Hancock County News Archives for 2020-01

Fortville Town Council, by 3-2 vote, approves change of ID requirement for utilities

In its first meeting of the new year, the Fortville Town Council made a big change to a policy that had been in place for seven years and dealt with the town’s utility department.


In a 3-2 vote, town officials approved first reading of an ordinance that no longer requires residents to have a photo ID when opening utilities, whether it be electric, water or sewer.


Alex Intermill, town attorney, told the council that with all the town wants to make sure they are sure customers requesting services are who they say they are and have the right to establish service where they want service.


Intermill said an individual recently wanted to sign up for utilities and was offered an opportunity to provide sufficient documentation, but refused. Intermill said the person also declined an opportunity to come before council, explain the situation and ask for an exception, but refused.


Council member Robert Holland agreed with the logic, stating if someone had an issue, they could approach the town council or town manager to work out any issue, and said he believed requiring a photo id was a “sound policy.”


Newly elected council member Becky Davis, however, disagreed, pushing a motion to the table that would remove the provision requiring a photo ID. That prompted several minutes of discussion among council members, and when the dust settled, the motion had passed 3-2. Davis, along with Tonya Davis and Fritz Fentz all voted in favor, while Holland and and Libby Wyatt voted against.
Davis told Giant FM that her desire for the motion was simple.


“I made the motion because not everyone has a photo ID. My mother never drove, so she didn’t have a photo id. If they want a photo, then they could take one, unless that person doesn’t allow their photo to be taken for religious or other reasons. The utility office requires a copy of the lease if that person is renting and a copy of something showing they bought or own the house, so no, I don’t think someone is opening utilities in someone else’s name,” Davis told Giant FM.


Ironically, Fentz was in favor of the photo ID until he uttered a yes vote.


The move was not lost on Holland, who immediately asked Fentz why he had a change of heart.
“You said you were okay with moving forward with the photo id, but you voted against it,” Holland said.
Fentz said that Becky Davis did a good enough job of convincing him that the photo id was not necessary, pointing to the fact that Fortville has been quick to shut off water service of residents in the past that people do not have time to run up an astronomical bill.


“Indianapolis, Greenfield, none of them have a photo ID. We are the only people to do that,” Fentz said.


Holland continued to press the issue, asking Fentz again why he changed his mind.


“You just said we needed a photo, and you voted no, so I just wanted clarification,” Holland said.
Fentz said as long as a resident has a social security number or birth certificate, officials will know who they are.


Wyatt voiced concern over the measure.


“I think it’s a mistake. We aren’t Greenfield or Indianapolis. We are a small town that knows its people. We are making sure we are doing the right thing by them,” Wyatt said.


Resident Sonja Meyer agreed, taking council to task for voting against a photo ID.


“I disagree with your last vote. I know people who have put utilities in their children’s name and children now have bad credit. I think it’s a bad idea. I just wanted you to know from a resident’s perspective,” Meyer said.


Holland agreed.


“I’d rather us make sure. It is short sided and only protects ourselves and the person getting the utilities. This individual had avenues to work with the town council and chose not to,” Holland said. 

Failure to report miles of roads, streets, cost New Pal state funds

The first sign there was a problem came last November.


At the Nov. 2 New Palestine Town Council meeting, street commissioner Stephen Pool informed the council the town had missed out on the Community Crossings Grant from INDOT for the first time in a few years.


The reason?


New Palestine officials had omitted half of the town’s roads from its road inventory, and, as a result, the town has missed out on tax dollars from the state to help with paving and maintenance.

 

According to INDOT, New Palestine had not been claiming a total of 7.8 miles along 49 streets and roads in town, and had claimed only 8.4 miles of roads from 2015 through 2018.


Why the omission happened still remains a mystery.


However, New Palestine Town Manager David Book has said the error is solely on his shoulders.
At the Dec. 7 meeting, Book, who did not respond to several attempts for comment from Giant FM, apologized for the error, stating he missed the reporting. Furthermore, Pool reported the town missed out on about $8,500 in tax dollars as a result of the omission.


INDOT officials told Giant FM the omission, while bad for municipalities, is not that rare.


Mallory Duncan, communications director for East Central INDOT District, told Giant FM that it is very “common that a town or county has not updated their road inventory.”


