All posts by Kevin Kelley

Pope & Webster Named to Head Up CRH Police Department

Columbus Regional Health (CRH) announced Wednesday the swearing-in of the Chief of Police and Assistant Chief of the newly formed Columbus Regional Hospital Police Department. Anthony “Tony” Pope, Certified Healthcare Protection Administrator (CHPA), serves as the hospital’s Chief of Police and James Webster is Assistant Chief.

Pope and Webster officially took the oath in late March. Wednesday’s official ceremony marked one milestone in the transitional process as the health system works to develop and implement its law enforcement status. The CRH Board of Trustees approved the formation of a Columbus Regional Hospital Police Department in December 2020.

“The safety and protection of our patients, workforce, and visitors are of the utmost importance, and this needed change provides a greater level of security for everyone as well as enhanced training and support for the department,” said Pope.

The newly formed police department will consist of a combination of CRH Protective Services employees who are sworn and non-sworn officers. Several will undergo training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy to become sworn officers.

Lentz Files Candidacy for Bartholomew County Clerk

Shari Lentz has officially filed her candidacy for the office vacancy of the Bartholomew County Circuit Court Clerk. Lentz filled out her paperwork on Tuesday with GOP Party Chairwoman, Luann Welmer.

She has served within the Bartholomew County Clerks Office for eight years, most recently as Supervisor of the Voter Registration and Elections Office. After starting as an Elections Deputy in 2013, Lentz was promoted to office supervisor when Jay Phelps became Clerk in 2015.

Recently, the new candidate for Clerk was chosen by her peers as President of the Indiana Voter Registration Association. She has been tasked with working closely with election administrators and voter registration officials across the state in solving any functionality issues with the statewide voter registration system.

Lentz continued the success of vote centers during the 2020 Presidential Elections, assisting Phelps in completely revamping the election process so voters could vote freely, inhibited, and in a safe environment during the pandemic. Over 20,000 ballots were cast at Fair Oaks Mall during absentee voting, which led to the highest voter turnout ever in Bartholomew County.

County Economic Development Commission Approved

The Bartholomew County Council met Tuesday evening and approved the creation of a county economic development commission to work in tandem with the Columbus Redevelopment Commission in bringing new business activity to the county.

Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC), told the council that such a body was necessary in order to issue TIF anticipation bonds that could entice businesses to locate facilities in Bartholomew County.

He said GCEDC hosted four site visits in 2020, despite the pandemic dampening economic activity.

Appointments to the county’s redevelopment commission will be decided at a later date.

CRH Names Byers to Administrative Leadership Team

Columbus Regional Health is pleased to welcome a new executive, Grant Byers – Vice President and Chief Financial Officer – to its administrative leadership team.

Byers will provide the vision, leadership, direction, and administration of financial systems and strategy for all Columbus Regional Health entities: Columbus Regional Hospital, Columbus Regional Health Physicians, Southeastern Indiana Health Management, Inc., and Columbus Regional Health System Services. Collaborating with senior leadership, he will work to maximize financial resources to achieve the organization’s long-term financial sustainability as an independent health system. Byers succeeds Mrs. Marlene Weatherwax, who retired in March after 25 years of service.

Byers and his wife, Jenny, recently relocated to the Columbus community. They have three children and one grandchild in the area. Prior to joining Columbus Regional Health, Byers served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta, GA. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Kelley School of Business and Indiana University.

Bartholomew County Man Arrested

A Bartholomew County man was arrested on multiple charges Monday evening after the Columbus Police Department  responded to a local motel. Officers were dispatched to the Econo Lodge Inn & Suites at around 11:00 PM in regards to a disturbance.

When police arrived at the motel room, they made contact with Terry Barnhart, of Columbus who they said falsely identified himself. CPD later confirmed two local warrants for his arrest. The suspect allegedly attempted to flush narcotics and drug paraphernalia down the motel room’s toilet prior to speaking to the officers.

Barnhart was placed under arrest and faces multiple drug charges.


Domestic Violence in Bartholomew County at Alarming Rate

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers says that the number of domestic violence reports the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) has received in 2021 points to an alarming tendency.

In 2019, there were 65 domestic violence cases recorded at SO and 53 more in 2020. But, during this year’s first quarter, there have been 18 domestic violence reports. If this trend continues, 2021 will have the highest number of cases in three years. BCSO deputies have been given a directive to make an arrest at the scene if there is probable cause. If not, a report will be forwarded to the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Office for review and, if warranted, an arrest will be made as soon as possible . Myers wants residents to know that just because an arrest isn’t made immediately, does not mean that one is not forthcoming.

If you are being abused, seek help from BCSO or call Turning Point at 812-379-9844.

Safety Reviews Ordered for Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine

The Indiana State Department of Health is proactively notifying all vaccination clinics using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to postpone its use following news reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has called for additional safety reviews. The state did not receive an official directive to pause but is doing so out of an abundance of caution.

In a joint statement released Tuesday morning, the CDC and FDA said that they were reviewing data of 6 rare cases where individuals developed a severe type of blood clot after they received the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine.

Columbus Man Arrested After Fleeing

The Columbus Police Department (CPD) arrested an 18-year-old man after he reportedly crashed into several vehicles as he attempted to flee from law enforcement on Friday afternoon.

Officers were dispatched at around 3:00 p.m. to a report of a possible intoxicated driver in the area of Third and Lindsey Streets. The caller reported that the suspect, later identified as Edgar Veronico, of Columbus, nearly rear-ended her car and ran her off the road.

CPD spotted the suspect’s car a short time later and noted that the vehicle had front-end damage and had smoke coming from the hood. An officer tried to stop the vehicle but lost sight of it due to the high rate of speed it was traveling. Another officer located it a short time later after it crashed into the rear of another car on US 31, north of Herman Darlage Drive.

The driver exited his vehicle and fled on foot. Officers pursued him, caught up to him, and used a Taser to take him into custody near Shannon Drive and Dale Court.

Veronico was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, operating a vehicle while intoxicated-endangerment, resisting law enforcement, resisting law enforcement with a vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident, leaving the scene of an accident with injury, reckless driving, and illegal consumption.

Phelps Going to Work for Indiana Secretary of State

On his Facebook page on Monday, Jay Phelps announced that he is leaving his position as Bartholomew County Clerk of Courts to take a job in Indianapolis with the Office of Indiana Secretary of State. He will work at the discretion of Secretary of State Holli Sullivan as the Director of Election Modernization, Administration, and Special Projects.

His last official day in Columbus is Friday, April 16th.

BCSC Exploring Option of Mobile Vaccine Sites

In an effort to reduce barriers and maximize vaccine availability for interested parents and guardians of 16-to-17-year-old students, the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) is exploring the provision of a mobile Pfizer vaccine site at Columbus East and Columbus North High Schools in the coming weeks.

BCSC wants to know how many parents are interested in such an event for their teens who are ages 16 and 17.

Whether you are for or against the opportunity, you can complete a survey about the topic on the BCSC website.

The vaccine is not required for BCSC staff or students.