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Local icon, civil rights advocate dies at 110

Marion civil rights advocate Pearl Bassett died June 7 at the age of 110.

Bassett witnessed much of the progress in America that many people have only ever read about.

“She grew up in a segregated world, being born in 1911,” said National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president Joselyn Whitticker. “She lived during Jim Crow and ‘colored’ and ‘white’ signs. We hear about it. She was able to see it.”

Whitticker mentioned that Bassett was 20 years old during the lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith.

“Her life saw a lot,” Whitticker said. “She would talk about history and how important history was.”

In 1955, Bassett and other women in the community worked to desegregate the Matter Park Pool, and in 1969, she marched with 350 people at the Grant County Courthouse to advocate for civil rights.

“She was a civil rights advocate who never stopped fighting for change,” Whitticker said.

Bassett is remembered by many as one of the founders of the local NAACP and Urban League, as well as the local chapter of Women in the NAACP, where she served as president.

“Her impact on our city will be far reaching,” Whitticker said. “She was very loved, and she loved this community.”

Bassett’s daughters, Paula Johnson and Renee Jeffries, said education and helping others was important to their mother.

“She believed in family, education and God. Get your education, work hard, do your best, help others, trust God,” Jeffries said. “She was the wind beneath my wings.”

Johnson said her mother was a strict disciplinarian, and told her daughters and son Nojir Jeffries that anyone was welcome in her home.

“Her impact is one that will be felt especially in Marion,” Johnson said.

Bassett had worked as a hairdresser, and always had a love for fashion, Johnson said.

“Mama was a fashionista,” Johnson said. “Even in the hospital she was looking through magazines.”

Johnson said Bassett was so loved by the hospital staff that the nurses bought her clothes, and her doctors allowed her to have a glass of wine each night.

“That’s the effect Mama had on people,” Johnson said. “People used to ask her what was her secret to long life. I always told them it was the red wine, and she always said, ‘Ask the old man upstairs.’”

The day following Bassett’s passing, Johnson said she had been receiving calls from people all across the world who had known and loved her.

“She had a robust energy for life. She was a vibrant person,” Johnson said. “She was not really ready to go. It’s just that her body gave out, but her spirit was still very very strong.”

Bobbie Owensby, a community activist and Black History teacher at Marion High School, said Bassett was a “community-oriented, powerful person who loved her community and was willing to give everything she had in order to bring about change.”

Owensby remembered when Bassett performed in the Black History Club’s play about Bassett’s life.

“She would call me from North Carolina to make sure she had her lines,” Owensby said. “She wanted to know, ‘Are the other characters as good as I am?’ And of course not. She was the best one on the stage.”

Owensby visited Bassett often.

“She was a funny person. She didn’t mind saying what was on her mind,” Owensby said. “I don’t think she ever met a stranger. Everybody fell in love with Aunt Pearl.”

Owensby said Bassett loved receiving flowers.

“Every flower I had given her, she still had it and remembered every flower and why I brought it to her,” Owensby said.

After the community presented Bassett with a flower garden at the Clarence Faulkner Community Center, Owensby said Bassett would call each summer and ask if she had put flowers in the garden.

“That’s one thing we will make sure we do in the next few days,” Owensby said. “...to make sure the flower garden is ready for her.”

Bassett received many awards in her life, including the Frances Hook Award from the NAACP and the Unsung Hero Award. The community honored Bassett by naming her as a torch bearer during the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay in 2016. Many of her awards will be displayed in the Marion Public Library.

Converse's Imagine Burgers nears opening

A new restaurant, opening soon in Converse, promises to not only add to the town’s growing list of places for Hoosiers to grab Indiana-produced grub, but to also be a hub for those looking to connect and talk and make friends the old fashioned way, in person.

It isn’t a planned feature, but owner Scott Reeder says he thinks it is “great” that there is fairly poor cell phone reception inside the old brick building at 304 N. Jefferson St. that is home to Imagine Burgers & Brew. It will keep the devices from coming between his patrons.

“I’m passionate about food and laughter,” Reeder said during a tour of the restaurant in late May.

And he’s trying to build a restaurant centered on those personal interactions that fuel that laughter, complete with live entertainment and plans for future outdoor events.