“INDOT has been receiving a lot more updates in the last few years because there is an incentive because of the Community Crossings Grants,” Duncan said.


Duncan told Giant FM there were several opportunities for New Palestine to catch the issue.


“INDOT annually sends out a summary of each Local Government Agency’s Inventory mileage. In that summary, we request to be notified of any changes that have occurred. The deadline for submitting changes in order to be included in the next official certified mileage report to the Auditor of the State is Dec. 31. INDOT will accept changes to the road inventory at any time throughout the year, however. It will help the town or county to review the summary right when they get it each year, and if there are differences, contact INDOT to make those changes,” Duncan said.


That, however, did not happen through the years.  


Duncan said if a town or county under reports their inventory mileage, it could impact their Motor Vehicle Tax distributions.


Angela Fahrnow, who was appointed to the council earlier this month, has questioned the missing roads since November and told Giant FM she believes the lost tax revenue could be over $500,000.
Fahrnow told Giant FM that while everyone makes mistakes, she would expect council to factor in both the positives and the negatives in coming up with any resolution.


“It is reasonably possible other issues will surface, but we certainly are not going to accuse people of wrongdoing without substance,” Fahrnow told Giant FM.


Town officials, however, do not believe the amount is quite that high.  New Palestine Town Council president Brandee Bastin said she believes the amount to be closer to $200,000.


“It is also very disappointing to realize how much money the town has lost over the years as a result of these errors, and I’m sure we will never know the exact amount, although the estimates are at least $200,000. I have recently been advised by someone with government experience that we may have insurance coverage for errors and omissions, and I will be looking into this,” Bastin told Giant FM.


Bastin also expressed both surprise and disappointment on the issue.


“I have been both surprised and disappointed upon learning of the road mileage inventory errors that have been made over the years, some going back decades. All of these roads were developed in town prior to my election to council to 2017, and it is hard to understand how a process wasn’t in place to ensure these roads are added to our inventory as they are developed. Now, we know that process wasn’t there and working with INDOT, the engineering firms we work with on our roads and infrastructure, all of these entities must be vigilant and work together to ensure this does not happen again in the future,” Bastin told Giant FM.


Council newcomer Bill Niemier said that despite the news, he believes the town still can accomplish great things.


“I continue to believe that great things, such as more residential and commercial development, are coming to New Palestine. The road mileage mistake has been corrected and that issue is on everyone’s radar and very unlikely to occur again. There are also more people looking at details such as this, which will help avoid similar mistakes in the future,” he told Giant FM.


Resident Chris Lytle is also among those “shocked and disappointed” by the news.


“I’m extremely angry. This is 100 percent unacceptable. I feel like the people of New Palestine have been either over taxed or we haven’t gotten the services we deserve. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are gone and not coming back because of negligence. Something needs to be done about this immediately. An apology doesn’t cut it. I don’t care if some people say this is how things are done here, or it’s just the way it is. It is definitely time for a change, and let’s fix these problems,” Lytle said.


As for potential fallout or repercussions, those remain anyone’s guess.


Lytle said a change must take place.


“The person responsible has been on the job 36 years. I don’t want politicians in for life or town managers. We need some new blood in there,” Lytle told Giant FM.


Fahrnow said her desire is simple – changes to the town’s internal control environment, complete transparency and fluid communication with the community.


“My message is both consistent with what I stand for and what keeps me motivated to help the town. I will do whatever I can to identify issues and opportunities to help make the town better, and bridge the gap between these town matters and the community,” Fahrnow said.


Niemier also said the town can and should improve its internal controls.


“I do know going forward the Town Council will always try to do what is best, and in no way am I implying that prior councils did not have the same goal. The best way we can do this is address and solve any issues, good or bad, as we become aware of them. The current council will ask questions and scrutinize things more than ever because it’s the right thing to do,” Niemier told Giant FM.


Bastin told Giant FM any issue relating to personnel changes must be made by the council in an executive session format.


“At this point, these personnel matters resulting from this situation and any other matter that has come to our attention, must be discussed at an executive session of the town council, which, hopefully, will occur later this week,” Bastin told Giant FM. 

Sushi featured at new Fortville restaurant

For Tim Breuning, a love of food combined with a desire to give back has spurred his latest endeavor, a one of a kind restaurant in Fortville.


