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Skateboarder dies in crash involving off-duty deputy
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Indiana State Police are investigating a fatal traffic crash that occurred in the 1500 block of Clifty Drive on Monday night in which a skateboarder riding on the highway in the dark was struck by an off-duty Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy in his patrol vehicle.

Hunter Alan Robinson, 22, of Vevay, sustained fatal injuries in the collision and was pronounced dead at the scene by Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Logan Gray.

Based on the initial investigation by Trooper Andrew Garrett and the Indiana State Police-Versailles Crash Reconstruction Team, Robinson was traveling west on Clifty Drive on a skateboard in the roadway when the patrol vehicle, also traveling west and driven by Deputy James T. Webster, 51, of Madison, struck Robinson. Webster was not injured in the accident.

The crash occurred near Rose Street shortly before 10 p.m. Webster was off-duty at the time of the accident but driving his Jefferson County Sheriffs Department-issued 2016 Ford Explorer.

A neighbor who lives near the impact area heard a loud bang from inside his home and went outside to check on what had happened. He said it was already dark at the time of the crash and that the victim appeared to be wearing dark clothes.

The section of Clifty Drive where the accident occurred is five lanes wide — two lanes east and two lanes west with a turn lane in the middle — but there is no sidewalk nor street lamps in the area of the crash. Conditions were so dark that Madison fire trucks were brought in to provide light for the crash investigation.

The investigation is ongoing and toxicology results are pending. However, drugs and alcohol are not suspected to be factors in the crash, state police said.

Investigators are attempting to locate the operator of a second vehicle that was observed near the scene at the time of the crash. A light colored SUV/crossover vehicle may have been involved or a witness to the crash and state police would like to speak to that driver as part of their investigation. Anyone with information about the crash is urged to contact Garrett at ISP-Versailles at 812-689-5000.

Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Thomas issued a statement Wednesday morning noting that although Webster was not physically injured in the collision, he is “currently on administrative leave to allow investigators to conduct the investigation and for the involved deputy to process the tragic event(s).”

“My heartfelt sympathy goes out to those who have been and will be affected by this tragic incident,” Thomas said.

The Indiana State Police was assisted by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department, Madison Police Department, Hanover Police Department, Jefferson County Communications, Madison Fire Department, King’s Daughters’ Health EMS, Jefferson County Coroners Office, and Stanley’s Wrecker Service.

Charlie’s Beat
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They say music soothes the soul (and the savage beast). But laughter nourishes the soul unlike any other human reaction.

“Tickets to comedy shows should be covered by people’s health insurance,” says Tom Sobel, long-time comedy show producer and the driving force behind the comedy night coming to the Red Bicycle Hall on May 21.

“I’ve seen studies that say laughter actually improves the function of the human immune system,” Tom continues, “and that a 30-second belly laugh delivers the same cardiac benefit as a 20-minute cardio workout.”

If that last statistic is true, then attending one of Tom’s comedy shows should provide the health benefits of running a full marathon. His comedians are top level pros with proven track records on television, stage and radio.

“Our headliner for the Red Bike show, Mike Armstrong, holds the unofficial title of Bob & Tom’s Favorite Ex-Cop. Mike has appeared on HBO, Comedy Central, Fox and CNT as well as opening for major musical acts such as Michael Buble, Alan Jackson, Tracy Lawrence and David Allan Coe, Sobel said.

In addition to Mike Armstrong, the Red Bike Comedy Night will feature Van Gunter and Jake Hovis. “Van is a Detroit guy, and he was a comedy club headliner himself for over 15 years. He retired for awhile and now he’s coming back out on the road.

“Our MC host for the night is Jake Hovis, one of the ‘big boys’ of comedy, standing at 6 feet 8 inches tall, and weighing in at … well, I’ll let Jake tell you that. He’s a big guy.

“The Red Bike show is presented by the Grote Lamplighters, and it will also function as a fundraiser for that organization. We’ve done shows with the Lamplighters before in 2017 and 2019 at a different venue, but this is our first time at Red Bicycle Hall. We’re really excited about the mid-room stage layout and the intimate atmosphere at The Bike.

“Madison is exactly the kind of small town where we want comedy to flourish. It’s such a unique community and we’ve had such great support here over the years. My goal is for our Comedy Night to become a regular thing, and maybe even expand it to an open mic situation, where new local comics can try their hand.

