Local Department Kept Busy With Fire, Vehicle Accidents

Volunteers with the Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department were kept busy last week with a house fire and three auto mishaps.

Firefighters were called to the home of Alicia Howard at 623 N 1240 E in the northern part of the township at 3:01 a.m.

Fire chief Ben Spencer said when the department arrived flames were showing on the porch and front of the dwelling. “We were able to get it knocked down quickly and firefighters entered from the rear of the home to keep the fire from spreading,” said the chief.

There was flame damage to the front porch living room and front bedroom and smoke damage in the rest of the house, Spencer reported.

He said the state fire marshal’s office and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department were called to investigate the cause of the fire.

He said five firefighters were on the scene from 3 to 7 a.m. They received assistance from Jackson-Washington Fire Department. No estimate of damage was available.

Last Wednesday evening, June 24, the department was called to a 5-vehicle accident on I-65 in the construction area in the northbound lane between Uniontown and Seymour. Spencer said there were two semi tractor-trailers and three passenger vehicles involved in the chain reaction accident at 4:48 p.m. last Wednesday, June 24. Though two people were flown by helicopter from the scene, the chief said no one had life threatening injuries. He credited Crothersville Police Chief Richard Hanlin with being one of the first on the scene and removing an infant from a rear infant seat from one of the more severely damaged vehicles, Spencer said.

“It took us and Seymour Fire Department another hour to extricate the baby’s mother from the crumpled vehicle,” Spencer said.

The accident closed the interstate for about 5 hours, he said.

A little after 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 25, the fire department was called to the same area in the southbound lane when a single car rollover accident occurred.

No serious injuries were reported in the mishap.

On Friday afternoon, June 26, at 4:30 p.m. firefighters were called to State Road 250 each of Uniontown near the county line with a single vehicle down an embankment.

CHS Class Of 1970 To Hold 45th Reunion

The Crothersville High School Class of 1970 will hold a 45th reunion on Saturday, July 11, beginning at 6 p.m. at the home of Gary and Peggy (Henry) Densford, 9338 S 950 E, Austin.

The event will be a double pitch-in; class members are asked to bring side dishes and desserts to pitch-in as well as some cash to pitch-in to pay for burgers and hot dogs to be grilled. Members should bring their own beverage.

For more information contact Dan Dailey at 812-525-4054.

Old Building To Be Saved…Maybe

A deteriorating nearly 125-year-old building in downtown Crothersville might be saved…maybe.

At the June Crothersville Town Council meeting Greg Sekula of Southern Region Director of Indiana Historic Landmarks made a plea for the council to work with his organization to preserve the two story building originally built as an Odd Fellows Lodge.

Indiana historic Landmarks is a 501(c)3 organization which seeks to keep older buildings from being torn down as a result of neglect, abandonment or business expansion.

“Old buildings help define the character of a community,” Sekula told the town council.

The structure at the corner of US 31 and Howard Street at the stoplight corner in Crothersville was constructed in 1891 as an Odd Fellows lodge hall on the second floor and retail space on the street level. Over the years the building has housed pharmacies, barbershops, retail shops and the local library.

While acknowledging that the building’s front foundation has deteriorated and cracks are seen in the upper portions of the all brick structure, Sekula said the building can be stabilized and sold for some future use.

“The is no bulging of the walls that would contribute to a catastrophic collapse. There is a large degree of (structural) integrity,” he said. “We want to work with the town to stabilize and save the building.”

Tom Johnson, a mason with 40 years experience said the bricks used to building the structure were extremely soft. Firing techniques in brick manufacturing at the time had not yet produce a harder, more moisture resistant masonry product.

As a result of the soft brick, moisture from the ground and splashed water and salt from the streets helped to contribute to the building’s long term demise.

The building is owned by EARTHH, Environmental Awareness Reached Through Helping Hands, with Nathan Ray of Seymour as its principal stockholder. Property taxes on the building have not been paid and the structure has gone through two tax sales and a recent commissioner certificate sale with getting no bids.

The town was resigned to having to pay to raze the building.

Sekula proposed that the town transfer ownership of the building to Indiana Historic Landmarks and use the money—estimated at $40,000—which it would cost to tear the building down to allow IHL to stabilize then market the building for some future use.

