Jefferson County Council on Tuesday night approved a resolution appropriating $2 million in funding to begin dirt work and site preparation for the new Jefferson County Sheriff and Justice Center once bids are received.
The resolution takes $1.7 million from the Jail Local Income Tax Fund and $300,000 from the Public Safety Fund to begin groundwork needed before jail construction can begin later this year.
The council also discussed the overall jail construction process as the county moves closer to receiving construction bids followed by selling bonds to fund the project including appraisals that are being done on the current Jefferson County Jail.
“As part of the process, the building corporation has to have an asset to lease in order to complete the financing, so we will transfer from the county to the building corporation the existing jail,” Rick Hall, an attorney with Barnes and Thornburg said, noting that the current jail will remain with the county as the transfer is only a financing requirement. “By statute, you have to have two appraisals of the jail, and then cannot transfer it for less than the average of the two appraisals,” he said. Hall said one of the two appraisals has already been done, and though he didn’t have the exact information at the meeting, he estimated the amount was in the range of $10 million.
Council president Pam Crozier explained the process after the meeting that the appraisals on the current jail will serve as collateral to help lower interest rates on financing the new jail.
Hall said the resolution allows for an appropriation not to exceed $42 million, which is the maximum amount that bonds can be issued. “The amount of money that will be actually transferred will be significantly less than that,” he said. Bids for the project are expected to be received later this month, and once that happens the county will have a more clear assessment of construction costs. “When we sell the bonds, we’ll know what the construction costs are and we won’t borrow any more than necessary to complete the project,” Hall said. “Once the bond proceeds are received, the county will then execute the award of the bids.”
County council member Judy Smith emphasized the need for transparency between the Council and Commissioners throughout the process as money is spent on the project. “We are dealing with a lot money and we’re going to be dealing with a lot more money” she said.
Council member Heather Foy asked how many bids were anticipated on the project.
“We won’t know until the day we open the bids,” said owner’s representative Jack Krouse. “We have five different accounts: General trades account, Site account, Kitchen equipment, Mechanical account and Electrical account” and there should be bids for each account.
Krouse said bids were scheduled to be received Tuesday, but calls were received from “two mechanical contractors and two electrical contractors that wanted three more days to bid” so it was agreed to extend the deadline with bids due at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 23.
Krouse said he expects “a pretty good turnout” of bidders. “Contractors focus on new, green-site buildings. They don’t like to do renovation jobs. They’re messy. They’re sticky. This is pretty nice job for them to bid on.”
The Council also discussed the $245,407.70 that had been appropriated last year for expenses related to the jail project. County Commissioner David Bramer said the funds came through an interlocal agreement with the City of Madison. The council concluded that since those funds were appropriated last year, but not disbursed until this year, they will need to take that action again, and must advertise that process legally before voting on it again.
In other business:
• Prior to the meeting began, Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Thomas stopped by the council chamber and updated members about the current restrictions that were placed Monday on the county jail. He said there are eight positive cases of COVID-19 in the jail, and restrictions have been placed on the jail through April 26. New requirements have been implemented requiring new inmates to wear a mask during the booking process and inmate workers to wear masks and gloves with all new inmates tested for COVID-19. Additionally, attorneys and pretrial services will conduct all of their visits in the lobby glass visitation room. Thomas said the jail will also soon be offering COVID vaccines to inmates on a voluntary basis.
• Emergency Management Agency director Troy Morgan followed up on a discussion concerning a lease at the Jefferson County 4-H Fairgrounds for storing COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment in which Jefferson County serves as a central hub for the region. At last month’s meeting, council member Chris Shelton asked Morgan to seek out costs for storing the materials in other locations with hopes of saving the county money. Morgan said he contacted three businesses that provide storage space, and none of the three had the necessary space available. Morgan also noted that if any of the other spaces were available that the cost would depend on security and heating/air conditioning requirements.
Morgan added that with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb changing mask requirements from a mandate to an advisory, Indiana will be receiving less federal funding and there likely will be no more shipments of protective gear. He said there is currently 33 pallets of materials in storage and he has considered “getting out of the business” of distributing those materials but the pandemic may be far from over.
Morgan said COVID numbers have been going down but “numbers are not steadily going down” and he’s “not fully convinced that we won’t be back in the same situation we’ve been in” so stockpiling protective gear for a few more months might be prudent.
“I would hate to have to go back and start over,” he said.
Crozier said she felt Morgan had “done your due diligence” in attempting to find other locations to store the materials and that keeping them at the fairgrounds is the best option. Morgan said the Jefferson County Fair Board is agreeable to a month-to-month arrangement which he noted would allow the county to discontinue paying for the space if the materials continue to decrease and the supply is depleted.
“Unless conditions change statistically, it should all be going out and there should be nothing else coming in,” depending on whether there might be some sort of federal mandate in the future, Morgan said.
• Approved transfer of $7,821.60 for the Jefferson County Health Department from an immunization reimbursement grant that was used for wages.
