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Madison’s Jackson Falconberry (0) lifts a hook shot over Bedford North Lawrence’s Colten Leach during Friday’s overtime win at Salm Gym.

BPWS gets hint at water rate increase
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With Madison moving forward with its drinking water infrastructure project, Utility Manager Brian Jackson updated the Madison Board of Public Works and Safety on the rate study being done by Sherman, Barber and Mullikin at Monday’s meeting.

Following a discussion of the annual revenue requirements to fund the improvement and rehabilitation for updating the city’s water system, Jackson said there were two alternatives — one in which the city funds the entire project through borrowing $13 million and the other if the city borrowed $10.5 million in the event Madison receives a $2.5 million contribution from Jefferson County’s American Rescue Plan funds.

The city requested the $2.5 million last summer from County Commissioners, the group that will determine how the county spends its ARP funding, but the Commissioners initially offered $200,000 in a drafted spending outline in August. In a draft at a joint meeting between the County Council and Commissioners in November, the Commissioners upped the allocation for water infrastructure to $1.1 million, but didn’t define how that money will be divided, meaning some could possibly be for other water companies in the county along with strategies for stormwater infrastructure to mitigate possible flash flooding disasters. In the August draft, the Commissioners had allocated $100,000 toward the stormwater project.

Jackson said accountants calculate that a $2.5 million contribution from the county would result in a 10% drop in money borrowed from 77.9% to 67.9%, creating a savings of $182,734 per year, which he said over a 20-year period would result in a $3.7 million savings.

Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said the Commissioners and County Council will meet Tuesday in a joint session to further discuss how the county’s ARP money will be allocated, and he is hopeful for a bigger contribution to the drinking water infrastructure project.

“We have searched for multiple ways to reduce this increase but the lack of investment the past two decades combined with the cumulative impact from inflation over the past 14 years along with extremely high demand for grant funds, has brought us to this point,” said Courtney. “We certainly wish we could postpone the investment in our sustainable water resource but we can’t.”

Whatever is decided, Jackson said the city will be moving forward with its drinking water infrastructure project. “One way or another we’re moving forward in January either with or without their money.”

Courtney said he anticipates that by the first meeting in January that ordinances will be drafted and the rate study will be finalized, and that information will be shared at that time with the Board of Public Works and Safety and City Council.

“A 10% reduction in rates for users. That’s a big deal,” said BPWS member Karl Eaglin. “There are so many people on fixed incomes in the city and the county. I think the Commissioners need to look at this real hard.”

Courtney said whether the city receives more funding assistance from the county’s ARP funds will impact what the final rate will be. But he said it’s work that must be done. “It’s been 20 years since we’ve invested in drinking water infrastructure,” and it’s work he says needs to done for the safety and health of 20,000 city and county residents that use the water.

In other business, the board:

• Approved an extension to close the southbound lane on Broadway Street on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. between Main and Third streets for the Winter Farmers Market until the end of April. The board had earlier approved the closure until the end of this year.

• Approved PACE extensions for four properties by D Wolf Enterprises LLC until Jan. 19, 2023 — 815 Walnut Street, 819 Walnut Street, 821 Walnut Street and 926 Walnut Street. Nicole Schell, the city’s director of planning, said all of the projects have started, but “there’s one crew working on all four so it’s going slow” although it’s anticipated the work will be completed in less than the year. The board also approved a PACE final payout of $12,500 for 613 Mulberry Street, a property owned by Judith Koehler.

Holly Jolly Santa Celebration
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Hanover’s first-ever Holly Jolly Santa Celebration, held as part of Hanover’s Tinsel Twinkle Trail events, brought families to the Hanover Community Park last weekend.

The event took place as scheduled — despite a steady downpour of rain Friday evening — with festivities moved inside the Community Building then and again on Saturday evening.

Hanover Community Park was brightened with Christmas lights and decorations on the Tinsel Twinkle Trail, and will continue to shine along the park’s walking trail from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31.

“The town of Hanover wanted to something special for Christmas,” said Hanover town council board member Debbie Kroger.

Last weekend, the Holly Jolly Santa Celebration provided a festive atmosphere with Santa Claus and several other holiday characters, along with a bicycle give-away to 180 children from Southwestern schools. “That was awesome,” said Kroger, citing the many donations of bicycles that were received, and noting the children “were very excited.”

There was also the inaugural Sugar Plum Bake Off, organized by Meg Bramer. Judges included Andrew Welenken, executive chef of Hanover College; Dr. Sarah Fantin, professor of Biochemistry at Hanover College; Vanessa Felix-Goode, chef and instructor of Culinary Arts at the Prosser Career Education Center; Debbie Kroger; Jeremy Miller and Stew Hizey.

Kayla Wilson of Hanover won Best-in-Show with her white chocolate peppermint cookie.