“If it is going to cost the town $40,000 to tear the building down and we can use that money to let this organization save the building, then I feel we should allow Historic Landmarks to preserve the building,” said council president Ardell Mitchell.

The town is to pay an estimated $2,500 for an environmental assessment to ascertain no ground contamination is on the building site. The cost of that assessment is to come from the town’s $40,000 contribution to IHL.

Sekula said that the agreement with the town would need to be approved by the Indiana historical Landmarks board when they meet later this July. “They ultimately decide whether to participate in a project,” said Sekula.

Mitchell said following a positive action by IHL, he wants the organization to provide the town with a scope and schedule of the work they propose to do.

In another matter, the town took the first steps at establishing a Redevelopment Commission for the community. The commission’s initial primary function would be to establish a TIF District.

TIF stands for Tax Increment Financing and is a financial tool to pay for needed projects approved by the Redevelopment Commission.

An established TIF district would freeze the existing property taxes for their current uses but tax revenue from any future expansion inside the TIF District could be used by the Redevelopment Commission.

“What is driving this idea is the need to remove surface water from the sanitary sewer system,” said Mitchell. The town is under an IDEM order to reduce the amount of storm water being treated at the sewer plant. Additionally, the town wants to eliminate treating storm water in order to have sewer capacity to treat effluent expected from the Aisin Chemical Indiana expansion.

Mitchell said a TIF District typically is used in area when expansion is expected, such as an industrial park. “TIF will not raise any residential property taxes. Residents will not pay more for a TIF district,” he said.

The town council would appoint a five member board of town residents to the Redevelopment Commission.

“We must be pro-active not reactive to the needs of our infrastructure,” said Mitchell.

In other business the council approved getting bids for re-surfacing the following streets:

  • Seymour Road from East Walnut to US 31.
  • Seymour Road from East Walnut to Collman Ave.
  • West Howard Street from Dismore to Bethany Road.

The town agreed to pur a 1965 Ford fire truck into an auction of town surplus property next month. “I had hoped we could help out some neighboring fire department but I found out we can’t even give it away. No one wants it,” said councilman Lenvel ‘Butch’ Robinson.

Local Man Killed In US 50 Crash

A Crothersville man and North Vernon woman were killed and a Seymour woman was injured during a four-vehicle crash on US 50 east of Seymour Friday afternoon.

Dead is Tiffany Willhite, 24, of North Vernon and her passenger, Christopher Muncy, 27, of Crothersville.

Indiana State Police Trooper Seth Davidson along with the Jackson County Sheriff and Seymour Police Department responded to a personal injury crash on US 50 near CR 1225 E. shortly after 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Preliminary investigation reveals that a red 1997 Chevy Silverado driven by Chelsea Bolwing 27, of Seymour was driving east on US 50 when she hit the back of a 2007 Ford F150 driven by Larry Jacobs, 65, of Commiskey who had slowed due to another motorist making a turn ahead of him. The Chevy Silverado crossed the centerline where it struck a westbound 1999 Hyundai that was driven by Willhite. The Chevy Silverado pushed the Hyundai off the road into the ditch where it landed on top of the Hyundai. A 2012 Chevy van being driven east on US 50 by Jacob Simmons 32, of Seymour struck a toolbox which had come off of Bolwing’s pickup.

Bolwing was transported by ambulance to Schneck Medical Center and then flown to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where she is being treated for a leg injury. Jacobs and Simmons did not report any injuries.

US 50 was closed for nearly three hours Friday for reconstruction and crash clean-up.

Police said it is unknown whether drugs and alcohol played a role in this crash. Toxicology results are pending. This crash is still under investigation.

 

Vernon Twp. Fire District Approved; Members Appointed

The Jackson County Commissioners recently approved the establishment of a Vernon Township Fire District. The action follows the approval of the Town of Crothersville and Vernon Township Board at a combined May meeting of the two boards.

The establishment of another taxing unit for Vernon Township gained traction over the years as the fire department’s main funding source—the Vernon Township Trustee— was unable to increase their funding to keep up with ongoing expenses.

Property tax caps, voted into the Indiana Constitution during the Mitch Daniels administration is partially blamed with decreasing the available funds for firefighting.

