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"My Town and Yours"

  "My Town and Yours"  Thoughts and  Observations of Mark Lange

Posts from August 2013


What's This Holiday About ...again
As the unionized US workforce gets smaller, there is discussion about the need for Labor Day.  Not from me of course, I'm for a holiday every Monday if we can figure out how to make enough hot dogs to cover all those picnics.

Such a plan would not only help the pork, chicken, beef, and associated animal by-products industries, but increase our national output of mustard and buns.  It would help our gas and oil industries because of all the family reunions.  52 Monday Holidays would give the banks and postal service some much needed rest.  And our garages?  We'll have the cleanest, neatest garages in the world!

Have a good holiday.  There won't be a post on this Blog on Monday.  Yep.  That might be the best reason for us to have a Monday holiday every Monday.  I like my hot dogs grilled to almost black in case you want to invite me over..
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Nice Work Bob
Let me make it clear first.  Bob Murawski is my friend and he has been for nearly forty years.  Now with that said.

Great work Bob!  Yesterday the Knox County United Way announced the appointment of Angie Goff as the new Executive Director.  Bob Murawski will retire at the end of the year and between now and then the two will work together for a smooth transistion.  Bob has been officially a part time Executive Director but has been available to explain his organization where and when it's been needed.  He has worked hard to expand the record of the organization by thinking out of the box and looking and working with diverse formal and informal groups - many not members of the United Way to make Knox County a better place.  I think the county will miss Bob's efforts.  He'll still be around, but those grand kids will get the majority of his extra time and that's the way it should be.

By the way.  I have known Angie for a long time too and know she will do a good job.  It's a small town you know.
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Topics: Human Interest
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Locations: Knox County
People: Angie GoffBob Murawski


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Let the Light Shine
The approval of the repair of 43 street lights in the Burnett Heights neighborhood of Vincennes is great news - especially for the folks who live in the neighborhood and those who walk and run the hills above Gregg Park.  Those lights - with underground wiring haven't worked well for decades and it's time they were fixed.  Does that sound like a guy who will finally have a street light that works on his block?  Probably because that's the case.  It's also the same feeling we each get when our tax dollars seem to come directly back to us.  It's like getting your block paved - been years for my block.  It's like getting your sewers cleaned - been a while for that too.  It's like when your fire plugs are checked - well THAT gets done like clock work.

While a lot of things our taxes do help us indirectly, those rare times when something actually helps you right at home are pretty sweet.
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Some Planning - That's Good
The awarding of paving bids for Vincennes is nothing special.  Paving - at least some - takes place every year and a lot of paving takes place prior to elections, but for the first time in a while, there seems to be some sort of planning about where the limited funds should be and will be spent.  So far new City Engineer John Sprague has made it a point to report planning for paving is on need not politics.

Let's hope that's how it remains.  Plannned paving will last much longer and be better for all of us than political paving.
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People: John Sprague


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Generally a Good Deal
The Vincennes City Council will consider a Tax Abatement for equipment recently installed at the Shott-Gemtron Plant on the city's northside.  This will most likely be a non-controversial motion, passed quickly, and set to help the local plant quickly.  As many of you know, abatements allow businesses who bring jobs to the community, save property taxes for a period of time - usually 100% savings the first year, 90% the second year, 80% the third year and so on until the full 100% of property taxes on the equipment become due on the tenth year.

Such abatements don't cut current property taxes, they just don't add new property to the books at full value.  And the jobs these businesses bring do put money back into the economy immediately and usually for a long time.

We get all excited about new businesses coming to town, but we must continue to make doing business in our town attractive to those businesses already operating here.  The City Council will do that at their meeting tonight for Shott-Gemtron - and they should.
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Should Have Checked Ahead...
This Blog usually deals with local issues, but I just can resist...

From news sources:  "..Bradley Manning, the Army private sentenced to military prison for leaking classified documents, revealed he intends to live out the remainder of his life as a woman.  Manning, 25, was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday after having been found guilty of 20 charges ranging from espionage to theft for leaking more than 700,000 documents to the WikiLeaks website while working in Iraq in 2010..."

Most of us know the Army's response:  "...You will be housed in a men's prison and we don't do hormone treatments for prisoners..." 

Maybe Manning should have checked that out prior to releasing those documents.

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Topics: Law_Crime
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People: Bradley Manning


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Revisiting Lincoln High School's Community Impact
Driving into Vincennes last night with the Blue Moon rising in the east and the sun setting in the west was a very neat sight.  I looked up a bit and saw a bright light to the north and followed it.  No, it wasn't Wally's Search Light drawing us to McDonald's.  It was the lights of Lincoln High School.  Even on a Wednesday evening the place was a buzz.  Inside the building, outside the building, on the sports fields, and even the parking lot - hundreds of people were at the complex.

