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Dispatch tower groundbreaking now set for July

Site construction on Grant County’s three new central dispatch towers is now expected to begin sometime next month, project manager Terry Burnworth of Pyramid Consulting told county commissioners Monday.

Officials previously expected to break ground in May, with Highway Department Superintendent David White stating last month that his crews were ready to begin excavation work but did not want to get too far ahead of the contractors coming behind them.

Burnworth said all of the approvals from various government entities have been secured, but the county’s towers are currently being fabricated and the first tower will most likely not arrive in the county until late next month. Commissioner Mark Bardsley noted there had been talks of holding a formal groundbreaking or ribbon cutting ceremony, and Burnworth estimated that could take place sometime in mid-July if not earlier.

Meanwhile, Burnworth said the actual radio equipment that will go on the towers should also arrive in mid-July, with a functional test planned for August and installation onto the towers taking place beginning in September if all goes according to plan.

Commissioners approved additional payments to MPX Solutions of Anderson for $7,165.17; Rex Collins Electric of Marion for $60,628.50; and Pyramid for $29,700 for ongoing expenses in the tower project. Burnworth said the MPX amount is for additional rebar fabrication for the towers, Rex Collins has secured and is storing the tower site generators and Pyramid is acquiring the three tower site shelters on behalf of the county at a lower cost than what was originally bid.

The approximately $3.65 million project will see the construction of three 300-foot radio towers at the former Liberty School at 8270 S. 300 West in Fairmount, 2761 W. Second St. in Marion and 8015 East 500 South in Upland to improve communications between first responders and dispatchers.

The board also approved a $1,710 payment to Muegge Plumbing and Heating of Greenfield to close out that company’s contracted work on the central dispatch facility’s heating and cooling. Auditor Jim McWhirt said the tower construction payments will come out of the general fund appropriation that’s been established for the project, while the Muegge payment will come out of the county 911 fund.

Burnworth said final punch list items are being completed on the new EMS building at Garthwaite Road, with the building expected to be ready for employees to move in in the next two weeks. Once EMS moves into its new offices, officials have previously said they will consider tearing down the “old county home” where current EMS offices reside.

Commissioner Ron Mowery asked what options the county will have to lease out space on the towers once they are up and running. Burnworth said the Upland site on land owned by Gregg Ballinger will already be connected to fiber which will make it more attractive to lease, but down the line the other two sites may be fiber connected as well. The public safety communication apparatus will only take up about the top 50-100 feet of the tower, Burnworth estimated, leaving around 200 feet to lease out to various vendors.

Mowery asked how pricing would be set for the leases, and Burnworth said his company has a sample request for information the county can send out as well as guidance on market value of the tower space. While smaller companies may install small dishes for point to point connectivity, Burnworth said major cell carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile may be interested in leasing space for LTE capabilities.

“With those small point to points, you may actually have a pro gratis for a year or two until they get enough clientele so they can start paying your rent,” he said. “[Cell carriers] are higher rents, just so you know.”

Burnworth said since the county owns the towers, all decisions on leasing and pricing will go through the board of commissioners.

Joyel’s Culture Boutique celebrates grand opening, partnership with Annette’s Treasures

As Joyel’s Culture Boutique celebrated its grand opening on Saturday, another celebration was taking place outside.

The boutique is located inside of Annette’s Treasures at the corner of Adams and 14th streets. The idea to open a boutique was something that owner Aimee Joyel Barnum said she had for a while, but she finally got the chance to realize.

Running hand in hand with the boutique’s opening was an outdoor flea market where numerous vendors all sold their goods and products. Annette’s Treasures owner Laura Chris said there were as many as 20 vendors participating in the event throughout the day.

Within the new boutique, Barnum said she wanted to be able to bring a different style to Grant County.

“I’m hoping I can bring things here that Marion doesn’t have,” said Barnum. “Like I bought Bath and Body Works, Victoria’s Secret. You know, you’ve got to go to Muncie or Kokomo, Fort Wayne because we don’t have that here at a reasonable price.”

Barnum said that she has always stayed busy dividing her focus among several projects, but she wants to be able to focus her energy on one of them. The boutique would give that opportunity, though she has felt the pressure preparing for the opening.

“Oh, it’s been stressful,” said Barnum. “I think I’m like full gray.”

Barnum said she wants to be able to bring a more urban, trendy style to the area, while at the same time having options that are welcoming to all ages.

Barnum and Chris have become close friends in the time the two have worked together on bringing Joyel’s Culture Boutique into the store.

The two share a common goal of spreading the word about the location.

“Me helping her, her helping me, getting the word out of hey this is something different. It’s just a partnership really,” said Barnum.

Chris bought the building that had previously been owned by Habitat for Humanity and used as a resale store and opened Annette’s Treasures with her mother Annette Chris in 2020.

Chris said her mother had always wanted a thrift store of her own, and that is what led to the opening of the store.

The location is also used as a place where vendors such as Barnum can rent a space to sell their goods alongside the items Annette’s Treasures sells, which range from building materials, medical supplies or other items that Chris buys from storage unit auctions and then resells for a mark down.

