Saturday’s Log Cabin Day Kicks Off Wildlife Refuge Week

October 13-19 is National Wildlife Refuge Week— a time to explore and celebrate National Wildlife Refuges. In southcentral Indiana, we are fortunate to have two National Wildlife Refuges fairly close together— Muscatatuck in Jackson, Jennings, and Monroe Counties, and Big Oaks in Jennings, Ripley, and Jefferson Counties. Several special events will be going on during Refuge Week at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.
The kick-off for Refuge Week will be the annual Log Cabin Day Festival this Saturday, Oct. 12. The festival is held at Myers Cabin and features a free ham and bean dinner, old-time crafts, music, a blacksmith, a story-teller, wildlife exhibits, quilts, and lots of kid-friendly activities.
Activities will start at 10 a.m. and food will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (or when it runs out). There is no cost to attend the event that is sponsored by the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society.
On Sunday, Oct. 13, “The Big Sit” bird count will take place at the Endicott Observation Deck. During normal refuge hours visitors are invited to come out and count/record the birds they see from the Observation Deck. Sitting in one place watching wildlife is fun, and everyone is welcome. Bird lists can be emailed to Muscatatuck@fws.gov or left at the Refuge Visitor Center.
From Sunday through Saturday of Refuge Week the Muscatatuck “closed” Waterfowl Sanctuary Area will be open to walk-in visitors.
Entries in the Muscatatuck Refuge Week Photography Contest will also be on display in the Muscatatuck Visitor Center.
For more information about events email Muscatatuck@fws.gov

Crothersville Asked To Extend Sewer For Future Development

The Crothersville Town Council wants provide sewer service along the east side of US 31 on the southern outskirts of town.
Sims Bark, which is building a bark mulch manufacturing facility at U.S. 31 and County Road 1150 E (Frontage Road) adjacent to Interstate 65 at the Crothersville exit has requested to connect into the town’s sewer system.
The location is currently outside of the town limits but is expected to be annexed into the town limits.
It will require the town supply an 8-inch sewer main to the east side of U.S. 31, said sewer superintendent Mason Boicourt.
The new sewer line would make it possible for more development in the area, however, he added.
The town would bore under US 31 at the Industrial Way lift station to provide for sanitary sewage service in the undevelopted area.
Sims Bark would be the only customer for now now. “But it gives us the opportunity to provide sewer to other properties on the east side of the road,” Boicourt said
The existing sewer lift station will be able to handle the additional capacity from Sims Bark, but it would have to be upgraded in the future if there is more development in that area, Boicourt added. No process water will flow to the sanitary sewer. The new industry will have employee restrooms flow into the sanitary sewer system.
If the town doesn’t want to spend the money on the sewer, Sims Bark could install their own 2-inch line from the property taking it below U.S. 31 to tie into the line that serves Crothersville Industrial Park, but that would prevent future hookups, said Brad Bender, with FPBH the town’s engineer.
He also said it would make Sims a contract customer, which would be unusual. “I don’t believe we have any other contract customers,” Bender said.
Council member Lenvel “Butch” Robinson suggested the town negotiate with Sims Bark to see if they would install an 8-inch line instead of a 2-inch so others could hook up to it and dedicate it to the town.
But if the town did that, Sims Bark would then be able to recover some of its costs from future ratepayers that decide to hook on to that line, said town attorney Jeff Lorenzo.
If such a partnership wouldn’t work, “then maybe Sims Bark could make a donation to the town” to help fund the project, Robinson said.
Bender said he would contact Independent Land Surveying, which is working with Sims Bark, to tell them the town is willing to look into a public extension of the sewer line provided the company participates in the project.
“They are obviously asking to do this because it’s a cheaper solution than putting in a commercial septic system required by the county,” Bender said.
The town already supplies the area outside of town on the east side of US 31 with water and fire hydrants as well as police protection.
Extending the sewer into the area will allow the town to annex approximately 140 undeveloped acres for residential, industrial and commercial development. Additionally, the property could be placed in the Crothersville TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District where business expansion in the area could be used for fixing up the downtown area.
But the town apparently needs to take more rapid action that they customarily do.
The Jackson County Council is looking at the possibility of establishing tax increment finance districts in unincorporated area of Jackson County that would allow the county to capture tax money from new industrial development or increased property values in those county controlled TIF districts. That money would then be used to fund infrastructure, redevelopment or incentives to promote economic development in other areas.
The Sims Bark property is one of the areas being discussed as a potential Jackson County TIF district.
In other business,
•The council approved second reading by a 4-0 vote to make the alley next to town hall from Main to Howard Street an area with no parking on either side.
•Considered making fines for unkempt and nuisance properties an entire council action rather than a letter from a single councilman.
•On the yet-to-be started Seymour Road/Cindy Lane sewer renovation, gave contractor King’s Construction a 30-day extension for substantial completion and a 15-day extension for final completion. King’s will be reminded that the CDBG project has an Aug. 31, 2019 completion date. Rain and floods were the reasons cited for King’s delay.
•Another round of paving grants is underway but the council opted to wait to apply in January 2020 so the town could review their finances.

To Afford Small Indiana Schools, Merge Small School Corporations

by Michael Hicks

Professor of Economics

Ball State University

A number of recent studies examining the cost efficiency of Indiana’s school corporations report that corporations with fewer than roughly 2,000 students face very high overhead costs per student. This diverts significant money away from classroom instruction in more than half of Indiana’s school corporations. These small corporations enroll one in five students in Indiana. The inefficient use of tax dollars is no small matter.

Still, the effect on inefficient school corporations on student learning remained unknown until last week when my office published a study on the subject. That Ball State study, authored by Dagney Faulk, Srikant Devaraj and myself, paints a clear picture of the effect of inefficiently sized school corporations on student performance.