Breuning recently opened Bonsai Fortville, a sushi restaurant that delivers quite a few options, according to the owner. The restaurant is located at 18 S. Main St., Fortville.


“I always wanted to run a sushi place. I have cousins who attended Mt. Vernon. We chose Fortville because of the community and the small town charm,” said Bruening, who has been in the restaurant business for eight years.


To open a restaurant where his family attended school is “very cool,” he told Giant FM.


“I also coached several Mt. Vernon baseball players in travel baseball. The restaurant has been well received in the community. I love serving the community and working hard to give them the best product possible,” he said.


While sushi is the prominent dish, it is not the only dish, Breuning said.


“We have more than just sushi. We have several Asian dishes, burgers and tenderloins. We also offer some deep fried rolls and rolls made with fried chicken, sweet potatoes and veggies. It is a great way to start trying sushi,” he told Giant FM.


Bonsai Fortville is open Sunday through Thursday from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m.

Hancock County bracing for heavy rain, potential flooding

As weather projections continue to list heavy rain as a possibility this weekend, the Hancock County Emergency Management staff is being proactive to assist residents.


A flood warning has been issued for Hancock County from Friday evening through Saturday evening, and as a result, sandbags will be available to Hancock County residents at the Hancock County Highway Department, 922 W. Osage St., Greenfield at the west gate.


Misty Moore, Hancock County Emergency Management Director, told Giant FM the biggest thing residents can do is get ahead of the problem before it starts.


“If there is a possibility of water rising to the home, get sandbags down and prepare in advance, versus trying to stop it as it’s entering the home. We have seen firsthand residents trying to do that, and it’s just too late,” Moore said.


In addition, Moore said motorists should never try to pass through water on the road.


“If there are flooded roads, turn around, no matter what. Motorists cannot gauge or predict the outcome of driving through water, and there are too many unknowns. And with such a widespread flooding problem, motorists cannot rely on “road closed” or “high water” signs as it’s hard for street and highway departments to keep up with all of the newly reported flooded roads. Don’t let that be an indicator of whether you choose to drive through the water. Just turn around,” Moore told Giant FM.


Anyone with specific flooding concerns is asked to contact Hancock County Emergency Management at 317-477-1188.

Hancock County bracing for heavy rain, potential flooding

As weather projections continue to list heavy rain as a possibility this weekend, the Hancock County Emergency Management staff is being proactive to assist residents.


A flood warning has been issued for Hancock County from Friday evening through Saturday evening, and as a result, sandbags will be available to Hancock County residents at the Hancock County Highway Department, 922 W. Osage St., Greenfield at the west gate.


Misty Moore, Hancock County Emergency Management Director, told Giant FM the biggest thing residents can do is get ahead of the problem before it starts.


“If there is a possibility of water rising to the home, get sandbags down and prepare in advance, versus trying to stop it as it’s entering the home. We have seen firsthand residents trying to do that, and it’s just too late,” Moore said.


In addition, Moore said motorists should never try to pass through water on the road.


“If there are flooded roads, turn around, no matter what. Motorists cannot gauge or predict the outcome of driving through water, and there are too many unknowns. And with such a widespread flooding problem, motorists cannot rely on “road closed” or “high water” signs as it’s hard for street and highway departments to keep up with all of the newly reported flooded roads. Don’t let that be an indicator of whether you choose to drive through the water. Just turn around,” Moore told Giant FM.


Anyone with specific flooding concerns is asked to contact Hancock County Emergency Management at 317-477-1188.

Familiar face, new school board member for Southern Hancock corporation

There will be a new face on the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County school board by the end of the month.

 

The board recently appointed Laura Haeberle to fill the void left by Bill Niemier, who resigned to take a position on the New Palestine Town Council, which he was elected to last November. She will serve the remaining one year of Niemier’s term.


A resident of the district for 16 years, Haeberle is no stranger to the district, having served as the media center assistant at New Palestine Elementary School and as a substitute teacher. In addition, her children are enrolled at New Palestine High School.


Haeberle will be sworn in at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 13. 

 

The district also considered Suzanne Cannon, Jon Hooker and Ethan Maple.

Fortville man charged with rape, molest

A Fortville man is in the Madison County Jail, charged with multiple crimes after a girl reported she was raped and molested by him while in elementary school.