“I want everyone to understand that this is first class comedy talent we are bringing in, the kind you’d see at any comedy club in any major city. These guys are that good.

“And the good news is, the ticket price is about what you’d pay for a movie and popcorn. But unlike a movie, where you can kind of guess the plot, comedy is so spontaneous and surprising. You never know when the magic will hit.

“And just in case someone wants to bring their grandmother, you should know all our shows are what we call ‘cute, clean, and clever’. Never any cuss words or raunchy topics. We hope to see you at the show, and we hope we can make it a regular thing in Madison,” Sobel said.

There will be two shows — 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. — and tickets are available through Red Bike’s website, www.redbicyclehall.com, $10 advance and $15 at the door with tables reserved for $10 plus admission.


If I was going out this weekend to see live music (and I will be, of course!) I’d be checking out some of the new names appearing on the Calendar. Friday at Lytle Park at lunch time Danny Flanigan is bringing his four-piece band, that should be very cool. Saturday at Mad Paddle there’s a band called Cheat’n On Tucker, which deserves a look just for the great band name. And also on Saturday at the Taproom is an act called Noah Smith’s Crooner Circus, which best I can tell is a happy band of singers, songwriters and storytellers. Oh, and you’ll see me at the Taproom on Friday, too, listening to one of my favorite talents, Jordan Wilson. Get out there people!

Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.

This Week in Music

Thursday, May 13

Mad Paddle Brewery — Brooke Hall

Elks Lodge — Amy Noel

Friday, May 14

Mad Paddle Brewery — Hunter Wainscott

Red Bicycle Hall — Back to Mac (Fleetwood Mac)

Off-Broadway Taproom — Jordan Wilson

Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson

Lytle Park — Danny Flanigan + LittleBand (11:30 a.m.)

Saturday, May 15

Mad Paddle Brewery — Cheat’n On Tucker

Off-Broadway Taproom — Noah Smith’s Crooner Circus

Thomas Family Winery — Jimmy Davis & Bill Lancton

Lighthouse — Daryl Hewitt

Broadway Hotel — Joe Perkinson

Wednesday, May 19

Elks Lodge — Joe Perkinson

County looks to trim jail plans after bids exceed expectations
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The process of determining the final cost of the Jefferson County Sheriff and Justice Center remains ongoing after bids for the project came in higher than expected, owner’s representative Jack Krouse told the County Council at its meeting on Tuesday.

Due to current cost increases for home and commercial construction materials, Krouse said the higher-than-expected bids were not a surprise, and they will now look at ways to cut costs before accepting bids for the project.

“We won’t take anything out that will hurt or harm the function of the jail, or its security,” said Krouse, who said he has already gone through the plans with architects, and will discuss possible cost saving changes with local officials including Commissioner David Bramer and County Sheriff Dave Thomas. “Once there is consensus on those items we’ll then be able to validate what the savings are,” he said.

Council President Pam Crozier said Wednesday that because the bids received are not final numbers, the Commissioners are not yet releasing that information to the public.

In April, the Jefferson County Jail Building Corporation approved a resolution to authorize borrowing up to $42 million for the new jail.

Andrew Lanam, director of public finance at the Indianapolis office of Stifel Investment Banking, said because the bids came in higher than anticipated “we’re probably going to have to borrow more than we originally anticipated but in the end it still comes under the maximum lease rental amount of $2.9 million per year.” He also noted that original projections included higher interest rates, but Lanam said “interest rates are extremely attractive right now and we’re crossing our fingers and hoping everything holds out long enough for us to get the interest rates locked in.”

Council member Gary Copeland asked about possible supply chain issues in receiving necessary materials for the project. Krouse explained that he is already working to anticipate any possible challenges with that. “Everybody has got a supply chain problem these days. The key is to stay in front of it.”

Following up on a discussion in February, Crozier proposed a resolution that was adopted unanimously for the county to buy its water for the jail through Madison instead of Dupont because Madison’s rate are lower than Dupont and the city already has service to the site.

“I think that is in the best interest for cost savings,” Crozier said, noting Madison water is half the cost of going with Dupont and Madison water lines already extend to the property.

Bramer said the Commissioners had asked Dupont to provide a more competitive rate but have not yet received that offer.

“They’re working on it. I talked to them last week,”’ Bramer said. “We’re hoping they will get it to us soon.”