It’s a welcoming building tied to Hoosier agricultural roots that Reeder is obviously proud of.

“This is like 120- or 130-year-old barn wood,” he said as he pointed to the newly built entrance way inside the main dining room. At the back is a wall built from old fence posts.

A lot of that came from connections he has with the Amish community in the state.

But Reeder’s vision is not just centered on creating a restaurant with a great atmosphere.

The menu came first, he said. And he and his team worked hard at putting together a selection of quality meals. It is nearly all made from scratch – Reeder boasts that only the condiments and two other items are produced outside of the kitchen – and offers options for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

That Thursday morning, Chef Michael Barmes was starting early for some pre-opening, largely invite-only dinner services they are hosting as trial runs for the full opening.

“This is 72 buns,” Barmes said as he sat a large stainless steel bowl, full of dough, down on the bar.

Buns, one of the signs of that devotion to making everything from scratch, start the day. It takes a couple of hours between the mixing, letting the dough rise and baking, but both Barmes and Reeder agreed that having their own house-made buns is one of the things that will help set them apart as a burger restaurant.

“I really believe you are what you eat,” Reeder said as he discussed the menu and its options. “I feel an enormous weight to give people healthy options.”

And that includes a vegetarian bean-burger option and the restaurant’s own twist on falafel. Both have proved popular, he said.

There are several house created burger options as well an “imagine” your own burger section where diners can choose from a long list of possible toppings.

The beef, too, is in keeping with his vision for wholesome offerings and comes from an Indiana farm that Reeder works closely with.

“The meat, I know exactly where it comes from,” Reeder said. “We go and hand pick it from the farm.”

It will make the restaurant fit in nicely with its neighbors.

Jefferson Street BBQ is just up the street, as is Rachel’s Taste of Indiana, a retail food store. Both businesses focus on offering Hoosier-grown and Hoosier-produced food.

Lindsay Dingman Baker, owner at Jefferson Street BBQ, sources her pork from the Hunt Family Farm, just a stone’s throw from downtown Converse. And Rachel’s owner, Rachel Boyer, has built a business around selling that same pork and meat from other area farms as well as cold-pressed oils that come from seeds grown on the farm her husband runs just a few miles away. The store is also stocked with food and other products from producers all over the state.

Together the restaurants and the store appear to be turning Converse into a destination for those devoted to eating locally-produced food.

Reeder thinks Converse is pretty well situated for that.

Living in Marion, he said he looked at quite a few locations when looking to open a restaurant. A relative of his fiance’s suggested the location in Converse. He initially dismissed it. It came up again about six months later and he took a closer look.

He said he told himself, “You know what, this is like the perfect place.”

He said he thinks Converse is uniquely situated to be a “hub” for those looking for independently owned, quality eateries, because of its proximity to not only Indianapolis but other mid-sized cities and towns across the northern half of the state.

Reeder hasn’t given a hard opening date yet, but he is eyeing before the end of June.

They will open with 10 craft beers on tap and two domestics and plan to add a full bar as well.

And, once up and running, he said he plans to add a stage and is even looking to host some outdoor events.

That, he said, will allow more people to mix and interact and get to know one another, something that he says is not only important in today’s world, but also much easier to do in the proper environment.

“Once you sift through friends and culture, we are all the same,” he said.

That conviviality appears to extend to his staff too. From Barmes to everyone else who is working on the project, including his fiance Mallie Grider, Reeder said he wants the work environment to be friendly and lively.

Apart from the great recipes, he said, that will also fuel quality dining.

“I think you can put love in the food,” he said.

Marion Board of Work hears revised transportation plan

At Monday’s Marion Board of Works meeting, the board heard a revised version of the city’s Public Transportation Safety and Security Plan.

At the May 17 meeting, Chuck Martindale, contract administrator for the transportation department, and Jeff Edwards, transportation director presented the plan that lays out yearly goals of the department and ways that the city plans to meet those goals to the board.

This plan must be submitted to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) yearly and be approved by both INDOT and the city’s board of directors, or an equivalent board, as well. INDOT has already approved the plan for this year.

The board questioned some of the procedures in the plan at its previous meeting, and suggested a few revisions, but approved it with the condition that the changes were made. On Monday, President Alex Huskey requested that Martindale and Edwards bring the newly revised plan back to the board for any further questions.