According to a probable cause affidavit, Dennis Mickow, 64, of Fortville, is accused of raping and molesting a 16-year-old when she was in the first and second grade. In addition, the victim told police that Mickow offered her $20 to lift up her shirt when she was in the fourth grade.


Mickow has been charged with a Class A felony child molesting-intercourse or deviate sex with victim less than 14, Level 1 felony child molesting where defendant is at least 21, Class F felony child molesting and a Level 4 felony child molesting, fondling or touching with child under 14.


According to court records, the girl reported the incidents in 2018, stating Mickow raped and molested her when she was about 9. She told investigators she never told anyone what happened, and that Mickow once walked in while she was showering and dropped his pants in front of her.


Mickow has denied ever going into the bathroom when the victim was in the shower and denied being naked with her or trying to have sex with her, according to court documents.

New-look New Pal Town Council meets for first time

The New Palestine Town Council will feature a very familiar face, along with a brand new one as the council increased from three to five members last week.

 

Ironically, one of the new council members is a returning member, who originated the idea of increasing the council.


Clint Bledose returns to the council after having lost his seat last year in a crowded Republican nominating convention, but having voiced concerns over the size of a three-person council. Joining him is Angela Fahrnow, who ran last November as an Independent candidate and finished fourth in a three-person race. The two came through an interview process and were selected by current council members Jan Jarson, Brandee Bastin and Bill Niemier. Niemier joined the council after being elected last November.


The current council voted 2-1 in favor of adding Bledsoe and Fahrnow, with Jarson being the lone no vote.


During the election last November, Fahrnow created a buzz, stating transparency was needed on the council. She told Giant FM she is ready to get to work and will keep her campaign promises of opening lines of communication between residents and council, saying the voters have a voice on council and in the town's matters.

 

"The 129 votes, or 6 percent less than the last elected candidate, I received during the election, I think, says something. The town of New Palestine never previously had an election. When a past council member stepped down or retired, there would be a nomination to replace them, or a part caucus to elect the next council member. Town residents did not have a say or a voice, until now," Fahrnow said.

 

As for her goals, Fahrnow said she looks forward to working on infrastructure. She told Giant FM since losing last November, she has continued her push of updating the town's road inventory in hopes of recouping tax money for the town for road repairs. 

 

"Some of the roads have been in New Pal foe over 20-plus years, but never recorded in our inventory. The dollar amount we've missed out on is significant," she said.

 

Fahrnow said she will also push for a resolution to the nepotism policy and related conflicts of interest, as well as transparency, two things she addressed in November.

 

"Hopefully it will be discussed further with the present council members. Before being elected, I brought concerns directly to the town council and answers were not always forthcoming, and, often, replies came in a hostile manner. In addition, it was communicated to me that information would be "readily available" at town hall and the public library. I had found this was not the case, and I am hoping to change that," Fahrnow told Giant FM. 

 

Fahrnow said she "absolutely" believes she can work with everyone on council, as well as town officials.

 

"I have every intention of building strong relationship with the town council members and the town employees. As part of achieving this objective, consideration and respect has to be reciprocal from others as well. As I work hard to build trust and strong relationships, I am hopeful I get the same professional courtesy in return," she told Giant FM.

 

In addition to the new members, council voted in favor of naming Brandee Bastin the council president by a 3-2 vote. Jarson and Bledsoe each voted against the measure. 

Fortville Police Chief looks back at 2019, what 2020 will bring

When Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer reflects back on 2019, he does so knowing it was a good year, but admits there's still work to do. 

 

Knauer told Giant FM a few of the things done in 2019 consisted of new uniforms and patches for the department.

 

 

One of the biggest success stories was the addition of Oszkar, the department's newest K9. Knauer told Giant FM it had been two years in the making to get the new K9 on the streets, and it is both a drug and patrol dog. In addition, he says Oszkur will help with the mission of getting criminals off the streets. 

 

 

One area of concern in 2020 for Knauer and the department revolves around its relationship with Mt. Vernon Community Schools. Knauer said it is his hope to extend services to the entire district and not just the high school. 

 

 

One glaring issue in 2020 will be the addition of be officers, something Knauer has mentioned the last three to four years. He told Giant FM with new subdivisions being built, a police presence is a must.

