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County considers needs, funding for major facilities projects

With several major facilities projects in progress or planned for the near future, Grant County officials are looking at the big picture of how to fund the projects and what other needs may arise.

Grant County Commissioners and Grant County Council met in a joint session last Wednesday, July 8 to discuss the status of various projects. Commissioner Mark Bardsley said a facilities working group including himself, Councilmen Mike Scott and Shane Middlesworth, County Administrator Justin Saathoff and Maintenance Department Director Vince Beneke identified ongoing projects and estimated costs.

According to Bardsley, the renovation of the Juvenile Detention Center (D-Home) to house both up to 14 juveniles and up to 92 female inmates is projected to cost from $1.2 million to $1.4 million. Phase 2 of the central dispatch technology project, which includes installing three towers across the county for better propagation, is projected to cost $3.7 million.

Continued upgrades at the central dispatch building (the former Salin Bank building in downtown Marion) to better utilize the space is projected to cost nearly $2 million, and Bardsley included the $750,000 loan that was taken out for the central dispatch renovations for a total of approximately $7 million in current facilities projects.

“We’re currently tapped out you could say or maxed out on the amount we could borrow so the only other choice to proceed with this central dispatch phase two would be through a bond or through a lease to purchase of some type,” Middlesworth said. “That got my brain working to think you know what other items down the road are going to come up that we won’t have the cash on hand to take care of? So that kind of falls into more leaning toward a bond issue, and that’s kind of where that all started.”

Bardsley said the working group determined the county should look at other potential problems or issues facing the buildings and include any issues that are projected to cost $100,000 or more with whatever funding mechanism is used to pay for the current projects, such as a bond issue.

Terry Burnworth of Pyramid Architecture, the county’s project managers for the central dispatch project, explained the cost for the Phase 2 towers for the central dispatch increased by $1.3 million to approximately $3.7 million total due to increased costs so that the towers can be used for broadband internet capabilities and include the latest upgrades for public safety radio frequencies.

Middlesworth asked if potential third party businesses seeking to use the towers for broadband could lease the towers and/or pay the cost for the broadband additions when it was wanted. Burnworth said he has already heard some interest from local vendors regarding leasing the towers for broadband, but the county will most likely have to assume the cost for building the broadband capabilities since it will be part of the architecture and structure of the tower itself.

“We feel like the towers and the central dispatch are very important and I think it’s very important personally to finish that propagation issue for officer safety and also to fulfill our commitment to the public safety,” Middlesworth said.

Burnworth also gave an overview of all of the county’s buildings and usage of the buildings, and noted the Salin Bank building is only about 50 percent used right now. He said the building is in need of roof, HVAC, plumbing, parking lot, elevator and other general upgrades so the county can properly utilize it, and estimated about $1.99 million in costs for all of the repairs.

Burnworth recommended an additional $250,000 expenditure to build a pole barn at the current site of the Highway Department Garage Facility on Garthwaite Road in order to sell a current Highway Department storage building on Meridian Street. This would eliminate the need for department employees to transfer equipment from one site to the other when seasons change, he said.

Middlesworth and Bardsley said Highway Department Superintendent David White has requested building a pole barn on the garage property in the past.

County officials also heard a presentation from Ameresco, who previously worked with the county on jail renovations and other projects, about what is needed to renovate the D-Home to house female inmates. Bardsley had previously said the originally estimated price tag of around $250,000 for the renovations is now closer to $1.2 million to $1.4 million due to underlying infrastructure needs at the facility.

Brad Driver of Ameresco said in order for the building to handle doubling its population to up to 92 inmates plus the 14 juveniles, there are several improvements that need to be made, including replacing HVAC rooftop units, hot water boilers and a chiller. Ameresco’s plan would also include outfitting the entire building with LED lights for energy savings and less maintenance needed and additional security cameras.

