Local residents will be encouraged to decorate their homes and light up Madison and Jefferson County with holiday glow in the Visit Madison Inc. Make Madison Merry! decorating contest, organized by Nights Before Christmas, Madison Main Street and the City of Madison.
Participation is open to all residents of Jefferson County and entry is free. The contest is for exterior decorations only including decorations in windows that are visible from the exterior. Judging will be done from outside the residence only and based on “curb appeal” in terms of what can be seen from the street.
Registration applications are available online and at the Visitors Center, 601 West First Street, and must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 26, in order to participate in the decorating contest and to be part of the Merry Madison Map of decorated homes.
The deadline to have decorations in place is Dec. 1 and participants should ensure that all lights, animations and decorations are in in place and activated during evening hours — approximately 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. — from Dec. 1 to Dec. 31.
Judging will take place from Dec. 6-11 with entries assessed and winners chosen in the following categories: Clark Griswold Award for best use of excessive lights and decorations, Most Creative for outstanding artistic ability and/or unique use of decorations, and People’s Choice Award to the entry with the most “likes” on its photograph when posted in a Facebook album during the judging time period.
To be considered for the People’s Choice Award, photos must be submitted by participants to firstname.lastname@example.org on or before Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. Please include the name and address in subject line. A confirmation email will be sent once the entry has been read.
Winners will be announced for each category on Dec 14. Three $100 prizes will be awarded — one for each category — in the form of Chamber Cash to be used at participating community businesses.
In addition to the home decorating contest, there is also a contest for local businesses and organizations in which the winners will be announced at Light Up Madison at the Broadway Fountain at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 26.
Four out of 10 Hoosier adults are still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — a total that is running about 50% in Jefferson County and 34% in Switzerland County — as Indiana’s sluggish vaccination rate coincides with recent increases in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, state health officials said.
The Indiana Department of Health said Friday that 59.8% of Indiana residents 18 and older are now fully vaccinated. Fewer than 3.4 million Hoosiers had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday after a daily increase of just 1,918.
However, about 50.2% of Jefferson County residents have taken at least their first rounds of vaccine while 33.8% have gotten the shot in Switzerland County.
More than 543,000 Hoosiers have not only taken the initial vaccination but have already gotten vaccine boosters
Indiana’s hospitalizations due to COVID-19 had been on a downward trajectory since mid-September but those hospitalizations have been climbing again over the past week and the state’s death toll continues to climb.
Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations increased daily with COVID-19 patients occupying 15.1% of Indiana’s intensive care unit beds, according to Indiana’s virus dashboard.
Indiana’s moving average of daily cases, meanwhile, has climbed from about 1,700 to more than 2,200 over the past week.
So far there have been 1,055,571 positive cases of COVID-19 in Indiana and 16,535 total deaths.
Jefferson County has seen 5,411 positive cases — out of 22,306 tests administered — and 102 deaths while Switzerland has had 1,393 test positive — from 5,676 tests — and 12 deaths. The positivity rating in Jefferson is currently 10.5% and 3.4% in Switzerland County while Jefferson’s infection metric is 1.5 to Switzerland County’s 1.0.
Elsewhere in Kentucky, there have been 10,214 COVID deaths overall in 759,935 cases.
Carroll County has had 1,970 cases and 28 deaths with 69 residents hospitalized —10 of those in intensive case —for a 9.09 positivity percentage with 47% vaccinated.
Trimble County has had 1,275 cases and 17 deaths with 39 residents hospitalized — nine of those in intensive care — for a 10.71 positivity percentage and 34% vaccinated.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear led a somber memorial service Sunday to remember the more than 10,000 Kentuckians who died from COVID-19.
To showcase the enormity of the loss, Beshear noted Kentucky’s death toll from the global pandemic has surpassed the population of many towns across the state.
“Imagine any of those towns suddenly empty and you get an idea of the collective loss that this state has endured,” the governor said.
Beshear announced that Kentucky-native Amanda Matthews has been commissioned to create a COVID-19 Memorial that will be placed on the statehouse grounds.
Those lost in the pandemic were remembered in prayers and speeches during the ceremony.
“My faith teaches me that every individual is a child of God, unique and irreplaceable,” Beshear said. “That means their lives and their losses deserve our respect and our attention.”
A Hanover man has been sentenced to serve 31 years in the Indiana Department of Correction in connection with a 2019 domestic attack that included the strangulation, battery and criminal confinement of his girlfriend at the time.
Richard Dale Talbott, 57, has been in custody since Oct. 29, 2019. He was convicted on four felony charges by a Jefferson County Circuit Court jury at a trial that concluded on Oct. 12, 2021 and found to be a habitual felony offender.
Circuit Judge DJ Mote imposed a sentence of 31 years — 17 of that for being a habitual felony offender — to be served in the Indiana Department of Correction on charges of Criminal Confinement and Aggravated Battery, both Level 3 felonies and Domestic Battery and Strangulation, both Level 6 felonies.
Talbott’s criminal history includes several convictions for battery, dating back to 1986, domestic battery and being a felon in possession of ammunition, which was enough for him to also be found guilty as a habitual felony offender.
Talbott represented himself in the trial.
“This was a vicious, violent attack, and I’m relieved the jury convicted Mr. Talbott,” Jefferson County Prosecutor David R. Sutter said. “He has a long history of violent behavior, and he terrified the woman in this attack.”
Sutter said he was pleased with the outcome of the trial and credited Chief Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Campbell and Deputy Prosecutor Lynda Robison for their work in prosecuting the case. He also thanked the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance throughout the trial.