Most of us still think of Lincoln as the "New" high school.  It's not.  It's almost paid for and will be getting millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs in the next couple of years to keep it viable.  It's been around since the 80's I think and ever since it was constructed it has been a huge community draw.  There's almost never an evening where its not full of people.  There are dozens of school and community groups using the facility each month and that's the way it should be.

We don't have a single general store to chat with our friends at anymore and Walmart doesn't qualify.  Many of us don't have a church family anymore.  And most of us don't have porches we sit on and talk with our neighbors.  But we still have a high school that draws a lot of our community together.  It's still a great investment and was as neat to see the lights of the school as the sunset and moonrise at the same time last night.
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Topics: Education
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Locations: Lincoln


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Can't See the Progress Yet, But...
There were not very many people who thought there would be a future for the abandoned school buildings in downtown Vincennes, but there is more progress on the very real probability that there will be life after education at least for part of the complex.  Developer Andy Myzak got approval last night to make some exterior improvements to the former Administration Building on North Sixth Street and do the outside work on Adams Coliseum.  You don't go before the Historic Review Board unless you are making progress toward actual work, but it's still not a done deal.  Tax credit planning and approval from various governmental agencies on the local, state, and even national level are needed to make the building into a senior housing center, but Myzak has pulled this kind of project off in the past and is expected to do it again.

Some may be sad about the plan to tear down the former downtown location of Lincoln High School across Sixth Street from the former Administration Building, but with progress sometimes there must be collateral damage.  For my vote - which I don't get or deserve, the old LHS needs to go.  The historic value of the building is limited, its condition is poor, reuse is not feasible, and the green space and parking will be needed for a successful completion of the housing units and will look just fine.

The next couple of months will be very important to the completion of the project.  The developers should be able to pull it off and we're pulling for them.  Maybe one of those apartments has my name on it.  It's close to work...
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People: Andy Myzak


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No big Deal
How times change.  It used to be that even a hint of drug testing for student athletes would have packed an auditorium with people concerned about the process.  Last night not a soul came to the meeting concerned with the expansion of random drug testing at Vincennes Lincoln High School and the School Board approved the expansion by a 5 to 0 vote.

Now students who drive and park at the high school and students who participate in Band, Choir, and Dramatics will also be in the testing pool as well as athletes.  If you've ever seen the student parking lot, about every student will be in the testing pool.

LHS administrators got approval to outsource the whole process to a local firm, from picking the random students to test, to handling the actual test collection, and delivering the results.  In today's world, drug testing is a normal process that many of us must endure to even apply for jobs, so starting the students experience in high school could also be seen as just another educational experience to ready them for life.

And as Principal Steve Combs says, testing can also alert adults to problems before they get truly out of hand.  It is a good move and money well spent.
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It's Not a Requirement, but Prudent
Budget discussions among most City, County, and Educational boards this summer have included what has become the "29 Hour Rule".  It's the new normal for keeping employees as part time workers.  It used to be that 48 hours a week was fulltime work, then it was 40 hours per week, now it has become thirty hours a week - at least in the Affordable Health Care Act world.

Depending on who you talk to and what you read, any employer who must or chooses to offer health insurance must offer the insurance to any employee who is a full time worker under the Act.  That number is 30 hours per week.  It is still not exactly clear if it is working one week at thirty hours or more or an average of thirty hours or more of working during a previous period - three months, a half a year, the last year - something.

The thirty hour rule has already caused millions of part time workers to lose hours as businesses large and small, governmental agencies and schools cut their schedules down to no more than 29 hours per week to get ready for the Act to kick in on January 1st.  Good if you are looking for part time work.  Bad if you were working 36 hours a week and now have lost 20% of your pay because you are scheduled 29 hours per week.

Vincennes City Departments are now wrestling with the problem suggesting schedule and on-call changes - which may hurt services to taxpayers, asking for higher hourly wages to part time employees work fewer hours, but make the same amount of money - that seems like a great deal for the workers, but not so good for the people paying taxes.

No matter what is decided there will be change.  It's more than just a Healthcare Act, it's going to be a Change Act too, and while most of us believe there should be healthcare for all, few of us like forced change and even less like government telling us how to run the details of our businesses or cities, counties, and schools.
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Topics: Labor
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Locations: Vincennes City


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Is That a Big Number
The reports that about 1,500 people have visited the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy since it officially opened last month is interesting.  Is that a good number or is it a not so good number.  I've got no idea.  Let's say those fifteen hundred people all came on the free Senior Citizen Day after the museum opened.  If that's the case, then the numbers aren't so good.  What if all of those visitors came from out of town and stayed overnight?  That would be great.  The Convention and Visitors Bureau will really know how to figure the financial impact of such an influx, but even a DJ can figure out that would be a bunch of additional dollars.

