Category Archives: Local News

Government offices closed for Juneteenth holiday

Government offices are closed next Wednesday in observance of Juneteenth.

In Columbus, city trash, recycling and yard waste routes will be running on their normal schedule. You should have your Toters to the curb by 7 a.m.

The Columbus and Bartholomew County Recycling Center will be closed on Wednesday along with the cardboard route and the Solid Waste Management district offices. The Bartholomew County Landfill will be open normal hours.

Columbus City Utilities offices will be closed. If you have a problem with your water or sewer service, you can call 812-372-8861 and follow the prompts.

In Seymour, Wednesdays trash, recycling and yard waste will be collected on Thursday.

The U.S. Postal Service in Indianapolis wants to remind you that there will be no mail delivery,  or Post Office Box service, and post office retail counters will be closed due to the Juneteenth federal holiday.

If you need to use postal services, you can use the self-service kiosks at select post offices including: Columbus, Seymour and Greenwood.

Report: Father sentenced in 2-year-old daughter’s Thanksgiving death

Jeremy W. Sweet. Photo courtesy of Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

A Bartholomew County man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the death of his 2-year-old daughter, according to newspaper reports.

The Republic newspaper is reporting today that 41-year-old Jeremy Sweet has been sentenced to 30 years after he pled guilty to neglect of a dependent resulting in death. Judge Jim Worton gave Sweet another 10 years added on for Sweet being a habitual offender.

The girl, Emma Sweet, died over Thanksgiving weekend of 2021 after her father drove off an embankment and into East Fork White River on Thanksgiving Day. Duck hunters found him in the submerged truck the Friday after Thanksgiving and her body was found in the river. An autopsy revealed she died from hypothermia and asphyxia due to drowning.

More information at therepublic.com

Photo of Emma Sweet courtesy of Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department

Columbus announces new hire in community development

Paul W. Smith. Photo courtesy of city of Columbus

The city of Columbus has hired a new assistant director of Community Development.

According to the city, Paul W. Smith is filling the role where among his duties he will oversee the city’s affordable housing study project, and supervise affordable housing initiatives, coordinate the community homeless initiative, facilitate the city’s tax abatement process and engage in community events.

Previously Smith served as community liaison in the state’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs and in the U.S. Navy. He holds a bachelors degree from Marian University and a masters in business administration from Anderson University. He and his wife live in Greenwood with their children.

Bartholomew County considering bids for pickleball complex

Bartholomew County is considering bids to construct a pickleball complex at Dunn Stadium next to the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds.

According to the county commissioners, the goal is to build a tournament quality, 12-court pickleball complex at the park, the only courts on the west side of Columbus. In November, commissioners estimated that the cost could be up to $600,000 for the facility.

This week, eight bids were opened for the project with two alternative options including a reinforced concrete surface instead of asphalt and furnishings at the site such as spectator bleachers. Base bids ranged from a low of just under $531,000 from Case Construction with a high bid of more than $837,000.

Commissioners took the bids under advisement.

Commissioners also ratified a proposal with Patriot Engineering to provide services at the pickleball site to make sure the fill dirt in the area is properly compacted which will involve soil samples and supervising that phase of the work. The county is using its own workers to prepare the site, at a substantial cost savings, but there is a substantial slope in the area. The contract is expected to last about three weeks at a cost not to exceed $15,000.

Homelessness forum set for today at Donner Center

A reminder that the city of Columbus and the United Way of Bartholomew County will be holding a public forum today on how to address homelessness in the community.

The purpose of the public forum is to engage the community in the United Way’s initiative to make homelessness in Bartholomew County “rare, brief, and non-recurring.” Organizers will introduce key partners in the initiative to fight homelessness and a group discussion will be held on the topic.

The forum will be from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Donner Center, on 22nd St. It is open to the public and you are invited to attend. A dinner will be provided.

Hope to celebrate Old-Fashioned Independence Day

The Yellow Trail Museum will be hosting the Hope Old-Fashioned Independence Day festivities at the Hope Town Square on the Friday before the 4th of July.

Activities start at 5:30 p.m. on Friday June 28th and will include an apple pie contest, the crowning of Miss and Mr. Firecracker, a bike parade, music and fireworks.