Sutter said testimony from several expert witnesses was key. Those witnesses included Caryn Burton with ICADV and Dr. William Smock. Sutter thanked Indiana State Police Detective Nate Adams, Hanover Chief of Police Shane Caldwell and former Hanover PD Reserve Officer Gary Rowlett for their work as well.
The incident occurred on Oct. 28, 2019. Police were called for a domestic violence report the following day. The victim said Talbott had assaulted her, strangling her to the point that she almost passed out. Talbott would not let her leave. She had a sore throat and marks on her face and neck.
The woman, who was dating Talbott, said he became angry when she decided to leave due to his behavior. As she tried to run out of the house, she said Talbott grabbed her around the throat, pinning her to the ground. Talbott spoke abusively to the woman, threatening to kill her, and continuing to choke her. The woman told police she believed she would die.
Talbott eventually released his grip and let her get up and use the bathroom. However, he isolated her in the bathroom, issuing further threats and shoving her against the tub.
Talbott refused to allow the woman to leave, but eventually wanted to go to the liquor store. The woman told police she knew that was her chance to escape. She waited until Talbott went inside, then drove away.
When police went to Talbott’s home later, he denied all the allegations, saying he did not touch or physically harm the woman.
“Mr. Talbott has clearly demonstrated that he is a dangerous and volatile man,” said Sutter. “I am grateful the victim in this case no longer has to be in fear of him, and I’m glad he will be in prison where he won’t be able to harm another woman.”
Work to mitigate future flash flooding in Madison and Jefferson County will take years to complete, but Madison’s Board of Public Works and Safety took some short-term steps toward that goal at Monday’s meeting by approving a contract for vegetation remediation along a portion of Crooked Creek.
A $25,000 contract with Pike’s Tree Care of Madison was approved for tree and brush removal along Crooked Creek from West Jefferson Street to West Street to improve the unimpeded flow of storm runoff by foliage or trees. The work will be completed between now and March 31.
Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said a survey was done on the entire length of the watershed, and the most urgent work is from Jefferson to West streets because “it’s the narrowest area in the whole watershed channel that overflows those banks and created the flooding in that area.”
He added that vegetation has not been “remediated there for 15 years and it’s very overgrown, and it has impeded the flow of stormwater through the Crooked Creek watershed out to the river.”
Courtney noted that Madison City Council has appropriated American Rescue Act funds for stormwater infrastructure, and funds from that grant will be used for the project.
Courtney added that there is private property in the area targeted for vegetation remediation but the city will work with the property owners. “It’s urgent that we do this because there’s already damage to retaining walls along that area,” he said.
“This is only one part to a long-term strategy to bring solutions to mitigate damage from future flash flooding events,” he said, as the city works long-term with the Army Corp of Engineers, Indiana Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources. “About a year from now as studies wind down” on how best to address ways to mitigate the flash flooding events, “they will begin offering us solutions that we will then have to figure out how we build that infrastructure.”
Beyond the impact of the June flash flooding that impacted North Walnut Street and other parts of Jefferson County, Courtney said it’s important the city “pay attention to all culverts and drainage in the interior of the community so we can mitigate flooding.”
Board member David Carlow asked about removing debris, logs and tree limbs that might be in the creek bed,. Courtney said that once this project is done, the city wants to work with the Department of Natural Resources to get into the creek bed — a special permit from the DNR if required to take equipment into the creek bed — but that the vegetation remediation does not require a permit.
“It’s all part of that strategy short-term, and then long-term,” Courtney said. “I personally think we’re going to have some really good outcomes with all the attention and focus we’re making on planning that will have some good outcomes in the future.”
In other business, the BPWS:
• Approved a highway utility agreement with the Indiana Department of Transportation to relocate a storm sewer at State Road 56 and Ferry Street. Brian Jackson, city utilities manager, said the cost is $60,942, and city’s contribution will be $7,500. Jackson estimates the work could begin in September of 2022. He said the project deals with drainage issues INDOT is working to correct to divert runoff from draining onto private property and instead direct it to state-owned and public property. “It’s in disrepair now. There’s a sinkhole that has been fixed, but it will just get worse.”
• Deputy Mayor Mindy McGee updated work on Main Street to the top of Hanover Hill, noting that it is near completion. Mastic repair for deeper cracks and holes is being done early this week. She said 12 turn arrows, two crosswalks and two parking spaces still need to be painted.
• Approved an addition to police Standard Operating Procedures to set guidelines for police officers in their use of social media. Police Chief John Wallace noted that as law enforcement officers they are dealing with sensitive information, not just for the police department but in the Courts. Additionally, he said that even as officers participate in social media, “they need to think how they represent the community.”
• Courtney discussed a vaccine mandate that could impact the City of Madison because the city has more than 100 employees. He said due to lawsuits the vaccine mandate has been delayed until Jan. 4. “It’s working it’s way through the court system. We’re not in favor of mandatory vaccines. It’s not a position on the vaccine itself, but in a labor market where we’re already constrained this does not make sense,” he said.
• Courtney said he will be watching to see how President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill impacts the city. “We don’t have a lot of detail information of what that means to the City of Madison, but to the State of Indiana it could generate between $8 to $9 billion for infrastructure across the state” impacting roads, bridges and broadband. “It will be like everything else awarded on a very competitive basis because of the demand for those dollars. We will continue to work hard to get the City of Madison’s fair share of any of these funds, and continue our progress in improving our roads, sidewalks and infrastructure, and particularly stormwater management.”
• Approved two PACE extensions, both due to contractor work delays — one was for Jennifer Joas for 413 East Main Street with that project extended to Feb. 16 and the other was for Lynn Pennington for 227 West Main Street extended to May 31.