Of course, the situation is somewhere between all getting in free and all coming from out of town and also spending the night.  But the Red Skelton Museum is in a long haul to become a long term attraction to Vincennes.  It will take a long time to get the word out - even to the locals.  Even if all the visitors came from Knox County, there are still over 27,000 people in Knox County what haven't visited.

Red's humor has lasted a long time because it was well crafted and well presented.  His museum will also last a long time for the same reasons.

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Topics: Hospitality_Recreation
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Locations: Knox County


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Is There More to the Coonrod Thing?
Should be interesting to watch the ins and outs of the "suspension" of payments to Knox County Financial Consultant Curt Coonrod.  As reported yesterday, the County Council has now agreed with the County Commissioners to not pay the Indianapolis Accountant for about $274 Thousand dollars in what some call undocumented bills.

If history holds any hint of what's next, now the threats will become legal action from Coonrod.  He'll probably sue for more than he's owed - probably because we've hurt his feelings and no matter how stupid his suit and what seems to be a lack of a contract between the commissioners and the accountant, the legal costs to the county may be so high it will just make sense to settle and make sure nothing like this happens again.

But this whole deal hasn't made sense for years.  How could one person get paid thousands of dollars over and over again without documentation, when the County Council nit picks local office holders month after month for a buck here and a dollar there?  What did Coonrol know about the system that everyone else didn't?  Is there more out there?

The Commissioners and Council probably just want this thing to go away.  Coonrod wants some money and will get what he can and then go and threaten some other county that hasn't done its homework very well.  Hopefully it will be in a county far far away.
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Finally
When you Google Curt Coonrod, here is what you get:

"CURTIS L. COONROD, CPA. Mr. Coonrod is a certified public accountant whose practice involves services to Indiana local governmental financial management."

When Knox County taxpayers think about Curt Coonrod, many think something else - something a bit more emotional and much more negative.  Last night the night the Knox County Council officially cut ties with the consultant who has billed us hundreds of thousands of dollars for telephone conversations, little documentation, and bills that the County Commissioners have refused to pay. 

Finally.

As this blog has presented in the past, if you and I would have ever submitted one single bill to Knox County with the lack of detail that Coonrod seems to specialize in we would have been fired and not paid.

It took a couple of years, but finally the County Council decided to stand up to Coonrod's threats of suit and cut bait.  There will be a suit - that's what Coonrod has done in the past to other counties.  There will be additional cost to the county to either defend itself or pay off the guy or both, but the time to stop has long passed and the county needs to get rid of this guy no matter what.

The Council and Commissioners will meet in executive session tomorrow to discuss litigation and the easy money is that it will be about a law suit threatened by Mr. Coonrod.  Settle or fight, but get it done AND learn some lessons.  If we don't learn about following the system and checking references - carefully - then it is REALLY a governmental failure.
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Locations: IndianaKnox County
People: Curt Coonrod


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Bring It On!
There's nothing we in Vincennes love more than a parade.  There's the Parade of Clowns, the Hoosier Cruiser's Cruise In, the 4th of July Parade, The Jesus Day March, the LHS Homecoming Parade, and Parade of Lights.  Even the Stations of the Cross is a parade.  When our teams win big games or our Marching Band does great, we break out the firetrucks and the honking horns and have an unscheduled parade.  Most of our kids have been IN a parade before they even start school.

We all have our favorite parade viewing spot, sometimes held by our families for decades.  We know all the routes, where the shade is, and how to get into the area and where to park.  We know what we like about each parade and when another parade possibility presents itself, we go for it.

The Board of Works has approved the Day at the Strip parade being moved from Lawrenceville to Vincennes this fall.  For some reason the City of Lawrenceville doesn't want the parade of racing cars.  But Vincennes?  Bring it on.  The Board of Works is the Mayor's committee and the mayor may want to get reelected so they knew exactly what to do.  Shoehorn the parade in on the same day as the celebration of VU moving to its current campus from downtown and the religious Festival of Booths.  I'm not sure, but neither of those celebrations must have a parade or if they do those possible parades will be earlier.  Who knows, we might have more than one parade on the same day. 

I say bring them on!
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Topics: Human Interest
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Locations: Lawrenceville


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Now the Hard Work Begins
Word that attendance was high over the first couple of weeks that the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy is fantastic.  The local museum focusing on Vincennes native Red Skelton and how he was instrumental in the development of American Comedy is very well done, but now the hard work begins.  The museum staff and volunteers must now focus on getting people to attend, and they can't do it alone.

We all need to make sure we take the tour and invite our out of town friends to do the same.  We have a tremendous number of attractions - especially for adults.  The Clark Memorial and Visitors Center, the Old Cathedral, The State Historic Sites, The Harrison Home, The Indiana Military Museum, and now the Red Skelton Museum.  Couple those year round attractions with the good times you and your out of town friends will share and you've got a lot of reasons to say "Visit us in Vincennes.  We've got a lot to do."
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Ralph Ruppel
From the beginning of the Vincennes Germanfest, Ralph Ruppel was the public driving force.  He not only wanted to raise money for the Christian Education Foundation and Vincennes Catholic Schools, but raised interest in our German Heritage.  With a lot of help from others and a lot of support from the community he did both.  Not many communities have as fun a Beerfest as Vincennes and very few communities our size support Catholic Education like we do in Vincennes.

It took a real man to walk around in those Lederhosen promoting the event, but he did it and more.  Ralph was one of the public guiding forces in the Sister Cities Program and spent a lot of time for so many other projects.

Hold a mug up for Ralph tonight or tomorrow - or better yet make a toast both nights.

Hinweisschilder an den Ortseinfahrten
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Topics: EducationReligion_Belief
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People: Ralph Ruppel


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Well They Did It
Guess all those trucks travelling up and down State Road 61 this summer were going just the right speed.  Highway officials report that the roadway will be opened in time for South Knox Schools to start next week.  There will be plenty of delays as the paving and lining is finished over the next few months, but the road should be a lot safer when completed.  If I was a betting man I would have put money there would have been enough of a delay in the project to cause the opening to be backed up.  Nice work folks. 

That's why I'm not a betting man.  Any money bet on anything would be lost.  Have you heard on WZDM news that there were winners of the $425,000,000+ Powerball contest last night?  There were no big winners in Vincennes and me?  I can't even find my ticket to see if I won anything at all.
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Topics: Sports
People: Knox Schools


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Already?
The busses are cleaned and inspected.  The schools are cleaned and repairs completed (mostly).  The teachers officially have one more day off, but if you've driven by the schools in our town you can't help by see that the parking lots have been full for the last week.  The kids?  They are ready too.  School officially starts for three of the four Knox County School Systems on Friday and the last one kicks in with classes on Monday.

There is nothing more important to our future success than the education of our children.  Each one of those kids that will be dropped off at school in the next few days - and even the very few that walk to school these days are important to the entire community.  Of course we will watch for the kids.  Of course we will slow down in school zones.  but may I suggest another action?

When you see a school age kid say something positive about school.  If they know we believe education is important they will believe its important too.
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A Night to Forget
Last Saturday night was a night many Knox County first responders, medical personnel, and just regular citizens want to forget - but can't.  Two bad ATV wrecks in the county, the suicide of a Vincennes community leader, the drowning of a young child in the Wabash River, the drone of Medivac Helicopters going in and out of Good Samaritan Hospital for what seemed like hours.

Was there anything positive about the really tough night?  First responders and medical people were completely drained and then there are the families suffering losses and living in situations they probably never thought they would have to live through.

We can write about the fast and efficient work of the responders and hospital employees.  We can write about the technology and communication that helps smart people make smart decisions quickly.  We can talk about the out pouring of support for the families affected.  All true.  All deserving.

But we would all rather forget the pain of last Saturday.
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Locations: Knox County


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Where was the big Announcement
If a new business coming to town announced 50 new jobs there would be a huge hoopla.  If a new business coming to town announced they would employ a dozen people there would still be a lot of talk.  But like school, the attention generally given to the new girl in class is much more positive than to those other girls that were sitting in the same room as last year.

Schott-Gemtron located quietly near Kimmell Park has finished the moving of one of its most popular production lines to Vincennes.  Now even more glass parts for refrigerators and freezers will be made here and the move has increased employment.  Not a dozen jobs, not even fifty jobs, but 115 jobs according to the Schott folks.

Jobs come and go in manufacturing and Schott has laid people off in the past, but the movement of a strong production line to our town and the hiring of over 100 people who will be working everyday in jobs that will bring outside money to our community is very positive.

We need a little Hoopla for Schott-Gemtran.
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School Time Already
Eight days from today a number of school corporations will begin classes for the Fall Term.  August 9th.  Certainly not when I started school back in the 50's.  It's the sign of the times.  School districts in our area are carefully moving toward what is now call a Balanced Schedule.  Originally called Year Round School, balanced schedules have shorter breaks over the hot summer months but make up for the early start by adding more vacation days during Fall, Christmas, and Spring breaks.

The purpose is to keep kids more on task and educate the children better.  Does it work?  Most educators say it does.  And since education is the foundation of a strong society, let's go for it.  We don't need the children working in the fields any more.  We need them to be able to read and write and work together in society.

Next year will we start school around here even earlier?  Bet we do.
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