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Madison girls rally in fourth to knock off Jennings

The Giving Season
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With the American Red Cross blood supply at historically low levels, having the auditorium at the Madison Jefferson County Public Library filled with donors giving blood on Thursday afternoon is a holiday gift that saves lives.

“It’s been steady and busy all day,” said Jacqueline Pruitt, mobile phlebotomist with the American Red Cross. “The strong turnout has been good,” which is encouraging “because of the shortage that’s going on.”

Earlier this week, Amber Youngblood, Senior director of communication for the Kentucky region of the American Red Cross, had issued a plea for donors while noting the lack of blood on had was a serious concern.

“Right now, the American Red Cross blood supply is at historically low levels. We’re at a point where some patients relying on a transfusion may not receive the blood they need,” Youngblood said. “If more donors don’t come forward to give blood, some patients requiring a transfusion may potentially face delays in care.”

To encourage donations this month, all who donate between Dec. 17 and Jan. 2 will receive an exclusive Red Cross long-sleeved T-shirt, while supplies last.

The next blood donation opportunity in Jefferson County will be Wednesday, Dec. 29, at Hanover United Methodist Church, 220 East Lagrange Road, Hanover, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Madison resident Betsey Vonderheide was one of those on hand Thursday to give the gift of life. She has been a regular blood donor for many years and her blood donation on Thursday was her 40th

“It’s really important to do, and I’m glad I could come in to help,” Vonderheide said.

According to the Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood, which is essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses and traumatic injuries.

Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services, said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Cross has experienced challenges collecting blood due to blood drive cancellations and surging hospital demand.

“We recognize that this is a trying time for our country as we balance the new demands of returning to former routines with the ongoing pandemic, but lifesaving blood donations remains essential for hospital patients in need of emergency and medical care that can’t wait,” he said.

Donors are urged to schedule an appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). There is no blood donation waiting period for those who have received a flu shot or a Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine or booster, so long as they are symptom-free.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions — including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status — have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the blood drive site.

COVID surge filling up Indiana hospital beds
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A surge in COVID-19 cases in Indiana and related hospitalizations with the illness topped 3,000 people this week for the first time in nearly a year, according to tracking by the state health department.

About a quarter of those patients are in hospital intensive care units where COVID cases and other severe illnesses have given the state’s hospitals their highest-ever total patient counts of about 12,000, according to the Indiana Hospital Association.

In addition, Indiana is averaging about 35 COVID deaths per day this month.

In Jefferson County, the number of COVID-19 positive cases has been high this week with Jefferson County Health Department Administrator Tammy Monroe noting that Wednesday’s increase of 89 new cases was the second-highest in Jefferson County since the beginning of the pandemic.

“This is not the time to let our guard down,” particularly going into the winter months while dealing with COVID-19 variants,” Monroe said. “As we go into the winter months and people are moving indoors we just need to be more diligent.”

On Thursday, reports from the Indiana Department of Health showed Jefferson County with 33 new cases of COVID-19 in the last day, increasing overall total to 6,394, and a 14.6% positivity rate. In Switzerland County, there were 15 new cases of COVID-19 for an overall total of 1,561 and a 19.5% positivity rate. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Department of Public health reported a one-day increase of four new COVID-19 cases in Trimble County for an overall total of 1,444 and a 25.86% positivity rate. There were six new cases in Carroll County for a total of 2,240 and a 18.59% positivity rate.

There were no new deaths reported with Jefferson County’s total remaining at 110, Carroll at 32, Trimble at 28 and Switzerland at 14.

So far in the month of December there have been a total of 16 COVID deaths in the four Courierarea counties.

On Thursday, there was a hearing by the Indiana House of Representatives for a bill that includes administrative actions that Gov Eric Holcomb says would allow him to end the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency that’s been in place since March 2020.

Holcomb has said he would end the statewide public health emergency if lawmakers approved steps that would allow the state to keep receiving enhanced federal funding for Medicaid expenses and those eligible for food assistance programs, along with allowing the state health commissioner to issue a standing doctor’s order for the administration of COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11.

Holcomb said Wednesday he believed those items had “universal agreement” and should be dealt with separate from the vaccine requirement issue which is also under consideration.

“Why not deal with what we agree on, get that out of the way and then have our discussion?” Holcomb said.

House Republicans have taken up the effort they maintain would protect individual rights by forcing employers to grant exemptions to workers who claim medical or religious objections to any workplace COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Republican House Majority Leader Matt Lehman of Berne, who is sponsoring the bill, described the measure Thursday as ensuring individual liberties so that people wouldn’t lose their jobs over not being willing to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

“We must protect Hoosier workers,” Lehman said. “The genesis of this, the reason that we need to continue, is that we need to make sure Hoosier workers are protected.”