Wilson also took first for holiday cookies. Felicia Smith of Hanover was second in that category with maple scotch cookies and Jersey Center of Madison was third with lemon cake mix cookies.

In the candy category, Jill DeAtley of Hanover was first with caramels, Denise Leiske of Madison was second with peanut brittle and Beverly Harrison of Hanover was third with cherry divinity.

For decorated cookies, Theresa Hitchcock of Hanover was first with mint chocolate meringue, Moriah Murphy of Madison was second with decorated tree sugar cookies and Alexandria Nay of Madison was third with decorated tree sugar cookies.

First prize in each category was $250, second place was $150 and third place received $100.

3 Madison elementary schools earn badge distinction
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Three of Madison’s elementary schools have earned a badge distinction in student achievement by ranking in the top 30% in the state, according to a report issued by U.S. News and World Report.

Out of 1,134 public elementary schools in Indiana, Rykers’ Ridge Elementary ranks 98th, Deputy Elementary is 109th and Lydia Middleton is 236th.

“We continue to be very proud of the work we do each day district-wide,” said Madison Consolidated Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Studebaker. “Education in today’s world continues to be challenging work but our staff is committed to meeting students where they are, investing in their academic success, social and emotional health, and nurturing them to be the best they can be each day. We embrace the philosophy that together we work to make each student succeed, one day at a time.”

As noted in a release from USNWR, in order to be badge-eligible, public elementary and middle schools must rank in the top 30% in their state. Schools were assessed partially on their students’ proficiencies in math and reading, as measured by their state assessment tests. The other half of the assessment considered factors around the context of the socioeconomic demographics within each school. “In other words, the top-ranked schools are high achieving ones that succeeded in education all of their students,” the release read.

U.S. News has published state rankings for more than 47,000 public elementary schools and more than 23,000 middle schools. The report goes into great detail on each school, well beyond the ranking itself.

“The report is a great way to glean a user-friendly, visual look at the things we are doing each day with students,” said Studebaker. “Our strategic plan had a very intentional, focused academic structure and we are starting to see the payoff of this intentional approach across all buildings.”

Along with the state ranking, the report includes test results (including proficiency and performance rankings), enrollment information, and socioeconomic demographic information.

“We understand that the education of all students must encompass all aspects of each student’s particular situation,” Studebaker continued. “We know that goes well beyond the curriculum and the classroom.”

Holiday Closings
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Jefferson County government offices and government offices in the City of Madison and Town of Hanover will be closed today and Friday, Dec 23-24, for the Christmas holiday.

Offices at all three local governmental facilities will reopen on Monday, Dec. 27. They will also be closed on Friday, Dec. 31, for the New Year’s holiday and reopen on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

City of Madison garbage pickup will run today on its regular schedule.

Holiday hours and days for the City of Madison Transfer Station are: 8 a.m. to noon today and then closed on Friday, Dec. 24 and Saturday, Saturday, Dec. 25 as well as closed on Friday, Dec. 31 and Saturday, Jan. 1.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles office is closed today for Washington’s Birthday and Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24 and 25 for Christmas as well as again on Friday, Dec. 31 and Saturday, Jan 1.

The US Post Office in Madison will be open from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Friday, Dec. 24 but closed on Saturday Dec. 25 and Saturday, Jan 1.

First Omicron cases found in Indiana, Kentucky
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Indiana and Kentucky have both reported their first cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Carroll County has reported its 33rd virus-related death of the pandemic.

Carroll’s new death combined with the 28 deaths in Trimble County, 14 in Switzerland County and 110 in Jefferson County makes the overall COVID death toll 185 in the four county area.

On Sunday, omicron infection was detected in a test sample collected from an unvaccinated Indiana resident, the Indiana Department of Health said. No information about the patient was released, with the health department citing privacy laws. The test sample was collected on Dec. 9 and the omicron variant was detected this weekend, the health department said.

On Friday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also confirmed that state’s first case of the omicron variant.

Beshear noted cases of COVID-19 are going up — pointing to the previously identified delta variant — which he referred to as “our enemy No. 1.”

Beshear said the state had 2,582 new cases and 35 additional deaths. A total of 11,754 people have died from the virus in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Carroll County now has had 2,245 positive cases of COVID-19, an increase of five over the previous day, as well as the 33rd death. Carroll’s positivity rate is now 16.88%.

Trimble County’s death count was unchanged with 28. Trimble has had 1,448 cases of COVID-19, an increase of four over the last day. Trimble’s positivity rate is 28.95%

Jefferson County reported 41 new positive cases of COVID-19, making the overall total 6,421 and a 15.2% positivity rate. Switzerland County had eight new positive cases increasing the total there to 1,569 with a positivity rate of 16.8%.

Indiana on Friday reported 5,181 new cases of COVID-19 for an overall total of 1,181,554 and 53 new deaths for a total of 17,751.