He said once that information is provided, deciding on a supplier should be an easy decision, but that Dupont’s letter “pretty much threatened if we don’t go with them, they are going to file suit.”

Council member Chris Shelton said Dupont Water should be provided a cut-off date on negotiations so they can move forward. Bramer said Dupont had been given such a deadline and it was March 18.

“They were given a cut-off date of March 18, and any business I’ve ever been involved with, they have missed their opportunity,” Shelton said.

The Council then unanimously voted in favor of Crozier’s resolution that water for the jail be bought from the City of Madison.

In other business:

• Approved $6,800 for a new judge’s bench in the third floor courtroom at the courthouse as requested by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge D.J. Mote.

Mote said the new bench would provide greater security because there is currently no protection for the magistrate or judge in that courtroom, and whenever he has hearings in that courtroom he and his staff sit very close to “someone who is very unhappy.” He said cases often involve civil protection orders and dissolutions, and other types of emotionally charged cases. “I have people leaning over looking at my notes when I’m hearing cases,” he said.

• Approved establishing a contract part-time position in the jail for a person to manage the jail’s commissary. Sheriff Thomas said the position will be funded by proceeds from the commissary.

• Approved a $4,655.94 appropriation for security cameras requested by Jefferson County Prosecutor David Sutter, along with approving transfers for the Animal Shelter of $10,000 to veterinary services, $1,728 from Jefferson County Emergency Management for COVID storage at the fairgrounds, and $5,518.98 in Jefferson County Health Department transfers made from the immunization reimbursement grant.

Southwestern’s Ellie Foley has signed to play college basketball at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.

Madison secures former Ruler Foods site with $200K from Redevelopment
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Madison’s Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday approved a resolution that will secure a piece of property that the Commission and Mayor Bob Courtney think will not only be key to bringing a grocery store back to downtown Madison but also serve as the lynchpin to revitalizing an entire area of the city.

Madison has been in negotiations with K-Q LLC for several months to secure ownership of the former Rulers Foods supermarket and parking lot, 120 East Second Street, as a site for a new independent grocery that could serve as the catalyst for revitalizing East Second and Mulberry streets in conjunction with plans to make upgrades to the city’s parking lot on the northeast corner of that intersection.

The project would include a downtown grocery on one corner and include parking and a city park beside the massive Kindness Matters mural that will be painted this summer and serve as a gathering place for local residents and destination for tourists.

Courtney has said Mulberry Street from Main Street to Vaughn Drive is a prime location for redevelopment with a number of empty or under utilized historic structures that could once again house businesses and services and be a center of activity if developed properly. He has said that bringing a grocery back to the former Rulers building on one corner of East Second and Mulberry and upgrading the parking on the other corner will create an atmosphere that will attract the private investment needed to make that vision a reality.

On Tuesday, the city’s Redevelopment Commission dipped into the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds that it oversees and contributed $200,000 as a down payment on the former grocery site. The city’s most recent negotiations to buy the 12,000 square foot building and even larger parking lot, involved getting two independent appraisals and averaging them to see how much the city could legally spend for the property.

The appraisals averaged out to $541,000 and they city then negotiated with K-Q LLC, representing longtime Ruler Foods owner Kroger Company, before finally reaching a sales price of $525,000. The terms are $200,000 down with the seller agreeing to finance the remaining $325,000 of the purchase price over three years at an annual interest rate of 1%.

“It’s a big step but it’s a necessary step,” said Courtney noting the city’s best opportunity to attract a new grocer downtown — a top request by residents in every local survey — was to control that property because it is the only site in downtown Madison that is both large enough and suitably located for a grocery.

Courtney said the city has been involved in negotiations with up to three potential independent grocery tenants for the space but nothing is yet definitive.

“This building has value to the city beyond a grocery store but that is still our No. 1 priority,” Courtney said. “It’s now going to be our property to use however we want to use it.”

He said the site is the “most attractive location” in the city in terms of square footage and on-site parking. Prior to zeroing in on the former Rulers site, the city considered three total sites but the combination of retail and storage space and parking at 120 East Second far outweighed the other two sites and that the impact the project can have on revitalizing that area of the city and attracting additional private capital will far exceed the purchase cost.

“The City of Madison Redevelopment Commission continues to support our strategy of acquiring strategic assets across the city that will promote blight elimination, gateway improvements, tourism, revitalization and economic development efforts. All of these investments will attract private capital that will further enhance the city.” said Courtney.