Indiana has the country’s ninth lowest rate for a fully vaccinated population at 51.5%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight rural counties scattered around the state have vaccination rates below 40%.

Dr. Gabriel Bosslet, an Indiana University Health critical care physician, told the committee that he’s seen people “die needlessly” because they didn’t get vaccinated and was frustrated with an intensive care unit where nearly all COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. “The message this bill sends is that vaccines are not important,” Bosslet said. “Vaccines are important. They are the only way to end this.”

Trilogy plans to subdivide houses on West Street
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Trilogy Health Services LLC inquired this week about creating a five lot subdivision with five historic homes located on the West Street side of its downtown River Terrace Health Campus.

The homes, former residential housing in the 500 block of West Street bought up over several years by previous owner King’s Daughters’ Health and used for a range of business and professional offices, were part of the downtown health campus KDH sold to Trilogy after KDH built and opened a new hospital and health campus on Madison’s hilltop in 2013.

Trilogy took over the former hospital site that same year and the buildings have been mostly unused since, some with paint peeling and steps in disrepair. But with several other homes in the 500 and 600 block of West Street currently undergoing improvements, the plan is apparently to subdivide the five structures from the health campus and either develop them as residential housing or put them on the market.

Bill Pettit, of Pettit & Associates, was before the Madison Plan Commission this week for an advisory hearing to determine what action will be needed to make that happen. Zoned Central Business District now, the property could possibly return to residential.

According to Devon Sharpe, attorney for the Planning Board, a variance will be needed to split the houses from the health campus to form a subdivision and then a rezoning or conditional use permit could possibly be needed depending on their purpose in the future.

The houses, all located in the city’s historic district and listed as contributing structures, can be repaired and preserved but any renovation of exteriors would have to comply with historic district guidelines.

The Plan Commission met for about 10 minutes Monday and the advisory hearing was the only discussion. The actual application for a variance, which would require adopting a variance and a plat for the five homes, could be back before Plan Commission at its next meeting.

Later on Monday, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals held its final meeting of 2021 with a couple of topics of interest on the agenda of which only one drew any discussion.

Included in the BZA’s agenda was a request by the Indiana Veterans Memorial Cemetery for a variance to expand the number of grave sites on the current cemetery rounds located at 1415 MSH N. Gate Road.

Opened in 1999, the cemetery is the final resting place for about 2,500 veterans and their spouses. About half of the 110-acre site had been developed by 2010 and was ready for up to 58,000 burials.

Since no representative was on hand to discuss the application, the BZA voted to table the request until its next meeting.

A second request did draw considerable discussion before the BZA voted to approve a conditional use permit for a former warehouse structure, located at 928 Park Avenue, to be utilized as an event venue.

Chad Gray said the plan is to use the former Mayflower Moving Company warehouse as an event venue limited to the ground floor. Gray said recent renovations would allow space for about 250 to 300 guests with on-site parking and facilities to accommodate catering for parties, weddings and other large gatherings.

Gray said the architect and fire marshal have both indicated the space could safely accommodate up to 300 visitors but formal permits and business licenses have not yet been sought. Parking on-site could handle about 55 vehicles with four handicapped spaces and additional on-street and off-site parking is available.

Gray said his family has been working on the site, originally the location of a brewery in the 1900s, for about four years to convert space once used for brewing, warehousing, tool and die making and even a hemp grow room.

Bernard Kelley, who lives next door to the property, said he had no concerns about noise, parking or traffic but that the number of people and hours are a concern especially since the city’s sewage system on that end of downtown might be insufficient to handle the bathroom needs of 300 guests. He said when sewers have overflowed in the past, they have emptied into the basement at 928 Park Avenue and his backyard.

Gray said sewage needs are an issue to be determined but that if upgrades are required he would do that because he doesn’t want raw sewage backing up into his basement or nearby yards. He noted there were no issues when the second floor was used as a grow room requiring large amounts of water discharge.

Gray said that with 15-inch brick walls and double-paned windows, the amount of sound escaping the building should be acceptable to neighbors. He said he’d like to remain open until at least 1 a.m. because downtown bars and other venues in Madison are open until 3 a.m.

According to Gray, the venue would be by reservation only and not a nightclub or bar. However, he does intend to pursue an alcohol license to be able to provide for guests and catering. He said there is much work left to be done and permits to obtain so it could be six months before the facility can open.

The BZA approved a conditional use permit for two years with stipulations that traffic patterns discussed during the meeting be implemented, that there be no outdoor music at the site and that occupancy be limited to 250 guests.

