Hancock County News Archives for 2020-02

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. 

 

Fortville growing and police chief says department needs to keep up

The way Bill Knauer sees it, it is basic supply and demand.  As the demand of new homes, businesses and residents to Fortville is met, the supply of new police officers needs to be there.


It is one reason why the veteran Fortville Police Chief has been adamant about needing more staff, bringing his message, again, directly to the Fortville Town Council.


Knauer recently informed the town council that a staffing allocation formula shows his department is behind the times and needs to grow. Currently, Fortville has eight full-time road officers and two administrative officers. The formula Knauer used, which comes from the Bartell Formula of Manpower Allocation, shows Fortville needs 15 full-time road officers.


Knauer told Giant FM the time has now come for more officers, and this is not the first time he has mentioned this.

 

 

Knauer told Giant FM that his department handled close to 8,000 calls, which was a 10 percent increase from the previous year, and the officers for the Fortville Police have been working 12 hour shifts and are on call 24 hours, seven days a week.


While the officers are needed, there remains one glaring question – how will they be paid for?
That is a question Knauer admits he doesn’t have an answer for.


Neither does the Fortville Town Council.


Fortville Town Council president Fritz Fentz said he has no idea whether the town can afford one officer or an increase to 15. Fentz said the first he heard of doubling the current staff was when Knauer mentioned the formula calls for 15 officers.
 

Councilwoman Libby Wyatt said when Knauer approached council he was looking for five additional officers.

Wyatt told Giant FM the police department is not the only entity needing relief from budget pains.
“Our township fire department, library and schools are all in need of more funding, too. I believe we will be able to work with Chief Knauer and find a solution that we all can be happy with,” she said.


A possible solution is music to Knauer’s ears as Fortville is adding new subdivisions and is currently exploring a Riverfront District, which would grant more liquor licenses to restaurants or bars looking to come to town.


Fentz, however, told Giant FM that the town is not placing the Riverfront District over public safety and cautions on the turnaround time for tax dollars to hit from the new developments.


Some of those questions may be answered during an upcoming financial workshop.


Fortville officials and the town’s CPA will be holding a financial workshop Feb. 22 at the Town of Fortville Municipal Building, from 9 to 11 a.m.


Fentz said residents and others will be able to ask questions during the event.   

Mother and child reported missing from Greenfield

A Statewide Silver Alert has been declared.

 

The Cumberland Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the disappearance of Ahren Karl Barowsky, an 3 year old white male, 3 feet 5 inches tall, 40 pounds, blonde hair with hazel eyes, last seen wearing a red & white ball cap, dark blue heavy coat and green pants.

 

Ahren is in the company of his mother Mary Barowsky, a 37 year old white female, 5 feet 7 inches tall, 130 pounds, blonde hair with brown eyes, and driving a dark blue 2003 GMC Yukon with Indiana plate FI7106.

 

 

Ahren and Mary are missing from Greenfield, Indiana and were last seen on Monday, February 10, 2020 at 11:00 am. They are believed to be in extreme danger and may require medical assistance.

 

If you have any information on Ahren Karl Barowsky and Mary Barowsky, contact the Cumberland Metropolitan Police Department at 317-477-6000 or 911.

Hancock Co. gearing up for June Relay for Life

One in three people will be told they have cancer in their lifetime. 

 

That is a statistic Julie McKinley is trying to change, as is the rest of Hancock County as preparations are underway for the 2020 Relay for Life of Hancock County.


The event, slated for June 20, 2020 at Greenfield-Central High School and allows those impacted by cancer to fight, remember and celebrate.


“Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s volunteer led fundraiser dedicated to helping communities attack cancer. Funds raised are used to honor survivors and remember those who have passed, as well as help current cancer patients and their families with resources and support,” said McKinley, the chairperson for the Hancock County event.

 

Currently, there are 14 teams registered and the event has raised $16,248.64.


“This is double what we had last year at this time,” McKinley said.


McKinley got involved with Relay for Life seven years ago.


“I started the Dena’s Gang team, named after a childhood friend who passed away from brain cancer and raised $1,500 that first year,” McKinley told Giant FM.


For McKinley, Relay for Life is everything.