The local answer is to do what other township fire departments did about six years ago: establish a new taxing entity and raise local taxes specifically for fire protection.

The current funding dilemma is nothing new locally. In 2003, unable to keep up with their share of fire department expenses through the town general fund, the town of Crothersville turned over fire protection funding to the township. At that point property owners in town began paying a fire operating and cumulative fire equipment rate on their property taxes.

But over the years, the legislature has cut taxes leaving cities, towns, schools, and townships lacking for money to adequately fund needed government services.

Five Vernon Township residents were named to the fire district board by the county commissioners. They are: Brad Barron, Odes Densford, Terry Gray, Lynn Howard and Steve Murphy.

Howard and Murphy are both retired fire chiefs with the local department.

According to Kay Schwade, the board will meet to develop a budget in 2016 which taxpayers will begin paying 2017.

Currently the township provides the maximum amount allowed by the state which represents a tax rate of 4¢ per $100 of assessed valuation. For property assessed at $100,000, a property owner would pay $40 annually.

Should the board choose to increase the fire tax rate to 8¢ or 10¢ those annual tax payments for fire protection would increase to $80 or $100 respectively.

With Road Ribbon Cutting, Local Industrial Park Is Open For More Business

online road ribbon

Taking part in the ribbon cutting officially opening the Industrial Way extension Thursday were Ardell Mitchell, Crothersville Town Council president; Terry Richey, Crothersville clerk-treasurer; Jim Lucas, state representative for District 69; Scott Turpin, president of Aisin Drivetrain Inc. and executive vice president of Aisin Holdings of America; Steve Akard, chief of staff of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.; Kevin Gabbard, Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. board president; Brad Bender, operations manager and chief financial officer of FPBH Inc.; and Eric Frey, executive director of Administrative Resources association.

 

Job growth and safety issues over the years led to the recent construction of a second entrance into Crothersville Industrial Park.

The expansion of Industrial Way to the west to join South Kovener Street also might bring more jobs to the community as it opens up additional ground for industrial expansion, officials said.

In the past, employees and visitors to the town’s only industrial park had only one way to reach Aisin Drivetrain Inc., Aisin Chemical Indiana LLC and Cerrowire from U.S. 31.

That single outlet created some concerns about the possibility of an accident trapping hundreds of people inside the park.

Those concerns mainly stem from the fact Industrial Way crosses the Louisville & Indiana Railroad line, which is included in a $100 million expansion project that when completed will allow for not just more trains but ones that are longer, heavier and faster.

Some of the concerns about the safety of those working in the park were laid to rest Thursday when county, town and company officials celebrated not only the completion of the new extension of Industrial Way west to South Kovener Street but the continued success of the industrial park.

“I don’t think there’s a community in the state the size of Crothersville that can boast an industrial base that we have,” town council President Ardell Mitchell said to those who attended the ribbon cutting. “Based on the investments, we can support a solid workforce, and we’re a good place for development.”

In addition to the safety aspect, the extension of Industrial Way offers more accessibility for the growing number of employees for both of Aisin’s companies and Cerrowire.

Aisin, a supplier to the automotive and industrial equipment industries, announced an investment of more than $45 million into the company’s Crothersville operations.

Earlier this month the town council approved tax abatements for Cerrowire to invest $1.749 million in equipment and real estate improvements that will add jobs. The expansion is expected to create about 16 jobs, said Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp.

Aisin Chemical Indiana LLC also received approval from the town board on a tax abatement for the company to invest $1.3 million in equipment for its current building project.

When the park was designed in the 1990s, there were funds available to create only a single access point from U.S. 31 into the area, Plump said. That was before the companies expanded and added jobs.

Plump said Aisin decided to forgo any incentives, such as tax credits or training dollars, so Indiana’s Economic Development Corp. could help the town with infrastructure improvements including the road extension.

The state provided $835,000 for a second outlet, along with other upgrades such as additional street lighting and railroad crossing arms. The town had to pay about $20,000, said Mitchell, who added that the length of the new roadway opens up opportunities for development along the road.

In the long term, Mitchell said, he envisions an expansion of Kovener Street to create a route for semis and farm equipment to use. That would eliminate larger vehicles traveling through town, he said.