For the past 50 years, the best option for students walking to and from Madison Junior High School was using the paved portion of Eighth Street and dealing with the traffic because there were no sidewalks from Cragmont Street to campus.
Noting it was a dangerous “public safety issue” that needed to resolved, Mayor Bob Courtney and Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff Mindy McGee were able to do just that when some unused street and sidewalk repair funds were able to be reallocated for a new sidewalk for the three block stretch at a cost of $146,705.
Now that the sidewalk has been installed, the city wants to take it a step further by making the walkway even more inviting and safe for students and Courtney’s asked the students themselves to get involved in the project.
He said the sidewalk presents a great opportunity to showcase public art done by Madison students and he and McGee were at MJHS recently to meet with Eric Phagan’s eighth grade art class to talk about the students’ efforts to create artwork to be featured in a section of the sidewalk where a railing is required.
“We’re merging public works with public art,” said Courtney, noting the railing will be built by Cub Manufacturing at Madison Consolidated High School with art by Phagan’s class at MJHS.
Phagan showed Courtney and McGee several art designs in consideration for the space as Madison Consolidated Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Studebaker and Ashley Schutte, MCS communications coordinator, were also on hand.
“Public art is investment in our community. It is economic investment that gives us return on our investment,” said Courtney, noting the new sidewalks are “about safety and economic development” but they can also provide a place to beautify the city with art.
Once artwork is selected, Phagan’s class will begin work to create the walls of art that will be displayed along the sidewalk after its constructed by Cub Manufacturing and installed at the site.
McGee noted the work by the students helps to emphasize art in a greater way on the hilltop — one that goes beyond the city utility boxes that now feature artwork. “This signals one of the first public art projects on the hilltop,” she said.
A change in the COVID-19 metrics moved Jefferson County back into a “Yellow” advisory on Wednesday after a few weeks in the “Blue.”
“We are moving in the wrong direction,” said Jefferson County, Jefferson County Health Department Administrator Tammy Monroe, who said the agency is continuing to emphasize wearing masks and social distancing, but currently will not enact further restrictions.
On Wednesday, Jefferson County saw an increase of 33 new COVID-19 cases from the previous day with a seven-day positivity rating of 5.4% and a unique positivity rating of 18.6%. Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Thomas reported Tuesday that eight inmates in the Jefferson County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 and locked the facility down to outside visitors.
“Governor (Eric) Holcomb removed the mask mandate and has left the management of measures that need to be taken up to the local health departments,” Monroe and County Health Officer Dr. John Hossler, noted in a press release Wednesday. “Moving to the “Yellow” advisory would entail returning to some restrictions that have previously been in place during this pandemic. We at the Jefferson County Health Department are just as anxious to get this previous 12 months behind us, but also feel that some measures have been relaxed too much and too soon, and that many interpreted dropping the mask mandate as a signal that the pandemic is over. It is not!”
The release went on to add, “It is the responsibility of the Jefferson County Board of Health to promote the health and well-being of the Jefferson County residents and visitors. The Jefferson County Board of Health is also aware of the need to support employers and to keep local businesses open and schools open, but in order to protect public health, that sometimes requires enacting restrictions. We have discussed this and for now we will hold off on enforcing the social gathering/event restrictions recommended.”
“We will continue to monitor the positivity numbers and rising case count. If our positivity rate continues to rise, we will have no choice but to enact restrictions,” the statement said. “The Jefferson County Health Department would like to encourage and advise all Jefferson County residents and visitors to continue to be vigilant and to take responsibility for their safety and health and safety and health of those around them by continuing to mask up, social distance and hand wash/sanitize, avoid crowded venues. Hopefully we can turn things around without further inconveniences.”
Mayor Bob Courtney said Wednesday that the new advisory comes as no surprise to him because fewer Jefferson County residents are being tested for the coronavirus and when residents to test positive percentages tend to jump. However, he noted the community’s “healthcare capacity is still very strong.”
“It’s all about testing,” Courtney, who also urges local residents to remain vigilant and exercise caution, said. “Testing velocity completely drives the policy.”
Meanwhile, both Indiana and Kentucky have placed a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for COVID-19 following a recommendation Tuesday morning by the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) related to several cases of blood clotting.
Six Americans who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were reported to have received rare blood clotting conditions. However, approximately 6.8 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In the meantime, the Indiana Department of Health is encouraging vaccination sites statewide to use existing doses of Pfizer or Moderna if available to fulfill previously scheduled Johnson & Johnson appointments. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear delivered the same message in the Commonwealth.
“Everyone should still get one of the other two COVID-19 vaccines during this pause,” said Beshear. “We cannot let this slow us down. The United States is going to get about 1.85 million more doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week. We should be able to make up any loss of appointments. Stay calm — it looks like the risk here from the J&J vaccine is very, very small versus the really significant risk of being harmed by COVID.”
In Kentucky, 1,625,639 have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,077,734 have been fully vaccinated.