Scott asked if the cost could go down if the county instead planned to make the facility house up to 50-60 females rather than 92. Driver said the capacity and costs associated with the infrastructure would go down in that scenario, but he cautioned that most of the HVAC equipment is original to when the building was built in 1999 and nearing the end of its useful life anyway.

Sheriff Reggie Nevels said while all 92 beds may not be needed right away, he expects trends in crime will continue upward and the number of inmates will continue to rise over the years. If there are any empty female beds, the county could potentially gain some revenue by filling the facility with inmates from surrounding counties, he said.

“Nothing against you, sheriff, but we were told that when we were building the detention center that we would be housing all these juveniles and it never happened,” Scott responded. “I would rather plan not. If that happens then that’s fine, it’s extra, but I don’t think we move forward with any plans that we would generate any extra revenue on housing additional inmates.”

Nevels also reminded officials that the renovations will require the hiring of additional staff, but as of last Wednesday the sheriff’s department was 18 employees short of full staffing.

“That’s the major holdback,” Nevels said.

Scott said with all of these projects, he wants to be thorough and look at what the future needs will be.

“I’ve sat in on a lot of meetings where somebody has come in asking for more money because it wasn’t included, or oops that wasn’t included, we need $500,000,” Scott said. “I think at this point in time we need to get a firm handle on what that looks like in the near future...and know what we have so when we get into these projects we don’t overlook maybe a system that’s 10 years old and by the time after two years when this renovation is done we need to replace this too.”

Beneke said outside of the major projects discussed, the county annex building is in need of a new chiller as well as a replacement fire alarm panel, both of which would be above the $100,000 threshold for being included in a potential bond issue. The jail also needs to replace a boiler, he said, and overall the maintenance department could use more employees to keep up with all of the county’s buildings.

Middlesworth and Bardsley said the needs and potential funding will be an ongoing discussion between council and commissioners.

Indiana approaches a 'new normal'

The final stage of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s plan to reopen the economy was set to begin July 4.

However, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Holcomb announced on July 1 that Indiana would move into a new phase, Phase 4.5.

“There were some issues going on that made it necessary to move slowly and to slow things down a little bit as we move forward,” said Grant County Health Officer David Moore. “There are a few more options (of things to do).”

In Phase 4.5, Hoosiers are permitted to enjoy limited access to movie theaters, bowling alleys, dining room service and bar seating.

Community member Katina Claud enjoyed bowling Monday afternoon at Crest Lanes, located at 2014 W. 2nd St. in Marion.

“I’m glad it’s reopened. It gives everybody something to do,” she said. “I think everybody was (bored), kind of stir-crazy, so it’s kind of good for everybody that it’s opened.”

Claud said she felt safe going out based on the number of COVID cases in Marion.

Aaron Johnson, the owner of River’s Edge Family Golf Center, said he worked to make sure his customers are safe by closing the indoor golf shop to the public, disinfecting the putters after each use and maintaining social distancing.

“It isn’t too different,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s a great thing to do outside and social distance.”

Because River’s Edge is a seasonal business, Johnson said they opened at the beginning of March and quickly shut down when the stay-at-home order began.

Shutting down hit the family business hard, Johnson said, because they did not qualify for financial assistance.

“We lost a month and a half of business,” he said. “It started slow and now we’re, I would say, about 80 percent of what we should be at in a normal year.”

Johnson said many people call to ask if the business is open.

“We are open and we’ve taken steps to make sure they are safer out here,” he said.

With live music performances are now permitted, co-owner of Bad Dad Brewing Co. in Fairmount Patrick Howard said the brewery is ready to host musical guests.

In following CDC guidelines, Howard said they removed 50 percent of the seating in the dining area, spaces out the tables and expanded outside seating and the beer garden.

On Thursday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. Bad Dad will host local musician Sammy Kay as their first live music performance since March.

While COVID significantly impacted many bars and breweries, Howard said Bad Dad was able to make up for lost beer sales with revenue from pizza takeout.

