of the festival in 1974.


“The Riley Festival is an annual celebration of James Whitcomb Riley. It started primarily with our merchants doing sidewalk sales and a parade of flowers with our school children delivering flowers to the Riley statue on the courthouse lawn. James Whitcomb Riley is one of our most famous citizens from Indiana, and he wrote a lot of poetry and was a great person. A lot of people enjoyed those poems like “The Raggedy Man,” and “Little Orphant Annie,” and if they haven’t read them, they know them. We honor him with a four-day festival that includes music, a street fair and a lot of food. It is a great time, and in addition, this year, tours of his home will be available for free,” said Dan Riley, a board member of the festival.


The fun will begin Thursday, Oct. 3, at 5 p.m., and several highlights of the first night include opening ceremonies at the Greenfield Banking Company Entertainment Tent, along with the Wright Brothers Trio.


On Friday, the festival begins at 9 a.m. and free tours of the Riley Boyhood Home will begin at 10 a.m. The Flower Parade kicks off at 12:30 p.m., and various musical acts will perform during the day and night, including the Main Street Band, Craig Moore and The Flying Toasters.


Saturday starts at 7 a.m. with the Mayor’s Breakfast at Trinity Park United Methodist Church and the festival opens to the public at 9 a.m. The Riley Festival Parade kicks off from Greenfield-Central High School at 11 a.m. and there is various entertainment slated during the day and night, including Thunderstruck at 8 a.m. The final day of the festival, Sunday, opens with a church service at Greenfield Christian Church at 9 a.m. and the festival opening to the public at 11 a.m.


The highlight on Sunday is the Riley Birthday Celebration in the Garden with the Greenfield Community Choir at 1 p.m. The event features cake and punch and Jeff Kuehl, as James Whitcomb Riley, presenting “The Old Swimmin Hole.” The festival will close at 5 p.m. Sunday.


Riley told Giant FM the festival has about 20 board members who work around the clock to ensure the festival is a successful one.


“We have a group of 20 board members that work year-round to make sure this is happening. We have some younger people on the board, and we have one of the best music line-ups this year. We have activities for the children beside the flower parade. Our big parade is Saturday. We spent extra money this year for the clean-up. We want the city to be clean after the festival and be as nice as when we found it,” he said.


And, according to Riley, the weather looks to be “very nice.”


“I remember walking through snow for the festival. We have a great number of vendors, some new ones this year and some new food vendors. I encourage people to come out, and believe it will be the best one ever,” Riley told Giant FM.


Those in attendance this year can get a special pin commemorating the event. The pin will be available at the information booth and features a picture of the old swimming hole.


“It is quite a site to see as I come over the hill coming into downtown from the east and to see a mass of people. I hope they remember they are celebrating his birthday. The poetry portion is something we need to instill in the children. It is a great time, and I hope everybody comes out. We probably have the largest attendance of any four-day festival in the state,” Riley told Giant FM.