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Madison’s Alaina Kelley (23) reaches for the ball against New Washington’s Olivia Lawrence during Tuesday’s game in Madison.

4 new COVID deaths reported in 3 local counties
  • Updated

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has claimed two more deaths in Trimble County and one each in Carroll and Switzerland counties.

Based on information from the Kentucky Department of Public Health, the two deaths in Trimble County push the death toll there now to 25 while Carroll County has 32 total deaths. In Switzerland County, the Indiana Department of Health reported that county’s 13th death of the pandemic while Jefferson County’s death toll remains at 105.

The four local counties have now lost a combined 175 residents during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, there has been an increase in positive exposures to COVID-19 at Southwestern Elementary School leading to a modification of several holiday programs.

Southwestern issued a statement Tuesday that due to high numbers of students in kindergarten, first and second grades currently under quarantine, that live Christmas concerts scheduled for this week have been canceled and performances will be digitally recorded without spectators for viewing online.

Southwestern Superintendent Jeffrey Bates said Wednesday morning that all Southwestern schools are still meeting in-person, but “we are starting to see an increase in positive cases among students and staff.”

Bates said the elevated numbers are particularly prevalent in the lower grade levels like pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade and second grade and are mostly related to close contacts to COVID rather than actual positive tests.

“The majority of our students and staff that are quarantined are because of being considered close contacts of someone who has tested positive,” Bates noted. “The majority of those come from being a close contact of someone outside of the schools” such as family members.

Jefferson County reported 63 new cases of COVID-19 with an overall total of 6,041, and an increase of 185 since Friday. Jefferson County’s positivity rate is 13.4%.

Switzerland County had nine new cases of COVD-19 in the last day for an overall total of 1,505 and an increase of 29 since Friday. Switzerland County’s positivity rate is 18%.

Trimble County has now reported 1,376 positive cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic — an increase of four in the last day and 16 since Friday — and the county’s positivity rate is 17.31%. Carroll County has now had 2,164 positive cases of COVID-19 — increased by 19 in the last day and 43 since Friday — with a 12.9% positivity rate.

In Kentucky, there have been 59 new deaths in the last day to bring that total to 11,348. There were 2,728 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 802,417. In Indiana, there were 80 new deaths in the last day, increasing the overall Hoosier death toll to 17,310. There were 5,315 new positive cases of COVID-19 for an overall total of 1,140,151.

MJHS to stage Peter Pan Jr.
  • Updated

Madison Junior High School theater students are presenting Peter Pan Jr., based on J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, this weekend at Opal Sherman Auditorium.

“It’s a junior edition (of the Peter Pan musical), so it’s a little bit shorter, a condensed version for younger students” said Lindsay Bullock, director of the hour-long musical. “This version is light and fun and comedic and family-friendly.”

She said almost every song is choreographed, which meant students “had a lot of dancing to learn but they’ve done a really great job. It wasn’t really as challenging as I would have thought”... “they’ve done a really good job of helping each other” learn the choreography, Bullock said.

Peter Pan Jr. is the story of Peter and his fairy sidekick, Tinkerbell, visiting the nursery of the Darling children late one night and, with a sprinkle of pixie dust, beginning a magical journey across the stars that none of them will ever forget. In the adventure of a lifetime, the travelers come face to face with a ticking crocodile, the fierce Brave Girls, a band of bungling pirates and the villainous Captain Hook.

Adavious Gigaz, who will play Peter Pan, is in his first school production. Meanwhile, Maya Bullock is playing Wendy while William Overpeck is John. Claira Kempton is Liza, Kolton Lock is Michael, Matthew McCarty is Nana, Tyler Hook is Mr. Darling and Savannah Hall is Mrs. Darling.

“He’s doing fantastic,” Bullock said of Gigaz, She noted that all of the students involved “have been great. It’s been enjoyable.”

Other actors include Gabby Vest as Nibs, Chelsea Dattilo as Slightly, Maddie Guirguis as Curley, Maya Kemp as Twin No. 1, Zuzu Bailey as Twin No. 2, Tavian Bauer as Tootles, Xander Bauer as Captain Hook, Owain Kelsey as Smee, Sophia Reilmann and Abby Everage as Noodler, Ruth Whitaker as Jukes, Cooper Chandler as Starkey, Brendan Bentz at Cecco, Poppy Kelsey as Tiger Lily, Molly Magrath as Small Brave Girl, Piper Fischmer as Brave Girl No. 1, Ellie Mahoney as Brave Girl No. 2 and Hudson Chandler as the Crocodile.