Most of the corrections were simple and had to do with specifying the plan was focused on the city of Marion, or deleting an unnecessary line.

The main revision focused on how the Marion Transit System’s employees were to report safety concerns.

In the original version of the plan, there were a few ways laid out to report safety concerns including reporting the problems directly to a dispatcher, manager, director or supervisor. There was only one way to report anonymously though, which was through locked comment boxes in the driver’s area of MTS vehicles.

The original version of the plan did not specify who those boxes would be checked by or how often, which raised concerns from board members that anonymous reports might never be read.

Martindale said in the revised plan that the boxes are to be checked weekly by MTS management.

The board had already approved the plan pending the revision, so no new vote was needed at the meeting.

The plan can now be submitted into INDOT’s database where it will be filed away with other cities’ plans.

In other business, the board designated member Brian Flynn to work with Huskey on developing a plan for virtual meetings and virtual attendance to public meetings. This will be done to stay in line with new statewide legislation that will mandate a policy for governing bodies.

COVID-19 vaccine information

Road closing for sewer work

Chuck’s Sewer and Drain announced Monday that E. 30th Street between Brownlee and Waite in Marion will be closed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 9 as a sewer main is replaced at 714 E. 30th St.

COVID-19 vaccine information

COVID-19 vaccines are now available to Hoosiers 12 and older. To schedule at a facility within the state system, visit ourshot.in.gov or call 211. Vaccines are free, but insurance may be charged an administrative fee. Appointments for the second dose will be made when the first dose is administered if receiving a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine that requires two doses.

The Grant County Health Department and Marion General Hospital (MGH) are operating vaccine clinics locally within the state system. Appointments can still be scheduled, but walk-ins are also now accepted at this time within the state system clinics.

Children ages 12-17 are only permitted to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which is offered locally at MGH.

The Marion Walmart and Meijer locations, Walgreens locations at 1323 N Baldwin Ave. and 2620 S. Western Ave. in Marion and CVS at 4630 S. Washington St. in Marion are also offering COVID-19 vaccinations at their in-store pharmacies as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program (FRPP). Eligible customers can schedule a vaccine appointment via the stores’ respective websites.

Visit uplandfamily pharmacy.com or call 765-998-8072 for information on Upland Family Pharmacy’s vaccine clinic that offers the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

All veterans can now receive a COVID-19 vaccine from VA Northern Indiana Health Care System (VANIHCS) regardless of their enrollment status or character of discharge. Caregivers, Spouses, CHAMPVA Recipients and Veterans who are not enrolled in VANIHCS, please call (800) 360-8387 ext. 71101 to preregister. Phone lines are open 8 a.m. 4 p.m., Monday-Friday.

If you have recently received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, flu-like systems within the first few days of vaccination are part of the body’s normal immune response to the vaccine. Those symptoms include pain, redness and swelling in the arm where you got the vaccine, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea.

Anyone who develops a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath or leg swelling within three weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact a health care provider and inform the provider of the symptoms and recent COVID-19 vaccination.

According to the IDOH COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, 20,258 Grant County residents have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 19,389 are fully vaccinated through receiving both doses of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose required for the J&J vaccine. Statewide, IDOH reports 2,694,918 Hoosiers have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine requiring two doses, and 2,602,304 Indiana residents are fully vaccinated by receiving two doses or the one-dose J&J vaccine.

IDOH updates COVID-19 count

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) Tuesday reported 302 new COVID-19 cases statewide. That brings to 747,447 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

A total of 13,278 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 10 from the previous day. Another 418 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by the state and occurred over multiple days.

To date, a total of 10,572,711 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to IDOH since Feb. 26, 2020.

Marching Giants prepare for summer schedule

The Marion High School Marching Giants will compete this year in the Central Indiana Track Show Association (CITSA) with their show “To the Summit” with the following schedule:

July 17: Centerville High School

July 24: Muncie Central High School

July 30: Anderson High School

July 31: Winchester High School

Aug. 6: Indiana State Fair Band Day, Indianapolis

Aug. 21: ISSMA Summer Showcase, Kokomo High School

CSO advisory

Marion Utilities announced a combined sewer overflow (CSO) advisory for June 8.

