Increased drunk-driving patrols set for March

Local authorities will be out on the road, looking for drunk drivers in March during drinking-friendly events like the NCAA tournament and St. Patrick’s Day.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, and other local agencies, announced today that they would be taking part in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over blitz in March, including overtime pay for deputies to perform patrols and checkpoints to prevent dangerous and impaired driving.

The statewide enforcement campaign is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

According to figures from the institute, last March there were 433 alcohol-related crashes across Indiana, resulting in 205 injuries and five fatalities. Of those, 65 crashes and one fatality occurred during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday weekend.

Schools set another info session Thursday on upcoming referendum

Bartholomew Consolidated Schools will be holding another information session on the upcoming referendum, Thursday night at Rock Creek Elementary School.

The referendum would raise property taxes to pay for raises for teachers and support staff. Taxpayers will vote on the issue in May. The meeting Thursday night starts at 6 p.m. at the school on East County Road 200S.

Other upcoming information sessions include:

  • Tuesday, March 24, 6 p.m. at Mt. Healthy Elementary
  • Tuesday, March 31, 6 p.m. at Central Middle School

You can get more information on the referendum at

Plan advances for downtown Columbus hotel and conference center

Heather Pope. Photo courtesy of city of Columbus.

A plan is moving forward to build a downtown hotel and conference center in Columbus.

Heather Pope, director of the city’s redevelopment department, said that the city has signed a term sheet, agreeing to work together with Sprague Hotel Developers and Flaherty-Collins Developers. A term sheet indicates that both sides are interested in working together to make a particular project happen.

That project would be a hotel with more than 140 guest rooms, a ball room of more than 9,000 square feet, a restaurant and the possibility of an urban grocery and apartments.

Sprague Hotel Developers, owned by Janeen Sprague and based in downtown Columbus, already locally operates Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express & Suites and Comfort Inn in Edinburgh, along with the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Seymour. They also have hotels in Indianapolis, Fishers, Franklin, Greenwood and Noblesville.

The next steps will be for the city and the developers to come to an agreement that formally outlines the funding of such a project and how much the city would have to contribute. The hope is that agreement would be finished by the end of May, Pope said.

No actual location has been decided on for such a development, but the recent Envision Columbus study indicated four possible sites in downtown Columbus that could be suitable for a hotel development including the city-owned property just east of the jail, the county-owned parking lot just north of the jail, the post office site and the Crump Theater location.

Pope updated the Columbus Redevelopment Commission on the progress of the project this week.

Firefighters credit quick resident action in avoiding damages

Photo courtesy of Columbus Fire Department

Columbus firefighters are crediting a resident’s quick action with a fire extinguisher in preventing extensive damage at the River Stone Apartments Tuesday afternoon.

Firefighters were called out at about 12:20 p.m. Tuesday afternoon on a kitchen fire, but arrived to find the fire already extinguished. Hot cooking grease left unattended on a stove ignited, scorching the kitchen wall and melting the exterior of a microwave above the stove.

But the resident used a dry chemical fire extinguisher to put out the blaze, before firefighter arrived. The fire caused about $4,000 in damages, but without the quick action, firefighters say it could have been much worse.

Photo courtesy of Columbus Fire Department

Hope loses community pillar with death of Barb Johnson

Barb Johnson. Photo courtesy of Flat Rock-Hawcreek Schools.

The town of Hope lost one of its icons Tuesday, with the death of Barb Johnson.

Johnson was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Simmons One-Room Schoolhouse, and had led the Yellow Trail Museum in various capacities since 1984.

She created and organized large community events including the town’s Christmas of Yesteryear, the Old-Fashioned Independence Day and the recently revived Civil War Days.

An elementary school teacher by profession, she received the Sagamore of the Wabash for her work with the one-room schoolhouse, was honored with the Edna V. Folger Outstanding Teaching Award, was an outstanding Hauser alumni and was chosen the Republic’s Woman of the Year.

She leaves behind her husband Ed, two daughters, two sons and two sisters. Barb was 71. She died Tuesday morning in hospice care at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Funeral arrangements are being handled through Norman Funeral Home in Hope.

Missing license plate leads to arrest of two in stolen vehicle

Kyra S. Anderson. Photo courtesy of Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

Two Columbus residents were arrested after being found driving in a stolen vehicle with no license plates Monday afternoon.