Performances are Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online at at $8 for adults and $5 for students, or at the door for $10 adults and $7 students.

First responders answered about a half-dozen calls for slide-offs and minor wrecks from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday after an overnight snowfall and freezing precipitation made for dangerous conditions in parts of Jefferson County. Chief Deputy Josh Taylor of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said most of the mishaps were slide-offs and minor fender benders but one crash on State Road 62 near the top of Hanover Hill involved a Chevrolet pickup truck skidding off the roadway and overturning. The female driver escaped injury but had to be assisted in exiting the truck through the rear window. Sheriff’s deputies and police from Hanover and Madison assisted at the scene along with King’s Daughter’s EMS and Hanover Fire Department. Meanwhile, classes were delayed at several local schools with Canaan Academy in Indiana and Carroll and Trimble counties in Kentucky on a one-hour delay and Switzerland County in Indiana on a two-hour delay. For more coverage, visit our media partner WKMNEWS.COM.

Slippery Start

Charlie’s Beat
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This Charlie’s Beat is number 163, which means I’ve been doing this pretty much non-stop since October of 2018. You’d think I’d run out of worthy subjects by now, right?

The fact is, I haven’t run out, not by a long shot. The musical fabric of our town runs so deep and wide that I should be able to keep going for years to come. But I will admit, I have harvested all the low hanging fruit, as it were.

When I go to music shows these days I can usually look on the stage and realize I’ve interviewed and done stories on virtually every musician up there. It’s been one of the most satisfying and rewarding parts of this job that I can count so many of these great artists as friends now, or at the very least acquaintances.

The same goes for venue owners and show producers and all the many other people who make up our music scene. I’ve covered a lot of the bases. But I haven’t covered them all!

If you know of someone in any way related to our music scene who has not yet been featured in a Charlie’s Beat column, I want to hear your ideas. As you know if you are a regular reader, just about anyone can qualify.

I’ll do stories on musicians, of course. Anyone who produces music or puts on shows. Anyone who teaches music. I’ll do stories on past musicians who may be part of our legacy. Heck, if you’re a trombone salesman, I want to talk to you. (And that starts with “T”, and that stands for Talent, right here in River City!)

So send me your ideas please, and maybe your friend or family member will get a Charlie’s Beat all their own. My email is:

Hot Tip Of The Week

Wow, a lot is going on for a cold December weekend. But it IS Indiana’s Music City, after all! Red Bicycle Hall has Cruz Contreras, the leader of The Black Lillies on Thursday night. You have six choices on Friday night, all downtown and easy to jump from one to the next. On Saturday the School of Rock show at Mad Paddle might be the most diverse and interesting offering. These are young aspiring rockers from Louisville who have been selected as a kind of “All Star” group among all the students. And finally, you’ll want to mark your calendar for next Tuesday up at Clifty Falls Inn. The Madison Community Band has been hard at work rehearsing for their annual Christmas Show. Show your civic pride and get up there to support them.

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, Dec. 9

Central Hotel — Patriotic Karaoke

Rivertown Grill — Wes Ship

Red Bicycle Hall — Cruz Contreras (of the Black Lillies)

Friday, December 10

Red Bicycle Hall — Alex Williams

Central Hotel — Jordan Wilson

Mad Paddle — Tracy & Elaine

Brown Gym — Four Goats & A Nanny (Senior Dance)

Riverboat Inn — Joe & Deano

American Legion — Keith Swinney (open to public)

Saturday, December 11

Mad Paddle — School of Rock Show

Off-Broadway Taproom — Jordan Wilson Coalition

Riverboat Inn — Joe & Deano

The Central — Jordan Tyler

Rivertown Grill — TBD

Thomas Family Winery — Davis & Devitt

VFW — Fabulous Hickbillies (open to public)

Big Blue (Vevay) — Island of Misfits Party

Tuesday, December 14

Off-Broadway Taproom — Open Mic Night

Clifty Falls Inn — Madison Community Band Christmas Show

Park Board updated on Sunrise finances, programs
  • Updated

Work to turnaround Sunrise Golf Course from a deficit operation to a profit maker is more than just a sound business practice to Madison Mayor Bob Courtney. He said what is good for Sunrise is good for community at Monday’s meeting of the Madison Parks Board.