 

 

The addition of officers would also help combat crime that has, at times, infiltrated Fortville from Anderson and Indianapolis. Knauer told Giant FM he is always concerned about crime, but will always be ready to combat it.

 

 

Senator Crider highlights agenda items for legislative session

For Mike Crider, the fact that the 2020 Indiana legislative session, which begins January 6, is a short one only means the senator will have to push harder to get his legislation passed.

 

That sits just fine with the Greenfield Republican.

 

Crider told Giant FM there are three big bills dealing with criminal law that he's looking to get passed. 

 

"The first looks at eliminating the statue of limitation on sex crimes committed against a child. One looks at enhancing the penalties for a purchaser of a person under the age of 18 under the human trafficking law and one seeks to enhance the penalties for a person who causes the injury or death of a police canine," Crider told Giant FM.

 

In addition, Crider will look at another area he has tried to make an impact in during his tenure in the Statehouse -- mental health. He told Giant FM he has three mental health related bills.

"One requires a school that seeks grant funding under the provision I passed last year for mental health in schools to have an established relationship with an approved community mental health provider. Another bill looks at the issue of parity for mental health coverage as compared to physical health coverage from insurance providers and requires a report as to how insurance companies are complying with state and federal law. The third bill creates a mental health commission to look at mental health services in the state. Where are the gaps, where and how efficiently is the money flowing and are we capturing all of the federal dollars that we can? Indiana has received approval to do more in this area and so I think it's time to take a long look at how we can help more people who are struggling," Crider said.

 

One area Crider doesn't expect much discussion this session is teacher pay, despite a large statewide rally last year during Organization Day at the Statehouse.

 

"I doubt that teacher pay will be addressed since any raise has to have perpetual funding and that is best considered as we put our next budget together. We are also waiting on the report from the commission the governor established to look at this issue and more. I do believe teacher pay will be a priority issue during the next session," Crider said.

 

In recent years and months, states bordering the Hoosiers State have passed laws legalizing medical and recreational marijuana.

 

Crider told Giant FM there will be a "number of bills to decriminalize marijuana or make it legal in some fashion."

 

However, he said he doubts any of them will get traction.

 

"It will likely be some time and require some movement on the feds part before that discussion becomes serious here. Lots of questions about is THC necessary to gain any perceived medical benefits, if so how much and does CBD oil fit that requirement? And the issue of smoking and mental health issues around the regular use of marijuana. There is data and studies both sides and neither is overwhelming," Crider said. 

Fortville restaurant victim of vandalism, broken door

The Fortville Police Department I looking for any information into a recent vandalism at a new restaurant.

 

According to officials, someone threw rocks through the windows at Bonsai Fortville, 18 South Main St.

The incident took place overnight between Jan. 1 and Jan. 2, however, nothing was taken. 

 

In a Facebook post, Tim Breunig, owner, of Bonsai Fortville wrote, "God only knows the motives of these hateful individuals, but we are confident justice will be served and will pray for them to find peace and love in their hearts.  Thank God nobody was injured in this incident. This act of hate will not deter us from opening tonight at 4pm.  We will continue to support and hopefully grow in the community.  We love this area and glad to be a part of Fortville."

 

Anyone with information is asked to call 317-477-4400.

McCordsville couple among four Hoosiers hurt in Florida boat crash

Four Hoosiers were injured in a Florida boat crash on New Year's Eve.

 

The accident was reported around midnight Wednesday at a state park in near Fort Lauderdale. A 42-foot fishing vessel smashed into a jetty, ejecting two of the four people on board, investigators said.

They've been identified as Lauren and Jarret Silagy of McCordsville, Daniel Towriss of Zionsville and Cassidy Rudman of Indianapolis. Three of the passengers were taken to a hospital, one with serious injuries, but all are expected to recover.

 

Brian Gear, a Broward County resident who heard the crash, said it was “pure luck” the victims all survived.

 

The impact of the crash propelled the boat out of the water, stunning witnesses and authorities. It remained lodged against the side of the jetty, nose up at a 45-degree angle, for hours after the accident.

 

“It’s amazing to see how far that boat actually made it out of the water,” said Kyle Van Buskirk, a battalion chief for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

 

The cause of the accident remained under investigation Wednesday night.