“Obviously alcohol sales took a hit because people aren’t able to come in and have a pint or two, but pizza definitely surged,” he said. “What we lost in beer sales, we made up in pizza sales.”

The Kingdom Venue in Marion will also be hosting live music including performances by Keith Rea on Friday July 24 at 7:30 and Krista Hoose every first and third Wednesday of the month until December 16.

Although museums are permitted to open, The Quilter’s Hall of Fame and the Hostess House are remaining closed.

Deb Geyer, the executive director of the Quilter’s Hall of Fame, said she plans to reopen on July 28 by appointment only.

Due to COVID restrictions, Geyer said the Quilter’s Hall of Fame cancelled their quilt show that was planned for this month.

“That’s our largest fundraiser of the year, so we cancelled it in April because it became obvious that we were not going to be able to do it,” she said. “We have been very grateful that we have received grants from Indiana Arts Commission and Indiana Humanities.”

According to the AMC website, the Marion movie theatre will remain closed until July 30.

Although more options for activities have become available within Phase 4.5, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend that people wear face coverings, practice social distancing and wash hands often.

“People are still tired of being shut in and shut down and wanting to get out there. Let’s go slowly, let’s go safely, rather than going quickly and maybe creating more issues,” Moore said. “Remember that the end result will be a new normal, not the old normal. If we go back to some of the old ways we’re likely going to end up with some of the old problems.”

Varner leads Chin by one through 36 holes of county tourney

The two men who reside at the top of the leaderboard through the first 36 holes of the 89th edition of the Grant County Amateur golf tournament are in familiar territory.

In fact, Andrew Varner and Todd Chin are among the winningest golfers in the tournament’s history. Varner stands third all-time and has eight championships after winning the past two championships.

Chin, who has opted not to play the past few years, has four Grant County Am titles, which ties him with Jim Gallagher, Jr. for the fifth most trophies.

When Varner and Chin tee it up at 8:20 a.m. Saturday at Walnut Creek for the third round, a single shot will be the difference between the two. The two will be paired with longtime tourney veteran, Pete DeLongchamp, who has battled for many county titles over the past four decades. DeLongchamp has never won a County Am championship, but has been the Senior champion on five occasions.

Chin turned in the best opening round on Saturday at the Elks Country Club and his three-under par, 69, which proved to be the only score under 70. He backed it up on Sunday with a four-under 68 on Sunday at Arbor Trace, yet Chin is still looking up at Varner on the leaderboard.

“I kinda got ahead of myself with the short yardage here,” said Chin after his round at Arbor Trace, noting he left some shots on the course that day.

Chin missed a makable birdie putt on the par-4 first, and settled for par on the first two holes before making birdie on the par-4 third hole. That’s where he stood when he reached the par-5 fifth hole when potential disaster struck.

“I got quick on five, tried to rip one down there to the bottom of the hill,” Chin said. “I hit it out of bounds and made a six there, which is terrible.”

Chin then birdied the par-5 ninth and par-4 10th and said it helped to settle him down.

“Then I kind of stayed patient until the last couple holes and got some decent putts to go and it really salvaged the round for me,” Chin said. “I felt like I had to be in the 60s here, anything in the 60s. I stayed patient, hit decent approaches into 17 and 18 and just focused on my speed (putting) as opposed to line. And I finally got both of them to go in.”

Varner experienced a bit of disaster Saturday at the Elks. He was five under par going to the 15th hole, but an errant shot led to a triple bogey. He made pars on the final three holes to finish with a 2-under 70.

“Through 14 holes, for not playing much golf, I was happy with how I was playing,” Varner said on Saturday. “That swing on 15 deflated me. I made three good pars coming in after that, but you make a triple in a tournament, you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball.”

Varner wasn’t behind the eight ball for long on Sunday, and when all the strokes had been counted in the field of 40 players, he was on top of the leaderboard. Varner carded the best round of the weekend with a 6-under par, 66 to climb back ahead of Chin by a single shot with 36 holes remaining.