 

“Relay for Life means the world to me. I have seen so many family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors suffer through chemo and radiation, most winning their war against cancer. I saw prostate cancer bring my dad to his knees. I don’t want my children or grandchildren to have to go through what I’ve seen so many go through. I can’t snap my fingers and create cures to all cancers, but I can raise funds, educate and encourage others to join me,” McKinley said.

 

And, she wants you to get involved.


“We are always looking for additional teams, volunteers for our events and people coming out and supporting us. We have Euchere events monthly and Arms Around Amberly coming soon,” McKinley said.


For more information or to get involved, call McKinley at 317-407-3710.

Republicans to dominate Hancock Co. primary ballot

When it comes to the May primary, only Republicans will have a voice in who will represent them in Hancock County.

 

The filing period for the primary season came and went Friday with no Democrats or Independents registering. The Libertarian Party will select its candidates at their upcoming convention, should there be any.


As for the Republican Party, fields for county commissioners, county council, superior court judge and coroner all will be crowded.


When it comes to County Commissioners, incumbent John Jessup will face a challenge in District 1 from current county councilwoman Jeannie Gray. Jessup has served since 2016, while Gray was elected to county council in 2017.


In District 3, two new candidates will look to replace Brad Armstrong, who is not running for re-election, as Bill Spalding and Matt Holland both will be on the ballot. Both have run for office before, as Spalding ran for commissioner in 2012, while Holland ran in 2016. Ironically, both serve in law enforcement as Spalding works for the Indiana State Police as a trooper, while Holland works for the Greenfield Police Department.


When it comes to county council, a crowded field will look to fill three at-large seats and that voting is open to everyone in the county.


Kent Fisk is the lone incumbent running, and will be joined by former Greenfield City Councilwoman Keely Butrum, former auditor Robin Lowder, former county attorney Ray Richardson and newcomer Kirk Jocham.


When it comes to Superior Court Judge, Marie Castetter, who was appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, will be facing a challenge from Jessica Lacy, D.J. Davis and Cody Combs. Of the candidates, Davis previously ran for elected office, falling to Scott Sirk for circuit court judge in 2018.


The county coroner race features incumbent David Stillinger facing a challenge from Joe Fortner, who works for Hancock Regional Hospital as the emergency medical services coordinator. 

New Palestine looks for ways to recoup funds lost with missing roads report

While it is known that New Palestine officials omitted half the town’s roads from its road inventory and missed out on thousands of tax dollars from the state, what isn’t known is how the issue happened and who was responsible.

 

A town council meeting on Feb. 1 provided few answers, however, there may be a solution to recouping some of the lost funds.


Town council president Brandee Bastin said she is examining whether the town’s insurance for errors and omissions will be beneficial and able to recoup some of the lost funds.


The issues became apparent last year when former street commissioner Stephen Pool informed the town council the town had missed out on the Community Crossings Grant from INDOT for the first time in a few years.


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


New Palestine Town Manager David Book, who did not respond to several earlier attempts by Giant FM for comment and is out on medical leave, took the blame at the town’s December 7 meeting.
However, questions remain about who knew, when they knew and whether or not INDOT had notified town officials of the error.

 

Bastin said at the council meeting that she had asked Pool if he could recall getting any correspondence from INDOT.

 

 

Mallory Duncan, communications director for East Central INDOT District, confirmed to Giant FM that INDOT gave New Palestine several opportunities to catch the issue.

 

“INDOT annually sends out a summary of each Local Government Agency’s inventory mileage. In that summary, we requested 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 told Giant FM.

 

Regardless, changes did not happen and nobody in the town notified INDOT of such changes.
Bastin, however, said that will be changing moving forward.

 

 

Bastin told those in attendance that she was provided a DVD by fellow council member Clint Bledsoe that featured the town’s 10-year maintenance, resurfacing and thoroughfare plan from 2011 which featured the missing roads in question.

 

 

Also, in regards to the road discussion, resident Chris Lytle asked for clarification as to whether Book was on FMLA or had a workman’s compensation claim and if him being out limits council from any disciplinary action regarding the missing roads and tax dollars.

 

Councilwoman Angela Fahrnow said, at the moment, Book is on leave but that does not cancel out council’s decisions relating to Book, should they have any.