When it rains, older sewer systems throughout the city can overflow, sending untreated rainwater mixed with sewage into the Mississinewa River and Boots Creek. In the event of rain, please avoid contact with water downstream of combined sewer overflows for the next three days. Signs are posted along the waterways to identify where contact with the water could be hazardous to your health. For more information, please visit marionutilities.com.

County considers $2.4 million upgrade to Salin Bank building

As work moves forward on the county’s central dispatch tower project, officials are eyeing additional facilities work in the near future.

At Monday’s Grant County Commissioners’ meeting, Terry Burnworth of Pyramid Consulting presented the board with an estimated scope of work and prices for renovations to the former Salin Bank building, 302 S. Washington St. in Marion, that currently houses the central dispatch center and EMA department in its basement.

Last summer, commissioners collaborated with county council and determined updating the infrastructure of the Salin Bank building was the county’s next facilities priority after completing construction of the central dispatch towers since the investment has been made to house dispatch there for the long term.

Commissioner Mark Bardsley said Monday that after recent discussions with council regarding potential uses of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, the two bodies requested that Burnworth provide updated cost projections.

Burnworth said he broke the cost estimates up into two phases: exterior stabilization and interior rehabilitation. The exterior work is a necessity for the long term health of the building, but the interior work can be shelved or broken up into parts since it involves space that is currently not being utilized by the county, he said.

Burnworth said the building is built “extremely well” but most of the items are the result of years of wear and tear. According to the cost estimates Burnworth provided, the exterior work would include:

Replacing roofing and insulation at an estimated cost of $270,000

Resealing windows, $12,000

New asphalt paving in the back parking lot, $60,000

New parking lighting systems, $25,000

Repointing exterior limestone, including installing new mortar and clean stone and patching holes, $240,000

Waterproofing over alley area, $40,000

New front sidewalk on Washington Street, $45,000

New sidewalk and ADA ramp on Third Street, $56,000

Steel barriers around generator and condensers, $10,000

$65,000 set aside for contingencies

Burnworth noted the basement area currently being utilized is up to date and secure without the need for any additional interior work. The proposed additional interior work would include:

Demolition on the first and second floors, including asbestos removal, $165,000

HVAC duct reworking on the first and second floors, $394,000

Ceiling replacement and new LED light installation on the first and second floors, $264,000

Plumbing updates on the first and second floors, $215,000

New lining in cast iron pipes, $12,000

Overhauling existing lift station, $50,000

Repainting first floor, $18,000

Elevator upgrades, $180,000

HVAC unit installation, $108,000

Fire alarm system updates for first and second floors, $60,000

$90,000 set aside for contingencies

In total, the first phase is estimated to cost $823,000 with the second costing $1.598 million, bringing the county’s total cost estimate to $2.421 million if the entire scope of the project was approved. Burnworth said his company’s architectural and engineering costs are included in the estimates and would total about $58,000 for the exterior work, and all estimates included several inflation factors.

Burnworth said the interior upgrades could allow the county to better utilize the first and second floors for long-term storage, offices or other purposes. Commissioner Ron Mowery had previously proposed leasing out the space if it was renovated and said Monday he would want some more information on potential return on investment before approving the interior upgrades.

Burnworth requested that commissioners approve the exterior work pending council approving a funding source, but the board opted to table the decision Monday in order to further review the estimates.

Bardsley said council would not be able to take action to fund the project until next month anyway, so having the ballpark figures in hand now allows more informed further discussions to be held. Part of the equation will be seeing if the federal government will allow ARP funds to be spent on a facilities infrastructure project like this, Bardsley said.

If and when the two bodies approve the exterior work, Burnworth said it would take about 30-40 days to get all of the bid documents together for the various trade packages followed by 20 days of bidding. He estimated the work would start around Sept. 1 with about 90-100 days of work, with a goal to be finished before winter hits.

When prioritizing the county’s facilities needs last fall, updates to the Juvenile Detention Center (D-Home) were put at the bottom of the list, but an urgent mold issue caused commissioners to shut the center down and move juveniles out in late April. Council and commission members are expected to meet with sheriff’s department officials, judges and other relevant stakeholders to determine the long-term future of the building soon.