“The reason we went through all of this was so we can create a source of capital for other things that are really important across the park system, whether it’s sports programming or investing in the vast number of parks we have across the community,” Courtney said.

He and Parks Director Matt Woolard updated the Board Monday on what’s been done so far to balance revenues and operational expenses at Sunrise Golf Course.

“A lot of progress has been made. A lot of progress still needs to be made,” Courtney said. “Where we had been losing between $370,000 to $470,000 a year, we are projecting our 2021 deficit will be under $175,000, and that will mean we have reduced our losses in this first year of this new strategy, which is really the last half of this year, by 54%. We still have a lot of work to do.”

Courtney said eliminating the operational deficit while planning financially for expected capital expenditures needed to properly maintain the golf course are both keys. “We still have not prepared for big capital expenditures” such as updating the 25-year-old sprinkler system, he said. “But this a good start.”

Early in Monday’s meeting, Woolard defined several areas of improvement in the city’s parks system including more focus on the neighborhood parks, specifically noting Gaines Park, Lorenz Park and Oak Hill Park that he said all have been neglected. He also said Rucker Sports Complex that “was a state-of-the-art facility 20 years ago” now needs to be “reinvigorated to be the sports facility it once was” and some of the outdoor basketball courts are badly in need of repair along with many other city parks and facilities.

“It really comes full circle when you think of the deficit we’ve incurred with Sunrise that’s been leaking money” for awhile, and “we’ve been trying to patch with money that should have been going to repairing our parks and providing for our children,” Woolard said.

Woolard said at a recent conference he attended it was stated that parks and recreation is “about selling experiences and not spaces. That’s what we really want to focus on is getting these kids better experiences than a broken down slide for them to ride down.”

Chad Ison, programming coordinator for the Parks Department, provided an illustration showing the declining participation in Madison Parks Department’s youth programs from highs in the 1990s to now. The department averaged 349 in baseball from 1990-1999 to 320 from 2000-2009 and finally 232 from 2010-2019, with the tallies not including the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ison also had the same data on softball, boys basketball, girls basketball, football and volleyball — all indicating declining participation. Only football and volleyball had somewhat steady declines while all other sports showed significant drops — softball from a high of 229 down to 127, boys basketball from 254 to 67 and girls basketball from 129 to 33.

One of the steps taken was to lower the participation costs for playing youth sports — some of them decreasing by more than half — approved by the Parks Board at its meeting Monday. Rates for basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball in 2022 will drop to $20 from the previous rate of $50. Tackle football will decrease to $50 from the previous rate of $75. Flag football will be cut to $20 from the previous rate of $25.

“We sell experiences,” said Woodard. “Since we are a city, we serve the public, and one way that we do that is by slashing our sports fees.”

He said as participation over last 30 years has spiraled downward, there have been many reasons, particularly more technology altering the focus of youth. Woolard also said that many young athletes with the talent, skills and financial means opt for travel leagues but “there is still value of the traditional recreational leagues that accommodates those of all skill levels and of all incomes.”.

Woolard said that even with the lower participation fees, the city also plans to seek sponsorships yo help offset cost for the youth programs.

Additionally, he said the department wants to create more programs that will benefit people in the community. “We need to figure out what kids want,” Woolard said, while also supporting adult leagues and programs, and bettering all programming.

“This is why we think this is such a big endeavor that we want to go through,” Woolard said. “We want to focus on our participation. We want to focus on our experience. We want to focus on helping the community financially.”

Courtney said that starts with reversing trends and re-engaging the city’s young people in the parks programs.

“We’ve seen a declining trend for a couple of decades now, so your goal is to reverse that negative trend,” the mayor said. “I think this is something we should definitely try and support” ... “the importance of athletics and recreation to our community, particularly our youth.”

He noted that’s why proper management of Sunrise is so important because if less tax dollars are needed to operate the golf course more money can be utilized on fixing youth sports including cutting fees to make youth leagues more accessible.

“I always come back to the reasons we need to be mindful of how we can make money elsewhere so we can invest there, but also can invest in our community,” he said. “We have the resources to do this” and hope is the lower rates will help to accomplish that. “Sports programming is very, very important for us.”