Attorney Gregg Morelock said at Book’s last meeting that he asked to go on FMLA and acknowledged he knew nothing about a workman’s compensation claim.

 

Bastin echoed those sentiments.


“He has applied for FMLA. The disclosure that he was on workman’s compensation, it was brought to my attention it was disclosed by a relative on a public Facebook page,” she said.


Councilman Bill Niemier acknowledged there was no written request in regards to a workman’s compensation claim by Book.


“I’m not aware of anything that’s been put into writing, but, obviously, I know he’s not currently working,” Niemier said.


Bastin also confirmed that Book never put anything into writing, causing Niemier to say that if anyone looked into Book’s personnel file, they would not know the reason for the leave unless it was submitted to Tonii Pyle, the clerk-treasurer. 

 

Former Rush Co. township trustee arrested at Hancock Co. home following investigation

A lengthy investigation by the Indiana State Police Special Investigations Section has led to a former trustee of Ripley Township, located in Rush County, being arrested on a multiple count felony warrant. The investigation and charges allege that former township trustee Tara Hancock, 36, misused and misappropriated public funds for the personal gain of herself and her husband. 

 

The investigation was started last fall after a State Board of Accounts audit for Ripley Township from 2015 to 2018 found discrepancies in records totaling over $17,000, according to State Board of Accounts officials. The Indiana State Police Special Investigations Section was contacted and an investigation was conducted. When that investigation was completed it was turned over to the Rush County Prosecutor’s Office for their review.

 

As a result of the joint investigation and prosecutor’s review, Hancock was arrested at her home in Hancock County Friday morning on a warrant for four counts of Level 6 Felony Theft, one count of Level 6 Felony Official Misconduct by a Public Servant and one count of Level 6 Felony Ghost Employment. Hancock was lodged in the Rush County Jail.

Excitement, added concerns for Hancock Co. with Amazon announcement

With no beaches, lakes or mountains, Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell says Greenfield and Hancock County have to get creative when drawing new businesses. The creativity has paid off as Amazon is coming to Hancock County.
 

Ambrose Property Group is building a more than 660,000-square foot facility along Mt. Comfort Road in Hancock County. The facility will rest on 166 acres of land on the north side of West County Road 300 North and west of North County Road 400 West.
 

Amazon intends to use the building as an e-commerce fulfillment and distribution center and will be the first of four buildings and an overall $78 million investment. Upwards of one thousand jobs could come as a result. Ambrose Property Group is also building three other buildings on the site, which will serve as a combination of large and smaller buildings aimed at attracted businesses.

 

“It feels really great to be a part of the announcement. While it is not being located in the city limits of Greenfield, it is a victory for the entire county and will help continue to make Greenfield a vibrant city. People will need places to live, eat and stay as a result of Amazon coming to Hancock County, and we will be ready to offer those things,” Fewell told Giant FM.
 

Fewell said the announcement of Amazon will serve as a catalyst not only for the county, but for various projects across the county, many of which were made possible by the Health and Heritage Region earning the Stellar Community Grant in 2018. The Health and Heritage Region consisted of Fortville and Greenfield.
 

“What we have to do is we need to connect the entire county with amenities. We need to connect the entire county with trails. This news expedites us to build amenities,” Fewell said.
 

State Senator Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, said the news was “exciting.”
 

 “I am thrilled any time a business chooses a location in central Indiana, and, in particular, one of the counties I represent because I know it means more employment opportunities for the people I represent. These will be good paying jobs with a growing company, so this is a huge win for our economic development folks,” Crider told Giant FM.
 

The Amazon facility is just another huge company that has put down roots in Hancock County, Fewell said, pointing also to BeijingWest Industries, which opened its first U.S. production facility last year in Greenfield. In addition, Hancock Regional Health recently opened its Hancock Gateway Park on Mt. Comfort Road near I-70, on over 100 acres aimed at attracting corporate and retail uses.
 

With that said, Fewell notes it will be tough to fill all the jobs Amazon expects to bring.
 

“It’ll be tough, but we have to come up with other ideas and avenues to attract these people. It is a good problem to have. We want people to live, stay and play here. We have four new subdivisions going in, but all over Hancock County will benefit and experience greatness,” Fewell said.

 

Last October, the Hancock County Council approved a 10-year tax abatement on all four buildings. One month later, Ambrose Property Group broke ground on the first building, which will house Amazon.