“Today I got about everything I could (out of the round). I was pretty solid overall,” Varner said on Sunday. “I just never was comfortable (on Saturday) and I told my wife ‘I’m going to go out there and relax and whatever happens, happens.’”

Varner made six birdies and 12 pars in his largely stress free round on Sunday.

“I knew it was there. I hit the ball well (Saturday) except for that triple,” he said. “With 36 holes to go, anything is possible.”

Scoring on the first day saw 16 men shoot better than 80. Chin, Varner, DeLongchamp, Blake LeFavour (71), Ty Corey (72) and Lance Hoch (72) all shot par or better.

Following Varner’s 66 and Chin’s 68 on Sunday, Hoch, Cody White, Doug Carey and BJ White all finished with 72s. Hoch and DeLongchamp enter the third round tied for third at 144, eight shots off Varner’s lead.

After the second round, the field was separated into four flights, and each one looks to feature some good competition over the final two days.

Tanner Day (76-74) and Gary Ross (77-73) are tied atop the first flight and all 11 players are within seven shots of the lead there.

Tony Smith, the 2019 Grant County Senior Amateur champ, shot a pair of 80s on the weekend and leads the second flight over Adam Corrigan (84-77) and Ethan Gallaway (86-75) by a single shot. An eight shot difference exists between the 10 golfers in the second flight.

Nick Duke enjoys the biggest differential on top of any flights. Duke shot 87-85 and holds a 3-shot advantage over incoming Eastbrook freshman Andrew Jarck (89-86) in the third flight.

Only one woman signed up to play in the 2020 Grant County Amateur, so Jenna Boucher, a 2018 Eastbrook graduate and soon-to-be sophomore player at Indiana Tech opted to take a spot in the men’s field. Boucher turned in consistent rounds of 83 at Elks and 84 at Arbor Trace and sits seventh in the second flight.

“It’s a lot nicer competing with more people than just like one or two that normally sign up for the women’s,” said Boucher, who was women’s champ last year. “It’s a lot like college distance so it’s not a huge change this year. If I did a few years ago this would have been a nightmare.”

Following the third round at Walnut Creek on Saturday, the field heads to Meshingomesia Country Club on Sunday where the champion and flight winners will be crowned.

Grant County Amateur leaderboard

Championship Flight

1. Andrew Varner 70-66--136

2. Todd Chin 69-68--137

T3. Peter Delongchamp 70-74--144, Lance Hoch 72-72--144

T5. Keith Ruberg 73-73--146, Blake LeFavour 71-75--146, Ty Corey 72-74--146, Cody White 74-72--146

9. Doug Carey 75-72--147

First Flight

T1. Tanner Day 76-74--150, Gary Ross 77-73--150

T3. Todd Butcher 75-76--151, BJ White 79-72--151

5. Scott Weaver 77-75--152

6. Robert Etherton 81-73--154

7. Bob Smithson 82-73--155

8. Jared Jarck 77-79--156

T9. Travis Havens 83-74--157, Mike Hicks 81-76--157, Ethan Bowland 79-78--157

Second Flight

1. Tony Smith 80-80--160

T2. Adam Corrigan 84-77--161, Ethan Gallaway 86-75--161

4. Dee Ballinger 85-77--162

5. Kirk Barton 85-79--164

6. Ryan Simpkins 87-78--165

7. Jenna Boucher 83-84--167

T8. Jeffery McVicker II 79-89--168,Greg Allison 84-84--168, Graham Nelson 87-81--168

Third Flight

1. Nick Duke 87-85--172

2. Andrew Jarck 89-86--175

3. Kevin Adkins 89-88--177

T4. Jim Brunner 93-85--178, Brian Cowgill 90-88--178

T6. Brian Gallaway 92-87--179, Jeff Moore 90-89--179

8. Anthony Combs 97-85--182

9. Tanner Stanley 96-91--187

10. Rhett Baker 107-119--226