Woolard also presented an overview of the Madison Parks Department on Monday, noting the department has a $2.3 million operating budget with nine full-time employees serving 21 different programs in the past year of which there were 1,122 participants. There are 225 acres of park land and open space that must be maintained for the 93,211 people who visit Madison parks each year.

According to research Woolard conducted with the National Recreation and Parks Association, in a community with a population under 20,000 there should be 1,235 residents per park. Therefore, a city like Madison with a population of 12,000 should have nine to 10 parks but Madison has more than 20 parks.

The NRPA also indicated that in terms of park’s acreage, a community with a population less than 20,000 should provide 12.4 acres per 1,000 residents, which would be approximately 150 acres for Madison, but the city operates 225 acres.

Woolard said in terms of playgrounds, the NRPA indicates there should be 3,600 residents per playground meaning three to four would be necessary for Madison but the city offers six playgrounds. For outdoor basketball courts, Woolard said the NRPA says there should be one for every 7,000 residents, and Madison has five courts.

“This puts in perspective how massive our parks department really is when you think of over 20 parks and facilities,” said Woolard, and doing all work to maintain all 225 acres, along with the number of residents and visitors who use them.

While reporting on Sunrise Golf Course, Woolard said revenue so far this year is $380,880, which is an increase of 12% since 2020 when the revenue was $339,840.

Courtney said they are working toward “diversifying our revenue stream” from the traditional sources being green fees and passes sold. He said revenue is now being generated from concessions, which so far this year accounted for $16,441. Courtney said there are plans to also seek corporate sponsorships in 2022 to further increase revenue and efforts are underway by the Sunrise staff and city golf board to “create more play and cultivate more players at Sunrise.”

Courtney said that better management of the staffing at Sunrise Golf Course is helping to decrease the deficit.

“While we’re still making improvements on our salaries and benefits structure, it’s really expensive to maintain a golf course, and to do one as good as Sunrise, and also to market it more regionally, it needed to be upgraded,” Courtney said. “I don’t think we’ve shorted it any on staffing, we are managing our labor better, and we are growing our revenue, our salaries to total revenue is down significantly”

Courtney noted salaries and benefits were 125% of revenue at Sunrise in 2020 but that has dropped to 82% this year.

“You’re never going to make money at that ratio,” he said of the 2020 number. “I still think 82% is on the high side but we’re making dramatic progress.”

Courtney added that the key to balancing finances at Sunrise is to continue increasing revenue through more outside rounds played, corporate sponsors and concessions. “Those are three revenue streams we haven’t had much of in the past,” he said.

This year’s operating expenses so far have been $540,891, which averages to $49,172 per month. Last year’s monthly expenses were $82,271, meaning that monthly expenses have declined 43%.

“While we’re also delivering a great value and a good golf experience, the mission about this is to try to organically create a source of capital so we can invest in the rest of our parks without relying on the rest of our park system to do it,” he said.

Courtney noted that the property tax levy that supports the parks and the city is not growing much. As an example he noted the Jefferson County Public Library has a larger tax base than the city parks department. “Their funding is based on all the assessed value of all the property in Jefferson County,” he said. “The City of Madison parks system, while it’s enjoyed by visitors, tourists and the entire county, is only supported by the fees we generate off those revenue generating assets” such as fees at the pool, campground and golf course, and by City of Madison property taxes. “Our parks are open to all, but funded by City of Madison residents and fees that we charge.”

In other business:

• Woolard updated the board of effort to create a new master plan for parks. He said the first draft with two-thirds of the plan is due Jan. 14 with the completed final plan due April 15. “This is where we really need to hone into where our focus is going to be for the next five years,” he said. Woolard noted public meetings will be held — the first one in February — along with more community surveys to gather input from the “public to mold this to where it needs to be for the foreseeable future.”

• Approved a resolution to accept the gift of an annuity from Prudential that Carol M. Brown left to the parks department for use at Kiwanis Park and for women’s softball following her death on Dec. 19, 2020, and giving Woolard permission to execute all documents in association with the annuity gift.

• Recognized board members Gayle Spaulding and Tim Whitaker, who were serving their last meeting on the board. Spaulding has served on the board since January 2011 while Whitaker, the current president, has been on the board since April 2012.