Amazon to bring up to 1,000 jobs to Hancock Co.

Amazon is bringing 1,000 new jobs to Indiana, more specifically Hancock County.

 

Amazon plans to use a shell building along the Mt. Comfort Road corridor near Greenfield as an e-commerce fulfillment and distribution facility, similar to operations already in Plainfield, Whitestown, and Jeffersonville.

 

"Amazon is excited to announce our continued investment in Indiana with a new operations facility in Greenfield," said an Amazon spokespoerson to Inside Indiana Business. More than 800 new, fulltime employees will receive and ship products to other Amazon fulfillment centers in the network."

 

The company is quick to point out it has a policy of a $15 a hour minimum wage and the jobs will also have full benefits, including paid maternity and paternity leave and a 401K with a 50-percent match starting day one.

 

The state is offering Amazon about $3.8 million in conditional tax credits for the investment. The conditions: fill all those jobs with Hoosier workers.

New Palestine Town Council terminates agreement with former clerk - treasurer

For 15 years, Becky Hilligoss served the New Palestine community.

 

However, the road of service has officially come to an end, following Saturday’s New Palestine Town Council meeting.
 

Hilligoss, who announced last year she was going to retire as clerk-treasurer, had remained on since last May to train full-time clerk-treasurer Tonii Pyle as a consultant. Pyle was elected clerk-treasurer last year.


On Saturday, the New Palestine Town Council put an end to any consulting by Hilligoss by terminating a contract she and Pyle had drawn up at the beginning of the year. The contract, which was written on Jan. 1, 2020 and signed one day later by only Hilligoss and Pyle, stated Hilligoss would provide consulting to Pyle in regards to the finances and general documents for Pyle.


The contract stated it could be terminated with a one week notice by either party and that Pyle, as clerk-treasurer, would pay Hilligoss $25 per hour for her services and that the contract would be paid monthly until Feb. 29, 2020 and that the consultant may be contacted as needed until July 31, 2020.


On Saturday, Pyle announced the contract with Hilligoss was remanded and included an end date.


Councilman Bill Niemier immediately asked about the contract and asked if the clerk-treasurer had the legal authority to enter into a contract that includes the allocation of funds without the approval of the town council.


Attorney Gregg Morelock told council the clerk-treasurer does and the budget is not broken down into department.


Pyle told the council that Hilligoss had not been paid yet and was working six hours a day at a rate of $25 since the beginning of the year.


That news did not sit well with Niemier. 

 

 

Town council president Brandee Bastin said her concern stemmed from the fact that the contract was being paid out of the same revenue stream as the town pays other consultants. Furthermore, she reminded council she was the one who asked questions about the status of Hilligoss last year.

 

 

Morelock told council he was not advocating for or against the contract. Niemier stopped him short, saying his concern is the budget item is earmarked for design-build projects and consultants.
 

“Now when we have a project that has needs, we don’t have funds for it,” Niemier said.
Bastin said it was never mentioned as a need when council was discussing the budget.
Council member Clint Bledsoe told council if the contract were to be terminated, Hilligoss should be at least paid for what she had worked.
 

Several times council members asked if there was an exact total of hours worked, and Pyle said it was from Jan. 6 to Jan. 31 for a total of 30 hours a week. Niemier said that would equate to 20 work days at $150 a day for a total of $3,000.
 

Niemier said the contract needed to end on Feb. 1, and if there was a claim past Feb. 1, he would vote against paying it.
 

Council voted unanimously in favor of paying the $3,000 when a claim from Hilligoss comes forward, and for not paying any claim that may come forward past Feb. 1.
 

Angela Fahrnow told Giant FM the decision was an easy one for her.
 

“Her contract wasn’t legal. It was drawn up by Becky and Tonii, then signed by Becky and Tonii. Then Gregg Morelock told the council we had no say so in the contract. After further research, turns out that information was incorrect,” Fahrnow said.
 

Going back to 2013, Hilligoss had seen a steep increase in pay each year. In 2013, Hilligoss was paid $36,050. Her pay had earned a 33 percent culminative raise, as she was paid just over $48,000 last year.