The fireworks are scheduled to start at 10 p.m. You should bring your own chair or blanket.

The deadline is coming up on Wednesday, June 26th, for Hope area kids to enter to reign as this year’s Miss and Mr. Firecracker.

Area children between 3 and 10 years old are invited to take part. Participants are urged to decorate cans for donations and place them around town, or to solicit donations from friends and family members. Every penny raised counts as one vote.

The winners will lead the bike, trike and stroller parade around the square.

Sentence appeal denied in Columbus murder-for-hire

The Indiana Court of Appeals has turned down a request from a man convicted in a 2020 murder for hire in Columbus appealing his 55-year prison sentence.

Attorney General Todd Rokita is touting the decision after his office opposed the request from Eliel Avelar. Avelar argued that his mental health issues and overall character called for a lower sentence.

In February of 2020, Avelar killed Leobardo Flores, shooting him to death outside the victim’s place of work on South Marr Road and then driving Flores’ car to a nearby grocery store on State Street, abandoning it in the parking lot. The investigation revealed that Avelar had been paid $3,200 to harm Flores, because he was dating another man’s ex-girlfriend.

Avelar pled guilty to the murder in exchange for the state dropping 10 other charges.

In his appeal, Avelar said he had a history of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-harm and substance abuse. He claimed the crime wouldn’t have happened had he been sober and clear-headed. The appeals court did not find that convincing, as well as citing his illegal immigration status as a mark against his character.

State warns of danger breathing in some areas today

You could find it hard to breathe today, with high levels of ground level ozone being possible.

According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, an Air Quality Action Day is in effect for parts of our area, including Jennings and Jackson counties until midnight tonight.

That means that a combination of high temperatures, light winds, and other factors, are expected to produce conditions where high levels of ground-level ozone emissions may exceed federally mandated standards. High ozone near the ground acts a lung irritant. It can cause coughing and breathing difficulties for sensitive populations. Children, the elderly, and anyone with heart or lung conditions should reduce or avoid exertion and heavy work outdoors today.

IDEM is offering tips on how to help reduce the ground level ozone including:

  • Walk, bike, carpool or use public transportation.
  •  Avoid using the drive-through and combine errands into one trip.
  • Avoid refueling your vehicle or using gasoline-powered lawn equipment until after 7pm.
  • Turn off your engine when idling for more than 30 seconds.
  • Conserve energy by turning off lights or setting the air conditioner to 75 degrees or above.

For additional information,  you can visit the IDEM Smog page at https://apps.idem.in.gov/smogwatch

Long time councilwoman ends 46 years in office

Evelyn Pence. Photo courtesy of Bartholomew County.

A long-time Bartholomew County councilwoman has stepped down from her at-large seat on the council ahead of schedule.

Evelyn Strietelmeier Pence was honored at yesterday’s County Council meeting after 46 years of service on the council. The Bartholomew County Commissioners recognized Pence with a proclamation honoring her years of service. Councilman and former Sheriff Mark Gorbett talked about the impact Pence had on him as a new deputy, sheriff and council member.

State Rep. Ryan Lauer, a former member of the Council, recognized Pence with congratulations from the state for her years of service.

The councilwoman sent a letter announcing her decision to retire to Luann Welmer, head of the Bartholomew County Republican party, expressing health concerns. Previously she had decided not to run for re-election.

Red Cross offering area blood donation opportunities

The Red Cross is stressing the urgent need for blood donations, as a shortfall in donations continues.

The agency says donors of all blood types are needed, especially those with type O blood and donors giving platelets. In celebration of World Blood Donor Day on Friday, those who donate between now and the end of the month will receive a $15 e-gift card to a merchant of choice.

According to the group fewer donors have been making donations in the past month and the Red Cross is running behind where it needs to be to maintain the blood supply. The lower than normal donations could be caused by several factors including severe weather and a spike in travel.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities include:

Today from 12:15 p.m. – 5 p.m., at the Senior Citizens Center on Buckeye Street in North Vernon, and from from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., at Edinburgh Methodist Church on West Campbell St,

Also coming up June 19th from 10 to 4 p.m. at The Commons in downtown Columbus and on June 20th from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

You can schedule an appointment to give blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS