LOCAL NEWS

County council goes back to work on county’s budget

Montgomery Council President Aaron Morgan knows he is under the gun to get a County General and County Option Income Tax budget approved. He came to Tuesday’s meeting expecting to get approval, however, he did not.

This year the council changed its procedure for formulating and adopting the budget. Each council member worked with a county department head on the budget. Morgan had his numbers and presented an amended budget that met guidelines from the Department of Local Government Finances.

However, the proposed budget found resistance from department heads, including the county judges.

The judges were unhappy that the new budget was going to eliminate two probation officers, which would trim the budget by $80,000. Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Harry Siamas was first to speak up.

“I realize the budget process is new this year, but we feel like we need to have some input,” Siamas said. “We feel we need to have a sit-down discussion with the council before we cut two probation officers. The judges would not support such an action.”

Siamas also expressed his concern about the short notice he received about the projected budget cut.

“I was notified on Monday that the probation budget was going to be cut,” Siamas said. “By state guidelines we are already short one and one-half probation officers. We are not here to point fingers. You need to hear the numbers and see that what you propose is not feasible.”

Montgomery Superior Court Judge Peggy Lohorn expressed her concern over the possibility of losing two probation officers.

“The state has changed the way we are to handle low level felons,” Lohorn said. “This is a problem for the judiciary, probation and sheriff trying to determine how we are going to handle the projected increase locally. Cutting two probation officers is really not a viable option.”

Montgomery County Councilman Mark

Davidson expressed concern that the whole council did not have as much input into the budget process as he had hoped.

“I do not think we all had a say in the budget cuts,” Davidson said. “I think we need a special meeting to go over the budget and agree where cuts need to be made.”

The council agreed to have a special meeting to discuss the budget at 8 a.m. on Oct. 23. Morgan said he and other council members would meet with the judges to address their concerns before the next meeting.

Morgan said the DGLF set a goal for the county budget to be $7.18 million. He said his goal was to present a budget for passage totaling $7.28 million.

Deadline to submit an approved budget to the DGLF is Nov. 2.

Vote centers coming in 2016

New voting machines and vote centers were approved at Tuesday’s Montgomery County Council meeting. Voters can expect to use the new machines in the May 2016 Primary Election.

Both the county council and county commissioners passed resolutions to purchase the new machines, and move from precinct voting to vote centers. The only question is how the county will pay for the machines. The cost of the new machines is $286,962. Commissioners have the authority to either pay for the machines with an annual lease payment for five years, or finance the amount at a local financial institution.

Montgomery County Attorney Dan Taylor explained to the council what its role was in approving the funding for the new machines.

“What the clerk is doing is asking the council whether it will support funding for the new voting machines,” Taylor said. “It is the commissioners who will have to determine the option of financing.”

Council members and commissioners said they wanted to honor and approve the recommendation from Montgomery County Clerk Jennifer Bentley and members of the county election board.

“The election board and county clerk have a job to do and they have put a lot of work into this,” Commissioner Jim Fulwider said. “It is our job, as commissioners, to sign the contract.”

The county is expected to save $52,000 per year by going to vote centers compared to costs of running precinct polling places. The clerk’s office has the money budgeted to pay the annual payments for the new voting machines.

The council voted 7-0 to fund the new voting machines being sold to the county by RBM Inc.

The topic of vote center locations became a part of the discussion during the council meeting.

Montgomery County Councilman Mark Davidson favors vote centers. However, he hopes the centers will be spread around the

county and not just in Union Township.

“I think you need to look at having vote center spread around the county,” Davidson said. “I think you are going to have to deal with some upset people if everyone has to drive to Crawfordsville to vote.”

Bentley said the sites have yet to be determined. She said there could be a plan to take voting machines out into the county before election day for local voters.

“We have thought about taking the two Saturdays before the primary and have voting machines available in the smaller towns,” Bentley said. “Early voting would allow us that option.”

The use of vote centers was approved by the council by a 7-0 vote.

South sixth graders staying put

NEW MARKET — Sixth graders in the South Montgomery Community School Corporation will be staying in the elementary schools — at least for now.

The decision was shared during Monday’s school board meeting by Superintendent Shawn Greiner.

 

Over the past month, a committee made up of board members and school employees had been looking at research and surveying the community to decide the feasibility of moving the students to the junior high. After weighing some of the possible positive outcomes with the possible challenges, the committee determined the move is not appropriate for students at this time.

Approximately 370 surveys were distributed to families and the committee received 184 responses. The results of the survey found that 45 percent of respondents did not favor the move; 41 percent did favor it; and 14 percent were undecided.

The survey gave respondents a chance to list concerns they might have about moving sixth graders to the junior high. The biggest concern respondents had was the possible negative influences older students might have on the sixth graders. The second biggest concern was that the sixth graders might not be mature enough to handle the transition.

However, 68 percent of all respondents said that sixth graders would have more opportunities at the junior high including extracurricular activities and athletics as well as more chances to study in specialized areas such as agriculture, band or choir.

The move for the sixth graders is not being ruled out totally. However, the committee feels like they need to weigh the concerns of the community as well as address their own concerns, including the lack of space for additional students at Southmont Junior High School.

“We have to make sure that,” Greiner said, “if we make that recommendation and we have the space for it, that parents understand that it is so we can benefit, for our students, from the best of both worlds.”

The next committee meeting will be in April 2016. Until then, the committee will continue to research the possibility of moving the sixth graders and continue communicating with parents and community members. Committee members are Eric Mason, Jerry Kinkead, Eric Brewer, Brett Higgins, Mike Tricker, Belle Gabbard, Tina Swisher, Mary Scheidler and Superintendent Shawn Greiner.

Facility upgrades

The school board also saw a conceptual design for upgrades to the corporation’s athletic facilities.

Athletic Director Aaron Charles presented the design, which included the addition of facilities such as two football practice fields (one only being 60 yards in length), a new soccer field, new softball and baseball diamonds, a concession stand/restroom facility and a new parking lot.

“That’d be a real plus for all of our kids, from youth up to high school,” said baseball Head Coach Jamie Welliever. The baseball field we play on now is the original from 1972. We now have four teams on that one field, and so a second field would be huge.”

Charles listed several purposes the upgrades will serve including improving safety around the facilities, solving traffic issues, create better curb appeal and making the facilities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The board also approved the 2016 budget, which will now go to the state. The state will decide what to cut from the corporation’s budget and will return the revised budget sometime between December and March.

Music group honors singer/songwriter

During his 50-year musical career, Terry Smith has performed with some big country singers, appeared on television and written numerous songs.

However, winning the Lifetime Achievement Award from a local musicians’ group based in Danville, Ill., means more to him than his other accolades.

“Being on the Opry was a great thing,” he said, “but this is the highlight of everything because it’s voted on by your peers.

“It’s the greatest thing in the world.”

Smith, 65, of Crawfordsville, received the award Sunday during the Country Reunion sponsored by the Music in the Heartland Society.

Dennis Palmer, one of the organizers of the reunion, said the members wholeheartedly voted for Smith this year.

“We look up to him because he’s accomplished more than us,” he said. “It’s hard to find someone with more extensive music experience in our group than him.”

There are about 120 members in Music in the Heartland Society, Palmer said, and almost half are musicians. About one-third of those members were involved in Sunday’s event, either as entertainers or organizers.

Smith has made five CDs, including his first one with all-original songs, “It’s About Time,” three gospel CDs, and his latest, “A Tribute to Conway.”

His music is on sale at the Highway 341 Café in Wallace.

Smith has been singing gospel songs since he was 5 or 6 years old. “I just love it,” he said. “I cut my teeth on gospel.”

His father, George Smith of Crawfordsville, is a Pentecostal minister and also a musician. The two made a CD called “Like Father, Like Son.”

After high school, Smith joined the Navy, where he met Ronnie McDowell and Leon Everette, who both went on to pursue careers in country music.

In 1970, he returned to Crawfordsville. In 1980, Smith got a call from Everette who had just signed with RCA Records. He wanted Smith for his band as a leader and front man.

The band opened shows for some big stars, including Hank Williams Jr., Conway Twitty, George Jones and others.

Smith performed with Everette on 11 songs that made the top 10 on the country charts in the 1980s.

Smith also appeared on a Showtime special, “Jamboree in the Hills,” in the early ‘80s, along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Loretta Lynn and others. He made two appearances on the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville.

In 1987, Smith signed with Dynasty Records, and the company changed his name to Rhett Brady. He toured all over the United States and Canada.

During his time with Dynasty, he had two releases, “My Body Can’t Be Trusted” and “Tonight’s Like One of Those Days,” which did well on independent charts.

In the mid-‘80s, he wrote commercials for Mello Yello soft drink.

He also appeared with Conway Twitty, and has been told that he sounds like the singer. Smith’s most recent CD, “A Tribute to Conway,” covers Twitty’s most popular songs.

After 11 years on the road, he decided to come home. He had lived in Nashville for three years and South Carolina for seven years.

In 1991, he formed the five-piece band, Honky Tonk Attitude. Smith often performs at the Highway 341 Café; country nights are Thursdays and Saturdays, and gospel night is Monday.

Smith is retired from the Montgomery County Highway Department.

Looking back on his music career, he said, “I paid my dues. I’m one of those artists who almost made it (to the big time).”

Now, his children and grandchildren are showing musical abilities, as well.

“It’s been a good ride,” Smith said.

About Music in the Heartland

As for the country reunion show, Palmer said he expects a good turnout on Sunday. The show started as a one-time event to celebrate 50 years of country music in the area. However, it attracted such a crowd that organizers decided to present a country reunion twice a year — in April and October.

The Highway 341 Band and the Reunion Band will provide backup music for the performers, all members of the society.

People may learn more about joining Music in the Heartland Society on its Facebook page. A person does not need to be an entertainer in order to join. Cost is $15 a year.

Other honorees

Past Lifetime Achievement winners were: June and Harold Kinney, Tex Wynn, the late Harlan Ice, Marvin Lee, Ron Colson, the late Kenny Eades ,Dewey Holycross, the late Fred Halls, Terry Cottrell, the late Johnny King, Johnny Covault, the late Gordon Powell and Bob Carter.

City still funding economic development

One city councilman took a stand Monday night. In the end he was standing alone.

Crawfordsville City Councilman David Christensen offered amendments on two ordinances, but neither item was voted on by the council after the other six council members declined to offer a second on the amendments.

One of Christensen’s amendments would have defunded Indiana West Advantage, an economic development organization in Montgomery County. Christensen asked that the city remove the $75,000 annual support of the group.

“In all of the years we have been giving taxpayer money to that organization and its predecessor organization, MCED, in all those years nobody can produce one example of a job created by MCED,” Christensen said. “The only jobs that have been created are for MCED people who are paid.

“At some point we need to realize we have had enough of this situation. Let’s pull the money out of this stuff. It is not working.”

Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton was not surprised by the attempt.

“We have consistently seen the Tea Party group speak out against funding economic development with tax funds,” he said. “We are headed in that direction. Indiana West Advantage has set goals of increasing private funding every year. We are not there yet. We cannot shut the door and not perform economic development.”

The other amendment Christensen proposed would have prohibited the city from using eminent domain in downtown Crawfordsville. He wanted to add:

“Nothing in the Crawfordsville Downtown Revitalization Study should be construed to endorse, or even allow, the use of eminent-domain proceedings to accomplish its goals.

“To the contrary, the City of Crawfordsville is prohibited from using eminent domain proceedings to accomplish the goals set forth in this Study.”

Christensen wanted to include the proposed language at the bottom of the resolution approving the city’s new downtown revitalization plan. He has problems with the plan identifying specific buildings and saying they can be repurposed for things other than what they are currently used for. He wanted to protect property owners from future city administrations and city councils.

“Any discussion like that is healthy,” Barton said. “I think you have to understand the context of what the downtown plan is. To say that we would be able to come in is really an overreach.”

Barton said the purpose of the downtown plan is to serve as a blueprint as the city moves forward with future projects.

“This city is not in the business of taking someone’s property,” Barton said.

Christensen would go on to vote against both items after his amendments failed. The budget ordinance passed 6-1 on second and third readings. The downtown revitalization plan resolution passed 6-1 on a one-time vote.

Christensen’s term on the council expires at the end of the year.

In other business, the city council:

• Voted 7-0 on the first reading of an additional appropriation for the communication center that would purchase a treadmill.

• Voted 7-0 on a resolution approving a $7,000 historic preservation grant to Mike Grant for a building project at 116 S. Green St. Grant said last week that he is renovating the building for office space for Arni’s.

• Voted 7-0 on second and third readings on ordinances setting 2016 salaries for city employees and appointed officers; and for the mayor clerk-treasurer and city council.

The council’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. Nov. 9. The council will meet for committee night at 6 p.m. Nov. 2.