Indiana has now had 3,519,666 total doses administered. This includes 2,054,305 first doses and 1,465,361 individuals who are fully vaccinated. The fully vaccinated number represents individuals who have received a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and those who received the single Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
A total of 18,680 have been vaccinated in Jefferson County with 7,827 residents fully vaccinated and 10,853 Jefferson County residents that have received at least the first of two doses of the COVID vaccine. Switzerland County has vaccinated 3,500 people including 1,476 that have been fully vaccinated and 2,024 that have received the first dose of a two-dose vaccination series.
Switzerland County has no new cases of COVID-19 with a total of 769 positive cases. The seven-day positivity in Switzerland County is 3.9% and the seven-day unique positivity rating is 4.3%. The total number of COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic in Switzerland County is eight while 79 have died in Jefferson County.
The Indiana Department of Health announced Monday that 1,233 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 701,971 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus. To date, 12,782 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 20 from the previous day.
In Kentucky, 799 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on April 13, according to the Kentucky Department of Health. There have been 434,148 positive cases overall and 6,261 deaths including three new deaths, and four additional from new audit deaths.
Trimble County has reported 686 cases of COVID-19 with overall seven deaths during the pandemic. Carroll County has reported 980 cases of COVID-19 with 19 deaths.
His hair is dark red. The name of his band is Edgar Red. And his name is … Matt. “But a lot of people call me Red,” explains Matt Moore. “The whole red thing is kind of my brand.”
Matt hails from La Grange, Kentucky, as does another Madison music scene regular, Robby Cox. And like Robby Cox, Matt considers Madison a kind of musical home away from home.
“I’ve played dozens of small towns, especially across the southern states, but it’s so much better and easier here to be a working musician,” explains Matt. “I’m being completely honest when I say Madison is my favorite city, they’ve taken care of me and my bandmates way beyond any other town. It’s just so unique and thriving here.”
Matt’s history with Madison goes back about seven years to a gig he landed at Off-Broadway Taproom. “That was another band configuration called SPKR. It was drummer Paul Culligan, formerly of Days of the New, and Mack Keiffer on guitar, and me on vocals.
“Me and Mack have been playing together since we were 13. We’ve done so many band projects together over the years. SPKR, Edgar Red, The Albumists with Jimmy Davis.
“Jimmy has been so supportive and encouraging over the years. We’ve shared gigs, opened for each other, covered for each other. The Albumist project has been so much fun. We did the entire Alice in Chains ‘Dirt’ album front to back, and then we did a whole show based on a Blind Melon album.
“In fact, we have something coming up in about a month with Jimmy Davis here in Madison. On June 18 we’re going to do an original showcase of Edgar Red music, and Jimmy will be opening for us. It’s going to be at the Electric Lady, so it will be fun to bring some live music back to that great old venue.
“Right before COVID hit Mack and I got on with the band C2 & The Brothers Reed and we had about nine great months of full-time touring. The band is very popular and we played some big shows, like Waterfront Wednesday over in Louisville. But of course, it all dried up with COVID.
“Now that things are starting to loosen up and places are booking bands again, we have revived the Edgar Red band and we’re starting to get some shows. And the C2 band has renamed itself Kentucky Ruckus, and there might be some more action there in the future.
“We are just so ready to get back out and start doing music full-time again. We all had to find day jobs to make ends meet, but we love to play. That’s where our heart is. We look forward to playing more in Madison. Maybe more outdoor street type shows? Let’s see what we can make happen!
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.
You might notice a couple of long-missing venue names on the calendar this week. After a long COVID absence, Red Bicycle Hall is coming back strong with FIVE shows in April, starting with two this weekend and three next weekend. If you are an old Red Bike fan, you know about the quality of the music and the great, convivial atmosphere. If you are new to Red Bike, you need to check it out, it will quickly become your favorite music hall. The other name we are starting to see with some regularity is the Elks Lodge. They are hosting a series of open-to-the-public weeknight shows they call “HERD it at the Elks.” I’ll be doing a Charlie’s Beat profile on the Lodge very soon. Also, three venues to keep an eye on for live music are Broadway Tavern, the Rivercrest Lighthouse and the Riverboat Inn. If you know anyone at these places, tell them to give their music schedule to Charlie’s Beat so I can include it in the calendar!
Thursday, April 15
Mad Paddle Brewery — Adam Crabtree
Elks Lodge — Kyle Pearl (open to public)
Friday, April 16
Mad Paddle Brewery — R0man T0ast
Off-Broadway Taproom — Jordan Wilson
Red Bicycle Hall — Cody Ikerd with Robby Cox & Matthew Williams
Saturday, April 17
Mad Paddle Brewery — Keith Scott & his M3 friends
Off-Broadway Taproom — Jimmy Davis
Red Bicycle Hall — Josh Morningstar with Anthony Ray Wright
Moose Lodge — Country Bourne
Thomas Family Winery — Dave Wilson
Wednesday, April 21
Elks Lodge — J. Brandon Abshure (open to public)