Bartholomew County deputies report stopping the vehicle on Lindsey Street at 3:42 p.m. Monday because of the missing plates, but soon determined the vehicle had been stolen from Columbus.

The driver, 29-year-old Kyra Anderson is facing a preliminary charge of receiving stolen property, while a passenger, 34-year-old Ricky Stephens, was arrested on preliminary charges of theft/receiving stolen property and criminal trespass.


Ricky D. Stephens. Photo courtesy of Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

Two arrested in stolen SUV in Jennings County

Jarede Bonds. Photo courtesy of Jennings County Sheriff’s Department.

Jennings County deputies are reporting that two people were arrested early this morning with a stolen SUV out of Aurora.

Deputies received the tip from Aurora Police Department that the Jeep Grand Cherokee could be in Jennings County and at about 12:30 this morning a deputy saw a vehicle matching that description near Country Manor and Walnut Grove Lane in County Squire Lakes.

While the deputy pulled behind the vehicle, the driver pulled into a home, got out and began knocking on a door. With confirmation that it was the stolen vehicle, the deputy took the man into custody after having to threaten to release his police dog on the suspect. He was later identified as 32-year-old Jarede Bonds of Lawrenceburg who was arrested on preliminary charges of possession of methamphetamine and auto theft.

Mikayla B. Cameron. Photo courtesy of Jennings County Sheriff’s Department.

A woman in the Jeep, 26-year-old Mikayla B. Cameron of North Vernon was also taken into custody. During the investigation it was found that she left her three children with a family member who was unable to provide care to the children. She is facing preliminary charges of auto theft, possession of marijuana and neglect of a dependent.

Officer sent to hospital after working at overdose scene

Jonathan Mings. Photo courtesy of Columbus Police Department.

A Columbus police officer ended up going to the hospital after working to save the life of an overdose victim.

Columbus police were called to a parking lot in the 2200 block of North National Road at 5:10 p.m. yesterday afternoon about a possible overdose. They found 27-year-old Jonathan K. Mings of Columbus unconscious in a vehicle. After two doses of Narcan he woke up.

Officers noticed drugs and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle including small, white rocks when they believed to be pure fentanyl. But while packaging up the material, some escaped into the air. An officer was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital after being exposed to the drug and showing some symptoms. He was later released from the hospital.

Mings was taken to the hospital to be checked out before being arrested on preliminary charges for possessing the drugs and paraphernalia.

Columbus addressing DNR concerns over riverfront plan

Columbus city officials are responding to requests for changes in the plans for the proposed downtown riverfront project, those coming from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Heather Pope, director of the city redevelopment department, said that the city has until March 18th to respond to the questions and concerns of DNR.

The city and its consultants are working on an $8 million dollar riverfront plan that would improve public access and usability, remove the low-head dam in the river, and connect the People Trail through the area between the downtown bridges.

Pope said that DNR seemed to have different concerns about various aspects of the project.

Pope said that DNR is strongly in favor of removing the dangerous and failing dam, and somewhat in favor of plans to connect the People Trail. But the state agency also appears concerned about any plan to install new structures in the river itself. However, without those in-river structures, the river levels would fall.

Plus the water levels in Mill Race Park would fall endangering the round lake and boat dock area.

Pope said that the city has until March 18th to respond to this round of questions and concerns from DNR. The city has been anticipating permit approval from DNR by April. Contract bidding on the project is expected by June.

Pope updated the Redevelopment Commission at its meeting yesterday.

Jackson County man arrested after drug-dealing tip

Bryce Lee Alexander Ripley. Photo courtesy of Jackson County Jail.

A Jackson County man is facing drug-dealing charges after a tip from the public.

Indiana State Police in the Bloomington District received a tip about the drug-dealing in Jackson County and on Sunday, troopers and a Mitchell police officer arrived at a home on Oesting Street. Police say that they were invited into the home and noticed three individually packaged bags containing a white crystal substance, along with cash, digital scales and other evidence.

They were all near the living quarters of 19-year-old Bryce Lee Alexander Riley of Seymour.

Riley was arrested on preliminary charges of

  • Dealing methamphetamine
  • Possession of methamphetamine
  • Possession of paraphernalia