Chris said that she remodeled or renovated much of the building upon purchasing it, as it had slipped into a state of decay, and she wants to spread the word that there is new business in the building.

“We specifically are in this area for those folks that really can’t afford to buy everything brand spanking new,” said Chris.

Chris said she works with the Grace House, Hope House and Grant County Rescue Mission to help people coming out of their programs furnish a new apartment or home they may be moving into.

“I probably donate a little more than I probably sell,” said Chris. “It’s a really good feeling to be able to help folks.”

Board of Works updates MPD holiday, wage scale policies

The Marion Board of Works discussed changes to Marion Police Department’s (MPD) contracts including updates to holiday pay, bereavement leave and wage scale policies at a regular meeting Monday.

According to the policy changes approved by the Board of Works, all full-time officers will receive full pay for 14 holidays each year, up from the previous policy which had 11 listed holidays.

The additional holidays now being observed are Christmas Eve, primary election day and general election day. These holidays will not be observed, however, if Christmas Eve is on a weekend or if it is a non-election year for the election related days.

Board of Works President Alex Huskey asked why the election days were being added as holidays. MPD Chief Angela Haley said that this move would put MPD in line with the rest of the city’s employees who already got those days as paid holidays.

Changes were also made to the policies around bereavement leave. Employees now may be granted up to one work day of leave in the event of the death of other family members not in their immediate family. The police chief also has the authority to grant additional leave on a case-by-case basis.

Policy changes also addressed entitlements of “lateral” officers, those who already have certification from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, and probationary officers.

Lateral officers are most commonly those who have transferred from one police force to another within the state. Under the new policy, they will be entitled to the same amount of vacation time as that of an MPD officer with the same amount of experience.

These lateral officers will not be able to carry over the same rights to seniority as an MPD officer, though. MPD officers with seniority get the option to choose the days they want off, but the policy states a new lateral officer with the same amount of experience will not receive that benefit.

Huskey asked if the department budget would be able to handle that change.

“We run in a deficit of hiring anyways,” said Haley. “We have open positions we are able to move money over from that to cover any of those expenses.”

Huskey asked if that would be the case if the department was fully staffed, to which Haley said she still did not foresee an issue with the new policy.

The board also approved an adjustment to the wage scale for 2021. In the new policy, which mirrors prior city council action, positions in the department are subject to a 5 percent pay raise across the board.

The board approved the new policies 4-0, with Dana Gault absent from the meeting.

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, 20,251 Grant County residents have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 19,369 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 2,690,103 Hoosiers have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine requiring two doses, and 2,589,796 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) Monday reported 275 new COVID-19 cases statewide. That brings to 747,083 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

A total of 13,269 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of two 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 10,561,804 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to IDOH since Feb. 26, 2020.

CSO advisory

Marion Utilities announced a combined sewer overflow (CSO) advisory for June 7.

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.

EMA director updates commissioners on county COVID trends

Grant County is continuing to report trends in the right direction of its daily COVID counts, but there are still some ongoing causes of concern, according to EMA Director Bob Jackson.

Jackson told Grant County Commissioners Monday that just eight new COVID cases were reported in the county from Friday through Sunday, with Sunday marking the second day in the last two weeks with zero new cases reported.

“We are trending very well,” Jackson said. “Grant County has hopefully finally turned the corner and is moving ahead.”

The county’s death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 177 individuals, Jackson said. Commissioner Mark Bardsley again noted that while some have said COVID is just like the flu, 185 Hoosiers statewide died of flu in 2019 while the 177 Grant County residents alone have died over the 15 months of the pandemic.

“So it’s not just another flu bug,” Bardsley said. “It’s something that has attacked us in a very severe way. We need to continue to keep our guard up...and if we’re in an area we’re unfamiliar with and folks we don’t know, don’t be afraid to mask up if you need to.”

Overall COVID metrics are trending in a positive direction, but Jackson said one “disturbing” area that’s being closely monitored is the number of younger people being admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19 infection.

“There’s still some issues out there particularly with the younger generation,” he said. “We’re looking between 20s and 30s now and even some teens are beginning to struggle with different strains. So we’re not out of the woods, but we’re in a lot better place than we were.”

Jackson said there is pretty much no wait for those wanting to be vaccinated at the county health department or Marion General Hospital. After FEMA brought in two recent pop-up vaccine clinics to Ivy Tech and Allen Temple AME Church, he said the local EMA and health departments are brainstorming other possible pop-up vaccination events to reach people in the community where they are.

“It’s very important that folks if they have not been vaccinated, step up and review what’s available to them and take that step because we’re still trending behind the state on our averages of vaccinations,” Bardsley said.

Jackson said he attended a meeting last week for Indiana EMA Districts 3 and 6 and was thankful that Grant County did not have some of the “horror stories” other counties have reported of officials not working together to fight the pandemic.

“Grant County is doing very well, not only just through the pandemic but also how we’ve managed it,” he said. “So kudos to everybody that has chipped into that as well...A lot of people helped to get us to this place.”