The study isolated the effect of school corporation size, not individual school size, on a number of performance measures from 2011-2014. First, there is some good news. Corporation size does not affect pass rates on elementary school ISTEP scores or the English End-of-Course Assessment (ECA), which is needed for graduation. Unfortunately, when it comes to more expensive educational experiences, especially college preparation and STEM programs, smaller corporations suffer badly.

Isolating the effective of corporation size, by controlling for demographics, local poverty and rurality, we found corporations with fewer than 2,000 students have SAT tests that average 20 points lower than kids from larger corporations. They also had pass rates on algebra and biology ECA tests that are more than 4 percent lower, and eighth-grade ISTEP pass rates are more than 5 percent lower than in bigger corporations. Students in small corporations pass the Advanced Placement (AP) tests at a 15-percent lower rate than peers in larger corporations. This is a stunning difference attributable solely to the overhead costs of running a small corporation

Separately, the study counted the number of AP course offerings. Here too, smaller corporations disadvantage students significantly by offering far fewer college preparatory courses, particularly in the critical STEM fields of math and science. The problem isn’t isolated. For example, one of the more affluent small school corporations (Barre-Reeve) has predictably high standardized test scores. Yet, their students pass AP tests at a rate that is well below the state average. This shockingly poor outcome is costly in terms of college admissions and extra tuition.

The response to this study has been largely positive. Most folks understand that course offerings are not as extensive in small school corporations, even if they didn’t realize how big the effects were. What surprised us most about the study were the number of folks who thought we were targeting small schools and local control. That’s baloney.

This study examined school corporations, not individual schools. This confusion is ironic because the most effective way to preserve small schools and small classrooms is to save money elsewhere. Consolidating wastefully small school corporations is a quick and painless way to direct more dollars into the classroom. Those folks who support small corporations aren’t defending small schools or local control. They are defending wasteful government and less effective education.

It is time for half of Indiana’s school corporations to seriously consider merging with their neighbors. In the end though, the facts of declining enrollment, rather than this study, will compel the issue. Nearly every one of Indiana’s small school corporations faces dwindling enrollment and 94 percent of these small school corporations are adjacent to another one of fewer than 2,000 students. Reality will compel a great many corporation mergers over the next decade.

The Greening Of The Wilderness

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Despite alternating Spring and Late Winter temperatures, the wilderness has gone from winter slumber brown to glorious green seemingly within a week.
Warm late March temperatures and additional hours of sunlight (no thanks to the alleged Daylight Savings Time) got dormant plants in the growing mood.
And it seems it is the weeds and invasive plants that are the ones getting a greening and growing leg up on everything else. Wild mustard, wild garlic, wild violets are blooming…as you can see, things can get wild in the wilderness.
The multi-flora roses and autumn olive are greening up as well. Both are invasion plants promoted at an earlier time by Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Early in the 20th century, Purdue University was recommending to farmers that they plant the prickly multiflora roses as living fencerows to contain cattle and hogs rather than build wire fences to contain their livestock.
It sounded like a sound idea, except Purdue forgot to confer with the multi-flora roses about the importance of growing just in the fencerow. They don’t stay put and in my wilderness case, seemingly enjoy growing right at the edge of where I mow so they can reach our and “caress” the lawn maintenance person.
And, as late as the 1990’s DNR sold wildlife habitat packs of seedlings from the Vallonia Nursery containing redbud, dog wood, and among others, autumn olive, renowned as a bird attractant.
And indeed, they are. Birds love to eat the olive size fruit, defecate seeds wherever they feel the urge and from 10 seeds sprout 15 new bushes.
It is a constant battle to prune, cut, and spray the invasives.
With the spring greening comes mole activity. I am tremendously pleased to report that Emma the Great Pyrenees has become a Great White Hunter. Prys are not known for their hunting ability and prey instinct. Emma just notices the ground moving and has learned that with two digs of her big front feet she gets a new live action squeak toy to play with. For the mole, death by Pyrenees play is not rapid. And perhaps I should feel badly for the mole, until I think of the mole runs and molehills that make mowing more difficult than it should be for me.
And then I cheer on Emma to go get another.
There is another greening in the wilderness. It has no briars, is pleasantly invasive and wonderfully tasty: the pot of spearmint moved from the basement is almost ready for some trimming for an April mint julep.

Tips Leads To 5 Arrested On Drug Charges

Last Wednesday morning, Aug. 26, Indiana State Police troopers investigated a complaint of drug activity taking place at 331 Muriel Drive in Scottsburg. According to ISP Sgt. Jerry Goodin, when troopers arrived at the residence they saw what was believed to be drug activity taking place inside of the home. After obtaining search warrants, troopers located controlled substances, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia at the residence.

Troopers arrested five people out of the home on drug related charges and incarcerated them at the Scott County Jail.

Sandra Hardin, one of the arrested, was also charged with Disorderly Conduct after she allegedly defecated on herself and threatened to wipe it all over a trooper’s police car.

Arrested in the incident were:

  • Sandra Hardin, 66, 331 Muriel, charged with possession of methamphetamine, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, maintaining a common nuisance and disorderly conduct.
  • Anthony Fortner, 44, 331 Muriel Drive, possession of methamphetamine, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, maintaining a common nuisance.
  • Justin “Booger” Roberts, 37, 5305 North Water Tower Road, Austin, possession of methamphetamine, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, visiting a common nuisance.
  • Elisa Hanner, 36, 1254 Pearl Street, Austin, possession of methamphetamine, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, visiting a common nuisance.
  • Jason Schneck, 40, 3201 N. Bethlehem Road, Austin, possession of methamphetamine, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, visiting a common nuisance.

Goodin said the investigation is continuing.