 

New Palestine Town Council removes Stephen Pool from role as Street Commissioner

New Palestine no longer has a street commissioner, and, according to town officials, there are no plans to fill the position any time soon. Instead, Stephen Pool, who had been the street commissioner, has been given a newly created position.


The decision comes on the heels of Pool spending three days in jail earlier this year as part of his sentencing on charges of operating while intoxicated-endangerment. Pool was booked into the Shelby County Jail on Jan. 16 and released on Jan. 19 and was initially arrested in September of last year.


Pool has served as the town’s street commissioner since September of 2016 and was set to make just over $56,000 in 2019.


Reading from a prepared statement, New Palestine Town Councilman Bill Niemier laid out his case for Pool to no longer serve in his prior capacity, stating several areas Pool failed the town and its residents while making a motion for a change.

 

 

Niemier also stated that as a result, Pool be subject to the following discipline: a suspension without pay from Feb. 3 until Feb. 6, and a demotion from Street Commissioner to the position of labor wastewater/infrastructure advisor.


The newly minted councilman also stated that Pool’s employment with the town come with several conditions. Among those are: Pool provide the town council president a true and complete copy of his court ordered alcohol and drug evaluation and that he comply with any and all recommendations in the evaluation; that he be subject to random drug testing; that he attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel meeting and that he be placed on a one-year probation.


“During which time, if Mr. Poole further violates our employee handbook, he will be subject to additional discipline, up to and including termination,” Niemier said of the probation.


Niemier’s motion drew a second from councilman Clint Bledsoe and passed 3-1, with Angela Fahrnow voting against.


Under his new role, he will now be paid $49,000; however, he will have far less duties than he did as street commissioner, something that drew the ire of several residents in attendance.


Chris Lytle was one such resident, who asked the council for clarification on the new role.

 

 

Niemier responded by saying that the town created a lower-paying position.

 

 

A resident asked how Pool could do his job with his license being suspended for three years, and Niemier responded that he could do a lot of work at the office without having to drive and that no town employee is going to provide transportation for Pool. In addition, Niemier said there were “serious considerations” about terminating Pool’s employment before being stopped by town attorney Gregg Morelock, who cautioned those discussions were held in an executive session and not for public consumption.


When pressed who would do all the jobs Pool did as street commissioner – clearing snow, treating roads, maintenance to road signs, Niemier said Jim Robinson, who is the acting town manager while David Book is out on medical leave, will handle all those things. 

 

 

Bypass intended to reduce New Palestine traffic congestion on U.S. 52

If Hancock County and Southern Hancock County schools officials get their wish, they may see some easement from major traffic and congestion along U.S. 52 in the future.


Gary Pool, county engineer, is optimistic his plan to create a bypass road off County Road 500 West, south of U.S. 52, will be just the answer.


Officials should know in March if the proposed bypass project has been accepted by INDOT, and includes a price tag of about $750,000. The state will cover 80 percent of the project, while Hancock County would have to fund the remainder of the project, which would extend from West Stinemyer Road from County Road 550 West to County Road 500 West. Another possible, cheaper proposal has a road near the Southern Hancock County school district bus garage on County Road 500 and go through land designated for an expansion of New Palestine Cemetery to County Road 550 West. New Palestine owns half of the land in that route, while the rest would have to be acquired. Due to the town owning half of the land, the cost would be less for the road.


Any road project wouldn’t begin until 2025, according to officials.


Pool told Giant FM while it is hard to quantify how vital the road proposal is to reducing congestion, it does have some cost benefit.


“It has a cost benefit ratio of 6. Competitive, but not at the top of the list. Most of the benefit is accident reduction. It won’t have a large effect on congestion,” Pool said.


Pool said the proposed road will redirect some traffic, however, county officials estimate 5-10 percent of 52’s traffic in the analysis for the grant process.


“There are many more traffic problems than money to fix them throughout the region. Roads and infrastructure projects are much more expensive than people estimate. It is always competitive for funds. I think this particular grant will be competitive, but I have others I’d like to see first. That said, I try to win all of them. I live here, my friends and family drive these roads. However, if the new roadway performs as we hope, we would see a reduction of 4-8 percent accidents. But there are intersections in Indianapolis where people are injured or killed every month. They want the grants as well,” Pool told Giant FM.  


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.