Local police charge 8 in multiple cases
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Two convicted felons arrested by Madison police Thursday were found to be in possession of handguns and narcotics.

Cory W. Vessels, 33, and Megan Marie Vessels, 30, both of Milton, Kentucky, were taken into custody after being located at the Madison Walmart.

Madison Police were dispatched to Lowe’s Home Improvement after a report of suspicious activity. After receiving a description of those involved, officers searched the area until they were found at Walmart.

Officers identified Cory Vessels who they knew had an active warrant for his arrest. As Patrolmen Curtis Shelpman and Ben Flint approached Vessels, they saw him reach into the waistband of his pants. He was quickly detained, and a subsequent check of the waistband, found a .40-caliber handgun.

Flint and his K-9 partner, Meko, conducted an open air sniff of the vehicle in which Cory and Megan Vessels were previously observed, and Meko alerted positive for the presence of narcotics. During the subsequent search, officers located methamphetamine, paraphernalia associated with the use of narcotics, and another handgun in a purse belonging to Megan Vessels.

Cory Vessels faces preliminary charges of being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm, a Level 5 felony; Possession of Methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; Possession of Paraphernalia, a Class C misdemeanor, and on an active Jefferson County warrant for Failure to Appear on a previous Operating While Intoxicated charge.

Megan Vessels faces preliminary charges of being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm, a Level 5 felony; Possession of Methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; and Possession of Paraphernalia, a Class C misdemeanor.

Both were lodged in the Jefferson County Jail without bond.

Capt. Season Jackson and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy James Webster assisted with the investigation.

Elsewhere on Thursday, police responding to a report of a toddler having ingested a narcotic arrested a Madison couple on three counts of felony Neglect of a Dependent Child.

On Oct. 25, Madison Det. Jeremey Perkins responded to an incident at the family’s residence that led to the toddler being treated at King’s Daughters’ Hospital emergency room then later transported to Louisville for further treatment.

The investigation, led by Perkins in conjunction with the Department of Children Services, determined Joshua A. Abbott, 40, and Mistie Abbott, 35, both of Madison, parents of the child, did not possess a valid prescription for the narcotic the toddler reportedly ingested, resulting in arrest warrants being sought and received for both parents.

“It was a very serious situation before a little kid ingesting a narcotic,” Madison Police Chief John Wallace said. “The child actually had to have Narcan used on him at the hospital.”

Both parents were taken into custody without incident and transported to the Jefferson County Jail charged with Level 3 felonies. Bond for each was set at $50,000 cash only.

Officers Shawn Scudder, Chad Wehner, Jared Sweet and Megan Kloss assisted Perkins in the investigation.

Also on Thursday, Hanover Police arrested Robert Lee Vincent, 33, Cross Plains, after they followed his truck and determined there was a warrant for his arrest, which was confirmed when he stopped the vehicle at the Shell gas station in Hanover.

During the arrest officers located methamphetamine, paraphernalia and other narcotic-related items.

Vincent has been charged with Dealing Methamphetamine, a Level 4 felony; Possession of Methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; Maintaining a Common Nuisance, a Level 6 felony; Possession of Legend Drug, a Level 6 felony, and Possession of Paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. He was lodged in the county jail without bond.

On Wednesday, a welfare check concerning a child led to two arrests by Madison Police involving Audra Elaine Gray, 42, Madison, and Gerald A. Beamus, 46, Louisville, on narcotic related charges.

After going to Gray’s West Fourth Street residence, Sgt. Aaron Watson noted an odor of marijuana which led to a search and the discovery of marijuana, methamphetamine and paraphernalia associated with the use of drugs.

Gray was taken into custody and faces preliminary charges of Possession of Methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; Possession of Marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor; and Possession of Paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. Beamus was charged with Visiting a Common Nuisance, a Class B misdemeanor. Both were lodged in the county jail with Gray released on a $1,000 full cash bond and Beamus released on his own recognizance.

Jackson, Shelpman, and the Department of Child Services provided assistance.

On Sunday, Hanover Police were dispatched to a residence concerning an active physical domestic situation and arrested Benjamin Carpenter LaPointe, 25, Hanover, without incident.

LaPointe is charged with Domestic Battery, a Level 5 felony, and Domestic Battery, a Level 6 felony (2 counts). He was lodged in the county jail on a $25000 cash bond.

Hanover police were assisted by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County has seen an influx of counterfeit $20 bills, according to Wallace, who encourages merchants to closely check all paper money before accepting it. Anyone with information regarding counterfeit activities should contact the detective division of the Madison Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department or Hanover Police Department.